DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m having a hard time keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak. My husband and I moved into a new neighborhood after he got a fat promotion. We like it a lot, and some of our neighbors are great. But we realized quickly that they have many expectations about how they engage each other. They have already hosted weekend parties and invited the whole neighborhood this summer. We have attended some fun events, but they are way over the top for our budget. What we thought was a leg up in our lifestyle is nothing to these people. We are poor by no means, but we feel like we stick out. How can we continue to live within our means and be active participants in our new neighborhood? -- Sticker Shock
DEAR STICKER SHOCK: You have to come to terms with who you are and what you can afford. You may not be able to host the same level of lavish party as your neighbors, but ask yourself what you can do. Can you host a themed party that is fun and engaging, even if it is not as opulent? Or go in the opposite direction and host a simple, casual barbecue where you serve affordable food and drinks? If you can host a modest event where you feel comfortable, you can set the tone for your guests to feel comfortable, too.
Instead of attempting to keep up with their luxurious lifestyles, establish your own niche. Those who enjoy your events will keep coming. Others will trail off. That’s fine, too.