Prickly Money Issues

Warning to the wise: this is another long-ish rant. 

What's your policy with money? Do you ever lend your friends money and if so, what's the limit? What do you do when they don't return the money by a stipulated period? What's a reasonable time to wait before you gently remind them that they still owe you money? Do you send them reminders? Or do you wait for them to remember the debt on their own?

What about communal meals with friends or colleagues? In particular, very large groups of friends/colleagues. There's usually someone who pays the bill first, especially if there's some kind of discount tied to some kind of credit card and there's only one person who has that particular credit card.

I'm not talking about those fluid arrangements with close(r) friends where people take turns to pick up the tab. Usually in such cases, the tab-picking is generally fair and nobody really feels shortchanged because it's all close friends, and close friends generally don't take advantage of you. Of course, there's always those "toxic friends" who always "forget their wallets" or "don't have enough cash" or make empty promises to "pick up the next tab", i.e. those that try to sucker you into parting with your money to enrich themselves. Which then raises the question of "why are you still friends with them"?

No, what I'm referring to is those kind of situations whereby it's a huge group of not-super-close friends or colleagues, and someone pays for the entire meal first, while it is understood and accepted that the rest are supposed to repay their own share of the communal meal (because you can't expect your colleague/not-so-close friend to pick up the several-hundred-dollars bill by himself/herself for the rest of his/her colleagues/not-so-close friends). I'm always appalled at people who regularly seem to forget to pay for their share and require several reminders before finally paying their share of the meal.

By the way, one episode of forgetfulness does not a cheapskate or stingepot make. Upon further investigation, I've noticed that it's usually the same culprits who suffer from the unfortunate ailment of chronic "forgetfulness".

I hate having to send out reminders for payment. I hate it even more when the perpetrator, when reminded that he/she still owes money for that meal 4 months ago, acts like I'm the desperate tightwad that cannot let such money issues go. It's then exacerbated if the culprit is not poor or broke, but rather, someone who earns a comfortable living (i.e. your colleague or someone in the same industry so you can pretty much guess how much he/she earns anyway). I just don't geddit. Where are people's manners nowadays??

Some people give the filmsy excuse that it's because they come from a humble background (i.e. poor) and/or are taught how to be more prudent with their spending. That's entirely fallacious. Unless one was coerced into going out for lunch/dinner, and if wasn't earlier made known to everyone which restaurant the lunch/dinner was going to be held at, one shouldn't go along for lunch/dinner if one didn't want to spend that money (i.e. prudent or stingy, depending on how you look at it) or doesn't have that money to spare on such a lunch/dinner at such a restaurant (i.e. poor).

Besides, that's side-stepping the real issue. A prudent person is not necessarily one who takes advantage of other people. Or expects people whom they perceive to be "richer" to subsidize their life's expenses. Don't come along for lunch/dinner if you're going always to expect your friends/colleagues to pay your share. This is a meritocracy, not a communist state, hello!

Of course, it's different if your friend/colleague offers to pay for the entire meal on their personal account. Then, it is a case of personal generosity, and not about being a cheapskate who expects others to pay for/discount their meal just because they are richer or more successful.

I don't expect my boss or rich, high-flying friends to pick up the tab for all of our meals just because they earn more than me. That's just really bad manners. And extremely distasteful. With my colleagues or seniors, I genuinely make an effort to pay, and I've actually managed to wrangle the bill from my boss once. With my friends however, we take (almost) equal turns picking up the tab. Or else, we split the bill and round it off. We're okay with such a fluid, informal arrangement because we're close friends, and being close friends, there's no impetus to be a leeching cheapskate. 

It's particularly disgusting if for example, a person after owing you money for 5 whole months, requiring 4 reminders for payment, is shockingly unapologetic, and audaciously GIVES HIMSELF A DISCOUNT by rounding down the money owed. The awful thing is, you can't say no to the self-given discount because if you do, then YOU are the one who looks like the cheapskate. If I'd given everyone the same exact discount the cheapskate did, I'd be out by at least 30 buckaroos. Granted, it may not be a fortune but if you think about it, it's still a week's worth of meals at the hawker centre. I don't understand why is it that everyone else can pay to the last cent, and some people can't. You don't go to a restaurant and just ask them to round down the cost of the meal to the nearest dollar, do you? There's no good reason why the person picking up the tab first has to subsidize someone else's meal.

It all boils down to a lack of manners and lack of respect for other people, which I find abhorrent and disgusting. Yes, I'm pissed as hell. You can be sure I'm never inviting such people for any meals ever again.

As best as I can remember, I've made it a point to repay my share of the meal as soon as I know the amount of my share, without requiring reminders to pay up. I hate owing people money, and get embarrassed, and apologize profusely, if I have to be reminded to make payment. 

What about you? How do you conduct yourself when going out with friends and colleagues for meals?  

I'm sure everyone also has their personal encounters with such lacking-in-manners people, and I'd love to hear your horror stories. Please share!


Anonymous said...

Hello! Though I am not that familiar about the behavior during work lunches/dinners, I have had my fair share regarding people who got their money's worth during meals.

As a student, most of the time the person who pays would be the person with enough "big" notes to cover the bill and the rest of them would pay back. More than once, the person who has to make up the few cents difference would either be the "slow poke" who is the last to fish out her share/calculate her own share or the person with the "big notes". I was giving private tuition for awhile back when I was studying in JC and when we ate out, some people would stare at me pointedly, as if they are expecting me to be the one to contribute the big notes!

I have a close acquaintance, L, who was so calculative that she would lug our bulky graphic calculator everywhere she went. When it came to splitting the check, I think everyone would just split the GST and service charge amongst the people at the meal, but not L! She would whip out the calculator and calculate the portion of GST and service charge based on the prices of the dishes each of us ordered. Ironically, for someone who is so good with numbers, she'd frequently miss out said amount payable by a few cents. A few cents might not see much but it seems laughable if one has to spend 5mins splitting the GST and service charge fairly so that she does not pay more than her supposed share.

As for me, I had frequently had to "owe" friends money as I frequently carry bigger notes/not enough change. It is super embarrassing to owe people money and I'd try to return it as soon as possible! But one thing that's a bit irritating is when friends want to eat out of my budget/at a place where I know I don't have enough cash on hand to pay for the meal and I can't very well refuse as we have already walked around the entire mall for half an hour! I now try to get a firm idea of where the meal would be so I can be prepared. If the budget is really tight that month, I'd just sit out of the dinner! After all, if the friendship disintegrates just because I can't afford a meal with them, I'd be better off saving my money in the long run!


Bern said...

Hi Amanda,

OMG, the close acquaintance is quite ludicrously calculative.

I know of someone who, despite agreeing to share in the cost of a friend's birthday cake, subsequently refused to join in the cake cutting thinking that if he didn't partake in the cake cutting, he wouldn't have to pay his share of $2.57! OMG.

I totally feel you, it's very unpleasant when other people expect you to pay first/more for the meal, just because you seem rich(er) when compared to the rest.

About eating out at a place that's above your budget, I think it's good to be mindful of everyone's budget constrains. Which is why my friends/colleagues and I generally go to hawker centres, or food courts, so everyone's financially comfortable getting their own stuff. And if we go somewhere a little more upmarket, we make it a point to inform everyone which restaurant it is, and even provide the priced menu before getting everyone's agreement to come along.

At the end of the day, it just boils down to good manners. Some people just have so little of it. Urghh

Anonymous said...

Hi Bern,

Yes I agree! Some people just have hide the thickness of elephants I think. There's no such thing as a free (or heavily discounted) lunch!

Another incident that I can remember was L and I were tasked to bake cupcakes for a classmate. On the day of the baking, I had a horrible cough and I sat out of the baking. She then provided me with an itemized price list of the materials and ingredients used (even for things she already had at home!) and as I felt guilty for welshing out on the baking, I agreed to pay. Later did I realize the extras she baked were given out to her friends. Using the money that I paid for "our" friend. Tsk.

About discount cards, another classmate of mine had some discount card to a restaurant which worked in a pretty complicated way (eg some dishes had a bigger discount than others) so we all agreed to pay the original price and she's refund the discount later. 1 year later, I still have yet to receive my refund.

At times like these, I wonder if it's better to just eat alone!


Bern said...

Hi Amanda,

Gee, I hope u aren't friends with L anymore. She sounds like a leech. Getting u to pay a half share of the cupcake ingredients is one thing but including the cost of stuff that she already had in her pantry anyways is just such a cheapskate move.

I think some ppl think that if they "forget" to pay/refund you long enough, you'll eventually forget the debt due as well.

These are times when u need to streamline your life and audit such "toxic friends"!

Anonymous said...

Eh no pics for this article? Lol!


Bern said...

All personalities appearing in this post are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Hahahaa!

rw said...

i've a friend who always doesn't bring sufficient money out even though he clearly knows the budget as he's the one who chooses the place. so if i'm the one paying first, i now learn to tell him that because of my bad memory, it's best that he goes to withdraw money from a nearby atm machine after the meal otherwise i'll forget to get the money back from him. he's the only person i've to resort to taking such drastic measures though. haha

Bern said...

Hi rw,

Wahahaa! That's hilarious but good for u! Such people need to be dealt with firmly!

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, there is always the unfriend option.


Bern said...

Already done!

Anonymous said...

Don't even lunch with these people. :)
What's the point to be angry over such people and get your blood pressure up when they don't give a damn.

Bern said...

Lesson learnt for sure! And u can be sure nobody else in the firm is asking that fella out too!

Anonymous said...

Hello! Just chanced upon your blog and loved your straight talking , observant posts like this one:)

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