How to handle awkward money situations

Money conversations with friends or family are always awkward and its difficult to know what to do in these situations.

Remember those times when you find yourself in one of the awkward financial moments where no outcome seems like the right one? It's happened to all of us at one time or another and often the way we navigate these situations is to take the financial hit ourselves, but is that really the best way? Here are some uncomfortable money situations that you may face, along with a few helpful tips on avoiding the awkwardness.

How Much Do You Make?
Or any "how much" question that seems just a little too personal. We've all faced that question in one form or another and the best way to get around the not-so-tactful question may be with a joke. Answering with a vague one-liner like, "A lot less than I wish it was" or "I found it for cheap at a thrift store" may be enough to send the message that you don't want to talk details.

Friend Did a Bad Job
Your friend is an interior designer who offered to do some work for you at a substantial discount. The problem is, in your opinion, the design is awful. Hiring friends and family is rarely a good idea for just this reason. If you paid full price, telling them to redo the work would be expected, but taking a discount makes the conversation tough.

The best way to avoid a difficult situation such as this is to set very clear expectations from the beginning. Do not only discuss the specifics of the job before they get started, but write them down as well. A formal contract may be awkward, but a list of bullet points laying out the specifics of the job will probably be appreciated by the friend who wants to do a great job for you.

Evenly Split The Uneven Check
You don't drink and you didn't order an appetizer and desert but your friend did. At the end of the night, they ask if you want to split the check evenly, although your check would be far less. If it's a one-time meal with somebody, splitting the check evenly may be the best way to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.

For large tables, splitting the check evenly, regardless of your personal total, may be the best way to not look cheap and it will probably even out over time if you dine with these people again. If you're a 20-something college student trying to save as much as possible, nickel and diming the check is OK, since your college friends are probably doing it too.

"Donate to My Charity"
You know how the office goes. Everybody wants money for their child's fundraiser or community charity, and that can get expensive. Setting a yearly budget for these types of donations is well-advised, but how do you tell some people, no?

The unofficial pecking order may go like this: If they bought cookie dough or a holiday candle from you, it's time to return the favor. Next on the list might be close friends, bosses or others that could help you to climb the career ladder, then come your work acquaintances, and finally, if there's money left over, the person lacking social skills who left the form in the break room hoping people would sign up.

"Can I Borrow …"
"Don't lend to friends and family," is one of the basic mantras that we hear from financial experts. Relationships are often lost when payments aren't received, and if you know they aren't responsible with their money, there's a good chance you aren't going to see the money again.

Instead of loaning money to family and friends, give them a gift of a smaller amount. Ask them what it's for and offer to pay a portion of the bill with no obligation to repay unless things get better in the future.

Along with offering to help with their bills, take them to work or invite them over for dinner a few nights per week. Instead of making things awkward by expecting payment from somebody who is already in a financial emergency, find creative ways to help them through their difficult time.

The Bottom Line
Money conversations are awkward and when situations like these occur, it's difficult to know what to do. We have to have boundaries but we don't want to offend or make family and friends feel uncomfortable either. When all else fails, being honest is the only way to handle situations like these. Trying to tell a white lie to get out of an uncomfortable conversation probably won't solve the problem and may result in further bad feelings that may impact the relationship in the future.

Search