4 Money-Etiquette Questions Answered

tipping with a groupWhen it comes to matters of money, tact is often in the eye of the beholder. Take some tips from etiquette experts on how to defuse these tricky situations.

1. At a restaurant, your friends suggest splitting the check evenly, but your meal cost less than theirs. If these are people you don't meet with often, divvying up the check evenly is probably the best way to handle it. The same goes if you regularly eat out with certain friends and the price of your meal is usually about the same as theirs. "You'd hope that in a group of friends, this comes out in the wash," says manners and lifestyle expert Thomas P. Farley. "You do not want to be the person who's whipping out the calculator."

If, however, you often go out with people who tend to order more-expensive meals and drinks than you do, it's OK to ask your server for a separate check before the meal, says Daniel Post Senning, of the Emily Post Institute. In fact, your fellow diners may appreciate the move: They can order as much as they want without feeling as though they're imposing on you.

2. You're asked to pitch in for a group gift at the office, but there's bad blood between you and the recipient. You're under no obligation to participate or to explain why you're turning down the request, Senning says. The organizer shouldn't pressure you. If requests for money at the office become overwhelming, Farley suggests bringing up the issue with colleagues you trust. Chances are they feel the same way. In that case, you could suggest changing the practice rather than eliminating it-say, having a once-a-year office birthday party rather than buying a gift or going out to lunch for each one.

3. A friend asks you to support his favorite cause, but you'd rather choose your own charities.
A polite no is an acceptable response, Senning says. You can tell your friend the reason if you wish, but you don't have to. (Be diplomatic. If you're refusing because you dislike the charity, don't badmouth a cause that is obviously important to him.) Soften your response by complimenting your friend -- for example, tell him that you admire his generosity. And keep in mind that if the people who are asking you for money have donated to your causes in the past, there's a higher expectation that you'll pitch in for theirs.

4. A family member asks you for a loan, but you're not comfortable lending to her. In all likelihood, the one asking for the loan is as uncomfortable as you are. "It's a real ego blow to have to go to friends and family for money," Farley says. "It's probably the last resort, and nobody wants to do it." Be conciliatory as you decline, and don't make up a reason for your refusal that isn't true. For example, don't say that you never lend money when you have done it in the past.

Help out in another way if you can. Farley suggests that you offer to be a job reference, for instance. (But avoid cosigning a loan, especially if you question the borrower's ability to repay it. You'll likely be asked to pay up if she defaults, and your credit rating would be on the line.) If you do lend money to someone, you can boost your chances of being repaid by putting the agreement in writing with explicit terms, such as interest required and payment due dates. LendingKarma.com and LoanBack.com set up legally binding loans for you, including payment schedules, record-keeping and e-mail reminders; each site charges a $30 fee for those services. At Prosper.com, a borrower could take out a Friends and Family Loan from just you or from multiple people. The site arranges automatic bank-account withdrawals free and charges a closing fee as a percentage of the loan.

More from Kiplinger

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Introduction to Retirement Funds

Target date funds help you maintain a long term portfolio.

View Course »

Intro to Retirement

Get started early planning for your long term future.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

Get the loan in writing or give it without strings. Either way, you have to accept that once money is in the picture, relationships may suffer.
Some of the people who eat/drink expensively quit doing it when you don't pick up half the tab. One lady told me I should tip the same amount, since we had the same experience. I politely told her that no, actually we didn't. She had ice tea with 3 refills while waited 20 minutes for ice water that was never refilled. She had coffee and dessert and I did not. We occupied the table longer because she ordered soup before the meal. I paid for my dinner, tax, and my tip on my service. She said we'd just have to agree to disagree and I said that would be fine.

Eventually, I don't dine with people who expect me to pay for half their bar tab.

February 13 2012 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When in doubt ... DON'T! I no longer loan people money because they usually develop amnesia and forget they are to pay it back. I ascribe to the theory that they must need it more than I do so I don't worry about getting the money back. The one catch is that anyone who borrows money from me once and does not repay it back ... I don't loan them any more money. MY needs are provided when they are real needs and not wants. Sometimes one has to develop a sense of giving with no expectation of getting it back. Sooner or later it all comes back to you in one way or the other.

February 13 2012 at 4:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sorry, but I do not understand the mandate "you do not want to be the one whipping out the calculator" when doing restaurant tab dividing. Why not? If restaurants are so hopelessly uncooperative that they refuse to offer separate checks, I think the calculator avoids a lot of ridiculous misunderstanding. I am often the one with a smaller order, but I'm finding that fewer and fewer restaurants are refusing to give separate checks.

If you're too timid to stand up for your own pocketbook's integrity, that's a whole other issue. If your friends make an issue over you not caring to subsidize their meal, that yet another issue. Sort it out!

February 13 2012 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I believe Shakespeare said "Neither a lender nor a borrower be." and that's good policy today. If you want to keep friends and avoid arguments with family don't lend or borrow money. If you need a loan or need to borrow money there are banks for that purpose.

February 13 2012 at 1:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I never loan money to family members. Have learned the hard way. Either GIVE them the money or decline altogether.

February 13 2012 at 1:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

just let it known that you do not lend money by telling stories about lending to friends and family ocassionally over drinks.

February 13 2012 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim Davis

Tell them that "my financial advisers name is Helen Wait, if you want a loan from me go to hell n wait!"

February 13 2012 at 11:46 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I would not borrow money in order to loan money to a friend or family. If I had the money already i.e. savings and I wanted to help, then it woulld be a gift. With no requirement to pay it back. Count the money as gone, and if it should return it's a bonus.

February 13 2012 at 11:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

If anyone asks you for money to buy grocerys, offer to take them grocery shopping. Most of the time they will say no. That tell you anything?

February 13 2012 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Face it, some "friends" you just don't need. Money can sometimes be the vehicle to let you know which ones you'll be better off without.

But, if you're codependent and can't live your own life, hand over the money. You can always make more money but wow, real friends are hard to come by.

February 11 2012 at 7:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply