A Friend in Need: What’s your responsibility?

If a friend was ill and needed a meal or lost a job and you didn’t come to the rescue are you are bad friend?

Does your friendship come with a price?

A single woman reached out to Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax upset that when she became ill none of her friends came to help.

“Several of my friends knew I was under the weather and I’m very sad to say that not one called to ask if I was feeling better or if they could do anything. I really could have used some food and, yes, a bit of friendship,” the writer, who described herself as a middle-aged woman, wrote. “I have lived very independently for a long time and admit that I’m not comfortable asking for help,” the writer said. “My friends have very full lives with family, so am I selfish to hope they would notice a friend without family could be in need? Is the onus on me to reach out? If so, what are the words — help, I’m sick, I’m vulnerable, I’m alone?”

Read Hax’s response here.

In the case of this writer, the cost to help wouldn’t have been great. But the situation made me think about another scenario. What if a friend needed help with back due rent or a car payment? What if he or she didn’t ask but you knew financial assistance was needed? Do you offer?

Or what if the person’s dire financial situation was the result of irresponsibility? Do you still lend a hand or cash?

I want to hear from.

Color of Money Question of the Week

Do you offer to help someone financially if they don’t ask? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “A Friend in Need” in the subject line, and include your full name, city and state.

Family Vacation Drama

In the same Hax column about the ill friend not getting help, another reader had a vacation question. She and her husband are planning to take their two kids to Europe this summer. They invited her parents, whose company they enjoy. But the parents in turn invited the reader’s sister and her family, with whom they don’t get along.

“We vacationed last summer with them and ended up cutting it short because we could not take them anymore,” said the frustrated vacationer-to-be. “How do we tell my parents that we do not want them to come? This is our only vacation for the year, and we would like to enjoy it.”

You can read what Hax said here.

My family takes a two-week vacation every year. We used to go for just a week, but we found we needed more time to decompress. We also used to regularly invite folks along.

We don’t anymore.

On the rare occasion when we do, there are lots of talks about expectations. And who can’t come. I add that last bit because, seriously, people will try to add on folks to your vacation.

Why is this a money issue?

Because your time is priceless, and the cost of most vacations ain’t cheap. Yes, I said ain’t because I want to get very real with you.

I work too hard saving for time off to endure anyone who will get on my nerves. I don’t want my vacation to be ruined with the drama that can arise when family and friends come along. Often they don’t mean any harm. But people have different vacation personalities. Put a high-strung vacationer with someone who just likes to sit and read, and you got issues.

I don’t want to hear the sighs, jokes or criticism when we sleep in very late the first couple days of our vacation and lounge around in our villa. We vacation fairly well as a nuclear family because all of us are content to take things extremely slow. Our vacation styles are similar. We don’t like to fill our vacation with a lot of excursions. We just like to chill.

One year we vacationed with some folks who couldn’t stand just chilling. They had to fill every waking hour of the vacation with activities. They knocked on our door at what we thought was a crazy hour – 9 a.m. During one vacation, I got stuck planning and cooking the whole time for my children and other people’s kids — whose parents would wait so long to feed them that their kids would be nibbling off what I had prepared for my children. Out of frustration, I just gave up and made enough for everybody.

So, be careful about whom you invite, and when you do extend an vacation invitation, be clear about how you enjoy down time and who can come along. Otherwise it can cost you your peace of mind.

Live Chat Today

Today, at noon, join my Color of Money Live online discussion.

It’s just you and me. If you can’t participate live, send in your questions early.

No Tipping Allowed

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “Do you think restaurants should ban tipping?”

Many restaurant patrons prefer to have the tipping line removed from their tabs, according to a survey by vouchercloud.net, which researches consumer spending habits, reports Charles Passy of Marketwatch. And when people do tip, the survey found an overwhelming majority tips less than the customary 20 percent.

So, what did you think of a tip ban? Here’s what some of you had to say:

Former Washingtonian Barbara Bermpohl, who now lives in France, said there is no tipping there -- except by tourists who don’t know any better.

Bermpohl wrote: “In France, being a waiter is considered a respected profession. Yes, profession. And waiters are paid accordingly by the restaurant owner. So there’s no tipping expected. In fact, tipping is considered to be insulting. When I go out to eat, I feel good knowing that the wait staff is paid properly. I generally receive excellent service, and I don’t have to ‘do math’ at the end of a nice meal.”

“General tipping in restaurants should not be banned, as it often accounts for a significant portion of servers’ incomes,” wrote Lorna Gilkey of Alexandria. “However, what should be banned is the mandatory gratuity some [restaurants] charge. It should not be up to the restaurant to decide what amount my tip should be; that is between me and the server who did, or did not do, a great job.”

Irene Vartanoff of Hedgesville, W.Va., wrote: “Ban tipping. It’s good for nobody. It encourages restaurants to pay servers almost nothing.”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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