Updated: Feb 22
I’m exceptionally worried about my flatmate. She’s always been someone who loves clothes, loves going out for dinner and is consistently in flat-decorating mode. We’ve lived together for three years and in that time there’s been a steady stream of packages, to the point where we’re on a first-name basis with not only the postman but also the Hermes, DPD and Parcelforce delivery men. Recently, however, I think her love for shopping has turned into something a bit more sinister. She’s started asking me for money, initially, I just thought she needed help covering the bills but the parcels haven’t stopped. I saw her sorting out her online banking the other day and she’s over £1000 into her overdraft. I’m quite scared, what shall I do?
Oh dear, what a pickle we seem to be in. Finances are never fun to talk about, they’ve become a real taboo (much like sex and politics at the dinner table), but don’t worry that’s what I’m here for.
The way I see it, as always, is you’ve got two options here (is anyone surprised): self-preservation or show her you really care and give her the wake-up call she really needs. You’ve always got to think about looking after number one - no one else will. Stop lending her money, your Taste coffees are MUCH more important to get you through your library stints. And anyway, Samantha, if we’re being selfish it’s just not your problem. The first step in recovery is recognising there’s an issue and that has to come from within. The likelihood of that being prompted by a scary red letter from NatWest is a lot higher than a gentle intervention and a cup of tea from you.
However, your letter suggests that you aren’t that kind of person and that you genuinely want to make a difference and help out your friend. It might not feel pleasant but you’ve got to deliver the wake up call of the century. Yes, either way, you should stop lending her money, but the key here is to sit down with her and explain why — otherwise she’ll just go and ask another friend. Offer to help with budgeting, look up local support groups for shopaholics and think about calling her parents. I’m sure Mummy won’t be happy to hear that darling little Debbie has been spending her student loan top-up on Love Honey lingerie to make nights in 60fun more interesting rather than the hardback copy of Advanced Economics for Aspiring Finance Bros that she assured her parents she’d be buying.
Next, you’ve got to start confiscating. If it works for teachers up and down the country, it can work for you. Get into the headspace of Mr Green the Geography Teacher when he caught the Year 9s vaping in the loos – not anger, disappointment. Tell her she’s not just letting herself down, she’s letting everyone else down as well – you can even throw in a “you’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing the university”, for good measure. Call the Royal Mail and let them know, politely of course, that she’s changed her address and you’d like all mail to be redirected.
Finally, and probably the most effective option, just drop out of University and spend all day, every day, standing in front of your front door waiting to refuse the incoming parcels. This is also good because you will gain practical experience as a bodyguard – and that opens up lots of job opportunities. Just think of it, you could be walking down the red carpet, taking care of Harry Styles soon.
Seriously though, you can never go wrong with a hardline conversation — just make sure you don’t cry, she’ll start to smell your fear.
Best of luck and all my love,