I love my friends.
All four of them.
I’ll do anything to help them in all ways I possibly could. And I sincerely hope – and believe – my friends will do the same for me.
‘But why does Maria have only four friends?’ – you may ask.
Well, I work very hard to make myself disagreeable. (Just kidding.)
You see, there was a time when I had dozens of friends. I made friends in coffee bars, in bars, at work and on the tram. I made friends while running and while playing out with my baby son.
Then I realised that most of these ‘friends’ are actually good acquaintances; and some of them are only acquaintances.
How did I know?
Remember the saying that ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’?
Well, it is not entirely right.
Friends are there for you in times of need. But they are also supportive without judgement and generous without reason (or need).
Gradually, and without much fuss or falling out, I started to discriminate between my family (I come from the Balkans where family really does come first), my friends and all other people in my life that I value and like spending time with but they are good acquaintances.
Do you remember the saying ‘tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are’?
Now this one is really spot on.
Bloggers talk about ‘herd’ mentality.
I won’t call it that: my guess is that sheep follow sheep because they don’t know any better. Human groups work differently.
We humans generally have the need to belong to different groups. We achieve belonging by integrating in groups and societies. For integration into groups to work:
- The group ought to be attractive to the individual; and
- The individual ought to be attractive to the group.
And, like it or not, we are attracted to similarity: this is known as ‘homophily’ or the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others. Belonging, particularly to friendship groups, demands mutual support.
How does this work when it comes to personal finance?
It works in two different ways:
- You are likely to be similar – and in similar situation – as your friends; and
- You are likely to lose your friends support if, and when, you try to change.
Now, do you remember when I was telling you that I love my four friends?
You probably have several people in your life who will support and empower you through thick and thin; including changing your financial fortune.
Your larger friendship circle, mainly consisting of what I called ‘good acquaintances’, can hold you back and keep you broke.
This is how your friends can keep you broke:
#1. Your friends are in debt
If your friends are in debt (and are not doing anything to pay it off) it is very likely that you are as well. It is even worse: if your friends are in debt this becomes the norm. So why bother paying it off?
You know that staying in debt means that you don’t stand a chance of winning the money game, right?
#2. Your friends spend a lot
Do your friends go shopping for fun? Do they earn really well and complain that they can’t even pay their monthly bills?
If yes, than your friends spend far too much. According to the rule of ‘homophily’ you probably spend a lot as well. And this usually mean trouble; particularly if you earn less than your friends do.
#3. Your friends don’t respect your drive for change
Let’s say you’ve finally reached a crisis point and decided to mend your financial ways. You tell your friends and they can’t understand why you are doing what you’ve decided to do.
Or even worse; they get offended because your decision to change is seen as a critique of their life style.
In such, and similar, situation very few people have the strength to go against the demands of the group for compliance.
#4. Snigger at your offer to cook dinner
You call your friends to suggest to have a meal and catch up.
“Where are we going?” – they ask.
“Come to my place and I’ll cook for you. Bring a bottle.”
Your friends are surprised but they arrive for dinner.
Few weeks later it’s time to catch up again. This time they want to go to go out for a meal; without regard for your financial trouble.
Eventually you either start going out with them again or you fall out of the friendship circle.
#5. Plan holidays that stretch your finances
“We have booked a chalet in the French Alps that is big enough for three families.” – my friend chirps down the telephone.
“How much would it cost?”
“Oh; approximately £2,500 per family.” – she says.
This was two months after we started dealing with our debt (and we were very open about it with our friends). We had to look carefully at what we do and how we do it.
“Sorry, we won’t be able to join you.” – I said.
Am I glad that we didn’t go with them? You bet! As a result of such decisions we paid it all off and in record time at that.
But these friends of ours still go for holidays together and we have not been invited since.
#6. Put you down and laugh at your dreams
Do you want to find your true friends?
Tell them your dreams.
True friends won’t laugh at your dreams; they won’t put you down. They will go out of their way to support in chasing your dream.
About a week ago, I told one of my four friends that I want to write for Forbes and the Huffington Post. I was very apologetic about it.
“Oh, I have no doubt you can do this’ – she said. “Is there anything I can help with?”
This is why, she is one of the four.
#7. Constantly criticise your life
When was the last time you read ‘Pride and Prejudice’?
If you really want to know what I mean here, please, read it again. Pay attention to Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Do you have a friend like this? Someone who opens their mouth only to tell you what is wrong with your house, your clothes, your health, your children and your life.
It is not fantasy: I know someone who tells me how fat I’ve become every time I see her. Thank goodness she is not my friend; not even close.
#8. They don’t support you in your goals
“I’ve started swimming lessons.” – I said.
“Oh, really?” – replied my friend. “You know you can’t learn well after 30, don’t you.”
This is what I’m talking about.
As it happens, I learned to swim. In fact, I was asked whether I teach swimming.
And, so that you know, this friendship is kind of over.
#9. They have values that are incompatible with your new ones
Beating ‘broke’ demands change of values.
If you wasted, you’ll have to stop.
If you lusted after things you can ill afford, you have to stop.
If you were content with your salary, you should stop.
Okay, you get it.
Now, if your friends are wasteful, overspending bunch who think that earning more and putting some money away for the future is a middle class burden, you have a problem.
It’ll be again a choice between giving up on your new chosen path or finding yourself some new friends.
#10. Your friends try to be supportive but…
…they go about it the wrong way. This is when you tell them that you wish to pay off all your debt and they say:
“Why are you going to do this? Everyone has debt.”
Not very helpful, is it?
Friends are important in our lives.
Still, you should count yourself lucky if you have five friends who have been your friends most of your life – these are your true soulmates.
Our friendship circles change throughout our lives.
If you are decided to change you financial destiny, you may need to examine carefully your current friendships.