Friday, June 6, 2014

My Top 20 Money Saving Secrets

So Many times I will see blog posts titled things like "How I had an inexpensive wedding" or tips and tricks to have a beautiful wedding on a tight budget", etc. Here are my problems with those posts:
1. the budgets provided are 3x+ mine.    2. a great deal of how they saved money is stuff like "My mom is a caterer, my sister is a professional photographer, My aunt runs a motel"....Well gee. That really helps me, doesn't it?
       So because of the complete lack of useful info out there, I have decided to make this post of my Top 20 ways to ACTUALLY have a low budget (and still beautiful) Wedding.

* If you would like to see pictures of my dress, ring, decor,photos, etc. AND how much each category of my wedding cost, Check out my Weddings on the Cheap: Average Cost vs.  The Thrifty Bride post

1. Save save save.When I was 19 years old, I decided I wanted to get married. I didn't know to whom, or when- but I knew that I wanted to, so I made a special account at my bank, and every paycheck I put $20 into my wedding fund. Now, at 23, My wedding is completely paid for, And so is most of the honeymoon. This way, spending the cash on the wedding doesn't hurt me, because it's not coming out of my current cash flow. Start saving as early as possible, and make your amount something doable. Trying to put huge amounts in will be hard if you have a little income

2. Set a Budget: I had mine set long before I even met my fiance, but you can sit down with him and your parents or whoever and do this too. Figure out how much you REALLY want to spend. Don't think about costs you know, or compare weddings of relatives. Pretend we live in a perfect world where you can find amazing deals on everything. Consider what to you sounds like A LOT of money. I make minimum wage. A thousand dollars sounds like a lot. Whenever I think about spending more than that on a wedding I cringe. There's so much more I could do with that money that I would enjoy more. Go through your current expenses and decide how much you can afford to spend WITHOUT GOING IN DEBT. Trust me, debt is bad. Don't do it

3. Give yourself "Wiggle Room": My budget is insanely low. Not because I can't afford more- I could if I wanted to. By budgeting so low though, I challenge myself to try harder to save money. However, because I budgeted for way less than I can afford, If I do go a little over budget and spend say, $600 dollars- I'm not in trouble. The only thing that suffers is my pride- knowing I couldn't do it. If your budget is something you can barely afford, like $5,000 for example; there isn't room for error. if you go over you could risk going into debt. If you fall in love with something that is a bit outside your budget, you may have to give it up. Budgeting for more than you can afford or barely what you can afford might make you feel like you can be looser with the money (I like these cups, I'll just buy them, I have enough money), and in the long run might restrict you more.

4. Use a Debit Card: I didn't personally use this one, because by the time I heard about it it was too late- but I really wish I had. Set up a debit card that goes straight to your wedding account, and use only this card to pay for your wedding purchases. This will help you better track your budget, cut down on confusion, and allow you to track where your money is going.

5. Research. research research research. Look up facts things like how much food to serve at a party, how many people to REALLY plan on (little hint: My caterer friend said that you take the number of invites you actually sent- and that's about how many to plan on. some say to add 20, just to be safe). Spend time writing down who you want to invite, and get an educated idea of what you want and what you are doing. The most popular advice you will get on other (bogus) money saving wedding blogs is to invite 100 people or less at your wedding. I fell into that trap thinking "oh that makes sense, less people, less expense. When I sat down though and wrote out just the names of my FAMILY (grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts ONLY) I was at 70 invites...Well I sure wasn't going to cut out any of my family members, and I wasn't going to ask Jake to cut his list down to 30. Plus, what about all my friends? What about his friends? Nobody, including me, would have been happy. The more I researched and planned, the more I realized this tip is BOGUS. Instead of not inviting anyone, don't serve a full meal, or expensive foods.

6. Have a solid plan FIRST: Being a bride is exciting, there's so much to do, and if you are doing this on your own like me- your natural instinct is to get out there and get stuff done. Stop. One of my biggest regrets is that I ran right out and bought items before having a solid, well thought out plan. I bought cups for my drinks, bowls for my berries, plates for my cake, and cups for my jello- then realized I wasn't going to use jello. So now I had all these empty cups. I decided to put the berries in the cups, then I could use the bowls for vegetables. Well now I've decided to have sandwiches as well. If I use the plates for sandwiches; 1. I have nothing to put the cake on and 2. Why do the vegetables need their own bowl? See the problem? I bought a lot of things simply because I was just excited to start planning my wedding. Don't do that. Be smart and think it out completely before you buy ANYTHING. Be sure to identify your personal style too. Do you want rustic, shabby chic, vintage, classic, etc. Deciding this early will help everything look more cohesive, expensive and well planned.

7. .Start Collecting: Before I even met my fiance, I was on the look for really good deals on wedding stuff. I also used opportunities like Christmas and my birthday to ask for things that would be useful for my wedding (Crystal platters, punch bowls, cake plates, etc) Be sure though that you have already done tip five and six, or this might end up costing more in the long run.

8. Pool your resources. Talk to your mom, dad, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, neighbors, co-workers, fiance's family as soon as you possibly can. Chances are some of them have awesome talents, or friends with awesome talents, that would be more than happy to help you out. Women especially like being involved in weddings. This is one that I seriously wish I had done sooner. It's due to pooling my resources that my wedding has exploded. As it turns out, Jake has a cousin who makes wedding cakes, a cousin who runs a horse drawn carriage business, a cousin who rents out decorations to brides, a close friend who runs a catering and wedding business, etc.Going over these details will save you a ton of time and money

9. Analyze What Goes Into The Budget: Here's something a bit unorthodox that I did: Just because I bought it for the wedding, didn't automatically mean it came out of my wedding budget.
Here was my system: Is this something I will use a lot? Is this something I need? Is this something I would buy myself anyway? If I don't buy this now will I buy it later? Items that were excluded from my budget: cake platters, apothecary jars, temple clothes, punch fountain, Jake's suit, etc. why? They were all items I knew I would use a million times over, and they were all things I had wanted long before the wedding. I also realized if I didn't buy them now, I would buy them later
10. Identify your dream: When I first started planning my wedding I heard some advice. "When you picture your dream wedding, what is it that makes it your dream? Is it the dress, the venue, the cake? Pick the center of your dream and splurge for it. Skimp on everything else. This is such great advice. In my head I see such a sophisticated, beautiful wedding. Everything is sleek, suave, expensive. The venue is gorgeous, I look amazing, I'm mingling with guests like this is some high society soiree. I have an awe inspiring cake, a harp player, and all the bells and whistles. Yeah, that's going to happen. So I started going through my dream wedding and cutting out all the things that aren't important enough to me to spend boo-coo bucks on. Do you know what I ended up with? Jake. With all my dreaming, the only thing that really mattered was that Jake and I were getting married. Sappy, huh? After that it was food. I spent more money than I needed to on my dishes (though they are still plastic and paper) to get a more sophisticated look- and I don't regret it. Be choosy. Decide what is most important to you, and spend the money.

11.A Wedding Is A Party: This is a detail a lot of brides tend to forget.While it may be the biggest, fanciest party you ever throw- it still is just that; a party. . And believe it or not, a party is about the guests, not the hostess. I love elegance and presentation as much as the next girl; but I also realized that in five, ten, fifteen years- no one is going to remember what my colors were, what my dress looked like, what foods I served, If I had a DJ, or If the ceilings and walls were pretty. Things that will be remembered: How much work the wedding was, If the bride was selfish, If the guests had a good time. No matter how big or small, the goal should always be to make sure your guests enjoy themselves. You can have a million dollar wedding with all the bells and whistles, but if your guests have a miserable time; it's still going to be a big flop. Money doesn't buy happiness- and appearances aren't everything. A lot of brides think they need to" keep up with the Jones' ". You Don't.

12.  Some Corners Are Meant to Be Cut: Tradition? Bah Humbug! Guess what? this is your day (which people will love to remind you). Go through all the weddings you have been to/ seen and edit them to your liking. Cut out things you hate. Not only can this save you stress, embarrassment, time and make for a happier bride (and therefore happier guests), but it can also save you money. Things we cut: Dancing (no need for dance lessons, a DJ, or a dance floor), ring ceremony (no need for flower girl:dress, basket, flowers, Ring bearer: pillow, tux) speeches, toasts (no need for champagne or fancy drinks, or microphone), formal introductions, garter toss/ bouquet toss (no need for spares), agendas (no need for programs), decorating cars.

13. Be Wary of the words "Bridal" and "Wedding" Two big things I learned are 1. Everyone is really proud of their work and thinks it's worth a lot of money 2.Put the word "bridal" or "Wedding" in front of ANYTHING and it instantly doubles in price. Don't be gullible.

14.  Price Check Do your research, look at multiple stores. I wrote down in a note book what stores had what items, what the prices were and what the quantities were. Then I bought each item from the cheapest stores.

15.  Cut "Unnecessary" Costs: Costs I cut: My ring, flowers, decor, photography, cake, wedding dress, venue, invitations, food (kind of). Decide what you personally are ok with. I was ok with having a CZ ring (they can be so beautiful and only jewelers can tell they are cz if you get a good one), I was ok with buying my decor at thrift shops, yard sales, dollar stores, and ebay. I was ok with getting my dress at a thrift shop. I was ok with (high quality) silk flowers. I was ok with using my church for the reception. I was ok with borrowing things from people. If you think about it and aren't ok with those things, don't do them- but if you are, it's a great way to save thousands.

16. Shop Cheap. Use coupons, shop sales, go to stores like NPS (stores for damaged goods, overstock, etc.When shopping here, be picky! check expiration dates, be sure you know what you want. These stores can be hit and miss as they don't have a solid inventory), thrift stores, dollar stores, the Internet etc.This is how I saved  most of my money. I didn't pay full price for anything. I cut coupons, enlisted friends to use their coupons, and shopped sales (Hobby Lobby is great for this. They're merchandise is frequently 50% off, and you can get a 40% off coupon anytime)

17. Be sure. When you decide to cut a cost, be sure it's what you want. I scored my dress for $25, which is an amazing deal- but I'm not in love with it. In fact it's the only thing I'm not really in love with. It's good enough, and it's lovely, and I'm sure I won't buy a new one- but I wish I had shopped around a little more. Saving money doesn't do a whole lot of good if you aren't happy; because chances are, you'll end up re buying.


 18. Professionals Are A CHOICE: Since being engaged, so many people have tried to pressure me into hiring professionals. some people have even gone so far as to tell me (to my face) that if I didn't hire a professional wedding planner, my wedding would be a huge, horrible disaster and I'd regret it wow. two major things you need to remember is that 1. Everyone is really proud of their work and thinks it worth a lot of money (professional or not), 2.People are sheep. If something is considered "the norm" then clearly, it's the only way something could ever be done. If you want to hire a pro, that's fine- just keep in mind Cakes are $300 and up, photographers are $100-$300+ easy, Florists are $200+, etc etc. When considering "wedding professionals" (DJs, decorators, makeup artists, hair stylists, caterers, wedding planners, etc) Ask yourself how much you REALLY need them. Do you need a DJ, or can you just make an Ipod playlist? Do you need a decorator or can you plan things out with the help of your family/friends? Do you need a makeup artist/hair stylist, or do you have a friend/ sister that can do it? can you do it yourself? Do you really need to have food catered or can you make it yourself in advance? Do you actually NEED a wedding planner?

19. Graciously Accept Help: There are so many people who will want to help. Let them. It's great to want to be independent- but weddings take a lot of time, effort, and money and cause a lot of stress. Delegate. Let people lend/give you things. Let them make food. It makes them feel useful and needed and will keep you from going insane

20. Stand Your Ground. This is the one I'm struggling with right now. My friends and family are either middle class or on the poorer side. I have never had much for money, and I've made do just fine. My fiance's family though, has some monies...and that's where things get complicated. People have this set way of thinking "Weddings are a lot of money" "This is YOUR day, it should be everything you want" people seriously expect you to spend a butt load of cash on your wedding because that is the "norm". When people hear my budget, there eyes go wide, then all pitying- like "oh that poor girl with no money. She'll be married in rags in some dingy alley and her guests will all starve." No. They try to convince me I need things. But I don't. My reception will be nice, I will have healthy food. I have a beautiful dress. The point is, don't give in. This is YOUR wedding, and no one should make you spend more than you can afford.



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