Helping out an unemployed neighbor



NEW YORK (Money magazine) -- Money magazine readers answer your financial etiquette questions.

Question: Some of our neighbors have been hit hard by the downturn. We often have get-togethers where we take turns cooking for each other. Should we pay for more of the food costs, since we can? -- Name withheld

The readers say

No. You are assuming that your neighbors are in a weaker financial position than you, and you run the risk of hurting their pride. If your friends are strapped for cash, they will figure out a way to opt out of these get-togethers or reduce their own spending somehow. -- Brian M. Fraley, Morgantown, Pa.

Yes. Find ways to surreptitiously take over some of the expenses, whether you do more of the hosting or slip a gift certificate for the supermarket into someone's mailbox. If people protest, let them know you'll be happy to celebrate when things are going well again. -- Julie Gervais, Ferndale, Mich.

Your generosity in this case may not be well received. Gently drop a hint about putting the tradition on hiatus for a while. If your neighbors don't agree, you have your answer. -- Brian D. Jaffe, New York City

You should always supply the costliest items: the main course and adult beverages. Say something like, "I have a new recipe for -- (lobster, margaritas) that I have been dying to try." -- Mary Mussoline Rogers, Coral Springs, Fla.

The expert says

You aren't obligated to foot the bill for your neighbors, since you've already decided as a group how everyone should contribute, says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of Protocol School of Palm Beach. But if you want to chip in extra, bring a batch of brownies or second bottle of wine instead of offering cash. "That's a less obvious way to spend more," says Whitmore.  To top of page

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