Do you know someone paying off debt, or are you paying off debt yourself?
If you are debt free, first of all, let me say congratulations! Whether your debt freedom was a result of good financial habits from the day you were born, or a result of a massive effort to pay off debt later in life, you deserve a pat on the back and some crazy congratulations.
And if you’re currently in debt, take heart, because there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever progress you’ve made on your debt, whether it’s $100 or $100,000, you also deserve a big congratulations for taking charge of your finances!
HOWEVER, if you’re here and reading this article, then I would bet my next paycheck (ha – I’m a freelancer!) that you know someone who isn’t exactly “down” with the whole GetOutOfDebtAsFastAsYouCan mentality.
Now, I know you’ve seen articles with titles like this one – 12 Things You Should Never Say To The Mother of a Special Needs Child, A Mother of Twins, etc. Maybe you’ve read them them, maybe you just scroll past, but here’s my take:
People are so judg-ey!
I believe that most things people say truly come from a good place, and that overly-sensitive, or just plain worn out people take them the wrong way, which results in those types of articles.
That’s not to say that people don’t say nasty things, and deserve being called out for them, but all I’m saying is that people on both sides of the equation need to put themselves in someone else’s shoes before spouting out the first thing that comes to their mind.
Long introduction + rant aside, I wanted this article to be different.
I wanted it to be made up of truly insulting comments, plus a bit of refleciton on my part to determine if I’m being too sensetiive, or if the people who made these comments were actually being horrible human being in that moment.
Are we on the same page?
“You Guys NEVER Join Us For Lunch”
Listen, I we get that you have unlimited disposable income, don’t care about your credit card balance, or happen to have scored a great coupon, and we’re happy for you.
But that’s not where we’re at.
We don’t want to be antisocial. In fact, we would love to go out to lunch with you and think it would probably be a fantastic time, but we just can’t.
What are you trying to do, shame us for being broke, for improving our financial lives, or for just plain having less money than you do?
That’s called being pretentious, and no one likes a snob.
“That Must Suck”
This is one of those comments that I truly believe comes from a place of empathy – about 50% of the time. The other 50% comes from a judg-ey place.
Yes, we’ve intentionally cut our spending, sacrificed some luxuries, and even more expensive cuts of meat, but we’re sacrificing short-term so that long-term we will be happier, healthier, and wealthier for it.
Actually, we’re just more disciplined than you are, if you want the truth.
“Life Is Short – Live Big!”
Please, don’t ever say this to someone who is paying off debt, I’m literally begging here. The motive for this statement aside, someone who is intensely paying off debt has probably sacrificed a LOT to get where they are.
They may not have gone on vacation for several years, and as a result may be feeling kind of deprived.
Not to mention, they probably got into debt in the first place because of weak resolve. Vacations, clothes, toys, all put on credit, or a nicer house than they could realistically afford were the result of the temptation to spend more they earned. And old habits die hard, so please, please do not encourage someone paying off debt to go back to their old ways.
That’s just mean.
“Everyone Has Debt”
Yes, most Americans have debt, but most Americans also have absolutely no ideas how they’re going to pay for retirement, and that’s crazy scary.
Someone who is paying off debt doesn’t care if other people have debt, they care of they do.
No, I don’t think so.
Financial self-preservation is a good thing, and this statement is not only dismissive, it lumps you in with every other debt-riddled American who believes what the modern marketing machine is telling them instead of thinking for themselves.
“So, You’re Living Beyond Your Means?”
Well, not anymore, but yes, there was a time when they lived beyond their means.
By making this statement, are you trying to say that you’ve never made mistakes, or are you shaming them for having fallen on hard times that are most likely not their fault?
People don’t get laid off by choice, and talking about fixing prior financial mistakes is a hard thing.
Please don’t make it harder.
“I’ll Pay For It”
Although this statement also comes from a good place, this statement is probably the absolute worst thing you can say to someone paying off debt.
Yes, you were just trying to help, but this comes off as demeaning, and will completely close them off to every talking to you about their debt again. Paying off debt strongly hinges on the support and encouragement of the people around you, and this statement takes that away, greatly reducing their chances of being successful at debt payoff.
What You Should Say To Someone Paying Off Debt
“How Much Have You Paid Off?”
If this person is talking about their debt journey, then chances are they’re incredibly proud of it.
By asking how much they have paid off you are doing double-duty: giving them a chance to brag a little, and being encouraging at the same time. This statement is perfect in nearly every scenario!
“That is fantastic!”
No matter your feelings about debt, a statement like this is supportive and will not get you any nasty looks. More importantly, it will not tear the other person down. Yes, it’s generic, but it works every time.
“We’ve been thinking about doing the same thing. Any resources you recommend?”
Again, with the win-win response! Even if you tossed the idea of debt snowballing around in your head for 5 minutes after reading a fluff piece, this statement can come off as authentic and give you food for thought.
What’s more, it gives the person paying off debt validity, which is probably what they were seeking when they garnered up the courage to actually tell you about the incredible step their taking with their finances.
As a bonus, if you truly have been considering changing the way you handle debt, you may come up with some resources that convince you to take the plunge, or make it manageable to do so.
When talking to someone about paying off debt, think of it the same way you would weight loss.
Talking about someone’s weight is highly taboo, so when someone who obviously needed to lose a few pounds does it, you know that the only things that are ok to come out of your mouth are positive, encouraging, and not at all condescending.
Yes, this is a tall order.
This person was sensitive about their previous weight, was not happy with the way they felt, and are insanely proud of the steps they’ve taken to make themselves better.
Debt is the exact same way: a weight they’re carrying around that causes them stress, and makes their life more difficult.
If you know someone who is paying off debt, and who has the courage to talk to you about, please do me a favor and encourage them today.
Everyone can use some encouragement in their lives, ESPECIALLY someone who is in a long debt payoff journey, so please take a moment,
And say something that will brighten another person’s day.
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