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Money: How to talk about it

How much of how we talk, or more importantly, don’t talk about money is based in emotion? There is a range of emotions linked to money, whether you have enough or too much is irrelevant. Shame, anger, guilt, fear, sadness, regret can all be linked to our feelings about money.


It’s interesting that how much money we have is often irrelevant to how much we spend. We hear news reports about how much debt there is in the world, but does it actually mean anything to us unless it is our personal debt? Probably not.


How we were raised has a huge impact on how we manage our finances.


Our parents modelled for us how to save money, how to spend it, how to borrow it, and this was based in how they were parented by your grandparents.


Some questions to ask yourself when thinking about where your ideas about money have come from:


How did your parents respond to money problems such as a threat of losing their job?

How did they manage a sudden, unexpected windfall?

Did they struggle for survival, or did things come easily to them?

What did they spend their money on? Who controlled the budget?

How did family expenditure reflect their values?

Did they talk about money and if so, how?


Your answers to these questions may surprise you. Maybe it’s the first time you have thought about the reasons why you spend or don’t spend the way you do. It’s a good opportunity to really think about what is important to you financially.


Money is one of the ways we interact with other people.


Think about that time in a restaurant when someone else offers to pay, and you hear yourself say ‘no, no, I’ll pay.’ Or the time when you went out and didn’t drink alcohol or have dessert and find yourself expected to share a massive alcohol-fuelled bill. It’s hard not to come away with that as your primary memory of the evening rather than the time you spent with your friends.


This can also prove difficult if you live with other people. Someone wants the heating blaring, someone else disagrees. Even more pertinent now with energy bills rising, how do you have this conversation? What feelings does paying more than you feel is your fair share bring up for you?


Anyone that has watched the recent Netflix series “Inventing Anna” will have seen the scene between Rachel and Anna where they are on holiday in Morocco and Anna’s cards are refused. Rachel bails them all out by offering her work credit card as security. The hotel charges the card $62,000 dollars and Anna doesn’t pay it back. What do you imagine motivated Rachel to do this?


Have you found yourself in a position, for example with an upcoming celebration, where you are invited on a weekend away? Hen parties, big birthdays, that kind of thing. Someone is in charge or organising the travel and hotel and you asked to contribute a percentage of the cost. You are absolutely ok with this, and yet sometimes this amount spirals out of control quickly – add in food, drinks, taxis etc that are not covered in the base price and you may find yourself peer pressured into spending far more than you originally budgeted for because you don’t feel able to say no.


When have you felt pressured into spending more than you can afford?


How do you feel about dating?


Are you traditional, in the sense that the person who asks you out on a date pays? Or are you happy to split the bill. We often see this in the TV programme First Dates, the moment when the bill is placed on the table and the tension that sometimes arises when someone can’t pay or won’t pay. What does this mean? Again, based on your expectations, this may inform your opinion of your date.



What can we do?


When planning celebrations, base your plans on what you think the person who can least afford to come. What’s important is the time you spend together, not the fancy restaurant or expensive bar that you spend time in.


Say no. If you really can’t afford to take part in a celebration, buy a present or commit to a weekend away, think of an alternate way to show the person you are thinking of them that is within your budget.


How we justify our spending


We might shop for food and carefully seek out bargains, and then feel absolutely ok ordering an over-priced take-away at the weekend, to cheer us up. Because we tell ourselves we deserve it. Often when we examine our motivation for spending just doesn’t make sense.


There are a few television programmes where we watch horrified participants examine their excess spending, it is literally laid out in front of them, and then we see how they can change their behaviours, swap items at the supermarket and save thousands over the course of a year. Many of the people on this programme talk about being ‘time poor.’ And yet they are able to top up their weekly shop nearly every day with an emergency trip to the supermarket. Logically it just doesn’t make sense.


No spend days


This is become a thing in the past couple of years. Deciding to have a number of day per week where you spend no money at all. Setting yourself a goal like this can really help you think about the difference between what you want and what you need. Maybe the money you save can be put towards a bigger purchase that until now you haven’t been able to afford or to pay something off that you owe.


You can read moneysavingexpert team blog for an example of one person’s no spend day journey: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/team-blog/2019/11/i-tracked-every-penny-spent-after-bills-for-a-whole-month---and-/


Money and mental health


Money can affect our mental health in a number of different ways, and it can feel like being stuck in a vicious cycle. If you are struggling to control your finances, it is likely to have an impact on your mental health. Feeling low or anxious can also affect your eating and sleeping – which is unlikely to put you in the best frame of mind to deal with money issues, paying bills, or negotiating with the people you owe money.


Certain situations, such as talking to your mortgage provider or attending a benefits assessment for the first time might trigger anxiety or feelings of panic. Burying your head in the sand sometimes brings temporary relief, buying things you can no longer afford on a credit card may give you a temporary good feeling, but can make your financial situation much worse in the longer term.


Stresses such as losing your job can really raise anxiety levels. Most of us have experienced financial difficulties in some way or another during our lifetime. Money worries are one of the biggest causes of arguments in relationships. Feeling you have to keep up with your social commitments when you can no longer afford to can create many problems in relationships.


Tips on how to talk to your family and friends about money


  1. Try and stay as positive as you can, and stay in the present moment.

  2. Listen to what your partner is saying and try to understand their point of view and account for their feelings which may be different to yours.

  3. Re-asses your goals together

  4. Be kind to each other

  5. Take control together of the things you can control. If you are worried you are falling into debt, contact the national debtline for advice and support on what you can do. Keep your creditors in the loop, negotiate as soon as you know there is a problem.

  6. If you are losing your job, don’t wate time worrying about it, spend your time looking for another job, updating your CV, networking, anything that helps to change your situation.

  7. Check our your entitlement to claiming benefits. The gov.uk website has lots of information on how to apply for financial support.

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