Friday, May 25, 2007

Crossing the Line: From Frugal and Fair to Tacky and Stingy

You have to read <a href="">This week's dear prudence</a> to the end to get this question, but I totally agree here. In general, where there is a concern about how to split up a cost in a marriage, a common theme is to divide the costs proportionally to income. Similarly, there are other common schemes to avoid issues of splitting the costs of vacations and dates.

This question crosses into new territory when a divorced couple has to manage the costs of splitting up a week at the beach and letting their kids stay the whole time, plus one step child from one of the couples.

One of the two insists on a prorated schedule, but the other thinks that the first is being nitpicky. I had to include this because I feel like it is the absolute epitome of people crossing the line from frugal or fair into the realm of cheap and tacky. So here is my personal rant to this mother:

In this case, the step daughter is a friend of the other two children. I wouldn't dare to charge extra for this child just because of the fact that she is "not yours". Now if you were taking about 3 or 4 more kids, then it might be a different story. But two of the three kids there are yours.

Putting it another way, when it is your kids that are going to stay there, if they brought a friend, would you have the friend's parents pay for it when your whole family was going there? Of course not. The marginal cost is nothing except food. This means that this extra child really doesn't cost anything and you're just being tacky and stingy.

One common theme when it comes to money is you know you are crossing the line when your level of frugality puts people in an akward position despite having the money to avoid it. And if the position is awkward and inconveniences other people, then it is just above and beyond what is considered fair in my book. In this case, would you deny that kid a chance to be at the beach a few more days with her friends because of a pro-rated 40$ bucks or something like that? No, of course not. This is when frugality crosses the line.

If you really didn't have the money and needed it, that would be one thing. But that is not true here. And honestly, if you were "that close" to the edge on money, should you really be doing the vacation in the first place?

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