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Talking about money at the holidays

Ideally, your Thanksgiving holiday should be about family, food and fun. Avoiding controversial topics is usually a good plan. But if you must bring up money as you’re passing the turkey, there is a right way to do it. Whether someone owes you big money or you need some financial help, we have some tips for keeping it civil.

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Keep an Open Mind

First order of business involves keeping an open mind. The last thing you want is a scene over your mom’s potato salad. No matter what you’re asking or bring up, it helps to be prepared for any answer. You may want to consider all scenarios before starting this sensitive and sometimes awkward conversation. That way, you won’t be thrown off if you get an answer you don’t expect. It’s also important to recognize that finances vary from person to person. What you see on the surface, may not be the other person’s “money truth.”

Go Right to the Source

Perhaps you’re embarrassed about asking your parents for help to pay for a down payment. In the same way, if someone owes you money, there’s no need to bring it up in front of the whole family. Find a quiet moment before or after your holiday dinner to approach the person you need to talk to. If possible, find yourself a calm, isolated setting to have your money conversation. This will also help prevent any unwanted interruptions or outside advice.

Don’t Wait Until Dessert

how to broach the money topic at thanksgiving

Waiting until dessert means you have to sit through greetings, cocktail hour and dinner. We don’t know about your parties, but by dessert, it’s more likely people have had something to drink. And most of the time, a tipsy atmosphere won’t make for a productive discussion, especially with relatives about money.

If you can, try approaching the person early on in the evening so you can get it out of the way even sooner. After that, you can focus on enjoying your holidays and making memories with your family.

Schedule a Time

Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t always provide the most ideal time to have an in-depth discussion about investing or estate planning. Instead of having a long conversation, use the steps above to simply set a date in the future to talk fully with the person. That way you can get the first step off of your chest. This ensures your conversation won’t impact the festivities. Plus, it may give you and the other person more time to think through your feelings and arguments. Then when you have your longer conversation, it won’t be as pressure-filled or heated.

Be Honest

Now that you know how and when to approach this conversation, never forget that honesty is the best policy. If you lost your job, don’t avoid the topic because it’s the holidays. Be upfront about it and keep your family in the loop. That way, they can better know how to help you.

For example, there’s no need to throw yourself into credit card debt to buy everyone presents although you can’t afford it. Being honest with your family can result in solutions like exchanging handmade gifts, having a “Secret Santa”-style holiday or simply lowering the spending limit.

The Takeaway

how to broach the money topic at thanksgiving

Money is one of the many topics people tend to avoid at all costs (pun intended). This is especially true around any holiday season. But if it’s unavoidable, you’ll want to take the right steps to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible. It’s best to discuss it as quietly and privately as possible. That way, you can have a more focused conversation and to also not take away from the festivities and merriment. With the right plan, you can bring up money issues and enjoy your holiday to the fullest extent.

Tips for Getting Out of Debt

  • If you’ve found yourself in some debt, it’s important to take action as soon as you can. A credit card calculator can help you figure out a timeline for paying off that debt.
  • Then, you should start saving and setting aside money to pay down that debt. It helps to pay down the principal or the balance first so you don’t accrue more interest.
  • If you’re not in debt, but are struggling to meet your payment due dates, there are a few ways you can combat this. It helps to spend only what you can afford. If you rationalize your credit card usage with the fact that you get to pay later, you’re headed toward trouble. Then you can more easily make all your payments in full and on time to avoid penalties and accrued interest.

Photo credits: ©iStock.com/Geber86, ©iStock.com/bhofack2, ©iStock.com/fstop123

Liz Smith Liz Smith is a graduate of New York University and has been passionate about helping people make better financial decisions since her college days. Liz has been writing for SmartAsset for more than four years. Her areas of expertise include retirement, credit cards and savings. She also focuses on all money issues for millennials. Liz's articles have been featured across the web, including on AOL Finance, Business Insider and WNBC. The biggest personal finance mistake she sees people making: not contributing to retirement early in their careers.
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