Should You Help a Friend Who Is Bad With Money?

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Should you help a friend that's bad with money? It's always a tricky situation, but here are some options to consider instead of giving money.

As frugality lovers, it’s probably safe to say that we’re all pretty good at saving money (or at least working towards that point.) Due to our collective affinity for saving money, it can be hard to watch our friends and family members slog their way through it (sometimes somewhat unsuccessfully). We all have friends who are terrible with money; friends who roll up in a new car every six months; friends who get the very latest cell phone the day it’s released; and friends who spend their weekends at the mall.

I have a couple of friends just like this who buy, buy, buy nonstop and then complain that they’re always broke, which makes me cringe. What do you say to that? You don’t want to come across as a judgmental, condescending jerk by pointing out their poor spending habits, but you want to help them at the same time.

So should you help a friend who is bad with money? Should you offer advice? Should you give money if asked for it? Helping friends who are bad with money can be awkward, but it can be done if you can put your judgment aside. Here’s how to help a friend who is bad with money.

Don’t Offer Advice Unless Asked


First of all, it’s never a good idea to offer someone financial advice that they didn’t ask for. Unfortunately, this is something I learned the hard way.

Two years ago, I had a friend who constantly complained about being broke. Her husband had a low-paying job and my friend, a new stay-at-home mom, was considering going back to work, but she hated to leave her newborn in day care. Then one day she messaged me excitedly about a new SUV she was going to buy, even though she had a perfectly reliable car that she already loved.

She was going to finance it because the rate her bank was offering was so low it “didn’t make sense not to take it.” I cringed as I urged her not to go into a debt for a new car, reminding her that car payments aren’t worth the price, but she wasn’t looking for my advice. She had gotten the new car bug and there was no talking her out of it.

I hurt my friend’s feelings by trying to counsel her when that’s not what she was looking for, and we haven’t talked since. Losing a friend over unsolicited financial advice was absolutely not worth it, and if I could go back in time, I’d keep my mouth shut.

Do Lend An Ear but Don’t Judge


It’s hard to watch our loved ones battle money problems, especially when their financial woes seem so obvious on the outside, but it’s always easier to fix other people’s problems than to fix our own. At some point, you’ve probably been in their shoes, and sometimes the best thing you can do is empathize with their financial woes and listen to their struggles without casting judgment.

If you’ve been in a similar situation in the past, tell them how you handled your sticky financial situation when you were in a rut and remind them that they will come out the other side and be wiser for having gone through it.

Don’t Lend Money


If a friend does ask you for money, you probably shouldn’t lend it because it’s likely that you won’t get that money back. Although many of us have done so before (myself included), offering money to a friend in the form of a loan during tough times is a great way to lose a friendship.

The conversation will be awkward when you tell them no, but not as awkward as acting as a bank for your friend. If you lose their friendship by saying no, then you didn’t have much of a friendship to begin with.

Find Other Ways to Help


Instead of offering money, come up with other ways to help. There are plenty of ways to help that don’t involve loaning money.

Does your friend need help finding a job? Job searches can be daunting, so be supportive. Help your friend revamp their resume or offer to attend a job fair or networking event with them as a support buddy.

Does your friend need help starting a budget? Teach them how. (I happen to know of a good blog you can reference.) Show them how to use Mint or Personal Capital to track their spending.

Be the Best Example


Before you try to help someone else, first become an expert in your own finances. Be so good at managing your own money that friends do start coming to you for financial advice. After all, you can’t help anyone else until you’ve helped yourself first.

Luckily, you don’t have to give money or unsolicited advice to a friend to help them with their financial woes. Sometimes simply offering your support, giving encouragement, teaching someone how to budget or leading by example can be enough.


Have you ever lost a friend by offering advice they didn’t want? Have you ever loaned a friend money? (I would love to know how that ended!) What are some other ways you can think of to help someone who is bad with money?

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Robin McDaniel

Robin is a freelance writer who chronicles her financial missteps and victories on her blog


  • Tara says:

    It’s unfortunate your friend doesn’t talk to you, but I’m also a believer that if the friendship was stressful because your friend often complained about money troubles, then sometimes losing touch is for the best. If a person continuously complains about something and isn’t working to remedy the situation, nothing will change.

  • Holly Johnson says:

    I have a lot of friends who are bad with money. I am pretty decent at keeping my mouth shut about bad spending decisions. At the end of the day, it’s none of my business.

  • Kathy says:

    We loaned my husband’s brother money two times and did get paid back, although his other brother and sister never got paid when they loaned him cash, so I’m not sure how we were so special. Normally we wouldn’t but one time he had an uninsured traffic accident and was going to lose his license if he didn’t pay the fine. Since he was my mother-in-law’s only form of transportation, we felt it necessary. We didn’t give him the money. We paid the fine on his behalf and over a period of time he finally paid it off. The 2nd time was after my MIL died and we knew he was inheriting some money so he had no excuse to pay it back. Other than an extreme situation, I’d never give money to anyone who is constantly in financial difficulty. It only enables them to never change.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      It seems to be even harder when it’s a family member. It’s so hard to watch them struggle when you know you can help.

      Glad you got your money back!

  • Abigail @ipickuppennies says:

    You can absolutely lend money to a friend… as long as you are okay writing it off. And yes, there’s always the chance that things will become strained because they know they owe you, even if you’re not pushing them for it.

    I’ve restrained myself for the most part from offering unsolicited advice. My husband’s childhood friends are all terrible with money. I couldn’t handle it after one gal was talking about what they were going to do with their tax return. To give you perspective, she’d said a couple of hours before that their Christmas gifts to each other were getting some things out of hock.

    And she was talking about how she was shopping around for the best deal on a race car bed one of their sons really wanted. He was 7, which means he’d literally and metaphorically grow out of it within a couple of years. So she kept talking, and I blurted out, “Or you could open a bank account.” Silence in the car until someone changed the subject.

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      Haha, awkward!! ๐Ÿ™‚

      But you’re right– if you give money, you’ve got to assume that you won’t get it back, and even if you give it as an act of charity and don’t worry about getting it back, it still could make the future relationship awkward.

  • Liz says:

    Lending money was a lesson my husband learned the hard way. I do not loan money, but before we got married, he was deployed to Afghanistan and his family and friends knew he was making the big bucks. He lended a couple of thousand dollars between numerous family and friends and we had to fight tooth and nail to get it back. Needless to say, those lesson have been learned and those relationships severed. He learned a lot about himself AND his family.

    I think you are right on all of these points.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut unless I’m asked. It’s interesting how many of my close friends haven’t asked for advice even though they know I’m a personal finance blogger and studied finance in college. With that being said, when someone asks I definitely give them an answer!

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      I’d say you know a thing or two about finance. I’d definitely go to you for advice! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says:

    The first advice is the best…don’t give unsolicited advice! It’s hard because you want to help but once when I tried, it came off as if I was being judgmental. I think leading by example is the best and one friend who was bad with money said something hilarious once…he told me that when he was about to make a big purchase, he thought to himself…”What would Andrew do?” I felt honored!

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      I think it’s almost impossible to give unsolicited financial advice without coming off as judgmental. I’m sure my friend thought I was judging her, and if I’m honest with myself, I absolutely was. It was hard to hear about how badly she wanted to continue to stay home with her daughter, and then hear about her excitement over a new car that she didn’t need.

      And yes, I’d say that’s a pretty big compliment! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jordan says:

    Learned all these the hard way. Definitely lessons learned when helping out friends.

  • LC says:

    I will miss your writing, Robin – both on this website and your blog. I hope you are enjoying your mortgage-free status and just loving life in general ๐Ÿ™‚ Best of luck in the future!

    • Robin McDaniel says:

      Thank you so much, LC. Your comment really just made my day!

      Mortgage-free life is pretty great, and I’m looking forward to my next adventure. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Latoya @ Femme Frugality says:

    I don’t bother offering advice because I feel once someone is truly ready they will ask for your help. So, I can’t say I’ve lost any friends over this and I agree, finances and friends can be terribly uncomfortable to watch, but all of us have to learn in our own way.

  • Ethan says:

    I wouldn’t say “don’t lend money” but rather, if you do lend money, just plan on never seeing that money again. Don’t consider it a loan, consider it a gift. And if you get it back, then hey, great.

    I would however say don’t lend money to the same person twice (if they haven’t paid you back the first time). One time to help them out of a bind, fine, but don’t be someone’s personal ATM.

  • Linda says:

    Reminds me of the saying, “Before you borrow money from a friend, decide which you need more”. If a friend asked for help, I’d give it in advice and example. I wouldn’t give or lend $ to someone who is bad with it and would be in the same bind in another month.

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