Should you comment on a friend’s overspending?

This post is from Ollie Geiger, a personal finance writer who contributes to MoneyRates.com.

My wife has a friend who likes to talk about how broke she is. This friend – let's call her “Amber,” since that's her real name – is fond of complaining about the dire state of her finances each month, even though her income is higher than many of our mutual friends.

But here's the rub in Amber's complaints: She is a spender. When she and my wife take shopping trips, she buys some very nice things. We're talking non-essentials, including lavish gifts for friends and plenty of impulse buys – such as the high-end mountain bike she bought this spring that has since served as a coat rack in her apartment.

Mountain bike/coat rack
Saddest awesome bicycle ever

My wife was fine with not bringing up the obvious to Amber until the irony around the situation began to grow too thick. As my wife put it, listening to Amber complain about money just moments after she showed off her latest purchases was like listening to someone lament their tragic struggle with weight gain as they polished off the last crumbs of a six-foot party sub.

Friends to the Rescue?

Eventually, Amber's complaints over the state of her finances so concerned one of their mutual friends – a friend who makes less than Amber – that she proposed that their group of friends split Amber's part of the bill for a recent girls-night-out.

“I just couldn't do it,” my wife later confessed to me. “She thought we'd be doing a great thing for our hard-luck friend, but I knew that all we were doing was enabling her and reinforcing her own bogus story.”

My wife felt bad declining to chip in, but she was now on the brink of telling Amber that she was less a victim of capitalism and more a victim of her own financial obliviousness. Eventually, my wife asked me: Is there any sense in saying anything to her?

I was of two minds. On the one hand, I believe that close friends should be capable of honesty with each other – and Amber and my wife are fairly close. If your friends can't call you out when we're doing something foolish, who can? Family may be the answer to that question for some, but critiques from a peer can sometimes ring truer than critiques from your 53-year-old aunt from Jacksonville.

On the other hand, I realize that there's little sense in criticizing your friend's behavior if it will only hurt her feelings. Amber can be a bit sensitive, and it's possible that she might prefer to withdraw slightly from the friendship than change her behavior in the face of a critical comment. If that happened, I couldn't see an upside to the decision.

I eventually advised my wife to shelve her irritation and move on. If Amber ever directly asked my wife how she could end her financial woes, I'd fully endorse my wife unpacking her true thoughts. But as far as I know, Amber has never done so. It's possible she even knows the answer to her dilemma, but just likes to vent to her friends about the struggle. I could be wrong, but I wasn't comfortable recommending anything else under the circumstances.

When is it a good idea to comment on a friend's spending? How should you do it? Conversely, how would you handle it if someone close to you commented on your spending?

More about...Debt

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Brett
Brett
7 years ago

I believe constantly complaining can be interpreted as a “cry for help”. Instead of offering “unsolicited” advice, I would say something to her using a different approach. I would likely use her words to offer her help: “You say that you’re having financial problems. My husband and I have recently made some changes that really helped us. I could share some of our tips, if you’d like.”

Michael
Michael
7 years ago
Reply to  Brett

This is how I’ve always tried to get the ball rolling. So many people absolutely hate talking about money with anyone other than their closest peers – in many cases their significant others and that’s it. So if the subject ever comes up, we just kind of nudge in and talk about what we’ve been doing and how well it works and some tricks we’ve found that help us keep up with it. If they want to learn more, we’ll gladly discuss it with them, or let them borrow books, or go over how we budget and maybe help them… Read more »

Babs
Babs
7 years ago

You could email a link to a Blog post referring to this problem. I bet you could find one. Add the message “I thought this might be of interest to you”.
If you are very tired of the complaining ask her if she has tried budgeting and offer help if you think that is appropriate or a budget worksheet or introduce her to the Dave Ramsey plan.
Then write a post on how parents can get their kids to see the error of their ways. 🙂

Josetann
Josetann
7 years ago

If she just complains about not having money, I’d ignore it. But if she were to ask you for money to keep from being evicted, that’s when I’d offer some help. Say something like “I’m a bit strapped this month, but if you’d like I can help you go over your finances and see if we can find a way to keep you in your house.” Also, it’s possible she’s doing this just to get attention (attention from the cool toys she buys, and again for her money woes). I’ll listen to someone like that, but won’t give them the… Read more »

mary w
mary w
7 years ago
Reply to  Josetann

Yep, I’m with you. I’d only have the conversation if the friend was asking me for money or broadly hinting that I should loan them money.

Over the years I found that most people have a complaining level that is pretty constant. If she weren’t complaining about money it would be her partner, job, food, etc.

getagrip
getagrip
7 years ago

The true trick is to not let your wife build up frustration until the moment there’s an opening she goes at it like a frenzied logger axing a tree trunk. The friend will get ultra defensive. I would humbly suggest your wife just add one comment every time the friend complains, like a truism such as “you know, it isn’t what you make but what you keep that gets you rich”, or a question for the friend to think about like “do you track your spending to see where your money goes?”, or an example about how you two got… Read more »

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
7 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

I have a friend who really likes shopping – when she wants to hang out, it’s usually her idea to go to the mall. I know they’re living at least partly off student loans at the moment, so I try to discourage her spending by saying stuff like “Have you been wanting a purse like that for a while?” when she mentally anguishes about buying a new $200+ purse. Sometimes the comments work, and sometimes they seem to go straight over her head since she doesn’t want to hear them… In fact, she’ll even say stuff like, “Since I work,… Read more »

getagrip
getagrip
7 years ago

Once my brother-in-law was complaining to me that he never met any decent women he wanted to date. I pointed out that the low life bars where he liked to hang out weren’t a really fertile ground for the kind of woman he claimed to be looking for? He asked me why I thought he wanted to get someone pregnant.

I feel your pain. Sometimes they just can’t, or refuse, to get it.

Megan
Megan
7 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

“The true trick is to not let your wife build up frustration until the moment there’s an opening she goes at it like a frenzied logger axing a tree trunk.”

GREAT description, and this is advice that can apply to many other situations, too.

sara
sara
7 years ago
Reply to  Megan

I agree. I think the issue is less about helping this person, as it is, how can your wife be in the relationship and be ok with it, which means saying something at some point before she’s moved into resentment. It can be framed around how she feels about what her friend is saying… “sweetie, you’re saying you don’t have any money and at the same time ___ (observe whatever the behavior is). Sometimes it’s hard for me to hear you say you are broke when I think your income is higher than mine. I really value our friendship and… Read more »

Stephen
Stephen
7 years ago

Now comes the treacherous uphill battle of convincing Amber to de-clutter. You can start by telling her this commenter will pay to take that mobile coat-rack off her hands.

Sheryl
Sheryl
7 years ago

Honestly? Most people don’t want to hear anyone else’s opinions on how they spend their money, even if they do spend time complaining and/or bragging about it. The most I’d do, unless asked for an opinion, is offer to help review the budget next time they complain. The reaction to that offer is going to get you a good idea as to whether they’ll be open to your thoughts or not.

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
7 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl

Agree. People don’t want others’ opinions. It only ruins families and friendships. Unless she asks, forget about it. Any comments she makes about money, forget about it. Unless she’s asking your thoughts, forget about it. Take home message? Forget about it. 🙂

Sam
Sam
7 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl

I’m open about how we manager our personal finances, so with friends I feel like I’m setting a good example or simply choosing to live a different way. While Mr. Sam and I were trying to kill our unsecured debt ($55,500) in 2007 I had peers and friends who had similar amounts of student loan debt. When we were out for a glass a wine, one friend might share news about a European vacation. When I would be asked about our vacation plan I would be honest and say no way are we heading to Europe we are working on… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  Sam

If the municipality goes under, he won’t be looking at a “sweet lifetime pension.” You might want to point that out…

Stacie
Stacie
7 years ago

I would probably ignore it until she started coming to you for money. But I would stop the shopping trips that only encourage her spending. Maybe propose cheaper alternatives when she wants a girls night or to hang out? You can even phrase it so it’s about you and your budgets…”I hadn’t budgeted for another happy hour this week. Want to have a picnic instead?” or something like that.

Tom
Tom
7 years ago
Reply to  Stacie

Good point on the shopping. If your friend wanted to stop smoking, you wouldn’t smoke in front of them, and you wouldn’t take a recovering alcoholic to a bar.

EK
EK
7 years ago
Reply to  Stacie

This is a really good idea. I say things like that all the time (and they’re true, I only do budget for one happy hour a week); good friends get it. I’d also broach something like this if the “let’s all go out and pay for Amber” thing occurs again, saying to everyone, “hey, it sounds like we as a group might just want to come up with cheaper alternatives so no one feels bad [general enough to refer to you OR her], maybe it would be best to meet at someone’s house next time.”

Edward
Edward
7 years ago
Reply to  Stacie

I like this one. I do the same thing. If a friend (who’s dumb with money) starts suggesting something costly I tell them, “I’m trying to do this thing where I save more money for a few months–I’m at 35%, but trying to push higher so I can’t really afford that during this experiment. Want to try something else?” Of course, there is no experiment. But I’ve found it will make my friend feel a little sorry for me instead (ha, ha!) and it gets them thinking, “Holy cow! This guy thinks it’s important to save 35%?! …Maybe I should… Read more »

A-L
A-L
7 years ago

I agree with those who suggest asking a question the next time she mentions her financial woes (i.e. Do you track your spending? or Have yout tried making a budget?).

That being said, was I the only one annoyed at the fact that the lady’s real name is being used? It wouldn’t even have been so bad if they had just said, “Let’s call her Amber,” because people would have assumed it’s not her real name. But not only are they using the real one, they’ve also identified it as real. Frankly, that bothers me.

Marsha
Marsha
7 years ago
Reply to  A-L

The real-name thing also concerns me. Plus, I’m assuming that’s a picture of her bike, with her jacket on it, in her home? Not cool. If I was Amber and discovered this blog post, the friendship would be over and I’d be very angry at my ex-friend’s husband. Unless she asks for help, you need to stay out of her business.

How would you like it if I pretended to be your friend and secretly took pictures of stuff in your home and then outed you on the internet?

Ash (in US)
Ash (in US)
7 years ago
Reply to  A-L

As far as the real name goes, I think that the editor (whoever it is) should probably have called the author on that.

I will say that for the most part the site has been looking much better lately as far as editing issues, so if someone has recently taken over (maybe April?), it looks great!

RachH
RachH
7 years ago
Reply to  A-L

“Amber” was in quotes. I took it as a joke, considering that anyone who’s anyone writing about a situation like this which did not directly shape the writer in a personal way generally does use code names. Memoirs about childhood and family drama? Easier to come clean and say names since that can all be looked up by the reader (meaning it’s never really hidden). A friend’s situation? You use a code name and it’s likely they will stay anonymous to the vast majority of readers.

LeRainDrop
LeRainDrop
7 years ago
Reply to  A-L

About “let’s call her ‘Amber,’ since that’s her real name,” I took that as a total joke, thought it was funny. You see things all the time like “let’s call him ‘Bill’ to protect the innocent,” which is also just as obvious, so the author was a little tongue in cheek. I also really enjoyed the story and writing, and though the end came pretty suddently, it left a good take-off point for our comments.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
7 years ago
Reply to  LeRainDrop

“…For privacy’s sake let’s call her Lisa S. No, that’s too obvious. Let’s say L. Simpson.”

Megan
Megan
7 years ago
Reply to  A-L

This really bothered me, too. Plus, the writer has pretty unique first and last names. Put it all together, and if I were the friend, it’d be obvious he’s talking about me. Regardless of Amber’s spending habits, I think it’s a slimy thing to do. It’s like he’s hoping Amber will break it off with his wife.

Carole
Carole
7 years ago

It might be time for your wife to move on to friends with a more compatible spending style.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Carole

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible 🙁 I’ve been in this situation with friends where we have so many mutual friends you’re always seeing them or you don’t want to rock the boat. It’s worse with family!

MikeTheRed
MikeTheRed
7 years ago

Unless Amber starts asking for help paying for things, or relying too much on friends to foot the bill for dinners and activities, I say keep quiet. Unless you’re being asked to help fix the situation in some way, you haven’t been invited to comment on it at all. I’ve had friends like that in the past, and honestly they drifted away from their more fiscally conservative friends, not because of any animosity or anger, but because over time they and I had diverging interests and lives. They’d want to go on trips every few weeks, go out every night,… Read more »

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
7 years ago

getagrip’s point is valid: something “unplanned” could happen if you let it build up any more. You have 3 options: – Let it go – Break up the friendship – You have to talk about it I agree with Sheryl, but unfortunately there’s a flip side: as much as Amber doesn’t want to hear others’ opinions about her spending, I don’t want to hear her complain that she’s broke either. There are two people in this. So… Amber has to listen to something or the friendship ends. My recommendation would be taking Amber out to dinner and have a “listen,… Read more »

sarah
sarah
7 years ago

“Rather, get to the real problem: her complaining bothers you. So, when you talk, talk about your problem, not hers.”

This, exactly. We don’t even know if “Amber” is broke, or has any real money troubles. Just that she complains a lot. Apparently she makes a lot of money, so perhaps her financial situation is fine and her complaining is just a bad habit. Stopping that seems to be what really needs to happen.

Jenne
Jenne
7 years ago

I agree. Comparing it to a diet would probably be a great way to explain the discomfort.

Or, if your wife wants to be more subtle, she could say, “Yeah, I struggled with that a lot too before we got into this “New Frugality” thing (or “get rich slowly”) or something. Sharing her experiences with “Amber” will either convey something or get Amber to stop talking about money.

Wendy
Wendy
7 years ago

I totally agree with nipping it in the bud. I can’t stand constant complaining, especially when you know they make more than you. It’s like saying “ouch, my diamond shoes are pinching my feet.” Some people just need to complain all the time, but it doesn’t mean I have to listen to it. The next time she complained, I would say something like the other posters recommended, like “do you track your money” or “what are you spending your money on”? My friends understand that I am direct and I don’t take BS, so they can take me or leave… Read more »

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife
louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife
7 years ago

I think it’s rarely a good idea to comment on other people’s spending because you rarely know their exact circumstances (perhaps she’s not actually broke, but just saying she is to not look like a “new stuff!” bragger) and there’s a good chance it’ll come off as judgmental/a criticism. But that’s not to say I would enable or encourage such behaviour – I certainly wouldn’t be picking up their tab or lending them money. I think I’d want to put it out there that I’m pretty good with budgeting and stuff, so if she ever did want to make a… Read more »

Barb
Barb
7 years ago

Well, first, I’d suggest that shopping trips are not the best types of socialization with a friend one knows overspends. Kind of like my kids taking me to the gourmet bakery in the middle of my diet. The first thing your wife might want to do is come up with non spending socialization for the girls (be it the two of them or a group). I mean, the purpose of shopping is to spend. Surely there are other ways to spend time together other than going to restaurants and shopping. Just a thought.

Erin
Erin
7 years ago

I would try to open up a discussion about it, probably starting with a question. Ask what she’s tried to do to make her money go further or something similar, then take it from there with suggestions about cutting spending.

Tom
Tom
7 years ago

I find that discussing ways you’ve saved money is one way to get friends to be honest and open about their spending habits. It can just be worked into conversation rather than having some sort of intervention. Examples like “we do a secret santa instead of getting everyone gifts” or “I decided $150 a month for TV just wasn’t worth it” or “I can’t believe how much money I saved by packing lunch everyday” or “Have you ever heard of this blog Get Rich Slowly? Lot’s of great ideas on there.” 😉 I don’t believe in subsidizing another friend’s night… Read more »

Miser Mom
Miser Mom
7 years ago

I think it would be a good idea to ask *Amber* what kind of feedback she’d like. It shouldn’t be too hard to say, “We’ve all noticed you seem to worry a lot about running out of money. Is that because you’d like some kind of help/advice, or are you just venting? I’m not sure how you’d like me to respond.” If Amber starts making those “I don’t need help” excuses, it’s easy to back off. But if she’s clueless and casting her net far and wide for clues, then it seems to me cruel to remain silent and judge… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Miser Mom

I think this is a great idea for handling the situation. Some people don’t know how to ask for help, and this strategy offers a way in. Otherwise, it can let you know pretty quickly you need to back off. Sometimes people just need to vent, and that’s okay too. Another strategy I’ve used to is ask people “why do you think you’re x?” (x can be broke, single, in a career rut, etc.) Their answer can be quite telling. Sometimes they (wrongly) blame is on external factors and sometimes they can point out issues but need help trying to… Read more »

Susie
Susie
7 years ago

Is Amber aware that the friends discussed splitting her part of the bill? My concern would be that it’s gotten to the point where friends who make less than her are thinking they need to help her out financially. In general, I try to steer clear of giving people unsolicited advice about their finances. However, in this situation, I might bring up the friends pitching in for her, and discuss it from that angle. She may like the attention of people feeling sorry for her, but seeing how she’s coming across to the rest of the group might be humbling… Read more »

Linda
Linda
7 years ago

Ahaha, my roommate is like this, if not worse. Hundreds of dollars on underwear, on gifts for friends and girls, on the most random things. Then thousands on trips, the new iphone, a $3000 laptop. He barely makes money at his job and is living off student loans, but he assumes he’s going to get a great job as soon as he graduates (with mediocre grades and no connections in the industry). I’ve told him straight up that he’s an idiot for spending like he does. But when he’s late on rent and then asks me to sign for his… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago
Reply to  Linda

He spends hundreds on underwear?!?!?!? What is he wearing? 600 count silk boxers from Versace?!?

BD
BD
7 years ago

You obviously have never heard of Joe Boxer. Each pair of their boxers can run from $10 – $20. (each!) And they come in a zillion fun patterns/colors/etc. I’m not a guy, but I can totally see how I’d easily run up a $200 underwear bill at Joe Boxer’s just by picking out 15 or 20 pairs of fun boxers, all in different “themes” (some of them are really cool!) Plus, that roommate probably wasn’t shopping for these things on sale either. So yeah, it wouldn’t take much to run up a $200 underwear bill, and you certainly wouldn’t have… Read more »

Betty
Betty
7 years ago

My SIL often complained they were broke. Eventually, they filed bankrupcey. After the air settled they did ok for a time. Then, all the purchasing started again. The complaints started up again. I was worried and, didn’t know how to help. In deperation one day as she was complaining, I said, “You know it isn’t what you make, it is what you do with your money that counts.” She looked offended and, said matter of factly “I know that.” It didn’t help. They continued along the same path. They went bankrupt again and, eventually divorced. I do wish you wouldn’t… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago

I wouldn’t say anything to her…but I definitely wouldn’t chip in for her night out! If you started doing something like that, I’m sure she would expect it. Some people have a victim mentality. Don’t make it worse by enabling them!!!

Emily @ evolvingPF
Emily @ evolvingPF
7 years ago

I probably would say something if it was a frequent topic and getting on my nerves (which it would).

I’d start with: “Do you actually want to change your financial situation or do you just want to complain? Is this your way of asking for help?” Hopefully that would either push her to admit she wants input or clue her in that her behavior is annoying. If she says she wants to change, then I’d give advice (but have no expectations of it being followed).

Jen2
Jen2
7 years ago

I would offer help carefully. I think you’re right that if you’re close friends you should be able to talk about anything, including money and especially if she complains about being broke or asks for people to cover her tab. I would say something like “let me know if you would like some suggestions on how to improve your financial sitution” or “let me know if you’re interested in someone giving your budget a second set of eyes.” Then leave it up to her.

David
David
7 years ago

I have some friends that complain about money being tight, but refuse to give up their smoking habits. A quick estimate based on observation of their usage indicated they spent around $8k/year on cigs. But they do not want to hear it.

I won’t go into the alcohol issue.

Until they are ready to face the issues, it doesn’t do me any good to help them try to solve several problems.

Debbie
Debbie
7 years ago

I have a long time friend and neighbor who has a similar attitude of compulsive debting and it’s gotten to the point to where they are in danger of losing their home. For example, instead of a new water heater, they plan to buy a big screen TV for the holidays. I do point the disparity out in her thinking,i.e. hot showers vs. a new TV, but it rarely sinks in. It’s quite a balancing act and I’m not a professional, but, like your wife and her friend, I would like to keep our friendship. I have helped her get… Read more »

John S @ Frugal Rules
John S @ Frugal Rules
7 years ago

Money and conversations like this can be difficult. If I did say something to her it would have to be communicated as care and concern for her and wanting to help. In terms of helping chip in for the night out all that really is doing is being an enabler. The bad thing about enablers is that they don’t help you grow and move out of the problem.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
7 years ago

Generally, I don’t think people want to hear comments about their spending habits. If she asks for advice, that’s one thing. I wouldn’t offer it unsolicited. I have a friend who makes more than twice as much as me, yet is always broke. She finally asked if our group of friends could stop talking about money. I think she was tired of hearing how people who make far less than her are saving for houses and retirement, paying for vacations in cash, etc, when she has no savings and hasn’t been able to afford a vacation in several years. Clearly,… Read more »

Chip @ ChipsMoneyTips
Chip @ ChipsMoneyTips
7 years ago

The more pressing question: How does Amber like her new iPhone 5?

Eliza
Eliza
7 years ago

This one is easy. You don’t talk to Amber about *her* problem. Next time she laments her poverty struggles, nod sagely and say, “oh, Amber, I know just what you mean. Feeling poor really sucks. I went through that myself for *years* until I realized no one was going to fix this problem for me. I took a hard look at what I was making and what I was spending, and I decided to make some spending cuts. It was tough at first because I was so used to my lifestyle, but when I realized feeling strapped all the time… Read more »

Mij
Mij
7 years ago
Reply to  Eliza

I LOVE this style of telling the hearer without calling them out. As a friend of mine used to say, “You give them a tall white horse to ride out on into the sunset”. I like the “… solutions was within my power” comment.

Thanks.

HKR
HKR
7 years ago
Reply to  Eliza

Nice script, but I think it’s more suited to a movie; in real life, people interrupt, change the subject, turn the tables, etc. Even if you do make it through the whole spiel, if the friend has been this oblivious up till now, it’s unlikely your speech about *your* life will really trigger that lightbulb moment; they’d probably take it as bragging or criticizing, either of which could hurt your friendship.

lydia
lydia
7 years ago

I have a friend who both drinks and spends A LOT. I have talked to her about the drinking (because she initiated the topic), but not the spending, because she didn’t address that. She always complains about money, but I haven’t felt that the right moment has presented itself. I’d let Amber be broke until she gets a belly-full of it, and maybe she will realize that she is her own problem. Or, she may never figure it out. Some people don’t. Heaven knows it has taken me years to figure out my own failings, and I’m sure there are… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
7 years ago

I wouldn’t say anything until she directed a financial woe comment at me. At that point, I would tactfully mention how “I” have had to make some difficult choices to cut back on spending to make a more stable financial picture for myself. If she understands that this is something everyone faces, she won’t feel attacked. I would never make it about her. If it’s just after a restaurant meal, offer to host a potluck or progessive dinner next time. If it’s just after a shopping spree, offer to go with her to return the purchases or suggest alternative activities… Read more »

Jenn
Jenn
7 years ago

I went through this with my sister a bit. She and her husband have sky-high debt, low-paying jobs, a new baby, two cars and a new Jeep (and they’re making payments on the Jeep and I think one of the cars). And they complain about being broke. I was at least able to talk my sister into using her credit card less. I wouldn’t just let this slide. Amber may actually have a shopping addiction or some other self-control issue, and every purchase she shows off may be a cry for help. The important thing is to not come across… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
7 years ago

Don’t criticize someone else’s behavior unless you are prepared for some aspect of your behavior to be criticized in return.

Mij
Mij
7 years ago

From a different perspective, my wife and I have a mutual friend that calls me cheap because she freely spends her money when we go out. I’ve wanted to make a comment, but my wife tells me to hold my tongue. I think the next time this happens I WILL make a polite rebuttal.

s.h.
s.h.
7 years ago

I think sometimes people vent to friends, but don’t give them the whole story. I talk finances with a few close friends, so with them its understood that when we say “we’re so poor” we really mean we’d like to spend money on something and we might even have enough in the bank, but we don’t make enough for the splurge to be worth it. If the friends who I don’t talk finances with were to listen to us they might very well think “well if you’re so hard up for money, why are you going out for brunch/buying such… Read more »

Amy
Amy
7 years ago

My sister recently came to me to say she knows she’s in big financial trouble, and she knows how to get out of it, but then she listed all of the discretionary expenses that she doesn’t want to give up, knowing she was justifying things just to keep them. She even admitted that if she got a higher-paying job, she would simply increase her spending to match (or exceed) her income. She doesn’t want to see a financial planner because she knows they’re going to tell her to cut out certain things she’s not willing to give up. Her husband… Read more »

Janice
Janice
7 years ago

Sounds to me like she’s bringing up the topic of money all the time by complaining that she’s broke when according to the article, she makes a nice salary. Regardless of what the subconscious motivation is. So if she’s complaining about money enough that her unsuspecting friends think to chip in to buy her dinner (many of whom may make less money than she does), then that’s insensitive on HER part, in my opinion. I liked the poster’s suggestion that the wife ask Amber what type of feedback she’s looking for. That addresses the problem (complaining) with Amber directly without… Read more »

Tiffany
Tiffany
7 years ago

Since Amber is bringing up the subject of financial strain first, I would take it as an opportunity to explain things I do to save and spend money wisely. That way, I am just sharing what works for me, and she could take it or leave it. No one can make a person change, so all we can do is share our own thoughts and experiences.

Sandy
Sandy
7 years ago

I’m honest to a fault and I probably WOULD say something to my friend. It might not be criticism but perhaps along the lines of: “I really don’t like to hear your complaints about money all the time. Could we perhaps talk about something else? Unless of course you’d like my help with your finances, in which case, I’m all yours.” Obviously it’s none of your wife’s concerns how her friend spends her money and perhaps for that reason she shouldn’t comment. However, the constant complaining IS driving your wife crazy and I think she can definitely say something about… Read more »

Josh
Josh
7 years ago

What I’ve found is that people don’t want other people’s advice, no matter how good it is. Rather than give her advice upfront, you have to first subtly convince her that she needs advice. The key is subtlety. For example, if she can’t pay a particular bill that came in, and you know she just bought a $200 purse, suggest the possibility of returning the purse to pay the bill (don’t argue it, of course, but just present the option – it’ll get her thinking). The only way she’s going to connect her spending with her lack of money is… Read more »

Michael
Michael
7 years ago

I’d have to say no except in very delicate terms. I used to share an office with a guy who would always complain about how he didn’t have any money, would have to wait until he was 80 to retire and did not have enough money to help his girls in college at all. Every day he’d stop and buy snacks on the way to work, go get a $3 coffee at lunch, eat out for lunch, another coffee in the afternoon then eat out with his wife in the evening. He was paying 8% on his mortgage and I… Read more »

Denise D.
Denise D.
7 years ago

I think it’s a fine line. I try to provide a sympathetic ear without becoming a friend’s therapist. If I see something obvious (like Amber’s situation), I’ll politely ask, “Would you like my advice?” If my friend doesn’t want my opinion, I keep my mouth shut. Our friendship is worth more to me than being right. One approach I’ve found that sometimes works well is to lend a friend a book, prefacing this by saying, “I was having a similar problem, and this book really helped me.” That way, you remain on an equal footing and let the expert do… Read more »

Susan
Susan
7 years ago

It is really hard to watch a friend or family member you care about in a situation like this. There are some great comments here about suggesting alternatives to shopping, and mentioning being on a budget. I’ve found both family and friends notice some of my positive money habits (a collection of books, following a spending plan, and investing for the future). When they are ready, some of them mention that they too have picked up a finance book and discuss it with me, or they go over their budget with me that they kept while on vacation together and… Read more »

Laura
Laura
7 years ago

Before I read any of the comments, here’s mine: The issue isn’t money. Money is just the symptom here, not the disease. The REAL issue is that Amber uses spending the way an alcoholic uses booze or a drug addict uses drugs to escape from some kind of uncomfortable feeling or bolster her self-esteem. If it wasn’t overspending, it would manifest through some other addictive behavior. If I were in Ollie’s wife’s shoes, I wouldn’t address the problem when Amber is complaining about being broke. I would wait for one of those times when things are just going along, and… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago

“Amber” sounds like a PITA and I would have already disengaged. People who are all “me myself & I,” whether it’s about their kids or their money, are self-involved and boring.

I’ve had a few friends over the years who were very complainy and woe-is-me, but never changed their behavior. It’s not my job to change them … it’s my job to get away from a situation if it’s unpleasant for me.

Most people will only learn from their own painful experience, not from hearing words, however wise, from someone else.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago

Tricky question…. If I were in your wife’s shoes I think I would start by NOT shopping with Amber! No more shopping trips. Instead, go to the movies and get some coffee afterwards. Of course, if Amber asked for financial advice I’d suggest tracking what she spends, or just putting more thought into how she spends her money, etc. I would try to sound a non-judgmental as possible to avoid making her defensive. But, I don’t think I would say anything if I wasn’t asked. Partly this is due to what my mother told me once: You never know what… Read more »

Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
7 years ago

To the wife: It’s very hard to come off as genuinely concerned and selfless when a big part of the reason why you would be speaking up is because her antics bother the hell out of you. I agree that you should help a friend, but it should be out of genuine empathy, not annoyance. It will come off offensive and belittling if you speak up in this situation. If her spending isn’t destroying her life, then speak up under any circumstances! But if you simply want to try to nudge her in the right direction, then, first of all,… Read more »

Bella
Bella
7 years ago

I have a friend who was identical to this Amber person. With one notable exception – she doesn’t make much money – because she refuses to take a job that isn’t ‘completely fufilling’. But she would still go to the stores on black friday to get a new big screen TV, and shop ‘sales’ etc… But this is the part where it gets good. Once she found something in her life (a new career path), and somone whose opinion about her spending mattered to her (who was trying to be frugal) she turned it all around. Well not completely –… Read more »

Brent Hale
Brent Hale
7 years ago

Criticism is rarely ever the answer. Why? Because as humans we despise it. If your wife is concerned about her friend, she has to get her friend to WANT to save her money. The next time she complains, the better approach for your wife to take would be something like… “This is crazy! Me and my husband were just going over our finances and looking for ways to get better control of them… so we started reading and got some really good ideas.” Of course, this could be spun in a million different ways. The point is that you need… Read more »

Michael
Michael
7 years ago
Reply to  Brent Hale

Yeah, all you have to do is criticize and the person on the other end will close up like a clam. As you point out, nobody wants to hear criticism so you need to find some way to make it not negative (I was going to say positive but that might be too difficult). At least not too negative.

clumsypoot
clumsypoot
7 years ago

I think it’s easy to assume that saying something to Amber will actually make a difference. It’s a very rare person who will be humble enough to take what you say (even if you say it gently and out of genuine concern) and consider it and use it to fix the circumstance. You’re more likely to get your head chewed off and a new butt-hole out of the deal. My in-laws have lots of loans and debt and it doesn’t seem to bother them one bit. I’m pretty sure they don’t have a budget, because after pay-day, they go shopping… Read more »

Samantha
Samantha
7 years ago

I have a friend like this right now – she makes amazing money, but spends even more. She buys crazy amounts of stuff – clothes, gifts, dinners out. She complains constantly about her lack of money or her overwhelming debt. But you know what I’ve noticed? She has this same disconnect in almost every area of her life. She is very overweight/unhealthy but eats about three times what a regular person should and is constantly seeking a new miracle pill. She is unhappy with her husband, but of course its his fault and “counseling probably won’t help them”. She is… Read more »

Amy
Amy
7 years ago
Reply to  Samantha

Not at all! Everyone needs to complain once in a while, but constantly? No way — no one needs/wants to hear that.

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