Dear Amy:

What is the best way to approach a couple in our neighborhood to kindly (but sternly) ask them to maintain their property?

Everyone else has pride of ownership. These individuals have neglected mowing, ignored strewn garbage, and left tree branches and old household items on the lawn.

- Concerned Neighbor

Dear Concerned: Start by asking, "Are you feeling overwhelmed by the maintenance issues here? I know it's challenging, but how the outside of your house looks makes a real difference to your neighbors."

Then explain that everyone is dependent on everyone maintaining their property. Keeping the exterior of your place looking decent is a way for everyone to protect their investment.

There is a limit to your ability to control your neighbor's choices. Research local regulations on trash and yard refuse. If your entreaties don't work, your neighbors may respond to a ticket issued by the town.

Dear Amy: I recently went out to dinner with a friend. A few days before, she informed me that she had a gift card she wanted to use.

When the check came, she asked me to pay $36, my portion of the tab with tip. She had no intention of sharing the card ($50 value).

I thought it was rude and tasteless of her to use the gift card just for herself. I think she needed my cash for something else. Am I wrong?

- Anne in Connecticut

Dear Anne: Did she also tell you she would treat you to the meal?

If you feel used or if there was a misunderstanding about who would pay, you should clear it up.

There's nothing "wrong" with using a gift card to pay for a meal - or pay for a portion of a meal.