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Why you may need a debt buddy

March 01, 2014

By Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky PhotoSometimes in life we need a little hand holding. Getting out of debt is one of those times. Having a friend with you on the journey can make the difference between succeeding or not.

I learned an interesting statistic from a study on start-up companies: When two or three people share an idea of what they’re striving for, their chances of success hit 50%. The ones without buddies, so to speak, have only a 10% chance of success.
If you’re trying to pay off your debt, you need to remember a lesson from preschool: the buddy system is the best system.

“This Horatio Alger story, that you can raise yourself up by your bootstraps, is a myth,” university professor Linda Meccouri told me. The truth: None of us has perfect willpower. Whether it comes to dieting, exercising or shopping less, there is no challenge not made easier by having someone on your side who will cheer for you when all you want to do is stop going. This is why I have a running partner. If my friend Diane was not out there waiting for me in the dead of winter to trudge five miles on the freezing ground, there is no way I would be leaving the house. In fact, the chances are good I wouldn’t get any exercise at all.

Debt reduction is hard. Like dieting, it involves cutting out bad habits – habits that may have previously provided comfort, like chocolate cake on a bad day. Have you watched “The Biggest Loser” on TV? Often, the people who lose the most weight are the ones who have the support of their families and friends – people who will swat their hands away from the chocolate cake in moments of weakness. This is what you need.

And you can’t just say, “I’m reducing my debt.” Be specific! Share not just your goal, but why you want to reduce your debt. Share your expectations: Both expectations of the good (what life will be like without debt) and the bad (obstacles that might get in the way of paying off debt and saving more money).

So, I want to encourage you, if you’re on the path to debt reduction or thinking about reducing your debt, do it with a friend, spouse or sibling. You need a debt buddy. So that when you look outside and think, “no way, no how am I getting dressed to run in this weather,” you’ll have a Diane who’s sitting there. Waiting. And you’ll get dressed. Leave the house. And run. Simply because you don’t want to let her down.