Friendships go through a whole lot of awkwardness and stress in their time – among a whole lot of laughs and love too. One major awkwardness can be talking about money within your friendships. Whether it’s lending a friend money, being the friend that needs money, differences in salary and sometimes just differences in expectations, there’s no denying the issue of money raises its head at least once or twice over the course of a friendship.
In a survey by Merrill Lynch and as quoted in this money advice column by The Cut, “61 percent of women would rather talk about their own death than their finances, and 45 percent say they don’t have a financial role model. A survey by Visa shows that women are more likely to bring up kids, sex, relationship issues, and weight (come on!) with their friends than money.”
The trouble is, money is such an intensely personal issue and while it’s all fine for us to scream and shout about our need – particularly as women – to discuss money more openly, for some that’s too invasive and uncomfortable. And to be honest, you can understand why. No one wants to be the friend earning less than everyone else. Equally, while it may be hard to believe, no one wants to be the friend earning the most in the friendship group. We’ve all seen the Friends episode – The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant – or more commonly known as the one where Rachel, Phoebe and Joey can’t afford Ross’s birthday present and suddenly finances becomes a dividing issue within the group. Plus, a lot of us were brought up to believe that talking about money is rude.
That being said, given the fact that unless you have really organised parents, no one teaches us about handling debt, making smart decisions about personal cash flow or dealing with issues such as mortgages. And although money is an uncomfortable topic, while navigating your first salary or making your case for a promotion at work, the only way we’ll know what to push for is to discuss hard numbers like rent, salary or your expectations for a bonus, among our peers. The big bad world can be pretty scary sometimes and it’s helpful to be able to cross-reference.
So what’s the etiquette for talking with friends about your finances?
Know your audience
For some people money talk is a complete no go and you have to respect that in the same way you would want to be respected if you happen to be that friend.
Don’t be afraid to say no
When it comes to socialising, it all adds up. If you find yourself in the position as the more financially challenged friend don’t be afraid to say no to plans that don’t fit into your budget. If the FOMO gets too much, adjust next month’s budget accordingly. Alternatively suggest more frugal activities like having friends round for dinner, going to the bar a little earlier to enjoy happy hour discounts or going for a walk instead of the cinema.
Don’t become a debt collector
Lending money to friends and family can be risky business so make sure before you start bailing them out of financial issues, you have enough to cover your own bills. Try reframing your attitude to lending money and instead treat it as giving a gift. If you’re lending money you should make sure you’re in a position to be financially ok should you never see the money again.
Celebrate the highs
Be supportive and celebrate with friends. When they negotiate a raise successfully, hit a savings goal or move to a better job, support them and let them have their financial moment. Money talk doesn’t have to be so doom and gloom.
Stay in your lane
Don’t get caught up in counting other people’s money. No matter how close you may be or what social media may suggest, you don’t know someone else’s financial story as well as you think. Even if you did, how much money someone else makes or spends doesn’t affect your own financial situation.
Approach the topic positively
You’re perfectly entitled to ask questions when it comes to the hard financial stuff but the way you approach the topic may make all the difference in terms of how your question is received. Avoid “how do you afford that?”
“You seem to be really on top of your budget. How do you organise it and how did you learn how?” is a much more well received question.
Most of all, remember what we said about knowing your audience. Don’t push for information if friends aren’t willing to volunteer and don’t be the afraid to make your own boundaries known too.