Monthly Archives: July 2008

A Fabulous Wedding for $4,534!

That’s right, the final accounting is in!  I went $484 over budget, but am well under the $5,000 mark.  Now, that total doesn’t include the rehearsal dinner, the husband’s suit, our rings, or my trousseau (fodder for another post), but the husband will wear his suit again, his parents paid for the dinner, I paid for my ring out of a separate budget line, and the trousseau came from my contracting money.  There should be enough left in that check for the $484 overage and some extra debt-reduction.  We’ll see at the end of the month.  For what I budgeted, I feel completely happy about that extra $484.  It was well spent!!  

The best thing that I did was be super-frugal up to the two final weeks.  By then, I cut myself some slack and bought a few extras, but until then, I stayed under budget for each category.  If I had cut myself some slack on wedding expenses all year long, we could have easily gone $4,000 over budget.  This way, I was only able to overspend a bit at the end, on the caterer and decorations.  I actually overspent $970, but my prior thriftiness had added up to $486, thus the difference was $484.

Here are the details:

  • Ceremony:    $300 budget.  I spent: $277.  $23 UNDER BUDGET
  • Dress:           $750 budget.  I spent:  $519.  $231 UNDER BUDGET
  • Photography: $200 budget.   Will spend: $200 on prints
  • Stationery:     $280 budget.  I spent: $257.  $23 UNDER BUDGET
  • Music:            $300 budget.  I spent: $162.  $138 UNDER BUDGET
  • Flowers:         $200 budget.  I spent: $220.  $20 OVER BUDGET
  • Catering:     $1050 budget.  I spent: $1274.  $224 OVER BUDGET
  • License:           $50 budget.  I spent: $50.
  • Gifts:             $400 budget.  I spent: $332.  $68 UNDER BUDGET
  • Parties:         $250 budget.   I spent:  $247.  $3 UNDER BUDGET
  • Favors:           $70 budget.    I spent:  $170.  $100 OVER BUDGET
  • Decorations:  $100 budget.   I spent: $494.  $394 OVER BUDGET
  • Misc.             $100 budget.   I spent: $332 (pre- and post-wedding hotel).  $232 OVER BUDGET

In retrospect, the places where I really went over budget certainly related to my pre-wedding anxieties.  I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough food, so I increased the catering order at the last minute.  Of course, there was too much food on the actual day.  I was worried it would be really hot and unpleasant at the lodge, so I overspent on hand fans and decorations (including some cool games for the kids).  They day turned out perfectly, but the fans and games were a big hit.  

All in all, I feel quite happy about the wedding expenses.  I’m still basking in how lovely it all was, and it’s a very nice feeling to know that we can afford what I overspent.

Having just gone through everything, it’s a little too early to give advice, but if you’re planning a wedding, I’d say be as frugal as possible when spending money far in advance.  I know for me, that extra cushion helped me splurge during the final days without stressing out over money.  In the end, I didn’t really need the extra food or all the decorations.  The people who attended were what made the day special.  However, I’m happy to have spent a little extra to make the day more enjoyable for everyone.  Here’s to weddings!


Your Local Library: Netflix for Books

I’m an avid reader and have spent far, far, far too much money in the big box bookstores and used bookstores over the years.  During the summer, I can easily read several books in a week, and if I’m doing research, I’ll run through five to six in a day.  Buying all those books can lead to considerable expense! 

Before I started paying off my credit cards, I tried to limit my book spending to $50 a month.  In reality, I’d slip into a bookstore for a quick pick-me-up and charge $20 here and there.  Anytime “Amy’s new thing” required books, I wouldn’t count it into my book allowance.  Often, on my $50 shopping trip, I’d squeeze in something else and end up with $60 or $75.

These days, I look to our library first.  At first, I just picked up what looked interesting on the new release shelves and decided I wouldn’t be able to read the really popular books while in debt-reduction mode.  I’d stroll past a bookstore in the airport and linger over new titles as if they were forbidden fruit.  I told myself, “it’s only temporary — you’ll be out of debt soon.”

Now, though, I’ve discovered our local library’s online consortium.  Our library is one of 71 throughout the state that is linked together.  So, if I look for a book through my local library’s online catalog, it’s linked up with the catalogs for all 71 library systems.  I was thrilled to discover that when I place a hold at my local library, I’m in the queue for copies from all over the consortium.  That way, even if I’m number 82, there are enough copies circulating that I’ll get it fairly quickly.  I get an e-mail when a book is in, and all the books are shipped to our library.  All I have to do is pick it up and return it to my local library.

So, now I’m using my library the same way I use Netflix.  Two weeks ago, I skimmed the bestsellers on Amazon and read through the book reviews on NPR and the Washington Post.  I put about a dozen books on hold through my library’s website, creating my own little book “queue.”  I won’t necessarily get them in the order I want, but my odds of getting something good fairly quickly have increased considerably.

Sure enough, over the past two weeks, I’ve read the new Jennifer Weiner and Marion Keyes (two of my favorite ‘chic lit’ writers).  I’ve read several NPR picks for summer reading and have Ethan Canin’s America America at home.  I’m doing fun research on American cooking, so I have a facsimile of American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796).  In my “queue,” I’m waiting for My Stroke of Insight by Jill Taylor Bolte, MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf about cooking during World War II, and Jonathan Miles’s Dear American Airlines.

I love that I can keep my reading current for free!  Plus, I’m able to track down all sorts of interesting things that the big box bookstores can’t carry.  Our small-town library is clean, friendly, and very convenient.  I can walk there on a nice summer afternoon or stop by on my way home from work.  They even have a summer reading program for adults, which is so cute!  It reminds me of how much I loved the library’s reading program as a kid.  The website helps me keep track of what I have out, and I can renew things online.  So far this summer, I haven’t paid a single fine.

So, if you’re an avid reader and trying to be more frugal, check into your library’s hold system.  If it’s as efficient as ours, you can easily create your own Netflix for books!

Back to Reality

As we all know, healthy finances and a healthy diet seem to operate on startlingly similar principles.  Over my six months of debt reduction, I have learned that all the fundamentals of a diet apply to my budget too.  For example:

  • You must track your money as diligently as you track your calories.
  • Planning ahead is key.  Never peruse a menu without a healthy idea in mind and never walk into a store without a list!
  • Just as there’s a balance between exercise and reducing calories, there’s a balance between spending money and earning/saving money.
  • You need little tricks or rewards to keep yourself motivated, because proper weight- or debt-reduction is a major waiting game.
  • One splurge won’t kill you, but get right back on track the next day!

Right now, I’m struggling with that last item.  My wedding seemed like Christmas on steroids, both food-wise and spending-wise.  The wedding cake was the most amazing cheesecake ever; I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of it on Sunday and more bites on Monday.  I had a blast running into Hobby Lobby and swooping up wedding trinkets and satin ribbon with out totaling anything in my head.  I just plunked down the credit card and signed with barely a glance at the total. 

While one or two pieces of cake and an extra trip to Hobby Lobby won’t ruin me, a month of such activity certainly will.  We now have an immense amount of cheesecake in the fridge.  And I slipped oh so easily into my charging persona while running errands before the wedding.  For the next month, I could easily swipe a bite or two of cheesecake every time I open the fridge or run to the store for more of the little gourmet treats we enjoyed during the wedding.

So, time to get back to healthy mode!  What will I do?  Well, today, I plan to freeze the rest of the cheesecake and return about $100 worth of Hobby Lobby materials that we didn’t use.  I’m also not going to the grocery store before we leave for the honeymoon on Saturday.  Finally, I have $20 in cash.  That’s all I get to spend until the honeymoon.  When we get back, it’ll be time for serious budgeting and paying off my credit cards.  Come August, the healthy me will re-emerge!

I’m Back!!

Hi everyone!  I’m back and married!  Whew!  Sorry for the MIA-ness there in July.  The wedding planning took over.  We had a beautiful, fabulous wedding yesterday.  I kept telling myself, “it doesn’t have to be the best day ever, just a happy day.”  Well, I’m happy to report it WAS the best day ever, thanks to the groom, my lovely family, and my fabulous friends.  I’ll offer up some more reports and pictures soon.  I’ll be gone next week for the honeymoon, but otherwise, regular posting will resume!  I’m have some fun, frugal plans for the upcoming school year that I will also start sharing.

Oh, yes, I also promise to post all the wedding financial details once the dust settles.  I think we came in over budget, but under $5,000.  I also have a very extravagant wedding-related confession that I have to post!

And, after all that dust settling, I think (cross your fingers everyone) that I’ll be free of credit-card debt August 1!!!  Stay tuned because that will be a happy, happy post from a happy, happy bride!