Money conversations can be challenging even at the best of times. In fact, money is one of the top causes of marital discord. Not only that, but money can be difficult to discuss with friends and other family members, as well. That’s because there is so much shame and judgment related to money, so people often feel attacked no matter what the conversation is really about. Plus, we tend to approach money conversations in a negative way, focusing on the lack of money or the stress related to it.
But it is possible to create more positive conversations around money. Here’s where to start:
1. Be Open and Honest
It’s really hard to be vulnerable. Money can come with so much baggage and shame, but it’s essential that you’re honest with your loved ones. Ask them to listen to your money story without judgment, and tell them about any hang ups or negative history you have with money. Tell them about your financial dreams. This will help them to understand you better, and hopefully be more open to what you need financially. This will also help you to feel less isolated with your financial issues and will very likely improve your relationships.
2. Use Positive Language
There are always a lot of negative thoughts and language that come up related to money. A budget feels limiting and restrictive. Watching our spending feels like punishment. But it really doesn’t have to be that way. The more we shift our language to be more positive, the better we will feel about managing money more closely, and the easier it will be to talk about money. Instead of using language like “I can’t afford that,” say things like “I’m not prioritizing that right now.” This kind of shift puts more power into your hands and shows that you are the one who is in control of your financial decisions. Plus, it sets you up for my next piece of advice:
3. Lead With Your Goals
Instead of just saying that you want to “spend less in order to save money” or that you’re “broke,” be specific. Explain that there is a true end goal (or several!) in mind. Are you trying to save money so that you can fulfill your dreams of traveling abroad? Do you want to save so that you can buy a house someday? Do you want to avoid interest rates by paying down your credit card debt? Explain these things to your partner and friends! When you talk about your goals (instead of your failures or insecurities), you’re living in an abundance mindset, rather than in a scarcity mindset. Not only is that better for you, but it will make your loved ones more receptive to what you’re saying.
4. Ask About Their Goals
Do you know what your friends hope to achieve in life? Maybe they want to earn more money, maybe they want to save up to buy a house. They might not even have clear goals yet, but asking about them could very well set them down that path. Encourage your friends and family to identify and clarify their goals, and see how they relate to money themselves. Maybe you’ll find out that you have similar goals, and you can support each other in reaching them. This is especially important when you are doing this with your romantic partner. Creating shared goals is a great way to connect around money and get on the same page financially.
5. Ask For and Offer Support
We all do better when we have a buddy. Accountability is really hard on our own. So if it turns out that your friends or family members have similar financial goals to yours, team up! You could set weekly money dates, where you both review your spending and compare with your monthly budget. You could plan fun, affordable outings together (when it’s safe to do so). You could also just simply send each other encouraging texts every week. It’s easier to keep working towards a goal when we know we’re not alone.
So, go ahead. Have some financial conversations this holiday season. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be much more likely to make them positive and productive. Good luck!
This piece was originally published on my ForbesWomen column.
Certified Financial Education Instructor. Feminist and financial coach for women. Founder of Money Circle.