Money is one of the most divisive issues we deal with on a daily basis — even more than politics, parenting philosophies, or which sports teams you support.

No matter how carefully you try to keep money from damaging your relationships, you will encounter awkward situations that could have a negative effect on your family life and friendships.

Here are three common awkward money dilemmas, and ways to handle them gracefully:

1. Bowing out of an expensive activity

Sometimes fun plans can balloon out of control. For instance, you might say yes to an invitation for a day trip to the beach next weekend, when suddenly your friends decide to make a weekend of it at a posh hotel. You originally agreed to a simple there-and-back with a pre-packed lunch on Saturday and feel like the world’s foremost wet blanket when you ask how much the trip will cost.

At the center of this awkward situation are the mismatched expectations of all the friends. You expect to have fun on the cheap, while they might think the more (money), the merrier.

The only way to handle this is to speak up as soon as the plans change. If you know you can’t afford the weekend they are thinking of, simply tell your friends what you can do. There might be others in the group who feel like you do, or your friends might be able to somehow meet you halfway. Even if you have to bow out, doing so early in the planning stage will be better for your relationships than waiting…

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