What should you do in a restaurant, at the mall, or on a trip? Here are a few hints on how to be a good guest, a good date and a good friend, when it comes to money.
Sometimes you will find yourself in situations where money is being spent for recreation and fun, and you should be aware of this. Here are some good rules to make sure you are financially considerate.
- If you are invited out to dinner by a date or an adult (such as parents, grandparents, friend's family), order a low or moderately priced item from the menu. In other words, do not order a steak when everyone else is getting sandwiches. Consider ordering water as your beverage, and don't order dessert unless everyone else does. Be sure to thank them for dinner and tell them how much you enjoyed the outing.
- If you are a guest on a trip, stick with the above eating out rule, and also make sure you have enough spending money to take care of your own incididental costs, such as sodas, sunscreen, extra activities, etc.
- Remember that when you are out with friends, do not suggest activities if you are not able to pay for yourself. Don't say "Let's go to the movies," unless you have enough money. In fact, when you suggest a something, plan on paying for both of you, or make sure your friend has the funds to cover him or herself before you go.
- Offer to share gas money. Gas prices are high, and this will be greatly appreciated. Five dollars is a good fuel donation.
- Never, ever borrow money from a friend to buy something at the mall or a store. If you don't have the money, don't buy it. Borrowing makes friendships uneasy, and if you have to borrow money, you probably can't afford it and don't need it.
- Contributing to Group Gifts
Problem: Some of the other parents want to get an expensive group gift for the class' teacher, and it's more than you want to spend. Should you speak up or pay up?
Solution: Speak up and send a polite e-mail to the other parents saying, "Wow, I think that's a great idea, but unfortunately, our family has already ordered a gift for the teacher (or has a gift in the works) and we won't be able to contribute this year to the group gift." Chances are you're not the only parent who may feel stuck, so sending out an e-mail might encourage others to go their separate ways, as well.
- Lending Money
Problem: You loaned a large sum of money to a friend. After she misses a payment or two, she shows up with a new, expensive handbag. Should you say anything?
Solution: You can say something, but don't reference the handbag. You don't know how she got it -- maybe it's not new, maybe it was a gift. The problem is more that she missed a payment and so you mention, "Hey, I'm going to the bank tomorrow to make some deposits. Do you happen to have last month's payment? Is there a way I can get it between now and then?" But let this be a lesson to you in the future that "loans" to friends don't usually get paid back in full. IF you can afford giving money away and never see it again, and essentially have the loan be a gift, then fine. Otherwise, think twice before lending money to friends or family.
- Splitting the Bill
Problem: The check arrives -- you had a salad, everyone else had steak.
Solution: Don't be a buzz-killer by making matters complicated at the end of the night, when everyone just wants to split the check. Instead, take control of the situation at the top of the night. Become friends with the server and quietly request a separate check as you order your small salad. If nosy neighbors wonder why you're keeping an individual tab, explain that you're just trying to get a better handle on your spending OR say you may need to duck out earlier than everyone else and want to make sure you pay enough - and having a separate bill will help figure that out.
- Responding to Nosy Questions
Problem: A nosy friend asks how much you spent on your car, your clothes, or your house, and you don't think it's any of her business.
Solution: You have every right to keep it confidential. To dodge discussing dollars and cents, you can often talk around the bottom line. When asked about the price of your home, just say, "More than I wanted to spend, but totally worth it!" Then switch the subject to take the attention off you with a, "Going anywhere fun this weekend?" This indicates you're not interested in discussing price tags. Plus, if she's really curious, she can probably Google it on her own.
Problem: A friend asks you for a donation to her charity. You don't want to give, but also don't want to seem heartless. What do you do?
Solution: Turn down your friend -- gently, of course -- by first complementing their cause, followed by an, "I wish I could, but I've already used up my charity account this year. Otherwise, I'd go broke giving to every worthy non-profit." Finish the letdown by promising to consider the charity in the new year and saying you'd be happy to help spread the word.
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