By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Happy New Year! For many, the new year represents a fresh start and a time to create goals or resolutions for the year. If you have financial goals for the year in mind, then I hope this post gives you tips on strengthening your financial goals so that you are motivated to accomplish them.
I love talking with my clients about their financial goals! It’s important to identify what really matters to them, so establishing strong financial goals is one of the first things I do when I start working with clients. It becomes even more critical when I become their money coach. But identifying which financial goals you want to achieve can be difficult, and setting financial goals can, honestly, sometimes be boring. The trick is to identify something you really want so you can get excited about it! Here’s how you do it…
Think about your life. What do you like? What would you like to change? How do you imagine your life in 5 years? 10 years? 25 years? It’s okay if these answers are general – they can help identify what matters to you – so pay attention to what excites you! Once you have the big picture, identify the smaller, specific goals that you need to achieve to create your imagined future.
Determine where finances fit in. Which parts of your ideal life are rooted in money? Try to be honest with yourself here because the adage “money doesn’t buy happiness” is absolutely true. You don’t need money to fall in love, get healthy or be happy; but you do need money to buy a house, get out of debt or grow your savings. You could (and should!) create goals to accomplish things in other areas of your life, but since we’re talking about financial goals here, it’s important to know which goals fall in your financial house.
Work backwards. Work backwards to identify what your first goal should be and start there. If your primary goal is to buy a house, then the first step could be to open a savings account, and your first goal could be to save a certain amount of money for the down payment. An important note here: if you have credit card debt, consider setting a goal to pay off your debt – especially if your interest rates are higher than 10%. If you resolve to pay off debt, start with the credit card that has the highest interest rate. If multiple cards have a similar rate, start with the card with the lowest balance.
Make your goals SMART. Goals that include the components of SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Specific) are much more likely to be achieved. An example of a SMART goal with all the components is “I want to have $18,000 in my savings account for a house down payment by December 31, 2017.” You can then determine how much you need to save each month ($500) to reach your goal. If you feel that you can realistically attain this goal, then you have yourself a SMART goal!
Get excited! Start thinking about what accomplishing this goal really means to you. Paying off credit card debt might seem unexciting to some people, but if you imagine what it means to be free of credit card debt (not dreading paying the minimums each month, never having your card declined, the financial burden lifted) you’ll be motivated!
Consult an expert. If you’re still not sure where to start, don’t get discouraged! Money matters don’t come easily to everyone, so you may want to consult an expert. The reason why I started Dr. Budgets is to help people who don’t want to do it themselves. If you want to talk to an expert, contact us today!
Create a spending plan. Now that you’re excited about your goals, it’s a good time to look at your spending to determine what changes need to be made to achieve your goals. Create a spending plan (budget) where you keep spending money on what is important to you, but cut out spending on things that aren’t important – spending that hurts your progress toward achieving your financial goals. Look at each area of your spending and ask yourself “Is this where I really want to spend my money?” This question is a lot easier to answer when you have strong financial goals!
Track your progress. It is important to acknowledge the progress you make toward your goals so that you stay motivated to succeed. When working with my clients as their money coach, this is the first area we look at each month. We start with the big picture to avoid getting lost in the details.
Here are some goals that might help get you started:
– Get out of credit card debt
– Buy a house
– Save enough for your dream vacation
– Have a fully funded emergency savings account
– Have enough money saved to start a business
– Buy a car (without a loan)
So there you have my steps to setting strong financial goals. I help my clients create and achieve financial goals because they want to change something in their lives. Change can be difficult, but if your financial goals are SMART and represent what you truly want in life, then there is no reason why you can’t achieve them. I’ve seen my clients accomplish great things!
In response to feedback that our blog posts are especially helpful to our clients, we’re excited to announce that we will be increasing the number of blog posts this year. So click here for more on strong financial goals!
- Published in Financial Goals
Happy December! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving Weekend! If you are like most Americans, you probably did some shopping over the weekend, and you probably did some online shopping yesterday. But December doesn’t need to mean holiday debt! This month I want to share a few tips that can help you stay out of holiday debt.
1) Create a holiday gift budget (and stick to it). First you should determine how much money you want to spend on gifts in total this holiday season. Don’t forget to account for many of the often-overlooked details as you can – shipping costs, wrapping paper, stamps, and hostess gifts all add up! After that, create a list of everyone you plan on buying a gift for, and then calculate how much you are going to spend on each person. If you end up spending less for someone on your list, then put that money toward your goals rather than going out and spending it.
2) Avoid using credit cards. One surefire way to stay out of holiday debt is to not use your credit cards. Your gift budget should not exceed the amount of money you have, so you shouldn’t need your credit cards. If you have gotten yourself into holiday debt in the past, then leave the credit card at home to force yourself to stick to your budget.
3) Agree ahead of time. Be purposeful about your gift-giving by agreeing with your loved ones on a gift limit, or even no gifts at all if it makes sense. If you agree ahead of time to limit the dollar amount of the gifts, then you will have set expectations and boundaries with each other, which will make it much easier to stay within your budget. If you have a large family or a close group of friends, you could decide on a white elephant gift exchange to limit your spending on gifts (and have fun at the same time!).
4) Creative gifts. Does everyone love your spaghetti sauce? You can give jars to family and friends, offer to make a spaghetti dinner for a night in, or print out recipe cards and gift them with all the spices – the possibilities are endless! Turn to Pinterest for inspired packaging or Christmas present ideas and get creative this year! If you’re not the crafty type (like me), you can always get creative with a $10 or $20 per person spending limit. One of my favorite gifts ever was an Aztec Basketball t-shirt (about $20), proving it doesn’t have to cost a lot to be meaningful.
5) Remember what is most important. Ask yourself: Would my family and friends want me to go into holiday debt on gifts for them? This time of year, there is so much that is more important than giving gifts – especially if it means that you’ll be paying for them until next Christmas! Slow down and try to soak in what really matters.
BONUS TIP: Save on electricity. This last one is not gift-related at all, but can save you money for many holiday seasons to come! The holidays create a lot of lights, and those lights use electricity. You can save money in the long run by using LED lights instead of incandescent lights. LED lights use about 80-90% less energy than incandescent lights, but often cost 10 times as much to buy, so replacing them all can be very expensive. A simple way to save money is to put your holiday lights on a timer. Electricity can be expensive, so a timer is well worth the investment.
So, those are my 5 tips to help you stay out of holiday debt. If you have any tips, please share them in the comments section below. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I wish you a very happy holiday season! If you want more tips please visit our Facebook or Twitter page where we’ll be featuring our favorite tips and articles this month. Also, if you’d like help with your budget so that you can save for presents throughout the year contact us today to set up your complementary consultation!
- Published in Debt
What is your financial goal? Samantha’s* dream was to quit her full-time job and start a business, while eliminating her credit card debt. Could she do it? Here is her story…
I was in a career that didn’t fulfill me and, although the pay was good, I was too exhausted at the end of the day to do anything for myself. One day I found a training program for a business I was passionate about, and right away I knew I had to go for it! Because the career I was in at the time was so demanding, I decided to change jobs so I would have the time and energy to complete the program. I ended up taking a pay cut with the new job and wasn’t making enough money to live on. My gas and groceries went on my credit card, and when I started to build my business, all the startup costs (webpage, business cards, networking…) went on the card too.
Deciding to Work with Dr. Budgets
I heard about Dr. Budgets from my friend Jane, and kept it in the back of my mind for several months. I was building my business, and it was great, but I was still working full-time to pay the bills – between the full-time job and working with my clients, I was working over 70 hours per week, every week! My dream was to quit my “day job” and run my business full-time, but my credit card debt was weighing on me. Then one day it was as if a light bulb went off in my head – I thought “I need to understand where I’m going and what I need to do to get there.” I knew understanding my finances was a big part of that.
Working with Dr. Budgets – Personal Finances
After my consultation with Dr. Budgets, it was clear that my money coach was going to help me tremendously! I explained that I’m very bad with numbers and I get confused, but I could tell that my money coach loved numbers and could explain them in a way I could understand. Most importantly, he wasn’t telling me his opinion on how I should spend my money – he wanted to understand what was important to me (quitting my job and paying off my debt), and how my money could get me what I wanted. I was sold!
We quickly saw that if I cut my expenses I could leave my “day job” sooner, so I focused on that. We worked together to create a budget that cut my expenses in half, but that I knew I could live with. Before Dr. Budgets, I couldn’t answer the question “can I afford this?” because I had no idea. The budget helped me prioritize what I really wanted, and now I had a framework for my spending decisions. That clarity was really helpful.
The biggest thing we did was to wean me off using my credit cards. It took a while because I had so many cards! But I focused on my goals, and before I knew it I fell into my new “normal” way of life without credit cards.
During this time, I was still working full-time and had a steady income. The way I was running my personal finances was good, but I knew I couldn’t run a business that way – so I hired Dr. Budgets for my business finances too.
Working with Dr. Budgets – Business Finances
Having a startup business can be challenging – some months I earned more money than others. Dr. Budgets helped me manage the highs and lows of my business. We were able to plan and set goals – it’s so stabilizing! When I have really high income months, I know my spending isn’t going to change. The old me would have thought “I’M RICH!!” and not have planned for potential low months.
With Dr. Budgets, I feel that I can relax because I’m working with somebody who understands my business finances and is helping me grow. Last year, I did my taxes the night before they were due and I know I missed opportunities. He referred me to a tax accountant, and now I’m tax planning and tracking mileage – this is HUGE! I understand my finances now more than ever, and it helps me stay on top of my money.
In April, I was able to quit my job and go full-time in my business! I’ve also paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt and took a much needed vacation. Working with a money coach was essential to my success. Having habits that worked for me financially was something I wasn’t doing, but my money coach helped me create those habits. Budgets can be exciting and fun because you’re spending money on what’s important to you – you’re getting what you really want!
My favorite thing about working with Dr. Budgets is that my money coach doesn’t judge me, and I never feel ashamed if I mess up. My coach helped me understand the results of my spending: if I do this, then this is the reward or consequence.
Paying down debt, going full-time in my business, and being able to enjoy life – achieving any ONE of these goals would have been sufficient, but I achieved all three! Dr. Budgets helped me set financial goals, then taught me how to make my money work for me.
If you’re thinking about hiring Dr. Budgets, do it! If you’re really sick, then you’re going to go to a doctor… if your finances are all over the place, you need to go to Dr. Budgets.
Thank you for sharing your success story Samantha! We’re tremendously proud of Samantha and how far she’s come… she’s living her dream! If her story resembles your own and has inspired you to act, give us a call at (619) 800-3030 to schedule your complimentary consultation.
*For client confidentiality, we changed the name of the person to “Samantha.” Everything else is factual.
- Published in Success Stories
Sometimes in order to speed up the process to reach your goals you have to take extreme cost-cutting measures – but we’re not talking about living like an Extreme Cheapskate! These changes are not for everyone, but if you can implement one or all of these ideas into your life, then you can shift thousands of extra dollars toward your goals.
Here are some extreme cost cutting measures:
Moving from an expensive place to a more affordable home can save you a significant amount of money. If you rent, then this step is easier than if you own – but if you live in a house that is too big for your needs or in an area that is too expensive for you, then you are a good candidate for this extreme cost-cutting measure. A few of my clients made a move after they became aware that over 50% of their take-home pay went toward housing expenses. By moving they were able to save about $500/month. The inconvenience and expense of moving is offset by the thousands of dollars each year they were able to put toward their goals!
2) Buy Another Car
Another area where people tend to spend above their means is on their car. If you own a gas guzzler and you drive long distances often, then switching to a more fuel-efficient car could pay for that new car in gas savings alone! If you own a luxury car that is consuming a big chunk of your budget, then trading down to a nice, yet more affordable car, that still gets your from point A to point B could make a big difference for you. This change can be tough (especially for us guys!), but if it is the difference between paying off your debt or being able to buy that house, then this could be worth considering.
3) Change Your Cell Phone Plan
This is an area where I usually find savings for my clients. Cell phone plans have changed quite a bit the last year, so if you haven’t reviewed your plan recently, then you are probably paying too much. Also, double-check your data usage to ensure you have the right data plan. More often than not, people tend to pay for more data than they need.
4) Drop Cable TV
If you are a big sports fan, this idea probably won’t work for you. If not, then read on! Cutting cable TV can easily save you over $1,000/year. My wife and I recently completely eliminated cable TV (we first went to basic cable for a year) because we realized that we were only watching Netflix. If you find that you don’t watch that much TV and you are fine with using Netflix and Hulu to watch your shows, then this is a no brainer for you. If you do want the basic channels, an HD antenna may be a good option for you depending on where you live. At the very least, review your cable bill and take a realistic look at what you’re paying for, and how much of it you really need – you could save some money by dropping premium channels or eliminating that cable box in your guest room.
5) Stop Having Fun
Just kidding! You should definitely have fun in life. Many people can save hundreds of dollars per month by either eating out less often or more strategically. Some of my clients have cut their dining out and entertainment in half without too much sacrifice. This can be done by eating during happy hour or going to a fast casual restaurant (think Chipotle or Panera) instead of a sit-down restaurant (go there for special occasions!). You could also cut out alcohol or limit the amount of alcohol you buy at a restaurant to further reduce your spending in this area. The most affordable option would be to always get water. If you give yourself a cash budget (allowance) for dining out and entertainment at the beginning of the month (and you stick to it!), you will see an increase in the money you have left over at the end of the month.
So these are some extreme (yet doable) cost-cutting measures that you can implement to fund your goals. What extreme cost-cutting measures have you taken? Please share them with us in the comments section below.
- Published in Spend Wisely
Yesterday was Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer. Scores of students headed back to school in recent weeks, and many of those students are college students. In the spirit of “back to school,” we’ll be focusing on money and kids this month, and we’re kicking it off with a few thoughts on student loans.
Many people would classify student loans as “good debt” because it allows someone who otherwise couldn’t afford an education to go to college. On the spectrum of “good debt” vs. “bad debt”, student loans fall somewhere between a mortgage (“good debt”) and credit card debt (“bad debt”). I am all for getting a college education, and even took out some student loans myself, but oftentimes students end up taking on more debt than they should.
Here are three things you can do for your son or daughter who is off to college to minimize the student debt burden that plagues far too many young working adults today:
- Community College. Consider having your child start their higher level education at a community college. Attending a local community college for two years can cut the cost of a four-year university education in half. Community colleges also typically offer programs that allow for easy transfer to a four-year university after earning an associate degree.
- Free Money. If your son or daughter is accepted into a more expensive school, then put in the extra effort to apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible. Having $100,000+ of debt coming out of college is not the best starting point of a career. Minimize the expenses as much as possible with the resources available to you. If you can’t obtain scholarships or grants (or pay for that prestigious school out of pocket) then ask yourself if it is worth the extra money compared to your local State university.
- Don’t Use Student Loans for Pizza. If you must take out student loans, then only borrow enough for tuition and/or books. Don’t use loans for living expenses such as food, housing, transportation, etc. Find a way to cover these expenses without debt. As a parent you could help your son or daughter by paying some of those expenses, and having them contribute by working a part-time job. The bonus of working while in college is that it builds a more well-rounded student, which is an advantage for the freshly minted graduate looking for a career-oriented job.
The decisions you and your kids make about college today will affect them financially for the rest of their lives. Take the time to weigh your options in order to minimize the amount of debt your children will have to pay at the start of their career. Debt, when used properly, can allow you to do things that enhance your life. If used improperly, it can cause a lifetime of financial stress. What are your thoughts on student loans? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook or Twitter page.
- Published in Debt
Last month’s blog had some tips on saving money from a woman’s perspective on things that are trendy, utilized infrequently, or not that important. This month, I’m excited to present part II of last month’s blog with my tips on when to save and when to spend from a male’s perspective! By working with my clients (and in my own experience), I’ve learned that men may not make as many small purchases that add up over the year, but sometimes we spend thousands of dollars on things that we end up replacing in a few years.
Below are some examples both big and small.
When to Spend: Last Year’s Gadget
When to Save: Newly Released Gadget
As guys we want the newest, best, and coolest gadgets, but spending money on all the “latest and greatest” technology can really destroy your budget. Deep down you know that last year’s gadgets (cell phone, television, digital camera, video game system, etc.) can do pretty much the same things as this year’s technology, but you will save a lot of money by purchasing last year’s model. You can have a house full last year’s technology, save lots of money, and barely notice a difference!
When to Spend: Nice Suit
When to Save: Dress Shirts
A nice suit should be a staple in every man’s wardrobe. You will be wearing this suit for business meetings and nice social events, so spend the money on a high quality suit that will last a long time, rather than buying a low quality suit that only lasts a few years (and probably doesn’t look great). Be sure to buy one that has a classic look, rather than a trendy one that will go out of style in a few years. Finally, pick a color that is versatile like black, navy blue, or dark gray. Save your money when you buy dress shirts. You can purchase quality shirts at JC Penny or Macy’s during one of their many sales throughout the year.
When to Spend: Shoes
When to Save: Trendy Shirts
Spend the money on a good pair of shoes for daily use. Your feet will appreciate it, and so will the rest of your body. Go ahead and pass on the trendy “in season” shirts. You can get nice quality shirts without breaking the bank. If you spend $50 for a T-Shirt, you’ve spent too much (thank you, Macklemore!). Instead put that money toward your shoes. Bonus: Women notice a guy who wears nice shoes.
When to Spend: 2-3+ Year Old Car
When to Save: New Car
Next to buying a house, a car is one of the most expensive things we buy. And typically we don’t pay attention to the overall cost of the car, we just focus on whether or not we can swing the monthly payment. A car depreciates the most during the first few years, so you can get a 2-3 year old car that is “almost new” for significantly less than a new car. If you are really itching for that “new car smell,” then go out and buy an air freshener with a “new car scent” with all the money you saved!
When to Spend: 2nd Date
When to Save: 1st Date
I’ll wrap up these tips for my single readers out there. Before I met my beautiful wife on Match.com, I went on many first dates. If I had wined and dined each of those women on the first date I would have gone broke! My go-to first date was to meet at a coffee shop. This way we could talk and get to know each other in a low pressure environment. If we hit it off, like I did with my wife on our first date at Starbucks, then I would step it up on the second date. If the first date goes nowhere, then at least you have an easy out while spending very little money.
So those are my tips on when to save and when to spend. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What are some of the areas where you think you should save or spend? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments section below!
- Published in Spend Wisely
By Jeannie Riess | Dr. Budgets
Working within a budget doesn’t mean you can’t spend money – it’s quite the opposite! A budget brings awareness to your spending and encourages you to spend money on what’s really important to you. If an annual vacation is a top priority for you, then divert the $20/week ($1,040 a year) you are spending on coffee drinks into a travel fund.
When you save money on things that are trendy, utilized infrequently, or flat out not that important, you can splurge on what really matters.
Below are some examples.
Spend: Workout Shoes (OR Pants)
Save: Workout Tops
Your feet need to be supported if you’re a runner or hiker, and a good pair of shoes will outlast a few pairs of cheap shoes. Good shoes can prevent injury to your ankles and knees and are worth the investment. If your exercise of choice doesn’t involve shoes (Yoga, Pilates) or doesn’t require good shoes (the elliptical or cycle machines), then put your money toward good workout pants. Workout tops are simply not worth spending a lot of money on – you can find very cute tops at Target and Forever 21, or wear the free shirt you earned from your last half marathon!
Save: Trendy Tops
Trends in jeans tend to have longer cycles, so they’re worth the investment. Although boyfriend jeans are the new “it” jean, skinny jeans had a good run for at least five years. Before that, bootcut jeans were the go-to jean for a few years. Trends in tops cycle through much faster, so your money is better spent on jeans. I say “Nordstrom for jeans and Forever 21 for tops.” Nobody cares that your shirt was inexpensive if your butt looks good in your expensive jeans.
Spend: Boots and Heels
Save: Flats, Flip Flops, and Tennis Shoes
Skip the $50 flip flops and put that money toward the shoes that make a statement (and you’ll wear most often): boots and high heels.
Spend: One Fantastic Bikini
Save: Extra Bikinis
Spend your money (and time in the dressing room) on a bathing suit that makes you feel great and that you love. Unless you’re a beach bum, you just need one fantastic suit – so don’t spend your money on a few less-than-stellar suits (which can quickly add up).
Spend: Your Everyday Bag
Save: Clutches, Beach Bags, and Trendy Purses
You want the purse you use every day to be on trend, versatile, and something you love – that’s a tall order for a cheap bag! Investing money in a purse you love is worth it since you’ll use it pretty much every day. Spend some time finding a great bag that fits your needs and lifestyle, and opt for a style that is more classic than trendy. When it comes to bags and purses, you can skimp on beach bags, clutches you only use a few times a year, and super trendy purses for a night out.
Spend: Foundation, Moisturizer, Cleanser
Save: Mascara, Lipstick, and Blush
The rule I like to follow here is to invest in the products that really make a difference in how your skin looks (foundation, moisturizer, and cleansers), because there are significant differences between cheap moisturizers, that are one-size-fits-all, and a good moisturizer made for your skin type. The differences between expensive mascaras, lipsticks, and blushes compared to the drugstore brands aren’t enough to justify the (sometimes) $25 price difference.
So, there you have some of my personal guidelines for when to save and when to spend. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have your own guidelines for when you save and when you splurge? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments section below!
Please share this post with someone who you think will benefit from these tips, or send them to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/drbudgets) for more information on when to save and when to spend. Also, check out our blog next month for the “guy” version of this blog.
- Published in Spend Wisely
So you married the love of your life, but are unsure of how to merge your finances? Yes, talking about money can get emotional, and sometimes it is not easy to express yourself in a way that doesn’t hurt your spouse’s feelings. There is no right or wrong way to merge your finances. Whatever works for the both of you is the best way. It is important to openly communicate with each other about your goals and what is important to you, then build a financial strategy and structure around that conversation. Sometimes it really helps to talk with a neutral third party who can take some of the emotion out of the discussion. You should both be involved and know where the money goes, even if only one of you has a detailed overview of the finances. If one person pays the bills, make sure the other person is kept in the loop so that you are both on the same page. Here is how we structured our household finances:
First, a percentage of income automatically goes into retirement plans (i.e. 401k) and into our joint savings account for long-term expenses (i.e. down payment for our future home, down payment for our next car, a bathroom remodel, our trip to Europe, etc.).
The rest of our income flows into our joint checking account. Most of our joint expenses are paid out of this account, including:
*Health & fitness expenses
*Day-to-Day expenses (groceries, toiletries, joint gifts, dog expenses, etc.)
Finally, we each have a separate checking account that we use for our own personal expenses. These separate accounts allow us to spend money on what is important to each of us without having to consult with the other person. This gives me the freedom to buy Aztecs basketball tickets, and it gives her the freedom to take a girls trip to Las Vegas. How this money is spent is really up to each of us. We each have the same amount transferred to our individual checking accounts every week from our joint checking account. Examples of what we spent from these accounts include:
*Personal Care Services (i.e. hair, nails, spa)
*Shopping (i.e. clothing, technology, gadgets, movies, music)
*Gifts for each other
This system has been working for us, so hopefully it gives you some guidance when you are setting up your own system. Dr. Budgets works with many couples and has seen other options for deciding how much money to transfer to each person. Here are some other options:
*Each person receives a percentage of his/her income instead of equal amounts
*Transfers are made once a month instead of once a week
*Instead of depositing all income in the joint account, each person has income deposited into his/her individual account, then transfers a set amount to the joint account for savings and household expenses.
If you need a neutral third party to help you navigate through the emotional side of setting up your financial system, give us a call at 619-800-3030 for your complementary consultation. Also check out our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/drbudgets) in June for more financial tips for married couples. If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the comments section below or e-mail me directly at email@example.com.
- Published in Love and Marriage
Congratulations on your engagement! You’ve found the love of your life, and are now somewhere in the process of planning your amazing day. Whether you and your soon-to-be spouse are paying for the affair yourselves, or you have help from family members, you’re probably working within a budget. How do you manage to stay within that amount and still have your dream event? My fiancée and I were faced with this same question, many months ago, when we started to plan our wedding that is coming up here in June. Based on my experience, here are 10 tips on how to have the most wonderful day without going deep into debt:
The best thing you can do to help with the planning process is to start with a vision of your wedding day. What is important to you? How do you want your big day to go? What are your “must haves,” and what is not so important? Pick a few words that sum up how you want your wedding to be (Creative, fun, and colorful? Intimate, romantic, and sweet?), then refer back to these words whenever you have a decision to make. For our wedding, we want our guests to have fun and enjoy the celebration of our marriage, so every decision we have made has aligned with that vision.
Create a wedding budget. It will help keep you out of debt, or at the least minimize the amount of credit you need to use for your wedding. Find a budget template online (or email me and I’ll send you my template), and refer to your vision as you assign dollar amounts to each category. Once you have created your budget, be sure that the people who are helping you plan your wedding know your budget too! Take a look at this infographic that does a great job of laying everything out: http://visual.ly/ultimate-wedding-cost-checklist-infographic. We created our budget right away, and it has truly helped us out with our decision-making.
The greatest influence on your budget is how many guests you are going to invite. Each guest adds at least $100 to the cost of the wedding, and most guests come with a “plus one,” so the overall cost can add up fast! Here is an excellent flowchart to help you through the process: http://noeyehasseen.com/blog/borrowed-and-blue-the-dreaded-guest-list. My fiancée and I decided we didn’t want to meet too many people for the first time at our wedding. If there is a friend of mine who she hasn’t met in the two and a half years we have been together, then they didn’t make it onto the guest list, and vice-versa. This made the decision-making process much easier, and didn’t favor either one of us.
This is an area that can quickly get away from you. Band, DJ, photo booth, disposable cameras, fireworks, and whatever else you can imagine. Since our vision centered around the guest experience, we could have easily spent a fortune on all sorts of different ideas. A band is much more expensive than a DJ, so we picked a great DJ, which saved us $5,000 that we could use on other areas to enhance the guest experience. This was a tough decision, especially for my fiancée, but ultimately there were other aspects of the wedding that were more important.
There are ways to save money on alcohol without diminishing the guest experience. Our venue doesn’t allow shots, which is saving us some money. We were also able to purchase our alcohol from BevMo, and have it chilled and delivered to the venue the day of the wedding. We saved between $1,000-$2,000 purchasing the alcohol this way, even though we have professional bartenders. Finally, we decided to serve only beer, wine, and a signature drink, which also keeps costs down without affecting the overall wedding day experience.
It’s easy to justify spending a lot on photography because, after your wedding is over, photos (and/or videos) are what you’ll have left to capture the memories. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune. Aim to spend no more than 10% of your budget on photography. Check out different photographers and their styles, and confirm what is included. Some photographers may charge less to photograph the big day, but make their money on selling prints after the wedding. Others may have a larger fee, but will provide a CD of all the images so you can print them yourself. So again, set your budget and stick to it.
Shop around for a florist! Prices vary widely. Often you can get a better price from a florist who is newer to the business. Flowers are more affordable when they are in season, and if you move flowers from the ceremony site to the reception area, you can save several hundred dollars.
When evaluating invitations, remember to factor all costs associated with them: postage (to mail to your guests and on the RSVP envelopes), embellishments, calligraphy or labels, and envelopes (inner, outer, and RSVP). If your invitations don’t have to be super fancy, you can save some money by using services like Vistaprint. My fiancée is very creative, so she designed really nice ones for a fraction of the normal cost. If invitations rank really low on your priority list, you may want to consider a nice email invitation.
The wedding industry plays on emotions, and there might not be any aspect of a wedding that has more emotion than the dress! If you’re open to it, there are lots of ways to save on your dress: you can borrow a beautiful dress or accessories from a friend, you can purchase a new dress from a sample sale or pre-owned dress online (many dresses sold online have never been worn because brides changed their minds, got pregnant, or called off the wedding), or “copycat” dresses from seamstresses on Etsy.com.
Have you been thinking of hiring a wedding planner? Do it! A great wedding planner can save you thousands of dollars because of their connections and creativity. Our wedding planner’s connections and ideas have saved us lots of money! As an added bonus, a professional who does this all the time is taking care of everything and thinks of everything, so you can enjoy the planning process and your wedding day.
These are the top 10 tips from my experience in planning our wedding. How did you save money without affecting the overall wedding experience? Please share in the comments section below or on www.facebook.com/drbudgets.
If you are saving money for a wedding, planning a wedding, or need help merging your two households after getting married, give us a call at 619-800-3030 for your free consultation. In celebration of my wedding next month, we are currently running a special of $50 off a budget package through June 30, 2014!
- Published in Love and Marriage
Is credit card debt bringing you down? There is a way out. Read on to learn how Jane* managed to become debt free. Here is her story…
I bought my condo during the housing boom, and, as many people at the time, I had a five-year fixed interest rate. After five years my mortgage payment almost doubled, so I started putting more and more of my everyday expenses on my credit card. When that card maxed out, I got another credit card (and then maxed that one out too).
Deciding to Work with Dr. Budgets
I heard about Dr. Budgets about 1 1/2 years after my mortgage payment had doubled, at the age of 28, and decided it was time to change my financial future. I had just succeeded in obtaining a home loan modification, which reduced my housing expenses significantly. I had been trying to pay down my debt on my own for about six months without any success, and I knew I would do better with a budget coach.
Working with Dr. Budgets
Things improved dramatically after I started working with Dr. Budgets. My budget coach asked me to set a specific financial goal. I told him that I wanted to pay off all of my credit card debt by my 30th birthday, which at the time was only 18 months away. I knew this was an ambitious plan, but I wanted to start my 30s with a clean slate! I knew what the credit limit was on each of the two cards (and I knew I was close to the limit on both), but I had never added those two numbers together to know how much credit card debt I actually had. Perhaps I was scared? My budget coach created a debt repayment plan for me, and through that I learned that my total credit card debt was $18,000. Wow.
The next step was to find enough savings within my spending to achieve my goal. Some of the suggestions were easy, such as eliminating bank fees. Others were more challenging, like reducing my purchases at Target and not going out so much. The most significant change was one that I couldn’t do by myself – my budget coach suggested that I stop adding to my credit card debt. I had been keeping my credit cards in my wallet “in case of emergency,” but that made it too easy for me to whip out my Visa anytime I wanted something. My budget coach recommended I place both of my credit cards in a drawer and only use my debit card and checks for monthly expenses. I inherently knew that I should do this, but prior to working with Dr. Budgets, I just didn’t do it. I needed a budget coach to hold me accountable to myself.
The other thing that we did was identify areas where it was important for me to spend money…yes, SPEND money! With a goal of paying off $18,000 in 18 months, it’s easy to focus on all the things I COULDN’T buy, but my budget coach asked me to tell him what I REALLY WANTED to buy. Since I had big birthday coming up, I wanted to celebrate all of my friends’ birthdays in a BIG way. My budget coach helped me to develop a spending plan that allowed me to have enough in my “gift budget” to make that a reality, while simultaneously paying down my debt. Every time I wished to splurge on myself, I remembered instead that I’d rather send flowers to a friend for an upcoming birthday. After a while, it became easy!
After putting my credit cards away and following my healthy spending plan, I immediately began to make progress toward my goal. Working with Dr. Budgets made a huge difference! Yes, at times I struggled to stay within my budget, but my budget coach would be there to nudge me in the right direction again by re-focusing me on my goal. That monthly accountability kept me on track; it is just too easy to spend money when nobody is watching. I paid off one credit card within a few months, and paid the balance on my second card the day before my 30th birthday…and I couldn’t have done it without Dr. Budgets. I had at least some credit card debt throughout my 20s. My 30th birthday was that much sweeter because I was entering the next decade of my life debt-free! Today I am still out of debt, I have increased my 401(k) contributions to 10% of my income, and, for the first time ever, I have an emergency reserve fund (actual savings!) to help me stay out of debt! I am now saving for a car, which I hope to buy soon. Thank you Dr. Budgets!
Thank you for sharing your success story, Jane. It motivates us to continue helping others reach their financial goals! If Jane’s story resembles your own and has inspired you to act, give us a call at (619) 800-3030 to schedule your complimentary consultation.
*For client confidentiality, we changed the name of the person to “Jane.” Everything else is factual.
- Published in Success Stories