Money has long been a taboo subject. In the UK especially, we’re taught from an early age that asking about how much someone earns, or showing off about wealth is not the done thing – it’s simply rude.
Even at school, we’re taught to add up the pennies and pounds, but we’re not taught much about how money works – useful things like tax, interest rates or how APR works. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to young people being saddled with debt because they are offered credit cards when they’re 18 and the ability to use Klarna for ‘buy now pay later’.
When I was 19, I had a credit card I essentially used as ‘free money’, spending on clothes and nights out, missing the minimum payments and then paying the whole lot off (plus interest) when I received my student loan, which left me short of money. Luckily I was able to get myself out of the hole following a lot of research and careful spending, but I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it – certainly not my friends! I was really embarrassed that I was living on ‘free money’ and not hard-earned cash.
Now I’m older, money still seems to be a taboo between friends. It’s much easier to say “I can’t come because I’ve already made plans” than “I can’t afford it” if someone invites you to a night out – who wants to admit that?
Ashley, 25 said: “I struggle with quite a lot of debt and am not left with much at the end of the month. I love my friends to bits but they are a lot more successful than me and are always making plans for cocktails and trips for dinner – I can rarely come and I feel like they just think I’m a flake because I never admit it’s too expensive for me.”
In my opinion, I think if we spoke about money more openly, it wouldn’t feel as painful to admit.
Opening Up The Conversation
I think it’s truly beneficial to open up the conversation of money in our friendship groups. That way, no one is either left footing the bill because they earn more, or left short because they earn less. If everyone is honest about their financial situations, then surely that’s conducive to a more inclusive friendship group, where everyone can contribute and take part, regardless of how much money they earn.
Let me be clear though, being open about money with friends is by no means to invite one-upmanship, nor an exercise in ‘who is doing better than who’. If we can understand one another’s financial situations, then we can support one another through rough patches with advice, emotional support and perhaps not booking the newest, hottest bar in town.
Scrap The Money Taboo
I spoke to Jenna, 30, who said: “I am quite open with my friends about money now. We are all quite honest. If someone wants to do something at the end of the month, I can quite simply say that I’ll have to wait for payday.
“I couldn’t go to a friend’s hen party because it was quite lavish, so I was straight up about that fact and she understood. We’re all cautious with our cash – I feel like this is a mature way to deal with it.”
You don’t have to go all out and tell your friends exactly how much you earn, but keeping an open mind about what capabilities people may have to be spending that month and being gentle with them is always welcome.
Remember, your friends are friends with you for more than the reason that you earn a lot (or should be anyway). The same goes for if you earn slightly less. And anyway, you’re honest with your friends about most things, right? Why not money?