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College News takes on the Emily Post guide to money etiquette

Janelle Vreeland

College News consults the ultimate etiquette authority to answer your money concerns

Money is always an issue with college students. Whether we’re trying to earn it or trying to spend it wiser, we spend a lot of time concerning ourselves with it and even discussing it with others. But often situations arise involving money that we’re not quite sure how to handle.

The etiquette of money is a tricky thing, and answers to questions such as “How do I ask a friend to return the money I lent them?” aren’t always clear. Well never fear. After consulting the ultimate authority on etiquette and tact, Emily Post, or, rather, Emily Post’s Etiquette Daily staff, College News sees if whether or not Post’s advice on common money etiquette questions still holds true.

The “How much?” question

Sometimes it seems as though manners and tact have gone completely out the window. We’re becoming more blunt, with no qualms about asking awkward and uncomfortable questions to people we’ve only just met. Still, situations do arise where the questions refer to an area you’d rather not discuss. More often than not, these situations are related to money. Whether it’s in reference to how much you earn, how much you spent on an item or how much you have saved, it can be an awkward, and even embarrassing, topic to speak about.

So how do you respond politely without completely blowing off the questioner?  As the staff at Emily Post’s Etiquette Daily suggests, the best response is a non-response.

Making a joke about how much you earn or how much you spent, without giving away the figures will often be a sufficient answer. And if it’s not, a polite but direct, “I’d rather not discuss it” should end that line of questioning.

Our Take:

To be honest, in the age of social networking and sites that allow friends to monitor every move you make, it sounds kind of silly that someone would take offense or be unwilling to answer the money question.

Especially when you are talking to others who are close in age and financial status as you are. But, if you do find yourself in a conversation with someone you don’t know well or don’t feel comfortable sharing such information with, in general, the staff’s advice seems to be appropriate.

Using humor to diffuse the situation and, hopefully, change the topic, is a good idea. It keeps the conversation light, and though it gets the point across that you don’t really want to answer the question it does so without making you seem like a jerk.

And while “I’d rather not discuss it” would certainly be a direct way to end the conversation, it also toes the jerk line.

“Thanks for the money”

Most colleges and high schools across the country have held their graduation ceremonies for the season, resulting in graduates receiving generous amounts of money to go towards their next stage in life.

Although the money is certainly appreciated, it’s often difficult to thank the benefactors without sounding a 5-year-old halfheartedly saying “Thanks for the money” just because your mother told you to.

What’s the best way to thank someone for a monetary gift?

Whether it’s a birthday gift or a graduation gift, the Emily Post staff suggests that, in thanking the person, you mention how you plan on spending the money. Graduating high school? Let them know it will come in handy for that first semester of college textbooks.

Or if you’ve graduated from college, tell them the money will certainly help pay the rent on your new apartment.  Not only will it satisfy your benefactor’s curiosity, but it will also personalize the note and let them know you’ve put some thought into how their gift will be best spent.

Our Take:

After employing this technique for years, I have to say that it should only be considered and then used on a case to case basis. It’s an effective technique for recent grads, because it personalizes the “thank you” as well as assures the benefactor, if incorrectly, that the money won’t be used on something frivolous. But using it every time a holiday or birthday rolls makes it redundant and a little bit hollow.

It almost becomes an automatic response in its own right, especially if you’re always saying that the money will go towards textbooks or tuition expenses. In the end, an honest appreciative “thank you” will serve you well. After all, not everyone even takes the time to thank others for gifts, so doing so graciously and appreciatively will set you above the rest.

The forgetful friend

There is an old saying that one should never lend money to a friend. The reasoning behind it suggests that, should the friend fail to pay it back, the resentment and frustration felt by the lender could affect and even ruin the relationship. After all, how many of the litigants on “The People’s Court” ended up in court as the result of lending money to a friend or family member?

But, because of the inherent trust between family members and friends, it inevitably happens. So what should you do if you find yourself short on funds because of a forgetful friend?

The Emily Post staff says you shouldn’t be shy about reminding the lendee of the arrangement.

More than likely that person simply forgot about the loan, and as long as you remind them politely, it won’t become a sore subject. Let some time pass and if they still have not returned the money, remind them politely again and reconsider loaning them money in the future.

Our Take:

Once again the Post staff offers some good advice. It’s definitely important to not forget about the loan, and it is important to approach the friend in a polite way when inquiring about the money.

Also, allowing time to pass between repayment requests is important if you don’t want to seem like a greedy jerk. But when the lender and the lendee are in college or are recent graduates, the situation changes a little.

Money is always a hot commodity for those in or recently out of college. Often you find yourself with little more than a part-time job or a full-time job that offers little more than minimum wage.

Bills, rent and tuition, as a result, come first in the list of money priorities and repaying those whom you’re around constantly is placed on the back burner.

With that in mind, you have to choose those to whom you lend money carefully. Consider carefully whether that person will be able to pay you back in a reasonable amount of time.

Then, if time has passed and they have failed to repay you, begin to brainstorm other ways for them to return the favor. Maybe they can spot you the next time you go to the movies together, or perhaps they can buy you lunch and you can call it even.

Often, it’s much easier for someone to repay a friend in tangible goods, rather than physically handing them some cash.

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