DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: I’ve always prided myself on being even and fair with my three children, so at Christmas I give each one the same amount of money. Now that two of them are married, I also give the same amount, several hundred dollars, to each of their spouses.
I’m worried, though, that I’m not being fair to the unmarried child, because it seems like the married children are getting twice as much. So I’m wondering, should the amount I give to my married children be per person or per couple? So you know, I can afford to do it either way. — Jane in the Midwest
DEAR JANE: You’re right, the married children are, in effect, getting twice as much. If that makes you uncomfortable — and it sounds as if it does — go ahead and switch to the per-couple model. But don’t ruffle feathers by resetting the amount you give each person for Christmas. There are 364 other days in the year on which you can give your unmarried child something extra to even things out.
Thieving sister needs to be confronted
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DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: When my mother died, my sister claimed she was too sad and upset to attend Mom’s funeral — no surprise there, because she’s always been a drama queen.
But when my brother and I returned to our mother’s home from the cemetery, we found that our sister had used our absence as an opportunity to help herself to everything of value in the house. What do we do now? — Dan R.
DEAR DAN: Well that’s a first: Theft as grief therapy.
But to answer your question: Forget about appealing to your sister’s sense of decency, because obviously she doesn’t have one. Instead, you and your brother should go to her home, look your sister in the eye, and insist that she return the items she took. If she refuses, have an attorney write her a letter demanding that she return the property, pending its distribution by the executor of your mother’s estate (the attorney can tell you what to do if she refuses).
Hate the prospect of this sort of conflict? That’s exactly what your sister is counting on: your reluctance to be confrontational. But unless you and your brother show the drama queen that you are prepared to dish out some drama yourselves, you can kiss your mother’s belongings goodbye.
Use plane tickets for different trip
DEAR JEANNE AND LEONARD: Last year, friends invited my husband and me to spend a long weekend with them at their ski cabin in Vermont. We bought nonrefundable airline tickets to get up there, but that enormous snowstorm last winter closed all the roads in the area, so we couldn’t go.
When we explained the situation to the airline, they agreed to give us a year to use the tickets we’d paid for. Well, that year will soon be up, and our friends haven’t reissued their invitation. Since they know we spent over $500 on the plane tickets, aren’t they kind of obligated to give us an opportunity to use them? — Kate
DEAR KATE: Unlike a baseball ticket, an invitation to be someone’s houseguest doesn’t include a rain check. So while it would be nice of your friends to keep your investment in mind when they work on this year’s guest list, ultimately they’re not obligated to fit a visit from you into their plans.
Look at it this way: In inviting you last year, they signaled that they believed you and your husband could comfortably afford to spend $500 on plane tickets for a long weekend. In accepting their invitation, you confirmed that they were right. So you can’t expect them to be too concerned about your unused tickets. They know you can afford the loss — a loss for which they bear no responsibility, by the way.
P.S. There’s nothing stopping you from using those plane tickets. You know, your friends’ cabin isn’t the only accommodation in New England.
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