7 Things You Shouldn’t Say To A Friend Struggling With Money
We all want to help our mates whatever life issues they’re going through – whether that’s relationship troubles, family dramas or financial strain. But even though we might have the best intentions, it’s all too easy to overstep the mark, put our foot in it and offend them.
We’ve compiled a handy guide to help you navigate this eternally sensitive situation with a degree of poise to ensure you don’t end up making your friend feel worse than ever.
#1 “This is how I budget my money.”
Unless you are a budgetary expert, your friend probably doesn’t want to hear how much better you are at budgeting than them. If they are struggling, it’s often for reasons beyond their control: their job isn’t paying enough, the cost of living has gone up, or they’ve had an unexpected expense. If they are telling you they are stressed about money, being sanctimonious won’t help. Unless they are specifically asking for your budget aid, don’t offer it.
#2 “Maybe you should stop spending your money on coffee”
Your friend more than likely knows what luxuries they can’t afford — and there’s every chance they have already cut them out if they aren’t coping financially. Telling a friend they should stop their $9 a month Netflix subscription when it might be the only joy they’re getting isn’t going to help them. If they are spending their money on regular overseas holidays, new gadgets and expensive clothes, it’s okay to respectfully point that out to them. But if they’re living on mi goreng and catch public transport everywhere, don’t patronise them by suggesting small cuts to their meagre lifestyle that probably won’t make much of a difference anyway.
#3 “When I was struggling with money I couldn’t afford taxis.”
If you genuinely think you can advise your friend based on your experience with financial shortfalls, do so courteously. If you’re merely doing it to point out that your friend isn’t the only one who has struggled, think about your actual motivation. It’s only human to try and empathise with others and to try understand where they’re coming from.
But sometimes we tend to turn this into a competition. Rather than helping, we try and prove that our past hardships were worse than our friend’s current difficulties. Again, it’s great if you’re helping with practical advice, but if you are more intent on trying to outdo your friend in the “things are bad” stakes, you’ll do more harm than good. Complaining about not being able to afford to take taxis reeks of privilege if they can’t afford the bus.
#4 “That’s okay, I’ll shout you dinner.”
Sink to your friend’s level. Not financially, but if they don’t have the money for the $120 tasting menu at a high-end restaurant, be okay with lowering your expectations to a $15 dollar dinner of dumplings in Chinatown. You’ll likely have just as much fun, and won’t make your friend feel bad. Don’t expect them to feel happy about being shouted an expensive dinner — no one wants to be pitied. And if they’re a decent person, they might even feel obliged to pay you back in kind the next time you go out (even though they obviously can’t afford it).
#5 “I’m struggling too.”
Sure, you might be struggling. But take into account what a struggle is for you, versus what your mate’s struggle is. If you’re struggling on a $90,000 salary, buying dresses worth a few hundred dollars and paying next to no rent in rural NSW, your struggle probably isn’t the same as your friend’s if she is earning $45,000 a year, paying rent in Sydney and wearing shoes until they have holes in them. Be sure you understand exactly how difficult your friend’s situation is before comparing it to your own.
#6 “I’m so poor.”
It’s a faux pas to complain about your weight to a friend who is heavier than you. Always try and apply this same principle to money. It’s pretty easy to tell if your friend is worse off than you. It might be that they bring their lunch to work every day, regularly make up excuses to get out of expensive social engagements, or run out of credit on their phone because they can’t afford a plan.
Whatever it is, be wary of complaining about how poor you are — recognise your privilege. When you whine to your friend about how broke you are, it brings into sharp relief all of the things they’re missing out on. Compare situations — if you’ve an international holiday this year while your friend scrimped for a two-night camping trip, it’s not going to make them feel any better about their life if you cry poor.
#7 “Money isn’t everything.”
‘Money isn’t everything’ seems like one of those sayings coined by the wealthy to make the poor feel better about their lack of it. Anyone who has ever felt the burn of shame when their card declines at the supermarket checkout knows that when you don’t have enough, money kind of is everything.
It dictates how you socialise, how you come across in a workplace situation and whether you’ll be able to eat nutritiously or live off baked beans every night. Only someone who is in a comfortable financial situation thinks money isn’t everything. Until we’re living in a society where money actually doesn’t mean anything, it can be the difference between a truly awful time, and a comfortable lifestyle.
Che-Marie Trigg is a freelance writer and full-time subeditor. Her work has appeared in Virgin Australia Voyeur, Collective Hub and GoPlaces with Toyota magazines among others, as well as on websites like Broadsheet and Junkee. Follow her on Instagram @chemariet