When Shannon and Allison said their readers wanted to know how to handle embarrassing money issues, it took me a few moments to rack my brain.
When I first thought of “embarrassing,” the only one that came to mind was when a credit card gets declined. However with the magic of google and an utterly unscientific poll of friends and family, I came up with a simple list of other situations that might be considered embarrassing moments or awkward to handle.
More often than not, it isn’t something that is super straightforward; it’s something that feels weird or off. I’ve included things you can think about or do in the moment, as well as some preventative tips moving forward.
How To Handle Embarrassing Money Moments
Embarrassing Moment #1
Scenario: The teller or server says to you, “Your card isn’t working . . . do you want me to rerun it?”
In the moment: This is incredibly awkward, especially when it’s the lunch rush hour, you are trying to grab your salad and go, and there is a huge line. I recommend to first try using a different credit or debit card. If that doesn’t work, cancel your order.
If you are finding yourself declined AFTER receiving something (say a sit-down meal), you can offer them collateral such as your ID or watch while you run out to an ATM or call someone else to help pick up the tab. Make sure they have your contact info and “prove” that it’s you if possible. For example, offer your number and ask them to call you so you can save it. This gesture helps reassure the server that you have a working number and are who you say you are
Prevent it from happening again: Make sure you know your credit limit and a rough estimate of how much is in your checking account if you are using a debit card.
Don’t push your luck–if you have a habit of running into your credit card limit. Switch to a card with a lower ceiling (say $300-500). And while I love credit cards, they are not to be used if you are only paying the minimum or if having one in your wallet is too tempting.
Embarrassing Moment #2
Scenario: Dave in accounting is raising money for his charity bike ride. You’ve been doing a pretty solid job of diving into the ladies’ room when you see him coming, but eventually, he finds you. “How much can I put you down for?”
In the moment: Say to him, “I plan out my charitable giving for the year with my [partner, accountant, etc.] and I’ve already earmarked my donations for the year. Good luck on the ride sounds like a great cause!”
Prevent it from happening again: This one is tricky, but the more you say it, the easier it will become. Plus your coworkers will eventually stop asking.
Embarrassing Moment #3
Scenario: You are celebrating your friend Janay’s milestone promotion with a group of ten at dinner. Included in the celebration are wine, appetizers, and even a fancy dessert and the night, in general, was a blast. When the check rolls around, you hear the organizer say “Oh, Janay, we’ve got this, put your wallet away!”
In the moment: You have two options. If you can safely afford to pay, suck it up and split the tab evenly. If you can’t, text or pull aside whoever made the suggestion and let them know you’re happy to cover your meal, one of your friend’s drinks, plus a generous tip, but you hadn’t planned on sharing the meal evenly.
Prevent it from happening again: Splitwise for the WIN!! Shout-out to my friend Sara who turned me onto this at her bachelorette fiesta. I sing the praises of this app again and again. It keeps a running total of expenses over time so that you can pay each other back in one big payment, instead of a bunch small Venmo’s back-and-forth.
While it’s especially helpful for trips with friends, it can also be useful for those going-out nights. As a former server, I appreciate when things can go on one tab, and the party can sort it out. You can do this too, and mostly hassle-free with the help of a few apps.
If you aren’t an app person, you can check with whoever is organizing the dinner or trip what the financial expectations are beforehand. That way, you can determine whether or not it’s an activity you can safely participate in without putting additional stress on your wallet.
Embarrassing Moment #4
Scenario: You log into Facebook to figure out what time your niece’s birthday party is. All of sudden there is that message, staring you in the face. “Hey, Elyse! Remember me from the dorm days? I wanted to reach out and see if you were happy with your skincare routine? I’ve been working with Smooth and Silky for over a year and have had amazing results! Can I send you over some samples?”
In the moment: You have two options. The first is to just ignore the message or you can try the canned “I don’t do MLM” response.
Need help? Feel free to copy and paste mine (I literally have it saved in my notes on my phone): “I’m glad to hear this product has been useful for you. As a rule, I don’t purchase products that come from multilevel-marketing companies/MLM as they tend to target women. Statistically, most women involved in the MLMs end up not making money or just breaking even. I’m all for a hustle and for being your boss, but I support businesses who don’t prey on others’ ability to recruit others.” Harsh? Maybe, but also just true.
Prevent it from happening: See above and copy/paste as needed. Repeat ad nauseam the next time the latest version of a Tupperware party invite lands in your inbox.
Embarrassing Moment #5
Scenario: You get a voicemail during tax season saying there was a mistake with your filing. You call back, and they just need to verify a few things to process your refund. Easy peasy!
Until a week later when you get a notice that there has been a $10,000 granite purchase in Alaska in your name. Yup, you’ve been scammed.
In the moment: First, take down the information of whoever notified you if at all possible. Get in touch immediately with your bank and credit card issuers. You want to ask for a freeze on your accounts so no one else can take out anything in your name (all three credit bureaus listed below).
Work with your bank to verify actual purchases and transactions to make sure nothing else happened.
File a police report. Seriously. The likelihood that they will “catch” the perpetrator is unlikely, but it helps to create a more substantial case against these scams and also helps to protect you from fraudulent purchases by having a report on file. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at their website (make sure it says .gov, yes, people will try to scam you as you recover your identity).
Equifax Fraud Department
Experian Fraud Department
TransUnion Fraud Department
Prevent it from happening: Unfortunately, you are in good company. It’s predicted that 44% of calls to cell phones will be scam calls by the end of 2019. And they are getting sneaky. They will call from your area code, so you may think it’s a local, they will have the same dialect or accent as you, they will be sweet and undemanding.
The IRS, social security, and the DMV will NOT call you. Don’t confirm any personal information such as your credit card number, full name, date of birth, or social security number. All of these agencies first send letters to notify you if there truly is something awry.
Change your passwords to difficult-to-guess ones and consider using some password manager. Know the common phrases that scammers use and be prepared to hang up when you hear them:
- You’ve won a vacation
- Since you’ve been a loyal customer, we want to reward you with a free prize
- You’ve qualified for a no-interest loan
- You are eligible for an extended car warranty
- You are going to be reported to authorities if you don’t pay
That’s it! While I’m sure we’ve all had our embarrassing money moments, these are the ones that I heard most often. I hope these help you find a script that you can tailor to your voice to help you prevent these moments from getting you down.