How to Help Your Friends With Their Money Troubles

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Helping friends with a budget

Right off the bat, I want to throw out a disclaimer: you can’t help the unwilling, folks. You also don’t want to annoy friends and family by pushing your views on budgeting, spending, saving and all things finance on them. Doing so will likely backfire and create animosity or resentment between you and the ones you love. So, this post only really applies to those friends who have asked you for help with their money troubles, who want to make a positive change, and who want to learn your snazzy frugal ways.

This isn’t for the friends who you know would benefit greatly from a little financial kick-in-the-pants but who won’t listen. This is for the soon to be rockstars of financial independence:

1. Invite Them Over for Cheap Activities

One of the big issues with trying to become financially fit is that you have to say no to people a lot, and sometimes saying no is really lame. For example, your friends might invite you to the movies or out to eat at a nice restaurant, and you know it’s not in your budget.

So, in order to help your friends who are trying to overcome money troubles by pinching their pennies, try some of these ideas for saving money on entertainment: invite them over for game night. Order a pizza. Better yet, make a pizza. Hang out, drink cheap beer, and enjoy each other’s company. You don’t need to have a $100 dinner to do that! Plus, they’ll really appreciate the fact that they weren’t put in an awkward position of having to say no.

2. Check in On Them and Their Money Troubles

One of the hardest things to do when it comes to remaining financially fit is staying on track. I think we could all benefit from a little accountability, so if you know someone who is trying to do better with their finances, check in on them. Let them know you’re rooting for them. Ask them how their debt repayment is going.

Make sure to keep your tone light and non-judgmental. You want them to trust you so that they admit when things aren’t so great. Money is such a sensitive subject for the vast majority of the population that there is often shame or anxiety involved when it comes to overspending or other general money troubles. Be sensitive to that and be encouraging.

3. Offer to Look Over Their Budget

You’ve been budgeting for a while, but your friend hasn’t. As any die hard budgeting nerd knows, budgets really do take some time to tweak and get just right. It could take several months of tracking, spending, and changing categories to find one that really works best for you. Plus, there are so many different kinds of budgets. There are budgets using a pen and paper, budgets using excel, and budgets using online software.

I like a combination of excel and online software, but some other people kick it old school by balancing a checkbook. Whatever works for your friend, help them and encourage them, especially if they get frustrated or need a little guidance on how to organize things.

Ultimately, it’s a great feeling to help someone who really does want to make a positive change in terms of their financial goals.


Have you ever helped a friend who asked you for money advice? Who helped you overcome your own money troubles? Do you feel like you’re ready to return the favor for someone else in your life who’s ready for help?



Photo courtesy of: Chris Potter

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • In my group of friends we have a mixture of spending types. Some frugal and some spendthrifts. We’ve gotten the frugal people together and now plan less expensive get togethers before the spendthrifts have a chance! It looks like these plans happen organically but really we’re trying to get ahead of them and avoid those expensive outings. Once in a while we do some more expensive stuff but for the most part the frugal folk are winning out!

  • I’ve found that when I offer alternatives and sensible ways to save to friends struggling with money, they just start piling on the excuses and justifications. They have to WANT to make the change.

  • Awesome post, Cat!! There are so many ways to help your friends become frugal and pay off debt. We do the bbq thing often and it’s always a blast. We haven’t been out to eat with friends in almost a year, yet we manage to have lots of fun gatherings with them.

  • I have tried to help so many people in so many ways, but it is mostly pointless. They are in bad financial shape for a reason…you just can’t help people sometimes. =(

  • Alicia @ Financial Diffraction says:

    I don’t try to help my friends unless they’ve made some sort of reference to their finance issues. That being said, if I know someone’s financial situation I am all for trying to keep costs on the lower side, such as having people over for dinner, or grabbing a coffee rather than appies, etc.

    I have a very open relationship with one of my friends, and so we’ve made budgets together for different things (her wedding, my wedding, her losing her salary, etc). But that’s because we’re both spreadsheet nerds 🙂

  • Average Joe says:

    I like these ideas. If you’re a friend to someone with money troubles, I think it’s important to be “surround sound” of good habits without seeming like you’re parenting them. Nothing will kill a friendship quicker….

  • William L says:

    I think the coolest part about this article is the reminder to encourage your fellow savers. Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one trying to save when it’s not the truth. A community of savers helps with that. Much like this blogosphere we’re all part of.

  • I’ve never had a friend ask me for advice. I’ve had some complain about money, but I don’t say anything. In fact I just wrote a piece that has yet to be published on the subject of when do you speak up…mostly pertaining to PF blogs and watching someone go down a potentially dark financial rabbit hole. It’s a tricky thing!

  • Deacon Hayes says:

    I have had the privilege of helping several friends and family members put together a budget as well as get out of debt. I get so pumped when someone asks me because I really enjoy helping people tackle their finances. You are right about not being able to help the unwilling, that never works out well.

  • Nick says:

    Simple and sweet. Sometimes all it takes is to be a friend and be there for someone. Great reminder!

  • I think it’s good to not bring up finances unless the friend offers it up. I have one friend who brought up financial issues three times while we were hanging out, and I felt that was enough of an opening to start discussing things. We didn’t get too into it, but I did offer some tips and asked some questions. By the way I SWEAR by Excel. One of these days I will make a version of my tracking file for others to download.

  • It can get tricky to offer advice. Like you mentioned it has to be done with someone who is ready to listen. I’m always happy to help a friend and I’ve offered financial advice before but I think some people are not willing to make the sacrifices they need to make or they just don’t get it. It takes time to change habits but if you have the patience it always feels nice to help someone out.

  • Seeing as how I consider all of my clients my friends, I would say that I help lots of friends with money. 🙂 That being said, I do love suggesting cheap ways to get together and hang out. There is nothing worse than having money problems AND social problems. Everyone can stand to spend less money on entertaining and some of the best times I have with friends are the most inexpensive where we have potlucks and play board games.

  • Kassandra says:

    I have had a former co-worker and a couple of friends ask me to help them review their budget and expenses to see how they could save more money. A couple of them implemented some of my suggestions whereas one just looked at my list of ideas and decided to pull the ostrich in the sand and stay there. You can’t win them all lol!

  • Kim says:

    My real life friends haven’t really asked for any financial advice. When I’ve tried to offer suggestions, it usually gets met with a look like I’ve grown a horn out of my forehead or something. I have had several readers email me asking for suggestions or just needing support. That’s really one of the reasons I started my blog, to connect, so that’s very rewarding for me and hopefully for them too.

  • Great post! I had a friend having money trouble. So I will definitely follow this tips. I hope I can help her. Thank you.

  • Michelle says:

    The hardest part I had when starting my financial journey, was having friends who were not willing to keep that spending money was going to be hardship for me personally. My friends now know that I will go out with them, but I can’t hit every bar/restaurant on the way.

  • debt debs says:

    It seems like it would be easy to help a friend (if they asked) but it’s not always the case. Sometimes they want help but they want the easy way out and are not willing to do the personal sacrifices that have to be made to get there. I’ve found out this trying to help my sister. Sometimes I just have to bite my tongue. It’s hard for though because I almost blow a gasket.

  • catherine says:

    This has been my life for years with my sister. I help and she resorts to old ways. It kills me…she has the most ridiculous excuses (most recent, she doesn’t know where her ER fund went…hmm…). Can’t help the unwilling, as you said.

  • I’m not sure I’d be comfortable helping friends with monetary troubles through looking over their budget as that might cause some friction; however, I love the idea of inviting them over just for some free activity!

  • I love the idea of inviting friends to frugal activities. I find it’s best when I give a totally different slant to them.

    For example, we’re not going hiking because it’s free; we’re going because it’s active!

  • I’ve helped a few friends with their money. The key is that most of them came to me. I’ve tried a couple of times with other friends who I know are bad with money based on the comments they make but they are never open to talking about. I just let them know that if they ever want to talk, I am here for them and leave it at that.

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