4 'frenemies' leading you into debt
More than you may realize, your friends influence how much you spend and save. Beware of these 4 types of people.
This post comes from Kali Geldis at partner site Credit.com.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term "frenemy," here's a crash course. A frenemy is a friend who secretly sabotages you. When it comes to your money, frenemies can have a major impact, because your spending is not always as private as you may think.
Take an online purchase -- the most private of all types of spending, right? Not necessarily. Spending can not only be done socially -- like seeing a movie with friends, eating out as a group, or shopping together -- it can also be done for social reasons. You might be buying that suit or dress online, but are you doing it because you need it, or because all your friends have newer clothes, or they recommended that dress brand? Even indirectly, friends can affect your spending.
Here, we break down some of the most common frenemies to your money -- and how to change the way these people affect your wallet.
1. The Mooch
A mooch -- the most obvious debt frenemy -- is the person who is constantly trying to borrow money or promising that he or she will pay you back, then never does. Almost everyone has a friend like this, though some mooches are worse than others.
A mooch can cost you money in three ways:
- Borrowing money and never paying it back. "I forgot" is an excuse you'll hear often. Combat this by being more upfront about when and how you'd like to be paid back. For example, tell the friend, "That's OK, as long as you can pay me back tomorrow at Chelsea's party." Setting a strict deadline makes the transaction feel more like an actual loan with terms and conditions.
- Putting you in a position where you have to pay. I was recently put in this position by a friend who was at my house hanging out and wanted to order some food. Assuming we would split the cost, I ordered food for us both and then the friend told me she had forgotten her wallet. Left with no options, I paid for her food and mine.
- Borrowing physical goods. Just because a friend isn't borrowing money doesn't mean he or she can still take things without paying. This can range from the small to the large. A bag of chips probably won't put you into debt, but a car that gets wrecked or stolen could be extremely costly.
2. The Partier
Do you know how much the average American spends on nights out in a year? Just to give you an idea, Americans spend roughly $213 billion a year on just beer and fast food. That's about $685 per person. A big expense, and that's not including fine dining, casual dining or hard alcohol and wine, all of which are more expensive options.
The partier is the person who loves the finer things in life. A $12 bottle of wine? No, the partier wants a $50 bottle. A birthday dinner for a friend? The partier wants to do dinner and bottle service at a swanky club. This type of friend has you spending beyond your means just to spend time together, and such costs can add up quickly.
To solve this problem, make the friend aware of the situation and suggest lower-cost ways to spend time together. Or, if you don't want to sound like you're pleading poverty, just plan fun events yourself or make an effort to show your friend that money doesn't equal fun.
Remember that while overspending may not lead you into debt immediately, it still can cause serious damage to your credit scores and financial future. For example, are you charging more than 20% to 30% of your credit card limits? That will lower your credit scores, which can led to higher interest rates on loans. To find out more about the factors that impact your score, check out your Credit Report Card and see where you stand. (Post continues below video.)
3. The 'Money Expert'
This is probably the most dangerous frenemy on our list, because a "money expert" can get you into serious financial trouble very quickly by acting like an authority on finances, when he or she really doesn't have a clue. One of the biggest investing mistakes beginners make is investing without fully understanding the risks. The same goes for your personal finances.
The best money advice you can get is from two places -- a financial literacy course or a true money expert like a Certified Financial Planner or a Certified Public Accountant. A financial literacy course gives you the tools to manage your own finances, while a money expert not only has extensive education requirements, but also has fiduciary responsibilities to you.
After all, getting advice from a friend on what impacts your credit scores isn't as authoritative as getting it from a credit expert likeBarry Paperno, who has spent decades in the credit scoring industry. The bottom line on dealing with this frenemy is to always check your facts with sources of record, even if the advice seems obvious. Take it from us -- the people who hear credit and debt myths from our readers all the time.
4. The Competitive One
Keeping up with the Joneses is a classic way of spending yourself into oblivion. Take the recent housing market bust as an example. Too many Americans borrowed way more than they could afford to pay back, and housing values continued to appreciate without reason. The problem was twofold: Banks were more willing to lend, but borrowers were also willing to take on more debt.
Just because your friends have new cars doesn't mean you have to have one, too. The competitive frenemy differs from the partier in that the competitive frenemy compels you not just to keep up, but often to outdo others to be "the best." Don't fall for the bait!
The upside of the frenemy is that many have turned frugality into a competition. At Credit.com, we had our own "Debt Diet" challenge. This frenemy could become a true friend by harnessing the spirit of competition into a positive outcome for both of you, like the mania surrounding extreme couponing.
More from Credit.com and MSN Money:
- 5 stupid things you're doing to ruin your credit
- The ultimate credit report cheat sheet
- What would Jesus charge? The morality of debt
- How to take a car loan from family
- How to shop for a personal loan
- Calculator: Do you have too much debt?
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
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A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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