6 Awkward Money Situations—and How to Handle Them Gracefully
1. Q: What should I do if a friend keeps "forgetting" to pay me back, time after time?
You have to decide if the friendship is worth more than the money. Often, it is, so you just accept the unpaid debt, and you think about all the other things this friend gives you.
— Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
I tend to let it go if the loan is small, say $20 dollars. But for $100 dollars or more, I say, "You know, it’s ironic but now I'm strapped for cash. If you loan me $100 dollars, then we'll be even."
— Tim Gunn
What's that saying? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. If you choose to continue giving the friend money, you kinda deserve not to be paid back. And she's not such a great friend, is she?
— Colleen Rush
2. Q: At a party, my husband and I announced that we're buying our first house. One of the other guests asked, "How much?" How to respond?
In the age of Google and Zillow, there's no sense being precious about it. But the vague "More than we'd like" will always be true, unless your name is Melinda Gates.
— Faith Salie, host of Bravo's The Approval Matrix
I recommend saying, "Plenty!" and leaving it at that.
— Jack Marshall, president of ProEthics
Don't be afraid to say, "I'm just not comfortable divulging that information." Then be silent. End of story. You shouldn't allow another person to decide how much you reveal.
— Michele Warholic Wetherald, managing director at Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards
3. Q: How do I handle a dinner companion who isn't tipping enough?
In a friendly, matter-of-fact way, tell your friend, 'I'll sleep better tonight if we leave 15 percent.'"
— Anita L. Allen, Burger King worker in the seventies and current professor of law and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School
The pronoun we becomes very handy here, as in, 'Oh, I don't think we're leaving enough for a tip.' If your dining partner has a soul, she'll ante up. If she doesn't, do you really want to share ginger crème brûlée with her ever again?"
— Faith Salie. She was never a waitress, "but I know they go through hell."
Say, "Our server did a great job tonight. I want to add a little bit more money. Being a former waitress [at Perkins], I'm tip-sensitive."
— Michele Warholic Wetherald
My dad was one of the worst tippers in the universe, and I came to realize that many older individuals lived in an era when money was in short supply and tipping was for the privileged. On several occasions, I've just placed additional money on the table on my way out.
— Pastor Rudy Rasmus, leader of St. John's Church in Houston. He was never a waiter, but "I serve 7,000 meals a month to the homeless."
4. Q: I recently left my purse at a restaurant. When I went back to pick it up, I thanked the manager, who seemed to linger. My friend says I should have offered him a cash reward—is that true? (And if so, how much?)
You were right to expect his honesty. But it's also right to reward honesty, which sometimes seems rare these days. Leave enough so it feels significant without being over the top—perhaps $20?
— Rushworth M. Kidder, founder, Institute for Global Ethics
A reward should never be expected for doing the right thing. On the other hand, imagine the time and energy you would have spent canceling credit cards and replacing IDs. Pass the manager a financial token of your appreciation ($20 would be reasonable) as you envision the sound of crying babies in the line at the DMV.
— Rudy Rasmus
A reward is appropriate for a stranger who finds a lost article and takes the trouble to return it. But the manager was just doing his job; he didn't deserve a reward.
— Jack Marshall
5. Q: I'm a high achiever from a low-income background—I now run my own company. My sister took a different path and can't keep a job. She keeps trying to borrow money. What's my obligation to her?
Nothing, except love, kindness, and encouragement. If you want to loan or give her money to help her out, that's your choice. But it's not an obligation. You're her sister, not her bank.
— Jack Marshall
Few things feel worse than being treated like a cash register by your own kinfolk; yet if you learn that a close sibling has a serious, unexpected financial emergency—not rent, gas, or cigarette money—you should help if you can afford it. Then think about long-term solutions: Offer to help her work out a budget or get credit counseling
— Anita L. Allen
6. Q: I've become friends with the woman who does payroll at my company. Now I know everyone's salary, including two people at my level who make much more than I do, even though I've been there a lot longer.
Mention your coworkers' salary and chances are our friend's head will roll. Instead, mentally etch a commensurate number in your head, below which You. Will. Not. Budge. Your experience and assertion speaks for itself, so no need to out others' salaries as justification. If the company, won't pay you want you deserve, then you have to make a decision about whether you can continue with a firm that doesn't value you.
— Faith Salie
That's good advice but there's one thing I'd add: Do some research to determine what others in your field with your experience are making. That will give you a benchmark. Present this information to your boss with a list of accomplishments and how they have benefited the company. The term "industry standard" has more value in a salary negotiation than "my coworkers make X amount."
— Lisa Caputo, executive vice president of marketing and communications for Travelers Companies, Inc.