Translation:My older sister spent too much money recently!
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Preference is usually given to produce the variant featuring spatial distance even with a more 'straight forward' interpretation. Chinese, as with most other languages of the East, favors particle-ended sentences; this list including grammatical 了 的 吗 吧 呢 yet also forms without syntactic definition 啊 呀 哈 et cetera.
Use the compact form when including a temporal aspect for context, 去过了[location] or 马上到了[location]
This may be true, however the Chinese form for continuing action could be 我的姐姐最近在花太多钱 "my older sister is [currently] spending too much money [or has been up until even now]".
The difference is probably excessively subtle where learners would simply elect to interchange the phrasing. Yet just be aware that there could be distinction to a Chinese listener.
Thanks Dublow, that makes sense. I think I'm beginning to get the hang of some of the subtleties of 了... Maybe. Richard I'm sure every 姐姐 is smart and also beautiful! But in particular I think it's just something to get used to with the duo Mandarin course - they want the precise/correct translation, not necessarily the most natural-sounding English. It makes sense I guess but it does get a little frustrating sometimes