Family Financial Etiquette 101

August 28, 2013

financial etiquetteMoney is still a somewhat-taboo topic in many situations. And I don’t see a lot wrong with that. While my husband and I discuss our finances, and talk about money with our son, I don’t feel a need to share the intimate details of my financial situation with other members of my family – including my parents.

On top of that, it’s important to be aware of finances when you are involved in other situations where finances come up as well. Here are some of my thoughts on family financial etiquette.

Sharing Income and Expense Specifics

I don’t see any reason to ask others what they make. And I don’t know why my extended family needs to know how much my husband and I make. For one thing, if you go around bragging about your income, it can be rude – especially if you lord your higher salary over your relatives.

Instead, it’s much better to say that you make “enough” and turn the conversation.

You also don’t need to go into specifics about your expenses. You don’t need to brag about how expensive something was. If you are proud of your good deal, and someone comments on what you bought, there isn’t anything wrong with saying, “Thanks! I got a steal of a deal. It was 75 percent off!”

For the most part, though, it’s best to just keep things vague.

Judging Others for their Financial Decisions

I used to be a bit judgmental of others for their financial decisions. However, I’ve loosened up a bit. After all, what’s important to me may not be important to someone else. Some of my family members might think the things I spend money on are stupid.

There’s no need to justify your financial choices to others, or demand that your family members justify their choices to you. The only exception, I think, is if you are providing substantial financial help. If my parents were sending me and my husband money each month to help us through a difficult time, they would be justified (to a certain extent) in keeping tabs on whether or not their support is really helping us in an appropriate manner.

Paying When You Go Out

One of the stickiest situations comes when you go out with family members. How should you split the bill? This is something that should be determined before everyone orders.

Also, be aware that if you insist that someone come with you to an expensive restaurant or activity that you aren’t sure they can afford, you should offer to pay the bill. My husband and I like to take care of these costs when we have family (especially younger cousins or siblings) stay with us. We usually pay for their costs if we go out to dinner, or if we see a show. This is because we invited them out, and they are staying with us.

However, if everyone agrees ahead of time where to go, it can make sense to decide how to split the bill first, whether everyone pays for their own meal, or whether the check is split equally. If the bill is being split equally, it helps to get a feel for what everyone else is ordering. Don’t be that person that orders a very expensive meal, or cocktail after cocktail, taking advantage of the even split.

What do you think? What financial rules of etiquette do you follow with your family? Leave a comment!


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Miranda writes about personal finance almost every day. An experienced freelance writer, she's covered your money online and in print from every angle and is always looking for new ones.

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One Response to Family Financial Etiquette 101

  • Simon @ Modest Money

    I can assent to that. Beyond immediate family members directed affected by financial decisions I make, others have no business finding out my financial situation details.
    If anything, it keeps jealousness and envy among family members at bay.