Updated on 03.15.11

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Sister-In-Law Visit Edition

Trent Hamm

My sister-in-law and her soon-to-be spouse are coming to visit us for several days starting later today. I actually quite like my wife’s sisters, as they all have fairly similar personalities, intellects, and humors, so it should be a fun period.

Finding the Path Toward Your Perfect Day This is pretty similar to my oft-stated idea of making a sketch of your life as you would like to see it five years down the road. Erica’s approach is to simply sketch out what your “perfect day” would be like in the future (not an exceptional day, just what an ordinary day would be like if your life went where you wanted it to go). (@ erica douglass)

Peak Debt and Income This is a great little argument (using real numbers) that spells out why it makes sense to help lower-income folks get jobs rather than cutting tax rates for the rich in terms of getting the economy going. (@ philip brewer / wise bread)

The “7 Childrens’ Book MBA” I’ve already had several really good discussions with my oldest child about some of the meaning of “The Lorax” – not just the environmental message, but the business message, too (since banking your whole business on a non-renewable resource is a bad idea). (@ jonathan fields)

Do You Give to Panhandlers? I don’t give them money directly, though I might give them a sandwich or something like that, particularly a homeless child. Instead, I contribute to services that help people who are willing to help themselves (like food pantries, etc.). (@ man vs. debt)

Survival Tips for a Sole Proprietor These are all great pieces of advice if you’re considering a path of self-employment. (@ the digerati life)

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  1. Michelle says:

    Do you not usually enjoy the company of other women? Why say you “actually” quite like them?

  2. Wes says:

    Geez Michelle,

    People can’t choose their in-laws as easily as they can choose their spouse. You pick who you want to be married to, and then the in-laws are incidental. Since people have less say about who their in-laws are than they would for most of the other people they hang out with, it isn’t uncommon for relationships with in-laws to be strained due to personality differences or lack of commonalities. All Trent is saying is that his wife has sisters, and he gets along with them.

    I know people have been on Trent’s back lately, but comments like this are frivolous. If you’re going to be critical, try to criticize a flaw in the post that isn’t your own fabrication.

  3. Shannon says:

    Wes, you are wrong. The sentence was very jarring to me also and puts across Trent as some great being that is benevolent enough to like his wife’s sisters.

    The difference between JD of Getrichslowly (who actually addresses commenters’ issues with his posts; he did so just recently in a whole other post) and Trent who carries on his own merry way couldn’t be more stark.

  4. Interested Reader says:

    It took me a second to figure out what he was saying. Sometimes I feel like Trent choses awkward phrasing because it seems more “writer-ish”. Like yesterday with “the female” I don’t know why he couldn’t have said “the woman/wife/mother” it would have been less jarring.

  5. EJ says:

    It’s sad how many people only look to criticize EVERYTHING Trent posts nowadays. Seriuosly, get a life. His point made perfect sense to me; not everyone can stand their significant others brothers and sisters.

  6. The piece has also started to pick up some pretty interesting comments from readers. Thanks for the kind words and the link!

  7. Wes says:

    What am I wrong about, Shannon? Is it not uncommon for in-laws to have less in common with each other than self-chosen friends would?

    And how am I wrong by pointing out that Michelle’s criticism is of an imagined jab at women? Isn’t it just a coincidence that Trent’s wife has sisters and not brothers? If she had brothers, wouldn’t it be just as likely that Trent would or would not get along with them?

    Sometimes people are “jarred” by someone’s statements because that statement is truly offensive. Other times, as the case may be here, people are just easily offended and refuse to give the writer the benefit of the doubt, even in the face of a perfectly logical and “politically correct” interpretation of the statement.

  8. Interested Reader says:

    Michelle and Shannon – would it still be jarring if it was worded more like “My sister in law and her fiance are coming today for a short visit. My wife and her sisters are very similiar. I really enjoy their company and I’m looking forward spending time with them.” ?

  9. Johanna says:

    My first thought was, “I wonder if Sarah’s sisters read this blog, and if they do, what do they think about Trent’s comment that he ‘actually’ likes them?”

  10. Mike31 says:

    I agree with Wes. I think Trent was just trying to say that he “actually likes” his in-laws. I don’t think it has anything to do with not liking hanging out with women as some others seem to imply.

  11. kristine says:

    If you leave out the word actually it sounds like he likes them– not like it is somehow expected to not like in-laws, but he “actually likes them”. It assumes a reader’s negative reaction to “in-law” visit, or assumed mild surprise that he likes them, which is countered/qualified with an actually. Equivalent of a “but…” It is inadvertently revealing of the writer’s assumption that most peopel view in-laws (or he does most in-laws) negatively.

    But it is probably just clumsy writing, like clumsy speaking, such as “truthfully speaking…” (why,do you normally lie?), or “to be honest with you”, or he/she is “actually” nice! -as if it was expected not to be the case. I think it’s just conversational writing that borders on casual speaking- often not as precise as we’d like.

    But if it was chosen carefully, then perhaps self-reflection is in order on why. What is off-putting to me is putting forth intellect as one of the measurements of likability. Anyway- this blog is heavy on analysis paralysis in the comments, and I grow weary of it.

    I am just wondering if a sandwich was offered to homeless child, if they take it. They are down and out, but I am wondering if an already vulnerable child is wise to take food from strangers. They are more at risk of stranger danger than anyone else there is. I would give a child money, or a McD certificate, where they can get many needed calories for very little money, and are not in a position to prepare food.

  12. Borealis says:

    I can’t people are actually this concerned about grammatical style issues.

    Most people tolerate their in-laws, some hate them, and some actually like them. It is a compliment, and his in-laws would be glad to know that he isn’t just accepting their visit as an obligation to his wife. That one word conveys a great deal and is good writing.

  13. Michelle says:

    Interested Reader #7: I think your re-wording is much better.

    I doubt Trent would have used the word “actually” if he were describing his wife’s brothers.

  14. Gal @ Equally Happy says:

    Why are you people (Michelle and Interested Reader) still reading this blog? You seem to hate Trent and his blog and are doing your best to be destructive. If so, why waste your time here?

    If you think you’re being constructive with you comments, you’re wrong. Nobody reacts well to comments like yours, not with their tone or manner. If you want Trent to change something, perhaps a friendly email or a constructive comment would help. Otherwise, you’re just coming off as petty children trying to get your way.

  15. Johanna says:

    @kristine: I think Trent is referring to a situation he wrote about a while back, when he saw an unsupervised child eating french fries out of a dumpster. He went and bought a meal from McDonald’s and left it for the child (who by that point had run off somewhere).

    I don’t always give to panhandlers, but when I do, I give them money. Once I tried giving food – a woman on the subway was asking for money, and I gave her a granola bar I’d brought with me for a snack – and the look on her face as she accepted it, even as she thanked me politely, will stay with me for the rest of my life. It clearly said “Here’s yet another rich person who thinks I’m too stupid or too untrustworthy to decide how to spend my own money.” I now figure that I’d much rather take the chance that they might spend the money on something I “disapprove of,” rather than issue yet another blow to the dignity of someone who’s already in a terrible situation.

  16. Kathleen says:

    @Johanna: couldn’t agree more with your take on panhandlers.

  17. Interested Reader says:

    I don’t hate Trent. I’ve said this before, but I think Trent has some pretty good ideas but they’d be better if he’d taken some time and develop them.

    Of course I don’t think that’s a priorty for Trent. Also it seems to me that Trent has a habit of being wordy for the sake of having a lot of words which leads to confusion. This isn’t the first (or second or third or even tenth) time that a reader/readers have been confused by Trent’s meaning or intent because his sentences are awkward.

    I don’t believe that Trent meant a slight against women (or in laws) but it’s a strange sentence and it caused confusion.

    I’m more and more variety of PF blogs I read (and this was the first one I read) the less I’m enjoying TSD.

  18. Borealis says:

    How much you wanna bet that Michelle majored in Womyn’s Studies at Bryn Mawr College?

  19. Interested Reader says:

    What’s wrong with studying Women’s Studies or going to a good private school?

  20. Adam P says:

    Just want to chime in to the Trent haters, please keep posting your criticism. JD @ Get Rich Slowly is a much better blogger than Trent, but I get my jollies for better or worse reading your snarky and sometimes on the money comments. It would be boring if Trent were as good as JD; I’d stop coming here and then Trent would lose traffic (if I represent a group of people, perhaps I am unique in this then the traffic drop off wouldn’t be noticeeable and that’s fine if so).

    Sometimes it’s just fun to watch how far old Trent can dig himself in, whether it’s candles in the wind or $3 bathing suits for womyn.

  21. Ryan says:

    I think it was just a joke playing on the stereotype that in-laws are a PITA…

  22. Gretchen says:

    I tend to agree with Interested Reader.
    Ignoring the grammar issues, Trent can have a very awkward writing style.

    Comments shouldn’t have to say things like “this is what Trent means,” especially on a regular basis.

  23. Bill says:

    Giving cash verses goods:

    I was going into a liquor store and a couple was coming out, they looked a little rough, the lady was in a wheel chair missing a leg and no front teeth. She had a 5th of cheap vodka on her lap. She hit a small rock and the bottle fell and broke.

    The guy freaked out, was screaming at her. I went in a bought them a 1/2 gallon of a decent vodka. They seemed happy with it.

  24. jackie says:

    @16. Ever notice that only people who hate women use the word “womyn”?

  25. BJD says:

    In his Nov 29, 2010 post The Egg Nog Dilemma he wrote: yes, I actually like my mother in law!

    So it looks like Trent *actually* thinks the jokes about not liking your in-laws are the reality for most people.

    I agree with several of the posters – and #20 Gretchen summed it up best

  26. Lex says:

    I don’t. I’m so sick & tired of seeing them exploit children for sympathy and to get extra money. There are a gazillion food banks in my city and plenty of social housing, very good shelters, and it makes me sick to see these children out in the cold, forced to sit still all day as their “parents” use them as props.

  27. valleycat1 says:

    I hadn’t seen the Seven-Children’s-Books MBA post before & enjoyed it and the comments it received.

  28. Borealis says:

    I never knew there were laws about blogs!

    Trent’s blog is what it is. He writes about personal finance, recipes and just other stuff. He writes a great deal and in a conversational style. He re-reads it probably once or twice himself, and he doesn’t use an advanced spell checker.

    And of course, Womyn’s Study majors at private Title IX exempt colleges are the world renown best at spotting unintended subconscious misogyny in white, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, lower-upper middle class, non-vegan, post-modern, carbon-emitting writers. Just listen to NPR if you don’t believe that.

    What puzzles me is why certain people stay up late at night to be the first person to comment on Trent’s blog and its hidden hatred of women and vegans? Sounds like stalkers to me.

  29. Mister E says:

    I generally assume that most in-law relationships are ones of tolerance rather than true affection and so I personally would have phrased it very much the same.

    I like my in-laws fine, we have never had any issues of any kind whatsoever. However, do I ever socialize with them for my own sake? Nope, not ever and probably not going to start.

    Most of my friends are now married or in permanent relationships and maybe it’s just the circles that I run in, but true affection for your in-laws is pretty rare in my world.

  30. Interested Reader says:

    Trent is a vegan. So, Borealis if you don’t like vegans prehaps you shouldn’t read this blog.

    And exactly how much fist hand experience do you have with Women’s studies or are you just repeating stuff that someone told you so you it has to be true?

    I’ve only taken 1 Women’s studies class and that was a public community college and most of the students were white, hetreo, anglo-saxon, lower middle class, and Protestant. There were also a few (gasp) men in the Women’s studies class who evidentally weren’t just there to pick up chicks.

  31. Cristina says:

    I don’t usually have cash on me because I prefer using credit cards as much as possible. I used to drive through an area with panhandlers, and I often had a snack with me, such as a Fiber One bar, which I offered to them if they made their way to my car before the stop light turned green. That was until one of them gave me a completely disgusted look as he tossed it into his bag, in spite of his sign that said that he was desperate, and that anything would help.

  32. Pnut says:

    OK guys, am I the only one who thought it was a funny choice of words to say it should be a fun “period”?

  33. Borealis says:

    I love talking to Womyn’s Studies students because they are so predictable.

    Of course football players take Womyn’s Studies classes. The athletic department tells them to because the exams are so easy — just blame white men for everything and it is an easy A! They can pick up cute heterosexual girls in PE classes.

    Trent is not a vegan, but even if he was, so what? Non-vegans still eat vegan dishes all the time. It is only vegans that discriminate/hate/scream/yell and write nasty comments about dishes that don’t meet there political agenda.

    The Simple Dollar does become repetitive because there is only so many ways you can say “don’t spend more than you earn” and “think about the future.” His picture recipes are a good attempt at a new story arc.

  34. kristine says:

    Johanna- excellent point about the dignity. And Bill- that was a very odd and somehow enlightened thing to do. I might have done the same thing.

  35. Kathleen says:

    Regarding word choice, I thought “quite” was more awkward than “actually”.

    Anyone with me? This may be a personal preference. I prefer a spare style.

  36. Johanna says:

    “Quite” is worth avoiding, if only because it has two possible meanings that are almost opposites: It can mean “very much” or “completely,” or it can mean “somewhat” or “partially.” Which meaning you see in a particular context depends on what variant of English you grew up speaking – some variants don’t have the second meaning at all. So there’s potential for confusion there.

  37. Des says:

    “unintended subconscious misogyny” is the most insidious kind, and is also the only kind worth pointing out (since, we can assume, the intended conscious kind would be obvious to everybody).

  38. Marsha says:

    @18 Adam P.–

    Well, there’s at least two of us.

  39. Borealis says:

    The “unintended subconscious misogyny” is the most insidious kind, because it reveals the mind of the listener and not the speaker.

  40. jackie.n says:

    i agree with interested reader and adam. i think there would be a different mindset if this blog was a “hobby”. anyone who reads this blog regularly knows this is trent’s job, aka line of work/livelihood. to profess that this is your passion and that all you have dreamed of was to be a writer doesn’t make sense if you ignore suggestions to improve on the very basics–grammar, sentence structure, mispellings, overuse of some words (simply, actually, whatever the flavor of the day). this is the face of your business. this is your career. you are married to an educator of children. i am curious as to your wife’s take on the comment section of your posts.
    people interested in personal finance will read other blogs and compare, and possibly comment. i would think anyone in the business of financial blogging would welcome input and consider all feedback to improve and capitalize on this particular “income stream”.

  41. Borealis says:

    I am glad all you Trent Hating guys are looking out for what is best for Trent. However if you actually consider his thoughts, try reading below the comments you type:

    “Constructive comments of all kinds are welcome. Negativity is not.”

  42. marta says:

    Borealis, many people have left many *constructive* comments, pointing out (politely) which aspects of the blog/post/whatever could be improved. But after it becomes pretty obvious that Trent doesn’t care about constructive criticism, you can’t blame people for getting a tad cranky in their comments. One instance is the constant erroneous tax “advice”, without Trent ever acknowledging or correcting it, even after comments point it out. Or the weird insistence that a Roth IRA is the way to go (because taxes are going up), despite comments repeatedly stating that you don’t pay taxes on your money until a certain threshold, and so on, and on.

    It’s not about “hating” Trent. It’s about reading all these poorly researched posts and then groaning inwardly whenever Trent claims this blog and writing to be his passion.

  43. Bill says:

    @#37 Borealis

    I would never criticize Trent’s grammar or spelling as it is far better than I could do.


    I have never understood when to use I or me. A comment I read here gave this nugget of wisdom “leave out the first person and see if the sentence still works”. That made more sense to me than all the ‘object of the adjective adverb’ stuff.

    I’ve been so secretly proud of working in ‘me’ properly into written conversation.

    I consider that ‘negative’ comment very ‘constructive’, I learned something I’ve struggled with for a long time.

  44. David says:

    No, no. The grammarians would reject “negativity is not” on the grounds that it is a double negative, while the logicians would reject it on the grounds that it is a tautology. You can’t win, but this does not mean that you shouldn’t try.

  45. marta says:

    @Bill: ha, that’s my trick for the “I/me” issue and it’s surprisingly easy, too.

    And here you have another boggling thing: the “professional writer”, who does a “pile” of writing drills and whatnot, can’t figure this out, even after many people have explained this (with different degrees of politeness, I’ll admit).

  46. Kathleen says:

    Marta hit it on the head. There’s a reason why the tone in the comment section has developed (devolved?) to this point. With a few exceptions, I don’t think people really want to “hate on” Trent.

  47. JackieBooks says:

    I don’t think Trent was being mysogynistic at all.I think he was using an informal writing style, like “wow, I actually like my in-laws!” At the same time, feminist criticisms should not be shot down by commenters implying that a feminist education is bad and something that should be made fun of. Hey Borealis, lemme guess what you are! Baby Boomer with too much time on his hands? Start giving people the benefit of the doubt. It’s easier!

  48. Andrew says:

    Re: panhandlers–The moment you give your money to anyone it ceases to be yours and becomes theirs to do with as they see fit. It what they want to do is buy drugs or alcohol that is what they will do. If this bothers you do not give them money! Just don’t whine about your lack of control.

  49. Gal @ Equally Happy says:

    But if you are really that upset about Trent’s writing, why are you still here? There are a thousand and one PF bloggers for you to stalk and correct. Heck, if you want a target rich audience, try some of the personal fitness bloggers and enjoy correcting posts about homeopathy and primal living. What’s the point of this personal crusade against Trent?

  50. Johanna says:

    @Gal: Do you really mean to imply that posting comments on a blog that allows comments is anything at all like stalking? Because if you are, then wow.

  51. AnnJo says:

    Johanna raises an interesting point at @13, but a) begging pretty much gets past the ‘dignity’ issue to start with, and b) it stands to reason that a fair number of people who are begging for money are indeed too “stupid or untrustworthy” (or more likely drug or alcohol impaired) to manage their own money. Does giving those people money help them or harm them? Since the only reason any of us would be likely to want to give money to total strangers is to help them, that question needs to be answered.

    I feel more comfortable making cash donations to organizations that are competent to make those judgments, like the Salvation Army.

  52. jackie.n says:

    @45. is it a personal crusade if you don’t know the individual personally? PERSONALLY i don’t feel that pointing out false information re: tax information/retirement advice dispensed to the TSD mass audience could conceivably be construed as “stalking”. JMHO.

  53. Nancy says:

    Michelle et al are correct about the usage of “actually” in this context. It implies that this is unusual. I think Trent is the type of person who welcomes others’ perspectives in order to improve his writing, so I think bringing it up here is appropriate.

  54. Leah W. says:

    Pnut, #32, no you aren’t. Trent, next time a woman comes to visit you, never tell her it “should be a fun PERIOD.”


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