Few things will halt a lively dinner conversation like the question, "Should we split the check?"

In 2018, your table manners are a far less pressing matter of etiquette than how you pay for your meal. For some, dividing a check by individual order — down to the dollar — is both nit-picky and cheap. Others find it reckless and selfish to expect that your friends cover the cost of your food (and that second martini). Your waiter probably would prefer you all throw down cash, and leave your six separate credit cards out of it.

In the end, there is no right way to split the check.

Unless you run in a conveniently-sourced circle of socialites and pseudo-celebrities, odds are there's an income disparity amongst your friends. You earn different salaries, you pay different rent fees, you come from different families. And no matter how much you all enjoy the act of gathering around a table and consuming food together, that doesn't solve the looming problem of the bill.

To make matters worse, the anxiety derived from wealth gaps amongst friends doesn't end with dinner payment. According to a study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, "How much you feel you earn in comparison to others is more important in determining self-esteem than what you actually earn" — which goes to say that the income diversity within your social circle may actually be taking a serious toll on your self-image.

Does this mean you should ditch your friends with mansions in the Hamptons in an effort to surround yourself with people exclusively within the same income bracket as you? Absolutely not.

There are, however, tactical steps that can be taken.

For starters, you should begin navigating this discrepancy with candid, open conversation. Don't let money be the elephant in the room. According to the Huffington Post, "Outings are about compromise, and any good plan will incorporate input from both parties." There will always be a middle ground in terms of which restaurant you select, or which AirBnB you choose. Starting a conversation means you can find that in-between space.

For the wealthier parties in this equation, navigating these disparities is just as awkward as it is for those with less "money to blow," so to speak. "It's a delicate dance so that you're not going overboard in showing how wealthy and comfortable you are," says etiquette coach Thomas Farley. "But also not going so far in the other direction, so that the person feels like, 'What? You don't think I'm good enough to go to a fancy restaurant?'"

He suggests that you try to make up for the difference without being over-charitable, by paying the tip on a split check, supplying the food for a weekend away, or covering a shared Uber.

On the other end of the spectrum, folks who are trying their absolute hardest to save a few pennies can rely on telling questions, without having to come right out and say "I sure as hell can't afford that." Town & Country recommends asking things like,"'Would it be weird if I just met you after the concert for a drink?' or 'Is there anyone else going to Nantucket that weekend who might want to share a hotel room?'"

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, be sure to keep in mind the fact that your friends are your friends for a reason and this likely has nothing to do with income. "You probably have more in common with your rich friends than you think; you did, after all, become friends in the first place," says Huffington Post.

So be honest about your finances, but don't let wealth become central to your relationships. Odds are, the people you surround yourself with have far better qualities than a six-figure salary.

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

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