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Money Manners: How to tactfully stop paying for friends’ meals

Dear Jeanne and Leonard: I’m a salesman for a pharmaceutical company, and I had a good quarter, for which I received a nice bonus. So when my wife and I had dinner with a couple we often go out with, I picked up the check, saying I wanted to celebrate my good fortune. That was six months ago.

Since then, our friends have expected us to pay for every meal we’ve shared, even though the four of us had always split the tab in the past. It’s not like our friends are hurting for money. But apparently they’ve decided that I’m loaded (I’m not) and that I want to or ought to be treating them every time we go out. How can I get this to stop?

– Stymied, Southeastern Pennsylvania

Dear Stymied: Tell them you had a really bad quarter and the next six months is on them.

OK, not really, but when the next check arrives, say to your friends: “Do you want to use cash, or should we ask the waiter to divide it between our credit cards?” Too bad you didn’t say this the first time your friends sat on their hands. But it’s not too late. If, as you say, you have a history of splitting tabs with these folks, they won’t be wounded when you indicate that you expect them to pay their share, only disappointed.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My husband and I were both married previously. I have two children, two children-in-law and four grandchildren. My husband has one child, one child-in-law and one grandchild. He believes that because we give birthday and holiday gifts to eight people in my family and to only three in his family, his family should get larger gifts. I think everyone should be treated equally and no one should be penalized just because they happen to have siblings or cousins. What do you think?

– Diane, Southern California

Dear Diane: If these gifts you’ve been giving are in the $25 range, your husband needs to lighten up. But if they cost hundreds of dollars – or more – you need to start paying for your relatives’ gifts yourself. Whatever the financial arrangement you have with your husband, you surely have some money to spend at your discretion. If you want to give expensive presents to your family of eight, that’s the money you should use, not your marriage’s general funds. And, of course, the same rule applies to your husband.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My daughter’s cheer team is going to a national competition, and the cheer club has offered families several options for hotel accommodations. The price goes up the more nights you stay and goes down the more people you are willing to share a room with. Long story short, my daughter and I signed up for a three-night, four-person package, meaning we’ll be sharing the room with two other attendees. Well, it turns out that our roommates – another mother and daughter – will be staying for four nights, and now the bookkeeper at the cheer club says we need to pay for a four-night package because there are no more pairs of attendees who want to share a room for just three nights. I realize it may be impossible for the club to accommodate every family’s preferences. But when something like this happens – when two pairs of attendees whose preferences aren’t the same are forced to share a room – I don’t see why the people who want the room for only three nights should have to pay for four. What’s wrong with having the mother and daughter who want the room for four nights pay the entire cost of that fourth night themselves?

– K.M., Kansas City

Dear K.M.: Absolutely nothing. At the very least, they should pay for half of your half of the fourth night. That way, the cost of the apparently unavoidable mismatch would be shared equally by the two families.

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