Money talks and so should we.

What’s that phrase – too much month and not enough money? I’m sure we’ve all experienced it. The financial juggling, stretching, ends not quite meeting. Saver, spender, somewhere in betweener? Where we sit on the financial spectrum can vary vastly, but all too often the common denominator is that we don’t talk about it.

 

What we earn, what we spend or the debt we may have still remains a pretty taboo subject. We don’t talk openly about money and it’s this lack of discourse that fuels some of the biggest financial issues that we have.

 

Did you know that less than 10% of us have savings? As we have and raise our children, our incomes can fluctuate vastly. Maternity pay, paternity pay, tax credits, universal credit, carers allowance, part time or term time working and let’s not mention child care costs. Over the last 10 years of being a mum, I’ve worked full time, part time, been self-employed, not worked at all and any other possible variant going. Our family finances change frequently. 

And in our picture perfect, Insta-worthy world, the temptation to buy, to spend, to get into debt is real. We all do it, see the lovely things and think I want that. And yet how often do we ask ourselves do we need that?

 

Budget, save spend was a phrase I first heard at a free money education course just after we had our first baby and it’s stuck with me. One of the keys to good financial health is to really understand what we spend, in a forensic like way. All of it. I mean everything. Every coffee. Every bottle of wine.

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 Write it all down, put it into categories, add it all up. Use an online budgeting tool, there’s loads out there. Next try to understand what’s coming in; wages, benefits, other sources of income. Then, the tricky part, making it balance. Making sure we have enough money for the month. Finding new habits and learning to save for items instead of impulse buys and instant credit. Not easy I know. We have three children and ‘Mummy I want...” is a phrase I hear far too often!

 

An analysis of our money is the first step to better financial health because knowledge is power. However bleak or bright the situation looks, next is the opportunity to improve it and get help where we need it.

 

MoneySavingExpert.com is a great place to start for information on a whole range of financial topics and Citizens Advice provide accurate and detailed information around benefits. So many people don’t claim all that they are entitled to. Get a benefits check done if you are in any doubt.


And then there is debt. Getting into debt can happen to any of us. Sometimes it creeps up on us and sometimes it happens suddenly. A change in circumstances, a redundancy, something unexpected like cancer, can quickly tip the balance and we can spiral into unmanageable debt.

Debt can cause such shame and fear of judgement. And it’s that shame that causes us to hide it. Not really the kind chat we want to bring to the playground, is it. Debt. But we should, we should open up about our financial health, not just to share tips on the best bargains, but to reassure when things go wrong and tell people that help does exist and to point them to it.

 

I work for a debt counselling charity, the same charity I first learned the phrase budget, save and spend from. I have seen the devastation that debt can cause families. It’s real and it’s awful. Two thirds of families skipping meals because of debt. Nearly half experiencing mental ill health because of debt. Maybe you have been there.

 

But equally, I have seen the relief and hope when families realise that there is help, there is a way out of debt. A budget can be built, creditors can be negotiated with and a plan put in place. And I have seen the deep joy when people do go debt free and find financial freedom again. Last year we saw over 2500 families go debt free! 

 

Debt charities, like the one I work for, Christians Against Poverty (CAP), exist to help people go debt free and stay debt free. Free, professional, person centred help is available to everyone. You should never, ever pay for debt counselling, so please make sure you contact one of the charities working in this area and never a profit-making company.

 

So, let’s talk about debt, about our financial health, share, learn, be honest, you just never know who could benefit from your experience and who really might need some help. And if it’s you, get help, it is there waiting for you. 

 

For more information on the help provided by CAP go to capuk.org/help or call 0800 328 0006.

- Emma Jackson

Emma is a 38-year-old mum of three - Lilly (10), Finn (8) & Jonah (6) and married to Niall. They all live in the rural Scottish Borders. Emma is the Head of CAP Scotland, overseeing the work in Scotland of this UK wide debt and anti-poverty charity, which helps around 22,000 people each year. Emma speaks widely on the subject of debt, money education and how we can serve those in most need in our communities.