How to have difficult conversations about money

The idea of talking about money with your friends, family or workplace might make you feel queasy. Follow our guide to make those conversations a little bit easier, leaving you with a smile on your face and maybe a fatter wallet too. 

Two women look at each other sat outside. One is wearing glasses.

There are lots of reasons why you might need to talk about cash. Maybe you deserve a higher salary, but you don’t know how to ask? How do you tell your best friend you’ve spent all your dosh so can’t go out tonight? Why should you foot all the bills when your partner doesn’t pay their share?

Here are five common money scenarios and how to tackle them.

1) I’ve got a job but I need to borrow cash

We’ve all been there. You don’t want to burden your friends or family, but your paycheck won’t cover you for the next week. You need to borrow some cash.

Asking your family and friends is always the simplest way to borrow money without getting involved in high interest loans. Before you resign yourself to surviving on beans and toast, try to:

  • Identify the best person to ask – are they in a position to lend you any money?
  • Explain honestly why you’re short and what the money is for.
  • Agree on an amount and when it needs to be paid back.
  • Decide what to do if you can’t pay on time.

Many young people struggle to find the courage to ask their nearest and dearest for help. Mike, 21 from London, was no different, but when he did reach out he was happily surprised by his friends’ generosity: “I had to swallow my pride and accept a friend’s offer of a loan when I was struggling to make ends meet recently. I guess I realised that it was okay to accept the help they offered so lovingly and not be the strong and independent young adult all the time.”

2) I don’t have enough money to go out regularly 

There’s a party next Saturday, cinema night on Tuesday, and birthday drinks on Friday. But you’ve only budgeted for a week’s essentials.

It can be difficult to tell your friends you can’t afford to live it up every night. But there are ways to cut down on spending and still see your mates:

  • Be honest with yourself and your friends – you don’t earn enough cash to party every week.
  • Work out in advance how much you need to save to go out. If it’s £15, try and avoid spending money on things you don’t need such a coffee, or walk instead of taking the bus.
  • Suggest cheaper activities you can all do, such as a free event or film night.

3) Work socialising is draining my bank account

After work drinks can make the daily grind feel worth it. But splashing out on a round of drinks for your whole team every Friday can end up being a pricey night out.

  • Speak to your workmates about after work socialising. Assuming they make the same amount of money as you, they might also have concerns.
  • Suggest cheaper ways to let off steam after work, such as playing a team sports activity in the park.
  • See if your employer could contribute to a monthly work social.
  • If these options don’t work, summon all of your strength not to get involved with rounds. Explain you need to budget and can only buy drinks for yourself.

4) How do I ask for a raise at work?

If you think you’re worth more than you’re being paid, or you’re doing work additional to your job description, you’re within your rights to ask for a raise.

  • Make an appointment with your boss to discuss your salary in private.
  • Do some research before you meet. Check online to find out average salaries for your role, and decide how much you want to ask for.
  • At the meeting, come armed with lots of evidence about why you deserve more, such as the benefits you bring to your employer, examples of goals that you’ve met, or times you’ve gone out of your way for your job.
  • Remember to ask about additional benefits – if your boss can’t offer you more money, they might be able to provide something else, like training.
  • If your request is rejected feel free to ask why. It may be simply that your employer can’t afford it.
  • You could ask when your salary might be reviewed again in the future. Maybe they can offer you more in a few months time instead.

5) My partner and I don’t earn the same amount

Money, where to get it and where it goes is one of the main causes of arguments for couples. It’s important to know how to discuss finances openly and honestly with your partner.

  • Start by asking about their attitude to money, rather than throwing around accusations. You may think they spend too much on the wrong things, but ask them how they decide what’s worth their cash.
  • Take turns to speak – make sure you listen, and also that they hear your views.
  • Be honest and understanding. Everyone is in different places in their life. You may have financial security, but your partner may not. That doesn’t make them a failure.
  • Don’t make things personal. Explain how their actions make you feel, for example: “I feel like I’ve been paying for everything lately, which makes me feel uncomfortable.”
  • Draw up a plan together to overcome your money worries and approach it step-by-step.
  • Find ways to enjoy your relationship without spending a lot of money, such as picnics in the park or giving handmade gifts.

More information

  • Go to Money Advice Service for free and impartial money advice.
  • Call Money for Life's helpline for free on 0808 801 0666 to get the support you need on money, debt, benefits and more. Open 11am – 11pm every day.
  • Find the latest deals and learn new money tips at Money Saving Expert.