Thousands of people are struggling with living costs. Many of us will watch it happen to people we care about.
It can be hard to talk about money. But there are things you can do to help a friend in need.
To support a friend with money worries:
Spot the debt warning signs
Fewer than one in three people will ask for help with debt.
We may try to pretend everything is fine until something big happens.
This can be a 'tipping point' like:
- An emergency expense
- Threatening letters
- Court action
- A sudden life change like
- Job loss
- New baby
- Rising bills
It can still be hard to ask for help after the tipping point too.
Keep an eye out for these ten ‘red flags’ in friends:
1. They have been in debt before
Debt is hard to escape from. New ones can build up while you try to pay off another.
Look out for any mention of their overdraft – it is a common debt that is hard to get out of.
2. They had a recent loss of income
Obvious examples of reduced income include:
3. They live beyond their means or overspend
They always have new things but no money.
4. They seem anxious, withdrawn or depressed
Living in debt has a huge impact on mental health.
Your friend might:
- Stop calling
- Say they cannot go out
- Panic if you suggest doing something
When you do see them, notice their mood and habits.
- Are they eating?
- Do they seem rested?
- Are they distracted?
5. They seem secretive
Are they avoiding something?
You may notice they don't want to talk about:
6. They change their spending habits
You might notice they spend less by:
- Not going out
- Ordering the cheapest thing on the menu
- Only buying things on sale
- You might also notice that they overspend like:
- Putting big things on credit cards
- Ordering lots of Buy Now Pay Later items
7. They change their transport habits
- Have they sold their car?
- Do they only take the bus now?
- ;Are they walking everywhere?
8. They seem tired
Trouble sleeping is a common symptom of debt stress.
Signs include yawning and rubbing their eyes, but also:
- Trouble focusing
9. Unopened bills
Letters from creditors can be scary. Many people stop opening them.
10. You stop seeing them
Having a friend avoid you or stop taking your calls is a big red flag.
Being in debt carries a lot of shame. This can make people cut off.
It hurts, but people often withdraw when they need support the most.
Keep talking about debt
There is a lot of social stigma around debt.
It is scary to talk about, but we need to talk about it.
Help your friend by starting a conversation.
- Who would they feel safe talking to?
- Has anyone else noticed what you have?
You can bring it up casually because money worries are normal.
Talking about debt can:
- Take some pressure off
- Let them know they are OK
- Inspire them to find help
Show them they are not alone
More people face debt problems every day.
Our real life debt stories, from people who changed their lives, may encourage your friend to ask for help.
We help thousands each week.
- Independent and non-judgemental debt advice
- Support to take back control of finances
Be supportive but look after yourself
You may want to help, but you need to know you can afford to.
Lots of our clients fall into debt by lending to friends and family who cannot pay them back.
You have to look after your own finances too.
If a loved one asks you to be a guarantor on a loan, explain that:
- You do not want debt to ruin your relationship
- You still love them
- You want to help in other ways
Worrying about people we love takes a toll on own mental health too.
Mental Health UK say: “We recommend practising the five ways to wellbeing:
1. Connect with others, such as friends and family
This might be:
- A quick chat over a cuppa
- A long conversation over a meal
2. Be active
- Physical activity is great for our mental health
- It can work as well as antidepressants
3. Take notice
- Be mindful of the world around you and your surroundings
- You can find some great mindfulness videos on YouTube
4. Keep learning
- Keep your brain stimulated
- Pick up a new craft, skill, or book of puzzles
5. Do something for other people
- Get that feel-good feeling of doing nice things for others
- Doing something good boosts our own wellbeing