Dear Mrs. Riches:
My sister is married to, for lack of a better word, a tightwad. Both of them have decent-paying jobs, yet he has her cutting paper towels in half, reusing old sandwich baggies, and using butter containers instead of store-bought plastic food-savers. She wasn't like this before they were married, so I know it's all his doing. My sister must be so unhappy! What can I do to help?
-- Sister's Keeper
Dear Sister's Keeper:
What you call the behavior of a "tightwad" could just as easily be called making the most of his money, as well as practicing conservation. While most Americans use household products only once (making companies like Clorox, creators of the Glad line of storage bags, rejoice), there are compelling arguments for reusing what we can. As it is, Americans already generate twice as much trash per person per day than folks do in other major countries -- not a statistic that should make us proud.
On a personal level, you're making a huge assumption that your sister is unhappy because, perhaps, you would be under the same circumstances. She may not dislike her new practices at all; instead, she may see a lot of sense in her husband's ways of doing things and may even have embraced them as her own.
On the other hand, what if she is less than thrilled about this lifestyle change but is choosing to compromise? That sounds an awful lot like what's required in any marriage, whether it's about maintaining joint or separate accounts, deciding whether the seat is up or down, or using half the paper towels. Your sister and her husband get to decide the terms for their own marriage; you'll get your chance in your own household.
In the meantime, if you can't beat 'em, then at least become educated about their lifestyle. Check out the Fool's Living Below Your Means discussion board for great money-saving tips, or head to the EPA's FAQs on recycling for the facts on conservation.
Dear Mrs. Riches:
My fiancee and I have reached an impasse where our wedding is concerned. She wants an all-out, lavish, and highly expensive affair, courtesy of her mom and dad, who have been saving for "the big day" since she was a little girl. I think such gross expense is wasteful and that we could better use the money to get launched on sound financial footing. Whenever I bring this up, she gets so emotional that we can't really talk about it. Can you offer some tips that might turn this around?
-- The Frugal Fiance
Dear Frugal Fiance:
No magic for prospective brides and bridegrooms here. I can simply offer this advice: Keep plugging away at this topic and arrive at a solution that works for you both before setting a date.
You might try discussing what aspects of a lavish wedding are most important to her: Is it the setting, or the food? The ice sculpture, or the couture gown? What seems non-negotiable to each of you? Then see whether you can design a wedding celebration that will both meet some of her expectations but not cost an arm and a leg.
Don't assume that your future in-laws will fork over the unused funds. If your objection is predicated on the idea that you may be able to use the money for something else (homebuying, perhaps?), you may be disappointed; your bride's family may simply keep it in their coffers. If, however, your objection is based on principle, or a lifestyle choice you hope will continue on in your married life, it will pay to hammer out such disagreements now, before you utter the words "for richer or for poorer."
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the conflicts that the two of you will encounter in the years ahead. Setting the stage for a strong marriage means being able to hear one another out, discuss possible solutions, and arrive at one that both partners can live with. In that sense, what you decide is less important than how you decide it.
Want more guidance about handling money as a couple, and other personal-finance topics? Give The Motley Fool's personal finance service, GreenLight, a try. It'll get you on the road to financial freedom in no time.
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Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp is a licensed professional counselor who regularly talks money with her honey, Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. To get your money and relationship questions answered, send her an email .