Talking About Money With Friends

I made a trip to California to attend two weddings, and I’ve been able to catch up with a bunch of old friends who I haven’t seen in a long time.

When they ask me what I’ve been up to, I mention The Billfold, and the ones who’ve read the site instantly start talking to me about their financial situations, and the ones who haven’t read the site also instantly start talking to me about their financial situations. It’s interesting to me because I forgot that there was a time when we were all really cagey about our finances, and I think it’s really great that people I’ve known for so long are now having real conversations about it. 

I learned last night, for example, that a college friend inherited a nice amount of money a few years ago, but hasn’t really done anything with it except put a portion of it into a business that didn’t work out. He has a sizable amount of money in savings account, but he wasn’t sure what the interest rate on the account was—a small detail that could make a big difference given all the different things he could do with the money.

Another friend asked me about where I lived in New York, and asked, “Do you mind telling me how much you pay in rent?” It was funny to me not because I didn’t mind, but because there really is no harm in telling each other how much we pay in rent—especially in New York where you can pretty much guess how much a person pays in rent based on the neighborhood he or she lives in (which reminds me that I need to do a rental history for you guys).

I see these friends maybe once or twice a year, and we’ve decided to talk more about money every time we get together. Because another thing I’ve learned last night from my friends is that the ones who are good with money aren’t really sharing the information they’ve picked up on how to get it together with the ones who are just getting by. And there’s really no good reason that that’s how it should be.

I’m curious to know if The Billfold has caused you to discuss money more openly with your friends, and if we are actually starting to break this last taboo.

Photo: Flickr/Los Gatos

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34 Comments / Post A Comment

I’ve been talking more about salaries with my friends! I don’t know if it’s because of the billfold or because i’m trying to decide whether it would be worth it to go from a $20/hr position to a $16/hr position if the lower pay came with other benefits like, say, getting paid on time and having a healthier work environment.

probably a bit of both!

Laura (#454)

I find that I often share Billfold articles with spending breakdowns (Last $100, etc) with friends, and sometimes it becomes a judgemental gossip session (“WHO is spending $50 on brunch?”). But most of the time it turns into a productive discussion of our own spending habbits, and in general makes room for dialogue about our finances. Also DEAD FROM CUTENESS re: photo

mouthalmighty (#165)

My New Year’s resolution (yes, groan) was to learn more about money! The Billfold has definitely helped with that. It’s not the only thing, but it’s certainly helped. And, yes, I’ve also found myself sharing some of The Billfold articles with friends – and just generally trying to engage with them more on the subject of money. So far, so good.

fierce_pierce (#950)

I have a hard time talking about money. In all seriousness, this site makes it a lot easier. The articles – and Logan, girl, you break my heart but I think I was you in a past life – give me a good jumping-off point at taking baby steps into the shallow end of the Talk About Money Pool.

I’m getting married, and my Husband Elect is really good at talking about money. He’s a lot “better at money” than me, too. Which you know … makes it harder sometimes, to talk about it, because I’m over there in the shallow end, with some waterwings on, and he’s doing triple backflips into 40-ft-deep shark-infested waters. A wedding forces you to TALK about money. Waterwings or otherwise.

But. The Billfold. Let’s keep talking about – and doing the right stuff with! – money.

Mirch (#228)

Money is a sensitive issue for most people, meaning you have to be very careful how you bring up the subject with friends. You can’t preach about it, and you have to always respect the fact that it’s their money and their choice about what do to with it.

That and it’s hard to talk about it when your friends spend most of their time talking about traffic, how to get from one place to another, and star wars references.

sockhopbop (#764)

I’ve definitely started talking about money more with my friends since The Billfold — particularly about student loan debt, which is something a lot of us have in common. We were all pretty much dealing with it in semi-secret freaked-outedness.

mishaps (#65)

A dear friend once told me that if we all told each other how much we earned, he was convinced the revolution would come much faster.

@mishaps was his name Greg?

bgprincipessa (#699)

@redheaded&crazy I just lol-ed.

mishaps (#65)

@redheaded&crazy I guess there is a joke that I am not getting…?

The person who said this is not named Greg, but his best friend was named Greg, so it’s entirely possible it was Greg’s comment originally.

@mishaps sorry! the ‘joke’ spawns from this billfold article:

http://thebillfold.com/2012/05/youre-the-problem-with-america-basically/

mishaps (#65)

@redheaded&crazy ah! no, my Greg was both a lot older and a lot smarter than that dude.

aidan (#803)

I’ve been massaging my finances to be more useful to me, AND I’ve used the Billfold as a jumping-off discussion point for a friend who is contemplating bankruptcy. I want to remove the moral implications (and the self-flagellation) of his decision and I think (hope!) that this site is helping me do that.

lizpie (#906)

Yes! The Billfold has been so good for me! I just graduated from college, I’m unemployed, and I’m thinking a lot about what I’m going to do with my money once I actually become employed (e.g. not spend it all on stupid shit/actually have a savings account/pay off my student loans/buy grown-up clothes). The Billfold has helped me so much to feel like I can talk about this stuff and like there are lots of cool things I can do to be good at, or at least better at, money. Yay!

genkiliz (#683)

My friends and I are pretty open generally about finances but we love the billfold and the topics you discuss/issues you bring up are definitely conversation starters with us as we enter our 30′s at all sorts of different financial levels. Awesome site!

wearitcounts (#772)

the billfold has inspired me to do some of my own writing about spending/lifestyle issues, which adds a layer of awareness and accountability to what i do with my money that i haven’t had before. and i just like knowing there are other people out there with similar fears and problems. and you guys are pretty great editors.

since my partner and i have gotten really good at money (yay spreadsheets) after being really awful with money, i now tell all my friends how easy and fun it is to manage their money. to the point where they’re all sick of me saying it, but i want them to have the things they want, and money makes that easier. the billfold specifically hasn’t helped, but its just come into my life during a time when i’m thinking a lot about money. i’m preparing for a major life/career move, and that’s why we had to get ‘good’ at money. it’s made our life so much easier and better. its a huge weight off my mind to not constantly worry about money. i can’t praise the spreadsheet enough!

I definitely talk money with people a lot more often now, specifically with regard to future plans and goals. A Certain Boy and I even finally got around to talking, in a sideways-tangential kind of way, about the awkward income difference and how it affects our relationship right now while we’re temporarily long-distance and also what it will be like in the future when we’re not so long-distance and also probably more serious (Eeee!). It was an important/good talk to have, and I think this blog helped me out with a lot of concepts/tools there.

Mike Dang (#2)

@Holden Cauliflower This sounds like it would make a terrific story!

elizabeast (#629)

I don’t know if it was inspired by The Billfold or what, but recently I told a couple friends all my money secrets, and they told be theirs. I think I just got to a point where I needed to make some decisions and I wanted advice, but I couldn’t talk about my money without specific numbers. It felt great to let some friends in on this part of my life, and for them to trust me with their own financial situations.

sox (#246)

Yes! So much. Thanks to the constant juxtaposition of Logan’s honest accounts of money (mis?)management and Mike’s calm, reassuring explanations, I have finally motivated myself to find a system that will lead me away from the debt end of the spectrum and into savings! It feels great, and I am comfortable and confident for the first time ever about my trajectory, even though it will take some time. Plus, it’s come with changes in my consumption habits that are life-changing.
BUT. When I mention my “diet” to friends, the reactions have been varied. I received a mocking email from two friends inviting me out last weekend, that felt an awful lot like if the goal was to actually lose weight, they were inviting me to get pizza and cheesecake and then guilting me for not partaking. The other really common thing is with every male I talk to about it – when I mention, for instance, that I brought my lunch and won’t be going out as much, they’re suddenly mansplaining How to Pay Off Your Debt The Right Way, even though I tell them I have a plan and feel good about it. Well, at least my mom was really proud of me when I told her!

Mike Dang (#2)

@sox Sorry to hear about the mansplaining. Money is just so personal (hence personal finance) and what works for them might not work for you. If you figured out the thing that works for you, that’s great, stick with it!

lemons! (#384)

My BFF and I work in the same industry and it took years to tell each other our salaries. Which is ridiculous after all the other messy life things we’ve told each other about. It helped us both so much.

alpacasloth (#108)

@Dont Move to Finland What’s wrong with Finland?

lemons! (#384)

@alpacasloth nothing actually http://youtu.be/S2B9xOyLgGs just a song I was listening to when I picked a name.

Charlsie (#442)

Mike, I just want you to know that I read the billfold every day, and when I spend $30 on fireworks on Friday night because I happen to be driving over a state border and it is payday, that I feel like Logan and that you would be disappointed in my poor decision making skills concerning fiscal responsibility.

My friends and I all talk about our finances a lot, because most of my friends have student loan debt that is not a secret and ranges from an annoyance to a crushing burden. And we all wish to be debt free. Life goals!

acid burn (#113)

I definitely talk to my friends about money but I find it’s harder to do the further our particular financial situations are from each other (I am the Mike in a few friendships). :-\ But I do think that money is good and healthy and often fun to talk about and I appreciate that the Billfold is starting those conversations!

nf (#949)

Mike, what did you actually tell your friend to do with his inheritance? I’m in a pretty similar situation.

Mike Dang (#2)

Well his situation is a little complicated because he wants to take a break from his job for a year, to focus on some personal projects, and we talked a little about whether or not he could afford to do that, examined what he paid for rent—that sort of thing. We’re planning on talking more about it, because I actually didn’t get too much one-on-one time to talk about it since we also talked about his misadventures in dating. The savings account where he had quite a bit of money isn’t earning as much interest as I think it could, and it’s certainly not earning enough interest to outpace inflation, and you want to do that at the very least. He also didn’t have any retirement accounts, and I suggested he start by opening one and start investing there.

cliuless (#36)

i took a personal finance course as an elective this semester and The Billfold launched around the same time. i think the class gave me some basics, but it’s The Billfold that really makes things easy to understand and humanizes it. i do find myself talking about money more, but it might also be because most people i know are only now starting to have money to talk about.

but yeah, i really love The Billfold and what you guys are doing. i’m about to graduate college and have to start being an adult, and this blog is really helping me and making things less scary! thanks, guys!

also i love talking about finance stuff almost as much as i love talking about whatever it is we talk about at the hairpin so this site makes me very happy and i’m glad it exists.

alpacasloth (#108)

I’ve always been willing to talk money with friends/family and thought it was weird that no one else would… now people are a lot more open to the idea of saying “this is how much I make to get by in the world and this is how I’m doing.”

One thing that I have forced myself to do is make a real, firm budget and try to stick to it. I’ve always been good about knowing how much money I have at any given time, but pretty poor at making a budget and staying within my means. Last week I even had a no spend weekend (besides $10 cash on strawberries from a farm)!

Lucky for me, I have a partner who has gotten very good at staying on top of finances and has helped me make smarter financial decisions. In the last year I dumped BofA for a local credit union, opened an online savings account, started a 401K and automatically deposited a chuck of each paycheck into my savings.

Also lucky for me, I have parents who are really honest and open about this kind of stuff and tell me how much everything costs (I call my dad to ask him how much a plumbing job should cost) so I feel like I have a leg up in this world. The Billfold is like a thing that I didn’t realize the internet was missing, but now that it’s here, I can’t imagine the internet without it. Keep up the good work!

curiouscamel (#598)

my friends and I have actually gotten really into discussing our finances since we’ve started reading the billfold! and I’ve become a lot more cognizant of where my money is spiraling away (like…i look at my credit card statement now). so this site has truly been fantastic, please keep up the great work!

My friends and I are all pretty open about money. Where I feel a bit alone is that none of them are in situations remotely similar to mine.

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