DEAR AMY: My boyfriend lives an hour away. He's made several jokes about moving somewhere together, but I'm worried that these jokes are actually serious.
He's a great man. He's funny, chivalrous and charming, but he's not financially stable. I've spoken to him about his spending habits several times. He's slowly understanding the difference between "needs" and "wants."
I've tried to dodge the subject about moving in together because I'm not comfortable cosigning anything if he is unable to keep up with his side of the expenses. I have never been in debt, and my credit is great. I pay all my bills on time.
My friends tell me life is all about risk and that I should live a little. The fear of going into debt or tapping into my savings scares me, but I also don't want to lose him. What should I do? — Running Out of Time
DEAR RUNNING: Your friends are right in this respect: You should embrace the risks life throws your way, but in this scenario you should define risk as being brave enough to have a series of conversations with your boyfriend about finances and then making choices about what you are willing to do.
You should definitely "live a little." In fact, you should live a lot. But given your prudent financial temperament (good for you), you and this guy seem like a mismatch in an important area.
You should not live with someone who isn't financially stable. That's why dating is so much fun (even with a fiscal mismatch). Unless you marry or live with this guy, you get the laughs without the financial hangover.
DEAR AMY: I am a high school student, and I am in my first romantic relationship. It is going pretty well, except for balancing time between my boyfriend and my friends.
My guy and I have one class together, and we meet during one of our passing times between classes. My friends happen to be in this class, and stick with me in the hallway. They all stand in one group while he is in another so I am forced to choose between them.
I feel guilty either way. If I am with him, they get angry with me, so I usually hang with them because they are sensitive. I get to see them a lot, but they still get annoyed when I talk to him.
At the same time, I want to spend more time with him. We are both involved in extracurriculars and rarely get to see each other on weekends.
I know my friends are hurting because they are not in relationships. I try to stay loyal to them, but they are impossible to please. How can I handle this without their getting mad at me? — Wounded
DEAR WOUNDED: If your friends have serious concerns about your boyfriend, then listen, but understand that balancing between people will be an issue in varying degrees for the rest of your life. You shouldn't ditch your friends for your boyfriend, but they shouldn't control you through guilt.
The answer is to do what you want to do. Your friends aren't giving you the respect you are giving them. A true friend will not box you into a corner. (A good boyfriend doesn't do that, either.)
The next time you're changing classes, take your guy by the hand (or the sleeve), and bring him over to your friend-gaggle. After some initial awkwardness, all the people in your life will find their own way to get along. And if they don't, you'll find out who your true friends are.
DEAR AMY: "Animal Lover in Maryland" was concerned about two guinea pigs her friend was leaving on a cold porch. I had a friend who was planning to get a dog for his sons, and when I asked where the dog would sleep, he said, "In the backyard. I'll make him a doghouse."
Amy, we live in Denver, where it can get extremely cold for extended periods. I convinced him not to get a dog. — Dog Lover
DEAR DL: You did a good deed by speaking up!
(Send questions via e-mail to askamytribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.)
By Amy Dickinson
Tribune Media Services