Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: This year, resolve to leave no gift card unused. Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on saving for your dream retirement, how to have the wedding you want for less, and comparing car insurance rates.

This Year, Resolve to Leave No Gift Card Unused
Most gift cards are spent within a year, but billions of dollars remain unspent and about 1% to 2% of gift card dollars typically go unused.

How to Have the Wedding You Want for Less
When planning a wedding, there’s pressure to create a perfect event. But you can still have the day of your dreams with a wedding budget of any size.

Smart Money Podcast: Saving for Your Dream Retirement
Budgeting pro Marissa Lyda talks with Sean and Liz about saving and how she’s made a full-time job out of YouTube.

Compare Car Insurance Rates
The NerdWallet guide to finding the best car insurance rate

Q&A: Feedback on a wedding conundrum

Dear Liz: You recently answered a writer whose fiancee was facing medical debts and other financial concerns. I was surprised you didn’t address the expected cost of their wedding, which the writer said was $5,600. Although that seems quite modest compared with the average wedding these days, it’s still $5,600 that could go to other expenses.

My husband and I were poor, recent college grads when we married in 1985. We decided to see the judge, and we spent a three-day honeymoon weekend at a nearby beach hotel. Total cost was less than $350, including a new dress, a bouquet for me and a lapel flower for him. Our parents took us all out for a nice dinner with siblings and each of our best friends (best man and maid of honor).

Years later, when debts had been paid, we had a big party for our 10th anniversary. We made it almost to 30 years when I lost him to illness. It really comes down to whether you want a marriage or a wedding. I don’t regret our own choice.

Answer: Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Reliable statistics about how much people spend on weddings are hard to find, although the “averages” of $30,000 or more promoted by the wedding industry are probably inflated.

How much to spend is a personal choice, but weddings should be paid for in cash and with savings — not debt. When people already have significant debt, as this couple did, they would be smart to either postpone their celebration or scale it back to what they can afford to pay out of pocket.

Dear Liz: I’m hoping a portion of your answer was edited out when you answered the question about medical debt complicating someone’s wedding plans. Missing in your response is that modern couples pay equally for their own weddings.

Frankly, if he is fearful that he will have to make any financial contribution to his own wedding rather than have his future bride shoulder the entire burden, she should run screaming. She deserves a true partner, one who is equally invested, not one who is so selfish that he will let her deal on her own with the bad luck life throws at her and make her pay for their wedding. This is the kind of guy who will leave her and their child if they happen to have a medically fragile or disabled child because of the expenses.

Your first task should have been to point out that he should be paying half the wedding costs, and perhaps that $5,600 is quite reasonable. He sounds like he won’t be there “for better or for worse” but rather only when it doesn’t cause him any slight hardship or inconvenience.

Answer: People do make certain assumptions about many situations that often ought to be examined. In this case, you assumed that the letter writer wasn’t willing to shoulder any of the wedding costs, when that was not indicated. The letter writer was concerned about paying all the costs for the wedding.

You also assumed the letter writer was male, when that wasn’t indicated either.

People often do have different expectations about what marital finances should look like and who should pay for what. Those are matters that married people must work out for themselves.