Chances are, you know someone right now who is really struggling due to the cost of living crisis. But would you know what to say or do if they opened up to you about their worries?
The impacts of the rising cost of living are all around us. From the weekly shop to the electricity bill, we’re seeing prices go up in ways that directly affect our budgets. And while for some this is an inconvenience, perhaps requiring a few cutbacks here and there, for others, the problems are building into something more serious.
Many people who find themselves in unmanageable debt never expected to end up there. They have reliable incomes and watch their spending carefully, but suddenly circumstances change. A health issue makes it impossible to work. A relationship falls apart, shaking the household’s financial stability as well as causing a mountain of emotional distress. The landlord puts the rent up again, beyond what the tenants can afford anymore.
As financial challenges become more prevalent right now, we can all help by being ready to lend a listening ear to anyone who needs to talk about money. But what if you’re not a financial expert and don’t feel confident having those conversations? What do you say to someone who’s falling further into debt, and how do you avoid sounding condescending or unkind in your response?
At Christians Against Poverty, we’ve got 27 years’ experience having these kinds of conversations and helping people find hope in any situation. So here are five ways to make talking about money that bit easier.
Understand it’s not an easy topic
In the UK, we don’t always like talking about money. It’s important to remember that whatever someone’s background, they may feel really uncomfortable even bringing up the topic, let alone admitting that they are struggling. The best thing you can do is set aside any awkwardness you may feel about discussing money to put them at ease. Allow the person plenty of time to open up and be mindful that this could have been a huge step, so they need your undivided attention and compassion for this conversation.
Be open about your own experience
Debt and poverty can be isolating. We often think we’re the only ones struggling, and that everyone else is doing fine. A little bit of honesty goes a long way here. By sharing that you also have worries, or want to get better at budgeting, or have been made redundant in the past, you make it easier for someone to open up with vulnerability.
Don’t point fingers
There are many reasons people get into debt. One of the comments we regularly hear at CAP is the sheer surprise callers feel when they phone our head office and find out our team aren’t judgemental and just want to help. We’ve seen the huge impact that a compassionate, accepting attitude can have on someone. The same can be true for you when you listen to a friend without assuming their money troubles come from overspending or irresponsible behaviour.
Point them towards support
Once someone has opened up about financial struggles or worries, it’s important that they find the support that will help turn the situation around. After all, listening may go a long way to help them feel less isolated or overwhelmed, but we also want to fix the underlying problems so they don’t have to deal with that stress anymore. At CAP we can offer help getting out of debt, finding employment, budgeting and managing on a low income. We have trained experts who can look at all the options available and take the pressure off someone who’s struggling. Find out what free services are available near you.
If they’re a Christian, or comfortable being prayed for, this is a great way to bring a hopeful perspective into the mix. You can pray for God’s provision and peace to break through and transform the situation. CAP’s Debt Coaches often offer to pray with people and find that it gets a warm and positive response.
So when you find yourself talking about money worries, don’t panic and think that you need all the answers. Instead, remember that kindness and sensitivity go a long way in making these conversations easier.
If you’d like to support someone financially to get free from debt in this cost of living crisis, we’re asking people to give £19 a month for nine months to see someone who’s drowning in debt move towards a hopeful future.
Your monthly donation of £19 for 9 months could take a family from their first call to CAP to becoming debt free through a Debt Relief Order.
Every person’s route out of debt looks different. CAP takes into account each person’s situation, and our professional Debt Advisors establish a bespoke, structured route out of debt that’s suitable for each and every person’s individual circumstances.