JEANNE FLEMING AND LEONARD SCHWARZ DEAR JEANNE &
LEONARD: Several years ago I borrowed $2,500 from my uncle when I was out of work. We agreed I’d pay him $250 a month once I got a job, and I immediately began repaying him when I did. Then, after I’d made seven payments, my uncle told me I didn’t need to pay him any more — that we were square. I thanked him, and that was that. But recently I asked my uncle if I could borrow $5,000 so I could get a better car, and he said, “No.” He said that he hadn’t gotten all of his money back from me last time and that he “couldn’t afford to keep giving money away.” I was shocked. What should I say to my uncle? I could really use the loan.
— Max DEAR MAX: There’s not much you can say. Apparently your uncle regrets his earlier generosity.
We agree, it seems unreasonable for your uncle to hold it against you that you accepted his offer to forgive a portion of the loan. But what’s to be gained by arguing the point with him? Not much, we’d bet. Plus, this is the man who gave you a $750 gift the last time you borrowed money from him, so you have little reason to complain.
Is it possible, though, that your uncle has forgotten he forgave that $750? If so, we hope you wrote him a thank-you card and you also emailed your thanks and saved a copy. Showing it to him might change his perspective.
DEAR JEANNE & LEONARD: Because their home is small, my husband and I always stay in a motel when we visit my sister and her husband in North Carolina. But “Jenna” fixes dinner most nights, and we spend a lot of time at their house, so of course we take them a hostess gift and a few bottles of wine. When they visit us, Jenna and her husband stay in our guest room. While this saves them money, it also means that their visits here entail a lot more work than our visits there — fixing breakfast, laundering linens, etc. What bothers me is that my sister and her husband never take us out to dinner to acknowledge all our efforts, not to mention the money we’re saving them. Instead, they bring us exactly what we give them: wine and a small house present. Am I right to feel that they’re remiss, and if so, should I say something? — Grouchy Sister
DEAR GROUCHY: Yes and no. Unless paying for it would be a serious budget buster, Jenna and her husband should indeed be taking you and your husband out to dinner to reciprocate for your having them as house guests. But since you and your sister appear to have a good relationship (why else would you be traveling so far so often to see one another?), why rock the boat over a dinner? And why invite your sister to tell you where in life she feels you’ve been remiss?
In short: You’re right, Grouchy. But let it go.