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The Thrifty Bride’s Guide to Wedding Planning

The Thrifty Bride’s Guide to Wedding Planning

The big question has been popped, the engagement period has begun, and it is time to begin planning for one of the most exciting, scary, emotionally invigorating days of your life. Even for those who don’t place much value in the traditional wedding and choose to go another route, the act of marriage is a heartfelt one of acceptance, admiration, and commitment to one individual in a world of billions. The wedding is about sharing the joy of finding that one person that makes you happy beyond measure. Some want to joyfully include as many people as possible while others invite only those closest to them. Whether you want a wedding that will rival Queen Elizabeth’s with the dress to match or something a little more low key, these tips will be extremely useful for creating an atmosphere all your own at a fraction of the price you would otherwise pay.

Rings

When revealing your engagement to the world, one of the first things people ask is if they can see the ring. There is a huge cultural fascination and emphasis on the ring and its reflection of the love your partner has for you. What is interesting is that the emphasis on how large the diamond is has gradually lessened and people are choosing more affordable, artistic, and personalized routes when buying engagement rings. Another exciting development is that men are opting to wear engagement rings more and more. With these things in mind, here are some tips to help find just the right ring for both parties.

Upgrade Programs

This is a great idea, perfect for the young couple who will be growing their lives together both in finances and in taste. How this works is that you buy rings that are within budget and that suit you at this point in your life, but with the upgrade program you can come back to the jewelry store at any point and if you want to upgrade to something larger or simply different you will receive credit equal to 100% of the original price toward the purchase of a new ring.

Consignment

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This is a great way to cut the cost of some beautiful engagement rings. Consignment stores have both bling and modesty and are the same exact diamonds, stones, and bands fouand in any jewelry store except with a smaller price tag. Preowned does not mean less valuable. Another plus is that many of them have online stores which gives you the opportunity to peruse what’s available before deciding if consignment is for you without ever having to leave home.

Alternative Stones

The fascination with the diamond has had its day. As beautiful as diamonds are, they lack the personality that a lot of couples are looking for and the price tag doesn’t help their case. Many couples are considering other precious or semi-precious stones in an array of different settings that suit their partner’s taste in style, color, and price.

The Dress

Such a big one! Many of us dream about our wedding dress from the time we are old enough to play dress up and others could be happy wearing sweats as long as in the end they are married to the person of their dreams. Here are some great ideas to consider that will make everyone happy and save some extra money for the honeymoon!

Clever Girl

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Companies know that they can price wedding dresses at the prices they do and people will pay them. That same dress in another color would be sold for much less. One way to get around the wedding dress price tag is to order a bridesmaid dress in white. The price of wedding dresses and bridesmaid’s dresses differ drastically in price and no one will be the wiser.

Rent

A lot of women want to keep their dress after the wedding as a souvenir or to be able to hand down to future children. If this is not your thing, renting is a great option. You can get the dress of your dreams and give it back after your big day saving yourself potentially thousands.

Preowned

Preowned gowns are another alternative to buying a new gown at full price and if keeping the gown is something that is important to you, you can! The only person who will know that it is preowned is you and if it is the one, by all means make that happen and do it without spending three months salary or putting it on credit. Remember these can be altered as well. See a gown you love but want some extra length, a longer tail, or need it taken in a bit? These things can all be done and the dress can still be under budget.

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The Cake (and Food)

Depending on if you foresee your wedding being the social event of the year or if it will be a handful of family and friends, here are some clever and rather fun ideas for getting exactly what you want while continuing to make smart, thrifty decisions financially.

Fake It Till You Make It

Another one of the things that have become a staple of the wedding ceremony has been an extravagant wedding cake. There is a company that realized that having the extravagant cake is not always cost effective for the bride and groom. They help you fake the cake. Instead of paying out of pocket for a massive cake, half of which will most likely go to waste, you rent a beautiful display cake for the reception, and the caterers serve much less expensive sheet cake from the kitchen. Clever and cost effective.

Potluck Wedding

For a smaller wedding with just close friends and family, a potluck wedding dinner is a great idea. Not only does it cut the cost of a caterer but it makes everyone feel included. Make sure you or one of your bridesmaids have delegated dishes so that you don’t end up with all desserts or a few of the same dish.

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The Venue

When it comes to choosing a venue the prices range substantially depending on many different factors. Choosing a venue that is not typically a traditional wedding venue is one big way to cut costs. Getting married in the “off” season also contributes to lower prices. Other ways to curb costs are to stock your own bar and stick with beer and wine. Just don’t get married where you have to bring in everything- chairs, tables, etc. The cost and stress of having to supply those things are not worth it. Lastly and probably most importantly, if getting wedding gifts isn’t that important to you, asking those invited to contribute to the cost of the wedding is a great way to go. There are several sites online that make this easy for people to do. The bride and groom sign up, set up the account, and share the link that allows people to contribute electronically making it easy on everyone.

Flowers/Music/Photos

With the flowers, the music, and the wedding photography, going local is the best way to get quality work without paying the big business or wedding planner prices. The small local florist is not going to charge what the large wedding company will, the talented driven local photographer isn’t going to charge what the established wedding photographer will, and the young local DJ isn’t going to charge what the self-proclaimed wedding DJ that was referred will. Definitely do your homework and check portfolios but there are many talented people who are capable of doing the job at a much lower price. Another way to look for the photographer and DJ is through local music schools and universities. With the flowers and floral arrangements you would be surprised what you can get online, delivered right to your door. Shopping online for your wedding flowers is another affordable choice.

Plan Plan Plan

When setting your budget, focus on your priorities and work from there. Planning your own wedding can be quite stressful but often the most rewarding. Being able to make sure things are as you envisioned- or close enough- is exciting. It is also quite a task and can become stressful. Set things in motion and let your bridesmaids and those around you know what you need. When people offer to help, let them.

I think what it comes down to when looking to make this day as memorable as possible for everyone involved (without going into debt) is creating an event that is completely original to you and your partner. Think outside of the box and start your journey together savvy and saving for your future.

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Published on May 7, 2019

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Will you spend more time with your family?
  • What does retirement mean to you?
  • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

2. Figure out When to Invest

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

Why?

Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

  1. Vanguard
  2. TD Ameritrade
  3. Charles Schwab

5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

Robo Advisors

Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

Bonds

Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

  1. Treasury bonds
  2. Government bonds
  3. Corporate bonds
  4. Foreign bonds
  5. Mortgage-backed bonds
  6. Municipal bonds

Mutual Funds

Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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Real Estate

Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

Savings Accounts

Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

So how can you master delayed gratification?

By building your discipline.

Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

But, how can you invest yourself?

Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

Retire Happy with Excess Money

The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

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