By Christine DiGangi, Credit.com
My husband and I received four wedding invitations for this summer, and we knew we wanted to do everything we could to attend each one. With some strategic saving, budget adjustments and frugal choices, we'll be able to enjoy them for less than $2,200.
That may not sound like a deal, but we easily could be spending more. MUCH more. The weddings happen within eight weeks of each other (time is always a squeeze on money), and they're in different states, only one of which we live in (though I suppose we can be happy that at least one is local).We knew we needed to strategize, and here's how we broke it down:
- 4 roundtrip plane tickets: $1,150
- 5 nights in a hotel: $465
- 10 days/nights of pet care: $341
- 6 gifts: $80
- 900 miles of driving: about $125 for fuel
- TOTAL: $2,161
First of all, we started putting money aside for this summer as soon as we knew about the weddings. That was well before we received save-the-dates, but we could have saved plenty in a shorter period of time. If we hadn't saved, we would have had to send some "No" RSVPs.
The biggest savings came in hotels, because even though my husband and I would love our own room, it wasn't practical. Three of the five nights, we're splitting with friends, and we opted to couch-surf other nights. This requires a lot of flexibility: Is it desirable to sleep on a futon with another person, as opposed to in a spacious hotel bed? No. Is it worth being able to go to my friend's wedding? Absolutely.
Plane tickets account for half our expenses, and we're only flying to two weddings. I spent a lot of time comparing fares (setting online price alerts helped), but the biggest savings came from credit card rewards. We always pay our credit card balances in full, allowing us to take advantage of rewards, and in this case, we used a travel card that allowed us to essentially get one plane ticket for free. We chose price over convenience, too.
Credit card rewards played another huge part in our savings, because we have a card that gives us cash back. We do a large part of our daily spending on this card, so we rack up cash back fairly quickly. That allowed us to spend very little on gifts without feeling like we were being cheap (and if you're wondering why I listed six gifts, I included showers, because that impacted how much we spent on the "big" gift). Free shipping and deal hunting helped us secure presents for even better prices, as well.
There are little costs you should consider that I didn't mention in my price breakdown (but here's a list of what to think about when deciding to go to a wedding).
We didn't buy any new attire for the weddings (with the exception of the one in which I'm a bridesmaid, but I bought that dress months ago and budgeted for it then). We also are working food expenses into our monthly food budget, meaning we're cutting down on going out and frivolous treats at home to compensate. We're not renting cars because we worked out carpooling, and our fuel costs include giving gas money to the people who drive us. We're also having friends and family take us to and from airports (thanks, guys!).
Where I Could Have Saved More
Fuel costs were the toughest to cut, because the longest drive we have to make is for a family wedding, and we don't live near family. We could have certainly saved money on pet care by having someone dog-sit or using an alternative service to our daycare, but our dog is a little ... intense. Without going into details of his exceptionally high energy, trust me when I say it was worth the peace of mind to pay more and leave our dog somewhere he's stayed before and gets the attention he needs.
We could have saved money by splitting the two hotel rooms we have to ourselves. We actually were going to split one, but our room buddies had a change of plans, and we honestly didn't think about it with the other. It can be easy to reserve a room and forget about how much it's going to cost later, because you're often not charged when you book.
It was a lot of work, but it wasn't that difficult, especially considering how much we wanted to attend all the events. As enjoyable as weddings are, they're never worth going into debt or sacrificing important financial goals. If you don't plan ahead, you might find yourself going into debt to join the party -- and debt can negatively impact your credit standing, especially if you carry a balance of more than 30 percent of your limit on your credit cards, or if you're late making a payment. You can see how your debt affects your credit by checking your credit scores for free on Credit.com, where you can also get an overview of your credit reports.
This post originally appeared on Credit.com. Christine DiGangi covers personal finance for Credit.com. Previously, she managed communications for the Society of Professional Journalists, served as a copy editor of The New York Times News Service and worked as a reporter for the Oregonian and the News & Record.
The most important tip cited by many wedding experts is to create a budget plan before you purchase anything -- and stick to it. Wedding experts Susan Southerland and Samantha Goldberg agreed that couples need to sit down and figure out exactly what their wedding "must-haves" are and how much they want to spend. "If they don't have a level head and they haven't started thinking, 'Here's what I can spend without getting into trouble,' they wind up going with their heart and not sticking to it," Southerland said. And, if you follow your budget, you shouldn't have any problems with overspending. "If they have a blueprint, there won't be a reason to feel like they're going to go over, because they've been on this plan the entire time," Goldberg said (download her wedding budget tracker here).
By cutting the guest list, you can save exponentially on things like flowers, tables, and square footage, said wedding planner Marcy Blum. You'll have a better event if you invite fewer guests, rather than eliminating services like an open bar and proper facilities. "It would be much better to cut the guest list than cut the wait staff. There's no point in doing something halfway," Blum said.
Money-saving expert Kendal Perez offered this little-known tip: buy used gift cards from stores you'd like to purchase wedding items from at GiftCardGranny.com. When shoppers receive a gift card to a store they don't like, they can sell the card on GiftCardGranny.com for less than face value -- meaning you can buy the card and save up to 30 percent. For example, there are cards available from 1-800 Flowers, Tiffany, and wedding dress retailers like J. Crew. "It’s a different way to save money without having to shop sales, but if you can couple that with something on sale then you’re getting even more savings," Perez said.
Matthew Robbins, author of "Matthew Robinns' Inspired Weddings," cautioned couples against renting too many fancy items, and instead recommended mixing in just a few special pieces with items already included in your venue. For example, rent a unique water or champagne glass to add something special to the table, or use a simple cloth from the venue for the tables and rent a beautiful overlay or runner to dress things up. "Choose wisely and consider rental items as a special accent to embellish what your venue provides," Robbins said.
Holidays are more expensive, plain and simple, said wedding planner Yifat Oren. "You might think it's easier for people to get time off work, but they'll be spending more money all around on travel and accommodations, not to mention the challenges with availability during high season times," she said.
Sign up for all your potential vendors' email lists and follow them on social media in order to get the first scoop on deals, contests, and freebies, said Sharon Naylor, wedding expert and author of "The Bride's Guide To Freebies." You'll hear about clearance sales, "Pin It To Win It" contests on Pinterest, trunk shows and more deals you wouldn't have known about otherwise. "If you’re following them and keeping a good eye on them, you can cash in on some great stuff," Naylor said.
Don't feel like you need to spend money on things you don't really need but feel like you have to have, said money-saving expert Kendal Perez. Skip wedding traditions that seem necessary, like programs and favors. "I don’t think I've ever kept a wedding favor. Those things are unnecessary expenses," Perez said. "Make sure you're planning the party you want and you're not including things just because everyone includes them."
Vendors will sometimes give discounts to clients they enjoyed working with and, if you ask, may agree to give you freebies or substitutions, said wedding expert Sharon Naylor. But don't forget to be nice! "You cannot be a steamroller and you can't demand it and you can't say, 'Well, I heard you gave my friend a free [food] station so what am I going to get?'" Naylor said. "When vendors don't like you you're not going to get as many freebies."
There's no rule that you must have a pricey dinner or cocktail hour for all of your guests, said wedding planner Xochtil Gonzalez. As long as you give guests something to eat and drink, that constitutes a party. Hire a food truck or consider holding a brunch on a Sunday afternoon. "If you know you have a fun crowd that’s going to dance no matter what if the music’s good and they’ve had a couple drinks, there’s no reason to force yourself to just have a nighttime party," Gonzalez said.
Instead of registering for kitchen supplies you don't really need, wedding planner Samantha Goldberg said you can actually register for wedding items such as a videographer or upgraded room on your honeymoon. Many vendors will make cards you can put in your invitations explaining your request to your guests. "You'd be surprised -- everyone pitches in here and there and suddenly you now have this money to have something you thought you wanted but weren't able to afford," Goldberg said.
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