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Cheapskate Etiquette

Want to split the check or regift that present? Here's the right way to be cheap — and courteous.

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En español | "Let's face it, Jeff. There are two kinds of people: Those who are embarrassed to ask for separate checks, and those who aren't. In general, we prefer to be friends with the latter."

That's what a fellow frugalist, Gerald Thomson of Phoenix, told me when I interviewed him for my book The Cheapskate Next Door.

See also: 5 ways to save big with coupons.

Peggy Post, the great-granddaughter-in-law of etiquette queen Emily Post and a director at the Emily Post Institute, says there's nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about when addressing potentially awkward money matters. Whether it's who pays for a date, cutting back on holiday gift giving or the need to borrow money from a family member, the key to such conversations is to be direct and honest. "The most important thing is to be open, honest and sincere when you broach any money-related issue with family or friends," Post says. "As long as you do it politely and raise the issues up front to avoid any misunderstandings or hard feeling later, you will be fine…. Oftentimes others will feel the same way and appreciate you broaching the subject."

dollar bills and coins on tip tray

Don't skimp on the tip. — Photo by: Simon Jarratt/Corbis

Tipping. Someone once told me that "a cheapskate is someone with a seven-figure salary who's a bad tipper." Not so, at least according to my survey for The Cheapskate Next Door. Of the self-proclaimed "cheapskates" polled, more than 90 percent said that they typically tip 15 to 20 percent when dining out in a restaurant, which is the generally accepted range for gratuities. (And yes, they base their tip on the total bill, before any coupons or two-for-one discounts, which is the proper etiquette.) Even if you're trying to economize, it's unacceptable to ignore customary standards for tipping in restaurants and elsewhere. "The question should be whether or not you can afford to do something in the first place," Peggy Post says. "If you can't afford to leave an appropriate gratuity, then you really can't afford to dine out." Cheapskates next door agree: They tip appropriately at restaurants; however, they dine out almost 80 percent less than the typical American family.

Next: Experts say re-gifting is OK, on a few conditions. >>

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