In the process of making out my Christmas card list for the year, I was struck by how many of our close friends are also debt free. I’ve never given it much thought, but there it was. We didn’t plan it this way, it just sort of evolved over the years. Like any sort of friendship, we share a common bond with these people. We understand each other’s goals and the things we have to do to make those goals happen. It’s much harder to bond with someone who shops a lot and lives well above their means. As a result, over the years many people that we were “friends” with earlier in our lives have fallen by the wayside because it just got harder and harder to find common ground as they upgraded to bigger homes, ate at pricier restaurants, drove fancier cars, and generally moved into a life of debt that we weren’t willing to engage in.
If you’re living the debt free life (or are working toward it), debt free friends are invaluable. These are the people who don’t get offended if you suggest a pot luck supper instead of a restaurant meal. They will happily listen to you talk about the depletion of your savings when an appliance breaks and they will commiserate with you. They’re always the first with a new money saving tip or deal. They are always available to help with a DIY project and many will eagerly volunteer their time before you even ask. They’ll loan you just about anything. They always know the newest books at the library and are on top of investing strategies. They enjoy outings to the park or to a free movie rather than a night of clubbing. And they are the best people to have around when you feel like an oddball in a world of consumption and waste because they understand those feelings.
Debt free friends make a debt free life easier. Without their ideas and thoughts I’d have to work a lot harder to find the information I need. A debt free friend will never look down on you, make you feel bad, or try to guilt you into a purchase if you say, “Hey, it’s just not in the budget this month.” They get it. They’re also great at talking you down when you just want to give in and rack up debt for something you saw that you really loved. (And it does happen. The debt free are human and we are subject to temptation, just like anyone else.) They’re there and willing to help when you’ve gone over budget and need to get back on track. And they are around to just bounce ideas and strategies off of when you need to brainstorm.
I’d never choose a friend based solely on their debt level and it’s certainly not the first thing I ask when I meet someone new. Some people with debt remain great friends to me because they care more about me than about whether or not I want to spend money today. They’re satisfied to just be with me, no matter what we do. But I’ll admit that such an attitude is easier to find amongst the debt free than those with debt. Many of the people I know who are not debt free (or working on it) just don’t understand when I say, “It’s not in the budget.” They can’t understand when I’m upset that the fridge broke down and I had to lay out money to replace it. They get testy when I suggest an outing to a free museum rather than a day at the mall. They roll their eyes when I say I’m spending the weekend painting the bedroom. In short, it’s harder to bond with those people.
If you’re debt free or heading that way, you’ll probably find yourself gravitating toward other like-minded people. It’s just because you share a common bond and purpose. You can help each other and be there for each other in ways that those who don’t understand your goals cannot be. You’ll have other friends, too, but your debt free friends will make the journey so much easier and more fun. Maybe one day you’ll look up and realize that most of your friends are debt free, or at least working on it, and you’ll realize that those friends are very valuable, indeed.