Can’t Buy Me Love

twentiesinyourpocket

Can’t buy me love- but you can buy your squeeze dinner and a movie. But dinner and a movie might just blow your entire month’s entertainment budget (have you seen movie prices these days?!!) and (hopefully) you want to see your squeeze more than once a month. What’s a Romeo or Juliette to do?
To date without breaking the budget, you have to get a little creative. The main thing that makes a successful date is a little planning- not spending. Here are some of my best suggestions for dating on the cheap- each city I have lived in has different resources so some of these may be appropriate for different areas of the country.
My boyfriend calls these Kate Dates (if you just vomited in your mouth, I apologize. We can’t help it).

  • Picnics are always a good idea! Go to your local park with a blanket (put down…

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An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure

twentiesinyourpocket

Within the first six months of going off of my parent’s dental insurance, I had my first TWO cavities. My dentist said I had 17 more pre-cavities (who has even heard of that?!)

I had never had a cavity before. I was horrified and also MAD because why did my teeth start rotting as soon as I started being responsible for my own teeth?*
I had to pay $300 to get my cavities filled.

Since then, no more cavities. That is because I floss my teeth EVERY SINGLE DAY. A year’s worth of floss costs me $18 (I know because I buy it at BJ’s). A cavity a year would cost me $150 plus I get massively rageful every time anyone uses novocain on me (they should list that as a side effect). So I save ca$h money, pain, rage, and I hopefully will have a full set of chompers…

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The 401k…aka FREE MONEY.

twentiesinyourpocket

“I would never sign up for a 401k because there is no way I can run that far.”- my hilarious boyfriend

Back in the day, almost all companies provided their employees with a pension. This meant that after they retired, the retirees would get a certain percentage of their former salary (usually 50%) every year until they kicked the bucket. As you can imagine, a pension is a pretty desirable thing to have because you never have to worry about running out of money!

But then. People started living longer. Which meant that it was costing companies a lot more to provide pensions to their employees. So nowadays it is extremely hard to find a job that will give you a pension (except for military, firefighters and policemen and a few other jobs). If you have a pension coming to you, YOU ARE THE RETIREMENT WINNER. DON’T QUIT YOUR JOB.

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Tips and Tricks to Slenderize Your Spending

twentiesinyourpocket

So you’ve made a budget, you’ve tracked your  spending, you’ve made your goals…but something isn’t quite adding up. Your input is not matching your output, and if you keep this up you will go into unwanted debt (or maybe you are digging yourself out of debt).
How do you slenderize your spending without sitting in the dark alone on Saturday night?
Here are some tips and tricks  to help you cut back on some of the expenses in your budget.

  • Sign up for your grocery store’s discount card program online. I have access to internet coupons that load directly onto my grocery card, and it takes me about 5 minutes to prep for my shopping trip. My grocery card not only gives me coupons on things that you can’t get from normal newspaper coupons (discounts on produce, fresh bakery items, meat), but they also track my purchases so that I…

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Budget like a Rock Star

twentiesinyourpocket

So you are convinced that it is a good idea to make a budget, right? Right!

But how do you start?

Let’s start with the easy part- income. Most people have a fairly steady income and should know how much money is coming in. If you have a variable income, you need to treat it like you treat your spending- use your best guess based on history/upcoming income that you know about, and be conservative. Update it as you learn more.

After you know how much money hits your bank each month, start by getting an idea of where your money is going now. A baseline, if you will. It will probably take a few months for you to get a full picture of your expenses, but don’t let perfection get in the way of planning. Estimate now and then you can adjust as you go. When I got my…

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Wedding lesson 5: Dresses

So remember how yesterday I told you about my multiple wedding dress adventures?

Here are some things that make wedding dress shopping hard:

  • Wedding dresses are obscenely expensive and you are wearing it one time. Once. In a cost per hour analysis, you’re not doing so hot. That makes you feel like you have to find a dress that you looooooooooooooooove. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time finding $30 plain cotton sweaters that I even like a little bit. Shopping is hard.
  • I love the Friday night Say Yes to the Dress binge as much as the next girl, but guys, that show makes it hard to go wedding dress shopping without ridiculous expectations that you are supposed to find “the one” out of the millions of dresses that are produced and marketed to be sold to you. 
  • Wedding dresses are like your future spouses- you love him/her, you’re glad you found him/her, but there are 7 billion people in this world. Statistically speaking, there are going to be other humans out there who have similar values/personalities/physical traits/upbringings as your future spouse, and you would probably have a happy marriage to a different one (or a hundred or a thousand) of those other human beings who are similar to your spouse. (I’m not the romantic in my marriage, can you tell? Realism, guys. Realism.) Dresses are the same. There is not just one dress that will make you happy. There are multiple dresses that will make you happy.
  • A good lesson from Say Yes to the Dress, though? Don’t even try on anything that you can’t afford. And everyone has a budget, so know yours before you even think about walking into a store.
  • I LOVED my dress. Loved it. Here it is:

Isn’t it gorgeous? You can borrow it if you want, I support sharing.

But even I had mixed feelings about it before my actual wedding day. I didn’t have the “Say yes to the dress” moment. Because that’s TV. This is real life and it’s ok to not have TV feelings about clothing choices. Choose something within your price range that you are comfortable in and that you feel pretty in. That’s it. That’s the secret to finding the dress that is “the one.”

I learned a few tricks about places to get less expensive wedding dresses.

  • So many bridesmaid dresses come in white! No one will ever know.
  • There are a few charities that will take wedding dresses (note for after the wedding) and resell them at a discounted price.
  • This newfangled thing called the interwebs sometimes has good deals.
  • You need something borrowed anyway! (Actually YOU DO NOT NEED ANYTHING YOU DO NOT WANT. Except a main squeeze, someone ordained, a marriage license and clothes, just because nudity in public is a no-no). But anyway, I digress. Borrow a friend’s/family member’s dress. I have my fingers crossed that our good friend will want to borrow mine when she tries it on for her wedding.
  • Target?!?! sells wedding dresses. I am not kidding. Walmart does not. I checked.
  • Other less traditional places: ModCloth, J Crew, BHLDN (part of Anthropologie).
  • Pastel wedding dresses are coming in, and I for one love the trend. You know what else is in? Pastel prom dresses. Just flip on some K-Ci & JoJo and head back to the ole prom dress section of the department store.

Last note- try to get some free champagne when you are shopping. I went to multiple shops and not one glass was poured. Wah waaah. Guess that’s what happens when you wedding dress shop at Target!

 

PS: I already mentioned that I just picked a color that was easy to identify (navy, not “peachy-salmon-mauve-champagne”) and had my bridesmaids buy their own dresses. For the record, at least two of them have already worn their dresses outside of my wedding. I did not want my bridesmaids to spend money on dresses they wouldn’t wear again, or spend a lot of money on a dress period. Navy is neutral enough that I hope the other four ladies wear theirs soon!

 

Wedding lesson 4: Be a tiny bit extravagant

Lesson 4: Be a little bit extravagant (but don’t go crazy)

Remember how one of my priorities was to not spend too much on this wedding? While many brides go overboard, I am inclined to go underboard. Things I could have skipped but am glad I didn’t:

  • a bus to keep my guests safe. The bus drove guests from the hotel to the church, to the venue with the open bar. I didn’t have to worry about any of my closest friends or families drinking and driving. I cannot think of anything more devastating for a newly married couple than having someone get injured on the way home from the wedding. I was quoted prices between $700 and $4000 for a bus, so do some shopping around before you commit.
  • favors. I HATE going home with one wine glass that have other people’s names on them, that doesn’t match anything else in your house. I feel like almost all wedding favors end up in the landfill and are a huge waste of money and time and energy. I do, however, like favors you can eat. We met with a lovely local woman who makes her own chocolates, and she put together mini boxes of artisan chocolates for us. She’s a small, local business owner who I got to support, and favors aren’t for the bride and groom anyway, so even though I don’t really care about favors it was a good purchase.
  • the dress. Ok, I wouldn’t have skipped wearing a dress. Since I am a military spouse, I qualified for a free dress from Brides Across America. I felt kind of weird about taking a free dress, because my husband is mid-career and I have a career of my own, so it’s not like we couldn’t afford a wedding dress. But they only have events twice a year, and my sister was in town, so we decided to go. We found a dress and it was fine/good. A 6.5/10. It didn’t quite fit, it wasn’t quite my style….but wedding dresses are SO expensive and ridiculous for just one day, I figured I would make it work. I got it altered for free at the place I got it from, but the alterations took it from a 6.5 to a 4/10 (I cannot to this day figure out the bustle situation. There was some sort of color/number/letter code going on and nightmares were had). Plus, it still didn’t fit. So instead of spending $300-$500 to fix a dress I didn’t really like, my mom and I went to a bridal salon that was going out of business and got a dress that I really liked. It wasn’t a bargain, but it also wasn’t full price. And I loved it.
  • Hair/makeup/nails and henna (my husband is half Indian so we pulled in some of his cultural traditions). I thought I was going to do my own makeup, but who are we kidding, I can barely put on mascara. Plus it was great to spend time with all my bridesmaids at the same time, and the henna was gorgeous.12525141_10101150419786347_3672040962993495171_o

 

Wedding lesson 3: Flowers

Lesson 3: Flowers

This was both a huge success and a huge failure. I ordered the world’s most affordable 10-bouquet packet from Sam’s Club. $101 for ten bouquets?!!?!? It was almost too good to be true. The flowers were delivered (one less trip for errands= win!) a few days before the wedding, and they were gorgeous-with plenty of flowers for seven people to have full bouquets. What I did wrong, however, was expect that they would come looking like the bouquets in the Sam’s Club website. They arrived like grocery store bouquets instead, so my poor mom and saintly bridesmaids ran to the craft store for ribbon and flower tape (another errand added on=fail) and my bridesmaids hand-crafted the bouquets. Sorry/thank you/ DIY means Do It YOURSELF but I didn’t……

I knew in advance I wasn’t about to make boutonnieres, so I found the cheapest price I could online, and then instead ordered them from a local florist who said they could match the price. Supporting the local guy made me feel a little better about ordering in bulk from the big box store for the bouquets.

 

Wedding lesson 2: Skip what you don’t care about

Lesson 2: Skip what you don’t care about

I already wrote about this a little, but it’s excellent advice (if I do say so myself) so I’ll say it again. Here were my priorities for our wedding:

  • get married
  • be able to have all of our family and friends there
  • don’t go into debt
  • fried chicken for at least one meal
  • have lots of toasts so that people can say nice things about us

Here were my husband’s priorities:

  • get married
  • have all our family and friends there
  • have really good music
  • open bar

So guess what! We had all those things. You don’t need to have anything you don’t care about at your wedding. Here are some things we didn’t have (and I have not regretted for one moment):

  • guest book. (We got a ton of lovely cards anyway, and the time for me to write lovely sentiments is not the time when there is a glass of champagne that could be mine)
  • expensive wedding bands (we spent under $250 for the pair. They look great. (Plus easily replaceable if your husband loses his at the gym. Not that that happened already, or anything….)
  • engagement photos (if you don’t have pictures of yourself in love yet, start snapping those selfies, kids!)
  • decorations (oh, you wanted something beyond the professional sculptors and painters who helped us out?)
  • limos (my beautiful pregnant-at-the-time-and-now-amazing-mom matron of honor was our DD and took us for a pit stop to McD’s so we could fast fuel before the reception!)
  • fancy rehearsal dinner. We had an uber casual one instead, in the (easy) beautifully refurbished hall at the church. We brought champagne from Costco, beer and takeout fried chicken, and we ordered pies from the nearby local pie shop. It was exactly what I wanted. And DELICIOUS. My only regret was that I didn’t feel like I could eat the four pieces of fried chicken that I actually wanted to eat, and instead only had two. Wah wahhhh.
  • wedding cake. There is a local grocery chain that is famous for its cupcakes. At $.60 a pop, they were delicious and affordable and they looked beautiful!
  • matchy bridesmaids 12593670_10101150418089747_5217757565568265392_o.jpg Aren’t they gorgeous? I asked them to pick their own navy dresses (which I HOPE they really wear again!) (Notice the Chihuly sculpture in the background…one of my favorite artists!)
  • matchy groomsmen (they were never going to match anyway because we had half Army, half civilian plus one Coastie groomsmen!)12633634_10101150425015867_2507282833414702583_o.jpg
  • separate musicians for the wedding: the church has a world class organist, so we got to hear world class tunes!
  • formality. As I mentioned, we didn’t have the sit down dinner option even available to us. My dad called after the wedding and raved about how much he loved being able to spend the reception time catching up with exactly the people he wanted to see. Our friends and family are pretty spread out, so it was nice that people could treat our wedding as a mini reunion.
  • “wedding” save the dates and a full photographer’s package- as I discussed in a past blog.

 

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