Money comes up all the time these days, but often in uncomfortable situations. One person wants to splurge, another is counting every penny. How to you handle it? I turned to Nancy R. Mitchell, aka The Etiquette Advocate. She offers social, business and dining etiquette training.
In general: Think about the other person before you think about yourself, Nancy said. “Try to see where someone else is coming from and what is important to them.”
If you have money: When it comes to money, remember that someone who still has a job can go out and spend money, but if you are spending time with an unemployed buddy or family member, think twice about suggestions for where to eat dinner or take a trip together. Avoid making assumptions that could embarrass your them.
Instead of “I know you can’t afford this…” say “what’s everybody up for?” Take your cues from the person who is frugal or might have to be at that point. Leave it open for them to suggest something that fits their budget.
If you don’t have money: Be honest instead of trying to keep things secret. If your friends are headed out for a pricey meal, say something like “I am really watching my pennies and if it’s okay with you, could we consider a less expensive restaurant?” Or suggest alternating between high-end and more casual restaurants. Mention you can join them at the lower-priced places. This approach works for vacations, weekend plans, and a lot more.
“If you get the impression you are putting a wet blanket on their lifestyle, then they are rude and insensitive,” Nancy said.
If you are eating in a group: when responsibility for the tab is uneven, here’s how to deal. If it’s a one-time thing, like a birthday dinner, Nancy suggests to keep quiet and pay your split, if you can afford it. If you can’t afford it, bow out beforehand and send a lovely card.
If you eat out with the same friends and get fed up subsidizing their meal, ask for separate checks. Nancy suggest saying something like, “We always eat so differently, let’s ask for different checks.” Or, separate the alcohol portion of the bill and divide that by the number of people who had drinks. Split the food tab evenly. Set the ground rules and stick to them.
If you have a pressing etiquette question, check out Nancy’s manners 911 form.