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A sign you have good friends is that you can go out for drinks or a meal with them and comfortably split the bill. You’re in sync with your friends with what you order, and you know costs will even out in the long term if you happen to spend more or less than your friends every now and then.

Socializing with others can be awkward because of the need to divide up the bill. Splitting it evenly is punitive if you drank less than everyone else or just ordered an appetizer. And then there’s the trap of having to ante up more than your share to cover for the cheapskates who pushed less than their fair share of cash to the centre of the table.

A couple of solutions to this problem are proposed by financial planner Sarah Halpin. One, you can speak up and make sure everyone knows what your share of the bill is. Or, and this is my preferred solution, you just ask for separate bills before you order. That way you pay what you owe and have the opportunity to include the tip you feel is appropriate.

Ms. Halpin offers ideas on how to deal with three other awkward money moments – endless requests from co-workers for charitable donations, a family member asking for a loan and a nosy person asking for details about your finances or bragging about theirs. There’s a theme to her suggestions for dealing with these situations – tactfully, just say no.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Lord gimme that fire

The New York Times recently wrote about the F.I.R.E. movement (financial independence, retire early) and was swamped with questions from readers. Here’s a selection of those questions, with answers.

I am nominating this to be the theme song of the F.I.R.E movement – Fire, by Barns Courtney.

Are you throwing out food that’s still good?

Consumer Reports offers some guidance on what “best before,” “sell by,” and “use by” mean on food packages. Wasted food is wasted money.

So much for this cheap-travel trick

Using the incognito mode on your web browser will not help you find cheaper flights when searching online travel websites. The idea behind this tip is that travel websites were able to single-out people returning over and over to their websites and then present them with higher prices. One travel website insider says two-level pricing – one for new customers and another for those who are returning – is not a thing.

A new kind of instant ETF portfolio

An investing blogger offers a thorough analysis of some new balanced ETFs, which offer a fully diversified portfolio in a single purchase. These new balanced ETFs are designed to be tax-efficient and would thus be targeted for non-registered accounts.

Today’s financial tool

The federal government’s financial literacy database offers links to personal finance information on a variety of topics and for specific groups such as teachers, aboriginal peoples, parents and newcomers to Canada.

Ask Rob

Q: “What does outperform, market perform, overweight and underweight mean? I see these opinions and wonder what each means.”

A: These are all terms analysts use to describe the opportunity they see in a stock, usually over the 12 months to come. Outperform means there’s an expectation of returns that beat the broader market, while market perform suggests a return in line with the market. Overweight is a call to have more exposure to a particular sector than the broader index, while underweight is the opposite.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

What I’ve been writing about

  • Ontario’s Ford government is shamefully backing the investment industry over investors
  • This updated rule of retirement saving has you working longer, running out of money sooner
  • ‘I am looking for an easy way to diversify into the U.S. market’ (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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