Do You Follow These Money Etiquette Rules?

From Venmoing a friend after dinner to sharing a Netflix login, today’s money etiquette rules can be confusing. Are you breaking them without knowing it?

Do you consider yourself a polite, thoughtful person? Well, you might not be as conscientious as you think. These are the rules of money etiquette that everyone should know, yet too many of us fail to follow.

Note that there are cultural differences in how people approach money and lending. These statements are meant to be general advice for our readers and may not apply to every person in all situations.

Don’t: Invite People to an Expensive Event When You Know They Can’t Afford It

Friends reading menus at a restaurant

No matter how well you might think you know your loved ones… can you really be sure of whether they’re struggling financially? When you assume that everyone in your friend group can afford the same things as you, it can put the people you care about in an awkward position. Either they have to turn down invitations—which can make you think they just don’t enjoy your company—or they have to spend beyond their means to keep up with you.

If you’re the main organizer of your social circle, then make sure to suggest a variety of things to do. It doesn’t always have to be brunches, shopping trips, and concerts. Check out your local newspaper or town calendar to find out if there are low-cost or free events nearby. Trying something new together can be a fun bonding experience! And honestly, everybody’s wallets could probably use a break from dinner and drinks every week.

Do: Settle Debts Between Friends as Quickly as Possible

It’s becoming increasingly common for one person to pay the bill for a group, and then for everyone else to pay them back. Buying concert or movie tickets online is easier if just one person does it for a block of seats. And when you’re dining with a large party, splitting the check is a pain for everyone. However, if one of your friends is kind enough to cover the bill, you need to pay them back as quickly as possible.

Paying back a friend is especially important if they sent you a Venmo request after a shared meal or trip. “If someone was helpful enough to put that big tab on their credit card, they should be reimbursed ASAP,” Colleen McCreary of Credit told Real Simple. “Imagine if you were the one fronting the bill—you would want the peace of mind that the money is back in your account as quickly as possible.”

Do: Feel Comfortable Saying ‘No’ to Loan Requests

college students walking together outside on campus

If someone asks you to borrow money, you have no obligation to do it. Regardless of your financial situation—or their reasons for needing cash—lending money to friends and family can often cause permanent rifts in your relationships. That’s because the borrower may not pay you back at all, and if they do, they can feel resentful or ashamed. Not only are you unlikely to get the money back, but you’ll also have to deal with reminding the borrower about your agreement and dealing with the emotional blowback.

It’s considered bad form by most etiquette experts to ask friends for money in the first place. Jennifer Porter, an etiquette expert and educator, recommends that if you must offer a loan to a loved one, do so with a clear plan and a formal agreement. She advises people to have “a written timeline to pay it back and offer to pay a small interest rate or whatever the ‘lender’ stipulates.” In other words, if you’re determined to go through with the loan, treat it like a formal financial transaction.

Read More: Ways to Say No When Someone Asks For Money

Don’t: Suggest That Everyone Splits the Bill Evenly

If you’ve ever been the most cash-strapped person at a dinner table, then you know how awkward this moment can be. You’ve been careful about ordering only what you can afford—likely skipping drinks and apps while everyone else enjoys themselves. When the bill arrives, someone suggests that everyone pays an equal amount. That would be fair if everyone had ordered the same thing, but in this case, it leaves you scrambling to recalculate your budget. Or worse, you’ll have to admit that you can’t pay.  

Don’t ever put your friends in this position. Always pay for what you order, and trust everyone else to do the same.

Do: Pay Freelancer Friends a Fair Rate

woman running her own business and looking at tablet while leaning against her desk in a room full of soft colors

The “friends and family” discount isn’t something you can demand. If your friend offers you a discount on a service they provide, then that’s a lovely gesture. However, demanding that you should get something for cheap—or free—is incredibly rude.

In fact, many freelancers and entrepreneurs prefer not to work for loved ones because this practice is so common. Designer Nela Dunato explains that your actual friends will offer to pay full price to show their support:

When I started out, I thought that I must give friends and extended family a special deal because of our personal relationship. I thought it was the proper thing to do. But then a few of my friends have taught me that paying for someone’s services is a way to show your love and support.

Read More: 15 Lucrative Side Hustles For Women

Don’t: Complain About Money Problems

Talking about money, even among your closest friends, can be one of the most difficult conversations to navigate. A lot of complicated emotions get tangled up with money—shame over not having enough of it, worry about debts, or fear of sounding like a snob. While complaining about your financial problems is still taboo, there are ways to talk about money that are healthy.

“If you want to start having conversations about money with your friends, start by asking them an interesting question that isn’t too direct, but can help you feel out how open they are to talking about it, like ‘If you could give one piece of financial advice to your past self, what would it be, and why?’” financial coach Rebecca Brooks told The Balance. Younger generations in particular can benefit from more open, transparent conversations about financial literacy.

Do: Limit Your Fundraising Requests to 2-3 a Year

Charity volunteers
Adobe Stock

It’s wonderful that you want to do good in the world… but remember that not everyone shares your non-stop enthusiasm. No matter what kind of fundraising you’re passionate about, don’t hit up the same person more than two or three times a year—max. For example, if your kids are Girl Scouts, then cookie time is an annual event. Let your friends, family, and coworkers know that it’s coming up and encourage them to support the cause.

That uses up one of your annual opportunities to ask them for money. If you turn around the next month and ask for donations to a local food bank and then money to support refugees, you may find an increasingly unenthusiastic response. One way to get around this is to only ask certain people who share your passions. Your book club would be a good place to find people who will support the local literacy association, for example, while the parents in your carpool group would be more likely to pitch in for a Christmas toy drive.

Don’t: Expect Everyone to Contribute the Same Amount to a Group Gift

When planning a group gift, it’s unrealistic to demand that everyone will pay the same amount. Even if you set what seems like a reasonable budget, it’s only reasonable for you. Mandatory buy-ins for group gifts could backfire, so proceed with caution if you want to organize one.

If you’ve already bought the gift without confirming the amount each person can contribute… well, then you need to accept the fact that you’ll be absorbing the cost yourself. Not everyone can “chip in” the same amount of money. Issuing a blanket edict that everyone must give you $10, $20, or $50 for a group gift doesn’t take into account other people’s budgets.

Do: Discuss Salaries with People in the Same Industry

woman holding paycheck

US federal law protects the right of employees to discuss their compensation in the workplace. The National Labor Relations Board states that “[w]ages are a vital term and condition of employment, and discussions of wages are often preliminary to organizing or other actions for mutual aid or protection.”

But legal doesn’t necessarily equal polite. Most of us feel very uncomfortable talking about our salaries, but it’s important to share that information with coworkers and others in the same industry. That way, you can make sure that you’re being paid a fair wage. A lack of transparency only benefits employers who want to keep their workers in the dark.

That having been said, discussing salary with friends and extended family is still considered tacky. Save it for the appropriate audience.   

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