For years, the prevailing advice about how to talk about money with your friends and family has been “don’t”. It’s a taboo. We’re not supposed to reveal how much we earn, the contents of our last credit card bill, or the amount left to pay on our mortgages. Most of us would expect our best friends to show up on the doorstep naked before they showed us their bank statements. This is the way it’s always been. However, it’s not working. Money is the issue that most couples fight about. Financial anxiety has a detrimental impact on our mental health. We have a pay gap that won’t close. It’s time to make some changes, and that starts with some difficult conversations. Here’s how to go about it.
Use actual numbers
When we talk about money, we often focus on the way it makes us feel when we can only take control if we start with the facts. We’re not supposed to share the details of our salaries, but if we’re brave enough to do it, we can get a better sense of the opportunities that are out there and what we’re worth. Debt is difficult, and most people struggle to manage it because they feel as though they’re dealing with it alone – but if you can be really honest about it, you might discover that you’re in good company, or that your friends and family want to offer practical support.
Set goals together
If you wanted to take up running and improve your fitness, you’d probably ask a friend at a similar level to come with you and motivate you. People who join weight loss clubs find that working in a group helps them to stay on track. Why not do this with money? It doesn’t have to be a big goal. You could have a friendly competition – see who is the first to save £100, and the loser buys the winner a coffee. You could save up for a holiday together. By doing this, you’ll be able to share tips and tricks, and you can be open with each other about the challenges of budgeting.
Remember – awkwardness is expensive!
Talking about money is painful – but in the long run, it is usually much easier and cheaper than avoiding the subject completely. Don’t wait for the right moment, because it will never come up. If you can’t afford to split a dinner bill with your friends, you need to take a deep breath and talk about your budget as soon as the invitation comes – not as the bill is being brought to the table. Feeling self-conscious and scared is horrible, but it’s much less horrible than not being able to pay off your credit card and it lasts for a fraction of the time. The idea of talking about money is frightening. Actually talking about it is usually fine. And getting everything out in the open? That feels amazing.
Be a culture vulture
When all else fails, and your friends and family make it quite clear that they would rather shock themselves with an electric current than discuss the contents of their current account, look to literature! Or find financial examples on screen! We’re all familiar with one of the following: Mr Micawber’s advice about staying out of debt in Dickens’ David Copperfield, or Carrie Bradshaw’s attempts to borrow money from her friends in order to buy her apartment. If you start a conversation about the way fictional characters handle their money, you can discover a lot about the attitudes and ideas of the people closest to you, and hopefully you can learn something useful too.
Daisy Buchanan is an award winning journalist and the author of the critically acclaimed book How To Be A Grown Up. She’s a regular contributor to TV and radio, frequently appearing on Woman’s Hour, Good Morning Britain, This Morning, Sky News and the Today programme. Daisy writes for a wide range of publications including The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, The Sun, Grazia, Marie Claire and The Pool, covering everything from pop culture and mental health to money issues. She’s a TEDx speaker, giving advice on how to get through the trickiest parts of your twenties in her talk How To Survive A Quarter Life Crisis.