Breaking Down The Taboo Of Talking About Money



Last week I read a really honest post by Carly Findlay about her experiences with debt and mismanaging her finances. Carly wrote that she felt vulnerable admitting she had previously been financially irresponsible and that the experience was embarrassing. I applaud Carly for her honesty and think we could all benefit from breaking down the taboo of talking about money.

For a long time it has been considered distasteful to discuss how much money you earn or have. It’s impolite to ask how much someone takes home or how much their house/car/boat costs. I understand this to a point. It’s private information and can lead to judgment and envy.  But in an age of increasing personal debt, you have to wonder if we’re all doing ourselves a disservice by being so secretive.

The idea of keeping up with the Jones’ is nothing new. The grass often looks greener when you don’t know what it takes to keep up appearances. We now live in a time where there are more products and gadgets than ever. Everyone owns a mobile phone but that is no longer enough. You must have a computer at home and a tablet for when you’re out and about. We’re being advertised at constantly. It’s not enough for companies to try and show us their wares via a television ad. Now we are offered to sign up to their email list so they can bombard us with digital correspondence about their latest bargains. How are we all affording to live in a society like this?

I have a few friends who have found themselves in a bit of financial strife. This information has only been revealed to me well after the fact due to shame and embarrassment. The sad part is that none of it has occurred due to redundancies, medical issues, becoming a caregiver or any of the other curveballs life can throw at you. No, this is due to personal loans and credit cards. Some have just liked shopping, some have wanted to go on a holiday they couldn’t afford, and others wanted brand new furniture as opposed to second-hand goods. The issue is that they all spent freely at the time like it was money they had earned, as opposed to a debt that was beyond their means to pay back.

I’m also no shining example when it comes to finances. I’ve never been in trouble but I’ve certainly purchased things on credit that were not essential. Luckily these loans were something I could pay back, at the time, anyway. I’m not sure what I would have done if I suddenly lost my job. My point is that it seems like many people are creating an illusion about what they can afford. Items and experiences are secretly purchased on credit and others purchase similar items and experiences on credit just to try and keep up. But it’s all in secret. We’re all fooling each other into thinking we’re better at managing our finances than we are. And it’s got to stop.

Do you think we should talk more openly about our finances? What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?

  • Tamsin Howse

    I’m OK with money. As a couple, the Viking & I are quite shit with money. I wouldn’t go so far as to say very shit, but we’re pretty shit. With the Viking it’s about living in the now and not worrying about the future (a side effect from your father dying when you’re quite young) and for me it’s about never buying something that isn’t the best. I would rather not have an *insert item here* than have a shit one. That doesn’t mean I always buy the most expensive item, far from it, but I always buy something that is going to last rather than a stop gap. And I’ll go without until I can get the nice one.

    When we moved into our house we had sofas picked up from the side of the road and recovered by my mum for about 2 years before we bought the King Furniture sofas we have now. Which we bought on sale, although still a pricy. I would rather have the same handbag for 2 years (and I have had for 2.5 years) but an Oroton one, than buy a new cheaper handbag every few months.

    But for this reason it wasn’t until we came to booking our overseas trip that I got my first ever credit card. Our home loan was my first ever debt. And that’s purely because I know myself well enough to not trust myself.

    Yeah… That just kind of became a ramble there and it’s practically a post. Oh my.

    • Monique Fischle

      I’m with you, I’d prefer to buy something of better quality that will last longer. In the past 5 years, I’ve switched to buying Guess bags. In that time I’ve only had two (one was bought for me as a gift and the other was bought on sale). Before that, I used to buy cheap handbags every few months before needing to buy a new one. It’s just not worth it.

      If you don’t mind me asking, why did you get a credit card for going OS? I was able to set up with my bank to use my VISA debit card when in Europe so I didn’t need to get a credit card.

      • Tamsin Howse

        A few reasons:
        1. We can pay off flights, but don’t normally have that amount sitting around.
        2. Travel insurance – we get a free credit card with our home loan so we’re able to get the platinum one that comes with full travel insurance.
        3. In case of emergencies.

        • Monique Fischle

          Fair call, smart move. I’m impressed you’ve been able to manage without one for a long time :)

    • Melissa Savage

      You guys sound a lot like us! Jelly likes new toys and I have champagne tastes (although I’m the one who lost a parent young, which means I’m terrible at forward planning, such as budgets). We are also still struggling with one of us being a freelancer. Jelly’s business is growing, so I recognise it won’t always be a struggle, and he’s getting good at keeping a chunk of whatever he is paid aside so that when there are slow weeks or months for him, it’s not feast or famine for us.

      • Tamsin Howse

        You sound leaps and bounds ahead then! I don’t know how we’re going to deal if either of us goes freelance!

        • Melissa Savage

          We’ve been at this freelance business for nearly three years. We always knew this enormous new mortgage would be a stretch. That’s why the lounge room floor is still broken.

  • Monique Fischle

    As I am just over 6 months away from getting married, the topic of money has come up in conversations between DG and I. It has to as we are paying for the majority of the wedding ourselves and we are working to a budget.

    Thanks to Bek’s budget posts, I’ve been able to create a fortnightly budget which I can actually stick to. It changes every fortnight depending on what events I have coming up but I am able to put away more money into savings than I was able to previously and there is still some left over to splurge a little bit.

    I’m alright with money but not amazing which is exactly why I don’t want a credit card. I have a VISA debit card which I can use for online purchases but I am unable to spend money that I don’t have and that works really well for me. I could see myself spiraling into huge amounts of debt if I had a credit card that I don’t need. I have no debt to my name and I want to keep it that way until the time comes to buy a house.

    I think we need to become more open with talking about money, especially when you’re struggling. It might be helpful to have someone keep you accountable.

  • carohutchison

    I’m good with money, and have to be as a financial planner. I’m also very lucky that if we get in a tight spot, Hutch can do a few extra shifts and earn a bit more. I’m also lucky as Hutch is very frugal in spending money on himself, (the motto for 2009 was ‘no clothes 09’) and I don’t really like shopping.

    Similarly to Carly, in my mid 20s I struggled, I’d bought an apartment with help from my parents then lost my job and ended up waitressing for a while, and my wage didn’t cover the mortgage, let alone anything else. Once I got full time work, I got back on my feet, but there were quite a few nights eating brown rice with soy sauce and butter, with the gas stove used as a heater as it was cheaper to run than the electric bar heater.