Etiquette demands that there are three topics that polite people should never bring up in mixed company: politics, religion and money. But when a friend comes to you for budget help, the ensuing conversation doesn't have to be awkward or uncomfortable. It was your advice they sought in a time of need; take it as a compliment! Follow this guide to helping your friend through his or her monetary troubles without squirming.
Financial discussions with friends don't have to be tense and difficult.
Hard Facts About Software
The best thing you can do and the first thing you should do is ask the least personal question possible: What kind of software are you using? If they came to you for budget help, the answer is probably either none at all or one of those old-school spreadsheet programs. Educate them on the modern state of financial software. Programs such as Mint.com are incredibly user friendly and intuitive, easy, efficient and best of all, free. It's web-based so they don't need to download any software, they can sign up in seconds, and when they do, they'll be well on their way to never needing budget help again.
Talk Percentages, Not Real Numbers
When helping your friend break down their budget, they're likely uncomfortable telling you -- and you're probably uncomfortable asking -- how much money they earn or how much money they owe. Don't get into their salary or debt. Use percentages, which can be applied to the wealthiest and least affluent person alive. Tell them that X percent of their income should go to savings every month while leaving enough to pay down X percent of their credit card debt. The best thing you can do is give them budget help without prying into their personal finances.
The Importance of Goals
A budget is more than just one column telling you what's coming in and another detailing what's going out. At the heart of every budget should be a set of goals toward which the budget is aimed at getting the person whose finances it represents. It's easy to come off preachy or condescending when telling another grownup that they need to have goals. Tell your friend how your budgeting process got easier when you established goals, what they were and how you factored them in. Mint.com has a specific section set aside to establish goals and tracks your progress toward or away from them.
Give your friend budget help without getting into the particulars of their personal finances.
When a friend comes to you for budget help, it's natural to cringe while imagining an awkward conversation about money. Budgeting isn't about money, it's about establishing a process. The particulars of your friend's finances aren't really even relevant. Help them set goals, avoid getting personal and tell them about your own experiences.
Get your friends -- and yourself -- on the right track by visiting Mint.com today. It takes seconds to set up, it's free, and it does all the work for you!