I Don't Want to Confess My Costs: How Do I Deter a Nosy Co-Worker?

I Don't Want to Confess My Costs: How Do I Deter a Nosy Co-Worker?

Dear Farnoosh,

My family never talks about money openly, so it makes me feel strange when coworkers and friends talk Christmas bonuses or ask what I pay in rent. I prefer to be inconspicuous about my finances and keep my finances personal, even if it’s how much I paid for lunch. Is there a polite way to tell someone to butt out when they ask how much I paid for my new purse? Or am I being too sensitive?

Discreetly yours,


Dear Melissa,

You have every right to keep it confidential, but realize that money is not as taboo as it was during our parents’ time. It’s okay to keep price tags to yourself if you prefer, but remember that some costs—like  rent, your new handbag and even your salary—can sometimes be found online, anyway. Whether you reveal it or not, inquiring minds can just Google it. Plus, LearnVest is all about openness around money; we want you to feel comfortable talking to others because this topic shouldn’t be taboo.

That said, your money is your business. You don’t need to feel obligated to bow to the curious. Here’s some advice on how to deal with nosy friends without coming right out and telling them to mind their own beeswax.

1. Be Vague

To dodge discussing dollars and cents, I find it works to talk around the bottom line. When asked about your bonus, no matter if it was $50 or $5,000, just say it’ll help trim down your staggering student loans or pay off your holiday shopping bills. If your bonus was zilch – then you might want to say, “Eh, it was what it was!” as a way to avoid getting into specifics. Likewise, if someone asks you about how much you paid for that hot new leather jacket, you can either say that it was a gift or hand-me-down (a fib, but I’ll allow it) or  “a little more than I wanted to spend, but totally worth it. It’s so incredibly warm!”

2. Switch Topics

This is key. After offering up a vague response, immediately switch the subject to take the attention off you and your money. Try, “Doing anything fun this weekend?” or, “Gee, Is it lunchtime, yet? I’m starving!”  You can always make a quick exit for the fax machine, too. That should send the signal that you’re not interested in dishing about your compensation.

3. Avoid The Water Cooler Gang

As the saying goes, “If you don’t like to gossip, don’t hang around gossipers.” You may be trying your best to avoid awkward situations. I would just add that if you see a gaggle of coworkers yapping about the boss’ stingy holiday bonus down the hall, best to stay at your desk and keep to yourself. While you may be tempted to see what all the whispering is about (and only plan to be a fly on the wall) simply hanging around those who are gabbing about money can make it seem like you’re open to divulging your personal finances, too.


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