money etiquette diane gottsman

Money Etiquette for Your Financial Life with Diane Gottsman

Please, thank you, and a solid handshake only scratch the surface when it comes to manners and proper etiquette. Being polite builds trust within your relationships, but we’re not always trained on having good manners when it comes to our finances. What’s the proper money etiquette to handle sticky situations in your financial life?

I spoke with national etiquette expert, Diane Gottsman to find out the best practices with money etiquette. She’s the author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life and has been featured in The New York Times, Southern Living, CNN MoneyToday, and more.

Here are five common sticky financial situations. Discover these money etiquette tips to help in your financial life.

1. Someone asks how much you make, and you don’t want to share.

Let’s say you just graduated or landed a new job. Your friends or family mean well and are simply curious when asking about your salary and benefits package. It’s hard to know what to do. If your income is high, will they feel jealous or view you differently? If your income is lower than you wanted, will you feel less than or shame? Or maybe you just don’t want to share.

Diane Gottsman said, “It’s important to know you don’t have to answer every question asked. It is not your obligation to respond. Part of maturity is getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.”

She stated that people don’t purposefully try to be invasive or disrespectful. Your responsibility is to be civil and it helps by keeping the tone of your voice light when you respond.

2. You’re invited to be a bridesmaid or groomsman, but you can’t afford it.

If your best friend or family member asks you to be in their wedding it’s an honor, but it’s also very expensive. According to CNN, the average cost of being a bridesmaid is $1,695. The dress, shower, bachelorette party, and travel costs add up quickly.

Diane said, “Before you say yes to be a bridesmaid, you have to be comfortable with the financial responsibilities that come with it.” She explained that the bride or groom is your friend and someone you can be honest with. If being in the wedding party won’t work for you financially, you can tell them you appreciate that they thought of you. It’s ok to say you can’t commit the finances and time right now. Or, if you just started a new job, it may be that you don’t have time available to take off. 

3. You can’t afford a flight home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

You love family traditions and being together for the holidays, but what do you do if your financial circumstances don’t allow you to fly home for the holidays.

Diane advises that if you can’t afford to fly home for the holidays let them know well in advance so they know what to expect. She said, “You can tell them, ‘I want to come, but it isn’t in my budget as much as I want to see you.’ “

She said if they offer to pay, then you can graciously take them up on their offer. However, many families are not in a position to do that and you don’t want to guilt them into paying for you.

4. You want to be roommates with a friend, but they want to spend significantly more than you.

Lowering your rent is one of the biggest ways to save money. With a roommate you spend less on the rent itself, utilities, cable, internet, and start-up costs like furniture. However, if your friend is looking at housing that’s more expensive than you can afford, it can be awkward to address.

Diane stated that again, honesty is important. She said, “You can say, ‘That’s out of my budget. I need to find something more affordable for me.’ Or ‘It’s on my bucket list to live downtown, but right now I need to find something less expensive.’ ” When making any living arrangements Diane believes it’s important to have upfront communication about who is responsible for what household bills. If something becomes a problem instead of being passive aggressive you should address it.

5. Your friend asks for advice about money, but they don’t listen.

Have a friend that’s in a hot financial mess and they always vent to you? If your friend is in financial distress, it makes sense that you want to help them. Of course, you don’t want to judge them, be pushy, or cross a line.

Diane said, “If they are coming to you, you can give them your advice. Share with them your tips. When you see them repeating the same mistakes over and over again, you can just say, ‘You’ve asked me the same question, and nothing changes. Until something changes, it’s fruitless to have this same conversation.’ “

Related Posts from Diane Gottsman about money and etiquette:

In summary, the key for proper money etiquette with sticky situations in your financial life is to have open communication and be honest about where you stand. For more tips on etiquette check out Diane’s blog.

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