There’s a reason why finances are the top of the awkward discussions list. We’ve been taught that it’s tacky, rude and can even result in embarrassment in some form or another to discuss money. Families teach their children to never discuss finances with outsiders or sometimes even within the family boundaries.
We all have differing ideas and values when it comes to money. If we chose to remain tight lipped about finances, we will continue to perpetuate the stereotypes and problems that come along with it. By becoming vocal about your financial goals, you remove the stigma and embarrassment surrounding money.
Though there are certain social situations that are inappropriate to talk money at (like a cocktail party with strangers), there’s also a lot of times we can choose to be more open about our financial situations, like with family and close friends.
You can build a great support system with your family and friends to cheer you on and help you reach your financial goals. They already love you no matter what’s in your bank account. But how do you remove the stigma surrounding money? And what do you say?
Here are four guidelines to follow when talking finances with your family and friends:
Talk about your financial goals.
Do you ever feel like saying something out loud makes it more real? I’ve found that once I shared my financial story with family and friends, it was easier to follow through on my intentions because I’ve clarified my thoughts, feelings and goals by talking it out.
By telling others about the changes you’re making to your finances, you have more accountability. It’s hard to hide your bad spending habits or to fall off the debt repayment wagon when everyone knows how serious you are about change.
As much as it can suck to throw your financial truth out there, I guarantee that doing so will really help keep you in line. A supportive friend or family member will have the gumption to say, “hey, I thought you were trying to pay off your car, not empty out your bank account on shoes” in the most loving way possible.
I recognize it’s hard to put yourself and your personal business out there. If you’re feeling shame, guilty or other negative emotions around your financial situation, talking about it can really help to clear the air and lift the weight.
Nine times out of ten someone will say, “Me too!” Finding a friend in a similar situation can help you not only release those negative emotions, but find a new support system you didn’t realize you had.
I know this sounds like it might contradict the previous guideline, but hear me out. Embracing your truth and sharing it can be very freeing. However, it might not be appropriate to share with everyone.
I would suggest sharing your financial situation people who you know will support you and are likely part of your support system now. The cable guy? A painfully judgy casual friend? Your hair dresser’s next door neighbor’s cousin? Maybe not the best choices. Find your tribe and stick with them.
As to what you share, that’s up to you. You don’t necessarily have to go into specifics on the types of debts you have, but discussing the total amount can be helpful in taking the weight off and speaking your truth.
Set budget expectations for holidays, birthdays, gift giving, and group vacations.
It’s important to be open with family and friends about holiday and vacation expectations. Nothing sours an event quicker than someone feeling like the cost or work isn’t being equally divided. Rather than wait for the passive aggressive fun to start, make it a point to talk about expectations prior to the event.
For holidays, if your budget for this year doesn’t match the giving of past holidays, talk about it. Most of the time family and friends just want to spend time with you, not receive a gift. Discuss other gift giving alternatives, such as:
- Only purchasing gifts for family members under 18
- Host a family Secret Santa exchange and dinner
- Suggest a family holiday outing instead
- Make homemade gifts of food or keepsakes
When discussing vacation plans, be upfront and honest about your vacation budget and what you have available to spend. Don’t wait until the week before to realize you can’t swing it and back out of the vacation plans. I’m pretty sure that would instantly put you in the doghouse and would result in no future invitations anywhere ever again!
Is it awkward? Sure. The alternative though is to disappoint and frustrate your family members. They don’t care about gifts or vacations. Their true intention is to spend time with you. Don’t let a lack of communication or honesty spoil that.
Offer your knowledge and/or feedback on someone else’s financial situation ONLY if asked.
It’s so much easier to see someone else’s situation more clearly since you’re not in the thick of it. However, just because you’re working on becoming a financial guru, it doesn’t give you the right to comment on someone else’s financial situation.
Even if you know all the details of their finances (I bet you don’t!), it’s not your place to judge, condemn or forcefully dump all your financial education on them without being asked.
I get that you’re excited about debt repayment and budgeting (if you’re a weirdo like me, anyway). High five! However, not everyone else is. And not everyone wants help or to change their situation.
Being debt free – or not – is a choice. You’re making your choices, and family and friends are making theirs.
I often hear stories about how a family member/friend is screwing up their situation, and how they should be doing this or that instead. While I understand the need to “fix” others, use that energy to fix your situation instead. You might not agree with someone else’s choices, but unless they ask for help, it’s not your place to comment or even make suggestions.
Overall, the journey your currently on is yours and yours alone. Friends and family might not get it – and that’s ok. Don’t push it, just remember to each their own. Work on finding support where you can, and let the rest go. However, you never know how you might end up helping someone else out by being open about your situation and sharing your story.
Does talking money make you want to curl up in a ball and hide? Or are you more of an open book? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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