This is the way we text:

Christine (2:15 pm): Let’s name a child Gondibert.

Christine (2:21 pm): A university friend of mine is randomly in Rivertown this week! We’re going to get together on Thurs probably since I’m off. I’m excited to see her 🙂

Christine (2:23 pm): Hmm, I wonder how long my fly has been undone?

Stan (2:33 pm): Awesome.

Christine (2:35 pm): Gondibert works for you, then?

How we got married for less than $6,000

Some friends of ours recently got engaged, and last night the groom-to-be phoned Stan to find out — well, I’m not sure exactly, but from the half of the conversation I could hear he seemed to be asking for tips and tricks for a frugal wedding. Stan and I got married for less than $6,000 — I think that our final cost was $5,600 or thereabouts, and we were able to pay for it in cash. Here are some of the things we kept in mind when we got married on a budget:

Don’t say the ‘W’ word! The wedding industry is full of insaaaaane markups, and as soon as you let your vendor know that you want something for a wedding, you’ll be hit with all sorts of extra costs. Best bet is to tell people that you’re pricing things out for a party (which: you are).

You don’t need a $3,000 dress. I bought my dress online and the final cost — after paying for custom tailoring, international shipping, and a small alteration once it arrived — was barely over $300. The dress was lovely and it fit like a dream.

Use the services of friends and family. We were very blessed by many of our friends and family who gave their services to us as their wedding gifts. A couple from our church did our catering (final cost: about $7/head). Another friend of ours rented a van and chauffeured the wedding party around, which saved us quite a few headaches. A friend of mine who is just starting her photography business did our pictures for about half-price. My uncle did the lights and music at our reception, and the list goes on.

We did our flowers by hand, too. My Mater worked for many years in a flower shop, and so she offered to do the bouquets. I ordered two extra-large bouquets of loose flowers from a florist, and she transformed them into five bouquets, six boutonnierres, and two corsages. We got all of that for about $160. (Bridal and wedding party bouquets from the same florist started at $50 and went as high as $430 for ONE bouquet. See what I mean about insane markups?)

Skip some of the decorations. Our church has a lovely mostly-wood interior, so we decided not to do any decorations at the church itself. The interior pictures were still beautiful.

Keep an eye out for deals. Stan found a menswear shop offering a deal where if the wedding party rented at least five tuxes from them, the groom’s rental would be free and he would get a coupon for a free suit (up to $400). We had enough people to swing it, and so Stan got a free tux rental, and a month or two after the wedding we went and bought him a $500 suit for only $100 cash down. Score!

Forget the frou-frou wedding favours. Let’s be honest: all of those personalized shot glasses, picture frames, and candle holders go into a drawer and are never looked at again. For our favours I got a bunch of little paper boxes and we filled them with candy from Bulk Barn. People had something to eat before dinner and the favour cost was kept to about $1.25/head.

Determine your priorities. One of the hardest parts of planning a wedding is managing other people’s expectations — but what other people want isn’t necessarily what’s important to the two of you. If you figure out what your priorities are, you can concentrate (and spend) the most on those things, and let the rest of the chips fall where they may. Stan and I both think that the whole cutting-the-cake-together-and-feeding-it-to-each-other thing is cheesy, so we skipped the expensive wedding cake and served pie for dessert.

Having a beautiful, frugal wedding is totally doable. I wouldn’t have traded ours for the world.

We are getting out of debt, and it is doable

When Stan and I got married we realised that we were facing a combined debt load of nearly $50,000. It had multiple sources; some was student loans, some was credit cards, some was personal debt and a string of questionable decisions. But however it got there, there it was: $47,000 in owed money, give or take a few hundreds here and there.

That’s a lot of debt for anyone. That’s especially a lot of debt for a young couple just starting out. And it would be easy to look at a number like that and become paralysed. Despair is easy! Big numbers are scary! Et cetera!

But instead, we are getting out of debt. We are getting out of debt and it is doable. It takes hard work and discipline, but it is totally doable. I calculated yesterday that in the nine or so months since we got married, we’ve paid down over $23,000 of that debt. That’s not really halfway because of interest (dang you, interest!) but it’s incredible progress!

Not only that, but we’re saving $500-625 a month while paying that debt down.

Here are things that are working for us:

1. We treat debt repayment as a fixed expense. It’s awfully hard to get out of debt if you wait until the end of the month to see if there’s any money left to put toward it. We treat debt repayment the same way we treat paying the rent and giving our tithe: no matter what, that money is going to be used for its intended purpose. Every month we repay about $1150 on our loans. If we have to wait on other purchases, so be it. If we skip eating out, so be it. Debt repayment is a fixed expense.

2. We negotiated with our bank for lower interest rates. This is something that you can just do! We’ve done it for credit cards and we’ve done it for the line of credit. It never hurts to call your bank and ask for a lower rate. And if you’re paying less interest, you’re taking bigger chunks out of your principal. Hooray!

3. We repay as much as we can afford over the minimum amount. Our bank automatically debits our chequing account for the minimum amount due on the line of credit each month. Once that happens, we top it up with an extra payment, so that our monthly payment amount on the line is $900. That extra payment is applied directly to the principal, and it really helps us whittle down the amount we owe.

4. We don’t treat dividends as spending money. Any time that extra money comes in — wedding gifts, bonuses from work, tax returns, etc. — that money is put directly onto the line of credit. As above, these extra payments get applied directly to the principal. Yay!

5. Savings: we set ’em and forget ’em. For a while we were trying to remember to set aside money for savings every month, and some months we’d remember, while other months… not so much. While we were trying to treat savings as another “fixed expense”, it wasn’t really working. Then Stan hit on the (brilliant) idea of setting up an automated savings plan with our savings bank. Now every Wednesday $125 gets automatically moved from our chequing account to our savings account — that means we’re putting away $5-600 dollars depending how many Wednesdays there are in the month. It’s really encouraging to see our savings growing so steadily, and amazingly we’ve found that we don’t really miss that extra money. (We save with ING; if you’re considering opening an account, consider using our referral key — 15769833S1 — and we’ll both get a bonus!)

Now, obviously this isn’t always a walk in the park. Stan and I are fortunate in that we’re both working full time right now, and so there’s enough money coming in that we can make some pretty big strides here. This can be harder if you’re a couple with one income, or you’re in school, or what have you… but take heart. Getting out of debt is doable. And when it finally happens, it’s going to feel amazing.

Friday evening thankfulnesses

A while ago, following the example of Ann Voskamp, I decided to start writing down a list of things that I am thankful for. You know, attitude of gratitude!, and all that (I feel as if that phrase always ends with an exclamation point whether warrented or not). As promised, I did actually notice a change in my internal habits of thought — and perhaps a lessening of my cases of the grumples — as I tried to intentionally notice God’s small gifts all around me. It was good.

Like most of the habits I try to start, however, this practice fell by the wayside after too short a time, and the special little notebook I bought rattled its lonely way around my purse for some weeks without being pulled out. But I think that it’s time to start being thankful again. I need to be reminded.

Here are some of today’s thankfulnesses:

– This morning I put out the nativity set, as a surprise for Stan when he got home. I’m thankful that Christmas is coming.

– Yesterday Goober said his first complete interrogative sentence: “What is this?”. The twins have expressive language delays and so it’s really encouraging when they make strides like that.

– Tonight I got home from a singalong performance of Handel’s Messiah, which is my all-time favourite piece of music in the world ever — both to listen to and to sing. It was amazing to sing it with hundreds of other people. The soloists were very good this year, particularly the alto, and I had a great time. I’m thankful for singing, and for music, and for Handel, and that I was able to get off work early so that I could make it to the rehearsal on time!

Things I’m not as grateful for:

It’s Christmas (well, almost), which means Christmas decorations, which of course means bringing out our favourite ornaments from our separate pasts (this being our first Christmas and all), which means that Stan has gotten out his creepy, creepy nutcrackers. Although he’s kindly placed them facing away from the bed, I just realised that this means that they’re just watching me in the mirror. They are CREEPING me OUT, honey.

He just whispered that they’re plotting against me. Thanks, babe! I’ll sleep well tonight!

We mustn't forget beard research

Friday’s seven quick takes, hosted by Conversion Diary. 

1. I realised a little while ago that because this is our first Christmas together, Stan and I have zero tree ornaments or other decorations. This sent me into a small flurry of sewing, as I had the bright idea to use some of my fabric scraps to make ornaments. I pinned, cut circles, sewed them together, turned them inside out, stuffed them, sewed them shut, and then spent some time contemplating how difficult it is to sew stuffed circles. A number of them look more like the little ghosts from Pac-Man, and at least one distinctly resembles Australia.

Stan came home from work one night to find me sewing the benighted things closed.

“What are you making?” quoth he.

“I’m making… Christmas… blobs.”

2. Goober and Goobrette are now two and a half, just about, and their vocabulary is starting to pick up. Specifically, they’re really starting to get the hang of body parts. Last night I overheard Goober playing with his little playmobile people: “Man! Penis! Man! Penis! Man! Penis!”

3. I recently stumbled across a neat little programme that solves the problem of turning your laptop on at night and your eyeballs immediately wanting to die from the horrible blue glare. Flux actually changes the temperature of light that your screen emits throughout the day, making it bluer in the morning/daytime, and much warmer at night (if you plug in your longitude & latitude it’ll track your local sunrise and sunset). It took about a day to get used to the night settings (it’s all a bit pink-y) but now I love it. No more late-night eyestrain! Yay!

4. A week or two ago I bought a dress from a friend of mine, who buys hideous pieces of clothing from Value Village et al. and then upcycles them into cute things. She’s pretty brilliant, and I love the dress, but maybe the best part is that I paid for it over paypal and neither of us have grown-up email addresses (you know, the kind with your actual name) linked to our paypal accounts. The line item on my credit card therefore reads “Paypal: WHIPPERHEAD”.

5. I know that I talked about Ordinary Time in my last post, but I’m not over them so they get another mention. Go listen to track twelve and then try telling me that they’re not amazing. Go on, I dare you. (Be sure to go to the end — it starts to get super amazing just before the two-minute mark.)

6. Speaking of music, here’s a dude singing a one-man medly arrangement of Les Mis:

(What I would give to have a range like that! Holy cow.)

7. I have a (bad?) habit of bookmarking virtually everything on the internet that catches my eye, and then never sorting out my bookmarks folder or visiting any of them ever again. Possibly I should delve into them more often, since I am missing out on such gems as Dorodango, Rock Paper Saddam, and Beard Research.