Do you need to be good at maths to be good with money?

I was recently speaking to a friend about money and she said that she’d never be good with her money because she’s awful at maths…

This really stood out to me, because although they are both numbers-based, I’ve never really noticed the link before.

What do you think? Do you think being good at maths helps you manage your money better?

Definitely not in my case! I’ve always been good at maths and terrible at managing my money; my sister is the other way round :joy:

I can’t help but spend it - and knowing how poor the compounding is on current interest rates doesn’t help at all as I know any increase from leaving it will be negligible…

I don’t agree at all. While maths may help people understand compounding and other more advanced concepts of savings etc… I think just a basic understanding of money is needed.

Less out than you get in = money saved, as a start.

Much like I say you don’t need crazy weird diets if you want to lose weight. More energy output than you consume = weight lost.

While it doesn’t work for a small number of people the large majority it will be fine to get started.

I love maths but it’s not required to even be decent at it for saving money.


You can’t be that bad at managing your money if you’re using Emma! @katvoira

I guess the problem is that a lot of financial info includes terminology (like compounding/ interest) that makes it seem more complicated than it actually is and then puts a lot of people off?

I wouldn’t say I was amazing at maths, but I do like crunching the numbers/ using excel and I think that has played a role in my interest in budgeting and managing my money…


I think you need to be mathematically literate just as much as any other literacy.

That doesn’t mean you need to be some genius to get your finances sorted, but you do need some basic level…

I’m with you on this 100% @rebekah!

I’m probably average at Maths, but I do like messing about in Excel and Emma (and have a bit of a geeky interest in the statistics around my finances as I find it helps to be analytical - then you can focus on your financial goals in a more dispassionate way).

You definitely need a basic understanding of some statistics elements of maths, and the financial terminology involved. Understanding concepts like compound interest is very important.

I don’t think you necessarily need to be that good at Maths to do this though, and once you understand the concept it is simple enough to use Excel or a similar tool to work these sorts of things out for you (it’s not like you have to do all the processing in your head).

What I would find really difficult, actually, is spending everything in cash as I know the figure that’s in my bank account but keeping a mental track of the abstract value of a loads of coins and notes in my wallet would be really hard and I would never know if I was on track with my spending/budget or not!


I agree. I’m not great at maths so when I’ve figuring out my money, it requires more brain power than I expect others use.

For example, my flatmates pay different household bills from their accounts. I was trying to figure out how much they owe me after these household bills were taken into account. Safe to say it took my an embarrassingly long amount of time :woman_facepalming:

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I agree - if you go on holiday and have to pay for everything in cash I feel like its 10x harder to keep track of what you’ve actually spent/ have left to spend

I feel like this when you’re splitting a bill between friends at a restaurant - if you’re not splitting the bill evenly it somehow never adds up to the correct amount and you’re left questioning your own ability to count :sweat_smile:


I agree with both parts of that!

I think the difficulties that we have using cash to budget probably show how it can be hard to adapt what you are used to, as obviously some people like to use cash to budget and have difficulty without the physical representation of how much money they have left.

I find that fascinating.

So interesting

I’ve seen a lot of people who like budgeting with cash using special cash binders - they get paid, withdraw their salary, and then physically allocate a set amount of money to each section of the binder

I don’t think it would work for me, but it does seem to be quite a popular budgeting method!

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This approach just follows established theories around the benefits of physicality. So, kids learn to read far more effectively and quickly with a real book than on a screen and you get a more concrete sense of money from a physical measure of it than staring at your balances.

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I know some people do, but I really don’t.

It’s not quite the same as reading, since even physical money is already an abstract concept. We just decide that a red note is worth £50, a purple one £20, and so on.

I’m not really that “familiar” with physical cash any more, so I find using it hard. What looks like physically a lot can also be worth hardly anything and vice versa - like a weighty bag of 1p coins totalling about £1.50, versus a single £50 note.

This means the analogy of “seeing when it’s gone” doesn’t quite work - especially because you often give out a single note but get a load of change back (you almost get “more back” physically, but it’s worth monetarily less).

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There’s been a few psychological studies about how people perceive money when they pay by cash vs a credit card. They found things like…

  • people find it harder to part with cash, so spend less than they would if they had a CC
  • people who pay with cash then have a stronger emotional attachment to what they’ve bought

I think I’d find it harder to part with a £50 note over just using my card, but overall I wouldn’t switch to cash because it’s harder to keep track of the bigger picture (what you’ve spent in total/ what you’ve got left to spend)

Has anyone read The Psychology of Money? Find it all pretty interesting so was thinking about giving it a read…


I get the technique works using cash instead of card but it just feels outdated. The last thing I want to do is carry around cash and when I have it on me, all I want to do is get rid of it as fast as possible.

One of my favourite things to do though is collect all the 1ps I find and then feed them into the till at Sainbury’s. I don’t know why but it gives me a large amount of satisfaction


Me too, I agree completely. I find using cash irritating so when I end up with some I have an urge to get rid of it and probably spend more than I should as a result.

I haven’t read this, but it does look interesting. Maybe it’s something to add to my reading list!

Let us know how you found it if you do decide to read it first, I’d be curious.

Will do! I’ve added it to my Kindle list so going to check if the price drops a little before I buy it :money_with_wings:

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Really interesting article on the FT today that asks “How much is bad maths costing Britain?”

Key points:

  • Just under half of working-age adults in the UK have numeracy skills lower than that expected of an 11-year-old child.

  • This has a massive impact on how well people manage their personal finances and their ability to comprehend household bills.

  • A research study from Plain Numbers has shown that making small tweaks to the way bills were presented (easier to read, no jargon, rounding up the numbers) doubled customer comprehension, on average. This led to better financial decision-making, and fewer money worries.

Do you think all financial companies should (and would?) adopt the approach of easier to read bills/ communication?

Try this…

Just had a quick look over those questions, and it’s safe to say that I’ve forgotten everything I ever knew about triangles and trigonometry :sweat_smile:

Did you take the test?

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Here’s another quiz if anyone’s interested… (lots easier than the last one imo)