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By timestaff
July 3, 2007

by JEANNE FLEMING, PH.D. and LEONARD SCHWARZ

Question: My brother’s a terrible cheapskate. Two examples: He gave my son a two-dollar comic book for Christmas, though we always give his kids nice presents. And I paid for most of our father’s 65th birthday party because he claimed many of the expenses, like nice wine, were unnecessary. I say my brother’s penny-pinching is unfair to other people, but he says the way he spends his money is none of my business. Who’s right?

Our answer: That depends. Is your brother truly a cheapskate or merely a tightwad?

Here’s what we mean. Your brother isn’t required to spend his money on more expensive gifts, more expensive wines or anything else just because that’s what you’d prefer. And that’s true whether he’s Donald Trump or Donald Trump’s driver.

There’s a big difference, though, between being tight with money and failing to spend what an occasion calls for. If your brother was unwilling to pony up for his share of the food and drink that others in your family agreed would be customary for your father’s party, then he’s a cheapskate. And if that’s the case, it is your business. You have every right to protest and every right to insist on being reimbursed.

Now about those nice presents you’ve been giving your brother’s kids: Has he happily accepted them and said nothing, or has he let you know he thought they were extravagant? If he’s said nothing, you again have a right to complain. Because unless he’s told you he doesn’t want to exchange expensive gifts, your brother has no business reaping the benefits of your willingness to do what he won’t - spend money on other people.