**Disclaimer - This post may contain affiliate links.
It is officially that time of year, where every time I open my mailbox there is an invitation to either a graduation, wedding or bridal shower. While I absolutely love this season of love and celebration, I can practically feel my wallet shivering in fear. Between gifts for the honoree, attire for the event, and often travel expenses to the events, this time of year can be one of the most expensive seasons. I am going to share my tips and tricks to staying on budget even with all these extra, unexpected expenses.
Know Your Expenses
Before searching for ways to stay on budget, you must know exactly WHAT expenses you have. As you receive invitations, write down the event name and all associated expenses. For example:
- Outfit for graduation
- Babysitting costs
After you list your expected expenses, it’s time to assign an estimated dollar amount to each expense. As you work on assigning dollar amounts, it is important to be aware of etiquette. For example – What is the dress code for the wedding? Do you have something appropriate to wear, or will you need to buy something? As an invited guest, it is important to listen and respect the hosts requests. If you do not want to follow the dress code, you always have the option of declining the invitation.
Etiquette applies to gifts as well. The dollar amount for the gift will vary depending on the event and on your relationship with the graduate, bride, groom etc. Following proper etiquette should be a priority as you create your budget.
Research Additional Costs
Some costs may not be impacted by etiquette so you will need to do additional research. For instance, you may need to check approximate flight or hotel costs. You should then list these approximate costs on your list.
Add It Up
After you have a list of estimated expenses, you will want to add everything up. This will show how much each individual event will cost, in addition to how much the entire “season” will cost. Awareness is a key component to staying on budget. It is easy to overspend when you don’t see the total dollar amount staring back at you.
Needs vs Wants
The next step in staying on budget is identifying needs vs. wants. Go back through your list of expenses and identify which items are required expenses, such as gifts, and which items are simply “wants”, such as a professional manicure. For each “want” ask yourself if this is something that could be removed. Do you really NEED to get a professional manicure and pedicure before every wedding or could you do it yourself? Could you swap babysitting services with another friend, so you both save money? Perhaps you can buy one dress to wear to all three weddings, instead of something new for each one. This is your opportunity to brainstorm ways to save money.
There are also plenty of ways to save money while shopping for your required expenses. First, I always suggest shopping sales. If you can pair a sale price with a coupon, that is even better!! Bed, Bath and Beyond, is a popular store for wedding registries and they send coupons out in the mail on a very frequent basis. You can also sign up for their email list and they will automatically send you a 20% off coupon via email. RetailMeNot is another place to search online for coupons.
Another way to bring down costs is by applying gift cards. If you do not already have an account with Raise, I highly suggest signing up. Raise is a gift card marketplace where you can buy discounted gift cards. If you click here to sign up for Raise you will get an additional $5 off your first gift card purchase.Raise has gift cards for just about everywhere, including hotel chains, and a wide variety of retailers!! You could use these discounted cards to buy a gift, or you could gift the discounted card. The individual using the gift card has no way of knowing that it was discounted. As I am writing this post, Raise has gift cards for Bed, Bath and Beyond up to 5% off. Pair that with a 20% off coupon and now your $100 gift only cost you $75. You can take that savings even further with an additional 1% cash back if you buy your Raise gift card, by accessing the Raise website through Ebates.
Ebates is a website that gives you cash back when you go through their website first. So let’s say you need to travel to Boston for a graduation and you need to purchase a flight. My advice is to first go to Ebates. Then once on Ebates you would search for Priceline or whatever site you would usually buy your flight. The Ebates site will then take you directly to the Priceline website (or Southwest or Expedia, etc.) But now you will earn cash back on your purchase.
For example, Priceline is currently offering 5% cash back through Ebates. This means if you buy a $200 flight you will really only be paying $190 because you will earn $10 cash back. If you sign up for Ebates via this link, you will earn an extra $10 cash back the first time you make a purchase through Ebates, which could bring your $200 flight down to $180!
Ebates participates with SO many retailers. I highly suggest signing up, and using them for all of your online shopping needs.
Rent the Runway
When it comes to purchasing a dress or accessories for your event, do yourself a favor and check out Rent the Runway. You can read my full review on Rent the Runway and how it can save you money, here. And if you sign up for Rent the Runway through this link you will save an additional $30 off your first order.
Use Reward Points for Travel Expenses
Many hotel chains and airlines offer reward programs that allow you to purchase rooms or flights with rewards points. I use this method to save money traveling ALL THE TIME!!! In fact, I will be staying in a $600 a night, Hyatt hotel room in May for my nieces graduation for FREE, thanks to Hyatt Rewards.
One of the quickest ways to earn hotel or airfare rewards points is through credit card sign up bonuses. Here are a few of my favorite current offers:
Marriott: Click here to receive 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Marriott also gives you one free night stay every year on your account anniversary.
Hyatt: Click here to receive 40,000 Bonus Points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Free nights start at just 5,000 points. Hyatt also gives you one free night stay every year on your account anniversary.
Hilton: Click here to receive 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $2,000 or more in purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership and an additional 25,000 Hilton Bonus Points after making an additional $1,000 in purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
Create a Plan
After adding up all of your expenses, removing unnecessary costs, and deducting all your discounts, the next step is creating a plan on how you will pay for the remaining expenses.
Set Aside Money
Wedding etiquette states you have up to three months after the wedding to give your gift. Most people send out wedding invites at least one month before the wedding. So at the very least you have 16 weeks to come up with money for a gift. If you set aside $7 every week for the next 16 weeks, you would have $112 to spend on your gift.
Coming up with $7 a week could be as simple as sacrificing your weekly Starbucks latte for the next 16 weeks. This might even help you drop a few pounds! Why not kill two birds with one stone? Don’t drink Starbucks? Think about your guilty pleasure that costs you a few dollars every week, and consider sacrificing that.
Another option is to save year round by putting a few dollars every paycheck into a “gift” account. Then anytime you have an event you need money for, you can pull from this account.
Tis the season for Spring cleaning! If you need to come up with quick cash to pay for a flight or hotel, you could throw a yard sale or sell old items to a consignment shop. This may not get you all of the money you need, but it could at least help.
Offer a Service
Maybe you don’t have the money to buy a gift, but you have a product or skill you can offer instead. Are you a makeup artist? Perhaps you can gift a free makeup session. Do you own a landscaping company? Maybe you could gift an afternoon of weeding and mulching? If you are gifting a product or service, you still want to ensure that the value of that product or service meets the standard of etiquette.
Learn to Say “No”
While typically a last resort, there is always the option of declining an invite or two. Let’s say you are invited to four weddings, three bridal showers, two graduations, and a destination bachelorette party all in one year. The costs for these events could really add up, even after applying discounts, rewards points, etc. It would be awesome to attend everything, but living outside your means, is never a good idea. Be honest with yourself. Could you skip the wedding of your coworker who you just met 6 months ago? Do you need to stay all weekend for the bachelorette party? Think about each event and decide if skipping one or two events would allow you to live within your means.
I hope that you are able to use some of these tips to save money during this upcoming season of events! Have other tips? I would love to hear them. Drop me a comment!