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Money Manners: Houseguests should find a way to show appreciation

Dear Jeanne & Leonard: Our daughter “Jessica” and her new boyfriend “Austin,” both in their mid-20s, flew out here to attend a friend’s engagement party. They stayed with us one night, and the next morning the four of us went out for breakfast. We thought Austin might pick up the check, but he made no move for his wallet, so we paid for everyone’s meal. A few months later, we went East to help Jessica clean out her old apartment (we stayed in a hotel). She had to work, but Austin took a couple of days off from his job so he could pick us up at the airport, drive us around and help with the apartment. However, on the day the three of us cleaned it out, we went to lunch together, and once again Austin made no offer to pay. What’s your opinion of his behavior? My husband and I are a little concerned.

– Jane, San Jose, Calif.

Dear Jane: Your daughter is one lucky girl to have parents and a boyfriend willing to clean out her apartment. She should have figured out a way to buy lunch for you three worker bees … and taking you to dinner that night would have been even better. Certainly Austin had no obligation to buy a meal for the people he was spending several days chauffeuring, as nice as the gesture might have been.

As for breakfast when he visited you, yes, Austin should have offered to pick up the tab (assuming he didn’t bring you a house present). He was your houseguest, and breakfast was an opportunity for him to show his appreciation. Still, he seems to have been hospitable to you when you visited his city and to be devoted to your daughter as well. You can’t expect the guy to be perfect.

Back off on reminder

Dear Jeanne & Leonard: About 10 years ago, my father gave our then-toddler daughter $500 for her college fund. It was a nice thing to do, and the money has doubled in value since then. But Dad has never made a comparable gift to her younger brother. So my wife wants me to talk to him and “remind” him that he’s never given our son money for college. I’m uneasy, though. Dad’s always given both of our children nice gifts for their birthdays and the holidays, and I don’t think it matters that he didn’t kick-start our son’s college fund. What do you think?

– C.B., Northern California

Dear C.B.: We think your father sounds like a loving grandfather. That said, there would be nothing wrong with letting him know that the money he contributed to your daughter’s college fund has subsequently doubled. Perhaps doing so will remind him that he hasn’t made a comparable gift to your son. If, however, no gift is forthcoming, back off. Your wife is wrong here: Your father doesn’t owe your son $500, and neither you nor she should act as if he does.

Please email your questions about money, ethics and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.