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Chew with your mouth closed. Keep your elbows off the table. And whatever you do, don’t talk about politics, religion or money. Even though we all know these unspoken rules of surviving a family gathering, they’re hard to follow—especially not talking about money.
Thanksgiving is almost here, and with it comes the opportunity for many an awkward conversation. So, what do you do if you find yourself in the middle of one while chowing down on Aunt Betsy’s famous sweet potato casserole?
We’re here to help. These are five topics of conversation to watch out for while you’re seated around the Thanksgiving table:
1. Christmas Purchases
If you’re doing well financially, that’s great! Just be careful not to go on and on about what you’re getting the kids for Christmas or the ski vacation you’re taking over the holidays. No one likes a show-off.
That doesn’t mean you have to apologize for your success. If they want to know how you saved up for a new electric guitar for your kid or how you scored such a great vacation deal, talk about it in a one-on-one setting later. Who knows? It may just be the motivation they need to begin their own journey toward financial peace.
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2. Money Troubles
Without fail, your little brother always finds a way to complain about his low-paying job, his overdue credit card bills, or his expensive divorce. But this is not a pity party! This is Thanksgiving! Who needs the unnecessary drama?
So before a whining session begins, head your family member off with an act of kindness. Why not offer to send their résumé to a few friends or to pay their way through a Financial Peace University class?
Hopefully, your pre-meal gesture will leave them feeling blessed and much less likely to complain during dinner.
3. Personal Loans
Cousin Eddie shamelessly asks you for a loan every single year. Forget about how he already owes you for his dog’s emergency surgery last spring. What do you do this year?
Family loans are a bad idea. If someone in your family is going through a legitimate rough patch (and you have the cash to help them out), give the money as a gift. But don’t expect anything in return.
And if you’ve already messed up and loaned someone money in the past, consider writing it off and politely telling them your banking days are over. Just do this in private. There’s no need to embarrass them in front of the whole family—even if they bring it up.
4. Business Propositions
Everyone has that crazy Uncle who seems to always have the hot, new "business opportunity" you just have to get in on. You know the one. He knows a guy who knows an investor who knows about a hip start-up looking for some business-minded folks to "get in on the ground floor." And it’ll only cost you $5,000. What a deal!
There’s usually not a lot of reasoning with them. There’s just avoidance—and changing the subject. What else do they like? Cars? Swing dancing? Football? Have a go-to subject ready to distract them until everyone has finished dessert and started to clear out of the room.
5. Anything that begins with "Dave Ramsey Says . . ."
We know you’re excited about getting out of debt. We’re excited for you! But the quickest way to turn someone off a great plan is to beat them over the head with it. If you’ve been living and spending differently, your family will notice. There’s no need to drown them with Dave-isms at the table.
When they’re sick and tired of being broke, trust us, they’ll ask you for the details. Until then, don’t nitpick every financial mistake they’ve ever made. We know you just want to help, but criticizing will only make them resent you—and the Baby Steps—even more.
Remember, you can’t make someone change their mind. They have to be ready to make the change. They probably have a few excuses for their debt, and now is not the time to get in a debate!
Find a way to be positive about your situation without being negative about theirs.
Remember Why You’re Gathering
Your family members have worked hard to prepare a memorable Thanksgiving feast for you and yours, and they want everyone to enjoy themselves and get along. Be thankful for the short time you get to share! Follow these tips to avoid initiating uncomfortable money conversations that could steer them away from deciding to take control of their money. You never know when that door could open!