Awkward or not, it's important we start talking about money
I’m clueless when it comes to cash.
I don’t have a savings account. I don’t know what getting a mortgage entails. My credit rating is shit and I certainly don’t know what a BGC or a CAT is. I owe A LAT of money to the Student Loans Company and I don’t manage the bills. He does that.
For years, I’ve been fine just revelling in my own squalid ignorance, splashing cash on fast fashion or overpriced pizzas, just getting by. I assumed every other Londoner in her twenties was doing just the same. Until one of my mates said she was thinking of buying a house without her boyfriend or a leg up from her parents, that is. My eyes popped out my head, not because she was going it alone instead of hoiking up with her other half, but because buying somewhere in London, on her jacobs, was a possibility for her. A real thing she could do. I was barely making rent, so how the fuck could she afford to buy a house here? At this point, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but instead of flying into a fit of jealous rage, I acted as casual as she, dug deep into the gelato we were gorging on (that I definitely couldn’t afford) and internalised all my questions of, ‘BUT, HOW?!’.
Since then, I’ve come to terms with the large financial gap between me and those of my friends who are always swanning off on holiday and spending thousands on destination weddings. I digested it and decided to tackle it by talking about cash. Thought an open dialogue with them might finally help me learn how to be a fully functioning adult. In return, I’ve received some stellar advice and a fair few wake up calls.
Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:
It’s ludicrous for me not to have a savings account aged 28.
I should have a better credit rating than I do.
Selling clothes on eBay and Depop is a good idea.
I should open bank accounts based on perks, not interest rates.
Using a credit card and paying it back is better than not having one at all.
There’s no need to buy coffee every day when I have a Nespresso machine at home.
I should keep all my receipts and remember to refund clothes I don’t want.
There’s an app that helps you regulate your spending each month.
Loyalty cards are a good idea.
Cashback sites are a thing.
Living at home is for saving, not for splashing cash on clothes.
Some of your salary should be put away each month, even if you can only manage a fiver
Maternity leave isn’t a given in every workplace.
When you get diagnosed with life threatening cancer, work might not pay you to be off sick.
Black Friday is for Christmas shopping, not splurging.
Pay into a pension; you’re never too young to start looking after your older self.
Scour bank statements. Being embarrassed by the number of 2am transactions will stop the spending, trust me.
Don’t settle for being paid less than you should. Awkward conversations last 15 minutes, but that extra pocket money might buy you a house someday.
Despite what your favourite bloggers make you think, not everyone needs a Gucci Soho Disco bag.
Financial stability is a marathon, not a sprint.
Most people will have had help from parents or other halves if they seem cushty as hell.
Setting a budget each month isn’t anal, it’s tactical.
Ignoring debt will only make it worse.
Since I started opening up to people about money, I’ve not only learnt a lot, but I’ve had some really refreshing experiences and people have started opening up to me, too. A group of us, for example, have since clubbed together for a friend’s rent because she just can’t make it work this month; someone else has confessed to me that she’s only contributed 10% of the deposit to the house she’s just bought and another has admitted (despite having a picture-perfect life on social media) that having a baby has left her and her husband crippled with debt. It’s made me realise that although some bad ass bitches can afford all of the things, there are some of us who still can’t, and - sorry to those of you right down here with me - it’s reassuring to know that it’s okay to not be sitting on a goldmine or looking for a house in Chiswick.
It’s hard out there, I won’t lie, but unless we talk to each other, we aren’t going to be able to keep our heads above water, get paid what we should, or save up to buy that flat we want.
The fact is, money is the last remaining taboo (as well as how to tackle hairy nips, but that’s a story for another day) and it really shouldn’t be. Let’s change this bizarre monetary silence and starting talking to each other.
I’m not afraid to kick things off, so if you want to discuss what I’m getting paid, what you’re getting paid, or how to choose the perfect savings account, chat to me. Or, follow Chelsea Fagan of The Financial Diet for stellar cash advice from an actual adult.
The choice is yours.
Written by Olivia O'Brien