I have just proven to myself that I can do anything. The thought struck me the day after we met with a potential caterer for our wedding. We were still in sticker shock over the cost of catering and were reeling over the price per person. After speaking with all six caterers from our venue’s approved catering list, we have learned that most start around $124-144 per person and can go up to $200. Holy wedding cake, Batman! For 150 guests, you can do the math. Thankfully, we are working on getting the cost down by making menu changes and removing the extras. Now, I am not a rich person and I am not trying to plan the wedding of the year. All I want is a space large enough to fit our big families, food for our guests, and all of our family and loved ones to be able to attend as we promise to love one another forever. Oh yes, and a great photographer. (My one splurge! I am a wedding photographer myself after all.) I don’t need anything extravagant, but even the basics really do add up.
This morning we placed the $3,000 deposit. Here is why I feel so invincible with my finances, even though I’m slightly panicking over the costs: we are saving up to pay for the wedding ourselves in cash instead of going into debt. And even though the catering cost is terrifying, I actually know we can pull it off, even though I only work part-time and my fiancé is still in school.
A lot of people have told me to skip the wedding and buy a house or better stuff instead. But here is the thing, Matthew and I truly value experiences over stuff. This wedding is not “just one day.” It is an experience, a day where we have the party of our lives with all of our loved ones in attendance, loved ones who may not be with us one, five, or ten years from now. We are building memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. We are beginning our marriage in alignment with our values. If we wanted a tiny elopement we would do that instead. It is not about keeping up with the Joneses, but rather keeping true to ourselves.
We chose to do a long engagement because we knew we would be paying for everything. I felt like crying coming back from the caterer, especially when Matthew started talking about working longer hours. With one year to go, the costs felt like a burden. But then I paused and recognized all that we have accomplished in a year. If we can save up this much money for a wedding, then we can save for anything. We moved to a smaller apartment and I paid off my car. Matthew is working full-time and going to school full-time. By keeping my living expenses low I have been able to pay for our wedding photographer and venue. Together, we have saved up to be able to pay most of the catering costs and we still have another year to keep saving. The big stuff is almost out of the way and thankfully, a couple family members have insisted on helping with other costs including our wedding DJ. We are so thankful to them for their generosity. While working full-time as a low paid secretary I was still able to put aside about $300 a month into savings, work side jobs with my photography business, pay for our venue and photographer, and even saved up $6,500 in a single year for my retirement account. My income is considered very low and I recently switched to a part-time position that pays a little less.
Here is how I did it:
- I embraced minimalism. (Or rather, semi-minimalism. You have to start somewhere.) By downsizing our home we save just a little bit on rent, but we save a lot more on our heating and cooling costs, electrical, and my commute to work. We also really downsized our stuff. Less clutter, less stress, less to clean, and more time for what is important.
- By embracing minimalism, we cut ties with consumerism. I was not a big shopper to begin with, but I noticed I spent more on things that I didn’t have to. I created a book budget (where I spend the most. For some women it is shoes, for me it is books), downsized my beauty products to a few simple products that I love (so much money saved on hair lotions and potions that don’t provide the magic they claim), and less going to the store in general. I feel happier and less stressed about money. Some of the purchases we “have” to make aren’t real “needs.” I learned to hold back and even diminished my desire to shop. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t have fun. I did just buy a kayak, but it was a purchase I have wanted for years, will give me a money-free way to have fun with Matthew this summer, and is a great way to stay fit. Sure, I still spend money that I didn’t plan on spending on occasion like a new picnic blanket and denim jacket, but I don’t beat myself up about it.
- I automatically deposit money into my savings account every time I get a paycheck. Most online banks have this option available and it makes automatically saving a breeze. I started with $10-20 per week, which I didn’t even feel was missing, and upped it to $80 every Friday. That is $320 a month saved!
- I don’t have debt, besides my college loans. These minimum payments take a lot of our energy and hard earned money. Always pay the highest debt down first, pay on time, and don’t use credit when possible.
- I paid off my car and I shopped around for car insurance and took advantage of every insurance saving option I could find. Now I simply apply that car payment amount to my college loans. Not having a car payment has made my life so much better. I can’t even begin to tell you.
- I don’t use a credit card. In the United States, our lives are pretty much determined by our credit score. Even though I had saved up for a car down payment several years ago, I almost couldn’t get a car because I had very little credit history. Now I have a couple credit cards and an amazing score (especially a Firestone Card for car maintenance emergencies), but I always pay them off immediately and I use them only sparingly. To be honest, I have not touched my cards in the past couple months. I don’t want to tempt myself to overspend when I am working so hard to save.
- I don’t watch television. No cable in our household. This saves us so much time and money. However, I do have internet for my business. To me, that is a necessity, but you may be able to cut out internet and use free wifi at a local café or library instead.
- I don’t waste money on treats. I didn’t grow up in a family that spent money frivolously and thankfully those good habits stuck. I don’t buy snacks at the store counter, gum, mints, expensive lattes every morning on my way to work, lunch at a fancy place every week, fast food, or trinkets. I don’t deprive myself either. If I truly want something, not a spur of the moment splurge, I will stop to pick something up. The other weekend I bought a crescent and chai tea latte with a friend and had a lovely time. We drove to Mystic Pizza for a cheeser calzone at Mystic Pizza. Life is too short not to live it, but don’t be wasteful. I make all of my own meals, which saves me so much money, and is much better for my health. A double-win. Packing lunch every day to bring to work saves us hundreds every month. This habit is true for alcohol. I’m not really a drinker, but I will have wine on occasion. I know people who spend hundreds a month on alcohol and going out with friends. To me that is unthinkable. I would rather spend that money on a trip some place amazing. It all comes down to our values, as we spend our money on what we value the most.
Of course, there are circumstances that can make this difficult such as being a caregiver, a single parent, working with a disability, or battling an illness, but I truly do believe that anyone, even if you’re making minimum wage, can be creative enough to spend less and save more to make their goals comes true. It is a commitment and sometimes it can take a few years to really figure it all out. This process takes time.
This is not a lifestyle of instant gratification. If there is something I want, I know I’ll have to wait, save, and truly decide if it is necessary or not. This lifestyle takes a little grit. Even just making a couple changes can make a large difference in your life. You don’t have to make all of these changes at once. Find what works best for you.
Realizing how much I have saved for our wedding this past year and already paid off, I discovered that even while making a modest salary, I can do anything. I can afford to save up to travel anywhere in the world, travel across the country, and save up for experiences I truly want. Honestly, for what we are paying for this wedding we can pay for around-the-world plane tickets for the both of us. I can save up for that camera on my wish list. One day I can even save up to build my own home. And by making similar lifestyle changes, you can too. Money is meant to be spent on important things: necessities like food, clothing, and shelter, but it is also meant to be spent on a life we enjoy. I like to contribute to my savings and it is important to put aside money for emergencies and retirement, but my views on money have changed so much over the past year. I used to think that you had to work long hours and have a high salary to save money and to travel. I am working less than I have in years, but I am saving so much more because I left that scarcity mindset behind. Come up with your plan, stick to it, and make your goals happen.
1,088 total views, 1 views today