Balancing Family, Friends and Finances
They say that friends and money don’t mix—and for good reason. Finances can turn relationships sour on a dime because “there are power and etiquette issues involved,” says Laura Rowley, personal finance expert with Yahoo! Finance. “The way that you handle money can trigger a lot of emotions in terms of how you see yourself in the world.” Because of how tightly feelings are intertwined with finances, people often don’t speak up because they don't want to be seen as cheap or ungrateful, which can lead to resentment and possibly ruin the relationship. But you don't have to suffer in silence anymore! Whether your friend is a notoriously bad tipper or you aren’t sure how to ask your colleagues to contribute to a charitable cause, below are 10 common cash clashes with etiquette advice on how to settle them.
“If you’re going to give money to a family member, you have to think of it as a gift, and accept that you may never see it again,” says Rowley. “Loans that are never paid back can destroy relationships.” Not ready to part with your cash forever? In that case, Rowley recommends handling the loan in a more professional manner by using a service like LoanBack.com, which helps you create a legally binding loan agreement, or LendingKarma.com, which lets you document and track your loan. However, if you’re simply not comfortable lending money to a relative, your best bet is to just be honest. “Rather than just saying 'no' and risking resentment, give him a concrete reason that you can't help him out. Say that you’re saving for your kids’ college fund or are earmarking the cash for groceries.”
And if the deal has already transpired? Rowley recommends picking a time when money will change hands—like while you’re getting coffee together or are out to dinner—to remind him about the loan. When the check arrives, consider saying something like, “Since I lent you $20 last month, why don’t you pick up dinner? Then we’ll be even.” When larger amounts of money are at stake, consider writing an email so he can save face in case he forgot about the loan or isn’t able to pay you back right away.
Your friend always chooses restaurants that are out of your price range.
We all have that friend with extravagant taste—and a paycheck to support it. But what if you can’t keep up with the fancy dinners and expensive outings? “Be a connoisseur of free events, so you can offer a few creative countersuggestions,” Rowley advises. If your buddy wants to get drinks at a swanky bar, suggest meeting there at happy hour when drinks are less expensive. Or recommend a free event that's on par with her interests, like a gallery opening or free concert in the park. If it's a really good friend, just be honest: Tell her you can't afford to pay top price for cocktails this week and suggest a less pricey bar. And let her know that she can choose a fancier pick at a later date when you're not having cash-flow issues.
Your work friends all want to go in on a gift together, but no one can agree on a fair amount to contribute.
In this situation you want to take control and be the money collector, says Rowley. Decide what you’d like to contribute, spread the word and welcome everyone else to chip in as much as they’d like. “But you have to decide that you won’t be resentful of people who give more or less than you did.” If you’d rather settle on a more uniform contribution, send out an email asking everyone privately what range of amounts they’re comfortable giving, suggests Lizzie Post, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute. “Once you’ve collected the high and low end of everyone’s budget, you should be able to figure out something that will work for everyone.”
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Do you follow any of these money etiquette tips? If so, which ones?
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