Dear Jeanne and Leonard: I’m sick of picking up the tab for my son’s girlfriend. “Bart” is in a serious relationship with a woman who, like him, has a good job (as good as mine), and neither has any debt. When I visited them recently, I paid for all of the meals we ate out together. While Bart always offered to pay, his girlfriend never once reached for her wallet. She seems completely comfortable with having someone else pick up the tab for her, and I fear that in my absence, my son always does. Please tell me how I can ensure that, at least when the three of us are together, his girlfriend pays her share of the tab.
– T.C., Columbus, Ohio
Dear T.C.: So you’re worried that your son’s girlfriend views her wallet as just a cute accessory? We sympathize. But take heart, because you may have misread the situation. The fact is, girlfriends (and boyfriends) usually do what their significant other wants them to do when it comes to paying for restaurant meals with parents. So chances are Bart and his girlfriend had agreed in advance who was going to pay – or offer to pay – for those meals with you. In other words, the girlfriend’s seeming indifference to the check when you ate together probably reflected a plan, not a character flaw.
Whatever the situation, though, you shouldn’t try to insist that two grown-ups in a serious relationship each pay a portion of a check when they’re out with others. But you should by all means stop treating Bart’s girlfriend – and Bart – every time you go out together. Let your son with the good job pick up the check for his mother once in a while.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: Every year I give $1,000 to each of my grandchildren who are in college to help with their expenses. Unfortunately, I’ve had some financial setbacks recently. While I want to treat all of my grandchildren fairly, if I keep this up – and, in particular, if I help the younger ones for as long as I’ve helped their older siblings – I’m going to be seriously financially strapped. What should I do? So you know, while my checks certainly have been appreciated, the kids’ educations do not depend on them.
– Fred, Arkansas
Dear Fred: What you should do is stop giving money to your grandchildren. Instead, write to each of them, explaining that while it’s been your pleasure to help them in the past, you can no longer afford to do so. And don’t be concerned that some of them will have received more from you than others. Your first responsibility is your own financial security. There’s no reason why you should jeopardize it – or do without – in order to help pay expenses that your grandchildren and their parents can cover themselves.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: I’m constantly being invited to weddings, and each invitation prominently displays a list of stores where the couple is registered. Many of these couples have been married before, and the bride and groom often are living together in a fully furnished home. Yet their registries are packed with expensive items. I’m disgusted. My friends say a wedding is a joyous event that should be recognized with a nice gift, no matter what the circumstances of the bride and groom. But do I really have to buy pricey presents for couples like this?
– Shawna G.
Dear Shawna: Only if you feel like it. But since you apparently don’t, go off-registry and buy these brides and grooms something thoughtful but less expensive. And point out to your overly romantic friends that already-comfortable couples who fill their registries with expensive items aren’t being celebratory, they’re being greedy.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.