18 Things You Should Never Say To Someone Who’s Struggling Financially

18 Things You Should Never Say To Someone Who’s Struggling Financially

When someone is struggling financially, the last thing they need is insensitive comments or unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends. Poverty is a complex issue, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. If you want to support your broke buddy, start by avoiding these 18 cringe-worthy statements that will make them want to scream into a pillow. Remember, a little empathy goes a long way.

1. “Just stop being so poor.”

Wow, why didn’t they think of that? Research has proven many times over that poverty isn’t a choice, and acting like it’s a simple matter of willpower is insulting. Financial struggles are often the result of systemic barriers, lack of opportunities, and plain old bad luck. Instead of passing judgment, try offering practical support or just lend a non-judgmental ear.

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2. “You’re just not trying hard enough.”

Busting your butt at multiple jobs, scrimping and saving every penny, and constantly hustling to make ends meet sure sounds like “trying” to me. Assuming someone’s financial problems are due to laziness is not only inaccurate, it’s a jerk move. Before you question their work ethic, take a walk in their shoes and see how far you get.

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3. “Must be nice to kick back and collect welfare all day.”

Contrary to popular belief, most people on public assistance are busting their tails just like everyone else. Government aid provides basic subsistence, not some cushy free ride. And given all the hoops you have to jump through to access benefits, it’s hardly a relaxing vacay. Maybe direct your ire at the system that keeps people trapped in poverty instead of shaming them for needing help.

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4. “I saw you bought something nice — you must be doing okay now!”

One small splurge or moment of joy doesn’t negate someone’s overall financial reality. Poor people are allowed to have a few nice things without being judged for it. Life can’t be all work and no play, even when money is tight. Don’t begrudge your broke friend the occasional treat — it’s probably the only thing keeping them sane.

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5. “Why don’t you just get a better job?”

Ah yes, why didn’t they think to apply for that six-figure dream gig? It’s not like there’s a shortage of well-paying jobs with benefits and advancement opportunities. Oh wait, there is. Moving up the career ladder takes time, connections, and often expensive education or certifications. It’s not as simple as strolling into a fancy office and demanding a corner suite.

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6. “You should sell all your stuff to pay off debt.”

While selling excess belongings can provide a quick cash infusion, it’s not a magic bullet. For many, their “stuff” is limited to essentials like furniture, clothes, and outdated electronics — hardly big-ticket items. Telling someone to sell their meager possessions is like putting a Band-Aid on a gushing wound. It might stop the bleeding for a minute, but it doesn’t address the underlying issue.

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7. “Why don’t you just move somewhere cheaper?”

Uprooting your entire life is a huge undertaking, both emotionally and financially. Moving costs money — first and last month’s rent, security deposits, U-Haul rentals. And starting over in a new place means leaving behind family, friends, and community ties that can be crucial supports during tough times. It’s not as easy as picking a random cheap town on a map and magically teleporting there.

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8. “I don’t know how you live like that.”

serious woman long dark hair outside

You think they’re enjoying it? Financial struggle is stressful, exhausting, and demoralizing, PsychCentral notes. No one wakes up in the morning excited to balance bills and worry about eviction notices. Expressing pity or disbelief about their situation just makes them feel more ashamed and isolated. Instead of gawking at their hardship, try offering some empathy and understanding.

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9. “You’re wasting money on rent — just buy a house!”

Portrait of a handsome young businessman, manager, leader standing in a suit near the office center and crossing his arms confidently smiling at the camera.

Yeah, lemme just grab a few hundred grand from my trusty money tree. Saving for a down payment is nearly impossible when you’re barely scraping by, and qualifying for a mortgage with minimal income or shaky credit is a pipe dream. Renting may not build equity, but it’s often the only realistic option for low-income families. Don’t shame them for not achieving the “American Dream” of homeownership.

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10. “You should cut out all the little luxuries.”

serious man making business speech

Penny-pinching is a necessary survival skill when you’re broke, but everyone has their limit. Depriving yourself of every small joy and comfort just to save a few bucks is a recipe for burnout and resentment. If your daily latte or monthly Netflix subscription is the one thing keeping you from losing it, that’s a worthwhile investment. Life can’t be all sacrifice, no matter how dire the financial situation.

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11. “Have you tried budgeting?”

Dissatisfied Asian looking at camera, man inside office holding phone, portrait of dissatisfied businessman at workplace at laptop computer.

Gee, what a novel idea! Most financially struggling people are already budgeting down to the last cent. They know exactly where every dollar goes because there’s no room for error. Implying that they just need to crunch some numbers to magically fix their problems is patronizing and unhelpful. Budgets are important, but they’re not a cure-all for systemic poverty and income inequality.

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12. “You’re so lucky you qualify for assistance.”

smiling man looking at camera outdoors

There’s nothing lucky about being poor enough to need government aid. Navigating the complex web of social services and constantly proving your eligibility is a full-time job in itself. Plus, many benefits come with strict usage restrictions and invasive monitoring. It’s not some cushy freebie — it’s a last-resort lifeline that barely keeps people afloat. Check your privilege before making flippant comments.

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13. “I went through a rough patch too, but I pulled myself up by my bootstraps.”

angry woman indoor portrait

Good for you, but your personal anecdote doesn’t negate someone else’s struggle. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and what worked for you might not be feasible for them. Implying that they just need to “bootstrap” harder is dismissive of the very real barriers they face. Offer support and encouragement, but don’t pretend you have all the answers.

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14. “You should take out a loan to cover expenses.”

Young hispanic girl looking at camera outdoor - Focus on face

Sure, let’s just add more debt to the pile! Predatory lending practices often target low-income people with promises of quick cash, only to trap them in a cycle of high-interest payments. Taking on debt to pay for basic necessities is a dangerous game that can quickly spiral out of control. Don’t suggest digging the hole deeper unless you’re prepared to help them climb out.

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15. “I’m happy to treat…again.”

Successful businesswoman standing in creative office and looking at camera. Young woman entrepreneur in a coworking space smiling. Portrait of beautiful business woman standing in front of business team at modern agency with copy space.

Your generous offers are appreciated, but constantly being on the receiving end can feel demoralizing. No one wants to be a charity case or burden their friends. If you genuinely want to help, find ways to empower them rather than just throwing money at the problem. Connect them with job leads, skill-building resources, or advocacy organizations. Treating is great, but give them tools to treat themselves too.

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16. “Have you considered bankruptcy?”

pessimistic guy against brick wall

Yikes, way to jump to the nuclear option! Bankruptcy is a serious decision with long-term consequences, per Experian. It can tank their credit score, making it even harder to secure housing or employment. While it may be necessary in some cases, it’s not a get-out-of-debt-free card. Suggest exploring other options like debt consolidation, payment plans, or financial counseling before going straight to the B-word.

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17. “At least you have your health!”

man with serious face in autumn park

Well, actually, many low-income people struggle to afford basic healthcare and preventive care. Lack of insurance, high deductibles, and costly prescriptions can lead to untreated illnesses and chronic conditions. Saying “at least you’re not sick” ignores the harsh reality of medical expenses driving people into debt. A clean bill of health is great, but it’s not much comfort when you’re staring down a pile of past-due notices.

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18. “Things will get better if you stay positive!”

blonde woman serious looking at camera

Toxic positivity is the last thing someone in financial distress needs. Struggling to keep a roof over your head and food on the table isn’t just a matter of mindset. Platitudes like “just think happy thoughts” or “everything happens for a reason” minimize the very real challenges they’re facing. Validate their feelings, offer tangible support, but don’t pressure them to “smile through the pain.” Resilience is important, but so is acknowledging the struggle.

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Jeff graduated from NYU with a degree in Political Science and moved to Australia for a year before eventually settling back in Brooklyn with his yellow lab, Sunny, and his girlfriend, Mia. He works in IT during the day and writes at night. In the future, he hopes to publish his own novel.