Three simple tips to help you feel more confident about discussing money with friends

Nearly two-fifths of people think we’re better at talking about money now than five years ago, according to new research.

More than half of people feel comfortable discussing money with their friends, according to new research by Virgin Money
Friends talking More than half of people feel comfortable discussing money with their friends, according to new research by Virgin Money (Alamy Stock Photo)

The cost-of-living squeeze and the strain on budgets may have made people more inclined to open up to friends and loved ones about money matters, new research reveals.

Nearly two-fifths (38%) of people think we are better at talking about money now than we were back in 2019, before the cost-of-living crisis, according to Virgin Money.

More than half (56%) feel comfortable discussing money with their friends.

Understandably, with living costs putting a squeeze on budgets, household bills (53%) and the cost of everyday essentials (53%) are the topics people are most open to discussing.

In fact, the research finds that for those who do feel comfortable talking to friends about money, the main reason for this is because the cost-of-living pressures have simply made it an unavoidable topic (45%).

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Wages was the third most most popular topic up for discussion, with nearly a third (32%) of people surveyed saying they are open to chatting about their pay.

While around a third think it’s appropriate to talk about their salary with friends, just one in six (16%) would openly share or post about their salary on social media.

Over eight in 10 (82%) people think that the salary should be clearly stated on job adverts, according to the survey of 1,000 people by OnePoll in March.

The Gen-Z generation feel the most comfortable talking about money, the research indicates.

Nearly seven in 10 (68%) 18 to 24-year-olds feel fine about chatting about money with friends.

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Being more open about money with friends can have its advantages.

Some people think that being able to talk freely about money helps them say no to social situations without feeling embarrassed or pressured to attend (32%) – perhaps helped by the “loud budgeting” social media trend where people are vocal about their financial priorities.

Some also feel that talking openly can help people feel less anxious about money (32%); and that it makes it more likely that people will be in control of and realistic about their finances (31%).

In addition to the survey findings, chatting to friends about money can also help people to stay ahead of scams. Perhaps discussing a dodgy text or email you’ve received could help to prevent a friend or family member from falling for a similar message.

Graeme Sands, head of personal banking at Virgin Money, says: “The subject of personal finance has leapt up the news agenda in the last five years, and it’s positive to see that with a backdrop of cost-of-living pressures, most people now feel more comfortable discussing their finances with friends.

“We need to continue to challenge the notion that money is a taboo subject or that it’s rude or bad manners to discuss money in your social circles. In fact, it’s hugely important to be open and honest about money with loved ones to improve our collective relationship with money.”

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While it appears the majority of us do feel comfortable talking to friends about money, nearly a fifth (19%) admit they feel uncomfortable doing so.

The research also indicates that women feel less comfortable discussing money with friends than men, with 49% of women feeling comfortable versus 64% of men.

For those who aren’t comfortable talking about money with their friends, 43% say it’s because they are embarrassed about their finances and 42% say they have been told that it’s taboo or bad manners to discuss money with friends.

Alina Jaffer, a money expert at Virgin Money, has some tips on how to build confidence talking about money – and explains why it’s so important:

1. Keep the conversation positive and judgement free.

Jaffer says: “The cost-of-living crisis has impacted almost everyone in some way, but one benefit of that situation is that there is now much more of a common ground when it comes to talking about money, and people have got better at opening up about their finances as a result.

(Alamy Stock Photo)

“Instead of focusing on the negatives, try to start by discussing the positives – (for example) what you’re currently saving for and why, what you’re looking forward to spending some money on after payday and what the best thing you bought last month was.

“These things can be as big or as small as you like, but it’s good to remind yourself what you’re working towards and helps to have a valuable, judgement free conversation around money.”

2. Set financial boundaries.

“It’s important to feel as comfortable as possible when talking about money,” says Jaffer, “so it’s sensible to set some boundaries around which areas you are and equally aren’t willing to discuss ahead of starting the conversation – for example, you might be happy to chat about your bills but don’t want to open up about your salary.

“Setting boundaries in advance keeps the conversation focused on ‘safe’ topics and helps to avoid any awkward situations for you or your friends, making for a more positive experience for everyone involved.”

3. Don’t feel pressured to keep up with the Joneses.

Jaffer says: “It can be difficult to avoid comparing yourself to your friends and family, and even to influencers on social platforms who seem to be living their best lives, but it can also be dangerous to do so.

“Comparing yourself to others can make you feel like you’re not doing as well or aren’t as successful, leaving you feeling down, demotivated and stressed out. However, nothing good comes from spending for the sake of it – you do not have to keep up with the people around you if that isn’t best for your bank account right now, and, quite frankly, real friends won’t care whether you’re spending as much as them or not.

“Being able to talk about your money and what you’re comfortable spending with friends can be hugely beneficial, as it means that there won’t be any awkwardness or stress when it comes to planning social situations, such as nights out, birthday presents or trips away.”