When so many of us are implicitly taught from childhood that money is a taboo topic, it can be a struggle to voice our financial needs under any circumstances, no matter who we’re talking to. But sometimes, a hard conversation can make a big difference. 

Rather than carrying unspoken resentment and needlessly lightening your wallet, get real and open up — with these stress-saving tips in your back pocket.

How to express your money needs with your…

Friends

We all have a friend or two in our circle who always seem to forget their wallet. Whether it’s bona fide absentmindedness or something closer to willful negligence, always being the de facto bill footer can cause serious tension in a platonic relationship. 

You know your friends best, so use your discretion — but ideally, the fix for this one would be to sit down and have an honest conversation about splitting up the cost of group activities — whether that’s Taco Tuesday or your recurring Friday bowling plans. If going all-in for a face-to-face seems like too much, you could start out by sending a payment request on Venmo… but if that goes unanswered, you’re probably going to be forced to (lovingly) state your boundaries. 

Employer

This can be a tricky one. After all, your employer is probably the primary, if not sole, source of your income to begin with. That’s one relationship you really don’t want to screw up.

But negotiating can be an incredibly valuable skill — one that could put hundreds or thousands of extra dollars into your pocket with one simple(ish) conversation. Of course, it takes more than simply waltzing into your boss’s office and asking for a raise. 

Successful negotiation is part art, part science and a topic that’s been written about ad nauseum. Many experienced negotiators agree that one of the most important parts of a successful negotiation is explaining why you deserve the raise or promotion you’re asking for by gathering demonstrable evidence of your performance or relevant skills that will help you perform the role you’re aiming for. 

It can also help to keep an open mind as to what your full compensation package might look like. While convincing your boss to increase your salary by $10,000 might be intimidating, you might ask whether they’d consider a student loan repayment benefit. More and more companies are offering this kind of perk, and given that the average student loan debt exceeds $25,000 in most states, the benefit could make your holistic financial picture much brighter.

Either way, be polite, but confident. This is a business arrangement, after all, and you’re an asset to your company — you should be well-compensated.

Significant other

You probably don’t need statistics to believe that money-related rows are some of the most pervasive fights between couples. 

But the statistics do exist. According to a 2019 survey by Insider and Morning Consult, about two-thirds of the 2,096 respondents said that money “caused some level of stress in their [serious, long-term] relationship.” In the same year, CNBC reported that money stress and financial insecurity keep many women trapped in unhappy, and sometimes even toxic, marriages. 

Given how easily those conversations can devolve into fights, it may seem like talking to your significant other more about money is absolutely the last thing you need. But if you make a plan to sit down and calmly discuss financial issues comprehensively, you may be able to come up with the equitable solutions you need to put an end to the war altogether. (Bonus points if you can do it fairly early on in a budding relationship, avoiding the argument cycle altogether.)

Family

Discussing finances within a family context is often fraught — and not just between parents and their children. How many of us have offered a family member a “loan” only to never see that money again?

But just because this difficult dynamic is typical doesn’t mean it’s the way it has to be. If you’re a parent, you can start by having open, frank conversations with your children about money, breaking the cycle of silence you may have learned in your own childhood. And yes, it’s totally possible — if a little uncomfortable — to write up full loan agreements for family loans, including interest schedules and late fees. There are plenty of free family loan agreement templates available online to prove it!

Bottom line

In pretty much every case, the key to effectively communicating your needs is being willing to communicate those needs in the first place. Although these conversations can be uncomfortable, they’re also important, and they can lead to relationships that are far more functional, financially and otherwise.

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