Budgeting

How to Be a Good Friend to a Broke or Retrenched Person in Your Life

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Joanne Poh

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For years, I was that “broke friend”. Many of the people I went to school with are now working in lucrative jobs in banks, law firms and consulting firms. A large number think nothing of spending $4,000 on a handbag, or booking an impromptu stay at the Fullerton Bay Hotel. Meanwhile I was walking around with Ziplock bags filled with FairPrice bread.

And while I now thankfully have an income that enables me to order more than two vegetable dishes at the economy rice stall, the ghost of deprivation still haunts me. Which is why when I meet another broke person, I can totally empathise.

For those of you who aren’t actually broke, here’s how to be a good friend to those around you who are going through a financial bad patch or perhaps just got retrenched.

 

Stop inviting them to expensive places, and suggest cheaper places instead

When I was at my brokest (below the poverty line in just about every developed country, in case you’re wondering), many of my high earning friends (bless ‘em) responded by always offering to treat me. No, they shouldn’t have, and it also left me feeling as if I was the sugar baby of a collective of moneyed tycoons.

Instead of always inviting your broke friends to places they can’t afford and then offering to pick up the tab, maybe it’s time to lower your own standards and go somewhere cheaper that both of you can afford.

Unless your friend is a gold digger, he or she will thank you for it deep down. Some of my best times in the days when I couldn’t even afford to take a taxi involved drinking Tiger Beer at the Holland Village hawker centre and old Ghim Moh Market.

Conversely, it was a little deflating to always have to reject people’s offers to spend two days’ wages on a high tea buffet over the weekend, or play some blackjack at the MBS casino.

 

Stop showing off your wealth in front of them

While people love hating on rich brats like that Chinese Ferrari driver who crashed and burned on Rochor Road in 2012, let’s be honest—Singaporeans are on the whole still not past conspicuous consumption and flaunting of wealth.

In many developed societies it would be considered crass to brag about how you paid for your fancy car in cash or talk about how well your investments have paid off, but in Singapore it’s still considered somewhat acceptable.

If that sounds like you, display a bit of sensitivity and refrain from showing off in front of your broke or retrenched friends.

When you’ve been spending the last 6 months desperately trawling JobsDB and are seriously considering becoming a taxi driver, you don’t want to help your friend pick out new rims for his Audi or help your friend decide which Prada bag she should buy.

 

Give them a job lobang

When some people might view being given cash or treats as an insult, most will not say no to a good lobang.

Singapore is a small country, and connections can go a long way here. If your friend is out of work, share any job lobang you might have, such as by introducing him to potential employers or recruiters, or alerting him to any suitable job vacancies you might have stumbled upon.

 

Avoid lending them money unless you don’t mind losing it

No matter how much pity you might feel for your poor, broke friend, try to avoid lending him money, unless you absolutely do not mind losing it, and never getting it back will not alter your friendship.

If you have to, follow these tips to emerge from the loan without either one of you plotting the demise of the other.

Even if your friend is the best wingman you’ve ever had or always has your back when you’re playing mahjong, lending money and getting it back is a minefield that even the strongest friendships or family relationships often fail to weather.

If you’ve ever been the “broke friend”, what do you wish your friends could have done to help? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • Chandu Naresh

    Nice article Joanne. We need to make our friends feel equals irrespective of their wealth