Can I Give You $1,000 and NOT Be a Bridesmaid?

Bridesmaid costs are exorbitant, to the degree that should you bribe the bride $1000 to pick someone else, you’d still quite possibly save money over what you would have spent. An Alternet essay, reprinted in Salon, makes the point that when participating in a friend’s special day has the potential to bankrupt you, the situation is ridiculous and needs to change.

Much has been written about the average cost of a wedding as well the average cost of being a bridesmaid. A 2012 study by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com reported that the average wedding budget was $28,427 – the highest number it had reached since 2008. And Mint.com estimated in 2011 that the average total cost of being a bridesmaid totaled $1,695. … The Today Show reported that approximately 10 percent of people said they went into debt simply to attend or be in a wedding.

How does this enormous number come to be? There are the obvious factors: the dress, which can cost anywhere from $100 to more than $400; and then the alterations, which can add another $100 or more; and the shoes which can ring up as anything from $30 to $150. Then there are all of the events related to the wedding: the showers, of which there are usually more than one (along with the customary bridal shower, recipe and lingerie showers are now the norm). Then there’s the bachelorette party, which, for many, has evolved from a night of bar hopping to a destination event that involves airfare or gas, a hotel and several expensive days and nights at spas, restaurants and bars. Factor in manicures, pedicures, hair and makeup for the wedding itself and the total cost could easily exceed that $1,695 average.

Solidarity Forever! Talking With a Radical Coop-Living Bride

Ester: Hello! Could you introduce yourself in a general way?

Rebecca: Um, I am a radical leftist extrovert nerd feminist Jew. I work as a fundraiser and communicator for a racial and economic justice community organization. I have lived all over the world and the East Coast.

Ester: And you are getting married this weekend!

Rebecca: That too! I am a “bride” and a “fiancee” (though I don’t identify as the latter). I am a partner to my partner as I have been for a while and a housemate and householder-homeowner-homemaker with three other people including said partner.

Ester: Your housing situation is unusual and — I think — fascinating. Can you describe it a little before we get into the details of the upcoming nuptials? Billfolders love real estate.

Rebecca: My partner and I were living in an awesome co-op house with four other folks, and our dear friends MB and JB also lived in an awesome co-op house. We all wanted to keep living the big-house-with-lots-of-people lifestyle and in several cases had done that from during college. So 10+ years into grownup co-op life I didn’t want to get married and disappear from my friends and really from myself into some partnered love/torture cave of nuclear family loneliness.

We talked with MB/JB a lot about living together and then there was this crazy confluence/opportunity: 3 sets of mutual friends own houses on the same block and we sort of happened on an open house on said block. The house was in some ways just another rowhouse but in others really ideal for a 2-family shared situation — like, there’s sort of 2 suites of bedroom/office/bathroom on the second floor, and a big 2-car garage, which is unusual in our city… so all of a sudden we were like OK let’s buy this thing. A week later (and a lot of fevered financial dealings, honestly) we had an offer accepted.

Ester: This, I should tell you, was always my childhood dream. To live with and among friends. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. But did you envision something like this when you were young, or younger?

Rebecca: This has been my dream as well, since let’s say college. It was always a little vague because it seemed sort of impossible: how do you find the right people who are also ready and willing at the time, etc.? I sometimes imagined myself in a bigger commune-y kind of thing but I like living in the city. I seriously feel very lucky and blessed to have these friends who were down for the whole idea and all of us are just having the best time. Lots of people’s response is like yours — they want this kind of thing too. It’s shocking to me that more people don’t try for it, but it is pretty unusual.

Ester: My best friend lived in an anarchist co-op once and she hated it; no one washed their dishes. And I lived on kibbutz once. It was less than ideal. But I think the reason a lot of people don’t try it is that it’s hard enough to mingle finances with one individual, a romantic partner — the idea of getting your money tied up with that of another couple can be pretty daunting. Money can kill relationships faster than anything, after all, except sex.

The Marriage ‘Cure’

Statistics have long shown that if you're married, the likelihood of you living below the poverty line is much lower. The unfairness of this correlation annoys me, as well as the deceptively simplified way it's often presented, wrung into prescriptive "marriage promotion" campaigns that bemoan kids being born out of wedlock and so on.

How a 26-Year-Old Singaporean Does Money

Jillian Wong, is a 26-year-old Singaporean who works for a design website. Not too long ago, she visited New York and asked to meet with me so we could talk about the culture of money in Singapore.

Pre-Nups: Maybe Necessary, Necessary, Offensive, or Harmless?

A prenup is: a) Only necessary if one of the parties is a money-grubbing wench/weasel. b) Imperative, considering the insanely high divorce rate. You’d be an idiot not to demand one. c) Totally and completely offensive. If your beloved asks you to sign one, you’re better off running for the hills. d) Nothing to be scared of.

WWYD: Husband Can’t Find a Job — Except In Asia

Someone wrote to Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax today about an unwanted adventure:

I am writing because my husband and I are facing a huge dilemma. He cannot find a job in the United States. He recently got a job offer in Asia and wants us to go. I have conflicting emotions about this, as I do not speak the language and feel it would be very isolating for me. I would be leaving all my family and friends. We have no kids, and my husband thinks now is the time to take a risk. Any advice?

“Conflicting emotions”? The only evident emotions are negative ones, specifically fear of loneliness and the unfamiliar. And that’s totally fair. Big changes, like living abroad, are not for everyone. Perhaps the LW is an introvert and requires the support of the family and friends s/he would be leaving behind. S/he doesn’t mention a job but it might also be hard to earn money abroad, and not having the structure of work in a foreign place can be doubly daunting.

On “Marrying Down”

A Practical Wedding has a post by a woman named Rachel who talks about dealing with a thing you wouldn't think was a thing anymore except of course it is for some people: being a woman and marrying someone who is less educated than you, and/or makes a lot less money.

My Wife and I Fought About Money, So We Created a System to Fix It

The first year of our marriage, my wife and I fought about money all the time. Her shoulders raised in defense whenever I tried to talk about her debt, and I became passive-aggressive when asking about purchases I was seeing in our joint checking account. So we decided to figure out how to fix this.

The Cosbys are Happier than the Jetsons, and Have Better Sex Too

According to Role Reboot, which got the story from the Frisky, husbands are happier when their wives also bring home the bacon. Why not, right? Twice as much bacon! Or, since women are paid less, ~1.85x as much bacon, but still. All that bacon makes bedtime sizzle.

MONEY asked couples to subjectively rate their happiness in relationships, as well as report on the “hotness” of their sex life. Of couples where the wife earned as much or more than her husband, 83 percent reported they were happy or very happy (compared to 77 percent of couples where the wife earned no money or earned less). Couples with higher-earning wives also reported the best sex lives, with 51 percent attesting that what goes down between the bedsheets is “very good.”  But it wasn’t just the couples together who reported happiness. Men, specifically, said they were happy with their sex lives with high-earning women: fifty-six percent of those married to women who earned as much or more called their sex lives “very good” (compared to 43 percent when the wives earned less). These men also expressed more overall happiness.

Are the wives similarly thrilled? Not entirely:

Because Anything is Cheaper than Divorce

Don't get divorced. It's an expensive, stressful process that makes an enemy out of the person you once chose above all others in front of your friends and family, people who, by the way, each spent $60-$300 on a wedding gift -- and, most likely, much more on clothes, babysitters, travel, and lodging -- to celebrate your deathless love.

Correlating Poverty With Marriage Distracts From the Actual Problems Driving Poverty

Ari Fleischer wrote an editorial in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week suggesting that income inequality could be fought through marriage. The week before, Emily Badger had a piece in Atlantic Cities arguing precisely why this line of thinking is ill-conceived. Margaret Simms, a fellow at the Urban Institute and director of its Low-Income Working Families Project points out an obvious flaw: "You cannot solve poverty by just marrying people if – jointly – they cannot generate sufficient income to raise a family above poverty."

How an American Earns a Living in Turkey

I make 78,000 Turkish lira per year, which was around $40,000. With the exchange rate now, it's closer to $39,000.