- Avoiding difficult conversations about money can cost you thousands of dollars in the long run.
- Talking about the bill at brunch or the expense of attending a friend’s wedding can be awkward.
- Asking for separate checks at the beginning of a meal and being upfront with your budget could help.
- Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.
We’ve all been there: The nervous shuffle of credit cards and Venmo QR codes that happens right after the server brings the check at the end of a meal with friends.
If you’re the friend who consciously skips appetizers and drinks, yet still gets stiffed because the group wants to split the bill evenly, your silence might be costing you thousands in the long run.
We spoke with a financial therapist to find solutions to some of the most common, awkward money conversations that millennials and Gen Zers avoid.
“Communication is key,” says Aja Evans, a financial therapist working with Laurel Road. “If something could potentially lead to a fight, you probably need to have a conversation about it when tempers are not high, when everybody’s in a calm, neutral place to have those conversations.”
Here are three common, uncomfortable money conversations between friends, and how to navigate them.
1. Splitting the bill
Try: Asking the server to split the bill beforehand
A 2019 survey conducted by Mint shows that 43% of 1,000 participants ask for separate checks when dining out with friends, while two-thirds said they don’t split the bill evenly. If you’re still bitterly holding your tongue when the check comes while paying for more than your share, let this be the sign you need to finally speak up.
Evans says, “The stress that might come up when you’re looking at how to navigate a group check, it can be difficult to navigate.”
A good rule of thumb when dining out with friends is to ask the server to split your bill before ordering. If this option is available at the restaurant, it takes away the headache of figuring out how much each person needs to pay or tip.
2. Attending a friend’s wedding
Try: Sharing your budget with your friend before committing
Evans says weddings come up very frequently in her sessions, especially with young people who are asking for help navigating difficult money conversations. “There’s travel, attire, or, if you said you’re going to be part of the wedding, there may be events leading up to the wedding and even more travel involved.”
Before committing to being a bridesmaid, groomsman, or any member of the wedding party, Evans suggests communicating your budget with your friend first so that you can both better understand the depth of this financial commitment.
3. Comparing salaries
Try: Telling your friends why you’re asking about their salaries in the first place
Evans says, “Sharing salaries has been notoriously difficult. I recently had a conversation with a friend who shared that they went away for the weekend with their friends. They started talking about their salaries because they’re in the same field.”
The conversation was “really uncomfortable,” but they kept going because they knew the end goal was to help their colleagues ask for a raise. Evans adds, “If you don’t know what the industry standard is, or what other people are making, it gets really complicated for people and it can make you feel alone.”
Evans suggests leading with the reason you’re asking your friends about their salaries in the first place. This might ease some initial tension and awkwardness by making it clear that you’re here to ask for help, not just to snoop around and gossip.