Just recently, The Telegraph in the UK ran an article titled “Are your money manners socially acceptable?” The article used an interactive survey to show readers whether or not their money manners fell in line with those of other readers. The survey revealed, among other findings, that Brits think asking someone how much they earn is very rude, that using discounts is perfectly fine, and that requesting money in lieu of gifts isn’t socially acceptable.
Although manners are a little different in the United Kingdom, the survey does raise an interesting question – exactly how much money do we routinely sacrifice for the sake of politeness?
Because money can be an awkward and often uncomfortable subject, there tend to be a lot of moments where our fear of being rude or “causing a scene” leads us to make financial choices that aren’t in our best interests. Where maximizing your money is concerned, however, a little rudeness can go a long way.
Ask for what you want
My sister never gets anything exactly how it appears on a menu. Every order comes with a request for some minor substitution. She doesn’t do it to be difficult, she does it because she knows what she wants and she isn’t afraid to ask for it.
Being specific about what you want and being willing to ask for it isn’t rude. It’s smart. Why spend money on something that isn’t quite what you want? Why not at least see if you can get what you really want? If they can’t accommodate you, that’s fine. But the only harm is in not asking.
Don’t be afraid to send it back
There are some people out there who systematically use complaints and threats as a strategy to save money. No matter how good the meal, no matter how professional the handiwork, they will complain until the price drops or goes away entirely.
Do not be this person.
Abusing the policies of restaurants, stores, and service providers is a pretty rotten way to save a buck. That being said, if you’re paying for something and it fails to come as advertised or shows clear negligence, never be afraid to send it back or ask for a refund. It isn’t rude to expect to get what you paid for, and paying for something you didn’t ask for is unnecessarily wasteful.
Don’t hesitate to haggle
Look, the cashier at the grocery store really isn’t authorized to cut you a deal on those pears, but what about the farmer selling pears at the farmer’s market? You have to know when it’s appropriate, but bargaining is an important method for driving down costs and saving money. Big, big expenses like houses and cars aren’t the only place where you can haggle over the price. If someone is a salesperson they’re probably able to work with you on the price (assuming you’re being reasonable.).
It may seem a little rude to ask someone if they can go below the list price, but that’s part of your power as a consumer. If they want to make the sale, they’ll at least be willing to listen to your offer.
Seek, find, and use discounts
If a coupon exists, it’s meant to be used. Stores and service providers post discounts and create coupons for the purpose of creating future business. Never feel bad about using a discount!
Return it, trade it, or sell it
The giving and receiving of gifts can have a profound effect on important personal relationships. Knowing this, we sometimes take a Do No Harm approach to gifts. No matter how we feel about something we hold onto it in order to spare the giver’s feelings.
Fiscally speaking, this isn’t very smart.
When it comes to gifts, we should strive to do three things: be clear about what we want, be thankful for what we receive, and then make decisions that bring the most value into our lives. If the greater value for you is in the avoidance of perceived rudeness, so be it. Otherwise you shouldn’t feel bad returning something that you can’t use or enjoy.
Follow your money
If you can avoid it, it’s generally best to not loan money to friends and family. It’s just too messy. If you do find yourself giving money to someone, however, don’t hesitate to stay connected to that money. It is your money after all.
This doesn’t mean you need to hound the borrower night and day, but you shouldn’t feel bad about asking what the money’s being used for and when you should expect to get it back. And if that date comes and your money hasn’t returned yet, you should follow-up. It might feel rude or nosey, but it’s your money! If you’re not willing to make sure it comes back to you, why should anyone else?
Politeness is certainly a virtue and you should try to be kind and openminded in your dealings. Just don't let your fear of being rude cost you.