Money & Career

Five ways to mind your money manners

Tips for dealing with touchy financial situations

With more people watching their bottom line and cutting back on spending, there are many opportunities to step outside the boundaries of good financial etiquette. Whether you always get stuck with the dinner bill or you’re the one with the shoelaces hanging out of your mouth, here are some tips for avoiding the top five money manner dilemmas:

1. How much did your house cost?

Dilemma: Some people are money obsessed – they freely ask questions about how much people earn and what their car cost. They also offer up unwelcome information without being asked (“Glad you like my bag – it was a bit of a splurge at $3000!”).
Solution: When dealing with loose-lipped money talk, the best advice is to sidestep the question altogether. “How much did our house cost? Too much in this market!” Shrug it off and avoid answering in the most polite way possible. If you’re the nosey one, remember that not everyone likes to talk about money – questions about how much things cost or what people earn are generally considered rude. Try finding other things to talk about.

2. The dreaded birthday dinner

Dilemma: Last year your friend held her birthday dinner at the most expensive restaurant in town – you ended up shelling out $300 and all you ate was a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine while everyone else gulped back the bottles and ordered copious appetizers. This year she wants to go to another expensive place and you just can’t afford to do it again. What do you do?
Solution: You are fully within your rights to beg off and make a date to celebrate her birthday at another time. Take her for a drink or offer to make her dinner at your place one night.

3. Splitting the bill

Dilemma: Restaurants are the source of much money conflict. The bill arrives and it’s assumed you’ll be splitting it down the middle. Although you had a bowl of soup and a glass of water you end up footing the bill for your friend’s splurge. Is it fair?
Solution: It’s a tough one to swallow but haggling over the bill in a restaurant is not a pretty sight. Either pay up or, when you arrive at the restaurant, ask your friend if it’s okay to get separate bills. Be honest – if you’re cash-strapped just say so. After all you’re friends, right?

4. Cash flow woes

Dilemma: You lent your friend $200 to help her pay her cat’s vet bill. That was two months again and she still hasn’t paid you back or mentioned the loan. What do you do?
Solution: In this case, you’re already out of pocket so call her up and explain that you need the money to make ends meet or you’re going to come up short. Tell her when you need it and make arrangements to meet so you can get the money back. In general, if a friend asks you for money and it’s going to take a major bite out of your budget don’t lend it or hand the money over but make sure she knows you need it back or you’ll end up being unable to pay your bills.

5. I’m walking 10K – please give me money!

Dilemma: Everyone is walking/running/paddling for something these days. You probably get umpteen requests to sponsor activities to benefit a variety of charities – they come from co-workers, friends and family. And they add up. But what happens when a friend who ignored your sponsorship request now wants you to pay for them to ride their bike to Saskatoon?
Solution: Never be disingenuous with a good friend – if you’re hurt, you should try and talk it out. Hidden resentment is a friendship killer and this could be an opportunity to get it out and move on. That being said, you could sidestep the issue and do what others recommend when it comes to dealing with multiple sponsorship requests: Explain that you have already donated to the charity of your choice and wish your friend well! If you’re the one asking for money be prepared to hear “no” – people have less money now than ever. Try not to get offended.