(Un)Conscious Holiday Spending ($71,257.45)

This blog post is probably a few days too late. The holidays are officially upon us, and with this time comes an attitude of gratitude and multitude of guilty spending. Raise your hand if you actually sat down with your partner and created a budget for your holiday spending. Yeah, me neither. Although I chose to be in the office on Friday I still took a break from work and did some holiday shopping with my wife. We treated ourselves to a few things. I feel a little guilty…just a little.

holiday spending

Don’t let Grumpy Cat win…

Life update: I just realized I haven’t posted since September 7th. Deanna and I got married on September 27th and then went on our honeymoon in Maui for 10 days in October. We then had a family reception in Madison a couple weekends ago. We still aren’t sure if we’ll do a gathering with friends in the twin cities. At this point it doesn’t seem like it is worth it to do a reception in the cities. We’ve already spent plenty of money and with the holidays here, everyone is getting busy. Please don’t be offended, and please know that we are incredibly grateful for everyone’s support.

Holidays bring an array of emotions. For me, it is fun to see my extended family and hear what they’ve been up to but it’s also tough because it is the first Christmas without my grandma who truly was the matriarch of my mom’s side of the family. I always find myself reflecting a lot more than usual during this time of year. I often think about my friends I grew up with, and I am reaching that age where many of those friends have families of their own and we’ve lost touch. I know it’s part of life. I feel a sense of accomplishment for all I’ve done this year, and I also feel a sense of anxiety not having clarity on what I want next year to look like for me and my family. I feel happiness, sadness, excitement, and anxiety for those around me as well as holidays can bring joy and a terrible amount of pain.

With great emotions come impulse decisions. When it comes to buying behavior, we suddenly see deals on things we don’t really need and with a click, tap, or swipe we’ve made a purchase without thinking about it. Dumbest thing I bought online on Friday was a NFL football. Yes, an official NFL football. Mine is flat with a hole in it, so at $52 it felt like a good price to replace it…my dang feelings won.

Just take a piece of paper and write down who you want to buy gifts for and a price limit. That’s all you need to do, or at the very least make a mental budget. If you haven’t made a budget for holiday shopping, then stop to think, “do I actually need this thing?” If you do have good reason to buy, then think about how you can get the best deal on it, and do not fall for the retail game. I needed a new winter coat. I’ve had the same one since high school. Yes. I’m serious. I saw one at Macy’s where regular price was $400. Lies. With the ‘50% sale’, it was going to be $200! More lies. I pulled out my Amazon app, scanned the jacket’s tag, and it popped up for $159. If you need to buy it, at least do some research and get the best deal that you can. My new jacket is incredibly warm and I no longer look like I’m ready for a middle school ski trip…oh Columbia jackets.

When it comes to holiday spending, check yourself before your wreck yourself. I don’t want to see you or myself spending hard-earned money on things we don’t really need. You also don’t need to buy things to show someone you love them. You can make them something instead. It’s more special that way. My mother-in-law makes super kick ass handmade cards and they mean a lot to me! I found a couple cool sites here and here for those of you who want to be craftier and save some cash in the process.

Happy holidays and don’t go broke or depressed in the process. You can do it. Be mindful of your spending, not mindless. Comment below with your holiday spending tips!

P.S. I dialed back the aggressive pay down on the student loans for a few months, so we could do our wedding and honeymoon debt free. Success! I’ll have to write about this later…

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Planning Life, Not a Wedding

wedding meme

This post has two purposes. One, to inform friends and family what we’re doing and why we’re doing our wedding this way. Two, I thought I would share some reflections we’ve had through the planning process from a financial and general life lens.

A few months ago, my fiancée expressed her frustration doing some google searches. I remember her saying something like, “there’s so much online about planning a wedding and not much on planning a life together.” Big a-ha moment for me. We recently wrapped up pre-marital counseling and it was a great experience on planning for our life, but what about the wedding?

Disclaimer: Don’t read this as me judging you for how you did or are doing your big day. Given our preferences, this is how we’re rolling.

I’ve hit the brakes a little bit on the aggressive student loan repayment plan because we’ve got a wedding to plan! On one end of the spectrum would be a traditional wedding complete with a ceremony and reception for 200 to 300 people (spending tens of thousands of dollars that we’d rather use for other things), and on the other end would be going down to the courthouse and getting married by a judge with our dog as witness. We’ve decided to go an alternative route somewhere in the middle and we’re getting married in…less than three weeks!

Between student loans, wedding planning-related stress, and just wanting to keep things simple we are having a tiny ceremony with just our parents in Duluth on September 27. Then, Deanna and I will have our honeymoon in Maui next month. When looking at the cost of catering, venue rentals, flowers, attire for wedding party, cost of logistics of our families and friends, and much more, we just decided we want to do this in our own way. My family just can’t contribute what they would like financially, so we really don’t want to create a financial pinch for anyone. For those who know my story, you get it.

I’ve learned a lot about weddings from attending friends’ weddings and taking photos at other weddings. I usually hear some form of this phrase, “…well this day is more for the parents than anything.” While that is definitely true, I think we just wanted to challenge the idea of ‘how’ we go about making our parents happy. We spoke with our families and they’re happy about the idea and we get to make it a full weekend of activities with just our parents. It will be some quality time we haven’t had in a long time. For example, me having dinner with my parents hasn’t happened in a smaller setting since I was 13 years old before they got divorced. It’s going to be weird in a happy way.

A friend of mine who is a couple decades older than myself once told me not to spend so much money and stress on inviting people to your wedding you will probably lose touch with in the next 5 years. While this is sad to hear, it’s probably true. Life happens. A big party is memorable, but weeding out who you invite and who you don’t can come with some tough conversations that just aren’t worth it in my mind. I don’t want random co-worker friends of my parents whom I have never met showing up for our big day. It is your day, so you choose the guidelines for who makes it and who doesn’t. In our case, we are just keeping it to our parents, which is absolutely not a reflection on my feelings for the people who aren’t there.

And…the honeymoon?

We originally wanted to get married in Hawaii, but we’re going to have our honeymoon there instead. We’ll spend 10 days in Maui, so we are very excited about that trip in October. We’re planning to rent through Airbnb which appears to be a lot cheaper than the “nice” resorts in the area (Let me know if you have any suggestions for Maui).

This is all fine and good, but what about a reception? What about your friends and families?

We’re kicking around a couple different ideas. One is having a wedding reception happy hour here in the twin cities where we keep it low key and invite anyone and everyone to stop by for a beer and say congrats. For my family back in WI, we’re thinking we might do a separate small family party there. Not sure yet, still figuring it out.

There you have it. Our wedding, honeymoon, and tentative pseudo-reception plans. I am extremely pumped to marry my best friend and partner-in-crime on September 27. Wish me luck!