A friend in need…what to do if someone you know is in debt

posted by in Budgeting, Debt, Income shocks, Wellbeing

Don't let your friend suffer in silence any longer.

Don’t let your friend suffer in silence any longer.

You’ve known for a while now that someone you care about is going through a rough patch with money.  Their face is constantly tight with worry and there’s a stack of bills on their side table. You can’t have a five-minute conversation without their phone ringing, and every time it does they let out a world-weary sigh.

There could be a whole host of reasons why they’re struggling, some you may not even be aware of. Maybe they recently had their hours cut at work, or their partner walked out. It may even be a case of too much retail therapy. You want to help but don’t know how.

That’s where we come in.

Penny for your thoughts?

Saying “I’m in debt and I don’t know what to do” out loud, even to someone you trust, can be terrifying. Look at your friend and the loved ones surrounding them –who is it they’re most likely to open up to?

Talk to a mutual friend or family member in confidence – make them promise to discuss nothing with the person in debt until you’ve figured out a plan of action together. You may find that this other friend has noticed the same things you have.

Safety in numbers

Your friend needs to know they’re not alone. Visit the Debt-Free Wannabe section of the MoneySavingExpert.com forums. There you’ll see plenty of people who need support in paying off their debts. You’ll be amazed how indiscriminant debt can be. Invite your friend to read some of the stories on there.

Recommend a friend

If you want to gauge your friend’s reaction to getting debt advice you can make up a story about someone else you know having debt problems. Telling your friend that “Deborah from work was really struggling but got in touch with StepChange Debt Charity and now she’s much happier”, it might just encourage them to get in touch.

Never a borrower nor a lender be…

We don’t doubt that you want to help your friend, and chances are you’ve probably lent them the odd tenner every now and again. Resist the urge to lend any huge sums. Many clients who get in touch with us have gotten into debt because they sacrificed their own income in order to help someone they care about.

Turn on the TV and sooner or later you’ll be accosted by adverts encouraging you to be a guarantor on a friend’s loan. It seems simple, but few things tear friendships and families apart like money. If your friend is struggling now, chances are they’ll struggle to pay you back on time each month as well.

If your loved one asks you to be a guarantor on a loan for them kindly but firmly tell them no. Explain that you don’t want money or debt to ruin the bond you have with them, and you have enough responsibilities of your own to deal with. This would be the perfect opportunity to suggest they get some free and confidential debt advice.

You’ve got a friend

Ultimately, your friend is the one who decides when they’re ready to take control of their debt. By being there for them, listening to them and showing them ways to save money, you’re helping them more than you know.

They can find the best solution for their debts by using our confidential Debt Remedy online debt tool.

Is someone you care about struggling at the moment? Tweet us for advice at MoneyAware.

Rachel Connor has been with the charity for over 8 years, starting in Helpline before joining the MoneyAware team in 2012. Rach enjoys travelling, video games, watching anime, reading and creative writing in her spare time (currently writing a Young Adult fantasy series). She had a previous life as head writer on Cartoon Network's Ed Edd n Eddy and as a copywriter for LivingSocial. She's also written comics and graphic novels for the animated series Regular Show.

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Tags Budgeting Debt Income shocks Wellbeing
  • Fredmoses

    A friend of mine is in debt for non payment of Council Rent, Council tax and has several other debts to friends, other people and companies. The total debt is only around £2500 to £3000 however to her it is a fortune. She has no chance to pay it off as she is now pregnant, single and on benefits. She has no concept of budgeting and is constantly asking for Crisis Grants. In dealing with her it is best to imagine you are dealing with an 8 year old who just lives in the moment with no concept of tomorrow. She has mental health issues however while she accepts she has a problem she will not seek help for this as she is afraid of the diagnosis (those of us who know her well tend to believe she has Emotional Dysregulation Disorder or as it’s better known BPD). Her problems mean she will not ask the Father of the baby for help so she is on her own. There seems to be nothing I or anyone else can do for her as the authorities, such as the Sheriff’s Office, just keep piling more pressure on her to pay & will not help her unless she gets a diagnosis from the Doctor – and she will not go to the Doctor! It concerns me to see her struggle with both her mental issues and her debt while knowing both are getting worse by the day, one condition not helping the other. She refuses help from friends with her budgeting and all the Council have done is give her a “financial advisor” which is at best a bad joke! She has been bailed out by friends and relatives 4 times in the past & does not need “advice” she needs someone to take control. I tried the “recommend a friend” advice however the response was along the lines of I can’t afford a £1 a week let alone £5! Apart from the usual “just be there for her” & “contact citizens advice”, does anyone have any idea who I could contact who may be able to help my friend before she is overwhelmed by debt?