The Money Savvy Mommy: Navigating Sticky Money Situations

by Mira Reverente

Before parting with your money, ask yourself if you’re giving a gift or a loan.

Fact: Friendships and family relationships have been scarred or destroyed over money. We all have that “cheap” relative, ungrateful friend or nosy neighbor we would rather disown but can’t.

Newly-divorced and counting pennies a few years ago, I’ve run into more than a few of these people and situations, unfortunately. Here are some sticky scenarios and how best to get yourself unstuck:

Scenario #1: A friend or a relative asks for a loan.

Money Savvy Tip: Regardless of the reason (medical, mortgage, car payment, etc.) and before parting with your money, ask yourself these questions: What amount will I not miss? Will this be a gift or a loan? Whether it’s $100 or $1,000, be ready to say ‘adios” to your money. Let’s face it–even with the best of intentions, people do flake or suddenly develop situational or money amnesia. If they’ve been in this situation before, chances are they’re probably in a cycle of being broke.

Scenario #2: You’re constantly being pitched cookies, cookie dough, popcorn, magazines and there’s no end in sight. You buy this year, you sell to this person next year and it goes on and on.

Money Savvy Tip: Say something along these lines: “I’m happy to support the Boy Scouts but this will be the last time I’m buying popcorn. And I promise not to sell you anything else after this round.” Just put an end to it. Period.

Scenario #3: At a group dinner, you have an appetizer and everyone else orders entrees AND alcohol.

Money Savvy Tip: Mentally (or discreetly on your phone) compute your share, put down the cash and say something like “That ought to cover my portion, right?” I always bring cash whenever I go out to dinner with a group. That way, I don’t have to wait for my credit card and explain to the server that only such and such amount should be charged to my card. Most places will also put a limit to the number of split and credit card transactions they will process per table.

Scenario #4: You have a special skill or own a business and you’re frequently being asked for your time and/or professional expertise.

Money Savvy Tip: True story: A colleague of mine was asked to edit a few press releases and got compensated in kettle corn. Lesson? Make it clear from the start that you’d be happy to help out ONCE and your hourly rate is (fill in the blanks). Or spell out a barter arrangement from the get-go but maybe not kettle corn. Don’t let it drag on without saying anything or you’ll end up being resentful.

Scenario #5: A nosy friend or relative wants to know how much you make, how much your mortgage payment is or how much your recent vacation cost.

Money Savvy Tip: For these inquiring minds, learn the art of deflection. For salary questions, say “not enough” or “you don’t really want to know.” For vacation questions, say something like “I really don’t remember how much that trip cost because my husband booked it.” Then change the topic or distract the “interrogator.” End of discussion. They should get the idea.

Scenario #6: You’re confused as to who needs to be tipped and how much.

Money Savvy Tip: Servers, bartenders, valets, hairstylists and bell boys are tipped customarily. What about everyone else? If you’re not sure whether you should tip the furniture or the flower delivery guy, call the company. Some don’t allow cash gifts, like FedEx, but UPS is okay with it. Etiquette guru Emily Post weighs in on general tipping and holiday tipping.

Have you recently experienced a sticky money situation? Sound off below or on my Facebook page.

Mira Reverente is associate editor of CVH and a longtime journalist whose work has appeared in many local publications. Her first book on money came out last fall. Read up on more money savviness on her Facebook page 

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