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For Piggy so loved her readers that she gave them unfettered permission to do with their own money as they damn well pleased.

Ask the Bitches: How Do I Say “No” When a Loved One Asks for Money… Again?

AWe got a question recently that I just had to share with the whole class. It evokes one of the purest reminders that personal finance is indeed personal.

Our anonymous letter writer is dealing with a common problem: what to do when relationships and money meet? In this case, it’s a family relationship. And this is only the latest in a long pattern of clashes on this issue.

“Hey Bitches. My cousin just lost his job, which means my aunt is gonna start giving him money again, which means she will very likely ask me if she can borrow some money to give him. I don’t want to help her enable him anymore and I also just don’t want to give them money. It’s hard enough to save money for myself. I can’t say I don’t want to help her enable him because she’ll get angry and say I’m being disrespectful. But if I tell her I don’t have money to spare I know she’s gonna bring up the iPad I recently bought. Honestly, it’s a lose-lose situation, but what could I say to tell her no?”  

FULL. BODY. CRINGE.

Oh the secondhand familial guilt! The magnetic pull of deeply ingrained elder respect! The weight of an elder asking—nay, telling—you to do something! Years of CCD and generations of elderly Italian relatives are bearing down upon my tender soooooul!

Can’t you just feel the dread wafting off this question like the putrid stench of Aunt Bertie’s perfume as she leans in to demand a kiss on her cheek?

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Don't try to parent your parents. That way lies madness.

Ask the Bitches: My Dad Sucks with Money. How Do I Make Him Change?

We have a letter from a reader today! And it’s a keeper.

Bitches, what can I do to help my parents be smarter with their money?

My dad is in his fifties, and he has really bad money habits. He makes a decent amount, but he clearly lives beyond his means. He drives a luxury car, and goes on 2-3 vacations every year. There’s a storage unit full of toys (ATVs, a home gym, etc.) he owns but barely uses. He orders in most meals, even though he has an amazing kitchen I would kill for. Seeing how wasteful he is makes me want to scream.

As far as I know, he has almost nothing saved away for retirement. He doesn’t seem to have an emergency fund. I don’t know how much debt he’s in, but I’ve seen his credit card come back declined more than once.

I’m so worried that he’ll reach retirement age with absolutely nothing. My own finances are probably in better shape, even though I’m younger and work at a tiny nonprofit! I’ve tried to educate him about personal finance several times in the past. He gets defensive and brushes me off. I offered to help him make a budget more than once, but he declines. Last time we argued about it, he said his plan is to never retire! What can I say to make him change?

When parents suck with money

This letter is perfectly timed, as our really, really, really ridiculously good-looking Patreon donors have asked us to write on the subject of parents who are bad with money.

I think a lot of young people can relate to this letter writer’s problem. On the whole, Millennials are better at setting financial goals and saving/investing toward them than their Baby Boomer parents. (Though they have some things in common. Boomers say they don’t need to invest in their retirement because they’ll never stop working; Millennials say they don’t need to because climate change will kill us all. Comme ci, comme ça.)

When I was ten years old, my mother yelled at me when my kitten peed on our family room sofa. “It’s a brand new, six thousand dollar couch!” she cried in frustration.

As I did my best to scrub the ammonia stink away, I remember internally questioning why anyone would buy a six thousand dollar couch—especially someone with three kids, a dog, and a kitten. I didn’t have a strong concept of the value of a dollar yet… but I knew that was a lotof boxes of Swiss Cake Rolls.

Two decades later, I’ve come to what I think is a more mature, nuanced understanding of how to approach your parent’s finances. At our patrons’ behest, I want to share it with you all today. It’s only four words long!

Letter writer, I think you need to mind your own business.

Stay in your lane.
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Perfect opportunities aren't often handed to you, like a ripe peach from the leather-gloved hand of Jereth the Goblin King.

I Was Happy to Marry a Poor Man. Then Things Changed.

On the day my partner and I got married, I didn’t promise him much. Life is long. Uncertainty is its only certainty.

For poorer? In sickness? Forsaking all others? Until death?

Like, death-death??

I have questions. Why are we poor? Are we poor because capitalism sucks and robots took our jobs? Or poor because one of us hid a gambling addiction, and poured our life savings down a slot machine somewhere in Hollywood, Florida? Because those are pretty different things!

What sickness? All others? Because if I get a neurodegenerative disease, and I lose every memory of you, but you stay by my side, and the kind nurse (who has been with a long string of undeserving guys and who’s super pretty but doesn’t know she’s pretty) leans over to check my vitals, and compliments you on your unfaltering loyalty to me, and then your eyes meet, I do want you to kiss her. Details from my upcoming self-published romance novel to follow.

When comes the death? Who dies first? How different will we be? What kind of world will we live in? What will it cost me to keep these promises?

Obviously there is a pleasant future we’re aiming for where none of these mundane trials become marriage-ending events. But I am a realist. Life can change people, sometimes beyond recognition. I don’t make promises I can’t keep. So I would never promise to stay married to someone no matter what. And I would never expect a pledge from a partner that I myself am unwilling to give.

In the end, what we promised each other was this: “I will always enable your happiness.”

If we were happy together: mazel tov. If we were happy apart: so it goes.

That was a promise I knew I could keep. And it was the only one I wanted in return.

But I did make one other promise that day, this time to his parents. I took them by their shoulders, looked them square in the eyes, and gave them this pledge:

“I will take care of your son. You never need to worry about him ever again.”

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Money is to relationship as icebergs are to feats of engineering hubris.

How Dafuq Do Couples Share Their Money?

As we’ve discussed previously, the Olde Method for merging finances was simple and straightforward:

The Man and Womyn shall meet when they are idiot teenagers. They shall marrie when they are both seventeen years old, after two weeks of casual dates at the soda shoppe. The couple shall thereafter commence cohabitation. The Man shall seek salaried employment, and shield the Womyn’s eyes from their mutual finances, excepting the allowance to keep herself in straight pins, and the house in mutton, and the sheepe in the oat corne, and the rye corne, and the barley. And i ‘t be true the Husband gambles her dowry hence, the Wyfe might not but wend to Reno and return to her father’s home in shame and disgrace. Oye, oye, oye, forever and ever, Amen.

Mmhmm, yep, that’s just how it went!

Because labor outside the home was classically a masculine burden (at least in the last few centuries and at least for middle- to upper-class folks), salaries and investments were largely the purview of men. Women, conversely, were usually tasked with domestic labor and household budgets.

The history of gendered expectations around money is long and bonkers. It was only in the 1960s that women gained the legal right to open a savings account of their own. Until the mid-1970s, banks refused to issue lines of credit to women without their husbands’ permission—and not at all to unmarried women. This is a great example of a situation where the patriarchy makes life unpleasant for all genders of people: women are treated like idiot children, men are treated like the long-suffering babysitters of their life partners. And it was all within living memory for our parents! Jeeeeezuz.

Point being, it hasn’t been a long time at all since couples were legally forced to merge most aspects of their individual finances. (We also invented gay marriage since then. You’re welcome.)

That means that couples today are almost certainly managing their finances radically differently than their parents and grandparents. We have a very shallow bench of examples to pull from! And we’ve made up individualized systems as we go, aided by technology.

Here are the successful ways I’ve seen couples divide, partition, and share their finances. Read More

Etiquette sucks.

Traditional Wedding Gifts Can Burn in Hell Where They Belong

I’m going to start this article with a big, beautiful disclaimer…

Weddings are highly personal.

No matter how you conduct them, they always end up being perfectly splendid. And you can take my word for it—I used to work in special events, and have probably been to about 150 of them. My focus was high-end events. (Like, high-end high-end. Secret Service clearance high-end. Fun fact: most Secretaries of State are accomplished musicians and all of them will get up and play with the band at a wedding if they’ve had a sufficient quantity of wine.) But my own wedding was in a parking lot behind my house. I’ve seen ‘em all!

Today I’m going to take a wee bit of a shit on certain wedding traditions. They’re widely-practiced traditions that myself and many of my friends have partooken in. (Piggy, don’t you dare change “partooken” to “partaken” when you edit this!*)

For example, I’m going to shit on (spoiler alert) wedding showers. Now, Piggy had a wedding shower—an extremely traditional wedding shower, with tea and tiny sandwiches and everything! And I LOVED it! We had a blast. I would get together and eat tiny sandwiches with friends and strangers any day of the week. My love for tiny sandwiches really cannot be overstated.

What I’m criticizing isn’t this event—but rather, the weird historical power structures and social pressures that dictated the terms of this tradition. Don’t feel the need to rush to the comments to defend why you did your wedding the way you did. It’s extremely understandable why people follow traditions. It’s also not my business.

But they pay me the big bucks to be an opinionated old person. And I’ve got hot takes on the wedding industry spilling out of my eyes, nose, and mouth like liquid-hot adamantium. The weight of my opinions is so heavy that it drops me to the bottom of a tank of water with a metallic clang.

Holy shit.

Wanna hear ‘em? Sure you do.

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When the check arrives, who pays?

Take Pride in Being a Cheap Date

I have no idea how to date. I accidentally fell in love with the boy next door at eighteen, married him at twenty-seven, and I don’t think you could call my high school floozyism before then “dating” by any stretch of the imagination (#noregerts).

So picture my horror when my single friends tell me about how goddamn expensive it can be to date. On top of dating being an often excruciatingly awkward, painful, nerve-wracking, and misery-inducing experience, it can also feel like throwing good money after bad dates.

My girl Gabby says of the dating experience, “Dating revolves a lot around going out for meals and activities. We went to Top Golf for an hour and a half and he spent over $100… for a casual weeknight date. Concert tickets at the best venues in town are no less than $50 a pop before you even add in any drinks or food. Not only is dating expensive because you’re going out, but it also means you want to look your best so you may get a few new articles of clothing, get your hair done (on your head or otherwise…), get your nails done…”

All of which is just financially dire enough to convince me there has to be a better way. And I don’t mean taking vows of chastity and poverty and joining a convent. Though that’s a truly tempting option in light of some men’s behavior.

So buckle up, kids, and let this old married hag tell you how to save money while still finding Prince or Princess Charming. Surely it can’t be that hard, right?

… right?

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My only wedding financial regret is that I didn't pay $8.99 to get my officiant ordained as a Jedi Knight.

The Only Advice You’ll Ever Need for a Cheap-Ass Wedding

Ah, summer! Wedding season! Love is in the air, and it’s time to express that love in front of everyone you know in a legally binding and probably permanent way! No big deal!

Enter the Wedding Industrial Complex™: that wicked machine that chews up formerly sane couples and spits out crazed people who shout things like “I don’t give one single fuck about fucking hundred-dollar napkin rings why is this all so fucking expensive?!” at one another.

Expressions of enduring love strained through the colander of financial stress tend to come out a little… wrong.

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When you come from a family such as mine, exchanging presents at holidays becomes a massive impracticality.

How Can I Tame My Family’s Crazy Gift-Giving Expectations?

Want to know how much the average American spends on Christmas gifts in a single year?

It’s $929.

Keep in mind that this does not include airfare to visit family, food and drink for large gatherings, donations to charity, holiday decorations, or other common yuletide purchases. That’s just the gifts.

Given that a majority of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency, it’s hardly surprising that a majority of Americans also go into debt to buy Christmas gifts.

This indicates there is a startling cognitive dissonance around Christmas. Our cultural scripts constantly remind us that gifts are unnecessary, that the true spirit of the season is love. Yet so many of us martyr ourselves financially to be able to give each other yet more stuff.

It’s hard to push back against the weight of tradition, but the results are well worth the effort. We Bitches, using different systems, have managed to make the last several winter holidays a stress-free, debt-free season. Here are our secrets.

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"Wow, myrrh!" Mary exclaimed.

In Defense of Shameless Regifting

“There is only one fruitcake in the entire world and people keep passing it around.” Ah, Johnny Carson’s ole’ traveling fruitcake story. So ancient and apocryphal it took significant googling to uncover its origins.

It’s a perfect example of the holiday season’s most notorious social faux pas: regifting.

Regifting is considered tacky and thoughtless: the worst version of “being cheap.” If you regift, it means a) you were too lazy to go out and buy a new gift for someone, b) you didn’t actually appreciate the gift in the first place, and c) you care so little about the giftee that you won’t even spend a little money on a personalized gift for them.

I’m here to propose a new way of looking at the practice of regifting. In fact, I think it can be an economical, creative, waste-free, and considerate way of bestowing presents upon your loved ones.

Yes, I am of course an uncouth and cold-hearted shrew. But I’m also an uncouth and cold-hearted shrew with a damn good point… and a damn fat wallet.

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Beer is one of my financial vampires.

Slay Your Financial Vampires

For centuries they have lurked in the shadows. Stalking, hunting, draining their victims of their means of survival, they prey upon the weak-willed, the guileless.

I am of course speaking of financial vampires. And it’s time to slay these undead motherfuckers once and for all. Why? Because it’s October, the season for getting all spoopy.

A financial vampire is an activity, product, or person that routinely sucks you dry of money you didn’t plan to spend. It is tempting or unnoticeable, demanding or pitiful. They rely on you to spend unconsciously, or succumb to temptation.

Your financial vampires could be vices like absinthe and opium dens (or, y’know, cigarettes and beer). They could be the last-minute social invitations of your friends. They could be a beguiling advertisement for a fucking Amazon Echo (which I am as yet convinced no able-bodied person needs).

A financial vampire can derail your careful budget and responsible savings plan faster than you can say,

Let’s slay these bumpy-foreheaded, melanin-depleted, fruit-punch-mouthed bastards once and for all.

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