Thanksgiving Financial Etiquette: Can You Ask Guests To Chip In Cash and More Money Questions Answered

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Thanksgiving often entails gathering with family and friends over a home-cooked meal — but when it comes to figuring out who pays for what during that meal, it can be unclear what’s appropriate.

GOBankingRates spoke to etiquette experts to get their advice for navigating the most common tricky money questions that may pop up during the holiday.

If You Are Hosting, With Costs Rising, Can You Ask Guests To Provide a Monetary Contribution?

With grocery costs soaring and the price of turkey becoming particularly high, you may be tempted to ask your guests to chip in for the cost of food if you are hosting the meal. However, Rachana Adyanthaya and Julia Esteve Boyd, hosts of the “Manners Matter 2” podcast, advise against doing so.

“Hosting implies that you are entertaining them, and you are expected to pay,” they said. “Instead, you could ask in advance for people to bring an item of food or drink. This is a better option than asking for a financial contribution, especially if it is a small and intimate gathering. It also helps relieve the cost as everyone is contributing towards the meal.”

Although asking guests to chip in money isn’t advised, if you do want to do so, make sure you set that expectation when you first extend the invitation.

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“There should never be a bait and switch,” said Jodi RR Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “We do not surprise guests with a secret bill at the end of a lovely interaction. If you would like financial assistance, that must be part of the initial invitation.”

If You Are a Guest, What Should You Bring To a Thanksgiving Meal?

When attending someone else’s meal, you may not know the appropriate thing to bring. Should you offer cash for your portion of the meal? Should you bring food? Or should you bring a nice hostess gift? The best way to know what to bring is to ask, Adyanthaya and Esteve Boyd said.

“Always ask the host if there is anything you can bring or make,” they said. “If the host says they have it covered, then don’t insist on bringing your green bean casserole. It is highly likely that the host has gone to lots of trouble to make sure that the menu is to their liking and will feel obliged to serve your dish.”

If the host specifies not to bring food, bring something else thoughtful instead. (Note that money is not usually the best bet.)

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“[Bring] some beautiful flowers in a vase, some gourmet food items that the host can enjoy another time or even some lovely wine,” Adyanthaya and Esteve Boyd said. “If you do bring wine or champagne, then do not expect the host to open it. They may have gone to the trouble of pairing up wines for each course.”

What Should You Do If You’re Asked To Contribute Money Toward the Meal?

If your Thanksgiving invite explicitly says that you’re expected to contribute financially to the meal, be sure to do so in a timely manner and in the method the host prefers, Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert based in San Diego, told GOBankingRates. If you can’t afford to contribute what’s expected of you — whether that’s cash or a side dish — be sure to be upfront with your host.

“Be respectful of the host and the other guests and just let them know in advance if you’re not going to be able to follow through,” Swann said.

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Cody Bay contributed to the reporting for this article.

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