The following is a guest post by Jamie Claver
Getting married – it’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life (and I’m sure it will be), but it can also put outrageous amounts of stress on your shoulders and wallet. Did you know that the average wedding costs more than $28,000? If you’re anything like me, this number sounds a bit steep. With a little bit of creativity, a pinch of cunningness and a flair for haggling, you can easily lower that number without having to make the bride walk down the aisle in a garbage bag.
Choose your Day
Everyone knows Saturdays are the most popular days for weddings, but think of how much money you could save by choosing a Friday night wedding. The location for your reception could have Saturdays booked for over a year, but most likely have a Friday night available much sooner before the chosen date and may be eager to get it filled. This is a particularly smart option if most of your friends and family are local, as out of town guests may not be able to call out of work to arrive in time for your nuptials… It is always considerate to keep your guests in mind when choosing your day, but saving a few extra bucks might come at a higher priority.
Negotiate with Vendors
Always remember that the list price isn’t always the final price. Ask your vendors for their best possible fees before committing, as well as the costs for different options. Most vendors have package pricing available for combined services, such as catering the meal and providing the cake. Additionally, ask if discounts are offered in exchange for referrals. One happy customer praising a vendor’s service is valuable marketing, and you may get a discount for being that customer who shares her endorsement with friends and family.
Attending bridal shows isn’t just fun for the ladies, it’s also practical. Vendors offer discounts, coupons and samples at bridal shows. Check websites like Great Bridal Expo to see if there are any upcoming tradeshows or expos taking place around you. You’ll gain valuable experience and contacts, while also having the opportunity to mingle with other excited couples.
Ask for Help
Your close friends and family would love to help you get ready for your big day. For example, having a florist create all of the flower arrangements can cost thousands of dollars. Instead, ask the florist to build only the bouquets and have them source more flowers for you. Buy the flowers and materials in bulk and then the bride can host a party for her bridesmaids during which they create boutonnieres and centerpieces, saving you hundreds of dollars. Plus, it is a great bonding experience in which everyone will feel like they played a key role in creating the aesthetic of the big day.
Flowers are obvious, but other items may cost less in different seasons. Wedding dresses are usually discounted in January – March when stores are offering sales to make room for the next season’s styles. If you don’t mind a gown that is a season or two older, you can get a great deal by planning ahead. Popular bridal retailers like David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo have an enormous selection of affordable gowns and have ongoing sales on gowns from past seasons. Bulk wedding supplies cost less in fall and winter. Champagne is less expensive in June but wine in general is best purchased in August and September. Always keep in mind how seasons effect the cost of supplies for your wedding, and stock up before the price jump!
Find hotels convenient to the reception location and discuss group or block rates. Check websites for comparing the best deals, and always look well ahead of time. Most hotels offer discounts for 10 or more reserved rooms. Also ask the manager at the reception location for hotels offering deals. Some hotels even offer shuttles to and from the reception location, which is a valuable addition for you and your guests. If you have need for 30 or more rooms, consider reserving blocks of rooms at multiple hotels to give guests a range of options … and keep Great Aunt Nancy away from the groom’s frat-house friends.
In today’s world, penny pinching has become an unrelenting way of life. On the bright side, with a little craftiness, negotiation, and budgeting you can have the epic wedding day you have always dreamed of, without setting you back financially as newlyweds.
If you have a smartphone or tablet then you have the ability to play games any time you want. There are a bunch of games that cost anywhere from $0.99 to $10. But why pay for games when you have so many options for free!?
Here are a few of the best free android games right now, so these can help you pass the time without costing you any money.
Candy Crush Saga
If you haven’t played Candy Crush Saga, you might want to keep it that way because the game is so addicting. The basic premise of the game is to put three candies in a row so they disappear, but it gets more complicated as the game moves on. This is a completely free game but they will try to get you to pay for upgrades. Some levels are intentionally frustrating so you think you need to pay for extra stuff, but with enough patience you can beat the game without paying a dime.
Do you have a trip to Vegas coming up soon. If so, you might want to start practicing your skills with a mobile blackjack or craps game. It’s a great way to learn card and table games without actually spending any money. You can even get a real casino on your mobile phone in some countries, but remember that you’d risking real money in that situation.
Tetris is one of the best puzzle games ever made, and there is a new Tetris app that is a lot of fun to play. There’s nothing better than getting caught up in a jam and then getting just the right piece and clearing all your rows. Tetris takes just enough brain power to capture your attention, but is easy enough to be fun!
Classic Board and Card Games
Even though mobile phones have fancy colors and touch screens, sometimes it’s fun to play good old board or card games. Games like solitare, backgammon, farkle, or other common games can be found free in the Google Play store, and will help you to fine tune your board game skills before your next family vacation.
As you probably know from my new website Reward Boost, I get pretty excited about earning rewards. There’s nothing quite like using credit cards, paying them off every month, paying $0 in fees and interest, and getting valuable rewards in return.
There’s also nothing quite like having your rewards account drained to $0 without any prior warning.
That’s what happened to Tag yesterday. Pretty scary huh?
If you have any rewards credit or debit card accounts, you can be certain the terms and conditions include a statement something like the following Wells Fargo disclaimer:
Changes to this Program: Wells Fargo reserves the right to amend, cancel, or temporarily suspend the Program and Your participation in the Program, in whole or in part, or change any of the Terms, at any time for any or no reason, including without limitation, in the event of fraud, abuse of Program privileges or violation of the Terms, as determined in our sole discretion (examples of Program violations include any attempt to sell, exchange or transfer points or any instrument exchangeable for points), without notice to You, which may result in the decrease of redemption value or cancellation of points not yet redeemed.
In other words, your rewards can disappear at any time!
Tag lost $11 in Rewards Yesterday
When I first met Tag, she had a checking account with Wells Fargo which was charging her a monthly fee. They also were very unkind to her when she overdrafted on her account. We decided that she needed a new account.
We signed her up for Perkstreet because they didn’t charge monthly fees and Tag could earn rewards with her debit card purchases. She didn’t have good enough credit to qualify for a rewards credit card, so this was a great option.
Over the lifetime of her account, I think she earned $50 or $75 in rewards and never paid anything in fees. As of Sunday, she had about $11 in rewards saved up, waiting until the balance reached $25 when she could redeem again.
Then Perkstreet sent her an email saying they were closing and all rewards balances were immediately reduced to $0.
It was only $11, and you can’t redeem rewards until you have at least $25, so there’s nothing Tag could have done to avoid losing those rewards. Unfortunately we just have to write it off and move on.
I feel bad for anyone who had hundreds of dollars in their rewards accounts. Tag only lost $11. Some people could have lost much more than that.
Should You Save Up Rewards?
This raises a question: should you save up credit card rewards and risk a large balance going to $0, or should you spend them as soon as possible?
I currently have about 67,000 Citi ThankYou points, which I can redeem for about $891 worth of airline tickets. I’m saving up my points because I hope to use them to pay for our honeymoon (if we can even afford one).
Our wedding is about 9 months away, which gives me enough time to save up so many points that I could probably use the points for 2 plane tickets to just about anywhere. However, in saving them up I’m taking a risk that Citi ends the program and my $891 turns into $0.
So am I worried about losing these rewards? Definitely not.
Sure, Citi could end their rewards program and probably save themselves millions and millions of dollars. They would also have to be prepared to lose billions of dollars in business as everyone flocks to Chase and Amex and Capital One for their rewards programs.
The only way Citi, or any big bank, would end their rewards program without advance notice is if they were immediately going out of business.
The only reason Perkstreet ended their rewards program is because they were going out of business. As long as I think my card issuer is a solvent company, I’m confident the rewards will be there.
Readers: Does Perkstreet closing and canceling rewards make you worried about your rewards with other banks?
As someone who is working on a website that you could consider a “tech startup”, I found the infographic above to be particularly interesting. It shows how some companies have pivoted from their original business idea to stay relevant and fill a market need. We are all familiar with Apple, and even if you don’t use their product (which I don’t) you can still learn a lesson about how to run a profitable business. While I found this infographic on a site from the UK that offers payday loans, the information is very relevant to online entrepreneurs.
It’s interesting to see how a company can start with one vision but end up doing something completely different because they were in the right place at the right time. It must be very difficult to change the direction of a company, because the founders are probably highly emotionally invested in the original plan. It takes an objective mind and a savvy business person to successfully pivot a business into a newer, more profitable market.
In the last few weeks my fiancee Tag has started looking to start up her career again. She spent a few years working to get into nursing school, and then one semester in the program before realizing it wasn’t for her. She’s looking to re-enter the job market and sent out her first application last week.
She found a job on Monster.com and tried to apply through their website. Unfortunately, their website didn’t give her any option to upload a cover letter, so she went directly to the company’s site to apply there.
I’m going to go off on a tangent here because some companies make applying for a job SO FREAKING HARD! In this particular instance, this company uses some third party provider where Tag had to upload her resume and cover letter. In theory it should be convenient because she could use the same system to apply for multiple jobs (at least any other companies using this service).
Tag’s resume is only one page long. There are no images or anything fancy in it. It’s just a single, well-formatted page of text. The resume she wanted to submit was in a PDF format, because this is how everyone should submit resumes.
Here’s a tangent within a tangent: If you submit your resume in Microsoft Word, it’s like you are sending them a rough draft. It’s editable, and to me (as someone who has done quite a bit of interviewing in my day job) it is just not professional. What if you used Word 2007 but the employer uses Word 2003, and the format gets messed up when they open it? Then you look bad and they may not even want to interview you.
A resume should be a PDF. Always. This goes for the cover letter as well.
Back to the original tangent about how applying for a job can be unnecessarily difficult. This system provided an option to upload a resume as a Word document or a PDF. The maximum file size was 209kb. Again, Tag’s resume is a single page of text. The PDF version of her resume was 212kb. The system wouldn’t take it.
You can buy a 1TB External Hard Drive for about $75. There is a difference in price between internal server storage and an external hard drive, but let’s just use $75 for one TB. That means the website can store 5,128,205 resumes at 209kb for $75. What I’m trying to say is that a 209kb limit is absolutely ridiculous. It’s not even big enough for a one page PDF. Very frustrating.
At this point, she couldn’t apply through Monster.com and she also couldn’t upload a PDF to the company website. There was no other option but to upload a Word doc and hope it maintained the formatting *shudder*. Tag applied last Wednesday evening. She didn’t hear back that week so she decided to follow up on Monday.
The Job Application Follow-Up Phone Call
On Monday morning, she decided to call the company and follow up on her application. This is how the phone call went:
“Hi, my name is [insert real name] and I applied for the [insert job title] position last week. I just wanted to follow up and make sure that my cover letter and resume were received.”
That’s all it takes. Why is this important? First, you really do want to make sure they received the application. In this case, they hadn’t! I don’t know if she did something wrong or if they were only looking at the applications that came directly through Monster.com, but the HR person she spoke with couldn’t find her information. This was her response:
“I don’t have your information here. Let me give you my direct email address. You can send your resume and cover letter there, and I’ll make sure to put you at the top of the stack since you called in.”
This is reason number two for the follow-up phone call. It shows initiative. It shows you care about the position. It shows you follow through to the very end when you start something.
Tag had to go directly to their website to find their contact information. She had to muster up the courage to call (which can be difficult, although she’s not one to be shy). It wasn’t hard, but it’s a lot more than most people do.
Especially when you are applying for a job posted to Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, or any other huge site, you can expect the company to receive a boatload of resumes. It might be 10 or it might be 1,000. You are probably going to need some help to get your resume noticed, and the follow up phone call can give you that edge.
So if you don’t do this already, make sure to follow up job applications with a phone call whenever possible.
Readers: When you apply for a job, do you follow up your application with a phone call?
As many of you know I got engaged last year and will be getting married next May. There is a lot of planning, talking with vendors, signing contracts, and of course spending money when you are planning a wedding. There’s also a lot of dieting, exercising, and getting in shape for engagement photos, trying on dresses (Tag, not me), and looking great for your wedding.
Obviously my goal is to save up enough money to pay for the wedding without going into debt, while also eating healthy and exercising so I look good for my future wife. However, what if I could only pick one?
What if I had two choices?
Option 1: incur unplanned expenses that make me have to borrow money to pay for the wedding but I look like a GQ model.
Option 2: Pay for the whole wedding with money I’ve saved and continue to be debt free next June, but put on 20 pounds and be overweight.
I’ll Take Health over Money Any Day
It’s really not even a question for me. I would much rather look and feel great on my wedding, and then pay off the debt over time, than be overweight for it.
Wedding pictures are forever. My honeymoon (if we can afford one) only happens once. This is the one day of my life where all my closest friends and family are there to see me, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna look like a slob.
If I go into debt for this wedding, then I’ll pay it back. I’ll take a second job if I have to. I’ll sell my house and move into a smaller one. I’ll figure it out.
Debt can be fixed. Wedding pictures cannot.
And even if I didn’t have the wedding coming up, I would still value my health over money. I love that I can live an active lifestyle. I love that I can look in a mirror and feel good about myself. I love that my doctor doesn’t have to give me a hard time when I go get my annual physical.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “At least you’ve got your health.”? I think it’s a great saying, because no matter what situation you are in, you have time to make it better if you’re healthy enough to stick around for a while and find a solution!
Debt can be paid off. Heck, you can even rebound from bankruptcy. But if you mess up your health bad enough, you might not have a chance to fix it.
This post was inspired by a survey just released by Credit Karma. There is some interesting information about how people feel about their weight and their money. Check out the infographic below if you are interested.
Readers: What is more important to you: a small waist or a big wallet?