Monday Manners: Money Doesn't Grow on Christmas Trees


Let's face it: the economy is in the shitter and there's not much we can do about it, other than go on with our day-to-day lives and hope that our places of employment will still be standing when it's all over. The front page of the paper is filled every day with the state of our savings accounts, with monsters of the industry no longer able to pay their employees, with sub-prime mortgages. This is not the sort of thing we want to think about, let alone talk about, so close to the holidays. And so it's time for a bit of a refresher course on what to avoid when talking to polite company—specifically, any talk of money.

Sure, generalities are fine: "Did you hear that the Big Three execs have offered to take a one-dollar-per-year salary if the bailout passes?" "Do you think AIG's going to get into trouble for that employee retreat?" But once you start getting personal, you're teetering on the precipice of rudeness. If you don't know a person well enough, say, to know whether he's allergic to shellfish, you probably don't know him well enough to share your economic woes, or to ask him about his. Those are conversations you should have with your significant other and your stockbroker. So, upon meeting somebody at a holiday party this month, you shouldn't say: "Oh, you work for Dow Chemical, huh? Are you still going to have your job with all these cuts?" Nor should you say: "I've lost over thirty thousand dollars in savings in the last three months. How's your portfolio looking these days?"

Talking about money with people you don't really know is never, ever a good idea. Talking about money with people you don't really know when the economy sucks and you have no idea how those people are faring because of it might get you punched in the face. So this holiday season, don't be a Grinch and steal anyone's Christmas/Chanukah/etc. joy by reminding them about all the things nobody wants to talk about this time of year. If money comes up, speak abstractly about what you read in today's Wall Street Journal, or else change the subject or leave the conversation. Maybe by next year's holidays, things will have picked up and you'll be avoiding talk of religion and sex instead, all the while patting your fat wallet in your back pocket.

Image Credit: Flickr user Mister Brentus.

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