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Unrequested advice not advised

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A married couple, both good friends of mine, are going through a very rough time financially. Together, they made some bad decisions that led to their current financial situation; those decisions originated with her.

She periodically writes about her financial difficulties in her weblog, which I read. She also writes frequently about things such as new purchases, and her husband getting angry with her for buying more.

They’re both deeply distressed by their situation. Unfortunately, she seems to use “retail therapy” to relieve her discomfort. My friends are both unhappy, and her coping mechanism makes the problem worse.

I am distressed by my friends’ pain, and by the fact that my very bright friend seems to ignore the connection between spending and debt. It’s not quite bubbling about new purchases and complaining about their finances on alternate days, but close.

I see two opposing choices: Be polite and keep quiet, or be caring and speak up. Is there a middle ground? Is it possible to offer unrequested advice without being offensive? If it makes a difference, what I want to suggest is that they see a debt counselor.

I do see the irony of requesting advice about unrequested advice.

GENTLE READER: You might also take a look at the irony, or rather the futility, of advising people who overspend that they would be better off financially if they spent less. Few of them reply, “Thank you, I hadn’t thought of that; I’ll try it.”

True, you are suggesting that your friends buy this advice, presumably along with specific suggestions for cutting down. Some people do shape up when they are charged for being told.

But Miss Manners notices that your friend does not make such connections. And her husband has already critiqued her expenditures for free.

It should make it easier to refrain from offering unrequested advice to realize how unlikely it is to be followed.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: At what age are kids too old to go trick or treating?

Adults enjoy putting on costumes, and dressing up, but how many youngsters have a chance to attend costume parties?

My husband and I enjoy admiring cute tykes and their costumes, but have been just as accommodating to the older or larger trick or treaters.

My granddaughter said she wasn’t going trick or treating this year, but she still wants to dress like a character she admires; so she is taking her little sister around the neighborhood.

Although the older sister is just 12, she is about 5 inches taller than me and a smidge taller than her mother and better developed than I ever was, so she would surely garner comments about being too old to trick or treat. But we don’t think she is too old to also want a little fun!

GENTLE READER: Even more than she admires your attitude, Miss Manners appreciates the resourcefulness of your granddaughter. There could hardly be a better excuse for a post-tyke to dress up and go trick-or-treating than escorting a tyke or two. Etiquette hint: Let the little ones get their candy first.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at