Life in Transition

Navigating Personal Finances During Life Transitions

Archive for the tag “cutting costs”

Saving Money In College as a Resident Assistant

The tuition of a four-year university is already daunting, and the cost-of-attendence just keeps climbing.  Adding a bigger blow to the wallet is that many universities are requiring students to live in expensive campus housing and buy a meal plan.  One way to get around paying for the extra costs is getting a resident assistant (RA) position in one of the dormitories.

What is an RA?

An RA is a peer mentor who supervises students living in residence halls and dorms.  Responsibilities include conflict mediation between roommates, planning events for students, helping students transition to university life, helping with check-in and check-outs, submitting maintanance requests, and enforcing university rules.  RAs usually go through a rigorous training process.  Usually students cannot apply for an RA position until they are finish with their freshman year.

What are the benefits?

Compensation varies from institution to institution.  Usually, RAs will get free room and board.  Another perk is that RAs are not required to have a roommate, which is usually madatory in university housing.  Some universities will also pay an hourly wage on top of the room and board stipend.

What are the drawbacks?

The main drawback is having less freedom than the average student.  When my husband was an RA, he was required to be in the building by midnight during the week, and by 2 a.m. on weekends.  During holidays and breaks, he could not just go where ever he wanted whenever he wanted.  He had to divide holidays between the other RAs in his building.  For example, each year he had a two week Christmas break, but he had to either go home a week later or go back to school a week early.  He also spent one weekend a month on-call, which meant he could not leave the building the entire weekend, expect to take two hour-long breaks to get lunch and dinner. 

The second major draw back depends on what kind of students live on your assigned hall.  If the students are conciencious of others and well-behaved, then the RA will spend a lot of time having fun hanging out with their residents.  If the students are wild and immature, the RA will spend a lot time disciplining students and mediating conflicts.  One year, my husband was assigned to a floor of rowdy freshman boys.  He spent a lot of time busting residents for alcohol and drug violations and trying to clean inappropriate graffiti (use your imagination) off the walls. 

The Numbers

My husband spent two years of his undergraduate career as an RA, and just began a new RA position recently.  As an undergrad, he received a generous scholarship from the university that included full tuition and a $6700 annual stipend and an annual $2500 scholarship sponsored by the state (read about scholarships in Kentucky here and here).  So technically he did not need any extra money to pay for his living expenses while in school.  Since his RA position provided him free room and board, he pocketed stipend and stuck it in a bank account.  In two years, he saved $18400 from his stipends alone.  On top of that, he was paid an hourly wage of $6.90 for 13.25 hours a week for 37 weeks a year for a total of $3383 annually.  Assuming that he spent between $250-$300 a month on gas, entertainment, and eating out (this is a high estimate), he would not have needed to touch his stipend at all.  His biweekly paycheck was more than enough to cover his miscellaneous expenses.  Overall, my husband was able to pay a semester of dental school with his own savings.

Money saved in two years as an RA: $18400

Right my husband is starting his second gig as an RA in the graduate student housing complex.  Instead of trying to build his net worth (only to wipe it away paying for grad school), the goal of taking the position is to cut costs.  Right now, we get a free one-bedroom apartment that includes all utilities, internet, and cable.  The university charges $779 for the same room so in a year we will save $9348.  However, if he did not have the RA position, we would not live in campus housing and find someplace cheaper.  I estimate that an apartment, Internet, and utilites (we wouldn’t get cable) would be average $625/month or $7500 annually.  On top of that, he will get paid $7.50/hour for 15 hours/week for 52 weeks, which is a nice bonus since he would not be able to get a “regular” part time job.  So, his annual salary is $5850 which we will put directly into his tuition savings account.  With these savings combined with the money we had already saved, we may be able to delay taking out loans for another year.

Total Costs Cut: $13350/yr

Overall, a college student has the potential to either build a large savings account or greatly reduce the amount of loans needed.

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Saving Money with a Scooter

My husband and I are always trying to find ways to cut costs, especially in the area of transportation.  We’ve already cut back to one vehicle since we both live in walking distance to school (for my husband) and work (for me).  The one car we have is old and has a ton of miles on it–over 310,000–so it’s not very dependable.  The car doesn’t like short five mile trips in the city (it likes to shut off at when it’s in reverse), which is what most of our driving consists of, but it usually does fine on the highway.  Also,  the car gets terrible gas mileage in the city.  Our solution?  Getting a scooter.

Note: I know that getting bikes is a great option in a lot of areas, but my city is not biker friendly.  Bike lanes are limited and bike racks are hard to find, even in the downtown area.  Several of my friends had been in biking accidents.  One got hit by a truck and another by a car.  A third friend passed out because of the heat and dehydration while biking to work.  Someone found him laying on the side of the street and took him to the nearest hospital. All three ended up in the emergency room with concussions, which is an expense I would like to avoid.

Scooters are extremely popular mode of transportation in other countries, and they seem to be gaining some popularity here, or at least among my husband’s dental school classmates.  An under-50 cc scooter gets between 75-100 miles per gallon, and does not require an extra license, tag, or registration in Kentucky (check the requirements/laws in your own state).  In other words, there are no extra costs other than gas and maintenance.   We should not need to spend too much money on maintenance since one of my husband’s good friends fixes motorcycles and scooters as a hobby and refurbished used ones for side income.

Weighing the Pros and Cons
Before deciding on making a large purchase, I like weighing the pros and cons, to make sure not we’re not making an impulse decision or just trying to keep up with the Joneses (which in this case would be my husband’s dental school class).

Pros to getting a scooter

  • They get great gas mileage,  between 75-100 miles per gallon, so more eco-friendly than a car  
  • They are great for running errands that don’t require the storage space of a car
  • A used scooter costs is fairly affordable typically costing less than $1000 (at least in this area)
  • No tag, license, or registration required if the engine is less than 50 cc, so no extra “taxes” like a car
  • Much easier to find parking in the city, can avoid paying for parking

Cons to getting a scooter

  • They cannot transport a lot of things
  • If the engine is under 50 cc you cannot ride it on the highway
  • Not much protection from bad weather, and it’s pretty much impossible to ride in the snow and ice.
  • Getting into an accident on a scooter is a scary thought
  • Seems like it would be easier to steal than a car

The verdict
We decided to buy a used scooter.  In regards to the cons list, I’m not too worried about the first two listed.  We  can use our car if we need to transport things, and each week the only trip that would require a car is going to the grocery.  Also, I don’t mind that we can’t ride the scooter on the highway.  I don’t know how I feel about cars zipping past me at 70+ mph.  The only major concerns I would have is that we can’t use the scooter for about three months out of the year because of snow, ice, and rain, that it doesn’t seem as safe as driving a car, and that it seems easy to steal.  I think that making safety a priority should lower the risk of theft or getting into an accident.  

Saving money on transportation is a huge priority for us.  Getting a scooter would cut our gas expenditures  by one-half or even two thirds.  Depending on how much gas prices are and judging by our previous driving habits, it would take between a year and a half to two years to break even, which is much faster than the estimates of break even points for hydrid cars.  

Paying for the Scooter
Once we decided that getting a scooter wasn’t a bad idea, we needed to figure out how to pay for it.  Were we going to start a scooter fund and contribute each month or were we going to use the extra money from cash wedding gifts or my husband’s tax refund? We decided to use my husband’s unexpected tax refund to purchase the scooter.  He didn’t send the tax refund before we got married and did not have any plans on how he was going to use the money. Plus, he wanted a scooter more than I did and would probably use it more often.  So, we did not need to take any money out of savings or our regular budget to purchase the scooter.  

So far, I think it has been a good purchase.  We’ve only had to take our car out once or twice a week, and it’s a good feeling when you spend about $2 to fill up the scooter’s tank.

Wedding Budget

I finally finished tabulating how much I ended up spending on my wedding.  I spent a grand total of $7565.41, which is less than $100 over my $7500 budget.  I was really scared to add everything up, since in the weeks leading up to the wedding, I felt like I was doing wedding related shopping every day, and a lot of things were a lot more expensive than I expected.  Here is the chart of our budget and actual expenses:

Category Budgeted Actual Difference
Attire $900.00 $1,074.18 ($174.18)
Dress   $718.68  
–Alterations   $280.00  
–Hair, Makeup   $61.50  
–Fabric Tape   $14.00  
Reception $3,000.00 $3,406.77 ($406.77)
–Tent Rental   $2,356.55  
–Food & Drinks   $225.70  
–Decorations   $319.76  
–Flowers   $154.76  
–Wedding Cake   $350.00  
Ceremony $1,000.00 $741.32 $258.68
–Chair Rental   $605.13  
–License   $36.57  
–Basket & Pillow   $56.45  
–Decorations   $43.17  
Bouquets $500.00 $383.00 $117.00
Bridal Party Gifts $150.00 $161.51 ($11.51)
–Groomsmen   $107.06  
–Bridesmaids   $54.45  
Rings $350.00 $129.13 $220.87
–Groom   $44.95  
–Bride   $84.18  
Photography $1,300.00 $1,400.00 ($100.00)
Stationary $300.00 $269.50 $30.50
–Save the Dates   $24.39  
–Guestbook   $47.00  
–Invitations   $97.27  
–Programs   $60.00  
–Postage   $40.84  
       
Total $7,500.00 $7,565.41 ($65.41)

The chart does not include expenses that other people have covered or services offered as a gift, whic is why some of the line items look really low.  I did not include neither the $1200 cost of the venue nor the portable toilet (I’m estimating those to be about $200), since my parents-in-law decided to cover those expenses in exchange for upgrading to a roomier tent.  My husband’s parents also bought all the alcohol.  They stuck with wines that were less than $8/bottle and purchased a keg.  I’m estimating that alcohol totaled around $200.00.  You probably also noticed that the overall food cost I listed is really low.  I decided to have a dessert reception, and some friends and family volunteered to bake something.  I’m not exactly sure how much all of the ingredients for the brownies, cookies, fudge, chocolate covered strawberries, etc. costed.  Overall,  I think that  after including all these costs, overall the wedding was still under 10K.

I spent a lot less on decorations than I had expected. Since the ceremony venue was outside in a beautiful setting, I didn’t really need to decorate.  For the reception, I borrowed a lot of things from my mother-in-law.  I went with a vintage decorating palate, since lot of her candle holders, vases,  cake stands, trays, and other house decor were more ornate.  Flowers usually cost an arm and a leg, especially my favorite flower, the peony.  I cut down flower costs by using silk flowers for my bouquets and buying  individual stems from a wholesaler to create simple center pieces.

I definitely experienced a lot sticker shock for the tent  and chair rental.  The wedding venue required a tent and required you to use a certain rental company.  I don’t know how the rental company compared to other ones in terms of price, but I know that the general consensus is that tents are expensive no matter where you get it.  Overall, I spent about $3000 on rentals alone!

Overall, I am really pleased how my sub-10K wedding turned out.  I definitely  proved to myself that I could  have a beautiful wedding on a budget.

Soaring Cost of Prom & Cutting Costs

This past weekend, my husband and I went to P.F. Chang for dinner since we had a gift card.  Prom-goers swarmed the restaurant, which made me think about an article I read recently about soaring prom costs.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when it said that the average person spent $1000 on prom in 2011.  I knew that prom is a special night for high schoolers, but $1000 seems over the top for a dance.  Then I started thinking about how much I spent on my own prom.

Attire
I spent about $110 at JC Penney and $25 on alterations.  I made sure to get a shorter dress since they are usually cheaper than traditional prom gown.  Besides, I knew that I would more likely re-wear a shorter cocktail dress than a floor length gown.  I also chose a simpler one since it’s harder and more expensive to alter a dress with extensive beading. For shoes, I went to a discount store and bought a pair of heels for $20.  

Hair, Makeup, Accessories
I didn’t spend too much money on hair, just $20, but I spent more money than I had planned on for make-up.  I never wore make-up while I was in high school, so one of my friends set up an appointment the Estee Lauder makeup counter at the mall.  Getting make-up done was free if I purchased two items from the counter.  Unfortunately, going into this I had no idea how much nice make-up costed, so I experienced some sticker shock.  All together, I spent $55 on make-up.  While at the mall, I went ahead and bought a pair of nice earrings which were $23.

Food
The parents of one of my good friends had a membership at a swanky country club, so we were able to get a discount for a really nice meal.  I ended up spending $30 for dinner, since I didn’t want my date to pick up the tab.  I still think $30 is a lot of money for one meal, but it was definitely one of the best meals I ever had.  

Other
At my high school, the senior class didn’t have to buy a ticket for prom.  All we had to do was bring an ID, or make sure one of the teachers chaperoning recognized us.  I skipped out on most of the prom bells and whistles.  I didn’t go to the tanning bed like the rest of the girls in my class.  My friends and I didn’t get a fancy limo nor did we book a block of hotel rooms for the after party. We went over to a friend’s house afterwards, and the next morning another friend’s mom hosted a delicious brunch. I have no idea how much these things would have costed, but I’m sure I saved a lot of money.

So, my total prom tab: $283 which according to an online inflation calculator, is equivalent to $314 today.

I managed to keep my prom costs low, but I guess the $1000 average shouldn’t have surprised me too much.  I knew a girl who had traveled to Italy to buy her prom dress, and I one of my friends rented a Rolls Royce for the fifteen minute drive from her house to the country club that hosted our prom.

Ironically my sister, who has a tendency to blow lots of money shopping, spent way less than I did on her prom three years ago.  She borrowed one of my cocktail dresses that I had bought for a wedding, so she didn’t spend a dime on her dress.  Instead of picking a fancy up-do, she picked a hairstyle that she could easily recreate on her own: a side pony-tail with large curls.  An artsy friend did her makeup, and she made sure her date paid for her dinner.  The only money she spent was on a $50 pair of shoes.

Did you go “all out”for your prom, or did you try to reign in the costs?

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Sometimes we take shortcuts just to save a little money.  This past week, my fiance was penny wise, pound foolish.

Last Friday, he called me at work to vent a little bit.  He was a little frustrated at his new boss.  Even though he accepted his RA position in February, his boss waited until last Friday to tell him that he needed to turn in his payroll documents the following Monday.  In order for him to turn in his payroll documents, he needed to have his orginal social security card.  Unfortunately, my fiance’s social security card was at his parents’ house, which was an hour and a half away.  He could have gone home over the weekend to pick it up and visit his family, but he had three final exams on Monday and two on Tuesday.  So, he called his parents to ask them to overnight his social security card and offered to pay them back.  Overall, he spent $5 on postage.  He checked the mail on Saturday; no social security card.  He checked again on Monday and Tuesday, still no card.  At this point it looks like it is lost in the mail.  He made a few mistakes to save a little bit of money:

  1. He used the US postal service.  It’s pretty common knowlege that USPS is less realiable than UPS or FedEx. 
  2. He didn’t want to spend an extra $7 to guarentee overnight delivery.  I’m not sure why USPS has an option to mail something overnight, but not guarentee delivery in the proper time window. 
  3. He didn’t pay extra number for a tracking number.  Now we have no idea where it is; his social security card could be anywhere.

So what were the consequences of trying save a little bit of extra cash?  The immediate consquence is that he couldn’t get his payroll paperwork in time, so he may not be able to start working or get paid right away.  I’m not quite sure how much that will cost us. The long term consequence is the possibility of ID theft, and the headache of dealing with that down the road.

Knowing myself, I would have proabably done the same thing to save a little bit of money.  We’ve learned our lesson.  Next time we have to mail an important document we will pay the extra money to get guarenteed overnight and to get a tracking number and delivery confirmation.

Have you ever been penny wise but pound foolish? What consequences of trying to save a little bit of money?

Transitions and Finances

As you all may know, my wedding is a week away, which means a lot of changes are going to happen and effect my finances.

Transition #1: Housing
My fiance was an Resident Assistant (RA) at a freshmen dorm for two years when he was an undergraduate student. This year, a spot opened up at the student housing complex at the health science campus, and he got the job.   He’s lived in an apartment for the last two years, and I have lived in one for the last three.   It’s definitely a little odd going back to dorm life, but at least housing will be free.  We  won’t have to worry about rent, utilities, Internet, or cable for at least a year.  Rates for a one-bedroom apartment in the area  starts at $500/month, and when we throw in utilities and internet, I’d estimate our housing costs would run $575/month.  So, we’re looking at saving approximately $7000/year.  

Obviously, our one-bedroom dorm suite isn’t truly free.  As an RA, my fiance will have have a set number of on-call hours a week, which means he cannot leave the building during set hours.  He’ll also have countless meetings and training sessions and a mountain of paperwork.  Since he’ll be studying a lot for his classes, the on-call hours shouldn’t be a problem.  Those will become his designated study times. When he was an RA at a freshman dorm, most of his on-call hours were spent mediating conflicts, busting people for drugs or underage drinking, and calling hall meetings because a guy thought drawing obscene pictures on the walls would be funny.  Most of the residents at our new dorm will be Ph.D students and postdocs, so hopefully we won’t run into the same kind of problems.

Transition #2: Transportation
Since we will be living less than a block away from where I currently work and my fiance goes to school, having two cars does not make sense.  We decided to keep his car, since it gets a lot better gas mileage.   We plan on loaning my car to my younger sister, who would be responsible for insurance, maintenance, and registration fee.  We thought about selling one of the cars, but since his Honda has over 300,000 miles on it, we want to have a back-up car.  My sister understands that I’m taking my car back as soon as the Honda  stops working.  Becoming a one car family will at least save us $1000/year when you take into account the maintenance,  registration fee, parking pass, and extra gas.  It will take more time to coordinate errands and who needs the car when, but I think the hassle is worth the money saved.

Transition #3: Two people, One salary
My fiance has been living off of his savings for the last year, and won’t have income for another three years  unless you count free housing as income (I’ll find out soon enough if the IRS does).  It’s pretty much impossible for dental students to find time for a part-time job, so we will be living off of my income for the next few years.  I currently have a modest income, but I still able to save a lot of money when I was just supporting myself.   I’m also planning on going back to school part-time, which means I might not work as many hours as I do now.  I used to feel nervous about supporting two on a small income, so when my fiance got the position a huge burden lifted from shoulders and I felt a lot better about going back to school.  It’ll still be a challenge to adjust to the bigger expenses.  For example, I only spend $50-$70 a month on groceries, but my fiance spends at least $150/month.

Wedding Trimmings–Part III

During the past two weeks, I’ve discuss ways to save money the wedding dress, venue, reception, invitations, etc.  Today, I’ll discuss ways to save money on photography, cake, and officiant.

Photography
For me, this was one of the most difficult areas to save money.  A good photographer was definitely a priority for the wedding, but a good photographer doesn’t come cheap.  I understand why.  Taking wedding pictures is physically demanding, and the hours are long.  Not to mention, the equipment, editing software, and travel expenses add up and the cost is carried over to the clients.  So, I think a skilled photographer has every right to charge as much as they do (I know some people will disagree with that statement).  The average well-established photographer in this area ranges between  $2000-$2500, which  is too much for my budget.  

I was able to find a less expensive photographer through friends and facebook.  I go to a church with a lot of up-and-coming artists, so I found a candidate there who was only going to charge me $800.   The second candidate photographed my former roommate’s wedding quoted me for $1400, and the third candidate I found on Facebook, and his basic package costed $1700.  

The first photographer was an acquaintance, and he had just started his photography business.  When was looking for a photographer, he had only taken pictures of two weddings.  While his pictures weren’t bad, stylistically, it was not what I was looking for.  Plus, he was the least inexperienced out of the three, and his price point reflected that.  In the end, I decided not to use him because of his lack of experience.  Now that he’s had a full year to practice, he’s improved greatly.  Sometimes I wonder if I should have picked the first photographer, since he charged significantly less than the others.  

I ended up hiring the second photographer.  She had a year of experience and she consistently took high quality pictures.  When my former roommate got married, she only charged $950.  She became popular very quickly, and increased her prices. The third photographer also took excellent pictures, but he was less affordable.  Though she charged $700 more than  the first photographer, I  chose her since I knew I would definitely get good pictures on my wedding day.   This is an area that I did not want to skimp on quality.  Photographs are one of the few tangible things that I can look at after the wedding is over.  

Tips to trim photography costs: I would start with recommendations from friends, since it’s hard to find photographers under the radar with a Google search.  If you live near a university with an art or photojournalism department, look for students seeking to build a portfolio.  Searching Facebook for wedding photographers is also a good place to start.  Many new photographers who just started will have a Facebook page but no website.

Wedding Cake
Wedding cakes are expensive, for the same reasons photography is expensive.  My former roommate’s sister-in-law is making my wedding cake.  She bakes cakes out of her home as a hobby and will slowly build it into a small business as her daughters get older.  I told her what my budget was upfront and we talked about designs that would fit my budget.  I chose a standard  cake flavor, plain vanilla, and standard icing–nothing fancy.  Overall, I think I saved over $300 by not using a professional bakery.  

Another way to keep costs low is to buy a cake at a local grocery store with a bakery.  Usually, their cakes will be cheaper than a bakery that exclusive makes wedding cakes.  If you choose to bake your own, make several one tier cakes with varying designs.  There’s less of a chance to mess up than trying to make your own  multi-tiered cakes.

Tips to trim cake costs: The most important thing is to keep it simple.  The more exotic the flavors and the more intricate the design, the more your cake will cost.  If possible, find a family member or friend who can bake a wedding cake.  If not, try a grocery store with a bakery such as Kroger.

Officiant
Depending on whether or not you have a religious ceremony, this may or may not be an area where you can save money.  My fiance and I are pretty involved with a church here in Louisville.  The church has been like a family for us, since we both live far from home.  So, it was important to us that one of the pastors officiates the wedding.  Each church has its policy about compensation for the ministers to do weddings.   Since my fiance and I have gotten to know one of the pastors at my church pretty well from our involvement with the college ministry, he waived the fee as his wedding gift.  

If you opt against a religious ceremony, you have more freedom with who you choose to officiate.  The best way to save money is to have a friend  perform the ceremony.   One of my friends asked her uncle to officiate her wedding.  There’s a few  ways to get certified.  There are some denominations, such as the Universal Life Church and First Nation Ministry, that open ordination to anyone and allow you to get certified online.  If you choose to go this route, make sure you check the legal requirements of your state.

Tips to trim officiant costs: If you or a family member is close to minister, pastor, or judge, ask to see if they are willing give you a discount or officiate for free.  If not, ask a family member or friend to get the proper certification to officiate.

What are some ways you have trimmed costs on your wedding?

Wedding Trimmings Part II

Last week, I talked about how to cut costs on the wedding dress, venue, and reception.  Today I will talk about invitations, flowers, and music.

Invitations/Stationary
As I looked through wedding websites and Etsy.com, I fell in love over and over again with fancy, pretty invitation designs.  Yes, I am a sucker for all things pretty.  Unfortunately, pretty also meant pricey, and with invitations, most people who get them would eventually throw them away.  So, to me it did not make sense to spend a ton of money in this area.  For my own wedding stationery, I designed  everything on photoshop, and uploaded the design to an online printing service such as PrintRunner and PsPrint.  Right now, if I order 100 invitations to be printed and shipped to Louisville, KY using PrintRunner, each invitation would only be $0.38 (I would have to buy the envelopes separately).  That is much cheaper than  buying pre-designed invitations, or printing out your own designs (ink is expensive).  Another option is using Staples or Kinko’s copy and print services.

I know not everyone has photoshop or a similar program on their computer.  Check and see if a friend or family member has it, or check to see if it is available at the library.  If you do plan on buying  invitations the typical way, make sure that the invitation is the regular 5×7-in size.  Bulking invitations and non-traditional shapes (like a 6×6-in square invitations) require extra postage.

Tips to trim stationery costs: Use an online printing service or a copy-and-print center, save on postage by opting for a more traditional size.

Flowers
Flowers are expensive, so it’s best to use them sparingly.  For the bouquets, I used fake flowers, since you really can’t tell the difference between the real or fake in pictures.  I didn’t feel comfortable with a DIY attempt, so I found an online florist who specializes in silk flower bouquets . Etsy is also a good place to look, but there are vendors who charge as much as a florists using real flowers would charge.  Silk flowers arrangements are still expensive, so making your own will save you even more money.  For decorations, I stuck with one bloom, the peony (yes, I have expensive taste but luckily they are in season during my wedding), and I bought them in bulk through a wholesaler.  I plan on buying vases and making a few simple flower arrangements.

Tips to trim floral costs: Use silk flowers for bouquets, and buy live flowers in bulk. Overall, use flowers sparingly and rely more on candles for decorating.

Music
Music is an area where we enlisted our friends for help.  My roommate is a talented harpist, so she will play for my wedding as a gift.  One of my fiance’s good friends will sing during the ceremony.  For the reception, we are making a playlist on Spotify, and getting a free one month trial of Spotify Premium to eliminate commercials.  So, essentially, we’re not spending any money in this category.

Tips to trim music costs: Mobilize the help of your musically inclined friends and family, if you don’t have any, hook up an ipod or laptop to speakers and make a playlist using iTunes and Spotify.

Next up: Photography, Cake, Jewelery, and Officiant

Peer-to-Peer Renting

I read an article a couple of days ago on peer-to-peer renting.  Basically, it allows people to rent out their possessions for a fee.  Websites (Rentalic, SnapGoods, GetAround, ZaarlyToolSpinner) have popped up trying to connect borrowers and lenders, where lenders can create a listing and set a fee.  Most of the borrowing and lending is done on a local level.

Is it safe?

Based on the article, all of the peer renting sites are serious about safety.  I understand why, since one bad incident can derail a ompany’s business.  Some of the companies will insure any damage or loss.  Others have established a rating system for each user.  All assert that because the transactions are done at a local level, the process is inherently safer, since “no one wants to treat their neighbors badly.”

The Pros and Cons
Peer-to-peer rentals promotes sustainability. It is a lot cheaper to rent something that you don’t use very often than buying new. For, lenders, it’s a great way to make some extra cash. For all parties involved, it offers a sense of community that is loss in today’s society.
On the downside for lenders, there is always that risk of getting your expensive, valuable goods damaged, lost, or stolen. How great is that risk? No one can ever be sure.

I haven’t tried out any of the peer-to-peer renting sites yet. Will I try renting idems in the future? Definitely. I think it’ll be a great way to save money, and prevent me from accumulating things that would sit in storage for most of the year. Will I lend? I’m not sure. It would be great to make extra money, but like I said earlier, there is always a risk. If I do, I’ll definitely thrououghly research each peer renting company to see which offers the most protections.

Has anyone tried peer-to-peer renting? If so, how was the experience? If not, would you ever it?

Wedding Trimmings-Part 1

It’s no secret that weddings are expensive–with the average wedding topping $24,000. Unfortunately, most of us twenty-somethings (and their parents) cannot realistically spend that much money (and even if you can afford that much on a wedding, I am still not convinced anyone should spend that much money on a single event). After checking out the websites of the major wedding vendors in my city, I quickly saw how the costs could quickly add up to 20K. So, here are some ways I tried to trim costs to keep my wedding under $8000.

Venue
The most popular venues in in my city cost about $2000 and require you to use certain caterers. I expanded my search to other nearby cities, especially after I found out that the only day we could realistically schedule my wedding was on the Kentucky Derby (which meant the price of everything would at least triple and all hotels were booked two years in advance). My finace ended up finding a horse farm for $1200 thirty minutes outside of Cincinnati. It’s about twenty minutes away from my fiance’s parents’ house, and an hour and a half away from where I live. I could have both the ceremony and reception at the location, which would help cut costs. The best part was that they didn’t have a catering list. In fact, we were free to bring our own food and alcohol. They required us to use a certain tent rental company, since Kentucky weather is extremely unpredictable (last month, we had a deadly tornado one day, three inches of snow the next day, followed by an 80-degree sunny day). Soon after, I learned that tent rentals were expensive. The cost of renting chairs, tables, and linens added up quickly. Overall, I’m not sure if I saved money in the end. An indoor venue does not require a tent, but most require an expensive caterer.

Tips to trim venue costs: Find a location that allows you to have the ceremony and reception at the same place, if you are in a major city search for venues thirty to forty away. Also, avoid venues that have an exclusive caterer list.

Reception
Typically, brides-to-be are advised to budget half of their expenses towards the reception. The easiest way to control reception costs is to trim the guest list. Unfortunately, this wasn’t really an option for me and my fiance since 1) a lot of people would get offended if we didn’t invite them, and 2) there were a lot of people we wanted to share our special day with. So, we decided to have a dessert and cocktail reception, since we wanted a more casual atmosphere. I picked out a few dessert items, and enlisted family and friends to help me bake. For drinks, we picked a few cases of red and white wine from Trader Joes and ordered a keg of beer. I have a friend who is a licensed bartender, so he will bartend for free as a gift. Word of caution: If you are hosting a dessert reception, make sure you let people know on the invitation, so that your guests will know to get a quick bite to eat before the wedding. We’ve been to a few weddings expecting dinner, and went home hungry instead.

Tips to trim food costs: Limit the guest list if possible. Ditch the traditional sit-down dinners, and opt for a buffet, hor d’ourves, or dessert reception. If you are serving alcohol, stick with wine and beer.

Dress
This is an easy area to blow your budget. It takes little effort to fall in love with the perfect dress that happens to be a couple thousand dollars over budget. To prevent this from happening, I limited my dress search to stores that offered dresses in my price range. The only store that fit that criteria in town was David’s Bridal, so that was the only place I tried on dresses. I know that the quality of their dresses aren’t great, but I am okay with that since I’ll only be wearing the dress one time for a few hours. I still ended up buying one of the more expensive dresses –one from Vera Wang’s White collection–and a $78 (my one splurge) floral sash to go with it. Overall, I’m still pleased that I spent less than $700 on my dress. Once my wedding is over, I plan on selling my dress on secondhand dress sites like oncewed.com.

For shoes, I’m wearing a pair of flats that I already own. For jewelery, I’m borrowing pearl earrings and a pearl necklace from a friend.

Tips to trim dress costs: Avoid stores that don’t have dresses priced within your budget, don’t try on dresses you can’t afford, and if possible buy a used dress. For accessories, borrow them from friends.

Next up: Invitations, flowers, music

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