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How to Tastefully Bring Up Money at Thanksgiving Dinner (and Why You Should)

By Choncé Maddox
November 13, 2017

Sex, religion, and politics are among some of the most commonly avoided topics at the dinner table because, well, they tend to make people feel uncomfortable. Here’s another topic that can be just as taboo: money.

Yet, contrary to what you may believe, you may actually want to talk about money at one of the most prominent dinner tables of all: the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Sure, Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks, making memories and spending time with family and friends. But, while you’re all together at the table, why not make the conversation about money? Here are a few reasons why this may prove to be a good idea:

  • Money shouldn’t be taboo. Money should never be a taboo topic in your household. Yet, according to Reuters, Americans would rather talk about death than money. As a result, more than half of the country admits to not having enough money saved to cover a $500 unexpected expense, and a vast majority of Americans can’t afford to retire. To avoid going down this road, it’s important to talk about money openly in your household. Another added bonus: this is a good way for your kids or other children at the table to learn about financial literacy.
  • All your family will be together. Another great reason to bring up money at Thanksgiving table is that this way you can have an open conversation with all your relatives at the same time.
  • It’s a good way to discuss your holiday spending plans.  People spend the most money during the last two months of the year on holiday-related expenses, including gifts and travel. In fact, consumers spend an average of $1,000 extra during the holiday season. If you are trying to budget or simply can’t afford to spend the extra dough, having an open discussion with your family about your finances may be a smart money move. This way you’ll be more apt to eliminate stress and enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones.

While there’s no doubt that money is an important subject to discuss during the holidays, talking about finances can still be awkward. Here are 5 easy ways to talk about money at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

1. Ask Everyone About Their Short and Long-Term Goals

An easy way to bring up money at the Thanksgiving dinner table is to ask everyone about their short and long-term goals for the future. This way, no one feels singled out and everyone gets to share where they see themselves going financially, professionally and personally.

Trust me, money will come up during this conversation and it’s a great way to discuss how everyone will make their goals a reality right before it’s time to start setting New Year’s resolutions.

For starters, you can discuss what type of legacy you want to leave and how finances can help you get there. You can also ease into the topic of medical and financial needs for older family members or your aging parents.

2. Answer the Famous, “How Have You Been?” Question with Financial Flair

It’s almost guaranteed that a relative is going to ask you for a life update at the Thanksgiving gathering. This is the perfect opportunity to launch an indirect conversation about money.

For example, instead of disclosing details about your job or your relationship, share some financial successes or failures instead. Maybe you’ve been doing a great job with sticking to your budget, saving up for a big purchase, or finding new ways to make some extra money on the side. My husband has been driving for Uber and Lyft for about a year and it always prompts some great conversations about side hustles and extra income at family gatherings.

3. Play a Family-Friendly Game About Money

Adults love games just as much as kids and since most places are closed during Thanksgiving day, my family and I like to relax after dinner and play board games or watch movies.

If your Thanksgiving gathering often turns into a family game night as well, choose a fun game that promotes financial literacy and wellness. Some of the best games that teach people about money include:

  • CashFlow
  • Game of Life
  • MoneyWise
  • Payday
  • Easy Money

4. Talk About Financial News and Current Events

Current news and events are commonly discussed at the dinner table. You could flip the script by bringing up some personal finance news instead by mentioning a study or article you recently read. You could also discuss a recent financial news story you saw on TV. Typically stories abound about Black Friday and consumerism during Thanksgiving week.

5. Share Information About a Charity Event

Being able to give back and help those in need is important to your overall financial wellness.

As you go around the table and reveal everything you’re thankful for, you can share information about an upcoming charity event your family can volunteer for. Whether it’s passing out meals, donating gifts, or providing a service, this can be an impactful way to discuss the giving aspect of money and money management.

Be Inclusive and Steer the Conversation

Using the tips above, you can turn an uncomfortable holiday conversation into a productive discussion about money.

Just remember this final tip: if you’re going to bring up money at the Thanksgiving dinner table this year, focus on being inclusive and addressing everyone. This way no one feels targeted or left out.

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