Tag Archives: married life

How I planned an elegant wedding for under $5,000

Since Tony and I just celebrated our first anniversary, and my sister-in-law is in the process of planning her own wedding, I’ve been thinking about wedding planning a lot lately. Before I started planning my own wedding, I believed that it had to be all or nothing: either an all out, extravagant affair or a quick run to the court house followed by a backyard barbecue. That isn’t the case, though. If you prioritize and plan carefully, it’s possible to get everything you want out of your wedding on a very limited budget.

I never thought I was the type of girl who wanted a big fuss on my wedding day. Looking back, though, I’m so glad we had a traditional wedding. It really was the most special day of my life.

Last year I wrote a series of posts on how I planned my wedding on a budget. If you’re in the middle of planning a wedding for you or someone you love, I hope you’ll get some useful information from my experience.

Getting your priorities straight.

Make a plan and set a wedding budget.

Planning a beautiful wedding ceremony on a budget.

Hosting an elegant reception without spending a fortune.

Dressing your wedding on a dime.

Minimize your wedding flower budget.

Do it yourself wedding ideas to save money.

It’s okay to spend more on what’s important to you.

How to buy wedding bands online without getting ripped off.

Planning a budget honeymoon.

As I planned my wedding, I also found a lot of great tips from one of my favorite frugal bloggers, Kacie at Sense to Save. She recently rounded up all of her frugal wedding planning ideas and reposted them. Check it out for some more tips!

Honestly, though, my advice for planning the wedding of your dreams on a budget comes down to this: Set your priorities, use the bulk of your budget on what’s really important to you, and don’t spend money on something just because wedding etiquette rules say you should. It drives me crazy when I hear people paining over how much they’re spending on things they don’t really care about just because they don’t want to be “tacky.” The wedding industry makes millions of dollars a year off these so-called etiquette rules. It’s no wonder they keep them alive.

This is your wedding. It should be a celebration of you, your relationship, and the people who love you most. Saving money on your wedding is the same as saving money on anything else — you have to do what’s right for you, and you can’t worry about what people will think of you. The most important people in your lives won’t care a bit how you choose to celebrate your wedding, and they’ll never ever think you’re tacky for saving money. They’ll just be happy to be there with you no matter how you choose to celebrate.

Frugal date nights for around $10

Photo by justonlysteve

Now that we’re living on a cash only budget for all of our discretionary expenses, one of the areas we’re really cutting down is entertainment. We still want a little fun money, but we’re limiting our entertainment expenses to about $10 per week.

I’ve been brainstorming some things we can do for about $10 a week instead of going out to eat. It’s funny, but these are already some of our favorite date ideas. By cutting out the restaurant meal beforehand, we’re saving $25-$40 a night.

See a matinee.

I realize that in some places, you can’t even get two tickets to a matinee for $10 anymore. Some theaters offer special discounts on movies that have been out for a while or certain showtimes, though. Our theater offers a discount on the last matinee of the day, which brings the matinee price down from $7 to $5.50 per person, so we always go to that show. Find out if your theater offers any discounts, and plan your trips to the movies around their specials.

Pizza and a movie.

If you can’t go to the movies for $5 per person, then just stay in. Order pizza and pick up a movie at Redbox for a dollar. If you use a promo code, the movie is free. Pizza restaurants like Domino’s and Little Caesars are offering large pizzas for $5, making this a $5 date night instead of $10. If you’re like us and you prefer your homemade pizza to fast food, this date costs even less.

Take a drive.

We love to walk our dog around the neighborhood or our city’s downtown on nice nights. But if you’re tired of the same sights, consider taking a drive to a nearby city in the evening. Try to look at the things you may have seen a hundred times through new eyes, or just enjoy a good conversation. Some of our best ideas have come from long car rides.

Add a bottle of wine to a weekend meal.

Wine is one of our favorite ways to dress us a normal meal and make it feel special. There are a ton of good wines available at most grocery stores for under $10 a bottle. Adding it to your regular meal can make it feel like you’re on a date in a fancy restaurant instead of eating at home. Turn off the TV, set the table, and talk to each other like you would at a restaurant.

Coffee and dessert.

If you really want a treat or something to do after dinner, head out for a cup of decaf and some dessert. Sharing the dessert will cut costs and calories, but you’ll still get something sweet. I’ve always thought restaurants were fun, and this is a great way to dine out without spending a lot of money. Sometimes instead of going to a restaurant, we head to Barnes and Noble for a frou-frou Starbucks coffee drink and some book browsing.

What do you do for fun when money’s tight?

Celebrating our first (frugal) year of marriage

He just pronounced us married!

One year ago, my husband and I were celebrating our wedding day. I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown!

I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished in just a year. Our main goal was to begin our life together on the right financial track, and I’m confident that we’ve accomplished that goal and then some!

Here’s what we’ve accomplished in one short year:

It hasn’t been easy for my husband, but he has been incredibly supportive as we adapted to this new lifestyle. When we began living frugally, I was the one constantly reminding him of our goals. Now I love it when he’s the one reminding me. We’re a great team, and I’m excited about all that we’ll accomplish together in the future.

After an amazing year with an amazing partner, I’m looking forward to many frugal years to come!

The List: Fun goals to accomplish before 2011

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Just generally kind of blah. It’s taken me some time to figure out what could be causing it, especially since everything is going so well for us right now.

I’ve always had a tendency to be preoccupied with the future. Instead of enjoying what I have right now, I’m looking ahead to a new home, a baby, and everything else that’s coming up in the next stage of our lives.

Unfortunately, all this looking ahead is a good way to miss out on what’s good about right now. We have almost two years before we close this chapter in our lives and move on to the next. It’s two years of time together to experience new things and enjoy each other’s undivided attention. That’s a pretty good place to be.

Lately we’ve been talking about ways to make the most of this time. There are so many things we want to do and see before we settle down and start a family, but we’ve been so focused on lofty financial goals and day-to-day life that we’ve lost sight of those things.

We’re in a good place financially. We’re debt-free except for our student loans, and we’ll be paying off that debt for quite some time no matter how I crunch the numbers. That’s okay with me. We’re on track to complete our emergency fund in about a year, and we should have the money saved for our trip to Europe in a little under a year.

When we decided to plan our trip to Europe, it was partly because we realized this is the best time in our lives to do it. With no children and few financial obligations, we have more freedom now than we’ll have for quite some time after we have a baby and buy a house.

Acknowledging this freedom made us start to think about other things we’d like to do. We may not be able to accomplish them all, but focusing on the list will be a nice diversion for me in the coming year and a half while I count down to the next chapter of our lives.

Some of the things on The List won’t cost us a thing; others are quite expensive. We’re still committed to our other financial goals (living debt free, saving for retirement, and completing our emergency fund) and we don’t want this list to distract us too much from those goals. By setting priorities and being more frugal in other aspects of our lives, we should be able to focus a little money on travel and other things we’ve always wanted to do without detracting from our other goals.

I put up a rough draft of The List on a separate page where I can track what we’ve accomplished and add to it. We have about 20 months to do as much as we can before Tony graduates. These are fun things, so you won’t find any financial goals here.

The challenge is to accomplish them frugally without getting into debt or affecting our savings too much. We may discover that some of these things aren’t possible at this point in our lives. We’ll have to examine our priorities and plan ahead to make some of them happen. Whether we’re able to do it all or not, I’m really looking forward to trying and sharing our experiences with you as we cross things off.

What do you think we should do before we settle down? Take a look at The List, and let me know if you have any suggestions!

Simplifying our banking system

When Tony and I first combined our finances, we decided to open one joint account for the majority of our spending, bills, and other banking, and a personal account for each of us. The plan was to keep a small balance in our personal accounts and use them for discretionary spending, gifts, and other personal expenses.

It’s been almost two years since we combined our finances, and the personal accounts have turned out to be more hassle than we expected. We very rarely used the personal accounts. Last month a debit card mix-up almost cost us in overdraft fees. After that, we decided to go ahead and simplify our banking by consolidating our accounts.

The first step was the make sure we didn’t have anything linked to those accounts. Since the personal accounts were never meant for paying bills, this was relatively simple. Tony’s paycheck was being direct deposited into his personal account. Once the funds cleared, he transferred the money to our joint account. Why we made things so complicated by doing it this way, I have no idea. He alerted his payroll department to the change, and they set it up so that his paycheck will be deposited into our joint account from now on.

A 10-minute phone call today was all it took to transfer the tiny balance from our personal accounts and close them out. It felt pretty good to cut up the personal debit cards. Already our financial system feels much simpler.

Last week I received an email from ING Direct, the online bank where I keep all of our savings. Right now they’re offering a $25 bonus to savings account holders who open a checking account and make three purchases using their debit card.

I’ve been considering opening an ING Direct checking account for awhile. Since ING is online-only, it takes 3 days to transfer money from my savings to our checking account at Wachovia. By opening an ING checking account, I’ll have instant access to our emergency fund in case of an emergency. Transfers are instant, and I’ll be able to use our debit card to access the money. Of course, the $25 bonus just for using my debit card will be nice, too.

ING Direct also offers a relatively high interest rate for checking (currently 0.25%). I’ve considered moving all of my checking to ING, but even though I’ve never had an issue with their customer service (representatives are always helpful, friendly, and even available on the weekends), I still like using a brick and mortar bank for my regular banking. Maybe someday I’ll take advantage of the high checking account interest rate and switch over completely, though.

I briefly considered opening two separate ING checking accounts, one for me and one for my husband, so we could get two $25 bonuses. But then I decided I didn’t want to be back where we started with two extra checking accounts we don’t use. So we’re happy with one for now strictly for emergencies.

We’ll each receive a debit card for the ING checking account, and it will look completely different from our joint checking account debit cards, so we’ll be able to avoid any mix-ups.

I’ve been incredibly happy with my experience with ING Direct for my savings account. The interest rates are considerably higher than normal savings accounts (currently 1.5%). If you’re interested in opening your own ING Direct account, send me an email and I’ll send you a referral link. If you make an initial deposit of $250 or more you’ll qualify for a $25 bonus, and I’ll get $10 for referring you. Let me know and I’ll send it along!

I feel so much better now that we’ve simplified our money management. What about you? Is your system working for you, or is it time to reevaluate?

How my husband plans to save while I’m away

The following is a guest post from my wonderful husband Tony about how he plans to save money while I’m away.

Karen has joked that I’ll be “living the bachelor life” for four days while she’s away at a conference in New York, which isn’t entirely true, but it does have me worried. The “bachelor life” to me never meant many of its stereotypical elements, but before I met Karen, I will say that the “bachelor life” certainly meant spending money frivolously. I’m worried about spending time apart from her (the first time in almost three years!) and how that might lead me to spend money where I don’t need to.

I’m determined to keep costs down, so here’s my plan, as much for you as it is for me:

Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers.

Anyone who reads here regularly knows that I’m a bit of a foodie, and my greatest financial vice is wanting to spend a bit too much at the grocery store. I like trying new foods, and in the past this has run up our bill. My plan for the days Karen is gone will be stick to our go-to meals and focus on leftovers. Pasta that could feed both me and Karen lends itself to two (at least) portions of leftovers. Without splitting it with her, I’ll have four meals for myself. That’ll help cover lunches and dinners.

No Trip to the Theater

Movies are passion of mine, and I’ll admit that at first I thought one of the ways I could pass my time while Karen is gone is to take in a matinee one day after I teach. But still, even paying only for myself, that’s an expenditure I don’t need. I’ll focus instead on the campus library, RedBox (which has some newer releases I haven’t yet seen), and our trial membership of Netflix.

Talking to Friends and Playing with Our Dog

When you’re alone, you seek out conversation. I’ll have friends and family I can call, but there is the pesky matter of being on different networks and having to use my minutes before 9 p.m. That’s why I’ve begun using Gmail’s video chat feature to talk to some of my friends back home. It’s user-friendly, completely free, and as long as you have a camera and a microphone, you’re set to go.

Also, I’m a little worried how our dog is going to react to just me at home, so I’ll be making sure he gets a lot of exercise to keep him occupied — and that’s absolutely free.

Just Another Week

I think one of the most important things to consider when you’re regular schedule is upended is to tell yourself: this is just another week. Yes, I’m going to miss Karen tremendously, but if I tell myself something is “okay just for this week,” it’s going to get me in a lot of trouble. I’ll still have classes to take and teach, so it’s not like I’m going on a vacation or anything.

Whenever something comes up that I want to do because I’ve got nothing else to do, I’m going to ask myself: would we do this on any other weeknight?

Now, I know I’m going to go a little stir crazy being alone for four days, so I do have a few activities planned. I’d like to try a southern barbecue restaurant that was recently voted the best in town, so perhaps I’ll go there for lunch one day (since the lunch menu is cheaper).

Personal finance is romantic

photo by jeeked

I know I said yesterday that love and money have nothing to do with one another. That’s not entirely true.

It’s true that love doesn’t cost money. There’s no reason to spend any money on love. But money can certainly affect your relationship, especially when you’re having financial problems. It can increase fighting, distract you from the important things, and even lead to divorce.

I know, most people don’t consider budgeting to be a very romantic concept, but money problems can wreak havok on even the healthiest of bonds. Working together to get your finances in order is one of the best things you can do for your relationship.

It fosters a sense of teamwork.

There’s nothing more bonding than setting mutual goals and working toward them together. Teamwork is good for any relationship. It heightens closeness, especially when you succeed together.

It decreases (or eliminates) financial arguments.

Couples fight about money than any other thing. Most of these arguments stem from differences in how you and your partner handle money. But when you take the time to outline your goals and rules together, it allows you to get on the same page about money management.

Maybe you still won’t agree completely, but talking it through allows you to find common ground and set mutually agreed upon rules. Though we don’t completely agree about every aspect of money management, Tony and I have never fought about money. We set the rules, and we know what to expect from one another.

It decreases money stress, allowing you to focus on other things.

Anyone who has experienced money troubles knows it can be hard to focus on anything else when your finances are a wreck. Your finances won’t be perfect overnight, but when you take control and start to work toward financial goals, you at least feel more in control. You’ll suddenly realize your mind is much freer to think about more positive things, like how much you love your partner.

It allows you to accomplish your dreams together.

Whether your shared dream is to own a home, take your dream vacation, start a family, or own your own business, getting your finances in order is the first step. There’s nothing more romantic than achieving your dreams together, and fixing your finances can help you make that happen.

This Valentine’s Day, take some time to look at your finances — your mistakes, your accomplishments, and your goals. It may not seem like a romantic way to spend the holiday, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your relationship.

Love don’t cost a thing

photo by Grant MacDonald

I’m not a J.Lo fan, I promise. But with Valentine’s Day coming up this week, there’s never been a better time to remind ourselves of this simple concept: love and money have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

I have nothing against Valentine’s Day. It’s a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, like most holidays, it’s gotten all wrapped up with money and gifts and extravagance. It’s ironic that the holiday centered on love has become so extravagant when love is is the most frugal idea ever. Love costs nothing. It offers so many wonderful benefits, and they’re all absolutely free.

This Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to celebrate love without spending any money. I’m not talking about spending less money or a little money. Try celebrating the person you love most for free.

Spending money is easy, but we all know the best things in life cost nothing.

  • Take an extra moment out of the day to stop what you’re doing, embrace your significant other, and tell him or her exactly how you feel.
  • Write a letter letting him know what he means to you and how he changed your life.
  • Make a list of all of the things you love most about her.
  • Turn off the TV and spend the evening talking about where you’ve come from and where you want to go next.
  • Remind yourself of your first days as a couple, and try to remember the time when your partner was just too good to be true. Hopefully, you haven’t forgotten, but if you have, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to remind yourself.

If you’re planning a money-free Valentine’s Day, leave a comment and share your plans!