Love and Marriage – Impress Yourselves, Not Your Friends.

I met my wife 4 years ago this month through some mutual friends. She says it was fate, but I believe it was some sort of a freak accident. Whatever anyone believes, we met while standing next to a creepy clown blowing up balloons for some 5 year olds. But I digress. Soon after we met, I kinda knew that I would end up marrying her. And sure enough we did get married, a little over a year ago.

When I finally popped the question, and all the excitement of the moment passed in the next few weeks, we had to get down to planning this shindig. We wanted to be smart about it though..no $5,000 dresses or $3,000 flowers or other ridiculous expenses that some find a way to spend their money on. Someone I know had spent $45,000 on their wedding! We started a guest list that at first had about 150 people on it. Not bad, right? Well, 150 X the amount of money we had to pay per person at the place we selected was a LOT of money. So we cut the list to 100 people, knowing that not even all of them would show up. So far so good. Everything was reasonable for the actual place and the food we were going to feed them. Then, everything else had to be decided.

Some of our friends have rented a limo to take from the church to the reception hall. One of my close friends even rented a Rolls-Royce. Well, not us. Since we were getting married at the same place as the reception, we did not even have to think of it. That was a savings of at least $500, if not more. And at the end of the night, I got in my trusty Volvo (which sadly is not with us anymore) and drove to the hotel we were staying at.

What other expenses are involved in planning a wedding? The list is endless, but off the top of my head I can remember pricing out:

Wedding Invitations
Save the Dates
Gift bags at hotels for our out of town guests
Lunch the day before so our families could meet for the first time
Brunch the morning after for those guests still in town

I am sure there are many more, but I will just comment on each of these and how we saved money on each. For those of you in the midst of planning a wedding, pay attention; these “little” costs add up very quickly and while your head is spinning from all the planning, you might not notice. Until the Visa bill comes due, about a week later. And it’s gotta suck to start counting your wedding gift money only to find out you owe that much to the credit card. Ouch.

Favors – When a mailing list finds out you are getting married, you get catalog after catalog of supplies, favors, paper, etc every damn day until the wedding. Most of the stuff is crap, and we figured no one REALLY wants anything anyway. Maybe a small keepsake or something, but no one really needs a glass with our faces inscribed on it. So, we went the easy way. Tiny chocolate bars and magnets with our names and wedding date on the wrapper, put into little boxes by yours truly and then wrapped with a shiny string like substance bought at Michaels. Everyone loved them, and we saved a fortune by buying them online and having them delivered to us. Sure, I had to buy the boxes and string at Michaels and had an assembly party to put them all together, but in the end the total cost for all of our favors was like $75. Not bad. If you want the name of the company, just contact me and I will let you know. They were great, and very inexpensive.

Wedding Invitations – We spent HOURS at paper stores and looking online for the perfect invitations, but when it came down to it, we wanted something very simple. Friends of mine told me how many hundreds of dollars they spent on their invitations, and I refused to spend that much on pieces of nice paper. So we found a nice online company that let us pick our design and test it out online, and then we hit the order button. Total cost was somewhere in the neighborhood of $120. And they were beautiful and no one could have known if we had spent $120 or $1,200…they were just happy to be invited!

Save the Dates -I know some people don’t even send these out, but since we live about 3,000 miles away from everyone in our families, we needed to let those know we don’t talk to regularly that we were indeed getting married. So after looking through catalog after catalog, I decided I could design these myself and have them printed for far cheaper. I opened up InDesign and Photoshop and created small 4X6 postcard sized “save the dates” with a collage of pictures of us from our younger years on the front, and the basic info for the wedding on the back. I took the files to a local printer, and the cost was practically nothing to get them printed on nice glossy card stock paper including envelopes. Once again, no one knew how much they cost…they were good looking, had pictures of us on them, and they were professionally printed. And the savings was several hundred dollars under what it would have cost for me to just order white cards that said Save the Date.

Gift bags at hotels for our out of town guests – We made a point of trying to make the out of town guests feel welcome by leaving small gift bags in each one of their hotel rooms prior to their arrival. The bags included maps of the area, things to do, small snacks, coffee packs and phone numbers for all the people involved in the wedding, including the locations of the other guests. We bought the bags at the dollar store and went to Cost Plus to buy some snack items. It maybe cost us about $3.00 per bag, but they absolutely loved the fact that we had thought of them and made them feel very important to find a package already in their hotel room when they got there. I promise you, this one works wonders, and people talk about it FOREVER afterwards.

Flowers – Now, my wife loves flowers like any other gal, but the prices that some florists wanted were ridiculous. My wife decided to go with very simple arrangement and bouquets, so it saved us money from having 10,000 roses all over the place. And in the end, everything looked beautiful and we spent like $400 on flowers. Or, even better, if you have a flower mart downtown in your city, go there…..and fast! You can buy so many flowers there and then have your family arrange them, probably for like $100..one of our friends did that for their wedding and it was really nice.

Lunch the day before so our families could meet for the first time
– Since our families had never met each other, we figured it would be nice to at least have one sit down meal to see if they would hate each other. And surprisingly, it went well. And instead of some formal pre-wedding dinner, we had a nice comfortable lunch the day before the wedding before heading over to the rehearsal. It was a nice restaurant, nothing too fancy, but everyone was relaxed and not to worried about anything other than just getting to know one another. I highly recommend an informal lunch rather than the dinner before the wedding, not only does it save a lot of money but its way more comfortable for everyone involved.

Brunch the morning after for those guests still in town A lot of my family had to fly out the next morning to go back to their own llves, so they were gone before my wife and I even woke up. But we still had a decent amount of people in town to see off. So we arranged a nice brunch overlooking the water for anyone to attend who was still around. People showed up in their shorts and sandals, and it was just a great time to remember the night before and then say good bye. It was a pretty decent place that a lot of locals go, and the food was excellent. We had a nice ocean view table and it did not cost us a fortune.

For those of you getting married soon, I cannot say this enough…..DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY. There are important things and there are extraneous things. Spend the money where it matters….the location and food. Those are the most important. Invitations, flowers, gifts, save the dates, etc etc…sure, you can spend a fortune, but the day after (never mind the day of) who is going to know (or care) that you spent that much money on these things? Save the money for something important..paying off debt, a down payment on a house, a student loan payoff…or even a nice vacation. But please, from someone who was just there recently, keep things in perspective. The wedding is about you two getting married, its not about how much money you spend. Do as much as you can on your own, and in the end you will be rewarded with being able to actually KEEP the money you were given on your wedding day, instead of owing it to a credit card because of the lavish party you threw trying to impress your friends. The day goes by faster than any other day in my life…don’t go in to debt to finance it.


If you participated in the Citi $100 gas rebate, read these posts

So, you took up Citi’s offer to pay you back for $100 in gasoline, huh? And its getting close to the time to A. turn in your receipts and cancel your membership in the credit protector plan? I know I have a few more days before I have to cancel, and one more tank of gas to get before I send in my receipts. But…if you are about to cancel, you MUST read these two posts about the cancellation “process”…

First, Jim over at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity has a straight forward, this is what you will get when you call to cancel, along with the numbers to try. Thanks for the info Jim, I look forward to repeatedly saying “No” when they keep asking me to keep it.

And secondly, go check out Nick’s post about his experience with canceling over at Punny Money. With a title called “Cancel Citi Credit Protector, Get a Penguin?”, you just cannot go wrong. My favorite part of the post? See below:

“Citi: Okay, okay, here’s my absolute final offer if you keep your Citi Credit Protector coverage. All you have to do is say yes and I will send you the following: a $100,000 gift card, a $5,000 statement credit, six tickets to the 2007 Super Bowl, a lifetime supply of Swiss cheese, two dozen assorted figs, the original cast of Saturday Night Live, all twelve days of Christmas, a mint 1965 Ford Mustang, a solution to the War in Iraq, and a case of dill pickles.
Me: Can you make that a case of Gherkin pickles instead?
Citi: Gherkin? Yes! Gherkin! Absolutely! So you’ll be staying with Citi Credit Protector then?
Me: Eh, mmm, sorry, I’m allergic to figs. Just cancel the service, please.
Citi: Gyaaaaaaah. (Explodes.)”

Holy crap, thanks for the laugh Nick. And thanks to Jim for letting us all in on this offer, and for the reminder to cancel before they charge us for the program.


Cheap Gifts Under $30 For The Holidays.

Over at Inhabitat they have a cool little collection of different gifts for under $30. I know we are all trying to save our money and stay out of debt, so hopefully gifts under $30 won’t break the bank. And the stuff they have there is different, so you surely won’t be buying something that someone already has!

If you are looking for a cheap interesting holiday gift, be sure to check out
Inhabitat » HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: Cheap Gifts Under $30. There is some pretty cool stuff there.

And no, I don’t work for them or have an affiliate link. It’s just good stuff!


Alternative Car Expo this weekend in Santa Monica, CA

For those of you in the Los Angeles area, this weekend could be the weekend where you learn everything there is to know about alternative fuel cars! If you have any questions or are curious about the possible money saving ideas that alternative cars have to offer, this is the place to come. At the Santa Monica Airport Barker Hangar, they are having the Alt Car Expo on both Saturday and Sunday. And its free to get in! Here is some info for you:

Left Coast Conversions will be driving a gas powered, 70’s era, Triumph sports car, into the Altcar Expo and will drive it out as a clean running electric. During the course of the event, Reverend Gadget and his team will remove the internal combustion engine and all its associated parts to be replaced with a clean and efficient electric drive from Left Coast Conversions. The car will be powered by lithium polymer batteries from Advanced Battery Technologies, and will have a range of over 200 miles. The California Air Resources Board another exhibitor at the Expo, will sign-off on the converted car, removing it from the smog certificate program. Left Coast Conversion’s Gadget was featured in “Who Killed the Electric Car”, and is currently in development for a new television show about electric car conversions.

Universal Electric Vehicle Corporation plans to unveil its sleek all-electric, two-seat convertible sports car called the Electrum Spyder at AltCar Expo. Priced at $69,995, the Electrum Spyder can accelerate from 0-60 in under 5 seconds, and has a top range of 300 miles on a single charge. This will be the world premiere of this production-ready, high performance vehicle. Expo attendees will be the first ever to see the Spyder.

Watch the media for coverage of our December 8th AltCar Expo rally which will start at the Santa Monica Pier and finish at Barker Hangar, our Expo venue.

The Society of Automotive Engineers will display a special collection of their latest high mileage prototype cars.

Attendees will have a chance to participate in a Fuel Cell Ride & Drive featuring cars from Honda and other manufacturers.

The AltCar Expo “New Car Lot” will feature vehicles for sale so that attendees can put their money where their heart is and immediately make an impact towards reducing their gasoline usage. From Sustainable Bamboo Skateboards, to the latest in bicycles, scooters and a wide array of new cars will be available to test drive and purchase. In addition, used alternative fuel vehicles will be auctioned both days. GSA Fleet, a federal agency and division of the General Services Administration will conduct the auction on Saturday. Ken Porter Auctions will conduct the auction on Sunday

Take a ride in the Honda FCX, the world’s most advanced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV). This vehicle is the first and only FCV certified for everyday use and has the longest government certified range of any FCV with 210 miles. It includes a voice-activated navigation system that displays hydrogen fuel locations. It’s a Zero Emission Vehicle whose only exhaust is water vapor.”

The show runs Saturday and Sunday from 9-4..if you live around here, be sure to stop by! Alt Car Expo in Santa Monica.


So, how do you tell if you can actually afford that home you want?

Since I only have a few minutes this morning, I wanted to quickly post this article about affording your new house that I found online. Sorry I don’t have time to comment on it, but I have to run out for the day. Hope everyone has a great one.

According toMonster.com, this is how you tell if you can afford to buy what you want:

The first step in homeownership is to determine how much house you can afford “” realistically. In fact, if you can’t afford your dream house, you may have to borrow money from the bank, known as a mortgage. This step can either make or break your homeownership prospects for three reasons:


Your Ability to Pay the Mortgage: Your lender will want to know not only how much money you have, but also how much you will earn in the next 30 years. In addition, the lender has the right to snoop around in your debt history. For example, what’s your credit card situation? Do you have any outstanding debts or loans you’re slow to repay? Property such as a car or boat is also figured into how much the bank will lend you.

Before the mortgage is issued, lenders generally want you to come up with 20 percent of the home value to use as a down payment. Special financing arrangements that may get you into a new home for as little as 3 percent of the asking price.

The lender will also plug your income numbers into a couple of formulas: the front-end ratio (having to do with your mortgage payments) and the back-end ratio (having to do with your debt).

Let’s say your gross income is $4,000 a month, and you have $1,000 a month in debt payments. The rule of thumb is that the lender will allow you to pay 29 percent of your gross income toward your mortgage payment every month. This is known as the front-end ratio. In this example, 29 percent of $4,000 is just under $1,200 a month “” so the lender will reason that you can put $1,200 toward your mortgage payment.

Your debt ratio, or back-end ratio, on the other hand, is $1,000/$4,000, or 25 percent. That’s not bad. The lender doesn’t want more than 41 percent going toward your other debt. (These ratios can vary somewhat; the ones given here are good examples.)

Your Past Financial History: Your credit rating is one of the most important factors to qualify for a mortgage. The three major credit-reporting agencies are Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. You can request your credit report individually from each agency.

Your credit report “” a nifty little compilation of your personal financial history “” will reveal whether you have a track record of paying your bills on time. If not, there are ways to clean up your credit that will make you more attractive to lenders.
* Your Available Collateral: In case you can’t repay the loan, the bank can do something really nasty: foreclose on the mortgage and repossess the house. That means it owns the house — not you. You then find yourself out on the street with your dog and your La-Z-Boy. Your house now belongs to the bank, and it is unlikely anyone will ever loan you money again. Avoid this scenario at all costs.

Your Timeline..

In determining whether you should buy a new home, think about how long you’re planning to stay in it. It generally doesn’t make economic sense to buy if you’re planning to stay there for less than four years. Why? Because you will pay fees to buy and sell your house. It would have to appreciate in value very quickly between the buying and selling to make it financially worthwhile. In other words, you’d have to get lucky.
Your Comfort Zone

Before you borrow $90,000 or $200,000, figure out whether you can really afford it. Just because the bank will loan you the money doesn’t mean that you will live your life in such a way as to be able to pay it back. Are you planning on having a big family? Would you rather replace your Chevy with a new Mercedes? Your house payment is just one piece of your financial puzzle. What might you need to give up to make that house a reality?
Shopping for a Loan

There are thousands of mortgage lenders across the country, and all have different loan products. From lenders who only sell to the most creditworthy borrowers (at the best rates) to those who will lend 50 percent of a property’s value (at high rates), there’s a mortgage product for just about everyone.

One place to check is your local bank. This can result in a reasonably good deal for the qualified customer. In many other cases, the bank will not have a program that fits your needs, or you may fall outside the guidelines of its lending ability.

Once you have visited your bank, look in the real estate section of your local paper for rates at other banks. It’s a good idea to start the legwork on your own, before bringing in a mortgage broker, so that you’ll 1) avoid the hard sell from the get-go and 2) have a better idea of what you could find on your own.
The Internet

The Web lets you comparison-shop. Not only that, but you don’t have to hunt down a hundred different banks — certain aggregator sites have done that for you.

You may well find the cheapest rates in town (or in the country) from the Internet. If, however, you end up working with a real estate agent, you may feel more secure with a lender that has a relationship with your agent. The idea is this: The agent brings business to the lender, so the lender has some sense of responsibility toward honoring commitments with that agent’s clients.

Helpful Hint: There is no reason why you shouldn’t take out a loan with a bank in California if you live in Virginia, or vice versa.
When Should I Shop for a Mortgage?

Ideally, you should find a mortgage before you ever start looking for a house. Not only will you feel more confident knowing that you’ll have a certain amount of money, but you’ll be a more serious candidate to sellers.
What Information Should I Get from the Mortgage Company?

There are many questions to ask prospective lenders. You may find yourself feeling a little nervous. After all, you may feel like they have you by the suspenders. But don’t think of it that way. You are going to pay them a lot of money for a very long time. They serve you, not the other way around. Don’t let them take advantage of you or bully you into a deal that isn’t to your advantage.