The holidays are here, and that means ugly sweaters, eggnog, and, for some people, screaming matches about money.
Dr. Greg Cason*, an LA-based psychotherapist and star of Bravo’s ‘LA Shrinks” gets to the heart of holiday money fights with family—and offers tips on how to keep it together, no matter your situation.
Cason shares his advice on our podcast “Teach Me How to Money,” including these key tips for staying civil during what is likely the most stressful time of the year—the holidays.
The following are excerpts from Cason’s conversation with Stash editorial director Lindsay Goldwert, edited for clarity.
1. Remember: People can be financially stressed during the holidays.
“Around the holidays, people have generally overextended themselves [financially], and they’ve done so in the spirit of giving…but many feel resentful about the holidays, that they have to dress up, that they have to go to parties, that they have to buy wine, bring gifts, and give tips.
People [can] be resentful about that…going down the list, it can be a lot, so it’s understandable how people can [become stressed].”
2. Think carefully before giving gift cards.
“Personally, I find gift cards [to be] a chore. I have to go use them somewhere—I have to drive to a place and purchase something that, maybe, I wasn’t intending to. Even if it’s a grocery store I go to all the time, I have to remember to bring my gift card and use it.
But, then again, other people think they’re the perfect gift. People are all over the map on this…so I think it’s best just to look at gifts as well-intentioned, meaningful salutations and acknowledgment of goodwill, and then we can receive them with full grace.”
3. Avoid talking about money around the dinner table.
“Or religion, or sex.”
4. If you’re lending people money, don’t expect to be paid back.
“The best thing a person who lends money can do [is to think of it] as a gift that they will never get back. Otherwise…the relationship may suffer. It’s really a tough thing in general.”
5. If you need to borrow money, be careful about how (and when) you ask for it.
“If I were asking for money…I wouldn’t do it [close to the holidays] because you want to keep the holidays sacred. Don’t mix your personal stuff with anything family-related.
[And] don’t ask for money in front of people—do it alone with the person. I would tell them what you need, and why you need it. Also, be respectful. Showing respect may be [saying something like], ‘I understand this is difficult, and I want to be respectful of you.’
I would also offer to sign something…so that you both know the terms. Your relative isn’t a bank. They’re not going to be sending you out notices.”
6. If you do borrow money, communicate.
“Silence is a killer.
Silence will [lead to your loved ones] filling in the blanks, and what they’ll fill in the blanks with is that you’re forgetting about them, that you don’t want to pay them back, and that you’re taking advantage of them. Openly communicate what’s going on.”
7. Keep in mind that gifts are symbolic. Give and receive with grace.
“With every gift you receive this holiday season, see it symbolically, as an expression of goodwill, and receive it that way. You’ll see the other person light up [when you receive] their gift.
When you give a gift, give it fully and completely with the same kind of love. That person will also feel joy, even if the sweater doesn’t fit.”
Get more tips for keeping your finances in order by subscribing to Stash’s “Teach Me How to Money” podcast.