Spending a night with friends talking about money probably sounds as appealing as getting your teeth cleaned. In fact, according to a 2018 Northwestern Mutual study, 40 percent of Americans think that financial planning is about as fun as a medical checkup.
But making money a topic of conversation with your friends just might be the key to helping you reach your financial goals. “Our friends are some of the most influential people in our lives. We trust each other,” says Nia Simone McLeod, 24, a freelance writer from Virginia. “As a result, the advice that we give each other holds more weight. My friends often provide me with a way to work toward my financial goals, and we have fun at the same time.”
Here are some ways you and your friends can maintain financial accountability and help motivate each other as you work toward your financial goals.
ACT AS MONEY MENTORS TO ONE ANOTHER
You likely have a particular friend you go to for tips on baking the perfect pie, and another you rely on for recommendations for what to binge watch next. So why not leverage your friends’ money expertise?
That’s exactly what James Stuart, 28, the founder of the blog Frugal$tu, does. “Some of my friends have degrees in accounting or economics. They have helped me with everything from money-saving tax tips to evaluating which funds to invest in,” he says.
Stuart himself has helped a number of his friends deal with their debt by educating them about different repayment strategies, such as transferring credit card balances to cards with 0 percent introductory rates.
Don’t have friends who are financial experts? Commit to learning about money together. McLeod believes that even the mere act of sharing helpful resources with one another can make a huge difference. “When I see a credible financial resource online, I will share it in the group chat for all of my friends to see,” she said. “People are way more susceptible to resources that are recommended by a friend.”
BE ‘IN IT’ TOGETHER
Think you’re the only one in debt or confused about how to invest? Your friends are likely going through the same struggles — talking about it might make you all feel better.
“I often talk to my friends about the struggles of paying off my student loans,” McLeod says. “We are all friends from college. As a result, we have similarities in debt. Paying off student loans is a marathon, not a sprint, so it is easy to get discouraged.”
But when you know you’re all in the same boat, you can help pick each other up when those balances don't seem like they’re budging. In addition, you can better support your friends’ financial goals by ensuring that group events fit their budget (and yours).
“Don’t push friends to spend money, even if you believe it is a small expense,” McLeod says. That might require a change in habits if, for example, your go-to get togethers involve racking up a happy hour bill. “To prevent those expenses, suggest that you spend time with each other in a different way.”
START A LITTLE FRIENDLY COMPETITION
Sometimes the best way to make yourself run faster is when you know there’s another runner nipping at your heels until the finish line. The same can be true when it comes to reaching your financial goals.
“At a previous job, I had several coworkers that were very much into investing,” Stuart says. “We decided to have a challenge to see if we could increase our net worth $50,000 in a year. Four of us participated, with the ‘losers’ having to help fund a vacation for the winner.” While Stuart didn’t win, he increased his net worth $9,000 more than he otherwise would have — still a win-win situation all around.
McLeod and her friends challenge themselves to save in a slightly different way. “You could have a budget-cooking competition with your friends. Set clear goals and guidelines for the competition — like spending $20 for a dinner for four. Judge each other’s food and see who can come up with the best budget meal.”
SCHEDULE REGULAR CHECK-INS
One of the hardest things to do is stick to your money goals amid life’s temptations — but having friends who will proactively check in on your progress helps give you another level of financial accountability.
Stuart has several friends who have made a commitment to help him stay accountable to his financial goals. “When I tell a friend that my goal is to make an extra $1,000 on the side next month, he will have a vested interest in that,” he says. Then, Stuart knows he’s going to have to account for whether he’s accomplished his goal the next time his friend checks in — which further motivates him to follow through.