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It’s good to Talk Money

By Ruth Mendel (Policy Officer) for The Herald 11/11/2020 in association with #TalkMoney Week

So I’m here to talk about money. It is Talk Money Week after all, but let’s be honest we don’t really like talking about money do we? 

I like to think I am the kind of person who tries to shop around and compare the price of something before I buy it. Every year, I try to regularly switch energy providers and make sure I make the most of my money. Yet I don’t find it easy talking about money so this Talk Money Week, I want to change that.

Let me give you an example; it was recently my brother’s birthday and I asked him what he’d like. My brother suggested splitting a voucher with my dad and the amount suggested was more than I’d had in my head.

Now let’s be clear, I didn’t mention that I had a budget in mind or what it was. I didn’t tell my family I could only afford a certain amount. I just didn’t feel comfortable saying that since I had a baby a little over a year ago I’m having to be more frugal. Who knew someone so little could cost so much? Seriously though I think his last pair of shoes cost more than mine!

It wasn’t majorly over the number in my head and I’m lucky that I could just cut back on a few things to cover it. However, not everyone is and dealing with unexpected costs which haven’t been budgeted for is becoming more and more common for families across Scotland.

But what surprised me was my lack of voice – why didn’t I tell my family I needed to cut back? What stopped me from having an open conversation with them? I know they would be understanding and supportive. Yet my feeling of discomfort just shows that if you find it difficult to discuss money, you’re not alone.

At Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) we know that COVID-19 is putting serious pressure on peoples’ finances causing a lot of worry about money. Recent research shows  that 2 in 5 people were concerned about their income during COVID-19. This research also found that 23% were concerned about paying for food and essentials.

Even with the government support schemes and payment breaks being extended, more and more people will be facing reduced incomes and trying to manage their money in a world which is confusing and difficult to navigate.

But you might ask why does talking about money matter? Research has shown that people who talk about it are able to make better financial decisions; have stronger personal relationships and can help their children form good money habits for life.

Most importantly, people who talk about money feel less stressed or anxious. Just talking to someone can help you feel more in control. Talking about money can be the first step to prevent a situation from getting worse. These benefits are why CAS is taking part in Talk Money Week.

This all sounds great but how do you actually go about it? Well the first step is having an honest conversation with yourself. How do you feel you are doing financially? Be honest with yourself, are things going as well as you hope? What are you worried about? Are there any changes that you would like to make and how would you go about these? This could be something as simple as getting a pen and paper = and thinking about your income and spending.

The next step could be sharing your experiences with family or friends. If you have concerns, talking them through with someone could help and they might share some ideas from their life. If you both feel you’re struggling sharing your feelings could help make you feel less alone. Even if one of are you is doing ok at the moment, speaking to a family member or friends could help by allowing the sharing of worries and concerns. This can encourage you or your loved ones to seek help with money and empowering someone to manage their finances.

Finally, if you still feel that you could do with some help, speaking to a specialist money adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can help you take back control and find your voice. They are there to offer a friendly ear and can help with different issues including money worries. The Citizens Advice network also runs the Money talk Team service funded by the Scottish Government, which helps families with children and older people to manage their budgets. In Talk Money Week local CAB will be ready and waiting to offer advice on how to manage money, paying bills,  how to deal with debt, and any other financial worries you may have.

So my challenge to you (and myself) is to Talk Money this week, even if only to one person.