Updated on 06.23.10

Reader Mailbag: Pee Wee Baseball Season

Trent Hamm

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Rent or buy a condo?
2. Prioritizing limited money for savings
3. Encouragement for staying at home
4. Cell phone: pay-as-you-go or not?
5. Prioritizing debts
6. Wedding gift registry etiquette
7. Worried about dad
8. Tax savings for independent work
9. Delaying student loan repayment
10. Choosing a savings account

Out of the five games scheduled in my son’s three-and-four-year-old tee ball league, four of them have been cancelled due to rain. I haven’t seen him this disappointed since his third birthday, when he invited four kids to his party and they all cancelled due to a flu bug.

Currently my husband and I are renting a 1-bedroom apartment while we pay down student loan debt and save for a down payment for a house. The problem is this: we are paying about the max we are willing to in rent (which is still the middle-bottom of the scale), but lately, my husband and I have felt unsafe– thugs and their ilk hanging around our complex. If we move to a safer complex, our rent will increase by 20%. All the while, we’re seeing condos for sale for which the mortgage would be 35% less than we are currently paying in rent. So we feel trapped — get out of the unsafe apartment complex and delay buying a house that much longer, or take a risk and buy the condo with close to 0% down but save significantly on rent every month. What should we do?
– Rachel

If your monthly payments on the condo are less than the rent on a one bedroom apartment in a bad neighborhood, get the condo.

In most normal situations, rent is substantially less than the mortgage payments on an equivalent space – and even if they’re close, the cost of homeowners’ insurance and the maintenance costs add up to more. The general advice of “keep renting” is usually predicated on this.

However, it sounds like you’re in a situation where your monthly condo payments would be significantly lower than your monthly rent. If that’s the case, you should move to the situation that has a lower monthly cost, without question. Even if you have PMI in this case, you can just view it as paying rent.

In my opinion, if all costs are equal between renting and buying (including maintenance, insurance, commuting costs, and so on), then one should buy, because one will build equity over time with that purchase. However, if you don’t have a down payment and the cost of buying is higher than the total cost of renting, then a person should continue to rent until they have enough down payment to avoid PMI.

I am married to an up-to-his-eyeballs-in-debt lawyer. However my lawyer is on a government repayment plan where if he does community-service-like work for 10 years, whatever amount is left of debt will be forgiven (the catch is that he has to make full payments throughout those 10 years).

We’re wondering where we should be putting our extra cash–here’s our story: we live in a very modest home with a very modest mortgage (about $800/mo mortgage (with 5.5% interest), where renting an apartment would cost us around $850 in this area). I’ve started some Roth IRAs for us and have started squirrling away some cash to get a healthy reserve in place. Right now, we have about $10k in savings, with a $88k mortgage and $140k in his law school debt. I have about $10k in student loans at varying percentage rates (from 1.8 to 5.8). Like Jeremy, we are in our late twenties and thinking about kids in the next couple years. My current plan is to work on my 5.8% interest loan and then to let the 1.8 go to full repayment since it’s such a low rate. If you were in our situation, what would you do?

We have about $300-$400/mo to work with and our 5-year plan is to have our first child and move to a larger home, so should we be maximizing savings? Putting away money for retirement? Paying down our mortgage? Should I even be thinking about his legal debt if it’s scheduled to disappear at the end of 10 years? (monthly payments are about $900)
– Jean

How much is your current home worth? Are you underwater in it, or are you in a housing market that is starting to grow again (yes, some housing markets are doing okay)?

This is actually pretty key, because when you do decide to move to a larger house, the equity you’ve built in your current house will be a big asset for that move. If you can sell that small house for, say, $140,000 and you only owe $88,000 on it, then you’ve got $52,000 towards your next home. On the other hand, if you’re even right now (or underwater a bit), you likely won’t have that much built up.

If your primary goal is saving for a new home and that goal is within the next five years, you’re going to want to save in a stable place. If I were you, I’d make extra payments on the mortgage by tacking on some extra each month.

If your husband is fully planning on working in community service for the next decade, I’d not worry about his debt beyond that. Just keep paying it each month with nothing extra. I would also just make minimum payments on both student loans for now.

As for retirement savings, it really depends on the worth of your current home. The bigger the gap between what you owe on it and what you can get for it, the more I would focus on retirement savings. Remember, you should be shooting for a home equity equal to about 20% of the type of house you hope to buy.

Both my husband and I are currently working, and we have a small one (a daughter who just turned 6 months)
that is in daycare full time. Our ultimate goal is to get her out of daycare so I can be at home with her. We want to do this by December.

I feel we make more than enough money to be able to do this but, all the math I do, is just doesn’t seem to add up for me to be able to stay at home, despite how much we bring in.

I’ve read a lot of the comments on your articles about staying at home and how people make it work, I guess I just need some encouragement to stay the course.

I just am at the point where I’m banging my head against a wall, feeling like I am stuck in this cycle; working to afford the expenses and my greatest fear is that we are just stuck in this cycle, and one day I’m going to look up and she’ll be 16 and we missed it all.

At the same time, I just want to quit my job, and sign up with my husband’s benefits (which will be an additional expense, and also more expensive than my benefits) and see what happens, but I’m afraid that it will be such a huge change in what I’m accustomed to that I will fall into wanting things that I don’t need and possibly putting us into debt.

We know that our goal (and our values) are for me to be a stay at home mom, but some days it seems almost impossible.

Any thoughts?
– Liz

It takes a lot of discipline to pull this type of thing off.

If you truly want to be a stay-at-home mom, then you have to make sacrifices to get there. I made a lot of sacrifices to get to where I currently am and it was worth it, but it was hard along the way.

What can you cut? Look at all of the stuff in your life and ask yourself whether you need it as much as you need to be a stay at home mom. What about your cell phone? Do you need that more than you need to be a stay-at-home mom? Keep in mind that every time you spend money, you’re pushing that dream of yours off a little bit further.

You absolutely can do this. You just need to keep in mind that, as Dave Ramsey puts it (and it’s one of the best ways of putting it I’ve ever heard), sometimes you have to live like no one else so that you can live like no one else.

You mentioned once about Pay As You Go phones, but I wondered where these cell plans are as the ones in my local areas do not seem like good deals (25 cents a minute)? My current plan is $35 a month for 500 anytime minutes (with nights and weekends free), but I currently use about 200-250 monthly. What would you recommend in my case to save more than my current plan, if possible?
– Michael

You might be using enough minutes so that a pay-as-you-go phone won’t be worth it to you. Such phones only really pay off for very low users (like myself, actually; I don’t like cell phones, but that’s a whole different story).

Your first step would be to check with your provider and see whether they have a lower minute plan. A 300 minute plan looks like it would fit you – do they have something like $25 for 300 minutes? If they do, see if you can switch to that, because that will likely be the best fit for you. If not, look at competitors.

If such options aren’t available, you need to sit down and really evaluate your usage. Do all of your minutes happen on only a few days during the month? If so, you might want a pay-by-the-day phone, for example. Are you using the phone at home when you could easily use Skype or a landline?

Here’s a summary of our remaining debts:

Primary mortgage = $160K @ 5.25%, $1100/mo payment
Secondary mortgage = $24K @ 8.625%, $322/mo
Car loan = $17K @ 4.99%, $540/mo (We refinanced to extract equity to pay down second mortgage in order to qualify for a refi on the primary mortgage)
Balance transfer credit card = $7K, 0% through next April, used to help pay down second mortgage to save interest, will pay it off in time to avoid interest

Retirement accounts are at Vanguard, some with our state’s retirement system from when we both used to teach public school, all totalling about $35K. On our IRA’s for this tax year, we’ve contributed $2500 out of $10,000 we possibly could. My 401k will be resuming in July, which I’ll contribute about 6% of my income to get a full match from my employer.

Here’s my question: I know my priority is to first pay off the balance transfer credit card. But after that, what should be my priority? I almost see that secondary mortgage as like a consumer debt, and the interest rate is a killer, and I’d like to pay that off. However, while three months of an emergency fund is good, I don’t feel that’s adequate either. But sitting on more money in an emergency fund with so little being earned in interest compared to the car loan or secondary mortgage seems like a waste, too. Perhaps I should focus on paying the car off, because that would free up $540/mo and I’d only have to pay $17K back to do that. Should we not contribute the full $10K/yr in our IRAs in order to pay down debt or build up our emergency fund faster?

There doesn’t seem to be an obvious choice here. Help!
– Aaron

Your first debt priority should be that balance transfer, because it will be very painful when the interest resets if you don’t have it paid off. Luckily, we agree on that point.

After that, my first debt priority would be the secondary mortgage. It’s only a bit bigger than the car loan but the interest rate is much higher.

If you feel that your current emergency fund is inadequate, then channel some more into that emergency fund first.

Once that secondary mortgage is gone, I would hit the car loan next, simply for cash flow purposes. The difference between that interest rate and the primary mortgage rate is negligible.

My girlfriend and I recently got engaged. We are getting married in April next year. We are both from small towns that are close together so there is no way around having a big wedding. We are following lots of tips for saving money on the wedding, but I have a question about gifts. Because the wedding will be big, there should be a lot of gifts. We don’t really want to register for a bunch of junk that we are never going to use. We are going to register for some good quality kitchen and bath stuff, but its not going to be too much. We really want to be able to buy a house soon, so we are saving up for a down payment. Would it be bad etiquette to register for a few things and then ask people to give us cash to go towards a house down payment? Also, do you have any advice on the whole registering and wedding gift getting process in general?
– Lance

The important thing to keep in mind with a wedding registry is that it’s merely a list of suggestions for people who aren’t sure what to get you. It’s not a list of stuff that people are required to get you – it’s just a helper.

Directly requesting cash as a wedding gift will come off as tasteless to a lot of people. You’re better off allowing people the freedom to get you whatever they’d like – using the registry as a “helper,” of course.

If you want cash, just register at somewhere like Target and put a bunch of easily-returnable items on your list. After you unwrap them, return the ones you don’t really want to Target and get the entire balance on a gift card, then use that gift card to buy groceries and save the equivalent amount of cash for your down payment.

Here’s my situation. I am a 25 year old high school physics teacher. I’m recently engaged and I just moved to Houston to be closer to my fiance. She’s in medical school currently. Ironically enough, out of the two of us, I’ll be bringing the most debt into this marriage. I have about $15,000 in student loans from college and about $4000 in credit card debt currently. Both of those numbers are way down from what they were once I pulled my head out of my rear about a year ago and busy paying them down.

I make a decent income for me currently and the credit card debt will be gone a few months. Our plan though is for me to go back to grad school after this next to seek a phd in engineering. These are all things that we’ve been planning and we’re budgeting accordingly.

However, with Father’s day I started thinking about my dad a bit. He’s a 64 year-old programmer who works from home making about 200K a year. The company he works for just got sold this last year and is now under new management. I’m really scared they are going to try to force him out and I highly doubt he’ll be able to get a comparable job.

He’s getting older and he has a lot of health problems. Also he hasn’t been financially sound throughout most of his life, so basically if he got fired tomorrow he’d have to declare bankruptcy. Obviously I would do anything for my dad and if this were to happen 8 years later I’d be able to support him. At this point in life though, I just don’t see how I could help at all. Any advice?
– Bobby

It doesn’t sound like, in your current situation, there’s much you can do to directly help your father in a financial way. Nor, would I imagine, would he want you to if it were to unbalance you financially.

They may try to “force out” your father, but he’s making $200,000 a year. He’ll receive maxed-out Social Security benefits. Depending on his exact situation, he may have a pension and he may receive an exit bonus in order to get him out the door. In other words, I don’t think his financial crisis will be immediate.

If I were you, I’d simply be as supportive as possible during this stage. Call him regularly. Send him emails. Let him know you’re in his corner. Tell him if he wants to talk through what’s going on, you’re there.

This can be a hard conversation to have at first (depending on the relationship), but it’s well worth it and will be a bigger net positive to your father than going further into debt to “help.”

I have a few questions that hopefully you can shed some light on since you are self employed. I am 24 and finishing my MS and have been awarded a research contract position at the US EPA. In order for them to process my contract I had to register with DUNS and CCR and am now my own business I think.

I know I need to save a portion of my income (would 20% of 21.84 per hour be enough?) and pay estimated taxes but am not sure how to execute that.

I also know that I will be able to deduct many things from my taxes like student loan payments, health insurance payments but are you aware of any other things I am may be able to deduct? Someone told me if I kept track of mileage I may be able to deduct that. I just want to make sure I am keeping track of anything I might need to before I start working. I have been told a CPA would be helpful but I don’t want to spend the money on that if I can easily handle this myself.

I am also looking into opening a Roth IRA since I have no employer matching, being a contractor. I saw you mentioned a SEP IRA but I don’t know much about that or if I would be eligible.
– Kristin

A CPA is much more likely to point out deductions for you and to help you make sure your taxes are correct and your prepayments are done correctly. That’s the value in hiring one.

The biggest thing you need to know is that you’ll have to file quarterly estimated income taxes at both the state level and the federal level. You’ll want to study up on 1040-ES and your state’s equivalent.

During the year, you’re better off socking a significant portion of your income away in a savings account for tax payments. I sock away 40% of every dollar I bring home in a savings account strictly for taxes. (I label it 2010, and start a new account each year.) At the end of each quarter, I pull money from that account to make my quarterly payments, then at the end of the year, I pay all of my income taxes from that account. If there’s money left over, I just transfer it straight into my primary savings account.

With a SEP-IRA, you can only save money that you earn as part of the business. You’ll probably want to contact the HR folks at the EPA to see what retirement options are available to you.

I was laid off last May from an industry that has little prospect of improving in terms of hiring and never paid well to begin with. Faced with those bleak prospects, I went back to college last fall at the age of 31. I’m taking prerequisite classes at a local community college and hope to gain admission to a master’s degree program in the health field with a very high employment rate.

My student status makes me eligible to suspend payment on my existing loans which are all consolidated, previously-subsidized Stafford loans that I borrowed for my bachelor’s degree. They are at about 3 percent and I have a little over $4K left on the balance. I am also eligible to take out more unsubsidized Staffords to cover the $2,000/semester cost of attending community college.

Are cutting out the $125/mo student loan payment to make room in my budget now, and borrowing extra to slow down the depletion of my savings account, both smart financial decisions in the long run?

I have a health emergency savings account that is keeping me afloat for the duration of my schooling. Yet, my budget is rather tight. The extra $125 would help me slow down the draw-down on my savings by more than 10 percent. (I recently began taking out $1,000 a month for living and school expenses after my unemployment benefits stopped.)

The only money I have coming in is from sporadic freelance writing jobs and renting out two of my bedrooms but that all goes to the mortgage. I’m also not borrowing for this part of my reschooling; I have another six months of taking pre-requisite classes ahead of me before I can even apply for the master’s degree program I have my eye on. I do plan to borrow for graduate school. The interest rate on the existing loans is around 3 percent and the balance is about $4,000.
– Jen

If your choice is between cutting a $125 a month payment on a 3% loan that you can defer or pulling $125 a month off of a credit card that you can’t pay back or from an unsubsidized Stafford loan, the choice is obvious. You should defer the student loan payments.

Your goal, in the end, is to owe the least amount possible when you get out of school. That means maximizing the low interest loans as much as you can so that you don’t have high interest loans building up your principal while you’re in school.

If you’re not making ends meet right now, you’re likely racking up consumer debt, which comes at a much higher interest rate than 3%.

My wife and I have about a 6 month emergency fund in a money market. We’re only getting a whopping .25% interest rate. I’ve taken your advice to try and open up a new higher interest account for this fund but there are so many options – even some in Australia. Could you recommend a few bank options for us? Is it safe to have our money in a bank account from another country?
– Brian

There are a lot of good banks out there that blow away a 0.25% rate.

The two online banks I use are ING Direct and SmartyPig. I use ING Direct for most of my primary banking needs – savings, checking, bill pay, and so forth. The accounts there earn around 1%, but it varies quite a lot.

I use SmartyPig to save for specific goals. The interest rate there is higher – between 2% and 3% – but you have very limited account access. You can only deposit once a month on a schedule, for example. It works great if you’re saving for a goal piece by piece, though.

Shop around. I guarantee, though, you’ll get a better rate than 0.25%.

Got any questions? Email them to me or leave them in the comments and I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag. However, I do receive hundreds of questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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  1. Andy V says:

    @ Lance,

    Trent’s suggestion regarding returning items people gave you from your registry will only work with certain stores. As a recent bride, Target is NOT one of those places. They actually had the worst return policy of the places people purchased gifts for us from. Bed Bath & Beyond (the only place we registered) had the BEST return policy by far. For the few items we returned they didn’t even require a gift reciept (not that we had one anyway). Oh and they gave us the choice of a gift card or cash back for the returned items. We took the gift card because there were other things we really like at that store.

    I guess what I am trying to say is make sure you know the store’s return policy before you register :)

    Best wishes for the wedding planning!

  2. Johanna says:

    @Rachel: Be careful when comparing the costs of owning a condo versus renting an apartment. You say the mortgage payment would be less than you’re paying in rent, but the mortgage is not your only monthly cost. There’s also, among other things, the condo fee, and that can be significant.

    It’s possible that the condos you’re looking at are priced as low as they are because a lot of the current owners are in financial trouble and are looking to sell at any cost. Be careful about buying into a building like that. If your neighbors stop paying their condo fees (which fund maintenance of the building), then either you have to pay more, or the maintenance doesn’t get done.

    One more thing to consider: You say that only lately have you felt unsafe in your apartment building – so I guess that when you first moved there, it didn’t feel unsafe. What happens if you move into a condo building that feels safe now, but the thugs start hanging out there in the future? It will be much harder for you to move, especially if you have little or no equity.

  3. Melissa says:

    Liz, I just want to encourage you to go for it. A year ago, I decided to stay home. On paper this did not work- I made more money and we have a giant mortgage (based on the assumption that we would both keep working). I now work part time in the evening when my husband can watch our son. I also serve as a fill-in sitter when my friends have daycare issues. We don’t count on the baby-sitting money in our budget (because it is sporadic) but it covers the surprise expenses. Now that I’m home, I also have time to shop at two grocery stores to get the best deals and watch a few blogs to get ideas for matching coupons with sales. Our lives are less hectic so we plan our purchases wisely. We don’t run to a restaurant 3 days a week for lack of planning. We accept hand-me-downs from friends for our son. He’ll never know (or care). You may discover, like we did, that after a year you have MORE money in savings because you have time to pay attention. Good luck with your decision.

  4. marie says:

    I completely disagree with the comment to register for stuff and then return it to get cash or store credit. That is totally inappropriate. If a couple registers, people assume that they WANT what they registered for, and that if they buy something off the registry, the couple will ENJOY it, not return it (unless there is an unfortunate duplicate). If you don’t want to register, DON’T. Most people will assume that you want cash if you don’t register. Also, although you can’t ask for cash, you can tell people in your wedding party and they will pass on the word out. Most people understand that a couple starting out needs money!! But I think a lot of people would be insulted to find out that there gift was returned for cash when they took the time to pick something from your registry.

    So, register for the items YOU want and will use, and that’s it. Tell people in your wedding to spread the word that money is a great option and ignore the writer’s tacky recommendation.

  5. momof4 says:

    About returning items you registered for, make sure you check the return policy. I don’t think Target gives you cash for the returns. I think it’s store credit.

  6. Fred says:

    Prepaid cell phones: I recently switched to Page Plus cellular. Uses the verizon network, and airtime is 4 cents a minute ($80 for 2000 minutes).

  7. Amy says:

    For what it’s worth, it’s my understanding that you can add additional money to a SmartyPig savings goal at any time. I can’t find it in the FAQ, but I just went to my account and there was an “add money” option. So you could just set a very high goal and make high deposits. The max deposit per month is $50,000. However, I believe their new 2.15% interest rate is lower if you balance if over $50,000.

  8. Johanna says:

    @Michael: You don’t say how many night and weekend minutes you use (which would not necessarily be free on a pay-as-you-go plan), but you might save money with Tracfone’s “double minutes for life” card in combination with, for example, their 1500 minutes for $200 card.

  9. Amy says:

    I agree with comment #2 (Marie) that says she disagrees with registering at Target just to return gifts for cash. It’s disingenuous at best, or just outright dishonest at worst. It costs your wedding guests time and effort, and it costs the store time and effort (which will eventually be passed on to consumers).

    And all this just to avoid looking tacky by asking for cash in the first place! Which *is* certainly tacky. My view is, too bad if you want cash. Your wedding guests are not there to do your bidding, and people like to give actual presents. Register for things you want, or don’t register at all, and accept what you’re given in the spirit in which it’s given. Of course, you can return duplicates or something that just isn’t a fit for you, but to set out to return things in the first place…. wrong.

  10. Des says:

    Yeah, the SmartyPig information is not correct. You can add money to you goal at any time, and you don’t need to have a recurring monthly deposit. The only think that is more restrictive than a regular savings account is that you cannot take out a portion of the balance – it’s all or nothing. But it’s a great place to park your emergency savings (assuming you have less than $50k).

  11. MattJ says:

    @ Lance:

    Be careful about taking Trent’s advice regarding returning items bought through Target’s registry. They’re notoriously difficult with returned registry items. There are complaints on Consumerist, RipoffReport, epinions, various wedding forums, etc. Use a search on google like this:

    return wedding registry items to target

    Unless they’ve recently changed their registry & return policies, I would avoid them.

  12. mollyh says:

    @Lance – there are a lot of websites out there that allow you to aggregate your registry and also add items like “down payment for our dream house”. Check out http://www.ourwishingwell.com for ideas. This kind of thing is also very good if you have a couple of higher priced items on your registry (say, a $500 set of pots and pans) because people can contribute any amount to any gift on your list, then once the purchase amount has been reached, either the gift will be purchased or you’ll get the money to purchase it (I think that is a logistical difference between some of the sites that do this sort of thing).
    Hope that helps! And congrats on your upcoming wedding!

  13. Johanna says:

    @Lance: Why does being from a small town mean you have to have a big wedding? Do you *want* a big wedding? If not, can you just say to people, “We’ve decided to have a small wedding with just close friends and family”? Or is there a law that says you have to invite everyone in town?

  14. Wesley says:

    As for wedding gifts, this is one way my family is awesome. It is tradition in my family to actually just give money. Makes things super easy, and everybody seems to love it so they keep it going.

    Since I am getting married next year, this is a good thing.

  15. D says:

    @ Lance:
    If you register at bed bath and beyond, they give cash for returns of items that were on your registry, receipt or not!

  16. Leigh says:

    For wedding gifts asking for any is tacky in most cultures. People are supposed to ask your parents/family or you what you want/need. You than tell them where you are registered or what you need.
    It is easy for you Mum to say that you are registered for some things at Macys, but are also trying to save for a house. Leave it at that and they make the choice.
    It varies, but we got a lot of checks, some for quite a lot at our wedding. Particularly from family so start mentioning the down payment goal in a non wedding gift sort of way.

  17. Katie says:

    I’v heard a way engaged couples are setting up accounts for house downpayments and honeymoon accounts where guests make contributions. I feel this can be appropriate if done in a tasetful manner. Let’s face it, people are getting married later in life and have most of the stuff our parents would register for to “set up a home” when they left their parents home. Another option is to keep the registry small and only for things you want; therefore limiting the guests options and they will probably more likely to give cash. Also more stores are providing regristeries such as Home Depot and the like.

  18. Jon says:

    I disagree about the registry. I always buy something off someone’s registry and don’t use it as a guide. When people use it as a guide, you end up with my situation. We got multiples of everything because people took it as a “guide”. Some of it was non returnable. The purpose of a registry is to see what someone wants AND to see if it has already been bought.
    I also disagree with returning stuff to Target. If you want cash, ask for it. Set up a Smarty Pig account or something and ask people to donate to that instead. There are many tasteful ways to ask for money instead of a useless gift you will never use.

  19. lilacorchid says:

    Yes, I’m with a lot of the previous commenters about the wedding registry. Don’t register somewhere for crap you don’t want just to get the money. People are going to get you what they want to get you, and some won’t even bring a gift. (And that’s okay, because you are not having a wedding for the presents, are you? ;) ) And other people are going to look at the registry for ideas and then go somewhere else to buy you that item.

    If you want money, start telling people that you are saving up for a down payment on a house. Tell everyone in the wedding party and your family that if anyone asks, that’s what you want.

    In the city I live it, people do put “Presentation Only” on their invitations, though I don’t think that would fly in the small town from where I grew up.

    Look, you’re going to get towels that don’t match your bathroom with a cowboy hat and lasso embroidered on them because Great Aunt Polly thinks giving money or an iPod isn’t a traditional wedding gift. Those towels will make a great cat bed!

  20. M says:

    Liz – I empathize with your situation, but jumping into this with the math not working out is putting yourself in a risky position. So first let’s check the math – do you have a good enough understanding of marginal tax rates to understand what your income taxes will be with just one income? Remember that the 2nd income is taxed at (likely) 25% and 28%, but the first income is taxed at 10%, then 15%, then 25%, then 28%.

    Second, are you spending more than 50% of your husband’s take home income on “must haves” – house, car, cell phone/gym/etc contracts? Then you’ll need to think about reducing those costs – find cheaper housing, a cheaper car, etc. Painful initially, yes, but huge savings. Mortgage rates are so low right now that refinancing might be a good option. Revisit insurance options, to make sure you have what you need but aren’t overpaying for it.

    Third, do you have savings to cushion you? There’s less wiggle room in a one income family, and having savings is extra important.

    If you can offer some more specifics, we might be able to help. Good luck to you!

  21. Kacie says:

    To the woman who wants to be a SAHM but doesn’t know how to make it work…you can do this! Heck, if you want, you can email me with your expenditures and what your future income will be and I’ll show you how it can work.

    As long as you aren’t swimming in debt, it’ll be alright (and even then, it could work!).

    It will take some getting used to, but it’s so worth it!

  22. lilacorchid says:

    @ #10 Johanna – It’s not so much a law as a very strong suggestion. A 400 person wedding where I’m from is the norm. When I got married, we had it in the city where we lived and only had 100 people. My mother was very upset that she we didn’t have it back home and couldn’t invite the entire town. It’s an excuse to have a big party and see all the relatives that you haven’t seen in a long time.

    Wedding invitations don’t go out to specific people, then go out to Mr. and Mrs. SmallTown and Family. You can get 20 people RSVPing from one invitation. On the other hand, events like these are involve drawing numbers to see what table goes up to get food next. It’s really fun if you’re just attending! :D

  23. Becca says:

    In regards to the person asking about the wedding registry. I would actually recommend avoiding Target at all costs! When we were returning things from our wedding registry it was a pain to go through their process and groceries there are far more expensive than at your local grocery store. Bed, Bath, and Beyond will sometimes allow you to get cash for the gifts you return, so if your local store will allow you to do that, then I would recommend putting the bulk of your registry there. They are MUCH more wedding friendly at BBB!!

  24. KT says:

    To the wedding couple – http://alternativegiftregistry.org could allow you to come up with a way to imply your values to others, but I agree that registries must be used as a help to the giver, not a command from the recipients.

    Also, Bed, Bath, and Beyond is the common place to register and return items – in fact rumor has it that it’s a common practice. They make it super easy (having gotten married over a year ago – we kept our stuff mostly, but did return one or two items).

  25. Kat says:

    I registered at Target for my wedding, and it was a MAJOR hassle to return ANYTHING. This is for duplicates, not for items that I put there as a money grab.

    Tell the bridal party and parents you want cash, they can spread the word. Anything other than that is tacky. People give gifts to express their joy, I would be hurt to know I picked something off the registry that was immediately returned because it was only there as a money grab.

    Rachel, when you say your condo mortgage is that much cheaper, are you also including TAXES and ASSOCIATION FEES? What about the extra thousands in closing costs? All this can be expensive and increase the monthyl payments. And I kind of doubt that if rent in a semi-bad neighborhood is more than the monthly cost of the condos that the condo’s neighborhood is going to be nicer in the long run. Is it so much cheaper because the owners are defaulting and such? This can a sign of a declining neightborhood.

  26. Suz says:

    Etiquette for weddings is that no one is expected to give you a gift for your wedding. No one.

    But, in our culture most people have bridal showers and most wedding guests give gifts.

    If you don’t want to register for kitchen or household gifts, you shouldn’t do it. If you have a honeymoon trip or something like that in mind, you can register for that instead. It tends to freak people out when there isn’t a registry and they don’t know what you “need” so instruct your parents to say that if someone would like to give a gift, that you would prefer cash.

    On another note, Bed Bath and Beyond gives CASH back for returns. I didn’t even need a receipt at times but I DID need a registry in order to get cash back on gifts given as a wedding or shower present. Sometimes you might need to ask about getting cash back, but they always did it for me.

  27. Gilad says:

    @Bobby – worried about my dad. I think the best help would be to nudge your Dad to start a healthy life style. There are many simple (although hard to adopt) things he can do to improve his health significantly, which will in turn improve his financial situation (less medical bills, less prescriptions…). From walking around the block every day to eating more veggies and less red meat.

  28. Ishtar says:

    @Michael, RE: Pay-as-you-go.

    I’m a single mom, with a teenager. We use tracfone. The phones each cost ~$30, then I purchased “double minute for life” plans (2 years ago – don’t quite remember the cost. ~$70/ea?). Now, we’re both on a plan that adds 250 minutes a month each for $20.09/mo (the plan is for 125 mins, but the double minutes gives us 250). That’s $.08/min. Sometimes my daughter goes over, and I add another 100 mins to her phone for $10. So, I spend $40-50/mo for phones.

    I haven’t found a family phone plan with unlimited txt (teenager!) for under $80 with regular carriers.

    Oh, on txt – the tracfones charge .3 mins for each txt, in or out, while to connect a call for however brief a time charges a full min. When money was really tight, we txted more than talked.

    And our phones have limited web connection. It charges .5 mins to connect and each min online charges another .5 min, I think. I’ll have to double check that; we don’t use it often. But C likes connecting to her myspace with it. I’ve used it to get directions, check email (painfully slow), and facebook.

  29. kristine says:

    Jon, there is no tasteful way to outright ask for a cash gift. None.

    I did not register at all, and got 99% cash gifts. That is the best way to go if you do not want stuff. My husband to be and I were already living together, so asking for household stuff seemed like asking for an upgrade, which was to me, weird.

    I find registries often ridiculously long, or filled with items of a price range the couple would never normally buy, and they come off as greedy. Glad yours is succinct.

    If you do not register, the person will either take the time to ask a family member- in which case they should have on hand a list of ideas, and your home colors… or they will just write a check. Usually the latter, as it is easier.

    Some people will be annoyed that you did not register- which is a brand new assumption-the result of retail marketing success, much like the diamond engagment ring. Is is amazing what advertising can normalize.

    And I agree with Johanna- why the big wedding? People still refer to my wedding as the most touching cceremony they have ever attended- just close family and friends, in our living room, presided over by minister friend. It was a sobfest of joy, not an “event”.

  30. Amanda says:

    Rachel also needs to consider the cost of property tax.

  31. Jenzer says:

    @Lance – Just last Sunday, Get Rich Slowly posted a link to a story about “ways to make wedding registries less onerous.” Follow the link and read the article if you can — the author has some good, sensible advice.

  32. Amanda says:

    Lance, When we got married Bed, Bath, and Beyond had a deal for wedding registries that anything you returned off of your registry they’d hand you cash. We did return some items to purchase dishes that I liked better at a different store…

  33. momcents says:


    I know it sounds crazy, but staying at home is one of those things where if you follow your heart, the rest has a way of falling into place. There are an extraordinary number of things that you can do during nap time to save your family money. As your baby gets older she’s going to learn to play independently and “check in” periodically. You can cook and bake and run your home while she plays by your feet and you both can take breaks for cuddles.

    In the evenings, spend some of your quiet time researching new ways to save. Look at the circulars for your local grocery stores online. Learn how to compost. Find recipes for making things from scratch. Watch youtube for examples on how to sew, knead bread, refinish your floors, etc.

    I might be alone on this, but I found my finances have gotten better since I made the decision to stay home. The pressure to keep up with the Joneses dissipates dramatically when you spend all day with the people who love you unconditionally.

  34. matt says:

    wishing you the best of luck bobby, the leap from physics teacher to engineering PhD is pretty large.

  35. Johanna says:

    @lilacorchid: One of the major themes of this blog (and frugality in general) is that just because some expensive thing is “the norm” doesn’t mean you have to do it too. If Lance and his fiancee want a big wedding (and can afford one), that’s absolutely fine, and I don’t doubt that the people who attend will have a lot of fun. But if they don’t want to have a big wedding, they shouldn’t have to have one.

  36. Kristy says:

    @Michael – I use my cell phone less than 200 minutes a month, so this might not work for you, but I’ve found my cheapest option to be T-mobile’s prepaid plan. If you prepay $100 at a time, you get 1000 minutes that don’t expire for a year.

  37. Jackie says:

    You could use a service like http://www.alternativegiftregistry.org/ Its a free way to make an online wish list similar to a registry. But you can register for things you actually want, like cash, charitable contributions, air fare…, instead of being at the mercy of a particular store.

  38. GC says:

    you don’t HAVE to have a big wedding. Destination weddings are a great way to have just your closest family. Many people will not be able to afford a trip to a far off place. Once there (Fiji, Ireland, or wherever) just switch to a different resort after the ceremony for your honeymoon.

    Should you choose to stay back home and have your wedding, simply skip the registry. Just don’t register anywhere. My husband and I did that (because we both lived on our own before marrying) and out of 100 guests, about 3 bought us gifts. The rest breathed a sigh of relief and gave us checks and cash. And no we did not hint, suggest, or ask for cash. They just figured a young couple having a wedding with a sit-down reception probably needed some cash.

  39. valleycat1 says:

    @ Rachel re the condo vs. rent – The best recommendation I’ve seen is to assume that owning a place will cost 30-50% (over the long term) more than your basic mortgage payment. That allows for condo fees, added assessment for repairs, taxes, appliance repairs/replacements, utilities, & all the other items you’ll run into as an owner. And consider that in this market it may be difficult to sell the condo if you aren’t planning to be there long term.

    @ Lance – I’m with the others who vote against registering if you really don’t want the stuff (whether at Target or anywhere else). Also am with those encouraging you to have the size wedding you want, not just falling into expectations of family/social area. and that may well be the expected huge wedding. Being from a small town myself, I know that even if you have a small wedding, there are a lot of family members & friends who will want to give you a gift even if not invited.

  40. Dangerman says:

    “If you want cash, just register at somewhere like Target and put a bunch of easily-returnable items on your list.”

    As many commentors have mentioned, Target is not very good for this. However, Bed Bath & Beyond is EXCELLENT for this purpose: this give cash back on returns from a registry, basically no questions asked.

    That’s how I personally got “cash” as wedding presents.

  41. 8sml says:

    My husband and I had a wedding website, where we tried to tactfully explain that we didn’t need any traditional registry items but would be very excited about any contributions toward a tandem bicycle. We suggested that any guests who were looking for another option could contribute to a charity that we specified.

    We didn’t hear any complaints, and many of our guests told us what a wonderful idea it was. Many years later, that tandem has given us countless weekends and vacations worth of quality time together, and we like mentioning that to our relatives–I hope they feel good that they helped bring us that time together.


    If @Kristin is a contractor, there are no “retirement options” at EPA.

    Also note that @Kristin, as a contractor, has to pay the full Social Security and Medicare taxes.

    So, I guess it would be important to know for sure if this is a contracting gig or not.

  43. lilacorchid says:

    @#23 Johanna – I know. I been reading this site (and others like this) for a long time. Thing is, weddings/family events have a bad habit of having a lot of emotional stuff thrown in to muddy the pot. My mother was devastated that she only got to invite 40 friends/family to my wedding. It’s been four years, and she still talks about it. Money is a tool to make your life better, and if I had the money, (and my husband was okay with large crowds) I would have had the 400 person wedding and invited everyone we knew. Cutting the guest list was by far the hardest part of my wedding. We cut out a lot of things (like a wedding cake) so we could invite more people and stay within budget.

    Also, it’s very normal for these types of weddings in small towns to be community events. They usually aren’t sit down dinners… they are more like giant potluck dinners in a hall that are put on by your church or a local caterer. I attended a perogy party one afternoon and helped to make my dinner for an upcoming wedding. (Mine were probably the ones falling apart too!) Also, it’s generally a cash bar too… who can afford to get 400 friends and relatives drunk?!

    For all we know, the parents of the wedding couple could have been saving for years.

    It sounds like the couple from the original question aren’t worried about numbers and have been trying to save money on their wedding, they just want to know about how to nicely tell people they want money for their wedding. And as someone else put it, there is no nice well to tell people they have to bring you a gift, but you can put out some pretty clear ideas through friends and family.

  44. Leah W. says:

    Lance: Absolutely DO NOT register at Target planning to return items for a Target gift card. The other commenters are right — it’s a complete nightmare. My husband and I registered at Walmart when we got married last year, and they will give you gift cards for returns. We took back a lot of duplicates and some unsolicited stuff we just didn’t need. The only thing to beware of at Walmart is that you can only take stuff back 3 times without receipts in a one-year period.

    On the other hand, though, WHO CARES if it’s “not tasteful” to ask for money? Sure, go register, but you can tell people you want money. Set up a Smarty Pig account and go for it.

    Just remember: IT’S YOUR WEDDING. Say “IT’S MY WEDDING” over and over to yourself when people turn their noses up at you and tell you something isn’t tasteful or whatever. It’s your wedding. Do what you want!

  45. Daniel says:

    @ Michael, re: cell phones – Virgin Mobile now offers a plan at $25 per month (no contract) with unlimited texting and data, and 300 voice minutes per month. I just switched to this from an iPhone and am saving quite a bit of money, as you can imagine. True, it’s only $10 per month off of the $35 you’re currently paying, so I can’t judge whether that’s worth it in your situation. But it might be worth a look.

  46. Julia says:

    Here’s how I think I would handle the gift registry question:
    “If you wish to buy us a gift, we are registered at & and we are also saving to buy a house at SmartyPig.com (or some other bank)”

  47. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “Thing is, weddings/family events have a bad habit of having a lot of emotional stuff thrown in to muddy the pot.”

    That’s exactly why I answered the question the way I did. If everyone is expecting a registry laden with stuff and you don’t have that, all you’re going to do is cause problems and uncomfortable people and sniping. I have seen WAY too many weddings dissolve into this and all it does is put a damper on what could be a wonderful day. If you’re having a large wedding and people expect a registry (which seems to be the case for Lance), give ’em a registry. Fill it up with stuff you might like. If you decide you don’t want the stuff, return it. I suggested Target because you can return the stuff for a gift card and then use that card for groceries (at a Super Target, of course), plus there are Targets everywhere with similar item selections.

  48. Jane says:

    “Etiquette for weddings is that no one is expected to give you a gift for your wedding. No one. ”

    Sorry, but that’s just outright false. Go to any etiquette site and they will tell you the exact opposite.

    From the Emily Post Institute, the queen of etiquette:
    “Guests invited to the wedding have an obligation to send a gift, whether they are attending or not.”

    There is no guideline for how much a gift should cost, but etiquette certainly dictates that you should bring a gift to a wedding.

  49. jim says:

    Rachel : 2 points: 1) do you want to live in a condo for at least several years for sure? If you won’t be there for several years you won’t come out ahead due to closing costs and selling costs and all the overhead. 2) have you added up ALL costs of a condo? HOA fees can be pretty high relative to mortgage costs, plus utilities, maintenance, taxes, insurance, etc. It all adds up a lot.

    Lance: Just don’t register and you’ll likely get mostly cash. Or consider a registry like Honeyfund. Its a website that is just a way to list things you want and then people can ‘buy’ them by contributing cash directly to the website. Its useful if you real desire is something like paying for your honeymoon or a home downpayment. That way you could have 50 people contribute something like $50 each towards a large goal. Or you can list smaller gifts that aren’t really readily purchasable like paying for restaurant meal during your honeymoon. End result is people are buying you part of a larger goal or smaller experiences via cash contribution. You get cash, they are gifting you something specific.

  50. George says:

    @ Lance – Trents idea of registering at Target for a bunch of crap and then returning it all is really dangerous to say the least. Target is not that great at dealing with returning stuff and there is a good chance you could end up with a bunch of crap. Then there is the time wasted in returning all the crap.

    #33 Jim has a better idea and register at honeyfund or some other down payment registry. I had a friend who married in June and most people gave to their down payment fund and they were excited to have the money BE USEFUL and not for a bunch of crap. Some might see it as tacky, but is it better to not be tacky and have a bunch of crap that you can’t use? or be slightly tacky and have useful gifts?

    Its a wedding, so in the end, someone will have something to complain about. Someone will think something is tactless or wasn’t worth the money or whatever. So who cares what they think?! Do it your way!

    And go for a small wedding if you want one.


  51. JJ says:

    Sorry, Trent, this is the first time in three years that I thought your advice was in poor taste — and that’s actually supposed to be a roundabout sort of compliment.

    Most people who attend a wedding want to give the newlyweds something they can use and enjoy. If your biggest priority is a down payment on a house, then say so! How could it hurt someone’s feelings to tell them what you would most appreciative?

    I know that I would be deeply hurt if I took the time to choose a gift — even from a registry — and then found out later that it was returned to go to a down payment. It’s not like they want the money to spend on DVDs. If guests think that’s tacky, well, no one’s forcing them to give a gift at all.

    Of course, Lance and his fiance know the culture of their particular hometowns best.

  52. Mister E says:

    “Etiquette for weddings is that no one is expected to give you a gift for your wedding. No one.”

    Not true at all. In fact most sources will tell you that you should send a gift or cash just for being INVITED even if you don’t attend for whatever reason.

    Look it up.

  53. mary m says:

    As someone who has learned by the burn on buying a condo, I would really think long and hard before choosing to buy one unless you are prepared to own it for a very long time. At the very least you want to consider upgrading from a 1BR to a 2BR should you find the sudden need for a home office or a child’s room.

    Realize up front that owning a condo is somewhat equalivant to living in a communistic community, if a tree falls on the clubhouse, everyone pays for it. If buildings 48-58’s roofs need replacing, buildings 1-47 owners have to pay for the repair also – these are called assessments, and you never expect them, but they come up. You may not be able to sell when you want to because there may be several other units just like yours for sale at that exact time. Any time one of your neighbors forcloses, your property loses value.

    Before the real estate bubble burst, you maybe could have planned on keeping a condo 2 or 3 years and selling and moving on with some equity. Those days are gone. If you get a great price now, you may have some equity in 2 or 3 years, but you may not, there is no guaranteed 4% increase every year like there was 10 years ago.

    If you can possibly find and afford the house you will be happy in for a good 10 years, do that now. Otherwise, maybe keep saving and move to a safer apartment for now. Buying the condo I thought I would keep for 2 years and sell is the worst financial mistake I have ever made.

  54. kristine says:

    Correct. Traditional Wedding Etiquette: A gift is expected. A registry is optional. Asking for cash is a no-no.

    Registering for stuff just to return it- a big waste of everyone’e time, ethically dubious, and a HUGE embarrassment should it leak out. And it will.

  55. valleycat1 says:

    Re Jean – I disagree that the place to put your extra money is toward the current mortgage, given the unstable housing market. I agree with you about paying off your school loans, as they never go away, or setting aside the $ to go toward them to pay them off (since you could lose some of your income when you take maternity leave). You might want to look into disability insurance at least on your husband (if you don’t already have it – rates are relatively low at your age) & the financial burden should your husband be unable to satisfactorily complete the 10 years of community service toward his student loans.

  56. Firstly, thank you for the new summary at the top of the reader mailbag. I had actually stopped reading these posts because, while there is some fantastic advice in them, it was a bit of a needle in a haystack finding the letter that was actually relevant to me.

    Re: the wedding registry. I don’t like the idea of asking for cash, but asking for gifts that you plan to exchange for cash is even worse! For our engagement last year, my fiance and I did not register, but to anyone who asked (which was a lot of people) we mentioned we were saving up for a dining table. The guests who gave us cash were happy knowing it was going to something tangible that we really wanted, and we didn’t offend anyone by asking for it.

  57. SP says:

    Jen – one small suggestion. Take the subsidized loan, all 2k. Use it to pay off 2k of your unsubsidized loans. This will reduce the interest you pay during school.

    (I write this assuming you are the type of person who would do that, not see the 2k and decide to use it elsewhere.)

    I did this when I was in school, essentially exchanging unsubsidized loans for subsidized ones.

  58. Randi says:

    Re: cash for wedding gifts. I just attended my friend’s wedding, and on their website at TheKnot they had a cute little blurb/poem about how they already lived together in a house full of toasters and towels. It ended with something like “If you want to get us something, be creative and surprise us, or cash to help us start our life is always welcome.”

    I thought it was really well done and didn’t find it tacky at all. It makes more sense to give cash nowadays, since many couples are living together before marriage.

  59. AB says:

    Unless they have changed their return/exchange policy, Target won’t even EXCHANGE a damaged registry item without a receipt (gift or regular), let alone give you store credit. We received glasses as a gift, and 4 of the 6 were scratched, in the box, which had never been opened. They wouldn’t even let me switch them for the exact same item. I had to ask the giver for the gift receipt.
    I’m not big on registries, I only did one because guests were asking me to open one. Seriously. I was floored. However, there are a few that let you ask for cash. I think theknot.com has a listing.

  60. triLcat says:

    @Bobby: first, don’t assume that your dad will instantly be in huge trouble. Second, the best kind of help you could give him if he were to lose his job is help in finding new employment.

  61. Laura says:

    To Lance and his bride: My husband and I were in the exact same situation when we got married. I awkwardly mentioned to a few people–aunts mostly–that we needed money for a house more than things. Later, I discovered that Miss Manners has strict rules for this: your own generation is prohibited from giving money. Only your parents’ generation (and older) may give cash gifts. Fortunately for us, our parents and one wonderful aunt came through for us on the cash end more than we expected!

  62. Amy says:

    For the person getting married, register at bed bath and beyond. They give you cash for returned items.

  63. Katharine says:

    @Liz – being a SAHM is very different from being a working mom. There are inherent savings most people fail to realize. Some are – no need for a work wardrobe, less gas expenses (some days you just won’t go anywhere) and often less medical bills since your little one is exposed to less germs (and you too!).
    I have also found that it is much easier to cook dinner – a huge savings in general. I cut coupons on Sunday during my son’s nap. I peruse sale ads so I know where I’m going to get the most for my coupons.
    Also since I’m not out often I easily eat at home instead of a quick run through a drive through.
    Yes there are some days where I go out and see friends and eat out – but its not a daily occurrence.

  64. Natasha says:

    The registry issue is tough; most brides and grooms today have the basics, maybe more. It’s apparently rude to register for “upgrade” versions. Some guests invariably prefer to give an actual gift instead of money. If this gift isn’t purchased off of a registry, and doesn’t fit the lifestyle of the couple, it usually just gets dropped at Goodwill, if it can’t be easily sold online. It seems like a waste.

  65. margaret says:

    Re Lance — I LOVE the line from Julia (#30). As I understand the ettiquette, it is a breach to ask for anything (e.g. send out registry cards), but if the guest ASKS what you want, you can answer (provide registry information, let them know you are saving for a downpayment). And as others have said, let your family and bridal party know so they can answer inquiries. People who love to give gifts will give gifts, and people like me who never know what to get will be happy to give cash.

    As for the huge wedding, I guarantee that if you had a small, intimate wedding instead, you would get some complainers but you would also get some people who are really happy that you were the first one to buck the trend.

    You need to get over to http://www.etiquettehell.com.

  66. Sara says:

    Michael – Trent is right: pay as you go cell phone plans only save money for people who use very few minutes. I pay $.18/minute, but I average less than 60 minutes per month (and I don’t even have a landline). If you want to save money on your cell phone, your best bet is to cut your minutes. Do you really need 200-250 minutes per month?

  67. Cindy says:

    @ Liz; Don’t forget as a stay at home parent some expenses will go down. No more day care, but also no more work clothes, lunches out with coworkers, office gifts. If you work a distance from home you will also save on gas and car insurance. You will have more time to cook meals instead of buying prepared foods, and more time to price check and shop more than one store for the best bargains. It is possible!

  68. reulte says:

    Originally, people are invited to weddings to witness the legality and share in the joyous occasion; generally they bring gifts (hand-made) to help the couple set up a new household. But these days, the times they are a-changing… As Trent mentions, the registry is a helper. Wedding party intermediaries, such as the mother of the the bride or the best man, are another type of helper – who can suggest money, or blue sheets instead of purple, or kitchenware instead of china. Gifts should be accepted and appreciated graciously. To mark a registration list with something marked with the expectation of return — that is amazingly tacky and potentially hurtful which is violating the foundation of etiquette which is to not embarass, or injure people.

    Family gatherings of all types are almost always emotionally laden. Beyond spiking the punch bowl with tranquilizers* and maintaining one’s own equilibrium . . . there’s little you can do.

    *not a real suggestion

  69. susi says:

    @ Lance:
    coming from and living in a different culture (Austria), I don’t see why asking for cash as a gift would be tacky. I just got married myself six weeks ago. We had about 100 guests, so it was a rather large wedding. First of all, make sure that the wedding you are going to host doesn’t cost more than you can afford. We wanted to include our dearest family and friends and therefore things weren’t as spectacular but in the end, the day was very nice and beautiful and even classy.
    I think when you ask for money as a gift in a nice way, it’s not tacky at all. After all, nobody is required to give you anything. Asking for money is just a guideline just as the registry-list at a store is: nobody is obliged to follow it (nobody is actually obliged to bring you a gift – you invited them to witness your commitment. If they bring a gift: very nice of them. But they don’t have to. Please, never ever choose your guests depending on what gifts they will be able to afford – that’s the first sign your wedding is too large or happening for the wrong reason).
    We have been living together for over a year, our household is more than complete – so we asked for a contribution to our honeymoon. Everybody was happy there was a guideline and noone had to wonder if their toaster would be our fifth.
    If you put it that way “We are saving for a house and if you would give us an aquivalent of a square-foot of garden, we would be more than happy to invite you over for a bbq there one day” or something the like, I think noone would be offended.
    People who care for you will understand your wish for a house and the money won’t be blown for useless stuff, so I don’t see what would be wrong in asking for money – as long as it is done in a respectful way, it helps all people involved.

    Enjoy your marriage – it’s a truly wonderful experience!!!

  70. Ruth says:

    about the registry/asking for cash:
    I totally disagree that asking for cash as gift is tasteless. Nowadays, most couples already live together before they get married and have everything they need. So there is really no need to buy a present just so you bought something. I believe, that you can give cash as a gift in a tasteful way ( here are a few books with ideas how to give cash as a present). It is also not tasteless to ask for cash as a gift. The wedding should be all about the couple and what they need. So if they need cash to buy something bigger, so give them cash. Where I come from, it’s actually considered bad to buy a present that nobody needs and most people give cash as a gift. We paid our wedding including the dress with the cash gifts. We were still students and didn’t have much money, so this way we could have a nice wedding (not over the top) without being in debts afterwards.

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