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Money Etiquette: 6 Mistakes to Avoid

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Why are some people so clueless about money etiquette?

Really, you don’t have to have a lot of money to understand basic, common courtesy when it comes to finances. This isn’t difficult stuff.

So why do some people refuse to leave a decent tip, and why do other people feel like they must tell everyone in their church group how much they make?

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These, dear readers, are financial faux pas—the worst of the worst etiquette mistakes people make with their money.

Don’t find yourself falling prey to one of these dubious mistakes. Here are six financial faux pas to avoid:

Tipping poorly.

Dear Ms. Bad Tipper: Nothing says, “Thank you for taking my order, bringing my food, refilling my drinks, and providing good overall service,” like that $1.56 tip you left on your $20 order. Just think: If your server invests that $1.56 tip in a 12% growth stock mutual fund, they’ll have $17.20 in 20 years! How fancy! In all seriousness, here’s a tip about tipping: Unless your server cursed at you and threw grilled eggplant at your wife, tip him 15–20%. Is that really too much to ask for someone who helped you put food in your belly? Share your thoughts about tipping.

Talking about how much money you make.

Unless you’re calling into Dave’s show to make your debt-free scream, your household income really isn’t relevant information in everyday conversation. Usually, people who freely share this type of personal information are high-earners, so it only comes across as bragging. Every conversation is a new opportunity to share their income: “Hey Jim. What about that storm last night? Thought a tree might fall on my house, but I make 250k a year, so we could’ve handled it. How’s your wife?”

Talking about how much you give.

This one is just as bad as talking about how much you make. No doubt that building wealth and finding financial peace is all about giving to others and changing your family tree. But that doesn’t mean you should broadcast the amount you tithe and give to charity like it’s a tattoo on your forearm. Genuine givers are humble and even secretive when it’s called for. If you’re giving in hopes that one day you’ll have a county bridge named after you and a statue in town square, then you’re giving for the wrong reasons.

Bumming off your friends all the time.

Every group of friends has one. The bum. The mooch. The guy who always realizes he’s “forgotten” his cash right when the check arrives. Don’t be that guy. Here’s the thing: You might save a couple of dollars here and there, but at what cost? Everyone in your group of friends knows what’s up. They aren’t stupid. You’ve been labeled as the “group mooch.” And, before long, you won’t get invited to dinner, and then you’ll become “the guy who invites himself to dinner,” in addition to being the group mooch. Then you’ll become a social pariah and never score another date—all because you weren’t willing to pay for a $3 taco.

Making unreasonable offers when negotiating.

One of the quickest ways to end a negotiation is to make a ridiculous offer. It shows the seller that you aren’t serious about buying and you think they’re stupid. You’re saying, “Hey idiot. You obviously have no concept of the cost of physical objects that exist on this Earth. But, tell you what, I’ll humor you and offer you 40% of your asking price. You’re welcome. Dummy.”  How do you know if you’re making an unreasonable offer? Put yourself in their shoes. Would you take $150,000 for a house that’s listed for $275,000? Would you take a quarter for a lamp that’s priced $10 at a garage sale?

Putting business over friendships.

Dave says all the time that business partnerships are a bad idea. Why? Because business and friendships rarely mix. There are too many complications and emotions involved. But good friends part ways all the time because someone decided to throw business into the mix. It’s the guy who thinks his buddy with a nice office job is obligated to make a spot for him. It’s the guy who gets into a multi-level scheme and proceeds to badger all of his friends to “not miss this opportunity!” It’s the athlete who signs his first big contract and feels like all of his childhood friends deserve a cut. A business opportunity may improve, but a friendship will soon end. You can count on that.

So please, whatever you do, no matter how much or how little you make, don’t be a financial faux pas repeat offender.

Slip up once or twice? That’s okay. But don’t become the “group mooch” or the “poor tipper” or the “income bragger.” Those are well-earned labels you want no part of.

Don’t let a $3 taco ruin your friendships.

Have you or anyone you know made these mistakes? Would you add any money-etiquette mistakes to this list? Share your stories by leaving a comment below.

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