While perusing the internet this week, I came across several advertisements for financing your wedding. Because there is nothing that says we are ready for the next chapter of our lives like starting it with a massive debt. Curious, I investigated more. Washington Times reported that the average price of an American wedding had reached a mind-boggling $35,329!
WHAT! On a party?
This amount could send that couple on good economic footing into the world. 35,000 dollars is a great downpayment on a home in most states or even a paid in full, flat-out cash price on some fixer uppers or condos.
It could allow that couple to house hack and cover all of their housing expenses!!! Why would anyone in their right mind finance a wedding?
Where are the friends and families not condoning excess and telling the perpetrators of such wastefulness what they are doing? TIME reports as of 2016 that 1 in 3 people have no retirement savings and that 72% of millennials have less than $10,000 in savings.
Where did we go wrong?
When did declaring our love for someone for our all our friends and families to nourish and protect become a pinnacle of American consumerism?
Does having the $3,000 dress instead of the $300 one say our love will last forever? Well it better, because that debt probably will stick around for a while.
But guess what, it does not, in fact quite the opposite.
On average, if you spend more money on your wedding ring and wedding, the marriage is less likely to last! The professors went on to hypothesize that it was possible that the economic stress of the debt from the wedding was what caused such outcome.
Do we need more reasons to be fiscally responsible, on this special day?
It goes on further to say:
“evidence suggests that the types of weddings associated with lower likelihood of divorce are those that are relatively inexpensive but are high in attendance.“
So if you want that marriage to last, go cheap, but don’t skimp on the people.
I didn’t know all this when I got married, but this is exactly what I had.
A big, cheap wedding.
This is what I did to get the wedding that I wanted without busting my budget, all said and done I think I ended up paying less than $2000 for 80 people:
Buy many of the things you would normally rent. And then sell them back on ebay.com, craigslist.com, or a Facebook group. Net after the sale will be a fraction of the cost to rent. It is usually pretty easy to do in bulk, but you can get more back separate. I got all sorts of things on Amazon.com: Wedding Fairy Lights, Table Runners, Table Cloth, Vases, and anything else you can think of!
Choose a cheap venue. We did a backyard wedding, and it was wonderful. Other places that are cheap are city parks, national parks, and some other public facilities.
Get a pre-owned wedding dress. Using an expensive dress for one day is wasteful. I bought something that I had tried on at a store for half-off the tag. And guess what you can sell it again afterward!! I used Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. Many of the dresses offer returns.
Get a Birthday Cake! I went wedding cake shopping and was disgusted both with the level of quality and the price. Instead, I decided to go to my local bakery and ordered three all white birthday cakes. They were amazingly good and a fraction of the cost.
Rent the tables and chairs, make sure to shop around and don’t mention that it is a wedding.
Don’t skimp on the Wedding Photographer. This was the one thing I wish I hadn’t gone cheap on. Still, there are so many amazing photographers out there I would choose one that isn’t huge on the wedding circuit to get more value.
Food. This was my biggest expense. I had my favorite restaurant cater a buffet. The meal was my chosen splurge for my guests that made my wedding feel not low budget at all.
Get flowers in bulk. I ordered 450 roses in three beautiful colors from Sam’s Club.
Have family help out! Some family members will want to help share in your big day; this is an awesome way. Those flowers need to be arranged, the chairs set up and moved, maybe you have a cousin who would rather give some time than cash for a present!
How do you feel about the modern American wedding? What was your wedding like or what are you planning?
I often see these memes about adulting: the burden, the monotony, the reluctance. When did we decide it was normal to hate what we do day in and day out. Did we make a conscious choice to spend most of our time doing something we hate to get money? Or did it just happen? Why do people accept that the route to success is plodding away at a job for the majority of our lives, and the whole of our most productive ones at that?
So what happens when you say, F*** it! I don’t want to be a part of this system anymore! Well, that is what I did, I quit my job, put in my 30-day notice on my apartment, and sold all my stuff. Everything that I owned could fit within the confines of one backpack.
I had no home.
I had no fixed expenses.
What I owned:
Five lightweight pants.
Five pairs of underwear.
Five lightweight Camis.
One pair of sandals. (Which at one point were stolen and replaced with 2 dollar thongs)
Airplane sized toiletries.
A super pack of hair ties.
A small laptop.
A water camelback.
THAT. IS. IT.
In the whole world!
I got a one-way ticket to Europe on the proceeds of my stuff and embarked on some of the best times of my life. I did work trades for room and board, which usually required around 25-30 hours a week of work to take care of all my needs.
I worked on a peace farm, the vineyard of a pair of circus performers, I lived with a British couple renovating an old castle into a B&B… which was complete with a haunting story and a dungeon. I met interesting people, a villain from the old Bond movies who made a kick ass shepherds pie and referred to the local villagers as his “minions”. An old man who had traveled around the world by sailboat and had met Salvador Dali. Peace activists who protested on the corner every week, I joined in! A man who got called away to advise huge companies during the 2008 financial collapse. And I mentioned the circus performers, right? They juggled chainsaws!
I found other kindred souls, and we would travel together for a month or two. People from all over the world who would give me a glimpse into life in their home country.
I learned about life in other cultures and saw things I will never forget.
I hitchhiked. I showered at many public facilities. I got acquainted with everything free, libraries, festivals, public pools, and most importantly nature. I ate weird local delicacies and pub hopped with a few of my hosts.
My biggest takeaways:
Life is about experiences, not accumulation.
Love people, not things.
Material things only hold you down from true freedom.
You might be asking, well why are you not still doing this if it was so awesome! My now husband and I ended up getting pregnant and could not live by the seat of our pants anymore. The desire is still there, and now our family is close to going back out on the road again. This time with a different kind of freedom.
At the heart of this is breaking out of the norm. To create your system. Which is what I’m trying to do now. Or, you live outside of it, which is what I did when I chose to be homeless. You can live a life where you choose how to spend your time. You can do this the easy way by living outside and eschewing everything and live in the flow of the world. Or you can put in some serious work and break the system!
I would also like to give a shout out to the homeless who did not get there by choice. And while I would like to tell those who are capable, that there are options. Some just are not and in my opinion are a symptom of a sick society. Homeless and Housing Charities.
That means 50% of people are living paycheck to paycheck in America.
For those 50%, I would like to tell you that this is not how it has to be. In fact, I would like to tell everyone toiling away with no plans of retirement or even those who want to take the standard age 65 retirement. That not only can you survive but can thrive! You can even retire early if you want to!
There are 4 Parts to Freedom!
There are many ways to reach financial goals and everyone has different views of what they want their lives to look like. People who lead you to believe that the only option to success is their proven method, or by buying their product are lying! The main goal is to be better off tomorrow than you are today, try to at least do something on the list, and if you want to never worry about money again, do all of them.
Part 1. Lower your cost of living.
Take a hard look at your life. Are you working for your needs or your wants? The first step to never worrying about money again is to lower the baseline amount of how much you need. I spent a year owning only the contents of one backpack, nothing else in the world. It was freeing. It was just me. I went to a country where the dollar went further, and I was thriving on less than $500 a month. Now I am not suggesting to you to go to these extremes. I only use it as an example of what is possible.
Don’t look at this step as a negative impact on your life, getting rid of things that hold you down only allows you to rise. Also, if you need less to live, you need less to retire!
If you have never written out a budget to get an idea of how much is going and out and where of your bank account, Mint.com is a great place to get started, and it is free. It also has a net wealth calculator built in.
Sell any large asset that is not making you money if at all feasibly possible. That means the huge house you are filling up with useless stuff. That means the car worth over $10,000 is gone. Unless your net worth is over a million, these cannot be considered reasonable.
Cut down any monthly expenditures you can, find a cheaper cell phone, pare down to only one entertainment source, call all your current providers and see if there is a way to lower your bill, don’t eat out as much, cut out as much frivolous spending as you can.
Part 2. Increase the amount of money you are earning.
So let’s say you get through Part 1, you have reduced your cost of living substantially, and you are still struggling to keep your head above water to live let alone to invest or pay off debt. It is time to increase your baseline income, find a better paying job. If you get through Part 1 and you’re looking like you are going to be able to make a lot of motion with your ocean, it never hurts to get a little more and get that tide a little higher.
Look for a new job in your same field. Find someone who will pay you more, use that current job to leverage you into more money!
Get a second job. Or, if there is a spouse at home consider them taking on a small job while the main breadwinner is home. I don’t advise this just for life quality, but it is an option for speed, or if the situation is dire.
Low earnings in your field? Switch it! Look for paid apprenticeships in construction, like plumbing and electricians. Jobs which provide their training like Emergency Services (police officers, dispatchers, firefighters.), or drivers (Truck, School Bus, Boat.) which often train you to get your Commercial Drivers Licence (CDL) which can be a huge money maker. See: How to get a high paying job with no debt involved!
Go back to school. This can be a rough one. First, the earning potential of the job you will get from going back to school has to be very good. Make sure that one year of your projected salary can cover your whole debt incurred plus any lost income you could have been making during the time I took to complete it. Make sure to shadow your projected career, or find some volunteer job around it to see if it is a fit for you first. There is nothing worse than incurring a bunch of debt only to hate what you got out of it.
Part 3. Kick debt in the teeth.
I am not of the opinion that all debt is bad. Would it better to have no debt, YES! But, I believe in the power of leverage. Using student loans to leverage you into that job that makes you much more income. Using mortgages to get you into and possibly renovate an investment property that yields cash flow after all expenses. Getting a small business loan to grown your company and your earnings.
The key for those is the end goal must be worth it, and you must complete the task the loan allowed you to do. You have to be getting more out of the debt then the lenders are getting out of you.
Consumer debt is typically the anti-thesis of being financially healthy. This includes cars, credit card debt, any debts that are not currently making you more money than the interest they are charging you. You cannot do Part 4, investing in yourself while you have consumer debt, the interest they are charging simply cancels all gains you are getting elsewhere.
Cut up your credit cards or make them inaccessible to yourself. (I’ve heard of people freezing them in ice and keeping them in the freezer.) I do not advise canceling them because it generally does not help your credit score.
If you keep unfreezing those cards, it is time to have none at all.
Don’t sign up for credit cards for the free rewards or discounts, especially if you have a track record of racking up debt. There is a reason they do these incentive programs, they more often than not get more out of you then you will get out of them.
Attack your highest interest charged debts first for the most results, attack your smallest balance debts first for the most motivation to keep going.
Have a ton of debt, and you can’t even get a handle on the monthly payments? Even after Part 1 and Part 2? Consider moving the debt around. Some cards will do balance transfers and give you a flat low-interest charge up front by adding it your balance. Only do this to debts you are sure you won’t be able to touch for the period it is held for because you are working on others. Wait that didn’t work, not enough wiggle room to move it: have some other large asset? Look into selling that asset to pay your debt off or getting a loan against it at a lower interest rate. No assets? Maybe it is time to consider bankruptcy.
Part 4. Invest in yourself. Diversify your earnings.
This Part is the fun one! Make sure that you are good with Part 3 though before doing things on this list unless you can manage to do them for no money or debt! If your goal is truly not to worry about money make sure to build up a buffer in a liquid, interest accruing account like a money market fund of at least 3 to 6 months of your current expenses. Remember the more sources of income you have, the less impactful losing one is, so diversify!
Start your own side business, this can be anywhere from starting a blog, to a service like consulting or tutoring. Remember to start small and scale up with success try to grow from your earnings!
Make sure you are matching any employer contribution into your retirement account.
Invest in the stock market. If you like your field of employment and enjoy going to work, ramp up those retirement contributions and also invest in IRAs. If you would rather retire early, invest in index funds and dividend stocks.
Get an investment property. Investment properties can be a really strong contributor if you would like to retire early as it can quickly push you into gaining passive income.
My husband and I have traveled extensively, both independently before we met, and then together. Our first Christmas together was in Paris, our first valentines day we had dinner on a beach in Cambodia with children running by with sparklers. We have the travel bug. If you know what this bug feels like, you will understand that staying in one place for a long time can be painful. You can feel like you have to ignore a part of yourself, because no one else tends to understand it. It feels like being a bird in a cage. Luckily, I have been a lovebird with my perfect match with me, but it has been stifling for both of us.
When we got pregnant with our first child, we did not have location independent jobs, and we had been working our way around the world using HelpX and WWOOF. We decided we didn’t want to live by the seat of our pants with children; we needed to know everyone would be clothed and fed. So, we headed back to the United States and began settling down into a more ‘normal’ life. We both had given up our higher paying jobs when we left to go travel, and when we came back it was 2009, no one was hiring, it felt like we were starting all over again.
The plan begins. We stumbled upon Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Our vision: We would get enough rentals to give us location independent income wherever in the world we were at, we would be set for retirement, and not have to worry about not contributing to our IRA, 401Ks, and mutual funds, unless we wanted to.
We have now been back in the United States for close to nine years now. We have three beautiful boys now. We are so close to our goal we can taste it! What does that goal look like? $2500 of passive or location independent income per month. Enough to ensure we do not go without food or housing for our whole family in most developed places and live very nicely in places with lower cost of living. But, have you ever been so close to your goal but not been able to realize it? It is excruciating! It makes you want to rush, maybe skimp just a little. So we have set a date to leave, my husbands 40th birthday, which gives us a clear defined date to focus on to get us where we need to be.
We plan to slow travel; we will move to a place and live there for a few months if we like the area, trying to use the full length of our tourist visas. We like the beach, so we will try to stay near it most of the time. Since we are so close to the border of Mexico in Tucson, AZ. We plan on just taking our van and heading south and stopping for a few months when we see a place we like. Slow travel and using vehicle will help to keep costs down. Have you ever bought airline tickets for five???
As for our children, we plan to worldschool. What is that you say? It is like homeschooling but using where you are to be the catalyst for what topics to be teaching. My husband was homeschooled, and I once upon a time was a scientist, so I feel we will be able to be competent worldschoolers. We, however, will adjust our plans if needed, nothing is more important to us then our children’s wellbeing. But, for now, I will just dream of my little polygots, talking to other children about world history, economics, and current events.
Here is our planned route, this will take several years:
The five stages of grief, or in some texts seven stages, seems to me, to be one of the biggest lies ever fed to us in modern psychology. This one size fits all idea that we follow this path which leads us to an end goal with us being in acceptance at the end. They even go so far as to apply this model to all forms of major trauma, death, dying, divorce, loss, and rejection.
So here are the traditional stages, the Kübler-Ross Model: 1. Denial 2. Anger 3. Bargaining 4. Depression 5. Acceptance
Here is a modification into the seven stages of grief: 1. Shock and Denial 2. Pain and Guilt 3. Anger and Bargaining 4. Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness 5. The Upward Turn 6. Reconstruction and Working Through 7. Acceptance and Hope
While Kübler-Ross came out later in life and said the stages could occur in any order and sometimes people do not go through all the stages, the stages had already taken hold as a standard. Even in its improved form, I find it to be an oversimplification of grief.
So here is my model of loss and grief, I’m calling it the Balance Beam Model:
On how well you stay on your balance beam: Everyone is a gymnast, and we all have our balance beam, all of us have different skill levels of being able to stay on the beam, and in the speed of moving through wobbles or getting up from falls. Some of us are born, or work our way, to having lower and wider beams, where we can wobble more without falling or just not hurt ourselves as bad when we do fall. But the key is that we are functioning when we are on our balance beam. This balance beam represents our baseline for the intensity of emotion we can handle before we “fall off” or “stumble” and we are barely functioning or are debilitated.
Things that knock you off balance: I postulate that rather than having stages, people have their go-to methods of negative emotions, how they deal with adverse conditions. These rather than changing type just vary in intensity until they fall below your baseline, where they just are less noticeable, hidden away in your mind, allowing for logic and positive thinking to take hold. The longer the time that passes, the easier to not think about the event, but they never truly go away. Old events can rear their heads in unexpected ways in the future and will do so without regards to stages.
Click image to enlarge.
Please tell me what you think. Is your experience closer to the Kübler-Ross model? Or the Balance Beam model?
We are living in unique times, and emotions are running very hot lately. Every headline is meant to be sensational, where all ideas on a topic no matter how obscure can be found in seconds, a world where anyone’s voice can be heard equally, and a place where everyone you know has access to all of this. This is not a bad thing! It does, however, take more work on the receiver’s part to discern truth from falsehood, things that are useful and those that will mislead all while keeping your cool.
You need to train yourself not to auto-disagree, or auto-agree based upon your personal biases. When you hear or read something that treads into water you don’t know, take the time to validate it, now this goes for things that you agree or disagree with. If in a face to face conversation I usually just say, that is interesting, and look it up later. If I know the person the person likes being challenged and/or is open minded, I question and might even look it up with them.
Just because one thing is true does not make another related thing false. For instance: 1. IQ is not a complete measure of a person, it does not measure how successful a person will be; nor is it a one size fits all approach to intelligence. 2. IQ does have consequence and is one of the few ways we can quantitatively measure changes and differences to mental aptitude. Both are accurate. It is important to understand more than one side of an argument. Instead of dismissing something, read up, ask questions, maybe you will find out something you didn’t know, or at minimum better understand where someone is coming from.
Even good sources get it wrong or hold a bias. This does not mean dismiss them entirely. You should never assume any source to be 100% accurate or free of bias, to do so frankly is a bit culty. We are human; we make mistakes, we learn, we change. Listen to opposing views, draw your own conclusions, if it matters to you seek out all angles of the issue.
Do real research. This can be hard with everything that is out there. I try to preference .gov and .org over others. I like to read things on PubMed. Wikipedia can be a helpful tool to lead you to where real data might be, and a well-researched topic usually has a plentiful source list.
Everyone gets emotional, don’t dismiss a person’s feelings. I am a relatively logical person when you look at the emotional-logical balance. However, I tend to get more emotional when someone does not hear my logic or they are acting irrationally. This can be reversed for the more emotionally inclined, they just want to be heard and want their emotions validated because they are feeling bad, they don’t want to hear facts at that moment. If tempers flare, it is often best just to pause and come back to the conversation later after trying to understand their position. Also see: How to Fight Like a Pro: Conflict Resolution and Forgiveness.