The Determined Dollar

How to Handle Awkward Money Situations with Grace


Awkward money situations abound, as much as we’d like to avoid them! Money touches every aspect of our lives, yet we try very hard to make money invisible, at times pretending it’s a non-issue even when it’s the issue. Because, you know, it’s awkward.

It would obviously be odd to talk about every detail of our own finances with any ol’ stranger. But as much as we would like to keep money out of most conversations, sometimes it becomes unavoidable, and we can find ourselves in an awkward money situation.

Here are the four most awkward money situations, and how to handle them with grace.

Awkward Money Situation #1: Your friend joined an MLM and has turned into an aggressive salesperson overnight.

First, I want to mention that I am a customer of some MLM companies. I like a lot of the products out there and I’d often rather buy from a friend than a department store. This is not an anti-MLM rant. 🙂

That said, it can be uncomfortable if you can’t afford or simply do not want to buy the product your friend is selling, even if she isn’t being pushy about it (and even more-so if she is!)

In one of my favorite books Boundaries by Drs. Townsend and Cloud, they write that the word “no” is a complete answer. In other words, you never need an explanation or justification for your “no.”

Now I get this is only partially helpful because you aren’t literally going to say “no” and walk away from your friend who is so excited about earning extra income from her favorite product line.

What can you say so that it’s clear that you are not going to buy from her, at least not at this time, without affecting your friendship?

Here’s a line you can use to graciously navigate this awkward situation:

Friend’s name, thanks so much for sharing all of this information about name-of-product with me. I’m not in the market for this right now, but if I ever am, I will let you know.”

See how easy that was? No explanation was provided other than you are not presently interested. It’s gracious, it’s clear, and you don’t have to fumble for an excuse.

Awkward Money Situation #2: You get invited to an event that’s way out of your budget.

From the overpriced restaurant to the awesome concert to the wedding with a $300 bridesmaid dress price-tag- plus the bachelorette party, the multiple showers, and airfare for the destination ceremony, it’s easy to feel like you need to say “yes” to everything, even if it’s not financially reasonable.

When was the last time you were invited to a social gathering or a big event that was simply too expensive for your budget?

It isn’t easy saying no when you want to say yes. Depending on the event and your relationship with the event’s organizer, there are a couple of different routes you can take.

One is to say, “Thanks for the invitation, but I won’t be able to make it.” You don’t need to bring up anything about money being an issue; in most situations it’s perfectly okay to bow out without an explanation.

If you have a close relationship to this person (a childhood friend, a family member, etc.) and it’s an important event like their wedding, then you might choose to be more candid.

“There is nothing more than I want than to be there on your big day. Unfortunately, we’re not in a financial position to attend/participate/travel right now.”

At that point, the ball is in their court. They might offer to pitch in or to adjust the plans so that the event is within your budget.

If they do, you can graciously accept the offer. Count yourself blessed that your friend values your presence so much that they’re willing to pitch in or make some alterations.

But, be prepared to hear, “I’m sorry you can’t make it. We’ll miss you!” There’s no obligation on their part to change the plans, so you might still miss out.

In case your friend isn’t so understanding and pressures you to attend anyway, don’t feel bad standing your ground. You need to make the decision that you can live with, not the decision someone guilts you into.

Awkward Money Situation #3: An organization you respect asks you for a donation. You feel bad saying no.

We’ve all been there: surveying the grocery store parking lot and seeing the cute little kids holding up posters for a fundraiser and the only way to get into the store is to walk right past them.

It’s awkward, if not heart-wrenching! And how do you say no to an adorable six year old?

You don’t necessarily have to, but you need to know it’s entirely your choice to give and you shouldn’t feel bad for politely declining.

Some of us like to have the flexibility to make spontaneous donations, and others prefer to plan everything out. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to approach giving styles.

If you enjoy spontaneous giving, then be sure to budget an amount for this every month. Feel free to give to whatever opportunities come up, but when that flexible giving money is gone, then you have a tougher decision to make.

Do you wish to use your personal spending money to give to this cause? Ask yourself if you are giving joyfully, or if you’re feeling guilty if you don’t give. Guilt isn’t a good enough reason.

Awkward Money Situation #4: Your brother asks to borrow money and you wonder if he’ll ever pay it back.

I have a very strict rule about lending money. I don’t do it. Ever. For anyone. Under any circumstance. I don’t believe in debt, so why would I become someone’s creditor?

However, I’ll give money as a gift under three conditions.

  • Am I able to give it?

I still need to be able to reconcile the budget. I don’t believe there is a situation in which God will call me to go into debt.

  • Do I want to give it?

Can I give this money joyfully, or do I feel a sense of guilt and obligation? If it’s the latter, I take time to think about why I feel obligated. Am I feeling pressured to take responsibility for a situation that I am not responsible for?

  • Is it a wise idea to give in this instance?

There are some situations in which giving money to someone is not wise. Enabling someone’s harmful choices or constantly rescuing them from the consequences of irresponsibility isn’t wise.

These are some guidelines but always listen to the Holy Spirit when you’re considering giving someone money! He always knows what’s best.

Have you ever experienced one of these awkward money situations, or had to have a discussion about money that was uncomfortable? What advice do you have for handling these sticky situations? Leave a comment below to share.