5 Tips to Stay Within Your Wedding Budget

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No matter how much or how little you are going to spend on your wedding, sticking to your budget is important. One of my closest friends recently got engaged, so I wanted to write this to help her along with others. I have seen so many people go off the rails with their budget, and end up with a massive credit card bill they can’t pay. The Knot reported that the average wedding cost is now $31,213. If you haven’t actually started planning a wedding that may seem like a lot of money, however once you start adding the cost of everything up, it can often be hard to stay below that amount- especially if you are getting married in a big city.

Without even knowing it you can easily exceed your budget, so I have five tips for staying on your wedding budget:

  • Create your budget prior to looking at wedding venues

When my husband and I got married, we looked at every venue in the Seattle area- online that is. I requested pricing from each venue before even considering to view it. Don’t go looking at venues that are out of your price range, it will be depressing. I have always loved the Fairmont Olympic hotel in Seattle but with the number of guests I had and what I had envisioned, it was way out of my budget so I didn’t even bother looking at it. And that leads me to my next tip:

  • Create a tentative guest list prior to looking at wedding venues

Don’t waste your time looking at a bunch of venues to find out weeks later that one you love only holds 125 people, and you’re going to have to invite 175 to your wedding. It’s another way to be disappointed right off the bat. Have your budget and guest list PRIOR to walking through any venues.

Wedding 1

  • Shop around for your dress

I went to many bridal shops when looking for a dress but told the sales women I wasn’t interested in trying anything on that was over $1,500- again, don’t bother looking at something if you can’t afford it. You have to prioritize what is most important to you on your wedding day and for me it was more about the ceremony and the reception. I knew I could find a dress I loved without spending over $2,000. I found a dress I loved, at a bridal boutique I loved, for a decent price. I wondered however if anywhere else carried the dress so I called around to some local bridal boutiques and found the exact dress for $300 less elsewhere. Because I loved the original bridal boutique so much and I wanted to buy it through them, I asked if they would match the price of the other shop and they agreed to. It never hurts to do a little research and ask questions!

  • Keep track of your spending

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s harder than you think. You’re excited about the big day, and before you know it you’ve spent way more on one area of the wedding than you had intended to. Don’t forget this money won’t magically appear so stick to your budget and write everything down along the way.

Wedding 5

  • Don’t forget the “extras”

This is by far the most important and something I even ran into when planning my wedding. When you’re creating your budget, you may forget about things like gratuity and taxes. My wedding reception venue had roughly 10% (state sales) tax and 18% gratuity not built into the quote I received. For every $10,000 it works out to about $2,980 in taxes and gratuity. And that’s just the reception. Don’t forget about your photographer, transportation, and everyone else you have to tip that day. Also, things like décor tend to add up quickly- without even realizing it I had spent $30 in basic, small candles per table which came out to about $540 in candles! Outside of your wedding day itself are tons of activities- bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and your honeymoon. What is most important to you? Would you rather spend $1,000 to go away for your bachelorette party or put that money toward a honeymoon with your new husband? Everyone is different. I chose to stay somewhat local for my bachelorette party so that my husband and I could go to Europe for our honeymoon. It’s all about prioritizing and deciding what you want most.



Save Money or Pay Debt?


I’m often asked whether or not you should save money in an emergency fund, or pay off debt first. While a lot of people may argue you should pay down your debt first, I know firsthand how important an emergency fund can be.

According to a USA Today poll of over 1,000 participants, 34% had no emergency savings AT ALL! That means they can’t pay for a simple car repair, or the $650 dental bill I got last month. It also means when these situations come up, people are putting them on their credit card and going even further into debt. The poll also revealed 47% of participants couldn’t cover their living expenses for more than 90 days.

Before paying off your debt, you should have three months’ worth of living expenses saved in your emergency fund. When calculating your living expenses, include your necessities- rent/mortgage, utilities, cell phone, etc. Gym memberships and other entertainment can be cancelled or cut back on in the event you lose your job and therefore aren’t as crucial. You should however factor in how much you spend on weekly groceries, and don’t underestimate it.

Once you decide how much to save each month or bi-weekly, set up automatic deposits into your savings account. If you’re waiting until the end of the month to move money from your checking account to your savings account, you probably aren’t because there isn’t much money left. I always have my monthly savings come directly out of my check.

Obviously you can’t ignore your debt and you will need to make the minimum payments until you have that three months’ worth of living expenses saved. Once you hit that savings goal I encourage you to start throwing more money at your debt, paying off your debt with the highest interest first. Typically a credit card will have a much higher interest rate than student loans, and even car loans. I like to have a decent amount in savings, so I don’t completely cut off my contribution to my savings account. I would look at how much you can save each month, and continue putting 25% of that into your savings while putting 75% toward paying down your debt.

How much money you have in your savings account is really personal preference. Having less than 4 months makes me uncomfortable but that’s not to say I haven’t been there. My husband and I had to put $79,000 down when we bought our home in June. Less than eight weeks after moving in, our hot water heater and furnace went out. Luckily we had the money in savings to pay for that ($6,500) unexpected expense, but between that and our house down payment it left us with less than 4 months of living expenses in an emergency fund. Since then we have been contributing more to our emergency fund each month and trying to cut back on non-necessities.

While paying down debt is important because the longer it takes you to pay it off the more interest you will have to pay, you can’t afford not to have money in savings. You will only accrue more debt when emergencies come up and you are forced to put it on your credit card. Start small and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can build up your savings account to three months’ worth of living expenses.

Happy Saving!


Student Loans and Personal Responsibility

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We often hear about how to get out of student debt, but what decisions can we make to benefit our future PRIOR to taking on those loans? According to the Huffington Post, college graduates from the class of 2014 owe an average of $29,000 in student loans. While I don’t disagree that college is becoming ridiculously expensive, I do think we all need to take a little bit of personal responsibility in the decisions we make about attending college.

When I was a senior in high school, I took the SAT and applied to 10+ universities- about 50% of them private. I got excited when the acceptance letters to these private universities started rolling in. In a way, they felt better than the State school acceptance letters I received. It’s not like I was applying to Harvard or Yale, but in my circle of friends there was this status that came with attending a private university.

I was leaning toward a private university, when I had a sit down with my parents. They wanted to make sure I understood what I was taking on. While the private school did offer some grants, I would still graduate with over $75,000 in student loans versus less than $25,000 if I chose the state school. My parents encouraged me to think long and hard about it, and after weighing my options and visiting the state school, I knew it would be a good fit.

I had plenty of friends who chose the private university option, and many had a great experience. However, many of them graduated with over $100,000 in debt and got a job out of college making $40,000. Some of the schools I had looked at would have taken me nearly 20 years to pay back on a standard payment plan- that is a long time!

Now I am not against going to a private university, I think there are advantages to both sides. I just think we need to do a better job having that initial conversation. Prior to taking out these loans, we need to understand how much debt we will really be responsible for repaying and how long that will take. I think we are quick to jump on these universities and blame them for having us $150,000 or more in student loans, when we all are in control of our own education.


How To Get What You REALLY Want By Saving

Thanks to Millennial Money Man for allowing me to write a contributing article. He has a similar story to mine, and has great advice for millennials looking to get out of debt.

Friends are always asking me how I paid off my student loans so fast, paid for part of a wedding, and saved enough money up to buy a home. I’m a big believer in what I call, “conscious spending”. I truly believe no matter how much money you make there is opportunity to save more.

I was making $30,000 a year at my first job post college. I was working for a startup and made friends quickly because most of us were under the age of 25. One thing that stood out to me was the amount of money people were spending. Most of my new friends were making under $40,000 a year and spending money like they made $100,000. Starbucks coffee and breakfast EVERY morning, followed by lunches out resulted in a minimum of $20/day spent on food WHILE at work.

That’s $400/month and doesn’t take into account the after work happy hours and dinners out!


While I was unhappy with how little money I was making, I was bringing my lunches and drinking the free coffee at work. It allowed me to put about $1000/month toward my student loans as well as put $300/month into my house savings fund.

I continued to work hard and eventually moved companies where I received a larger pay increase. At this point, my loans were paid off and I started putting more money into my home savings fund as well as putting a little bit away for my wedding.

By the time I turned 26, I had paid off $22,000 in student loans, saved $10,000 for my wedding, and $79,000 for our house down payment and closing costs. Had I spent money frivolously, I wouldn’t have accomplished all of these goals in four short years.

I did take several vacations after college, but I saved for them, I didn’t charge them on my credit card. I also enjoyed going out to dinner with friends or shopping occasionally, so I am not suggesting you give up everything you love.

You have to be purposeful in your spending.  What is it that you really want? Do you enjoy your $5 coffee that much, and your lunches out? If so, great, that is what YOU ARE CHOOSING to spend your money on because it is important to you. But if you want to save for that house or whatever it may be, you need to comb through your finances and see where you can cut back.

Happy Saving!



Money Matters

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How you spend your money matters. Whether you’re making $40,000 or $100,000 we all make choices about the way we spend our money. I believe our relationship with money often comes from our parent’s relationship with money. When I was young, my parents opted for expensive daycares and private schools to give my brother and me every opportunity they never had. Could my parents afford  private school? Hardly. They did it because they felt it was best for us, but at the end of the month there was not much money left over and it wasn’t as if they were spending it on themselves. My parents worked hard over the years to put themselves in a good position financially, and I believe all of this has to do with the way I view money today. It’s this view that causes my husband to often call me the “fun police”. I have big goals and am always looking ten steps ahead.


After  college graduation I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to start paying off my $22,000 in student loans, save for  a wedding and a house. So, I did it. In 2011, I was 22 years old, living with my parents, putting $300/month into a home savings account, and working away at my student loans. Before you assume I was working some high paying job, I better set the record straight. My first job, post-college graduation, was for a Seattle  merchandising startup making $30,000 a year. I was working 60+ hours a week, and had very little to show for it. In April of 2012, I was promoted, which included a pay increase to $37,000 a year. Over the next year, I had several other (small) pay increases and continued saving and reducing my student debt.

In May 2013, I got engaged. My husband and I decided to put our wedding off until September of 2014 so we could save. In December of 2013, I made my final loan payment. I had also been looking for a new job and was hired by a larger Seattle company. At that point, I received a larger pay increase.While it would have been easy to spend more money since I was making more, I stuck to saving for a house and our upcoming wedding. We received help from our families for the wedding, but still had to come up with $10,000 on our own. By September 2014, we were able to save the money and celebrate our marriage debt free, which was an amazing feeling.


Once the student loans were paid and the wedding was over, there was only one thing left; our house. If you’re familiar with the current housing market in Seattle (or many other places throughout the country) you know that a lot of properties are going for $100,000 or more ABOVE list price. In the area we were looking, there was nothing available below $450,000. We put in four total offers and looked for seven straight months. Every weekend was spent at open houses and multiple weekdays found us walking through homes throughout Seattle. My husband works nights, so I would go walk through them after work and if I liked them, I would bring him back to look at them the next day. If I knew they weren’t a contender, I didn’t even bother. It was a stressful process but in the end we ended up where we wanted to be. In June 2015, we closed on our house. We had saved enough to have the necessary $79,000 (down payment and closing costs) needed for our home.

What do I know? I know my goals.  I tend to drive my husband crazy because when I get an idea in my head, I won’t stop until I get it, and when I graduated college, I had three big money goals: loans, wedding, house. At the age of 26, I’ve accomplished them all. Now that we are in our home, we’ve set a new goal to beef up our savings before we decide to start a family. I am constantly fielding questions from friends and family about my savings plans. The goal for this blog is to inform them, and other young people, how you can really get what you want in life by making smart money decisions. But my best advice is simply to know what you want and don’t stop until you get it.

Happy savings!