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Money Manners: How To Help A Friend Who Is Bad With Money

What do you do when a friend makes stupid financial decisions? What if she asks you for a loan? How to handle friends who are bad with money.


How to handle friends who are bad with money.A reader recently asked: A good friend of mine makes really, really stupid financial decisions. She shops constantly even though she never pays her bills on time. She blows her paycheck super fast, sometimes before paying her rent. And every time I go over, I notice a stack of unopened bills in the corner. How do I get her to change her ways?

If only our friends and family just behaved the way we want them to, and not how they want to.

You’re a good friend to be concerned. You can drop a few comments about money management here and there, but don’t make her sit through lectures complete with Prezis. Ultimately, you can’t control anyone’s behavior except your own.

Jorie Scholnik, an etiquette expert who specializes in millennial issues, says, “It is not your responsibility to change your friend’s financial decisions. If your friend really is in that much of a financial hole, you can suggest a more affordable alternative when you go out to eat or mention a great sale you heard of when shopping at a department store. However, ultimately, unless she is asking to borrow money, don’t worry about it.”

And if she does ask to borrow money, say no!

You may think bailing her out is what a good friend should do, but you’ll really just be enabling her bad financial choices. She may say, “I promise…I’ll never ask you for money again,” but words are empty. Only actions matter. If you give her money once, she’ll know she can rely on you the next time her coffers run dry.

Like an addict, she may need to hit rock bottom – getting her utilities cut off, getting evicted, and so on – before she’s ready to make changes. Practice tough love. It will help her in the long run.

If she asks for money, and you have trouble saying no, try using one of these excuses:

  • “I wish I could, but money is tight for me right now too.”
  • “I can’t. But can I help you set up a budget so you’re not in this position again?”

Loaning a friend money actually hurts most friendships, instead of helping them. In one study, 57 percent of people said a friendship ended when one person didn’t repay the other.

Some other ways to help your friend with money management without lecturing her?

Buy her a bill organizer

Instead of making a big deal about the pile of bills in the corner, just say you found one at a garage sale and thought it fit perfectly with her decor.

Point her in the direction of financial tools

Casually mention how your own finances have improved after downloading some money management apps like these or by reading a site like Money Under 30 — it’s super easy to email the link!

While you want to avoid being caught up in your friend’s financial debacle, try to be supportive and non-judgemental. Lots of people struggle with money for reasons that aren’t always clear.

How have you helped friends who can’t manage money?

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About Patty Lamberti

Patty Lamberti is a freelance writer and Professional-in-Residence at Loyola University Chicago, where she teaches journalism and oversees the graduate program in digital media storytelling. If she doesn't know something about money, you can trust she'll track down the right people to find out. You can learn more about her at www.pattylamberti.com. And if you have any story ideas, or questions about money etiquette that you'd like her or an expert to answer, email her at moneymannersqs@gmail.com.