Monthly Archives: March 2008

Daily Accounting: Monday March 31

Earned: $0 Spent: $1657.08 Saved: $0

Money in and money out! I paid bills today, so I’ll just share the highlights. If you look over on the Debt Tab, you’ll see that I’m under $7,000 in credit card debt. Hooray! It’s great to no longer say to myself “I have $8,000 in credit card debt, I have $8,000 in credit card debt.” Unfortunately, one card will spike back up soon with conference hotel and plane charges, but at least I’ll get reimbursed for those. Also, the interest rate dropped a percent on one of my cards, so my credit rating must be ticking up. Once the semester ends, I’ll try the dreaded calls to negotiate for lower rates.

My snowflake total for March was $152.49. What is exciting is that it actually would have been higher, but I had to send $101 to the dentist. I’m happy that I could pay the dentist out of “snowflake” money rather than my emergency fund or regular budget because I wasn’t planning on that charge. I also sent $70 to the future husband’s TV fund and $200 to my fun fund. Unfortunately, that leftover $50 from my trip had to go to the dentist.

Finally, I got to spend some fun money. I sent a political contribution to my favorite candidate. And at Target, I bought seeds for my garden. I got several herbs, hot peppers, spinach, lettuce, and flowers for $13. I should track my gardening expenses this year and see how I do. This weekend, I’ll transform the window above our kitchen sink into a greenhouse for the next six weeks.

Hope you all had a nice Monday!

5 Tips for a Wedding under $5,000

Like most thirty-something brides, I’ve had plenty of time to think about my dream wedding. From little girl fantasies while playing dress up to catty remarks at some friend-of-a-friend’s wedding, I’ve run through tons of ideas about how to make my wedding perfect. But when the right guy came into the picture at the right time, I suddenly realized that this is much more about the two of us and our beginning than it is about a perfect, fairly tale ending. I had a few wedding fantasies that I’ve let fade because, when it came down to it, an “average” wedding of $20,000 to $30,000 is not in my family’s budget. Besides, even if we had that kind of money sitting around, would we want to spend it on limousine rentals and engraved champagne toasting glasses? That’s not really what our lives are all about, day-to-day. So it wouldn’t be a wedding that really reflected us. I completely understand that some women love the whole “special day” fantasy and that some families throw weddings to celebrate their familial and social networks. Clearly, this post isn’t for the folks who can actually afford a $30,000 wedding. If you can, go for it! Enjoy it! If you can’t, and you don’t want to be paying credit card debt or personal loan for the next ten years, keep reading.

Tip #1: Decide What a Wedding Really Means to You
All the advice manuals are right on this one. Really stop and think about what you and your fiancé really want in a wedding. If you want some ideas to help get the ball rolling, flip through a few bridal magazines, read a couple of planners, and definitely read Kathleen Kennedy’s Priceless Weddings for Under $5,000 and Anti-Bride Guide: Tying the Knot Outside of the Box. When I imagined my wedding day, what always got me the most excited was the fact that it will be one of the few times in my life that many of the people I love will be in one place at the same time. My friends and family are scattered across the country. Some dear friends from one “phase” in my life have never met my parents or friends from another “phase.” Yet, I think that they will all have a lot of fun together. So, for me, one of the coolest things about a wedding is that it’s a time for all these people to spend time together. Once I had that in mind, other things started to fall into place. So, think through what’s really important to you. Is it a big church ceremony with your whole congregation? Is the joining of two families? Is the royal treatment for a day?  Is it just about the two of you and a few close friends? Deciding your fundamentals will help shape the whole wedding.

Tip #2: Let the Theme Develop from the Location
Don’t try to transform that tired church basement into Cinderella’s castle on a budget. And don’t think you can redecorate a hotel conference room into something personal and intimate without a lot of money. If you’re trying to save money, pick a meaningful location and work with it. For us, that’s a local state park where we love to go hiking. In fact, one of our first, perfect dates was there. I love that for the rest of our lives, this park will also be where we got married. And, since it’s a state park lodge, that’s the theme we’re going with. We’ll use flowers from the local farmer’s market, give wildflower packets for favors, and host a scrumptious picnic reception after an 11:00 am ceremony. We have the lodge for the whole day, so we’ll have games for the kids and plenty of time to catch up with family and friends. I’m planning for a hike down to the river in my wedding dress!

Tip #3: Ditch the “It Only Happens Once” Thinking
Sure, this may be your only wedding day, but it will not be the only special day in your life. I think one of the ways the wedding industry highjacks us brides is with the whole “it’s your special day, you deserve it” mentality. Of course, you deserve it, but can you afford it? As I know from experience, credit doesn’t spend like real money. The second assistant for the videographer may seem perfectly reasonable for a once-in-a-lifetime event, but is it perfectly reasonable for your budget? When the realities of budgeting came into my planning, I had to give up the very elegant cocktail reception at our local art gallery, complete with a jazz trio and designer shoes. But you know what’s great? I can have that reception for our ten-year anniversary or my stepdaughter’s college graduation or any old reason I want. This is not the only time in my life that I can throw a party. Once that really sank in, a lot of the pressure came off too. I’m excited about our wedding, but I’m not stressed. I think that’s because this will be a really terrific day, but it won’t be the only terrific day in my life!

Tip #4: Know When to Scrimp and When to Splurge
Most bridal magazines and planners have a wedding budget section where they tell you what percentage of your budget to set for each category. Run the calculations with their rules once and then decide what really matters to you. Usually you can dump some categories completely and trim others; then you’ll have more money for the categories that matter to you. I paid a little more for my dress than I might have, but I wanted to go shopping for it when my mom was in town. I could have spent hours on eBay or craigslist tracking down a great deal, but it was important for me to have her there when I tried on the dress. On the other hand, I found really cool save-the-date cards in InStyle Weddings that you could order for a mere $1,300. I know! I found a similar image on Google and went to iPrint.com. I designed the cards myself for $49.95. If you think through what really matters, you won’t throw away money on things that you don’t really care about.

Tip #5: Involve Your Friends and Family
This is actually the coolest thing about the whole wedding process for me. Once we started asking people to donate their talents rather than gifts, the whole wedding has turned into something really special. First off, after reading Kennedy’s chapter “If You are Crazy Enough to Cater Your Own Wedding,” I decided, yes I am that kind of crazy. Of course, I love to cook and it’s been an important bond with my fiancé and his daughters. I also love to eat fresh, local food and knew I could turn out something lovely. I also knew I couldn’t do it myself, so I called my mom and my maid of honor. They were totally on board! Mom had her wedding at her parents’ home, and they did the food themselves. I love that we’ll have this continuity and that everyone will be rolling up their sleeves and jumping in. I’ve been really touched by how everyone has reacted when we asked them to help us. It’s a testament to all the talent and energy of the people I care about. I know our wedding will be much more meaningful to me because I have all of their help. Personally, I can’t imagine it any other way!

Monday Morning Links

I can’t believe it’s Monday already! I’m really glad I’m staying home today to recover from the flu and get caught up. If you’re taking a break from being back in the grind, here are my favorite recent links from the world of personal finance.

Mrs. Micah’s post, “What Currency Do You Use to Measure Your Life” is a great reminder of what’s really important. I know that keeping my goals fresh in mind is really helping me feel like I’m accomplishing something!

The Simple Dollar has a thought-provoking post, “Is Success a Choice?” I certainly agree that we have control over the choices we make with the hand we’re dealt.

I’ve been really tempted to consolidate my credit card debt. No Credit Needed‘s post, “Moving Debt is Not the Same as Paying it Off” reminded me exactly why I’m in the mess I’m in. All those student loans may have wiped out my credit card debt, but they didn’t wipe out my credit card habit! A very important distinction.

You must read “My Dad — Frugal, Generous, and my Hero” by Financial Learn. It’s such a beautiful testament to one father’s financial wisdom!

Finally, if you’re thinking about working from home, Antishay Ventenne has great tips at “How Can I Work at Home Successfully?” Since I’ll be writing at home this summer, I plan to try some of these tips myself.

Speaking of writing, for you faithful readers, I have really good news. I got an article accepted for an academic journal today! Hip, hip, hooray! As you know, this is a great step toward tenure at my little school, so it’s a huge relief for me!

Daily Accounting: Weekend Update

Saturday:
Earned: $2821.57 Spent: $49.70 Saved: $1

Well, I made it back home to Ohio with one dollar in my wallet. Saturday was pretty miserable thanks to the flu. I saved money by taking Metro rather than the airport shuttle, but it was a dreadful ride. I thought I was going to come home with about $10 extra, but the off-site airport parking ended up being $26, thanks to some tricky accounting and a “fuel surcharge.” So, that was no bargain at all! Oh well, at least I made it home in one piece. All in all, I did manage to only spend $84 on the trip. Since I had budgeted $135, I get to sent $51 to my “fun” savings account. Hopefully, I’ll get to spend that on a happier trip in May to San Francisco!

My paycheck and some snowflakes hit my checking account on Saturday. Check back later today for the full bill-paying report.

Sunday
Earned: $0 Spent: $0 Saved: $0

I just slept most of the day. Boo, stomach flu, Boo!

Daily Accounting #8

Earned: $0 Spent: $25.15 Saved: $0

Boo! I got an evil stomach virus from my cousin’s baby and spent the whole day in the hotel room. What a shame, especially since I was enjoying the conference. So, I did get room service — $19 for soup, club soda, crackers, and spinach/artichoke dip. I only ended up eating a few of the chips, some crackers and the club soda. I also bought a Sprite from the vending machine and Tylenol from the hotel gift shop.

What a yucky day!

Come buy! Come buy!

Now that my ears are attuned to it, money advice is everywhere, even at my academic conference. Today I chaired a panel on British Literature (not my specialty) titled “Goblins and Vampires.” I was prepared for some typical gothic analysis with a dash of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that wasn’t what we got. Our last panelist was really interesting.

His reading of Christina Rosetti’s 1862 poem “Goblin Market” centered on the song the goblins used to lure young women into their fruit market.

“MORNING and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:”

Lizzie, the heroine, makes up her mind before entering not to spend her money and, while the goblins try to force the fruit on her, she comes out happily holding on to her penny.

In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore through the furze,
Threaded copse and dingle,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse, —
Its bounce was music to her ear.

Listening to the presentation, it was a great moment where I suddenly saw yesterday’s airport experience in terms of Rosetti’s “Goblin Market.” Like Lizzie, I made up my mind before I entered not to spend any money in the airport. Though the airport goblins tried to tempt me with their fruits of Starbucks and sudoku, I resisted and happily made it to St. Louis with my penny jingling in my purse. One of the keys, I’m finally learning, is to make up your mind about how much you’ll spend before you enter a marketplace. That way it’s much easier to keep the goblins at bay.

Who knew that I’d find great financial advice from a bunch of literary scholars?!

Daily Accounting #7

Earned: $0 Spent: $9.15 Saved: $0

Doing great! I only spent $9.15 for coffee and lunch. I did have to give in and buy a coffee from the hotel restaurant when I couldn’t track down the conference’s coffee station. But, that was $2 well spent and now I know where the free coffee is for tomorrow. Lunch was a nice turkey sandwich from Panera (which they still call St. Louis Bread Company here!). For dinner, I ate the reception food while chatting with some very nice people. I met one woman who I know would be a kindred spirit and we made plans to have lunch tomorrow. She was trying to eat dinner off the reception food as well, so we bonded over our thrifty ways.

Hope your week is going well. See ya tomorrow!