There used to be three topics in our culture that were considered to be taboo: politics, religion, and money. However, in recent times, the walls have come crumbling down on our society's hush hush, traditional attitudes about money.
After all, money matters are openly discussed today. Most people find it easy to share deals, go shopping, and book trips together. Some even feel comfortable enough to complain about their rent increase, or how much they're willing to spend on a new home.
Besides the number one topic off-limits, which is a person's salary, another commonplace dilemma is often accompanied by fretting and uncertainty include figuring out cash transactions between friends or coworkers. For many, these interactions bring on a sense of awkwardness.
Learn how to talk about money without the discomfort, and see the following for our tips on commonplace money dilemmas.
If you want to give advice...
When it comes to giving a friend unsolicited money advice, err on the side of caution, because you never know the motivation behind their choices, or how they will react. Try gently working your way into the topic, inviting her or him to talk about financial choices.
If they want to explore it, you'll know. If they immediately become hostile or wary, change the subject.
If you want to spend less while hanging with friends...
Consider your priorities first, and don't worry about what your friends are doing. If you don't have that much expendable cash right now, come clean and just be honest. Going into debt to keep up with your friends' lifestyles will only leave you in debt, that can take years to pay off if you're not careful.
One example of what you might say, is "I'm going to be honest, I'm on a tight budget and it doesn't allow me to go out very often." Explain to your friends that you do want to get together, but suggest some cheaper alternatives, such as going to a friend's house to watch a movie or cook a nice meal together.
If you want to split the bill according to who ate what...
When everyone is busy calculating the total bill divided by the number of people there are, take a look around at what others ordered. If you have to pay for someone else's steak, there's a problem.
Politely bring it to their attention and suggest that everyone pay for what they ordered, as it only seems fair. Even if you do have the money to split the bill evenly, another friend might not, so speak up on their behalf.
If you're always footing the bill...
If you notice that you always end up paying, the next time you go out it's perfectly acceptable to give a small reminder that it's their turn. Try saying, "Did you or I get the last one?"
This will serve as a non-confrontational prompt that there is an etiquette to paying, whoever paid last time shouldn't pay this time, and that it is a responsibility of give and take. (Continued on page 2)
If your friend is uncomfortable with you paying...
We know. Why would anyone have that problem with this?
There are some among us who resist being paid for out of self-respect and pride. Friends may feel uncomfortable when they feel they're always being treated, and it can highlight the fact that you're in a stronger financial position then they are.
If your friend seems resistant to your efforts to treat, initiate some dialogue on whether they prefer to do something more budget-friendly. Stress that you're treating habit is well-intended, but that you will stop if it bothers them.
If you want to say 'no' to chipping in for a cause...
If a co-worker is collecting money for an office gift, feel free to respond that you're getting them your own gift, or if you don't know the person that the gift is for, mention that you don't know him/her very well. They should get the hint, but if they don't, you might suggest that you'd rather just get a card or send an email.
If you are the person collecting money, be sensitive to your coworkers' needs and financial positions, which you may not necessarily be aware of. To make life a little easier for yourself, set up a PayPal account and have your coworkers transfer money into the fund by a set date -- there's no need to go around hounding anyone.
If a friend asks you money to support a charity and you simply don't have the cash or don't feel like donating, tell them you're not in a comfortable spot to donate right now, but that maybe next time you will contribute.
If you want to start being more open about money...
Make personal finance a common conversation topic with friends, and feel free to talk about general topics (they may find it odd if you disclose exactly how much you make).
Feel free to celebrate your 5-percent raise, go to dinner to commiserate a bonus, or talk about new benefits your company has introduced.
Another way to be more open is by talking about retirement, which is something everyone has to save for. Ask some close friends what percentage of their salaries they allocate into their 401(k) or IRAs. Finding a buddy to save money with is a great idea. Just like dieting, it's a realistic way to keep each other accountable.
Money may feel like a subject that should never be breached, but it's healthy to talk about financial matters. You never know whether your advice, or someone's advice to you, will impact your or their financial lifestyle for the better.
While it's encouraged to start being more vocal about finances, know your audience. If your friend is clearly uncomfortable with the topic, it's not worth risking the friendship for the sake of being unbridled about money.
Katherine Muniz is a writer for MyBankTracker.com.
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