How to have a conversation about money

Young couple that attended our money coaching together and are now sorting out their joint finances.
Couple Kieran and Zoe having a conversation about their finances. 
Hayley Tearall

Digital Content Producer

How to approach a conversation about money with your loved ones. 

Talking about money can feel personal, private, and even loaded with emotion for many, but it’s vital that when you need to talk about money, you’re able to.

This could mean anything from chatting with a partner about your joint finances, asking for help if you’re struggling financially, or discussing how to split the bills with housemates. Whoever you’re talking to, and for whatever reason, talking about money is really important.

Why is it important to have a conversation about money?

Money affects everything from relationships to housing to health. Whether we like it or not, we simply have to be able to talk about it.

The Money and Pensions Service found that about 29 million of us in Britain don’t feel comfortable talking about money. The same survey also found that almost half (48%) had been worrying about money at least once a week.

It’s definitely important. So how do we actually have a conversation about money?

Identify your main concern

Before you have a conversation about money, take a good look at your money situation. Are you struggling to make ends meet? Are you footing more of the joint bills than you should be? Do you need to create a stricter budget to make sure you’re in control of your finances?

Exploring your own situation will allow you to identify what you need to have a conversation about. Maybe it’s time to talk to your partner about a joint budget, or perhaps you need to speak with your housemates about the increasing bills. It could be that you need to explore other income options or would like to seek some help with debt from a professional organisation such as CAP.

By figuring out what your main concern is ahead of time, you’ll be able to share the reality of the situation with the person (or people) you’re having a conversation about money with. This will help you avoid assumption, emotion-loaded statements, and stick to the clear facts.

Pick a time to talk

It can be emotionally draining to have a conversation about money. This is especially true if money is tight, or if you’re needing to ask someone to contribute more and are worried about how they’ll respond.

To get the most out of your conversation, agree a time where everyone involved will likely have eaten, slept and relaxed. Hunger, tiredness and stress can make the conversation more tricky, as well as reducing people’s ability to problem solve. By agreeing a time in advance to talk about money, everyone can prepare, whether that’s making sure they’ve had a good sleep or have thought about what they’d like to say, too.

Listen and don’t judge

While you likely have things you need to say, and action you’d like to be taken, to have a conversation about money, it needs to be a two (or more) way conversation. This means making space for other people’s thoughts, feelings and suggestions, and making sure everyone is listened to.

By giving everyone a turn to share their thoughts, you can make sure each person’s view is heard, and you might be surprised by the solutions they come up with that work better than yours.

Take a break (or several)

Money can be an emotive topic for many people. If you start to feel overwhelmed while talking about it, you might find it helpful to take a short break, make a cup of tea or go for a walk, and take a few deep breaths before continuing. You can always come back to the topic another day, or break the conversation down into more manageable chunks.

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, try limiting the conversation to just 10–15 minutes. Set a timer, and when the timer goes off, it’s time to change the subject and come back to it another time. You may find it helps to be able to close the box’ on the subject after 10–15 minutes, knowing you can come back to it later, especially if it’s a difficult topic to talk about, or you’re having the conversation in your home.

Identify your next steps

Together, identify some action points or next steps to take. This could be as big or as small a step as you like, from capping your spending on non-essential items to setting up a budget, to taking the first step to get out of debt.

Whatever your next step is, the key thing here is to make sure your goal is achievable. For example, there’s no point having a goal of paying all your bills off in full every month if you simply don’t earn enough to do so. It’d be better to take steps such as working out if you can cut costs anywhere, or seeing if you can get any extra support through our benefits calculator.

Stick to your plan

Once you’ve chosen your next steps, the only way to see a difference is to make it happen. This means sticking to your decision, even when it’s hard! There’s no point having a conversation about money if you don’t then follow through, or you won’t see any meaningful change.

We know it can be really difficult at times to cut back or go without. It can seem like everyone else can afford to go out, or treat themselves, but things like social media can make it seem like you’re the only one missing out.

Chances are that many of your friends and family are trying to save their pennies, too, and maybe they just need permission to say no’ or can we do something cheaper?’. It’s OK to ask your friends if you could have a cuppa at home instead of at the local coffee shop, say no to the expensive meal out, or find some free activities for your families to enjoy together – they’ll probably thank you for it later.

Keep talking about money

Once you have had a conversation about money, don’t stop there. Keep talking about it. Check in with those you live and share costs with on a regular basis, and make sure everyone’s on the same page. There will be times you’ll probably need to rethink what currently works for you, whether that’s because of a circumstance change or external factors like the cost of living. That’s why coming back to the conversation is vital if you want to keep your finances as healthy as possible.

Get help with money

If your money situation is less than ideal, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out. Organisations like CAP offer free help, whether it’s professional debt advice, help with budgeting, finding work or living well on a low income. If you’re feeling stuck, maybe your next step could be exploring one of our free services today.