Recession etiquette

FAIRMOUNT – May 15, 2009 We have the tips on how you can avoid coming off as cheap, hurting someone's feelings or risking your own embarrassment no matter what the social situation.

Kim Winkelman got laid off in December.

"Life has definitely changed and I have absolutely had to tighten my belt," she said. "If there's a black-tie event or something I normally would have gone to I just say I'm not available that day to go."

Joan Stokely of The Society of Diplomacy Inc. says that's a "do". You should politely decline events that are out of your budget. That way you can avoid the prep cost and the cost of a gift.

"You don't always have to send something. If it's a really close friend you should, but if it's not a close friend, and you decline the wedding there's not a gift necessary," said Joan.

But birthdays, graduations, and weddings of close friends or family members are harder to decline.

"I had nine birthdays including my own from January to June so I still have a few more to go."

Kim says normally she'd buy presents for all those birthdays.

"What I did instead was I tried to find a card and I wrote a personal letter to everybody in the card saying that I really appreciated their love and support during this difficult time."

That's a "do" think personal instead of pricey. Instead of gifting money give a special photograph in a frame. You can get a frame for a buck at some dollar stores or for a couple bucks at Ikea!

Also "do" go in on group gifts, each person can chip in just a little bit but still give something substantive.

And no matter what you've heard Joan says if you're going to give don't wait too long.

"A year is far too long."

Here's another "do" from Joan be honest and upfront.

"If you're a bridesmaid and you've committed to being in a wedding and you lose your job you should let the bride know right away and you should let her know how this is going to affect your relationship in that wedding."

If you're dining out,

"I think you should say something in the very beginning of the meal. Say like 'things are tight for me right now' and ask the waitress for a separate bill for yourself."

On the flip side if you know somebody struggling financially "do" buy a round of drinks or invite them to your home for a meal.

And be sensitive for instance, if you're getting married telling the folks in your wedding party to wear their own black suits or dresses instead of making them rent tuxes or buy special bridesmaid attire.

Now to the other extreme "don't" emphasize someone's troubled financial position particularly in front of others. And if at all possible "don't" loan or borrow money. But if you do both parties should sign a written agreement showing how much has been borrowed and how soon the money will be paid back. The closer you are the more important this is.

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