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Money Etiquette: How to Separate Friends and Finances

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By Brian O'Connell  | November 17, 2014How to Separate Friends and Finances

How do you channel your inner Emily Post to create money etiquette habits that build better relationships with family, co-workers and friends?

It's not easy, say the folks at American Consumer Credit Counseling. Different people have different money habits, and one man's $100 loan to a friend can be another man's $100 gift with no strings attached (even if the lending friend doesn't realize it). There really are no hard and fast "money rules" everybody can agree on.

It's can be especially tricky for consumers during looser-spending holiday seasons or other get-togethers. "Tricky money issues tend to rise to the surface of various social situations," says the Boston-based group. "How do you split a bill at a restaurant? Does it make sense to lend money to a friend? When should you tip? These are just a few questions that can make for awkward moments."

The key, the ACCC says, is to build money etiquette around a "smart, polite and thoughtful demeanor" and use that platform to be "smart and conscientious" about money in public.

"We spend a lot of time talking about money, and virtually everyone has experienced an awkward social situation that involves finances," says Steve Trumble, chief executive at ACCC. "While these situations and conversations can be tricky, it's important to determine and make a commitment to follow proper money etiquette. That way consumers not only have the ability to save money effectively, they can spend it wisely in the appropriate situations."

The best way to manage good money etiquette, in and out of the holiday season, is to develop and stick to some hard and fast personal money management rules. Here is what the ACCC suggests:

Be fair about shared bills. "Pay your own way" and relationships will go more smoothly, the ACCC advises. "If you ordered the steak and your friend ordered the salad, don't ask to split the bill evenly."

Own up, and pay up. Don't take advantage of a money situation gone wrong. "If you borrowed items from friends, or you damage anything that belongs to someone else, be sure to replace it or pay to repair it," the ACCC says.

Take the high road. Don't take anyone for granted, and spend a little cash to show it. "Sometimes, it may cost a little extra, but always offer a gift or at least a thank-you note to someone who has done you a favor," the group says.

Be accountable. If you signed onto a group endeavor that cost some cash, such as a trip, gift for a friend or a big dinner, don't be hard to find when the time comes to pay up. "Make sure to pay up for something you agreed to pitch in for," the group says. "If you committed to being a part of a group gift or dinner, don't make someone have to track you down or chase you for your share."

Don't be a pest. Always be respectful about someone else's time and money. For example, fundraising for charity is altruistic on your part, "but don't be overbearing and badger people for money. No one likes to be repeatedly prodded for contributions," the ACCC advises.

Also, it's always a good idea to separate friends and finances and don't ask people close to you for money, especially large sums. Plus, it's not good form to talk salary and income among friends, so don't ask about those issues in social settings.



American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a non profit credit counseling agency offering services such as debt advice, debt consolidation programs, and consumer bankruptcy counseling. We have provided thousands of families with financial counseling and helped them with consolidating bills and paying off credit cards. For consumers in need of bankruptcy counseling, ACCC is approved by the Department of Justice to provide both pre bankruptcy credit counseling and post-bankruptcy debtor education.

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