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Today I am happy to welcome back my friend Cherie Lowe from the Queen of Free, who has graciously joined us here at LWSL as a regular monthly contributor. Cherie is the author of the amazing book, Slaying the Debt Dragon, which she wrote after paying off more than $127,000 in debt! I am so excited to have her bringing her wealth of knowledge & experience on this subject to LWSL–please join me in making her feel right at home!
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This is a Guest Post from Cherie at Queen of Free
“The best time to make friends is before you need them.” Ethel Barrymore
It’s been said friendship is the greatest gift in life. Friends enrich our experience, providing laughter, wisdom, and above all else memories to cherish long after the moment we spend together passes. However, I know from experience that paying off debt while maintaining healthy friendships can be tricky territory. The temptations to overspend triple when we have another human being whispering in our ear, “Go ahead and do it. It’s not that big of a deal.”
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It’s difficult enough to remain disciplined and on task with our finances without anyone else diminishing our efforts or worse encouraging us to pursue an entirely different path. When we indulge such influences, instead of becoming debt free, we end up deeper in our financial woes.
At the same time, it’s highly unlikely you can serve your friends with breakup papers once you begin a path of Slaying the Debt Dragon. And if you can, I might question your ability to get along with others in the first place. I certainly won’t be signing up to be your BFF.
How do you navigate the difficult waters of friendship and paying off debt? And on the flipside, how can you be the type of friend who champions someone else who is pursuing financial freedom? While these guiding principles might not answer every specific situation, they definitely give a starting place to help you begin to be a better financial friend.
Have a Heart to Heart (at the right time)
In college, there was nothing more thrilling or terrifying than a “DTR” conversation with someone you were dating. DTR in case you didn’t already know stands for “define the relationship.” It either meant you were about to get more serious or dumped (and honestly both can be thrilling and terrifying depending on who you were going out with).
If your economic circumstances have recently changed, you need to have a similar chat with your closest of friends. Note, I did say closest of friends. You don’t need to open a dialogue via Facebook status update.
If you’ve lost a job or had a reduction of pay, be vulnerable enough to share that. If you’ve decided to pursue saving for a vacation or the thrilling experience of paying off debt, then tell your friend. You can be as specific or as general as you wish, but your friends can’t know where you are with money if you don’t tell them.
That being said, time your conversation wisely. If you’ve committed to sharing the cost of a trip or a gift, remain true to your word. Don’t leave your friend hanging out to dry or to pick up your tab. Unless your fiscal state is utterly catastrophic, don’t back out of plans made before your change.
Be sure you schedule your conversation at a time that is without distraction. On the sidelines at the kids’ soccer game? Probably not a good time to chat. Sitting with a cup of coffee at your kitchen table? Much more ideal.
Real friends understand that a deep relationship doesn’t require scads of cash. Real friends want to support you. Real friends don’t judge but ask, “What can I do to help?”
Word of warning: this is not your opportunity to air all of your financial frustrations and grievances. Focus on your own behavior, not the choices of others.
The Best Things in Life Are Free
Whether you’re someone who wants to invest in your friendships while paying off debt or if you’re a friend to someone who is in such a pursuit, you need to refine how you spend time with others.
If a night out on the town for the two of you costs more than the GDP of a small country, it’s time to scale back your quality time. Instead of planning elaborate vacations, expensive gift exchanges, and extravagant evenings of pricey dinners, look for ways to spend time together that costs nothing at all.
From a walk in the park to a board game or simply sharing a meal or beverage of choice at home, you can still build significant bonds without breaking the bank. Yes, you may have to rethink some of your traditions. Then again, you may begin creating traditions that aren’t really based on spending money.
Make Difficult Choices
In the end, you may have to make a challenging call and alter a friendship or two. Don’t misunderstand me. You should never kick a friend to the curb over money. However, if you are tempted to overspend or go into debt merely by having a relationship with someone else, you may want to identify whether or not you’re allowing a friend to have too much power over your finances and life.
In Proverbs 26:11 we discover an ancient piece of wisdom that applies thousands of years later. It’s a little gross but promise you’ll hang in there with me. “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.”
Icky, right? And yet you know it’s true. If you keep returning to the same friendship patterns, expecting a different result you’ll soon discover the foolishness in your thinking.
Being an adult and managing your resources well means that sometimes you’ll need to say no. It might also mean that you need to limit your interaction with others. It’s always easier said than done, but a truth that we full well know.
“A friend is a gift you give yourself.” Robert Louis Stevenson
Healthy friendships come at a cost. Friends willingly give up their time and personal pursuits for the love for another person. However, you need to be intentional as you approach the areas where friendship and your finances overlap. True friends will cheer you on as you reach toward your goals, not hold you back.
Cherie Lowe is an author, speaker and hope bringer. Her book Slaying the Debt Dragon details her family’s quest to eliminate over $127K in debt in just under four years. As her alter ego the Queen of Free, Cherie provides offbeat money saving tips and debt slaying inspiration on a daily basis.