If there is one thing us Brits are worse at than talking about money and finances, it’s dealing with awkward situations. With Brits more likely to disclose bedroom secrets than their salary amount, what do we do when faced with awkward and embarrassing money scenarios that involve two of our most detested things?
Well, a wise man once said: “Be not afraid of discomfort. If you can’t put yourself in a situation where you are uncomfortable, then you will never grow. You will never change. You’ll never learn.” Taking this into account, here is how to handle some of the most uncomfortable money scenarios, so you know for this time, next time, and the time after that!
1. When your card gets declined on a date
Going on a date can, in itself, be quite nerve-racking. Having to keep date jitters under wraps as well as having your card declined, can be twice as distressing.
When your card gets declined, it can be hard to remain calm and composed, particularly if you know you had enough credit available on your card to pay the bill. Still, getting angry with the staff can only make matters worse. Make sure that you are civil, poised, and unruffled, so that the staff are more willing to co-operate with you.
In this situation, the key is to be prepared! Don’t leave home without some cash or a back-up credit card. Having money available can avoid putting your date in an uncomfortable position and can help alleviate any doubt that your date may now have on your financial organisation and management. This way, there is more likely to be a date number two on the cards!
Why did my card get declined?
There are several reasons why your card could have been declined, but these are the most common:
• Not enough credit available
• Unusual activity found on the card
• Your payments are overdue
• Your credit card has expired
• Your account has been suspected of fraud
It is important to find out the reason why your card was declined following the date to ensure that you don’t find yourself in this predicament again.
2. When your friend owes you money
A recent survey by Nationwide Buiding Society found that the average Brit loses £40 a year in loans to family, friends, and colleagues, who do not pay them back. It was also found that British people find it acceptable to ask a friend for their money back for as little as £4!
Interesting Fact: A survey by Nationwide found that people in Northern Ireland are likely to chase a loan of £5.75 on average, in comparison to the West Midlands, who would pursue a debt when it reached an average of £3.16.
With this in mind, how do we ask friends for the owed money without having to initiate indirect hints and uncanny awkward gestures?
My personal favourite way of dealing with this situation is to let them get the next bill. It is possible that they just forgot, so by simply suggesting that they can pay for your bill as a means of repaying you for the previous bill, you are both less likely to feel embarrassed or threatened by the situation.
If you are unlikely to see them any time soon, then you can always tackle it in a different way. Depending on the relationship you share with this particular friend, a light-hearted and witty reminder or meme could work like a charm. This way, you can escape the whole feeling awkward nonsense, and jump right to the chase!
What if it’s a large amount?
The majority of us don’t have the funds available to give liberally and spontaneously but seeing a friend or family member struggling may leave you feeling that you have no other choice. Nonetheless, if you are lending a considerably large amount, it is important to outline some terms and conditions with that person beforehand, so you are not left chasing them. You can make it easier for them by providing flexible monthly instalment terms, as long as the debt is paid off before a certain cut-off date.
If you have already lent that person a large amount of money and they have not paid you back, then just be direct and ask them when they are planning on repaying their debt. Perhaps inject a hint of urgency into the conversation by mentioning that you are also in a tight spot and have bills to pay.
If you are struggling financially due to the money you lent a friend, then it is important to remember to lend only the amount of money you can afford to lose, so you don’t find yourself in this dilemma again.
3. Splitting a huge dinner bill
I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this one – you go out for your friend’s birthday brunch, and in an attempt to be penny-wise, you order a small starter and a drink, so you can sit peacefully knowing that your total bill will come to around £15. But then the bill comes, and your friends think it’s a good idea to split the bill, meaning you have to pay a hefty £35 each! How many of us have been in this situation before?
At this point, we are cringing in our seats - contemplating whether to speak up or keep our mouths shut because no one wants to be the stingy one in the group!
So, what do you do?
Prior to the event, you should discuss your budget with your friends/ guests. Being upfront and honest means that they will be prepared for you not being included in the total bill, and so you can avoid any awkward tension. Even dropping a subtle text in the group chat could do the trick:
“Hey, I am super excited for tonight! Although I am in money-saving mode and so I probably won’t be spending a lot of money. Hope that’s okay!”
Now that you have set the foundation, you should ask the waiter or waitress for a separate bill when you arrive at the restaurant. This won’t seem strange or unusual to your friends as you would have discussed it beforehand.
Alternatively, you can suggest using an app called Plates by Splitwise. The app works by calculating what portion of the bill each diner owes, including tips and taxes. It is super quick, convenient, and saves you from all the extra faffing about!
4. When someone asks you to co-sign on their loan
If you have good credit, you may very well find yourself in a situation where a friend or family member has asked you to co-sign on their loan. As innocent and simple as it may seem, it is not a decision that one should take lightly. Co-signing means that you are legally responsible for the terms and conditions of the loan and are liable for the poor management of it. Therefore, if the primary signer is reckless and irresponsible in their repayment of it, your credit can also suffer as a consequence.
So, do you accept or reject?
Deciding whether to share in the responsibility of someone else’s loan is one that requires careful consideration. Ask yourself the following:
• Are there any other options?
If you are set on helping somebody out, and it doesn’t seem like there any other options available to them and you can afford the risk, then why not right?
Well… if you can dodge the risk, no matter how small, then you should. You can always consider helping with a down payment or lend them some money yourself. This way, you don’t have to jeopardise your credit, and all decisions can be made on your terms.
• Do I trust them?
Trust is the foundation of any good and healthy relationship. If you do not trust the person to manage their loan capably and have any doubt that they may default on their loan, you may want to think twice.
• Can I afford the risk?
If you have spare cash flow and are confident enough in your financial position to possess the capacity to afford the risk, then co-signing a loan is not the worst idea.
How do I say no?
Regardless of what was discussed above, you may not feel comfortable co-signing on a loan, and there is nothing wrong with that. Your financial well-being comes first, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about being unwilling to compromise that. The only way to deal with this scenario is to be direct and honest, whilst providing truthful facts to support your decision. Consider the following as an example response:
"I don’t think this would be beneficial for either of us. I just don’t feel comfortable taking on any risks that could potentially harm my credit or our relationship, sorry. Let’s have a little chat about how much you need and what for, and I’d be more than happy to find other ways to help you.”
5. When your colleague asks you how much you earn
So, you’re just chilling in the kitchen at work, minding your own business, when a colleague comes over and asks: “how much do you earn?” Personal questions, in general, can always be a bit touchy – particularly when being asked by a prying colleague.
Now, people can react very differently to this question, but it is still considered inappropriate and taboo to the majority of employees. In reference to a survey carried out by Monster.com, it was found that more than half of respondents from around the world were uncomfortable with discussing their salary amongst their colleagues.
Interesting Fact: A global poll by Monster.com found that only 25% of U.S. respondents are happy to discuss their earnings with colleagues, in comparison to 43% of European respondents.
Why are we so uncomfortable talking about money?
Discussing salaries with colleagues, and other people in general, can potentially bring out emotions such as jealousy and resentment. Unless your company has a transparent salary policy, colleagues may fear that they are getting under-paid, or suspect they are being over-paid. Therefore, it is understandable that we may grow curious. However, this same inquisitiveness can cause tension in the workplace, and may cause individuals to feel uncomfortable with discussing the topic of money.
So, how do we respond?
Different responses can work for different colleagues and different scenarios. Here are a few:
- Use humour:
Being witty or humorous is one of my favourite ways of addressing an awkward situation. By responding with something like: “definitely not enough!”, you are being light-hearted, avoiding tension, and very subtly suggesting to your colleague that you would rather not answer their question.
- Be honest:
Honesty is the best policy, right? But it’s not always easy. Sometimes, the best way to address an uncomfortable situation is to just be honest, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be. Being direct about your discomfort of sharing personal information will earn you more respect and your colleague is less likely to ask you inappropriate questions in the future.
- Recommend online resources:
If a colleague wants to compare each other’s salaries, then recommending online tools such as Monster’s Salary Wizard and Compare My Salary is a great way to steer the conversation. Simply inform them that there are several online resources that compare different salaries, of which can offer them some insight.
6. When you want to ask for a raise at work
One thing we’ve all taken from this article is that money can be hard to talk about and discuss with other people. But how high does asking your boss for a raise scale against it?
Pretty high apparently.
A recent survey found that 40% of employees never discuss their career with their manager. But, it wasn’t because they didn’t want to. It all came down to a fear of rejection. But we need to get past this – by dodging the money discussion with your boss, you are potentially giving up a significant amount of money due to temporary discomfort.
If you feel that you are eligible for a raise, and have enough to show for it, it is important to consider the following tips:
• Ask at the right time
There is an art to knowing the best time to ask. There is little point in asking for a raise after your company has finalised budgets or during a high stress period. Instead, try and catch your boss in a good mood when you know things are going well in the company, or perhaps after a win that you orchestrated. This way, you have a clear reason to ask for a raise and your boss is likely to be more receptive to the idea.
• Effectively communicate your wins and future goals
It is extremely important to be prepared with details of your wins and future goals for the company. By highlighting your accomplishments and discussing your future goals, your boss will begin to realise your worth and role within the company. As well as this, they are likely to appreciate the fact that you are thinking long-term, in ways that will benefit your career, as well as the company’s.
• Be prepared for the answer to be no
If you followed the above tips and they still said no, it’s not the end of the world. Turn a negative into a positive and use it as an opportunity to ask for feedback. By asking what you can do to get a raise in the future, you will have something to work towards, and can leave the room knowing you got some constructive criticism.
It can be stressful dealing with uncomfortable money scenarios, but it is important to approach every situation with confidence, poise, and sticking to your financial guns. In a society that finds discomfort in money talk, we need to change our attitude and behaviours towards money, and together create solutions that will expand our financial prospects.