Dear Mary: I offered to do flower arrangements for a very small family wedding. The bride donated $100 for the flowers. I offered to pay for any additional floral costs as my wedding gift to the couple. Unfortunately, I underestimated the additional cost for the flowers, and it looks as if I will be going way over my budget for this gift. Do you have the social etiquette solution for me so I do not have to invest any more of my own money? I do not know how to say my wedding gift is completed but the cost of flowers is not. — Name Withheld
Dear Name Withheld: This is a tough situation and an expensive lesson you will never have to learn again. Ethically, you have no choice but to complete the task and your gift to the couple as you offered in the beginning. Is there a chance you could find another to assist in paying for this gift? If so, be sure to write a note to let the bride and groom know that person participated in their gift. Next time, decide on a limit at the beginning so everyone has the same expectations.
Dear Mary: I have started a contingency fund for unexpected events and emergencies in the top drawer of my dresser. Where do you recommend I keep it? Thanks. — Julie M.
Dear Julie: Good for you! While that drawer might keep your money safe from outsiders, it's very convenient for you. Maybe too convenient. I suggest that you open a savings account as soon as possible to put some space between you and the stash.
A bank or a credit union are good options, but there will be a minimum required amount to get started. An online savings account is a great idea, because you will earn the highest rate of interest without any minimum deposits or balance requirements. I like Ally Bank. Check them out. You'll see how easy it is to open an online savings account. Then you can start feeding it regularly.
Dear Mary: We will need a new stove soon. According to preliminary pricing, it will cost about $1,200 to replace. We've just moved in, and I am not sure when (or whether) we will be remodeling the kitchen. What are your suggestions for a cheap stopgap option? Sears wants $600 to fix the problems with the current oven. They advised getting a new one instead, because it is 15 years old. — Cristy M.
Dear Cristy: I'd go with getting your current stove repaired. Let's say you remodel in five years. If you opt for a new stove now, you may feel compelled to design your new kitchen around a five-year-old stove you purchased to fit an existing space. By repairing your current stove, you'll save money now and also give yourselves more options when it's time to start over. A lot can happen in five years. I wonder whether your salesman was thinking more about his commission than your best interests when he suggested you should buy a new stove.
Dear Mary: My mother passed away in April, and she had a credit card balance of $3,500. I paid her bills while she was in a nursing home and had no income. As her son, am I now responsible for this credit card debt because she has passed away? — Frank G.
Dear Frank: No, you are not, unless you are named on the account as a joint owner. If your mother was the only person on the account, the credit card company, upon notification of her death, will look to her estate for full payment. Generally, that will be handled by the executor of her estate, though laws vary from one state to another. If there are no assets, the credit card company has to eat the loss. However, if she left assets (a home or anything of value), they must be liquidated to pay her creditors before those assets can be distributed to her heirs. Nolo Press has excellent self-help books and information that will help you settle her estate, which includes notifying her creditors without spending a lot of money on attorney fees. I am sorry for your loss and wish you well in this difficult time.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
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