Saturday, May 30, 2015

I Just Made Dinner for 2 for $3

Second post of the day?  What?!  I just HAD to share this.  Last night I made dinner for myself and my husband for $3!  And it was tasty and filling too!

This is what we had:

Dollar Tree FoodDollar Tree Food

I got each of these at the Dollar Tree.  My husband loved the biscuits, I thought they were okay, and the soup was really tasty (though I did add some shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream).

Thanks Dollar Tree!  See my post, First Tip: THE DOLLAR STORE!!!, for more things to buy and save at the dollar store. 

Last Post of the Wedding Series: Wedding Debt

This will be my last post on the little wedding series I created.  It has been so much fun to write about saving money on your wedding and I hope this has helped many brides to be (or grooms to be)!  :)

This post I'm going to talk about what happens after the wedding and honeymoon . . .  wedding debt.  If you're lucky, you'll either have somebody else paying for your entire wedding, have saved enough, or are able to pay it off in a timely fashion.  But for many, that is not the case and I am very sad to say that it is true for my husband and myself.

As you know, I am a huge proponent of using credit cards by using them wisely (See Make Money With Credit Cards).  This means never accruing debt by always spending within your means and paying off the bill each month in full.  Obviously this is quite hard to do when paying for a huge expense like a wedding so in my post, Using Credit Cards to Pay For Your Wedding and Honeymoon, I recommended opening a new card or two with a promotional 0% interest period to use to pay for your wedding and then paying off that card within the promotional period (therefor not paying any interest on the charges).  Well my year is almost up for the 0% interest on my cards and I am nowhere near to paying it off.

I really had no idea if we would be able to accomplish it.  I had really hoped so but with so many variables in my husband to be and my own income as well as moving, I didn't know what our budget to live and how much we would be making each month would be and so how much we could pay off each month.  After about 8 months, I know that we can comfortably live off of what we make and still pay a little off our wedding debt, but not enough to pay it off in time.

The safe and frugalness in me wants to be so upset that I didn't accomplish this, but I have to take a different mindset.  Honestly a large wedding and honeymoon is a big life purchase and it's okay to be paying it off over several years just like you would for purchasing a house, going to college, etc.  I'm very happy with the wedding and honeymoon I had and I wouldn't change it for all the money in the world.  And I would be more upset with myself years later if I hadn't gone big.

So now it comes to paying it off.  For my first card that came to the end of the 0% promotion period, it didn't have as much value on it.  I ended up transferring the balance to another card that was offering a 0% interest on balance transfers promotion (and payed a fee of a little more than $100, still less than interest would be).  I figured I could just keep getting new cards that have this offer and transferring the balance.  Wrong.  Not only at this point was I really messing up my credit score by having cards that were over or at the top of the credit limit, but each time you open a new account it lowers your score.  That makes it harder to get the better cards.  Plus, when you first get a new card, the credit line is pretty low.  I had a HUGE balance on my remaining card.

wedding debtI realized it would get way too complicated to keep playing this transfer game.  I had been getting some things in the mail offering great rates on personal loans.  Once I realized this was a huge life expense that was going to take years to pay off, I figured a loan was the best option to consolidate and get the debt off of credit cards!

So I started researching personal loans.  I found out that peer to peer usually have the best rates since they are funded by people just like you and me and not a big corporation that has thousands of employees to pay.  Prosper was said to be one of the best companies.  So I applied.  I did not qualify (probably from all the credit card debt that I was trying to eliminate!).  I tried under my husband.  He did not qualify (Most likely because he has like no credit history.  We're going to work on that).  But they did point him to a different company that offered him a loan for just above the amount we needed to pay off the card in question.

I was filling out all the appropriate fields to accept the offer when it dawned on me, "What is the APR for the credit card once the promotional period ends?"  I went and checked and lo and behold, that rate was lower than the loan rate.  WAY lower.  I know credit card rates fluctuate but I thought at least for now, we might as well wait and just keep it on the card!

So the moral of the story is, pay off your debt within the period if you can but if you can't, just keeping it on the card might be the best option!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Save Money on Your Honeymoon

saving money on your honeymoonSo for the last few months I've been focusing on wedding planning and since that is coming to a close, I thought I'd offer a little help on saving money for that special trip after the wedding . . .  the honeymoon! 

Of course this information can be used to help plan any trip, but I'm going to focus on destinations associated with honeymoons.

Choosing a Location
Obviously the closer you are to a destination, the cheaper it is to travel there.  So think about where you are in relation to where you want to go.  For instance, someone living on the west coast is going to be able to go to Hawaii much cheaper than someone on the East Coast.  Just like someone on the East Coast can get to Europe for less, and those in the Southern region can get to the Caribbean the cheapest.  That extra couple thousand miles to fly across the entire United States can add a couple extra hundred or even thousand dollars.

Searching for Deals
I search around a lot before making any major purchase.  While I have a few sites I often rely on, I still check other places before buying just to make sure I am getting the best deal.  Sometimes another site can be having a sale!  Here are some of my favorites:

General Travel Deals

travel deals 
Most of you have probably heard or even use Groupon to get great local deals, but you can also find deals on vacation packages.  They offer highly discounted complete packages, often with hotel and airfare and even activities!  If they don't have a package for the place you want to go, they also have discounted hotel rates at virtually every major city. 

This is basically the same as Groupon Getaways.  Make sure to check both sites as they can have very different offers at the time!

*Make sure you read the fine print for all these offers, there can be specific dates that you can use it and often the deal is only for specific airports and you will have to pay extra to get to one of those airports.  But the savings can still be worth it!

Caribbean Packages and Cruises

travel deals
This site has great deals for Caribbean resorts and cruises!


travel deals
This is a fantastic site that I actually ended up using to create my honeymoon to Ireland.  I love that it is totally customizable: you get to chose what cities to go to, you can chose your mode of transportation, you can upgrade hotels, and you can even opt out of their hotels for one or two nights if there's a specific place you want to stay and they don't offer it.  Plus you can buy excursions here too (though do check to see if there are better deals).  And it's all in one place!


This site must be run by the same people as Cheap Caribbean because it has a very similar layout.  Look for good deals on cruises!

Paying for Your Honeymoon
Use a new credit card for just your honeymoon expenses.  Find a travel credit card with a nice signup bonus that maybe you can use!  (See my article Using Credit Cards to Pay for Your Wedding and Honeymoon for more information)  This is a good one for travel: BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

Honeymoon Fund
honeymoon fund
Instead of a traditional wedding registry, some couples are now asking for money for their honeymoon.  Honeyfund is a popular website to help this.  I personally think if you are having a regular registry that it's too much to also ask for honeymoon money but that's your choice!

Have Fun!

P.S. Make sure you have your passport if you're traveling internationally (even Mexico & Canada)!  This is an expense too if you don't have one already and it takes a few months, so plan ahead. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

After the Wedding, Making the Money Back

It's been a while since I've done a new post, my life has been crazy busy!  In my last few posts on saving money for your wedding, I want to talk about ways to recuperate the funds invested in such an expense.

For a wedding there were probably a lot of decorations you ended up buying.  Many of these are reusable items but you may not ever have the need to use them again or you bought too many for just a home.  You should consider reselling these items.  I use eBay but you can use craigslist or a similar website or have a garage sale!

Things I'm Reselling From My Wedding:
selling wedding dress
If you're not sentimental about your dress, sell that!  There are many brides looking for a good deal on a great dress and don't mind if it's used and you could make a lot back!

Sell back any and all that you want!  As you know, there are hundreds of brides looking for anything wedding, why not make back some of what you spent on it?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Buying the Wedding Dress, It's Easier Than You Think!

So another big expenditure in weddings is the wedding dress.  You can spend thousands on it, depending on your taste.  If you only want a simpler dress, than you shouldn't need to worry about the price.  But if you want something big or ornate or with a special fabric, you need to put a part of your budget aside for it.
wedding dress shopping

Unfortunately my taste was on the bigger side and I definitely wanted buttons down the back which adds on a lot of money.  I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get a ballgown, with a train, and the buttons.  I also thought my best bet was to go to a large chain store, thinking they had a much larger choice of cheaper gowns.  Boy was I wrong.

I headed to David's Bridal for my first fitting.  It was HORRIBLE.  Don't get me wrong, I think David's Bridal or similar department style wedding stores are great options for your bridal party because they offer a large selection at decent prices and a number of stores throughout the country, in case you have bridal party members out of the area.  But DO NOT go there for your wedding dress.

The mood isn't the dream setting of finding your dress: it's cramped (there was nowhere for my guests to sit, they had to stand for an hour!), you're rushed (my consultant even was helping another person at the same time!), and they don't really listen to your wants.

But the biggest point is, especially for this blog, they actually didn't have that many cheap options.  Well let me rephrase that, they had plenty of "cheap" options.  Meaning, when I asked for lower priced dresses, they gave me that but they were terrible looking -- terrible quality, horrible materials, they looked like prom dresses.  They said for what I wanted, there was no way to get it at a lower price (under $1,000).

I left disheartened, thinking I was not going to be able to get the dress of my dreams.  I scoured the internet for other places.  And decided to go with a local boutique that had great reviews that said they had many options for those not wishing to break the bank.  This is where I ended up finding exactly what I wanted for a price that couldn't be beat!

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I cannot recommend Gesinee's Bridal in Concord enough!  They have a fabulous upstairs boutique for brides only with a huge selection of beautiful dresses all under $2,000!  They spend time and really feel what you want to be able to find you the perfect dress.  While I will say their alterations are a bit pricey, just know that now and you can shop around for a cheaper alterations place. (

The moral of the story is, don't be pressured to go to a huge store to find a deal on a dress.  There are plenty of local boutiques that have what you want for a price you can afford.  Search the internet (Yelp is your friend as reviews from other brides are priceless!) and try it out.

Where did you find your dress?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wedding Items That Are a Waste of Money

Continuing on my theme of saving money on weddings, I wanted to talk about things that you don't necessarily need or cheaper alternatives.  As I've stated many times before, just being for a wedding, something as simple as a pen gets marked up to insane amounts!

RSVP Cards
Save yourself the extra weight in your invitations and having to buy double the stamps by having your guests RSVP online.  Plus it makes it easier for you to track everything and it's simpler for most guests.  Chances are, you will be creating a wedding website, and most of these already come with a way to have an RSVP section.  My favorite free wedding website was through

Boy, oh boy are these expensive!  They generally start at $30 and go up from there, all for a notebook and pen!  I thought I'd just find a nice looking notebook and pen but, as you'll discover, it's hard to find something white that isn't in the wedding section which makes it more expensive!  A great alternative is to make a customizable guestbook on Shutterfly.  They start at $12.99 and you can add your own pictures to make it really unique.  Plus I got a lot of offers for a free 8x8 by shopping at David's Bridal and registering at Target.  Don't worry about a fancy pen, nobody cares and you end up needing multiples anyway.  Just buy a pack of nice quality ballpoint pens, or get some colored gel ones.

Shutterfly wedding guestbook

Why pay someone to play a bunch of songs that might not even suit your style?  iPods were made for a reason.  Just using your iPod for music is a great alternative, plus you get to handpick all your songs.  Find a friend or family member that has a great personality to be the announcer and to operate the iPod and you've saved yourself $1,000+!  Just make sure you ask the venue before they book if you can use their sound system and you aren't required to have a DJ (yes some places REQUIRE that!). 

Bridal Toss Bouquet
Flowers can be a huge part of your budget, so anytime you can cut something out that can save you tons.  I had no idea that usually brides get a separate bouquet for the toss (it's not quite as ornate and so you can keep yours).  That seemed insane to me to pay for a bouquet just to get thrown and mangled by some girls which would probably just end up being left or thrown out anyway.  I ended up just asking my bridesmaids if any of them didn't mind that I toss one of theirs which worked out great (and a bridesmaid caught it anyway).  But there are some other fun ideas to make one like a candy bouquet which gives a little prize to the winner!

I really wanted for my husband and I to be driven away in a fancy antique car.  Then I saw the prices.  Even for just the short time and distance you need it to exit can be hundreds.  Plus I realized it would be dark by the time we left, so nobody would really see it anyway.  To pay to be able to have the car at the location the whole time for guests to see and to take pictures with is astronomical.  Just use your own car, or a regular rental which can just be about $50 for a day (you can specify white or silver to make it look more wedding). 

Ugh another per person expense that most people could really care less about but you're really expected to do.  DO NOT spend more than $1.00 each on these, it's really not worth it.  My goal was to find something inexpensive that people would actually be able to use.  What we ended up going with was quite fun: plantable wedding favors -- it's a cute thank you note that you can plant in the ground and it will grow flowers!

There are definitely more, but those tend to be quite obvious.  These are just the ones that sort of surprised me.  Are there other things you think should be on the list?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cutting the Guest List: The Plus One Problem

guest list
One of the biggest wedding hassles is creating a guest list.  Not only is the size of your guest list important for location requirements and aesthetic, it is one of the biggest factors in the cost of your wedding.  Almost every cost in a wedding is a per person cost and when you have 100+ person wedding, each dollar per person means $100 more . . . it adds up quickly.  I hated how planning a wedding made me view each person we invited as a number (a big number that added to the number that would become our debt).  But it is a part of it none the less.  Thus comes about the question, how do you keep numbers more manageable while still being able to invite all the friends and family from all walks of life that you want to share your special day with?  The first thing that comes to mind for those with a budget: the plus one.

Weddings have a lot of rules.  Some are very old and outdated, but no matter how you feel, someone is going to be offended if you don't follow the proper "etiquette".  I worked long and hard trying to make sure that everyone was pleased with our choices, where we chose to follow tradition and where we chose to go a little modern.  The plus one debate is one that still goes strong today.

Let me clear things up for you, if you're wondering what I keep meaning about the plus one debate.  Wedding etiquette dictates that whomever the wedding invitation is addressed to, is exactly who is invited.  Meaning, if John Smith is the only name on the invitation, John Smith is the only one invited, even if he is in a relationship (you are supposed to always invite a spouse if the person is married, even if you don't know the spouse).  If you want John to be able to bring someone, you should write John Smith and Guest on the invitation.

This is was the rules state, but most people don't know that.  Most people assume that when you are invited to a wedding, you are allowed to bring someone with you (I blame movies for that).  While this is true at many weddings, as stated, it should say on the invitation.

Now, as you can see, if every person you invite automatically gets to bring someone, that adds a lot of people to your list.  People that fill up slots of other potential friends/family.  Usually plus ones are going to be people you don't know and paying $100+ for someone you don't know is difficult to accept (my per person cost was about $120).  As I said before, I hate how horrible it sounds viewing people as numbers but it's not just the cost.  My husband and I didn't really want people at our wedding that we didn't know.  But then again, we didn't want to offend people by telling them they couldn't bring someone, especially for those that had been dating someone for a while and we just didn't know them.

Here's the solution we came up with, I think it works well and offends the least amount of people:

  • All the people in our bridal party got a plus one
  • Married and engaged couples were both invited regardless of whether we knew them or not
  • Dating couples where we knew both parties got invited
  • Everyone else, did not get a plus one unless they didn't know anyone else at the wedding (we didn't want anyone to be lonely)

Luckily, most of the people we invited were from a large group of family or friends that knew many people at the wedding.  That's why we felt it was okay to not give plus ones to everyone as they would still be able to have a lot of fun with all their friends.  And those that didn't know anyone else (I think there was one or two people that fell into that category) got to bring someone.

To nicely explain to people that plus ones were not allowed, we put on our wedding website where they RSVP'd this nice note:

         "We have worked really hard to create a celebration featuring all of our closest and dearest        family and friends. In order to do this, we kindly request that you do not bring any guests that were not invited. If you have a question about this please contact us. Thanks for understanding."

Now there are going to be some people that just invite someone anyway.  You can decide on a case by case basis what to do and how to handle it.  Welcome to planning a wedding!

I hope this helped you in deciding what to do for the plus one debate.  Just know that it is your wedding and you can invite whoever you want.  Don't worry about people too much, in a month or two they'll forget all about it!

What did you do for your wedding?  Any other suggestions for brides regarding the guest list?