Your friend calls you up and invites you to a party at a fine restaurant, with gourmet food and all the drinks that you want. You figure that since you’ve been invited by the hostess, that he or she is going to pay, so you put on your big party hat, leave the credit card at home, and expect to be treated to a royal night on the town. Is this a reasonable expectation? Well yes and no.
Has anyone ever been to a party, when the hostess is given the bill, and then suddenly exclaims “Hey, I can’t figure this bill out! How much do each of us owe?” Uh-Oh….Awkward and embarrassing. You think to yourself “Who throws a huge party and then expects the guests to foot the bill?” but you dare not say anything aloud, not wanting to be seen as a cheap mooch. So, you scramble around trying to come up with the cash, or run home for the ol’ credit card, paste a smile on your face, thank the Hostess for a great time, and go home having to scramble your budget around, and hope you have enough money left to meet other expenses.
What is the lesson learned?
Well, protocol states that whoever asks, pays. BUT…not everyone knows or understands the rules of money protocol, so your job is to understand that you could be stuck with a portion of the bill, so go to the party prepared with some cash, or don’t go at all. The other option is to ask the Host in advance what the plan is for payment. If he states he is paying, well, hopefully you know the host well enough that you would feel confident leaving your check-book at home. But, once people have had a few drinks, who knows? I say, go at your own risk.
If you call the host, and the host says he is having a party but everyone is expected to pay their share, and you decide that the party is worth going to the next step is to make sure that you pay only what you owe. If you order a salad, and your friend next to you orders a steak with a few glasses of wine, your dollars are going to be out-numbered. So, be prepared for Mr. Bozo to say “Hey, lets just split the bill!” Really? What are you going to do next?
Next, you can either decide that for the sake of peace you will either take it up the keester, or speak up. “Money and Ethics” columnist at Forbes.com, and Coauthor of Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check? Jeanne Fleming, PhD says that if the difference is just a few dollars, let it go, but if it is a big discrepancy, she says “…nip it in the bud the first time it happens, or else you’ll set a precedent that’s hard to break without you coming off badly.”
Of course the tricky part is how to be assertive and still keep things light, where the atmosphere doesn’t get tense? If it were me, I would say something like “I only have enough money to pay for my own meal this time because I still have to pay my rent this month,” and then I would laugh, and put down only the amount of money that I owe, with a little extra to help with the tip.
Other money rules are:
*If you break it, you buy it. This doesn’t just mean in the store, this means at a friends home too. It is your responsibility to offer to make things right, even if your friend declines. If your friend declines, depending on the relationship, the circumstance and the personality that you know is involved, sending a note of apology with money to help pay for the item is still a good idea, to keep bitter feelings at bay and to build trust.
*When deciding as a group to pay for a joint expensive birthday present, it is always wise to pay your share. If you are the one who initially paid for the gift, and you are waiting for others to chip in, give them some time, but the debt should be paid by the time you are signing your name to the birthday card. If you buy presents this way, be prepared to ask for the money because if you don’t, you may feel resentful. If you know you are reluctant to ask for the money, don’t buy gifts in a group setting.
*If you want to be seen as a team player at the office, make sure you kick in money for shower gifts, birthdays and retirement parties. It is office politics, sure, but the last thing you want is to be known as the office cheapskate. You spend enough time, usually, with the people you work with, that building good relationships is essential for feelings of well-being.
*It use to be that the man was always suppose to pay on dates, but times have changed. There is nothing wrong with a woman paying (especially if she asked), and there is nothing wrong with going dutch. In the world today, generally both women and men work so the kind and responsible thing to do to pitch in and do your share.
*When asking for charity, ask once. Don’t hound people to give to *your* charity. They might have different ideas and values, and wish to give their money elsewhere.
*Unless you tell people a dinner is potluck, it is up to the hostess to provide the entire dinner, not up to the guests.
*Don’t ever loan someone more money than you can afford to lose. Then if the money does not get paid back, turn the loan into a gift in order to keep resentment at bay.
*It is tacky to ask people how much money they make. People should be valued for who they are, and not valued for the amount of money they make.
*Don’t pat yourself on the back publicly if you’ve been a generous donor, take it in stride, and let the silent blessing flow your way. Nobody likes a hotshot.
In the Fleming and Schwartz survey the question was asked “What would you do about pals who never pay a fair share at dinner?”
29% said they would hint that everyone should pay just for what he or she ordered.
18% would say nothing but would go out with those particular friends less often, if at all.
If you value your reputation, your friendships and your ethics it is wise to know what the money protocol is for any given situation. You don’t want to appear overly cheap, but you don’t want to be known as the sucker everyone can take advantage of either. Keeping a fair balance between give and take is what keeps all relationships alive; when relationships become out of balance, you will notice, is when resentment and bitterness as well as future issues will begin the rise up the ladder to future probllems
Now is the time to deal with financial misunderstandings, and set the record straight for everyone involved. The biggest money protocol is learning and exercising excellent communication skills, so that everyone is on the same page, and no one is left with a big financial surprise. This is one area that is better to talk about, rather than wonder about.