Thursday, July 28, 2011

"yes - I live in a basement the neighborhood I grew up in..."

Parental support and it's boundaries can often define the intersection of adolescence and adult-hood. With employment prospects coming up short after college graduation, many of us are choosing (or are forced to) delay flipping on our blinkers and pulling out onto the highway of adulthood.

I could definitely rant about how unfair it is that some people have basements within commuting distance of good jobs. Or I could tell you about how a real self-starter would do whatever it takes to avoid having curfew reinstated at age 22. I would absolutely tell you all those things if it were 2007 and we were seeing this trend. But it's not 2007, and I was lucky to spend my first 6 months out of college on my cousin's pull-out-couch. I think we're asking the wrong questions, and yelling about the wrong problems.

The real question is: How can we live in our parent's basements and still become adults?

1. Pay Rent. It shouldn't be an equal share of the mortgage or anything like that, and it doesn't even have to be on par with local housing prices. However, putting at least 15% of your income towards the roof over your head will do a lot for your self esteem and your argument against that pesky curfew.

2. Establish Boundaries. Plan for only 1 or 2 "family activities" per week. Certainly, you will see each other more than this, but Mom shouldn't be holding dinner for you to get home and Dad shouldn't expect that you are going to work in the yard with him unless it is pre-planned and mutually agreed upon.

3. Work. Looking for a job is not a job. Take whatever you can get – fast food, retail, customer service – any of these will suffice. Working gives you something to do, money to burn (since your rent is so low), and improves your interview skills for when you actually do land that meeting at MyDreamJob Inc. Customer service jobs in particular will hone those interview skills.

4. Bring in your own food. If you are having some friends over to play videogames or get ready for a night out, don't drink your father's beer or eat your mom's secret stash of cookies. Go to the store and buy your own. Be respectful of the fact that your parents only planned to feed you for 18 years. That extra money has to come from somewhere, and that place is probably their retirement savings. You will pay this back later when they can't pay their nursing home fees.

5. Know when it's time to leave. It's great that you can stay at home to save money, but you need to cut the cord at some point. Set concrete goals that you want to achieve before you can support yourself, and when you've met them, hand over your house keys and hit the bricks. If your house is anything like mine, someone will be yelling "write when you get work!!" every time you leave the house until those goals are met.

Moving back home has become a reality for many of us "young professionals". I don't think it should be an embarassment. Sometimes, it's a really smart decision to avoid or pay off debt. So let's attack the stigma and find better ways for families to live together at different stages in life.

I would never laugh at my Dad's beer,

Double E

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

House of Cards

I am living in a house of cards. Flash cards, that is. They are everywhere! I feel like I'm sharing our tiny apartment with someone who is learning english and trying to label everything. 

The toilet is intransigent.
The closet is pernicious.
The kitchen is insipid.
My bookshelf (and I do say mine, because all of these words are housed in my books. I don't need the ridiculous cards) is iconoclast. 

They're grouped by whatever standards the GRE has deemed necessary, and they seem to follow me everywhere. My gym sock was redoubtable this morning and thank heaven too. It smelled nothing of the sort. 

This doesn't have much to do with money, except that if I had more, I would probably have rented a hotel room for the Grige to live in with all these stupid cards. At least until the test is over. 


Double E

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems....

.... Like getting a shaving cream pie in your dirty billionaire face at a parliamentary hearing:

How clearly I remember when Rupert Murdoch purchased The Wall Street Journal. I sat with my banker Dad on our porch, twin Adirondack chairs facing the street with The Weekend Journal between us like a smoking gun. I think it's the closest I ever got him to actually consider switching to The New York Times (a subtle fight we've been engaged in for years)

Like a typical teenager on a soapbox, I probably over-used the term "evil empire" and lost my battle yet again. My Dad insisted that his beloved bastion of financial news couldn't change much without losing it's audience, and that the purchase was simply a rather impulsive money grab by a powerful man, rather than an attempt to control the every thought of our nation.

Freaking Dr Evil

At the time, I was too disgusted with the fact that I was sprung from a man who wouldn't change his newspaper allegiance on principle alone to notice that he was probably right. After watching Mr. Murdoch get the pie treatment yesterday, I started thinking about all the problems that come with having more money.

After I made my last 2 job changes, I was shocked at how much money I wasn't saving. I thought I would literally be lounging in a bathtub full of singles with a glass of champagne when I wasn't at work.

In reality, I didn't notice my life change much, but somehow I managed to spend all that "extra" money. Granted, one cannot live on ramen and 3 buck chuck forever. There were also a lot of big ticket items (like new glasses and contacts, a bed, and furnishings for my new apartment) that I put off purchasing when I wasn't making much. Even after I bought all those things, it seems like there is always a vacation or a new suit or a "special" dinner out that cuts into those projected savings. It's become apparent that even with strict budgeting, making more money means that I "require" more stuff.

I actually think it's pretty unlikely that the Murdoch's knew exactly what was going on at News of the World, and I almost feel bad for them. They have a lot of publications to keep up with, and one doesn't exactly run to the boss with an exit strategy after authorizing illegal actions to sell the product. 

Everybody (including Rupert Murdoch) knows that more money = more problems (read: more money = more responsibility). If that occasionally means getting a shaving cream pie in your face, I guess you'll just have to cry it out in your Bentley and increase your executive oversight in the remainder of your news empire. 

Yours in cream pie,
Double E 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

While I'm Whining about What a Waste Grad School Is....

Above the Law is another blog that spends some quality time on the uselessness of higher education. While the blog normally focuses on Law school specifically, an artical by Elie Mystal yesterday draws some stark conclusions from this New York Times article. Elie's thoughts follow:

"Think about that for a second. The system of American education churns out thousands of people with totally useless liberal arts degrees every year. English, Romance Languages, Philosophy — these are all things that provide the backdrop for a fascinating life of the mind, but they hardly pay the bills. In fact, to make any of these degrees pay off, you usually have to find employment teaching these “skills” to others. And that requires you to get additional education.

But nobody in their right mind would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get additional education in some of this crap, because they know they’ll never make enough to justify the cost. The university needs to subsidize that education in some way — and so they turn to law schools.

Universities pay for advanced useless degrees by fleecing the kids who decided four years was enough time wasted in the pursuit of knowledge that would not lead to dollars. And thus the law students resign themselves to a life of paying back debts doing something they don’t really like, while the kids who stayed the “I’m going to become an expert in this totally useless field” course end up with cushy professorial jobs teaching “Thinking in the Digital Multiverse” to the next group of university students.

How do you like them apples?

It’s all in the game, I guess."

Elie's point is exactly what I was talking about yesterday - The fact that my generation can not wait to throw our parent's/the government's (and in some very rare cases, our own) money at higher education institutions that are ripping us off.

While reading the NYT article, I noticed that the advertising in the corner had been purchased by none other than Cooley Law School. That's right - the school that shames my beautiful home state by offering a legal education to anyone who wants one, providing they can shell out tuition.  Cooley is like the law school version of diet pills - "just shell out your money and we will..... do nothing!" Maybe it's even worse than that - because the people who consume the Cooley product are not trying to lose weight the "easy" way. They are trying to build careers that will support their families in a state that is already hurting.

And then my head exploded.

If you are interested in more information about the problems with law schools, please check out Above the Law.

So much for higher knowledge,
Double E

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Grige, Grad School and the GRE

One of my favorite things about my Partner is that he really just doesn't care about what other people think of him.  After a weekend of heavy boozing at my cousin's wedding in Michigan, he earned himself a nickname that will likely follow him to the grave. He asked for another glass of "the Grige" and thus was baptized in wine by my family.

So now, the Grige is planning to go to grad school and spends all of his time studying for the GRE (read: ignoring me/ the dishes/ the laundry/ the dead cockroach that I almost stepped on). I am being as supportive as I can, because that's what you do in a healthy relationship. However, the very idea of grad school makes me want to do this:

I think that pursuing a graduate degree is a hugely un-necessary waste of money. The fact that practically everyone who graduated around the same time I did decided to hide in the library rather than face the dismal job market is probably the reason for this. Call me crazy, but staring down the rabbit hole after $100,000 that I didn't have in the first place while I search for jobs in a market that really just wants experience does not sound like a good idea to me. Penelope Trunk  talks more about this problem and other fun career topics in her excellent blog.

Penelope's points that I agree with most involve delaying adulthood, graduate education being pyramid scheme/money pit and the fact that working is not so bad. Most of my friends who went to grad school seem sort of stunted compared to my friends who worked (or worked and went to grad school). It's not that I don't love a good game of beer pong once and a while, but you have an actual table on your back deck? What would your boss say!? Oh wait... you don't have one.

These people are counting on expensive degrees to assist them in a market they know nothing about. If I wrote a book containing the really important skills I learned in my first year in the workforce alone, it would be longer than War and Peace and definitely worth more than I spent on my undergraduate degree. I would also venture to guess that those skills are very important to my future employers as well. I think that my peers who went to grad school instead will have a hard time competing with that knowledge when we are both up for higher paying jobs. Even if I don't get that job because I don't have a masters degree, at least I dodged the debt bomb. I'm not a risk taker, and that kind of investment return rate is just not for me.

So here I am, trying to be supportive as my roommate and Partner plants his feet firmly on the path back to grad school. It can't have been an easy decision for him, what with me spewing vitriol about cost-benefit analyses and irresponsible debt acquisition. And it is definitely not easy for him now that I've added a good deal of yelling about house-hold chores and how I refuse to clean up after him just because he's studying.

Despite all that, he is determined to go back, and I have to admit that his reasons are good. He's an architect, and it will be impossible for him to get licensed without a masters degree. Even though it will be years before he can even think about the pay-out from his hard work, he is talented and driven and I believe in him - in spite of my own good sense. 

I can't imagine having the kind of conviction the Grige has about being an architecht in my own career, and maybe that's my problem. Perhaps someday I will say "AHAH!" and run to my neighborhood university with application fee in hand. That day is not today, and I believe graduate school is a mistake for those of us who are not planning to become doctors (I am looking at you, Ph.D in cultural anthropology). But before I cry "unfair!" as our debt and the dishes in the sink pile up, I am going to take a deep breath and try to believe in the person I love.

Wish me luck,
Double E

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vacationing Above Your Means (Within Your Means) Part II

Last time, I wrote about vacationing "exotically" within your means. After writing it, I started thinking that my favorite vacations are not the most exotic ones. Traveling abroad can be stressful, and I think that the relax factor is very important. We take time away from work to re-charge our batteries, anyone who has been out of the country knows there is nothing more annoying and stressful than a faulty power converter. Now, I want to write about some less high-profile vacation options, and ways to keep a domestic vacation even more reasonably priced.

On the East Coast (and I assume near any large body of water), it's quite trendy to travel to the shore for weekends and holidays when the weather is nice. Some people rent beach houses, some people stay in "spring break" themed hotels on the "strip", and some people RV or car camp. The Grige (my Partner) and I backpack and I think it is the most wonderful and un-stressful break ever. 

We generally go to Assateague National Park (not to be confused with the State Park, which is full of RVs and screaming children where you must book your spot 6 months in advance). Once you arrive, you pay $15 dollars to park, check in with the rangers, grab your backpack and hike anywhere from 2 to 11 miles up the beach to pre-set camp areas with fire pits, picnic tables and even a classy latrine (read eco-friendly port-a-potty). You can stay for a weekend or a week, you fall asleep to the sound of the waves, and there is usually not another person in view as you sip a nightcap and enjoy your fire-fresh supper. 

Granted, this is easier if you are not a total camping novice. You will need bug repellant, and you will need to stick to beverages that do not come in glass containers or require blenders. You will also need some basic camping gear - the most primitive versions of which can be purchased for under $20 at Target. But isn't that a tiny price to pay for peace, tranquility and miles of open seashore? Oh yeah, and wild horses.

I'm of the belief that this camping thing works anywhere, but if spending a night out of doors really isn't your bag, there are still options left for a domestic beach vacation that doesn't break the bank (or involve droves of guidos doing jager bombs in the next hotel room). I am from Michigan and I love Michigan, so it was only a matter of time before I spent a few paragraphs telling you how amazing and awesome Michigan is. So here it is: Michigan rocks

Michigan is also cheap. Renting a house within walking distance of the lake on Michigan's west coast is not for the poor, but it's night and day when compared with a beach rental on the eastern shore. There are also hotels and cabins in abundance with all kinds of deals. We all know that Michigan's economy is in the sewer, so you will see a price drop in everything from draught beer to boat rentals once you cross the border. The best part is that there is no drop in quality to match. 

Michigan also offers a ton of variety. You can head to the Upper Peninsula for woodsy solitude on the chilly shores of Lake Superior, or you can hit up any one of hundreds of adorable little beach towns up and down the coast of Lake Michigan. There are great restaurants and tons of entertainment to be found pretty much everywhere. You can swim, you can surf, you can kayak, paddle board, sail, sand-board, bike, hike, or even head to the dunes in your 4-wheel drive vehicle. There is something for everyone. 

So before you drop an entire paycheck to sleep on the floor of an Atlantic Coast beach house with 27 of your "closest friends", check out Grand Haven, Traverse City, Pentwater, Marquette, or Harbor Springs. You may find yourself on the front end of a very affordable trend. 

See you at the Beach,
Double E

Vacationing Above Your Means (Within Your Means)

There are people who believe that those of us who make less than 100k per year should narrow our definition of "vacation" to mean "a week at home watching TV and maybe going to the zoo". While I am a big fan of the "stay at home" vacation, I don't think it's the only option for people in my income range.

I am a passport stamp junkie. The stranger and farther away it is, the more I want to go. Not making much money has never stopped me either, even before I discovered the amazing "goal" feature on I was working two jobs for $11 and $9 dollars per hour respectively when I self-funded a trip to Costa Rica to visit a friend who was living there. I managed to swing the entire vacation, including airfare, for under $600.  I also managed a trip to Morocco for under $1000 earlier this year. Neither of these trips involved camping out or staying in a hostel, and both involved a LOT of eating.

If you too love to travel but have budget restrictions, here are some tricks to the trade:
  • Join an airline loyalty program. Last year, I was flying back from Thailand (for work) and the guy next to me could not shut up about how great United Airline's loyalty program was. I was annoyed at the time, but after I joined found that he was right - collecting miles has allowed me to leverage a number of trips I wouldn't otherwise have taken. Just don't bring your Guitar.

  • If you are planning a trip to Europe, Asia, Africa or the Middle East, get acquainted with budget airlines (Air Asia, EasyJet, Ryan Air etc....) Then plan to fly into the absolute cheapest airport on the continent and use these budget airlines to get to your final destination. This also allows you to go through customs in a large, nicer airport most of the time. A great example of this is when I flew to Madrid (for under $600 round trip) before hopping a 40 Euro flight to Marrakech. A flight directly to Marrakech would have cost us upwards of $1000. 
  • Go in the "off" season. In Costa Rica, there is a two week period at the end of July called veranillo. This is essentially a beautiful 2 week break from the rainy season. However, flights during this time hover right around the $200 dollar mark since it is still the "off" season. In addition, waiting until March to visit warmer locales can save you tons of money, since most people go in the winter. House rentals in places like the Virgin Islands and other Caribbean hot spots usually fall to "low season" prices around first or second week in March. 
  • Prepare yourself for a shock: all-inclusive resorts are not always the cheapest option for lodging, and they rarely give the most authentic experience. The best lodging options vary from country to country. You should consider renting a house or apartment (depending on your group size), staying in a guest house or even chartering a boat. These options give you the freedom to do some of your own cooking, control your own schedule and take advantage of additional peace and tranquility. 
  • Take into account the power of the dollar. While a flight to Asia may consume the better part of your budget, remember how cheap it's going to be once you get there. Your in-country costs will be less than half what they would be in a more developed place. While a flight to Europe may be affordable, funding the rest of your vacation on the all-powerful Euro will not be. 
  • Take only memories, leave only footprints. If you focus your vacation activities away from shopping, you will have more fun and spend less money. We all like to get keepsakes from our travels, what do they really end up doing besides weighing down our lives? So take more pictures and give the souks and shops a firm resolve.
    So please start planning the kind of adventure that will make your co-workers think you just robbed a bank. Plan smart, think outside the box and stamp the crap out of your passport.

    Bon Voyage,
    Double E

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Toot-Toot, Beep-Beep – or How I Manage Transportation

    I am a control freak, obviously. I mean, I can't even allow other people to pay for my dinner because I think it throws off our "power dynamics".  I have also never owned a car, and haven't been behind the wheel in over a year. I am very serious about using public transportation (and now, my new bike!). As you might imagine, reconciling these two parts of my moral fiber is no picnic.

    Using public transportation in any big city is a smart move financially. Using a bicycle (when weather and time permit) is even smarter. The problem is that you have to relinquish a lot of control in order to do it. Buses and trains are crowded and do not usually run on time. No amount of alertness can save you from that errant car door that opens into the bike lane, or the bike thief who carries enough tools to break through all three of your locks.

    An unexpected cloud burst or even a completely expected rainy day can disrupt your routine so badly that you feel as if you will never recover. For me, that frustration just burns in my chest until I feel like I'm going to explode all over the other people at my bus stop. At one point, I lived almost two miles from the nearest metro stop and had to stay home sick during thunderstorms.

    So here are some tips to surviving as a control freak without a car, and for getting the most out of your transportation dollars.

    • Take. The. Bus. If you live in Washington, D.C. at least. The buses here are clean, not nearly as crowded as the metro during rush hour and infinitely cheaper. They are also far more likely to have working climate control. Traffic can be annoying, but slight alterations in your daily schedule can fix this.

    • Change your work schedule. Most work places are getting more and more flexible with what they will allow. Often, the difference between commuting at 8:30 am instead of 9:00 am can save you time, money, and dealing with crowds. The same goes for leaving at 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm instead of right at 5:30 pm.

    • Bike! Bikes are great – and most cities have a bikers association with perks like "guaranteed ride home" and tips for the best traffic routes and for avoiding accidents. You will be shocked at how much of the city opens up to you once you have a bike – what once took you one hour and two train changes, suddenly takes you 20 minutes from door to door. The kicker is that it's also great for your health!

    • Zipcar. There are lots of great things outside the city and it sucks to have to depend on someone who owns a car to take advantage of them. Zipcar is also great for big grocery store trips, because no one looks good carrying a 20-pack of toilet paper on the handlebars of their bike.

    • Get to know your neighbors/meet new people. I met my Partner on the metro at rush hour. If you can cling to a shred of your positive attitude and keep an open mind, who knows who you might meet!

    Living anywhere in America without a car is difficult. It challenges our habits and comfort daily. However, using public transportation in combination with biking can save you money, improve your health, and help you wage your own righteous battle on oil dependency. Just try to remind yourself of that the next time you ruin a pair of suede shoes standing in the rain at a bus stop.

    I've got no car and it's breakin' my heart, but I've got a driver and that's a start.....

    Double E

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    How the Heck are We Supposed to Find Romance in this Minefield?

    My Partner and I split the bill on our first date. It was at the kind of restaurant where you pay at the counter, so there was no awkward fumbling of the wallets while sitting across from each other, but still. He made it clear that he had no intention of paying for me, and I made it clear that I had no intention of letting him.


    That first date really set the tone for our relationship. Since that moment, I have known that every time he picks up a bill, surprises me with flowers, or even cleans the bathroom, it is because he very specifically and purposefully thought about me and wanted to do something special. I also know that I don't owe him anything* – not then, not now, not ever.

    I think this is really important – it's so easy to walk away from a first date where one person  (a guy, in this scenario) picks up the tab and you feel like you owe him something. It could be anything from a second date to a kiss to a coffee after dinner, but it's still something you owe the other person. I can't tell you how many times I have ended up doing something stupid because of some unfounded sense of "fairness" to a person who bought me a meal.

    The person who pays has perceived power. This is a fact, whether we call it gallantry or not. How can you possibly begin a relationship between equals when the power balance is tipped before the end of your first date? No really – I am asking! I am guessing the answer has something to do with trust and/or shameless gold-digging, but I am talking about a date that will hopefully lead to a relationship. If a free meal is your objective – go forth and prosper, this advice will not help you.

    Since we don't live in communist China, it's unlikely that your income (and/or debt) will be an exact match to your date's. Factors like gender and age can widen the gap even further. I'm not suggesting that you foray into credit card debit to pay for your lobster  and filet dinner at the country club, or that you limit potential dates to people who are your financial twin. I am suggesting the following:

    • For first dates, stick to more casual outings – like lunch at a place where you pay at the counter, or an afternoon picnic where you prepare the meal beforehand. This will not only keep the bill reasonable, but you will both be more comfortable in a place that isn't screaming "high expectations!!!!" at you from the moment the escargot show up. Pull out that show stopping dinner later on when you know it's worth the investment (and you know each other well enough to laugh together when you accidentally shoot a snail at someone across the room).

    • Plan to pay for your portion on a first date. If you are facing a drastic income gap and your date has insisted on a place you can't exactly afford, offer to pay the tip, or for the drinks. I promise – you will absolutely feel more comfortable if you do this, and it shows your date that you are taking them seriously.

    • If you do find yourself on a second, third or tenth date with someone who makes a lot more than you and wants to pay for nicer places, think about how it makes you feel. Then talk to them about it. Compromise is the key to success in any relationship, including your relationship with your bank account. Maybe you skip fancy desserts and you treat Richy Rich to froyo and a walk after nice dinners.

    The bottom line is that money plays a huge role in our relationships, whether we are aware of it or not. Finding romance (read: a relationship that actually works in real life) is tricky enough, so let's get smarter about defining power and money dynamics in our relationships early and often.

    You stay classy,
    Double E

    *Except maybe to love him – which I promised to do of my own free will without any prompting with gifts.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Other People's Weddings and You Can't Spray Roundup on Jesus

    When you are a young professional, you live in dread of the friendly mass-facebook-message: "Hi guys – Please send me your current address!! Xoxo, your random old sorority sister/friend/roommate/3rd cousin twice removed". Now you are frantically checking the balance of your bank accounts and your credit card limit before you decide whether or not to pretend you've moved to Guam while you wonder how the hell you ended up on the guest list.

    Before you call me a wedding-hater or something equally heartless, let me say that there is NOTHING better than attending the wedding of two people you love. I have been to lots of those weddings and I cried at every single one. I've caught bouquets, I've crafted place-cards, I've done readings and I was even a 23-year-old flower girl.

    However, dropping more than an entire paycheck on a wedding between an acquaintance and a stranger  out of obligation – is the WORST. I have been to a lot of those weddings, and I've cried at them too, but mainly because of the low balance reminders that kept popping up in my email.

    Well, you can't spray Roundup on Jesus, and once that facebook message shows up, you can't spray Roundup on this random pseudo-friend's wedding either.

    Sooner or later there will be a brightly designed "save-the-date" in your actual, physical mailbox and by then, even the pruning shears will be useless. Before you start clicking through airfares and the registry with an impending sense of financial doom, here are some things to think about:

    ·        Did you know that it's perfectly acceptable to not attend a wedding? That's right – you can say "no". This is why people send RSVP cards with options instead of a militiaman with a rifle. You should still send a gift, but no one is going to come after you with a pitchfork for spending less than $50.00. No one understands financial woes better than people who are planning a wedding. This is especially appropriate if your only contact with the bride or groom over the last six months has been that silly facebook address exchange.

    ·        I would never suggest that you put a dollar figure on your friendships, but it can be useful to think about who else will be at this wedding. If you don't know the bride and groom that well (or if you are no longer close), the "reunion" factor can make all the difference. Could you increase the "bang for your buck" on this wedding by seeing friends/family from far away then instead of doing a long distance trip to see them later? Better yet, could you also go splitsies on a hotel room with them? Whatever you need to do to keep yourself from crying over updates – if you're going to drop the cash, you should be having fun.

    ·        You don't have to spend it all at once. While the end figure is still the same (HIGH), you can pay for the flight one month, the hotel another, and the gift up to one year after the wedding. This can take the pressure off a bit and allow you to plan and prepare – secret #1 to financial happiness in my book. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.

    ·        Your Partner who doesn't know these people DOES NOT want to go to this wedding. They do not want to split the hotel room and gift and they definitely do not want to pay for a plane ticket to get there. If you don't want to pay for them, don't push the issue. Receiving an invitation with a +1 is nice, but again, there is not a shot-gun pointed at your head. Going stag can be fun, and in most of the scenarios I've been in, it's also cheaper (for you, and for your soon-to-be-wed friends).

    Before I wrap up, I'd like to say a final word on the invitation of obligation. If you made it on to an invite list and think that you might not be wanted at the wedding, think again. If they invited you (which means spending a fair chunk of their own change on you), they are prepared for you to attend. Period. If you don't want spend over a month's rent on these two people – good for you, be not ashamed. But please don't pretend that it's because they didn't really want you to attend. It is because you don't really want to attend, and that is just fine.

    Spendwell, my thrifty friends. Enjoy what remains of wedding season!
    Double E