thIn honor of Valentine’s Day, a shout-out to all engaged couples: You don’t have to spend the alleged “average” of $30,000 on your nuptials.

In fact, I think it’s smart to consider what you can afford – on your own or with help from family – vs. what wedding planners are so eager to sell to you.

Holly Johnson of Get Rich Slowly agrees with me. “Thirty Gs is a lot of money to everyone I know, and the last thing most of us want is to start a new marriage off with tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt,” she said in an article called “Wedding savings accounts: How I saved for my wedding.”

Johnson’s wedding was low-key, with a total outlay of about $3,000. And guess what? They’re just as married as folks who plan to spend 10 times that amount.


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thRegular readers already know about my daughter’s blog, I Pick Up Pennies. They probably also know about her 19th year, when she nearly died from a rare neurological disease.

Since then Abby has gone through a lot of physical and psychological torment. She spent a couple of years on disability due to a lack of jobs that meshed with the residual effects of Guillain-Barre syndrome. (The fact that she found not her “dream” job but the World’s Best Boss is miraculous.) Post-traumatic stress disorder and a mental health issue that’s finally been diagnosed as Bipolar II have made it hard to get through some days.

Her husband lost his job shortly before the wedding, and his own health issues have worsened to the point where he is now on disability. The two of them bought a house before they were really ready (i.e., before they had a big enough down payment) in order to take in his bankrupt parents.

A careless driver hit them and totaled the car that was supposed to have lasted them another four or five years. Home, car and other issues have continued to pop up (almost $17,000 in 2014 alone). In the past few years she has endured five miscarriages and is considering whether or not to try again.

So how’s she handling all this? With an astonishing perspective, if her current blog post is any indication.


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thWhen it comes to paying off holiday debts, who finishes last? If you guessed “low-income shoppers,” you guessed wrong.

According to a study from the NerdWallet personal finance site, the middle class takes longer than anyone else to finish paying for its Christmas celebrations.

People who earn from $50k to $75k take an average of 2.6 months to finish paying for holiday expenses. Compare that to folks who earn $50k or less and take an average of two months.

“Those who spend more in an effort to ‘keep up’ end up paying the price later,” says Matthew Ong, senior retail analyst at NerdWallet.

“Middle-class households could end up in a risky position this holiday season if they have ample credit to make purchases but incomes too thin to comfortably pay the bills later.”


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thShocking, huh? Filthy lucre was the favorite holiday gift among those surveyed by the Ebates cash-back shopping site

At 39 percent of the vote, it blew away a few categories that surprised me: tablets (15 percent), smartphones (12 percent), tickets to an event/destination (10 percent), televisions (7 percent).

Maybe the majority of respondents don’t have relatives wealthy enough to pony up enough for a new e-gift or a weekend in the Bahamas. Still, they seemed hopeful that somebody would send a few dollars their way.

Or maybe they’re having trouble making it in the current economy (recovery? what recovery?) and even a $50 bill in a Christmas card would give them a little breathing room.


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thGot a recently graduated kid parked in his old room because jobs aren’t available? Maybe he needs to expand his horizons.

Specifically, your kid might consider living and working in North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota or Wyoming. Those are the top five of the “Best states for young people,” according to a new study from MoneyRates.com.

The Dakotas? Iowa? Maybe they’re not as sexy as New York or L.A., but they’re hiring.


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