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Money Manners: Financial Etiquette Guidelines

We've all been there -- that awkward moment when the check comes and you're not sure how to split it, or when a friend or family member asks to borrow money or worse - you lend it and it's not returned!

Uncomfortable scenarios come up when you could use some words to the wise on financial etiquette.

And, on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance expert and author of "You're So Money," shared some advice.

Contributing to Group Gifts

Problem: Some of the other parents want to get an expensive group gift for the class' teacher, and it's more than you want to spend. Should you speak up or pay up?

FARNOOSH'S SOLUTION: Speak up and send a polite e-mail to the other parents saying, "Wow, I think that's a great idea, but unfortunately, our family has already ordered a gift for the teacher (or has a gift in the works) and we won't be able to contribute this year to the group gift." Chances are you're not the only parent who may feel stuck, so sending out an e-mail might encourage others to go their separate ways, as well.

Lending Money

Problem: You loaned a large sum of money to a friend. After she misses a payment or two, she shows up with a new, expensive handbag. Should you say anything?

FARNOOSH'S SOLUTION: You can say something, but don't reference the handbag. You don't know how she got it -- maybe it's not new, maybe it was a gift. The problem is more that she missed a payment and so you mention, "Hey, I'm going to the bank tomorrow to make some deposits. Do you happen to have last month's payment? Is there a way I can get it between now and then?" But let this be a lesson to you in the future that "loans" to friends don't usually get paid back in full. IF you can afford giving money away and never see it again, and essentially have the loan be a gift, then fine. Otherwise, think twice before lending money to friends or family.

Splitting the Bill

Problem: The check arrives -- you had a salad, everyone else had steak.

FARNOOSH'S SOLUTION: Don't be a buzz-killer by making matters complicated at the end of the night, when everyone just wants to split the check. Instead, take control of the situation at the top of the night. Become friends with the server and quietly request a separate check as you order your small salad. If nosy neighbors wonder why you're keeping an individual tab, explain that you're just trying to get a better handle on your spending OR say you may need to duck out earlier than everyone else and want to make sure you pay enough - and having a separate bill will help figure that out.

Responding to Nosy Questions

Problem: A nosy friend asks how much you spent on your car, your clothes, or your house, and you don't think it's any of her business.

FARNOOSH'S SOLUTION: You have every right to keep it confidential. To dodge discussing dollars and cents, you can often talk around the bottom line. When asked about the price of your home, just say, "More than I wanted to spend, but totally worth it!" Then switch the subject to take the attention off you with a, "Going anywhere fun this weekend?" This indicates you're not interested in discussing price tags. Plus, if she's really curious, she can probably Google it on her own.


Problem: A co-worker asks you for a donation to her charity. You don't want to give, but also don't want to seem heartless. What do you do?

FARNOOSH'S SOLUTION: Turn down your coworkers -- gently, of course -- by first complementing their cause, followed by an, "I wish I could, but I've already used up my charity account this year. Otherwise, I'd go broke giving to every worthy non-profit." Finish the letdown by promising to consider the charity in the new year and saying you'd be happy to help spread the word.