The ethics of money

If you’ve ever had to turn a $20 banknote over so Mary Reibey can’t judge you for your morally questionable financial decision, you may already know not all money choices are black and white.

The ethics of money are closer to 500 shades of grey than 50, so how can you successfully navigate the world of unpaid IOUs, awkward dinner payment arguments and found treasures?

Here are some of the questions you’re likely to come across once a least once (or only once, if you’re lucky).

How soon should you pay back debts to family and friends?

There are both pros and cons of borrowing from family. On the one hand, there’s the fact that they probably won’t be too pushy or charge you interest. On the other, if you take advantage of the situation and take too long to repay your debt, you could end up on some terrible day-time talk back show with a ‘NO MONEY NO MUMMY’ caption under your name. Jerry Springer, we’re looking at you.

One way to avoid this situation is make a plan when you borrow the cash. Whether that be an end date for paying it back or a monthly minimum, an agreed amount from the outset may help both sides stay on the same page.

Should you speak up when undercharged?

There’s always that awkward moment when you are charged less than you were expecting. Do you take the windfall? Or let the cashier know?

It would be a rare person who wouldn’t bring it up if they were overcharged on an item, so logically speaking, it only makes sense to address the error in your favour too. In some cases, you may bring it up only to find the lower price is correct and just hadn’t been marked on the item correctly.

One way to deal with the dilemma is to think of the 1:1:1 rule – how will you feel about your decision in one day, one week, or one year? Is the $5 you save now going to be worth having on your conscience for this time?

You find a wallet on the street, what do you do? 

It’s the ultimate ‘What would you do’ question, and many of us won’t ever know the real answer until it actually happens.

‘Finders keepers, losers weepers’, may sound fun to say, but is it true? Think about how you would feel if you lost your wallet and all your precious credit cards – naturally, you would hope someone would hand it in, and perhaps you would even be thankful enough to say thanks with a nice bottle of wine or other gift?

You’re on a first date! But who pays?

Date night. You’ve put a lot of thought into it already – what to wear, where to go, go in for the hug? The inevitable awkward wallet drama is bound to ensue, and in 2014, there’s no hard and fast rule for who should pay.

In many cases, the one who instigated the date will be the one to pick up the bill. You might like to offer to go halves, pay for the drinks – or better yet, say you’ll get the tab at the next date!

What’s your tricky money ethics question?