Cheap vs. Frugal: What does a $1 mean to you?

dollarWhen I go out to eat with co-workers, we always split the bill equally, including tax and tip. This one particular day, the total came out to about $18.65 a person. I pitched in $19 and left it at that. Most people pitched in $20 and took back a $1, from the singles I had put in. A co-worker sitting next to me had taken out the sixty-five cents and a $20 and put it into the pile. There was only one single left and she took it, but was disappointed.

She asked the woman who was collecting the money for the bill if there was another $1 (since she was owed $2). The woman said no. SO my co-worker looked extremely disappointed. At this point, my boss announced that she would take the cash and put it on her card. So my co-worker took this opportunity to then ask my boss if she had a $1. My boss rummaged through her purse and pulled out a single and gave it my co-worker who was now smiling very wide that she had gotten her extra $1.

This was such a small incident. I could have easily ignored the situation or not even have noticed if she hadn’t been sitting right next to me (there were about 8 of us at lunch).

Perhaps you truly have to know this co-worker to get it (she’s a bit awkward in general and doesn’t really understand the concept of personal space or social graces), but the situation–at least to me–came off as very cheap.

It was $1. Wouldn’t you just let it go?

When I started working at this job, we had just moved into the shack. There were times where I had to go to these lunches nd pay the equal amount even if I ordered something cheaper than what other people ordered.

But I never once complained or ask to split the bill differently because a) I was the new girl and b) I didn’t want to come across as cheap. Because while I am extremely proud of how frugal we have had to be and the sacrifices we have made to get to where we are today, I don’t ever want to be perceived as cheap.

At one point when Eric wasn’t working, I had to go to a few of these lunches. And I would save for weeks knowing that they were coming up. Yeah, it was a tough time, but I still did it and didn’t decline.

Financially, I know my co-worker has three children in college. I understand that money is tight. But the woman makes in the high five-figures.

Is a $1 worth sacrificing a little bit of your integrity? How broke do you have to be to throw a stink about $1? Or would you have done the same, since technically, she was owed a $1?

30 thoughts on “Cheap vs. Frugal: What does a $1 mean to you?

  1. April 18, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Well I could pass for that $1. Its embarassing to ask your boss back for a $1. Unless perhaps she offered.

  2. Poor fat chick
    April 4, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Normally, I would have let it go BUT I wouldn’t got out to lunch with people who spilt the bill evenly. When I go out for lunch with friends or co-workers we get separate checks if possible or I just pay for what I ate (with tax and tip included) but I do admit that if my bill came to $19 I would have put in that extra $1 just so I am not running around trying to collect a single dollar.
    There is a big difference between frugal and cheap and in some cases it comes down to circumstances surrounding it.

  3. April 2, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    If I was in that situation, I would have definitely let $1 go. I would have to be really broke to ask for that dollar back.

    Whenever we go out to eat with a group, we get seperate receipts. Usually when the waiter or waitress takes the orders they ask up front if the checks are seperate.

  4. April 1, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    This story is exactly why I try to avoid all these group dining situations unless I know I am going to be totally fine spending extra money on other people’s bills. It always happens, you just have to decide whether the event is worth it to you. In my situation, group dining with coworkers doesn’t happen much (at least not a sit down and get a check type place) so that’s not a big issue, but all those friend birthdays and gatherings? I cut some of them out honestly. It gives me anxiety. Especially when people don’t have cash. I remember one event last year where I spent $35 on a bill where I literally had an $11 appetizer and water. No joke. But of course, like you, I didn’t want to cause a scene at a friend’s birthday but I remember thinking “Damn! I am not doing this again!” But yeah for $1? I’d let it go. But I understand what it feels like too, to not want to let it go 🙂

  5. April 1, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    I’d let it go if it was in front of coworkers. I’m really close to my friends, so I’d be more likely to ask for my $1 then, but it would depend on my mood and current financial situation. Sometimes, that $1 is nice to have.

  6. April 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    I’d let a dollar go, but maybe she can’t afford to. I try not to judge people poorly because of that, because if I really can’t afford to pay an extra dollar over what I should, I wouldn’t want someone else to think badly of me.

  7. April 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    I’m surprised you always split the bill. If it’s close then yes, but if someone ordered a steak and 2 glasses of wine and someone else ordered a salad and water then it’s totally reasonable NOT to split the bill. But one dollar? No, I’d let it go.

  8. AT
    April 1, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I’m really surprised at all these reactions! I wouldn’t go to lunch with a group of friends (let alone coworkers) and split the bill evenly in the first place! I think everyone should be sensitive of others’ financial situations and judging someone for making good money and being a “penny pincher” is so wrong. You don’t know her situation, even if you think you know her income. Maybe she’s supporting an elderly family member, has lots of debt, or has health issues that need to be paid for. People should never expect others to pick up their tab for drinks, expensive entrees, etc and then just “split the check.” I think that’s so rude and inconsiderate. It’s nobody’s business WHY she wanted to make sure she got her dollar. Why can’t we just assume she had a good reason instead of judging her?

  9. Anna
    April 1, 2013 at 8:02 am

    If money is so tight that she was super concerned about $1, maybe she shouldn’t be eating meals that cost $18. 🙂 I hate pettiness.

  10. March 31, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    I would have let this go, but $1 in my life isn’t a big deal. Had I needed the money, I probably would have stopped by to see my boss after returning from lunch to ask about the $1. It’s not that she wasn’t in the right to ask for it, it’s more that I would have been embarrassed to ask about it multiple times in front of my coworkers.

    Also, if money is tight I am a bit surprised that the woman agreed to split the bill. A lot of times in these situations a coworker who worked with me would join us for lunch, but she would often tell us in advance that she will pay for only her share. That way she could order a cheaper dish and save her money. Does this coworker go out with you often?

  11. March 31, 2013 at 3:10 am

    I would definitely just let go of the $1. That is just very little amount compared to what other people might say or think about you. It is true that we have to be frugal and practical, but not to the point of being cheap.

  12. Isabelle
    March 29, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Now I would probably let go of the 1 dollar. But there was a time where it would have made a difference in my budget and I would have been upset to not get it back. I’ve always hated to have to overpay when I specifically chose something cheaper on the menu. I should be able to decide what I want to do with my money, even if a few dollars won’t change my budget anymore…

  13. Mike
    March 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    The fact that you mentioned the woman has three children in college makes me think differently. I currently have a high five-figure salary and am unmarried with no children, and I would definitely ask for the dollar back. I can’t imagine how much burden she probably has helping finance college education. College is expensive and she probably is saving every penny she has!

    Those “1 dollar” shortchanges do add up. At what point do we judge someone who is “cheap”? $1? $5? $10? “Let’s say that a group of friends went on a trip and one person paid for food and gas and asked friends for reimbursement. Total per person was $190. Everyone gave exactly $190 except for the woman who paid $200. Is it wrong for her to ask for $10 back?

    You say it’s the fact that “it was only $1”. But $1 can go a long way in many countries. How much was $1 worth to her? A lot, probably.

  14. March 29, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I personally would let go the $1.00. I sometimes buy cookies and drinks for my co-workers for no reason, so what’s a $1? I certainly wouldn’t want to pay for something I didn’t eat like other posts say, but I’m ok with letting $1 go.

  15. March 29, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I’m kind of shocked at the responses, where the co-worker is getting knocked around for wanting the dollar that she is entitled to. It’s her dollar. For those with kids, would you be OK with someone going up to your kid and taking a dollar of their lunch money? Of course not. Because it’s their money, right? So, even though it’s ‘just’ a dollar, is that really the point? At what point do people shift from the ‘she should get over it’ mentality that I’m seeing as the common theme, and to the ‘oh, right, well it is her money after all’ reality.

    Also, the original article talks about how she makes high five figures and has three kids in college, so a dollar shouldn’t be a big deal, but maybe that’s precisely why it is a big deal. Maybe she’s able to go out to lunch very sparingly and it’s a treat to be able to do so.

    Finally, it seemed that everybody else got their dollar back, but she didn’t, yet she’s looked down upon for it.

    I see the point that people are making. A dollar itself isn’t a big deal, but when you take away the fact of how much money it is, the point is that it’s her money and if it’s important to her, who’s to judge?

  16. March 29, 2013 at 7:37 am

    I have done both before. I have had times where I have let it go and over paid since I know that the extra is going to a tip for the server. Other times I have quibbled over a dollar since I am broke, though not with coworkers. I don’t want to be an embarassment for my friends and family at the dinner table, nor do I want to bring my financial fear to the table. So my rule is that I generally don’t quibble over the dollar and if I can’t afford to eat out, I stay in or order a water only. I don’t generally split a bill evenly with people since I usually order a cheap meal intentionally. Unfortunately, I have been known to act all generous in the restaurant and over pay for my meal by splitting the check but then I am in financial fear all the way home. In that case, I try to just head it off and order just what I can afford or make sure I plan ahead to have enough money to cover the cost of the dinner.

  17. March 29, 2013 at 7:17 am

    When I go out to eat with a group, I expect that I will probably overpay a little. In this scenario, I would have just dropped it since the amount is small and I’m with my boss. A dollar is not worth risking my reputation.

  18. March 29, 2013 at 7:00 am

    As my husband reminds me, not everyone is the same. I wouldn’t make a big deal over a $1 either, but maybe this woman is more comfortable with numbers than people and wanted to make the check make sense before she made sense of anything with human interaction. I work with a lot of engineers and have very smart yet socially-challenged people in my life. Sometimes we just need to have a bit more grace and understanding.

  19. March 29, 2013 at 12:04 am

    We always just ask for separate checks. Or, in the case that restaurants don’t split checks for large parties, we figure out what everyone ordered and owes and do it that way. Maybe that can come across as awkward, but when I was in grad school we had everyone from poor college students to 6-figure earners. So while we all wanted to hang out and eat together, some of us ordered salads and water while others ordered lobster and wine. No one ever balked at it or acted embarrassed.

    When I lived in Germany, they didn’t “split” the bill per se, but the server would bring round their change bag and a credit card machine (if they had one, most places didn’t) and would have everyone pay one at a time based on what they ordered. I prefer frequenting places now that just allow for split checks.

    As to the dollar, I would have let it go. It’s not worth enough to me to be bothered by it.

  20. March 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I would definitely just let it go, especially in a work situation. It doesn’t look professional to hound that much for $1. I know every cent counts, and she may have some unique monetary responsibilities, but seriously – it’s $1!

  21. March 28, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    We always orders separate checks. Never been in a situation where we split it evenly. I think it’s fair to pay what you bought.

  22. March 28, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    It’s just a dollar. If she couldn’t afford to go the lunch (which is what I’m thinking) then she shouldn’t have gone. Also, I never split evenly. When going out to eat we always pay what we owe + tip. I’ve NEVER had a problem with the bill. With exception of us over paying and having to return some money to people. When people get weird like that I usually file it under the area in my brain titled-“Don’t do $ things with this person. Too complicated.”

  23. March 28, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I am confused! She put in a $20 and took back $1.65. She already put in less than what was asked for. She then had the nerve to ask for another$1? If I am accurate, this is beyond cheap. I think it would have been better to ask everyone to put in a round number like $19.

  24. March 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    I would’ve let it go. If it’s so important to her, why not ask for a separate check for herself? People do it all the time and it’d be a lot less embarrassing then hitting her boss up for cash.
    Who knows though, maybe she wanted your boss to see hoping they’d think she wasn’t being paid enough.

  25. March 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    I pretty much take it as a given that I’ll end up overpaying if I’m splitting the bill with just about anyone else going out to lunch. It’s always been this way – in fact I remember in high school we were perpetually short on the check and I’d throw in an extra $5 to get on with it.
    With work stuff, I prefer it when it’s clear there are separate checks from the get go or one person (preferably the boss!) is footing the whole bill. Otherwise it gets too awkward and you don’t want to be bitter if your co-worker ordered a combo when you only got an appetizer for your meal.

  26. March 28, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    I definitely wouldn’t quibble over $1…not with friends, and certainly not with coworkers.

    I second the other comments about the frustrations of splitting a bill when you haven’t ordered the same type/amount of food as everyone else. During college, I was at a birthday celebration dinner for a friend. I was on a really tight budget, so I just ordered the Penne with Vodka Sauce, since it was the cheapest item on the menu (but still $18 since it was a pricier restaurant). Everyone else ordered an appetizer, fancy entrée, dessert, AND a glass of wine/cocktail. I was quite peeved when the bill was split evenly…but I didn’t want to ruin the celebration so I just shut my mouth and figured I’d scrimp elsewhere.

  27. March 28, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    I would have just let it go.. one dollar isn`t a big fortune. Though I wouldn`t be ok with paying for what other ate. I understand the situation of being the new girl and all that, don`t get me wrong. But when I´ve come across situation when people have talked about splitting a bill, I felt like that Friends episode when Joey, Phoebe and Rachel are so damn poor and shares a salad, while the others are eating lobster. The differences have been to big for me to be ok with splitting the bill.

  28. March 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    That seems like an incredibly short-sighted move on your coworker’s part. That $1 probably wouldn’t seem as important if she were to lose her job because she rubbed your boss the wrong way. Those are the little things that add up over time and create an undesirable reputation. Not to mention, that must be an awful way to live life where a single misplaced dollar could affect your attitude.

    So on that, you’re spot on. BUT… I would not be cool with splitting a bill evenly. Now if everyone is +/- $2, fine, no big deal. Anything more than that, and I’ll likely only put it what I owe. I don’t drink alcohol or order the filet mignon, so I’ve been burned one too many times.

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