Budget Review: April – June 2014

What a busy quarter! Here’s how our spending went down for this quarter:

Budget Review: April – June 2014 (actual spending)

April - June 2014 quarterly budget review

What happened this quarter?


We went to two weddings in May and I was a bridesmaid for one of them which meant more expenses for gifts and bachelorette festivities. The last wedding we went to was in December when I was uber pregnant and had Nora a week later. These May weddings were so much fun to dance at since I wasn’t carrying a watermelon around.

Promotion for Dave
Hubs got his annual raise to accommodate inflation/standard of living and a month later he got promoted to a level 3 Mechanical Enginerd! He even got a bigger cubicle. Exciting things happening ’round here.

Back to the gym
Dave and I both had a gym membership last year but canceled them when we moved to Calgary. Since then I’ve been doing a variety of different workouts that have kept me entertained and Dave just signed up for another 18 months at his gym. We paid the total cost in full but for our budget sheet it makes more sense just to divide that cost by 18 and enter that in each month. That’s why there’s not a bigger piece of pie dedicated to that. I also ordered PiYo and am super pumped for 60 days of awesome workouts!

Freezer meals
I made a bunch of freezer meals with my friend (see what we made here) and I stocked up our freezer with lots of salmon, meat, and chicken.

Death insurance
Dave and I finally got our life insurance policies set up. You know you’re a grown up when…

Family trip to Colorado
We visited friends in Colorado and got a sweet deal on flights. They spoiled us while we were there so our only expenses ended up being for two lunches when we were on our own, the plane tickets, and $90 total for the rental car thanks to a deal we got.

Bonus moneyz
May was one of the two months this year that we got 3 paychecks AND we got our tax refund. This led to another extra principal payment for the mortgage and we added more to our new(er) car budget.

Car problems
We spent almost $300 on car parts because our ’99 Accord has been struggling lately. I’m so grateful my dad knows how to work on cars because I can’t imagine what we would have had to pay for labor if the parts alone were $300! It was a fun learning session for Dave while he helped my dad out.

College savings
We opened an ESA (Educational Savings Account) for Nora with monthly contributions. We waited to start this until we made sure our retirement savings were at 15% of our total income first.

Bills Bills Bills
Our cable/wifi and phone bill were “due” this month. By “due” I mean we transfer quarterly payments to my parents since we get a great deal being on their plan. We just sent our payment for June through August.

Happy 4th Anniversary!
We celebrated our 4th Anniversary on May 22nd. We made dinner together and got a delicious dessert at one of our favorite restaurants. We got my parents a gift certificate to a shooting range and plan to join them as an anniversary present to ourselves. Shooting things is super romantic, right?

Sneaky groceries
I don’t know how I didn’t realize this before but our grocery allowance has gone up 25 dollars every year we’ve been married. We have a tab for each year in our Excel spreadsheet and I noticed that we spend $100 more each month now than we did 4 years ago. It’s been Dave and I this whole time too! Thankfully our waistlines aren’t showing that extra expense but I think what happened was Dave would get get a raise or promotion and when we re-evaluated our budget we wound up allowing ourselves to up the grocery allowance little by little. In June I kept all my receipts from grocery trips and I’m going to do this for the next couple of months so I can see why it’s been creeping up. I can tell you that our spontaneous purchases have increased like the $40 we spent on rib-eye steaks because we were excited to kick off grilling season.

How has your budget changed year to year?

Wedding Planning on a Budget (Part 2 of 2)

We’ve been to at least 15 weddings since we got married and all have been in a beautiful reception hall or a golf course location. Ours was at a UAW hall. It cost $800 to rent the place and we spent $200 on decorations. There were veteran pictures on the walls and on the back of each dining chair there was a mini plaque with a veteran’s name on it. We didn’t do chair covers; $2 a cover for 200 chairs = $400. No thanks. My dad’s friend made wine for our wedding; $250 for 96 bottles of wine (we had a LOT leftover). There were a few bottles at each table and we used the wine for toasts instead of champagne. The hall didn’t have wine glasses, so we bought some plastic ones to go with our plastic silverware provided by the hall. Since there was no glass to clink to make the bride & groom kiss, the clever idea thought up by friends was to do the slow clap. I got a good laugh when I saw my grandma start it up one time. Wine was the only alcohol we had at our wedding, other than that we paid $100 for some guys to work behind the bar and non alcoholic drinks. It wasn’t the prettiest reception, but we didn’t regret not having to cut anyone from the guest list so we could have a more elaborate reception.

A friend of my dad’s made our cake for the head table for $25. My sister and her friend baked 300 cupcakes using one oven and boxes of Betty Crocker boxed mixes that cost a total of $30 (eggs & oil included). We gave my sister’s friend a $50 gift card for her help.

My mom got bowls and plates from Bed Bath & Beyond for $150. We made the centerpiece by turning the bowls upside down & using sticky-tac to make the plate stay on the bowl. We borrowed the vases from a friend’s wedding and the cupcakes finished off the centerpiece!

Suits & Dresses
All the guys (including my dad) bought their suits from JCPenny on sale for $99 total, jacket and pants. We rented ties from Mens Warehouse for a couple bucks each and the guys just had to wear a black undershirt. The girls’ bridesmaid dresses were from David’s Bridal and cost $135 each. We did get some kind of deal for buying them together but I can’t remember what it was.





We spent $209 total on flowers. My bridesmaid knew of someone in town who did flower arrangements for fun rather than to make a living. This woman was so sweet and she even shaved off a few bucks on each item to make sure we stayed under the $200 budget we had for flowers. The bridesmaid’s flowers became the centerpieces for the head table at the reception. We simply used the church’s fake flower arrangements at the ceremony.





We did buffet-style serving for dinner and there was a salad bar area available while friends and family waited for us to arrive from taking pictures. It cost $12 per head for the meal and an additional $1 per head for drinks.

Dave got the guys a leather pocket bible ($56 total) and I got the girls a necklace that they wore with their bridesmaids dresses ($100 total).

Looking back, there are some things I’d do different. In the big picture, however, God was magnified and we had so much fun celebrating our wedding with friends and family we love so much.

What are some ways you cut costs when wedding planning on a budget? Any clever ideas you’ve seen at weddings that shaved some costs?

Wedding Planning on a Budget (Part 1 of 2)

Dave & I had been dating for 2 years when we got engaged my senior year at Michigan State in November 2009. We had 6 months to plan a wedding for May 2010. Our wonderful, supportive parents both decided to give us $3,000 toward the wedding. My mom wanted to buy my wedding dress in addition to the wedding fund, so after a $600 purchase (Looking back, I would have sought out a cheaper dress since it’s just sitting in my closet now) we had $6,600. We set aside $1,400 of our own money and the total for our wedding budget was $8,000.

We first discussed our priorities for the wedding which boiled down to two main things: The first priority was to not get caught up in details so that the focus of our wedding would be to praise God for the saving work he’s done in both Dave & my life during our time at MSU. Our second priority was to have all the people we love celebrating with us. A bigger guest list (280) with a budget of less than $8,000 meant that we’d have to get pretty creative. So here are some ways we cut corners and saved money while wedding planning on a budget (2 part series, be sure to check out both posts!):

I bought some printed paper and pink ribbon from a craft store and had an invitation making get-together with some friends. It cost just under $50 to make 250 invitations and $57 for the stamps to send them out. Since 60 invites were to friends at college, I personally gave invitations to them. Another good portion of invitations were also personally given to family members, so we only had to mail about 150 invitations. One lame move I wish I didn’t do was not putting a stamp on the return envelope for people to send their RSVP in. It saved me from buying $130 in stamps, but it seems disrespectful to look back on. One couple that got married a few months after us took RSVPs through email. They just set up an email address (MrAndMrsJones@gmail.com). Clever idea and it probably cut costs in a classier way than my method. As for thank you cards…call me cheap again, but I had a couple boxes of generic thank you cards left from my high school graduation, so only had to pay for postage to send thank yous!

The church cost $200 to rent for the ceremony. The director of our college ministry had discipled Dave in college and was there when Dave & I first met at a fall retreat, so he was happy to officiate our ceremony for free. He had to leave from the ceremony and drive to Virginia Beach that night, so we bought him a gas card, snacks for the road trip, and made a CD for the drive (about $100 total). We also paid for his hotel ($81). You can see we didn’t buy have a runner in the aisle, not because of the budget, I just didn’t think to do it. I don’t remember why we didn’t end up having flower girls or a ring bearer in our wedding either… oh well.

We were involved with a ministry at Michigan State known as Cru, so we knew a lot of people who loved the Lord and wanted to serve in our wedding. We borrowed Cru’s big speakers and sound equipment for our reception and hooked it up to our laptop. Friends helped us come up with a playlist, so we had one for during dinner and for the dancing part of the reception. We asked some friends to DJ and play the specific songs for the special dances. On of them was also the emcee for the night. For the ceremony, a friend of mine sang while another played the acoustic guitar. It was simple yet beautiful.

Pictures/ Video
Emily at Smith Gallery Photography did our pictures for the wedding. I knew Emily from my home church, so she was very sweet and gave me a great deal. Our total for pictures came to $1219. This price included a CD with all of the pictures on it that I have full rights to. We had only planned to have Emily do the ceremony and pictures before the reception, but she was so sweet and snuck over to the reception to get a few shots of the decorations, cake, centerpieces, and some friends and family before taking off. A neighbor friend video taped the ceremony with my sister’s camera and the camera was passed around the reception for others to capture more moments. Shannon, my sister who shoots the Sam the Cooking Guy show, edited the videos and made DVDs for us. I was so thankful to have the day captured on video!

Be sure to check out part 2 tomorrow to see how we saved on the reception hall, cake, decorations, food, etc.

What are some ways you cut costs for your wedding? Any clever ideas you’ve seen at weddings that probably shaved off some costs?