On Group Gifts, Lending Money to Friends, and Splitting the Bill: Money Etiquette Rules for the 21st Century

Money has always been a touchy subject. Although there are various blogs dedicated to the making, spending, saving, and investing of it (ours included, *ahem*ahem*), talking about it still remains taboo in a lot of circles.


While it’s still gauche to brag about how much money you make (or to ask other people how much they make), there are important conversations to be had regarding the proper way to conduct ourselves when the subject does come up or when it becomes necessary to discuss certain financial matters.


For instance, how should one behave when borrowing money from a friend? Is it proper to ask someone how much their newest purchase costs? And is it ever appropriate to offer someone “exposure” or a “shout-out” in exchange for their expertise? (Spoiler alert: No.)


The following are a handful of guidelines you can refer to when faced with similar situations:


1. Be considerate of your friend’s financial situation when planning outings.

group of people

Image Credit: Freepik


Does your friend make less than you do? Is s/he saving up for something?


In that case, ask them where they’d want to meet/have lunch or dinner. This allows them to suggest a venue that’s within their budget, as opposed to awkwardly having to beg off if you do recommend a place that isn’t.


2. Check if evenly splitting the bill is fair to everyone.


Speaking of sharing a meal with friends, sometimes, splitting the bill right down the middle isn’t always the most equitable solution.


For example, if your companion ordered only a salad and opted for service water while you went for a full three-course meal and a chocolate milkshake, your bill should be substantially bigger, right? Even if everyone at the table agrees to an even split after you’ve pointed out otherwise, they’ll probably still appreciate the thought and the effort.


Conversely, if you happen to be the one watching your pennies, there are polite ways to inform the group beforehand so that there won’t be any awkwardness by the time the check arrives.


3. When planning a group vacation or a group gift, reach out to the participants individually to ask them about their budgets.


Group texts are fun and all, but they can also be breeding grounds for peer pressure and financial anxiety. Say, you were all planning a trip and everyone suddenly decided that they’re willing to shell out Php25k each for a plane ticket, but one or two people actually just budgeted Php15k for it and are now feeling too embarrassed to speak up.


To prevent such an outcome, the organizer should talk to each person individually first so that participants on tighter budgets will feel more comfortable about speaking honestly.


4. Pay someone back as soon as possible if you borrow money from them.


If you can’t settle your debt promptly for some reason, do let your friend or acquaintance know right away, and provide them with a realistic timeframe for it.


Just because someone was able to lend you money doesn’t mean they didn’t have plans for that amount. Forcing them to follow up with you also makes things awkward and difficult for everyone, and it’s also a very poor way to repay someone who was kind enough to help you out in your time of need.


5. Don’t ask about how much someone’s belongings or rent costs (unless you guys are really close and they don’t mind divulging such).

don't ask financial status

Image Credit: Getty Images


Again, this puts them in an awkward situation if they’re trying to be discreet about their financial status. If you’re really, really curious, there’s always Google. Come on, it’s 2018.


This goes both ways too. You are not obliged to tell people how much something cost you, even if they ask. “I’d rather not say” or “Why do you ask?” is usually enough to stop them from prying any further.


6. Always offer to pay when you ask a skilled friend for a favor.


Have friends who are great lawyers, doctors, or graphic designers? That’s great, you’ll have someone trustworthy you can turn to if you need such services then. Just don’t assume that you can always avail of their expertise for free.


No matter how effortlessly your friend might do a certain thing for you (e.g., debug your website, draft your Facebook or Instagram post, or sort out your SEO), they are still doing work that they get paid for, and the time they spent doing you that favor takes them away from other projects.


Also, SHOUT-OUTS ARE NOT AN ACCEPTABLE FORM OF PAYMENT. I don’t care if you’re a Kardashian or a Z-list wannabe celebrity who’s deluded themselves into thinking that they have any measure of influence, “exposure” neither pays the bills nor puts food on the table.


Sure, your friend could very well refuse to accept your payment, but it would still be polite to offer anyway.


7. Don’t complain about your finances or gush about luxuries you plan to buy to someone who you know earns less than you.


If you know that your friend is struggling to make ends meet, they’re probably not the best audience for raving about that twelve-course tasting menu you sampled the other night. Neither should you rant to them about how you can’t afford to upgrade to the iPhone X just yet.


This is just basic politeness, really, but we could all benefit from being reminded every now and then.


8. Keep in mind that people all have different ideas and preferences for spending their money.

spending money concept

Image Credit: iStock


The previous item notwithstanding, you shouldn’t feel bad about splurging on a nice meal or going on that luxury cruise you’ve been dreaming of, especially if you worked hard and saved up to be able to afford any of it.


Be sure to extend the same courtesy to other people too. Try not to make any passive-aggressive comments or assumptions about people’s big purchases or nice things. Not too keen on the diamond-studded collar your aunt bought for their pampered pooch? Puzzled by how much your co-worker spends on weekly manicures? Best keep your thoughts to yourself.


There are about a million ways in which people can choose to deal with their finances, and each of these come with a million more unique challenges and issues, so when in doubt about how to react, choose to be kind and understanding. You never know what the other person might be going through or why they behave the way they do.


Whether we like it or not, money will always have a big impact on our lives. We don’t have to fear or resent it, per se, as under the right circumstances, it can do us and the people we hold dear a world of good. Learning how to talk about it and approach it in the correct and respectful way would be an excellent start.

Serena Estrella

Serena joined Remit back in 2016, and has tormented its Marketing Head constantly ever since. To get through the rigors of writing about grave concerns like exchange rates, citizenship requirements, and PH-AU news, she likes to blast Mozart, Vivaldi, ONE OK ROCK, and Shigeru Umebayashi in the background. She does a mean Merida voice in her spare time too.


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