How to Handle Awkward Money Conversations During The Holidays

Money is a taboo subject in most families but that doesn’t stop it from coming up, especially during the holidays. 

From holiday celebrations to gift giving, the holidays may come with a price depending on your family’s traditions. But no celebration is an excuse to fall into holiday debt.

It may be awkward to bring up how you want to stay within a certain budget during the holidays or avoid conversations about huge life decisions like getting married, having kids, or buying a house. 

These are all things that you also don’t owe anyone answers to. But you can plan on ways to handle these conversations less awkwardly if they come up.

These tips will help you navigate these awkward money conversations so that everyone has a good time this season.

Don’t Feel Obligated to Spend More Than You Can Afford

Don’t feel obligated to spend more than you can afford on gifts and celebrations, especially if it puts a strain on your finances. 

If you have a limited budget for the holidays, some people might pressure you into spending more than what’s comfortable for you. Just because someone is close to you doesn’t mean they have the right to ask that of you. It’s okay to say no without feeling guilty about it or being rude in response.

Related: 5 Holiday Side Gigs to Make Extra Money

Handling Conversations About Holiday Celebrations

When the topic of holiday celebrations comes up, it’s often already decided upon where the location will be. If that certain detail is still up in the air, don’t volunteer yourself if you aren’t prepared. This is especially hard for the people pleasers of the family but it’s best to keep your lips sealed on this one.

If someone asks you if you can have the holiday party at your house, respond with “I’m not prepared to host any gatherings at my house,” and leave it at that. 

If you’d like to host a celebration at your house but are weary of the costs, ask your family and friends to each bring a dish as well as their own drinks. This way everyone chips in and you are only responsible for 1 dish and your own drinks. 

When thinking about spending on holiday decorations, craft and dollar stores are great places to shop for lights and other pieces of decor at a discount. You can also ask other members of your family to lend you decorations like lights for the party.

Handling Conversations About Gifts 

Gift giving can become the most controversial subject of any holiday gathering if funds are tight and other members of your family don’t respect financial boundaries well. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Have a gift-giving conversation with your family and have it early before December so no one gets mad that they may already have bought gifts. 

In families where folks are pressured to get a gift for every member of the family, try proposing a Secret Santa or a gift swap like White Elephant. This way you are only responsible for getting one present and can significantly reduce the overall cost of gift giving.

It is also 100% acceptable to simply tell your family that you don’t want to participate in gift-giving this year. There are so many other ways to show your love for them outside of buying things for each other.

Handling Conversations About Life Decisions

You’ve already spoken to your family about holiday gathering and gift expectations and have made it to the day of the big celebration. This is the time that the most awkward of conversations might come up.

Nosey family members or folks that don’t know what to talk about might ask you uncomfortable questions about your life decisions. These questions might include personal life details that also connect to your finances. All are details that you don’t owe anyone.

  • When are you getting married?
  • When are you going to have kids?
  • When are you going to buy a house?

These are questions that have been embedded in society when we have nothing else to do but make small talk. But that small talk can quickly become offensive.

You can respond to any of those questions with, “I am not comfortable discussing those personal details with you. Enough about me – how have you been?” This will switch around the dynamic in the conversation and put the spotlight on them. 

Plus, people love talking about themselves and they may quickly forget about the original question they asked you in the first place.

The Holidays Aren’t About The Money

Remember, the holidays should be a time when everyone can relax and enjoy themselves. This includes you too.

If you’re struggling with a bad financial situation, it’s important to remember that there are many ways of expressing love and appreciation other than through gifts. With some planning and communication, you can make sure that your family understands your feelings on this topic while still celebrating together as a group.


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