Dear Jeanne and Leonard: Get this: A friend and I often meet for lunch and always ask the server to split the bill. Yesterday, I happened to see my friend’s credit card receipt, and I noticed he’d left a huge tip. Since the service hadn’t been anything special, I asked why. His answer? That I “tip light” and he always tries to make up for it. I was dumbfounded. I’m not a cheapskate; I’m just not the extravagant, 20 percent tipper he is. What should I do? I don’t want him to supplement my tip, I want him to mind his own business.
Dear B.P.: So have you considered bag lunches?
Seriously, just as what you tip is your business, what your friend tips is his. So tell him “I think you’re nuts, but knock yourself out,” and then keep your receipts turned over.
P.S. Is it possible you actually are tipping too little? Others are sometimes right. And by the way, while 20 percent is a generous tip, it’s far from “extravagant.”
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: For 15 years, my wife and I rented a house from her father, a house he often said would one day be ours. So when I inherited $40,000 from my parents, I used the money to make major improvements on the place. Then, two years ago, my wife decided she wanted to spread her wings, and she divorced me. She got just about everything, including the dog. And when her father died not long after we separated, she got the house, too. Do I have any chance of getting my $40,000 back? Since nothing was in writing and I don’t have any receipts, my lawyer says no. But the house is on my way to work, and every time I go by, it eats at me.
– D.L., Long Beach, Calif.
Dear D.L.: Well it might. If we were you, we’d invest in a second lawyer and a second opinion. And in the meantime, we’d find a new route to work.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: I fear my wife is being taken advantage of. “Jennifer” is the principal caregiver for her elderly, well-to-do father. She takes him to his many doctors’ appointments, shops for his groceries, lays out his medications, pays his bills and much more.
Although we have three small children, Jennifer still devotes at least 20 hours a week to looking after her dad. She has two siblings, but for one reason or another, they almost never help. So I encouraged Jennifer to ask her father to pay her something. When she mentioned the idea to him, he seemed to agree, but nothing’s come of it. Should I try to do something about the situation? It’s not, by the way, like my wife will inherit a lot of money from her father. He’s leaving most of his estate to his only son.
– Unhappy, Upstate New York
Dear Unhappy: That’s a great deal your brother-in-law has. Too bad it’s at your wife’s expense.
Parents generally are entitled to expect help from their adult children. But they’re also obligated to notice if some of their children are leaving all of the heavy lifting to others, whether those children mean to or not. Since your wife’s siblings rarely pitch in, and since your father-in-law can afford to pay for the services he needs, there’d be nothing wrong with asking him directly (with Jennifer’s approval, of course) to compensate her for her efforts. Your wife deserves the acknowledgement, if not a larger share of his estate.
If her father refuses or drags his feet, it’s time for your wife to tell him he needs to hire professional caregivers to provide many of the services she now provides. In fact, she might prefer to do that anyway.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.