She Makes Money Moves is a new podcast from Glamour and iHeartRadio. Hosted by Glamour editor-in-chief Samantha Barry, the podcast shares intimate, unscripted stories from women across the country along with advice from financial experts to help guide those women—and women everywhere—forward. Download a new episode every Tuesday, then visit glamour.com/money for an article like this, with more insights from that week’s expert.
We all know that dreaded feeling. The check comes and while you’ve only ordered a salad, your friends—who’ve had an appetizer, an entrée, and two glasses of wine each—suggest you just “split the bill.” You get a Paperless Post with an invitation to a bachelorette party in Cancun, and while you want to celebrate with the bride, it’s just not in your budget. You get a Venmo request for the present you agreed to go in on for a close friend, and it’s…three times the amount you were told it would be.
But somehow, even though we’ve all been there, it still feels awkward to talk about financial situations with friends and loved ones. The guests on this week’s episode—”Friends With Money—And Friends Without”—have two wildly different financial situations. One feels like she has the least disposable income in her friend group, while the other is at a point in her life where she has more than most in her circle. Each situation presents its own unique set of problems, which Barry and financial expert Stefanie O’Connell explored on the episode. Here, O’Connell shares a few more ways to make money conversations with friends pain-free. Or at least, less agonizing.
Be the one to initiate the conversation
I’m not going to pretend that you won’t feel awkward having conversations with your friends about money, but that doesn’t mean those conversations are not worth having. What should really make us uncomfortable is the idea of going into debt simply to avoid some social awkwardness or to keep up appearances. Money is already part of our social lives. Going out, giving gifts, celebrating major milestones like marriage—all of these things have financial implications. And we each have our own set expectations around them. The thing is, we rarely talk about those financial expectations. Even when the expectations of those we love are out of alignment with our own—leading to stress, resentment, and even debt. Instead of suppressing those feelings and conversations, consider initiating them. Chances are your friends are feeling a lot of the same financial stress you are, so talking about it can actually help everyone.
Reframe money conversations around what you can afford to do
If you’re in a position where a friend is demanding a lot from you financially, take a moment to step back and run the actual numbers. Once you know what you can afford to spend, reframe the conversation around that, rather than making it about what you can’t afford. As you have this conversation with your friend, you can find the overlap between what he or she is planning and what you can afford to partake in.
Set expectations around social spending in advance
When it comes to social situations—whether it’s going out to dinner with a large group or being a bridesmaid in a bestie’s wedding—the best policy is to be straight forward and set expectations in advance. Let’s use being a bridesmaid as an example. Once you’ve calculated how much you can afford to spend, you can ask the bride what her top priorities are. Is it having you at the bachelorette party? Having you stand beside her in a bridesmaid dress on the big day? Or something else? Once you’ve both clearly communicated your expectations, it’s much easier to say, “I’m sorry, that’s not in my budget,” when additional expenses start to creep in.
Get involved in the planning process
When and where it’s appropriate, get involved in the planning process. By being involved in the social planning you can make sure to include budget-friendly options, and bring up important points like making sure activities are fun and accessible for everyone. If it’s a post-work drink, for example, you can suggest a bar with a great happy hour. Or if it’s a girls’ weekend getaway, you can offer to help plan, giving you an opportunity to find and negotiate the best deals on behalf of the whole group.
Start a social spending account
Just as you might have separate bank accounts for your checking and savings, consider starting a separate savings account for social spending—then contribute a small percentage of every paycheck to that account. Even setting aside as little as one or two percent of every paycheck can add up come next wedding or holiday season. If you have trouble setting up these systems for yourself, consider downloading an app that automatically helps set aside savings for you, like Digit.
Prioritize your own financial wellbeing
The truth is, you’re not going to be in a position to be a good friend if you’re in a state of constant financial stress. So it’s important to prioritize your own financial needs and wellbeing. It’s OK to say “no” to social spending you can’t afford so that you can say “yes” to your own financial goals.
According to a survey by Fidelity, the sponsor of She Makes Money Moves, 80% of women aren’t talking about money with the people closest to them. Today Glamour invites you to the conversation: Subscribe on Apple Podcasts in the iHeartRadio app, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and join us, as we help women raise their voices and make money moves.