Living paycheck to paycheck — as the majority of Americans do — isn’t exactly fun. With inflation rates skyrocketing and the price of gas now averaging over $4 nationwide, we may be finding ourselves in uncomfortable situations when it comes to money. Some of these situations may be downright weird.
For instance, what do you do when you’re out with wealthy (or wealthier-than-you) friends? What if you were well positioned financially pre-Covid but, since the pandemic, you’ve lost some ground, perhaps being cornered into full-time caregiving or thrust into long-term unemployment?
There are plenty of awkward or even difficult money scenarios you may run into. We’ve explored some of the most common ones and laid out ways to handle them so you won’t be left feeling bad — or even more broke.
You’re Expected To Split the Bill — When You Ate Cheap
“Imagine when you eat out with some people, and you order the most affordable food on the menu,” said Matthew Roberts, COO at My Choice. “Then, when it’s time to pay, they opt to split the bill equally.”
If you were in a better financial position, you’d probably shrug it off and just split the bill regardless so as to avoid a fuss. But is that really the best way to handle this scenario? Simply put: It’s unfair that you should have to pop for other people’s splurges when you consciously deprived yourself.
If you’re out with good friends, they should understand right away when you say you’ll just pay for your share. But, with strangers, you may want to play a bit of offense from the start.
“When it is time to order, inform the waiter beforehand that you’re paying your tab separately,” Roberts said. “So when it’s time to pay, and they say they’re splitting the bill, you only have to worry about your tab and contribute to them an amount that doesn’t hurt your pocket.”
You Find a $20 Bill and Are Torn Between Lunch and Rent
Sometimes luck shines on us and we stumble upon a $20 bill on the street. Talk about unexpected money! But what if you’re really struggling and you don’t know whether you should splurge a little and duck into Starbucks — or put the money toward a basic expense such as purchasing gas or paying rent.
This is a situation that prompts some heavy duty reflection.
“If you can’t seem to make ends meet, and $20 is the difference between making rent or eating, then I recommend taking a look at your current source of income,” said Kelan Kline, co-owner of the personal finance blog The Savvy Couple. “Evaluate if it’s serving you.”
From there, Kline recommends creating and following a strict budget until you find a more stable financial situation.
You Don’t Have Enough to Save
Save, save, save! Everyone is always preaching that message — and for good reason. But what if you have only enough money to cover the sheer basics of your life? Time for that self-reflection again!
“Again, this is a situation where it might be time to reevaluate your finances,” Kline said. “If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it’s important to try to find ways to save money so that you can build up an emergency fund. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a difficult situation if you experience an unexpected financial setback.”
You Have To Borrow Money — Like, All the Time
“If you’re constantly having to borrow money, it’s a sign that your income is not sufficient to cover your expenses,” Kline said. “This is an uncomfortable situation to be in and can lead to financial difficulties down the road. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to try to find ways to increase your income or reduce your expenses.”
You Always Seem To Have More Month Than Money
If it ever feels like the month is longer than your paycheck, it’s another indicator to take a close look at your budget and see where you can cut back on expenses. It also might be time to consider increasing your income if you’re not already doing so.
Your Card Gets Declined
“When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there are times when your card gets declined at the grocery store because your next paycheck hasn’t hit yet,” said Chloe Choe, founder of Off Hour Hustle. “This can be uncomfortable and weird. To prevent this from happening, people pay in cash or actively budget their spending so that they know exactly how much they have left to spend.”
Co-Workers Shame You
“When dealing with clients who are coming out of a dire money strait, one story that crops up a lot is the shame that co-workers have directed to them, because the person living paycheck to paycheck has not been able to help them out in a small situation,” said Jenna Carson, financial partner at MoneyLucid.com.
“I had one particular client who recalled their close co-worker who forgot their wallet and couldn’t buy lunch at work,” Carson said. “They asked my ex-client, who was not in a situation to help out; they had been bringing in all their food and drinks to deal with their food budget of less than a dollar a day. My ex-client had to come up with excuses, which sounded like lies, and it put her in a strange working environment.”
In Carson’s opinion, the best thing to do when a weird situation arises is to be totally honest.
“It might not feel good, but everyone should understand,” Carson said. “And, if someone doesn’t understand your financial situation, they’re not someone you want to have around you.”
You Can’t Afford To Donate to Charities
“When my husband and I moved to the Boston suburbs, we were happy to help support several local nonprofits with small but regular amounts of money to forge connections with our new community,” said Karen Condor, a finance expert with Clearsurance.com. “But when he was laid off two years later, we reviewed our budget and sadly had to suspend all of our charitable donations.
“We were embarrassed about the situation, which felt weird since the nonprofits we helped weren’t faceless, world-famous charities with deep resources,” Condor explained. “We knew the organizers of these groups, who shared how they made the most of every dollar they received. So we asked if there was any other way we could help, such as volunteering.”
Volunteering turned out to be a rather genius way for Condor and her husband not only to save money but to network and help people in a more hands-on way that made them truly feel like they were making a difference.
More From GOBankingRates