One way to make a social situation turn completely awkward is to start discussing money and personal finances. While saving money may be one of your personal goals, the reality is it’s not something everyone’s thinking about.
Avoiding your friends when you’re on a budget isn’t realistic! Have fun, live your life! So how do you split a check? What are the rules on gift-giving? I’ll give you a hint: The key here is clear communication! You never know who else is trying to be frugal, too, and would love some social solidarity. With that said, here’s how to be frugal without looking stingy or cheap.
Scene 1: Should I use coupons on lunch dates?
You’re on a lunch date with your girlfriend and the bill is a little expensive. It’s been a while since you’ve had lunch together, and you’re not sure of the etiquette regarding coupons while out with friends.
Solution: Use cash-back dining as a discreet savings solution
If your money-savvy status is something you’re not comfortable discussing, skip paying with a coupon and try using cash-back dining instead for a more discreet way to save. Offer to pick the restaurant before you go out, and make sure to select one that offers cash-back dining. With 10% back to you, you won’t feel stingy and you can even splurge on that dessert!
But, I’d venture to say if your friend is uncomfortable with the idea of saving money they could probably benefit by learning some of your tips and tricks!
Scene 2: Are homemade gifts OK?
The holiday season is quickly approaching, and you’ve finally mastered the art of crocheting blankets (or crafting clay pots, or you bake a mean homemade pie). Is it okay to give gifts that are handmade?
Solution: Be up front about your gift-giving intentions
The key with this one is clear communication. Being up front and setting boundaries with gift exchanges can help everyone avoid overspending in the long run. On the other hand, don’t sell yourself short. Handmade gifts can hold a different value than merely the cost of their “ingredients.” Gifts that are made by the giver are generally well-received and overall, gift exchanges run much more smoothly when boundaries are set.
Scene 3: Can I keep a bonus gift with purchase?
You’re shopping the weekend sales at the mall and find the perfect Mother’s Day present for your mother-in-law. It comes with an exclusive gift with purchase, one that you’re interested in, but your mother-in-law may not like. Should you keep it for yourself?
Solution: Keeping gifts together avoids potential problems
In this case, we advise keeping the gifts together. While your mother-in-law may love the gift you selected, if she happens to find it doesn’t suit her, returning it could be a challenge without the gift with purchase. Keep things simple and easy for the gift receiver and don’t make it difficult for them to love your kind gesture! And besides, she may know right away that the extra item suits you!
Another solution to this dilemma is to look for a BOGO or percent off coupon code. That way you’ll save on your gift and have some cash left over to treat yourself to the same or a similar item!
Scene 4: How do I tell my friends I can’t go out?
Your friends declare it’s time for a night out, but your budget just can’t handle it!
Solution: Offer up an alternative — and cheaper — suggestion
Wild and crazy nights out are great for letting off steam, especially after a long work week. Suggest some spots that feature great drink and appetizer specials, or even opt for a happy hour meetup instead of a late night gathering. Many restaurants feature some of their best dishes and cocktails earlier in the evening, and it’s a great time to get the best of what’s offered for a price you can afford.
Did you know many bars offer a cash-back dining bonus even for drinks and appetizers? Plan ahead and check for local bars and eateries near you that offer cash-back dining, then invite your friends out for a night on the town!
Scene 5: What do I say when friends want to split the check evenly?
You’re out at a restaurant with friends, and your small salad and beer total $12. Your friends, however, are drinking expensive bottles of wine, ordering $20 per plate entrees, and indulging in dessert. One friend suggests splitting the check evenly. How do you respond?
Solution: Address the check first thing & bring your budget wingman
This is a question for the ages, and one that will probably never have a definitive response. Being frugal is something that should never bring shame, but communication is key here.
Certainly, in this case, your check is much less than what your friends will owe. Make it easy on your server and ask for separate checks before you order, especially if you’re planning to keep your meal’s cost down. Waiting till everyone’s ready to leave only puts an undue burden on your server (which, in turn, leaves them spending time sorting out your bill when they could be tending to other tables).
Another option is asking a friend to be your budget wingman. Ask them to jump in and say, “Hey, Alison ordered a small salad, let’s make sure we don’t stick her with a monster bill at the end!” This can take some of the pressure off of you, save some awkwardness, and remind others that fairness and budgeting are worth advocating for!
If your friends decide beforehand they want to split the check, this is another situation where cash-back dining comes to the rescue with no one else the wiser. Check to see if your favorite restaurant is offering 7-10% cash back, pay with your linked credit card, and save on your check!