Reader Mailbag: Family and Friends

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Switching credit cards
2. Accepting pay for articles
3. Building credit
4. USPS refund on principle
5. Marriage and alcoholism
6. Roth 403(b) contributions
7. Reaching a teenager financially
8. Student loan repayment
9. Victim versus doing it yourself
10. Meatie versus veggie

From Thursday through Sunday, we had two houseguests who traveled nearly 2,000 miles to see us. From Friday through Sunday, we had two more guests. On Saturday evening, we had three additional people over for a dinner party.

Not once did we eat out, although we did have to make an extra grocery store trip. Our cost per meal per person over the entire weekend was about $1.50, and virtually every guest seemed to be happy with everything we served.

We’re getting good at this. Are we ready to host an extended family Christmas event? Maybe not.

Q1: Switching credit cards
My husband and I are in our mid-twenties with no debt. No student loans, no CC debt or car loans. We each have a small retirement account through our respective jobs although we plan on moving in the next couple years so I can go back to grad school. I have a credit card through a certain large bank that I’ve had since I graduated from high school, approximately seven years ago. I use it occasionally, about 6-10x/month as a way to add to my credit history. Problem is, my number has either been hacked or stolen three times in the past year so I’ve had to get a new card each time. It’s a very big pain and the bank’s customer service is terrible and I’ve gotten the run around each time having to dispute the charges.

Would it be worth canceling this card and getting a new one through our credit union? I don’t have a problem with interest (it’s lower through the CU though) since we pay it off each month. My husband and I each have a credit card through Wells Fargo that we opened when we were in college but haven’t used in about two years since we no longer bank with WF. I’m worried since we’re young (and the husband doesn’t use any CCs) canceling would hurt our credit score when we start looking for a home in the next five years. We only use a debit card for all our other purchases. What do you think?
- Carla

If I were you, I’d simply stop using the card for now and delete the card number from every online service where it appears. Then, I’d apply for a different card (while leaving the old one open), probably one from a different financial institution (like your credit union). In a few years, you can cancel the old card with minimal impact on your credit.

There seems to be some identity theft issues going on here. Usually, such issues occur when someone uses the card at a bogus or disreputable website. You might want to also consider carefully monitoring how both cards are and will be used.

I’d also keep a careful eye on the old card, even if you’re not actively using it. Just because it’s not in active use doesn’t mean the number’s not out there somewhere.

Q2: Accepting pay for articles
Do you accept payments for writing articles on certain topics on The Simple Dollar?

- Bill

I never have. I won’t say I never will, but I have yet to see an offer that would make me happy doing that and I don’t imagine that I ever will.

Simply put, I don’t sell the content of The Simple Dollar. It’s a place where every editorial word is written by me (or, on very rare occasions, by someone I trust) and the content is not being decided by a corporate entity beholden to the owners or shareholders.

If I’ve learned anything about blogging, it’s that the one thing that makes it more vital and valuable than other media sources is the genuine connection with the writer, someone who is sharing what they honestly know and think and value. If that isn’t there, why not just go read CNN or the Wall Street Journal?

Q3: Building credit
I am a 24 year old, recent graduate from college and have a job in the non-profit sector making a salary in the low $30k’s. I have a question about building my credit score. I have had a credit card since I turned 18, had student loans that were deferred throughout college (and actually paid off before payments started), a cell phone bill in my name, and rent on an apartment in my name. My car is paid off, I’ve never been late with a payment, and I have no debt except for a credit card bill that I pay off each month. My parents keep warning me that if I don’t have some sort of debt, like a car loan, or other bill that I pay in monthly installments (along with the corresponding interest), my credit score will not improve and might even become prohibitive when seeking a home loan down the line. I’d like to think that financial prudence and paying off my credit card each month would look good in the eyes of creditors. Are my parents right?

- Eric

Your parents aren’t right in this case.

If you have a credit card that you’re paying off in full each month, your credit score is certainly going up. Each month that goes by, the length of your credit history grows longer (up to a seven year cap), and that credit history length is a key part of your credit score.

Will you have the maximum credit score? Probably not. Will you have a pretty good to great one, one that gets better each month? Absolutely.

Your parents are right in that many lenders will look at your credit score first and foremost to make a snap judgment about whether to lend to you. However, based on what’s publicly known about credit scores, I think you’re doing just fine.

Q4: USPS refund on principle
I recently mailed my tax return through USPS. I had the mail certified & requested an electronic delivery receipt and I was charged accordingly.

Nevertheless USPS did not send me the electronic delivery receipt and I could not figure out from the IRS if my tax return had reached them. Finally about 3 weeks after mailing the return it showed up as received on the IRS site. However the USPS site still did not show the delivery confirmation.

My question is – Should I ask USPS for a refund of the money they charged me for this service, although it is $1.10, for principle sake – especially if for 3 weeks I was pondering listing my SSN & other details under ID protetion as I assumed the tax return was lost.
- Sachim

The first thing I would do is check the product refunds page for the Postal Service. However, I’m pretty sure that service isn’t eligible for a refund.

I agree with you that this is an example of poor service. I can name lots of examples of poor postal service in my own life. However, I will say that at least 99% of the service I’ve been involved with using the USPS has been perfectly fine.

If you wanted it to be there more securely, the best way is to e-file.

Q5: Marriage and alcoholism
My husband and I married late last year. Since the marriage, he’s quit his job and now is drinking heavily. I am support us and his stepson (paying the child support).

It’s agreed that he needs to go to detox and possibly rehab. In the meantime (he plans to go in a month), he’s going to get a part-time job to start covering child support.

My problem is … how is the best way to cover what will surely be the astronomical costs of detox/rehab? We have insurance, but our CYD is $2000. If he relapses, I plan to exit (of which he is aware). I’m already paying the mortgage and all household expenses (even though it’s all in his name).
- Jess

Your marriage desperately needs counseling right now. If issues like “I plan to exit” are on the table, there are some very deep issues going on that need to be resolved very quickly or else the marriage will spiral out of control.

I’m not sure what the best way is to cover the cost of the detox or rehab at this point. Is it even covered by your insurance?

Most likely, you’re going to simply have to come up with that $2,000 out of pocket. One route might be to negotiate a payment plan with your service provider.

Q6: Roth 403(b) contributions
Currently I have 10% of my pay going into it and 2% going into a Roth 403(b). My employer contributes 3% of my pay automatically and matches $0.25 for every $1.00 I contribute (up to 4% of my pay). What percentage is the best to take full advantage of my employers contributions? I will be honest math is not my strong suit and I want to contribute the most I can to my retirement.

- Winston

It depends on what you mean by “matches $0.25 for every $1.00 I contribute (up to 4% of my pay).” It can mean one of two things: either your employer only matches you on the first 4% of your pay that you contribute, or it means your employer will keep matching until they’re contributing an amount equal to 4% of your pay.

If it’s the first, then you’ll maximize your employer’s contributions by contributing 4% of your pay. That’s easy.

If it’s the second, you’ll maximize your employer’s contributions by contributing 16% of your pay. If your employer is contributing $0.25 for every $1 you contribute, then you have to contribute four times as much. 4% times four is 16%.

Q7: Reaching a teenager financially
I have been reading your blog for about 6 months and find it very informational. I was hoping you could suggest a book that my son, 14 years old, would/could read and one for my daughter, 9 years old. I looked in your archives but only found books that teach me how to teach them. I do plan to get the “Raising Financially Fit Kids”. I have tried to teach my kids to be financial good, but I do not believe I am very consistent, because they spend every dollar they get (usually the same day). I have discussed savings, credit cards, loans, but I do not seem to be getting through to them. In the past I have not been good and am still paying the price, will be for the next 25 years. I would like them to be better off and more informed then I was when I started college and working

- Crystal

It’s extremely hard to teach children at that age about the risks of personal finance because they truly don’t have the cognitive development in place to understand that kind of abstract risk, nor do they (usually) have the experience. They don’t connect spending everything they have on a new video game with potentially not being able to have food to eat. Adding a book to this equation further abstracts it.

One approach you might want to take is to encourage their entrepreneurial spirit. A book like Conversations with Teen Entrepreneurs might fit the bill here.

Honestly, the best way you can get the message across is to sit down and show them how you budget. Treat those children like they’re adults and they’ll listen.

Q8: Student loan repayment
By July of this summer, I will have 6 months of expenses saved in my Emergency Fund. Since finishing school, I have been using financial hardship forbearances while I got my house in order but this September my loans come into repayment.

Principle balance: $ 93,983.69
Interest rate: 4.125% (w/o automatic debit)
Interest rate: 3.875% (w/automatic debit)

Balance as of 12/31/10 with interest accrued: $ 99,795.74

My employer offers $4k/calender year towards my professional degree which I am one semester into with 2 years remaining. My question: should I start paying down my student loan debt in September and resume classes later, if ever? Or, should I utilize the tuition reimbursement & take classes this Fall thus qualifying for in-school forbearance although the student loan interest accrues? I have no other debt besides this.
- Lacey

The real question is whether or not you’re absolutely sure you’re on the right career path now. If you’re chasing a professional degree for a profession you don’t really want, that’s not a good choice.

If you’re sure that you are, take advantage of the deal you’ve got on your education right now and take the classes. Don’t sweat the outstanding student loans.

If you’re not sure, get out of the situation and start paying down that debt sooner rather than later.

Q9: Victim versus doing it yourself
I’ve enjoyed your posts about the scarcity vs. abundance mentality, and it got me to thinking about my two sisters who are only one year apart in age. Up until recently, both had what I call a “victim” attitude toward life. Both had experienced some difficult situations and setbacks in life and were feeling rather sorry for themselves. I tried to help but not enable both financially, and provided them each with free financial training and counseling.

One of those sisters finally decided to take action, attended the training/counseling, and has been working 3 jobs to pay off debts and has really turned her life around. She recently received a promotion and raise at one of her jobs. The other sister has never even attended the financial training/counseling and continues to have one crisis after another and call me for sympathy and help, and I am so frustrated by her choices. She refuses to take action or responsibility for her situation and instead just wallows in self-pity and negativity.

What are your thoughts about the “victim” vs. the “get it done” mentalities? I don’t understand how two sisters raised in the same household with the same values can have such divergent responses to their life situation. I wonder what “flipped the switch” for the one sister and made her finally choose to take responsibility for her own life. I wish I could find that switch for the other sister.

Do you have any recommendations for me regarding this one sister who refuses to take responsibility for her life?
- Gail

The difference is nature, not nurture. No two people are wired the same way inside their heads, regardless of how they’re raised.

The question you need to answer is whether or not you’re going to continue enabling her poor choices by giving her resources to sustain her current path or not. Handing her cash to get out of her latest jam doesn’t help, no matter how much you might want to.

Don’t be afraid to offer nonfinancial help to her and advice that encourages her to change her life, but turn off that financial tap that allows her to continue making poor choices unless you want her to continue using you as a support line to sustain things. Instead, be willing to help her if she does begin making different choices.

Q10: Meatie versus veggie
How can a veggie respect the non-veggie, i..e. meatie, partner with getting grossed out? I’m the veggie partner and when my meatie sidekick grills up a steak the house stinks for hours. The second issue is that I detest washing the dishes if there is a lot of gross, stinky grease. I think the meatie should always wash the pots and grills after cooking meat but he doesn’t see it that way. If it’s my turn to do the dishes then whatever was used gets included. We can keep working on that one but the smell is what really bothers me. And it isn’t fair to tell the meatie he has to eat out.

- Delores

My honest belief is that if you find that a simple single-person meat-based meal causes your residence to intolerably stink for hours, there’s not much room for compromise here. One of you is going to have to give in to what the other one wants, and I can’t tell you what that answer is.

I will say that such things are often roadblocks to a longer relationship. If one person engages in a behavior – even if it’s a minor one – that the other person can’t deal with and won’t voluntarily change, then you’re setting the stage for lots of problems down the road on both sides.

If your partner is unwilling to change, you’re going to have to decide for yourself what’s more important: your current relationship or the meat smell.

Got any questions? Email them to me or leave them in the comments and I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag (which, by way of full disclosure, may also get re-posted on other websites that pick up my blog). However, I do receive hundreds of questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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53 thoughts on “Reader Mailbag: Family and Friends

  1. Courtney20 says:

    Q8 – if you are in school at least part-time (definition varies by school) then you will be requesting a deferment, not a forbearance. If you have any subsidized student loans in that pile, they will not accrue interest during a deferment, and you can also make payments on them if you wish without exiting deferment.

    Also, I’m pretty sure Q5′s marriage has ALREADY spiraled out of control.

  2. Sara says:

    Q7 (teaching teens): “Any fool can learn from their own mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Right now your teens don’t see the consequences of their actions. So have them listen to the Dave Ramsey show and hear the consequences of the mistakes of others :)

    Also, for teaching household finance, I liked the book The Parenting Breakthrough. The key is NOT book learning, but having them experience the consequences of their actions in a meaningful, age-appropriate way that moderates their behavior in the future.

  3. VickiB says:

    Q10 – how important is the relationship to you? My own health path is quite different than yours most likely – I do not follow the mainstream as I have eaten paleo/low carb for many years. I have friends who do not eat meat, and we each respect each other’s choices. They feel as strongly about their path as I do mine, and I value the relationships enough NOT to make it an issue. It may surprise you that I find sugar/sticky sugar things like ketchup repulsive – my husband swaths everything in ketchup, but we take turns on dishes, and I just have to get over the fact that I find his dinner plate disgusting (I KNOW there’s HFCS in that bottle, which in the low carb community is absolutely forbidden). I wash the dish, when it’s my turn, and move on.

  4. valleycat1 says:

    Q7/Crystal – Another idea is to have the kids contribute in part or entirely to their next big item on their wish list [as opposed to you or someone else giving it to them as a gift]. So, as an example, child A wants a new bike – you say you’ll split the cost with you – we’ll each save x amount a week and when we have the cash, we’ll go shopping. Or, child B wants an mp3 player – you say, let’s figure out how much you’ll need to save out of your allowance each week to get it by x date.

    And, Trent, I don’t think you can or should treat a 9 year old like an adult when it comes to family finances. But if mom is up front with both kids about it taking her 25 years to get out from under her ill-advised debt, and shows them (repeatedly, probably) what portion of her monthly income is going toward that rather than something of more value to the family right now, it may eventually make an impact on them.

  5. Nate says:

    Q10 – My wife dislikes all red meat, especially the smell of it cooking in the house. So we came up with a compromise: When I make a hamburger or a steak, it must be cooked outside on the grill. This eliminates the vast majority of the smell in the house. There will always be a small amount while I’m eating but it goes away quickly after dinner is cleaned up. If this is still too much for you, I think there’s not much hope. In return, my wife has agreed not to eat pickles when I’m in the house. I consider pickles to be one of the most repulsives smells in the world.

  6. Anon for this one says:

    As someone who is dealing with this very thing right now, Q5 is smart to plan for exiting the marriage upon relapse. After fighting with my newlywed husband for 2 years about finances and his inability to get spending under control, it was uncovered that the majority of his out of budget spending was booze. He also couldn’t work more hours or be dependable to create additional income because, well, he was drunk. After the secret drinking habit was exposed, we went through the rehab process two times in three months, and his last relapse was as recent as February. I’ve advised him that this is it. Another relapse and I will change the locks on the doors and do what is necessary to protect myself and my children from the chaos of active alcoholism. We have one child and another on the way. An active addict is a wild card you just don’t gamble with. The marriage is already out of control.

    Regarding paying for rehab. Good luck! It will depend entirely on your insurance. Most likely your insurance will cover a short-term detox/rehab up to 14 days with a smallish co-pay (I have great insurance and it only pays 10 days with $200 co-pay). Maybe not up to or beyond that. It’s a real, real shame that insurance won’t pay for the cost of a real rehabilitative experience which is recommended at 30-90 days to prevent relapse, meaning that only the very wealthy who can afford the $30G expense get good medical treatment. Unfortunately what this also means is that the opportunity for relapse is high unless he’s a rare, committed bird. Personally, when my SO tried to “wait a month” to go to rehab, what that meant was that he wasn’t committed to quitting drinking.

    You’re going to need a lot of support as the wife of an alcoholic, and I highly recommend the forums at soberrecovery.com for family and friends of addicts in addition to whatever counseling or group support you get as well. In solidarity.

  7. E says:

    Q5 – your husband needs alcoholics anonymous not detox or rehab. AA is free and has helped millions of alcoholics live a happy life. Stop paying his child support for him as you are only supporting his habit. All the best to you.

  8. Aaron says:

    @Q1, if you keep getting the card number compromised at lots of different vendors, I’d suspect a computer you’re using has been compromised. You might want to check your computer out!

  9. Hunter says:

    Hi Trent. Re: Q2. I respect your firm policy of not accepting payment for written content on your blog. I think that any fee can only skew your perspective from what you really think to what your contributor might want you to share. How do you feel about advertising? I have begun a blog and am wrestling the decision to allow ads. Thanks, Hunter.

  10. Kelly says:

    @Q3- This seems to be a common myth out there because a lot of people told me that too. However, I have never had any debt at all and always paid off my card in full- I still have great credit and it has never been a problem for me. It’s not worth carrying debt/paying interest just to have the highest credit score possible!

  11. Riki says:

    #10 Delores

    I agree with Trent; the tone of your question concerns me — taking a judgemental stance on your partner’s diet is not conducive to coming to a compromise.

    There are lots of ways to compromise: for instance, when I use a dish that I know my partner won’t enjoy cleaning, I give it a quick wipe with a papertowel before tossing it in the sink. I don’t like the smell of cooking fish, so he tends to have fish when I’m not home. Grilling outside could work as well, or perhaps alternative cooking methods like the oven can reduce the smell.

  12. getagrip says:

    Q9 You can only continue to non-financially support your other sister with sympathy and continued gentle encouragement, taking some comfort that she’s primarily venting to you and doesn’t really expect you to solve her problem. She may never be ready or willing to get help. Most of the families I grew up around, and my own for that matter, always had differences between kids in how they handle money and finances, so being raised in the same household can help temper someones nature, but does nothing to guarantee all the kids act the same in my experience. Best of luck.

  13. Dorothy says:

    RE: Q$. Trent suggested the questioner should e-file his tax return. Two comments:

    1) Not all returns are eligible for e-filing; surely someone who reads a blog regularly would be savvy enough to e-file if his return were eligible.

    2) Sachim noted that it took the IRS several weeks to post his return as “received”. My educated guess as a former very large client of USPS is that the IRS received the return, but wasn’t able to enter it into their system immediately. This suggests to me that his return was NOT eligible for e-filing. The IRS had some late software changes in their shop, and this held up the processing of thousands of returns — the very returns that were ineligible for e-filing.

  14. Pat S. says:

    Q9. Great point about the victim mentality. It is too often precisely what gets many people in trouble. Learning, researching, and knowing yourself and your finances can prevent a lot of (financial) problems, and introduce a sense of personal accountability to the equation that will serve you much better over time than any kind of emergency fund.

  15. Anon also says:

    Q5–Why “in a month”? As the child of such a couple, these “next month I’ll get help” promises, and the threats to leave, turned into a 40-year cycle. Please don’t do this to yourself or, God forbid, potentially a child.

    Leave now. Come back only if and when he has already sought help and lived sober for long enough to convince you that he is serious about recovery.

  16. W says:

    I was once partnered with a veggie. He complained mightily if I cooked any meat in the house and refused to clean up meat-greasy dishes (bacon, for example). As a result, I rarely cooked meat. I went out to eat when I wanted meat!

    Finally, some years later he turned a new leaf and now eats even MORE meat than I do! If your partner is not willing to cut down on meat, perhaps you should find a nice veggie partner. Or, start eating meat! :) It seems to be trendy these days to go from veg to non veg. http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/why-vegetarians-are-eating-meat

  17. Anon for this one says:

    E @ #7, detox may be needed to avoid seizures, DTs and other nasty withdrawal effects. Let their doctors decide on that one.

  18. Temi says:

    RE Q4:

    The most likely explanation is that you mailed it directly to the normal processing center address, which is not a street address and has no ability to sign for certified mail. Each processing center is enormous and receives thousands of returns at one time. If this is the case, the USPS would not have had the ability to get delivery confirmation, their only fault was not recognizing this before they took your money.

    It is normal for a paper filed return to take several weeks to show up in the IRS database. It isn’t entered in until the tail end of the processing cycle.

    In the future, if you don’t want to e-file, you can call the IRS and get a campus street address which can receive certified mail or you can hand deliver the return to an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. IRS.gov has an office locator on their web site.

  19. Kate says:

    Q10: We have this issue with fish in our house. The smell makes me gag, but my husband loves fish.

    Our compromise is that he can eat fish when we’re out for dinner all he wants, and he can make it when I’m not home.

  20. kjc says:

    Attention Lurker Carl: JD’s post today is about programmable thermostats, written in response to your recent comment here.

    http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2011/03/21/do-programmable-thermostats-really-save-money/

  21. kjc says:

    Attention Lurker Carl: JD’s post today is about programmable thermostats, written in response to your recent comment here.

    getrichslowly.org

  22. Kevin says:

    @E:

    “Your husband needs alcoholics anonymous not detox or rehab.”

    I disagree. Studies show that the long-term success rate of AA is no better than simply quitting cold turkey. Which is to say, it’s completely ineffective.

  23. Des says:

    RE: comment #7 & Q5 –

    Alcohol withdrawals can LITERALLY kill you!! For that reason, detox from alcohol is often covered by medical insurance.

    When my mom made the decision to go into rehab, we “babysat” her all day until they could check her in that evening and did not let her drink (it seemed inappropriate to give a drunk a drink on their way into rehab.) We almost killed her and I had no idea!

    PLEASE don’t take detox & rehab flippantly or say people don’t need them when you don’t know their situation. The VAST majority of alcoholics who try to get clean via AA only (without rehab) relapse. AA-only has less than a 5% success rate. With rehab, the success rate is closer to 30%.

    Jess – You might want to rethink your “relapse = divorce” stance. Most addicts relapse at some point before they get totally clean, that is just reality. It is very difficult getting and staying clean. It is hard for us non-addicts to understand, and it is painful to go through, but you may do well to not be so rigid in your expectations.

  24. Kevin says:

    #10 Delores needs to quit being such a drama-queen. The only reason her “question” can even be asked is because there’s an acceptable intrinsic moral judgement against eating meat. It certainly would not work the other way around.

    Imagine if I wrote in asking what to do about my wife, who refuses to stop eating salads? “I get grossed out by the smell, all the slimy salad dressing on the plates, and I think SHE should do all of the dishes whenever she chooses to eat such a disgusting food.”

    See how ridiculously pretentious and petty that sounds? Well, as a meat eater, that’s how Delores’ question sounds to me.

    Delores needs to get off her self-righteous, vegetarian high-horse and learn to compromise.

  25. Becky says:

    Q1. Every time my credit card number has been changed by my bank due to chance of fraud has been because a store I used it at was breached. The one I specifically remember is the local grocery store’s computer system was hacked into and the card numbers were stolen. It may be a pain to contest the charges with your bank, but your number getting stolen isn’t their fault and they may be acting suspicious of someone who “frequently” disputes charges. Point is, you may be improperly blaming your bank for the issue when it is using the card at stores with poor security to blame.

  26. valleycat1 says:

    #10 meat odors – a little vanilla or vinegar in a shallow dish will take care of the odor. As would a really good exhaust fan over the stove. We have found that organic chicken doesn’t smell as much as conventionally raised chicken. We can’t get organic beef locally, but you might find the same with that.

    After cooking, decant the grease into a jar. Then if you put baking soda and some salt in the pan, along with soapy water, you won’t have a smelly pan to deal with. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have your partner responsible for any dish washing you find totally repugnant. We usually divide the duties by one cook, other washes. But if the cook decides to do something complicated or extremely messy, the cook takes the share of the washup responsibility added by that decision.

    If you’re truly made ill by meat odors or unwilling to deal with it, this could be a deal breaker for the relationship.

  27. Diane says:

    Q10 – May I suggest you print out #20 Kevin’s response and tape it to your bathroom mirror?
    I’ve been a vegetarian for 23 years and I will happily cook meat in my home for my meat-eating friends. If I had a husband, I’d cook meat for him too. Once when a friend took me to dinner at his parents, his mother served chicken as he had forgotten to tell her I was a vegetarian. What did I do? I ate the chicken and it was delicious! The next day I went back to being a vegetarian and all was well.
    Time to grow up and realize that the world needn’t come to a halt to salute you and your choice of eating habits. You made the choice to marry a meat-eating man, now try to be graceful about it.

  28. Andrea says:

    Q10 – well said #20 Kevin and #23 Diane!

  29. R S says:

    @Q10 – Have you explored options for cooking the meat outside? When my mom cooks fish, even if it’s 15 below outside, she cooks it outside, because the smell lingers forever.
    For other things, like bacon that get cooked inside, we open up the windows, get the fans going, both ceiling fans and the exhaust over the stove. A couple of our neighbors have crazy exhaust systems installed over their stove, and at dinner time, our neighborhood smells delish…
    For cleanup, perhaps invest in dishwasher safe pots/pans/grills. Even if they don’t come out entirely clean, that would remove a good part of the residue & smell, so whatever is left isn’t as pungent to deal with.

  30. Allison says:

    @Q regarding teaching teens:
    A method we’ve found effective teaching our teens about money: pull out the monopoly money and go through a real-deal month at your house. We laid out the money that represents Mom and Dad’s paychecks for the month in $50s and $20s. The kids eyes got big when they saw the stack of bills. “You really make that much?” In $50s and $20s. Do it in $100s and the effect is not as great!

    Then start taking the money away. We tithe 10% and teach our children that that happens first. After we pay the Lord, we pay ourselves and put that in a savings that doesn’t get touched.

    The kids nod and aren’t one bit surprised. Because these are lessons we’ve taught them with birthday money from the time they were 5. As teens, they are ready for this next part:

    Have the kids start naming off the expenses. Chances are, they’ll get the house payment or rent, and the utilites: electric, gas, garbage. They might realize there is a cable bill and a phone bill. And food. They’ll remember food! But they might not realize how much it takes to feed your family for a whole month. Have them take out those amounts from your stack of income.

    Let them keep taking away money from the pile while you discuss what those expenses are. When they think they are done, ask some leading questions. Do you have a car payment? Does that car take gas? Do you have medical insurance? Do you have regular prescriptions? Is dental or glasses covered or are those extra expenses? Are there school trips and activities? Are there music lessons or sports clubs that you pay for? These are the things they may not realize are chipping away and taking more out of the pile.

    When you’ve covered everything on your expenses, discuss what the REST of the money represents. Is every penny gone? For a time in our lives, that is exactly how it was. We seriously had $10 left in our stack, and it helped our oldest kids realize why Mom watches the sales flyers in the grocery store so carefully — so we could eat and pay all the bills and not be in debt. Now we have a little more leeway and they kids truly appreciate the place we are in.

    This very visual lesson we repeat every single year, when we review our budget as parents. We credit our children being good savers and financially aware to this very thing.

    Hope it helps someone else!

  31. Jeanette says:

    Trent writes:
    “If I’ve learned anything about blogging, it’s that the one thing that makes it more vital and valuable than other media sources is the genuine connection with the writer, someone who is sharing what they honestly know and think and value. If that isn’t there, why not just go read CNN or the Wall Street Journal?”

    Blogging is more vital and valuable than other media sources? Really, Trent? Really? Wow. Your true bias now comes out.

    I read both traditional and new media as well as many, many blogs of all types in all industries. None of those sources is without some issue as regards objectivity and “sponsorship” of content, including blogs. Blogs are not all written by folks with your intention and motivation (or alleged motivation and intention, we don’t know you, but we do have a pretty good idea of who owns and runs the WSJ and the NY Times, for example).

    To make a claim like that is the height of arrogance. Even having lots of readers doesn’t really justify that sort of comment.

    it sounds as if you’re saying that these two media (and others) do not provide content that is authentic and/or something readers can “connect” with, as your blog and others do. Wow.

    It’s one thing to “defend” your choice to blog without DIRECT payment (because you are getting “paid” for your blog via advertising on your site. That IS a form of pay.) but quite another to then cast aspersion on media companies that pay writers and editors to create content.

    Bloggers are not necessarily smarter, unbiased or more truthful than the traditional or new media writers and editors. In fact, very few bloggers that I’ve read in any industry succeed if they aren’t in fact “biased” to some extent. That’s where they gain their following. The most successful are opinionated and don’t pretend otherwise. They often don’t follow the rules of reporting in terms of accuracy (as in separating fact from opinion) and often regurgitate opinions as fact without substantiation from studies, etc.

    Do what you do, have your opinions, but don’t set yourself on some kind of high horse or pedestal, Trent, when it comes to content. You clearly have biases and you clearly (as your readers have pointed out on more than one occasion)are not an expert on some of the things you write about. You have opinions. Your blog is, in essence, like other blogs, a big Op-Ed page, which receives no editing.

    I’ve read a lot of stuff on your blog that I don’t personally agree with, but I was willing to accept it as YOUR opinion, to which you are entitled.

    But when you start thinking of what you write as being MORE valuable and relevant than other sources, well, I’m seriously rethinking whether I want to read anymore. In reality, I often get far more from the brave folks who write here and call you on you your stuff.

    Very disappointed to hear this attitude Trent.

  32. Melissa says:

    Trent, Is there any chance that you can elaborate more on what you served your houseguests to eat? My husband just got laid off and we have a total of 5 of us in the house; 2 adults, 16 yr old boy, 14 yr and 10 yr old daughter (all would eat us out of house and home). We really need to look at cooking thrifty.

  33. Des says:

    RE: Q10 –

    I think it is telling that some commenters automatically make the meat-smell a moral issue. Do we have some very defensive omnivores in the group? I didn’t read anything in the question that sounded morally superior – she just finds meat repulsive. I don’t cook duck eggs for my mother because she is freaked out by the fact that they came from a duck she knows – even though that doesn’t make any sense to me. Likewise, I think it is reasonable not to force Delores to wash dishes covered in something she finds so disgusting. If I loved eating cow brains and my husband thought it was gross, I would just accept that I would need to be the one to cook them and clean up after. And I would probably save cow brain night for when he was out of town. That just sounds like when reasonable people do.

  34. Courtney20 says:

    @ Des #19 – and yet, when my brother tried to go to a VA system rehab center, they turned him away at the door because he blew a 0.01 – ridiculous, right? They told him to come back in a week.

  35. kristine says:

    Des-so right.

    We eat all kinds of food, but the smell of liver, or lamb, makes me woozy with nausea. So hubby cooks it when I am not home, or brings it to his dad’s and cooks for the 2 of them. He would never dream of asking me to clean either up, out of simple courtesy.

  36. Sonja says:

    Q5: I have lost 2 friends to alcoholism. One died last year of liver cancer. The other friendship I had to terminate after 20 years due to the hurtful lies/deceit/manipulative behavior which was making me miserable. Jess is right to articulate what she will and will not tolerate. It is a difficult addiction but standing by while someone you love destroys themselves is not being supportive. I wish Jess all the best.

  37. Des says:

    @Courtney20 – Just wow. That is appalling. A bit like the ER saying “Oh, I’m sorry, we can treat you because you’re in the middle of a heart attack. Come back in a few hours when you’re done.”

  38. Des says:

    I meant “…can’t treat you…”

  39. jim says:

    Q2: I applaud Trent for that choice. I think its the better way to do it.

    Q6 Winston : Your employer should be able to help you with questions about their retirement plan. If you have questions like this then you should be able to call up your employers HR dept. and ask them. They know all the details of how it works and Trent doesn’t.

  40. jim says:

    @#31 Jeanette, I don’t think Trent is trying to say his blog is better than major newspapers or TV networks. I believe he was citing one facet of his blog that he does better than major media outlets. The language Trent used he said : “the one thing that makes it more vital and valuable than other media sources…” That term “the one thing” normally used to cite a single pro in favor of one side. That doesn’t mean he thinks his blog is better in general.

    Its like if I said that : “The private school here gives a better education than the public school in my town. But THE ONE THING that makes the public school better is that its free. If you’ve got lots of money you should just go to the private school.”

  41. Kathryn says:

    Q7: Another practical way to teach kids about money is to make them responsible for some of their own expenses. The 9-year-old is probably too young for this, but it could certainly work for the 14-year-old. E.g., total up how much YOU spend on your teen each month for his/her clothes, outings, media, etc. Then give him/her that money to make those purchases. Accompany the money with some ground rules and some budgeting help. Then step back and let your teen learn from experience–don’t bail him/her out or make any purchases in those categories from your own funds.

  42. Sue says:

    @ Q10
    @ #29 R S

    I’m in agreement here. My hubby uses the barbeque – state-of-the-art, picked up slightly used on Craiglist, and the “other” love of his life – on our back porch 12 months of the year. Bonus is that I rarely have to clean the oven :)

  43. JS says:

    Q10- On the days when he cooks meat and it’s your turn to do the dishes, is there a reason you can’t offer to do one of his chores in exchange for him washing the dishes? My husband and I often trade chores- the other day he did one of my cleaning chores so the place would look nice for guests, so I did his share of the laundry that week.

  44. bogart says:

    Q5 I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. Regardless of what path is right for your husband (a topic commenters above me have pursued), Al-Anon may be a useful resource for you. I hope you are able to find the support and strength you need.

    Q7 Hard to say, we raised one “well” and one “badly” using the same approach with both (see Q9). I’m a fan of regular, modest allowance with responsibility for buying certain things the kids need/want (not the basics on the Maslow scale — nutrition, shelter, but meals out with friends, or movies, or sports equipment — my folks made me come up with 50% for that last item and then would cover the other 50% themselves). I don’t think the particulars matter vastly, just set up a system and stick with it (this doesn’t mean you can’t change it, but changes should be discussed in a reasonable, calm manner and then implemented prospectively, not retrospectively — it’s OK to admit you got something “wrong” or that it could be better structured) that roughly means the kids have to be able to save for 2 weeks to buy anything they want, and 3 or more for anything expensive they want (where what constitutes expensive, obviously, is a range — thus the “or more.”). By the time I graduated high school, I managed all my entertainment costs, fuel costs, activity (sports equipment, lessons, competitions) costs, personal travel costs (yes, I went on short trips solo or with friends in high school, not sure today’s kids do that), clothes costs out of my allowance and earnings.

    We also tried being generous parents from time to time, e.g. matching 50% or even 100% of savings on the part of the kids for a specified time and goal (“We’ll match — give you — however much you manage to save in your bank account over the summer”).

  45. Julie says:

    I find it interesting that Trent was ridiculed for thinking he might not like pumpkin soup, yet it is perfectly acceptable for #10 to be disgusted with meat.

    Diane….I love your response. I am not a meat lover, but I am not a full vegetarian either. More often than not, I sense the many vegan/veggie friends that I have do send out a vibe that they have “progressed to a higher level” than those who still eat meat. (I suppose this is similar to comments that have been made in the past by those who feel Trent is somehow judging others or acting superior to those who either don’t share some of his values regarding money/frugality.)

    I only have one good friend that has the same attitude as Diane…and I love her for it. She never even remotely appears to be judging those who choose to eat meat.

    Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a funny routine on how vegetarians brag. I think most meat eaters can relate to his comments, so there must be some truth behind them.

  46. Nate Poodel says:

    Q5-check the success rates of various programs and then see if you really want to stay in the marriage until the next relapse. You may save yourself not only dissapointment but also money by getting out now.

    Q10-I totally understand the aversion you have to the smell of meat cooking. It makes you want to puke, right? Try to compromise and let him eat meat for lunch at work or only when he does it on the grill outside or only cold cuts or at a restaurant. That way you won’t be dealing with the smell for hours inside the house. I’ve known several veg/non-veg couples and it works for them.

  47. LeahGG says:

    Q10: I’m going to agree with people and say that there needs to be compromise. Have him cook outside on the grill, cook the less offensive stuff like chicken, cook in the oven instead of on the stove, eat it out, etc. In my house, we eat meat or chicken 3-4 times a week. (chicken twice, beef once, sometimes there are leftovers if the beef was in a stew or something – no pork ‘cuz we’re Jewish). My sister is married to a veggie and only some of her kids eat meat, so they only cook meat 1-2 times a week, not counting deli meat, which any of the meat eaters might grab a sandwich of during the week

    Use aluminum foil in the pan or disposable pans for cooking meat/chicken in the oven. The grease is difficult to wash off, so make it easy. Have your husband rinse his plate before he dumps it in the sink so there won’t be anyhing terribly greasy to deal with.

    On the other hand, if there is a smell, turn on a fan, simmer some potpourri, and remember that there’s always a cost for living with someone else. If there’s a little grease, wash the dishes with gloves on…

    If everyone gives in a little, nobody has to give in to the breaking point.

  48. Charles Cohn says:

    All the comments about doing the dishes make me want to ask “Why don’t you have a dishwasher?” That makes the dishes a non-issue.

  49. deRuiter says:

    “My husband and I married late last year. Since the marriage, he’s quit his job and now is drinking heavily. I am support us and his stepson (paying the child support).” Jenn, face it, he married you to get a meal ticket, money and child support. This isn’t a love match, unless you consider that he loves your money. He negotiated a good deal: marry you, never work again, and have his child support, mortgage payment and bills paid. Girl, dump this deadbeat and maybe he will straighten out, maybe not. Get rid of the anchor about your neck and go find some nice, normal person who isn’t a lush. Since you are paying ALL the bills and child support, STOP NOW! You may, if you divorce this deadbeat, find yourself in the position of having to pay him alimony forever. How about them apples? Get out now! Stop paying child support and his bills today. The house is HIS, why are you paying the mortgage? Jess, you are the cash cow and he married you for your money.

  50. @Q7 I’m not a parent so I can only relate in the abstract. But I recommend that Crystal get the book The Complete Tightwad Gazette. Read through it and you’ll glean the author’s approach to dealing with money and her six children. It’s a very concrete and common sense approach. She made money very hard to come by for her children, and set some non-negotiable apportionment rules about savings and charity. After that, the kids were free to spend as they liked. But since the parents were frugal and didn’t bombard their kids with every last thing they ever expressed a wish for, the kids took their purchasing power seriously, and learned the value of saving up for something they wanted. And also, perhaps not incidentally, the value of shopping at yard sales and thrift stores.

  51. Diane says:

    #45 Julie – Thanks for the kind words, but mostly thanks for the Jim Gaffigan tip. I just watched it twice on funnyordie(dot)com and I’m still smiling as I write this. Great stuff! Incidentally, I really dislike bananas and eat them sparingly, only because I know they’re good for me!

  52. tentaculistic says:

    #30 Allison – what a great idea to use Monopoly money to show exactly where the money goes!

  53. Cheryl says:

    #10 Delores- burning some nice smelling candles may help overpower some of the meat smell. But you will have to decide if you can live with a meat eater. Hopefully he has some other qualities that outweigh the fact your diets are different….

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