How To Navigate Awkward Money Situations

Awkward money situations are a fact of life. They’re going to come up, so it’s best to be prepared. Today, we’ll examine two specific situations that I bet you’ve dealt with before. But first, I want to share one of the greatest ways to address any awkward money moment. 

It’s a take on the classic compliment sandwich and should be your go-to move anytime you need to turn down an invitation. Basically, you’re creating both a problem and a solution. Let’s say your friend invited you to brunch, and you’re just not able to swing the $30 you know it’ll probably cost. You say:

“I love spending time with you and it’s really important to me, but I’m just not up for spending brunch-level money right now. How about we get a coffee and go for a walk instead?” 

Here’s the catch on your end: you can’t get offended if your friend still wants to do the more expensive thing and you’ll just need to make plans at a later time. Part of adulthood is realizing our friends will be at different income levels and sometimes that means modifying ways in which you spend time together or even how frequently. 

Now, let’s take a look at two times you may need to deploy this tactic or another graceful version of “hell no!”. 

Splitting the bill

You know feeling when the bill comes at the end of a meal and someone pipes up and says, “don’t worry! Let’s just split it evenly.” You ordered a side salad and drank tap water while everyone else split appetizers, a pitcher of sangria and had an entree. You didn’t want to miss out on the social event — but you know your bank account can’t afford you splitting this bill evenly. 

The best way to handle splitting the bill is to make your stance clear before you even order. Hopefully, you’re comfortable enough telling close friends that you’re on a budget, so could you all just pay for what you order? 

In the case of a large group, especially when you don’t know everyone, it can be really awkward to declare separate bills at the beginning. So, it’s good to have an ally going in. Tell one or two of the people you know there that you’re on a budget and would like to just pay for what you ordered. Your allies can be vocal alongside you and suggest everyone pay for what they ordered. 

Thanks to the glories of payment apps, you could also offer to do the math of splitting up the bill and put the meal on your card and just have everyone Venmo or QuickPay you their share. There is an inherent risk here of a person or two not paying, but it does make the social anxiety of it all a bit more palatable. 

You can also start operating under the assumption that any dinner out with friends, especially for birthdays, means splitting the bill evenly and then it’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s in your budget to go. If it’s not in budget, offer to meet for drinks before dinner or after — you can still be social but avoid the bigger bill. 

Truthfully, you will probably get to a phase in life when you do just start to split the bill evenly with friends. It’s the simpler thing to do. 

Saying no

How is saying no an awkward money situation? Well, there are plenty of times in your life you’re going to have to tactfully turn down a friend, family member, or co-worker’s request for money. And I’m not just talking about spotting your co-worker $10 for lunch or loaning your friend money for concert tickets — no, people also love to spend your money in other ways, like holiday gift exchanges, wedding invitations and baby showers. 

Now, I’m not advocating you forego all these things — but you also don’t want them putting you in debt. This means that sometimes you need to tactfully decline. Saying no to an invite always goes down easier if you send a small gift, which still means spending money — but at least it’s not a budget buster. 

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