Almost Had to Use Our Emergency Fund II

We had another scare with an emergency last week. My hubby went to pick up food at a restaurant and when he came out with food in his hands, he couldn’t open the driver’s side door to his car. He had to go through the passenger side to open since it opened from inside thankfully. He tried to figure it out on his own when he got home, but it looked like the problem wasn’t as simple as we hoped it would be.

My hubby called the mechanic that was referred to us by my co-worker and dropped the car off. Good thing my hubby did some research beforehand, because this guy tried to jack up the price of the part that was needed. My hubby even found out exactly which dealership had the part and how many they had on their hands with the exact price. The mechanic low balled the labor charge to make us think he’s giving us a deal, but tried to charge us crazy amount for the part. But we didn’t get fooled and we ended up paying a fair price for it I think. We were worried about what kind of sloppy job this guy would do on the car, but the car seems ok. One thing for sure is that we will never go back to that guy again.

Since this happened out of the blue, we had to have the money right away. I was thinking we might have to use the emergency fund, but we didn’t. We were under budget for couple of weeks and I was waiting for another week to transfer the left over money to our savings account, but that ended up covering for this unexpected car door repair. This is why it’s important to have an emergency fund and staying under budget. As much as I would hate to dip into our emergency fund, if need be, it’s there to be spent. Even better that that is when you are under budget enough to just absorb this cost without touching the emergency fund. Sweet~!!

Do you know any good, honest, and reliable mechanic in Northern Virginia area? Did you have to dip into your emergency fund lately?


Long Overdue Update

Happy Friday everyone! Boy am I glad that it’s Friday today. I didn’t have a difficult week or anything, but I think this warmer weather is making me itch to go out or drink margarita or something. Which is why I’m going to a happy hour with my hubby today. He needs to relax a little too. It can’t all be work and school.

Like I mentioned last time, we paid my hubby’s Summer tuition with cash and we have one more semester to go after that. The end is near and both my hubby and I can’t wait to go on a vacation afterwards. We haven’t had a vacation in 2 years!!! I’m giving him the first choice to pick a destination, but if he doesn’t let me know by end of May, I’m going to select it. We need to put money aside and plan it ahead of time. I’m leaning toward Las Vegas since they have package deals and my hubby has never been there. There are many different things that you can do without moving around too much either. But we’ll see how it goes. I’ll be sure to let you know once it’s decided. I know some of you might think that we should wait on taking a long vacation, but aside from anything else, we really need a vacation. Both my hubby and I need to get away and have fun. This is needed for our sanity and health in my opinion.

Another good financial news is that my Salliemae student loan is finally below $10k mark. Yay~!!! I’m so excited to see the needles moving. I’m hoping I can pay mine off by end of next year. Our priority now is my hubby’s MBA loans since they’re bigger and the interest rate is ridiculous. I’ve been working on my new debt payoff goals and plans for the next few years. Of course things could change for the better or worse, but as of my current projection, we should be debt free by end of 2017. But that could also change depending on whether we decide to save up for a house before we’re debt free. We won’t really talk about that until next year anyway.

Where are you guys planning to go for a vacation this year? I’d love to hear where you guys are going and the budget amount, so I can imagine it and help me wait until next year.

Mini Vacation

My hubby and I took a trip to Atlantic City this weekend.  Actually we left on Sunday and came back on Monday.  I was browsing through Groupon a couple of months ago because that’s just what I do to waste time.  I found a  deal for the newest hotel in AC called Revel.  So I called my hubby and found a date he didn’t have class, which was this one specific weekend and booked it.  It was going to be a short trip to begin with, but with so many snow days here in our area, my hubby’s school schedule changed and he had to go to school that night for the final presentation.  So the trip got cut shorter.  We had to leave right after lunch on Monday and on the way down when we were in Maryland, we started hitting traffic.  We weren’t sure if he was going to make it on time, so we quickly found the nearest metro station and he hopped off to get to his school in DC and I drove home by myself.  What a crazy day that was since I had to pick him back up at the metro station later that night.

Anyway~ enough with the non-sense.  Let me recap this very very very short trip spending.  The Groupon amount was  $108.05 for the one night hotel stay.  The toll fee was around $35.00 back and forth and the gas total was $48.00.  I filled up my gas the night before we left and when we got back, the empty gas sign came on.  The food total came out to be $140.00 with 2 lunches, one light dinner, 1 snack, and 2 cups of coffee.  We both were very tired starting out this trip and we really didn’t have time to recover from hangover if we decided to drink.  So we didn’t have a single drop of alcohol while we were there.  We spent $140.00 on gambling.  We played $20.00 on penny slots that lasted us several hours.  Hubby spent $40.00 on black jack and I spent $80.00 on roulette and we didn’t win anything.  But then again, we weren’t expecting to win.  We were just expecting to delay losing the whole thing, so we could spend more time actually playing something.  We’re not big gamblers and with our budget right now, we weren’t going to spend much money.  We just wanted to get away even for a short period of time and do something different.

Our original budget for this trip was $450.00.  But the grand total for this mini vacation was $471.05.  I think it’s a little more than I would’ve liked to spend on a such a short trip even if we were right on the budget.  There are a few things that I would do differently to save more money if we do this again next time.

– Get a cheaper hotel and take a cab to a nicer casino to play.
– Bring another couple and split the toll fee and the gas money.
– Bring some snacks and alcohol to consume at the hotel room instead of ordering in or going out to a bar.

We took a short trip to AC couple of years ago and I didn’t really think the trip was expensive back then, firstly because we didn’t have a budget at that time.  Secondly, we won some money which lowered the total amount we ended up spending.  This shows you how much you don’t know your own spending habit without a budget and how a budget plays a big role on your perception of what is too much and what isn’t.  Hindsight, I would’ve saved this money and added more to take a better trip, but what’s done is done.  Now I know how wasteful Groupon can be not only with time, but with making you buy without much thought into it.  At least we saved this money before going up there, so no debt was added.  And we didn’t sacrifice other debt payments to save this money, so that’s good.  Live and learn is what I’m saying about this trip.

Did you go anywhere recently?  Did you go over your budget on that trip?  Do you regret going on that trip?  

February Spending

Since I’m late at posting my updates or recaps and now that it’s mid-March, it must mean it’s time for February recap.  As I predicted, the numbers for February look much tamer than January.  I mean I shouldn’t even be comparing February numbers to January since January was a crazy spending month.  Aside from being more conscious about our spending, February was a short month and we had a few snowstorms which forced us to stay home.  This gave us less chance to go out and buy useless crap while cooking at home.  We ended up binge watching so much stuff on Netflix and TV in general that we didn’t even think about ordering stuff online.  So to the actual recap…

Eat out total                       $162.26/Budget $200                      PASS
Gas total                              $173.27/Budget $300                      PASS
Grocery total                     $314.50/Budget $400                      PASS
Misc/shopping total        $234.31/Budget $200                      FAIL

We passed all except the misc/shopping category.  But I’m not going to consider this a fail since the overall actual total amount is under the overall total budget amount.  Sadly, I know we already went over in the same failed category in March buying some skincare products.  Plus my brother’s birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks and that’s another unusually large expense.  Although his birthday present was already budgeted separately so that will not be counted against our monthly budget.  I’m pretty happy with February result and we’ll see how March total will end up looking soon.  I really should get better at recapping things on time.  I apologize if anybody’s annoyed by my laziness~^^

How are you doing with your spending so far in 2014?  If you went over, what specific item or categroy made you go over?

My Real Wedding Budget Part 2

We had another snow storm early this week.  What a way to start March.  I always knew the weather can change its mind quickly, which is why I don’t trust the weather forecast that much.  But the one day I wanted the forecast to be wrong, it was right on the money.  It was supposed to rain all day on my wedding day and indeed it rained all day.  The day before and the day after had perfectly gorgeous Spring weather.  I know I need to get over that instead of keep coming back to it since it’s been almost 3 years.  Anyway~ this is the second part of my wedding expenses post.  There are so many little categories that I had to lump some of them together to not make the list super long.  As usual, let’s jump right into it.

13. Bridesmaid dresses $156.97 –  I went online for months to search for bridesmaid dresses that looked cute and were reasonably priced.  This was perfect.  It’s deep purple knee length dress with one asymmetrical shoulder strap.  It has draping layers on the bust part of it.  It’s not a dressy fancy outfit.  It’s perfect for my laid back lunch wedding.  I bought 3 to give to each of my bridesmaid.

14. My dress, hair, makeup, tuxedos $2,060.00 –  This price included rental for 1 ceremony dress and 1 reception dress along with a veil and accessories.  It also included hair and make up for myself, 3 bridesmaids, 2 moms, and a test makeup.  Also included are 4 tuxedos for my hubby and the 3 groomsmen.

15. Misc decorations and stationaries $443.03 –  This included stamps, birdcage veil, hair fascinator, thank you cards, pens, program papers, aisle runners, and etc. I didn’t get to use the birdcage veil though.  I’m thinking of coloring the veil and wearing it to somebody else’s wedding or something.

16. Studio photo shoot in Korea $2,100.00 –  This included 3 dresses, hair, make up, hubby’s 2 tuxedos, and the photo shoot session with an album.  I loved everything about it.  The quality was top notch and everyone treated me like a princess.  I want to experience it again.  I felt so beautiful~

17. Honeymoon $4,500.00 –  I’m not going to include all the costs to Korea.  I’m only including the cost to Thailand from Korea.  The actual honeymoon was in Thailand and Korea trip included the family visits and studio photo shoot.  Even if I wanted to include all the money we spent in Korea, I wouldn’t be able to do it since I didn’t keep track of it.  The $4,500.00 included the round trip flight from Korea to Thailand Phuket with all the food, excursions, sightseeing, and accommodations.  The resort we stayed for couple of nights called Trisara was the most luxurious and gorgeous private pool villa I’ve ever been in.  It was truly once in a life time experience.

18. Round trip flight to and from Korea $2,790.00 – Although I said I’m not going to include costs in Korea, I needed to get to Korea to get my studio pictures done and the price to Thailand would have been way more if we were to get there from the US.  So I thought the flight cost to Korea fit in this wedding expenses total.

19. Wedding night hotel $292.31 – We booked a suite at a hotel for the wedding night.  We had a post reception gathering with just our close friends here.  The price was really great for the square footage and the set up.  It had a bedroom with an attached bathroom and a whole separate living and dining area with a sink and a refrigerator.  Another bathroom next to the living area so the people didn’t have to go into the bedroom at all.  This is the same suite we got for my bridal shower.  They don’t even offer this suite anymore when we checked recently.  After people left, my new hubby and I got to spend the first night together there.

20. Dinner for wedding party $365.78 – My hubby and I took our bridal party, day of coordinator, ushers, and emcee out for dinner.  We took them out separately before the wedding to thank them for helping out at the wedding, but some people couldn’t make it.

21. Gifts for bridal and groomsmen party $351.35 – We got great deals for all the gifts.  I’ve been searching for gifts online for months and collected what I wanted and put them in separate Jcrew canvas bag for each girl.  I changed up some of the items to customize it for each girl’s taste.  I put stuff like L’occitane body scrub, Sephora nail polish, Swarovski earrings, and etc.   For groomsmen, they were all different gifts to fit their needs.  Since hubby bought them, I don’t exactly remember what they were.

22. Out of town guest bags $92.98 –  We only had a few out of town guests and I wanted to welcome them, so I bought little knick knacks and snacks to put them in a cute bag and gave them out on the rehearsal dinner night.  I bought goofy stuff like cartoon tees and socks from target, hand lotion from Bath and Body Works, and bottled water.

23. Mani and pedi with the Maiden of honor $140.00 – The day before the wedding, I met up with my maiden of honor to have lunch and get our nails done before we headed to the rehearsal.  It was a relaxing day after all the craziness of preparing for the wedding just to chat with my best friend one on one.  I really needed it.  It’s really important to have a good support system.  She was living in California at that time, so she didn’t get to be involved in the planning process of my wedding much.  It would’ve been so much easier and fun if she were here with me.  I was going to pay for her lunch, but she insisted on treating me.

24. Limousine $300.00 – I hired a limo to pick up mom in the morning to the hair and make-up place since I didn’t have time to pick her up.  My brother took her to the venue after she got her hair and make-up done.  Aside from practical reason I had the limo pick my mom up, I had another reason to schedule a limo to pick her up.  She never rode in a limo in her life and what other chances is she going to get other than her own daughter’s wedding?  After that, the limo took the groom, bridesmaids and me to the ceremony venue.  I didn’t extend the limo service to take us back after the reception since it’s not really necessary especially for the price it was going to increase.

25. Tips and gifts for wedding helpers $650.89 – This included tips for vendors and gift cards for everyone that helped out at our wedding.  I got Nordstrom gift cards for regular helpers and got VISA gifts cards for the day of coordinator and the emcee.

26. Post reception party food, drink, and supplies $556.38 – We had about 15 people gather at the hotel suite we booked.  We catered Korean food to pick on, bought liquors from ABC, and all other supplies from the dollar store.  We brought left over flowers from the reception to the hotel to decorate a little.

27. Family thank you gift $600.00 – We didn’t have enough money in our budget to buy new suits for my brother and my brother in law.  So we decided to give $150.00 each to them and also to my mom and my mother in law.  I know it’s not much, but they understood and they made wise choices with the money to come up with nice wedding outfits.

28. Misc $400 – There were small expenses that I didn’t keep track or couldn’t categorize it elsewhere.

Part I total was $12,822.08 and Part II total is $15,799.69The grand total for my 100 people wedding is $28,621.77.  I’m aware that my engagement ring and our wedding bands are not included here.  But I decided not to include that here.  Keep in mind that I’m in Northern Virginia area and it’s quite pricy here.

How does your wedding cost compare to mine?  I hope this is helpful to people who are planning their wedding.

January Numbers

It’s been a lazy and hazy past 7 days.  It started with a huge snow storm in the middle of last week, which caused me to stay home Thursday and Friday.  My car was completely plowed in even though my hubby tried to clean it on Thursday, I still couldn’t get it out on Friday with more snow the night before and plow trucks basically trapping my car with snow.  Those 2 days were spent absolutely uselessly.  I didn’t blog, I didn’t read, I didn’t clean, and I didn’t even sleep.  I watched TV and Netflix all day my back just stuck to my sofa.  I ended up with a backache by Sunday.  Then a new week started and there was much catching up to for work and the house, so I’m just getting to my posting today.

I was trying to compare my budget from 2012 and 2013 in this post and because I didn’t keep track of all my spending monthly, I had to average it, round it, and guess it to come up with some random numbers.  So for this year, I decided to post those same categories monthly to better keep track of my progress.  I know February’s almost over it is super late, but I do have a good excuse.  My bank merged with another bank, so the bank statement wasn’t available right away.

Let me say it up front before I reveal my numbers that January doesn’t look so good.  My hubby’s cousin visited in January and I posted here about what we spent, so that increased the numbers quite a bit.  We also purchased a casino night tickets for 2 for $176.24, which is this Saturday.  It’s hosted by my hubby’s school and bunch of his school buddies and their spouses are coming.  Hubby needed some fun to help him go through this tough year without a vacation.  We’re both really looking forward to it.  We also purchased a Groupon deal for $103.05.  It’s a one night hotel accommodation at Atlantic City.  It’ll be a very short trip, but we did this before and we had a great time.  This is coming up in March and I am trying to put aside a little money for toll fee, food, and gambling money (no more than $100).

So here are the numbers:

Eat out total                       $636.89/Budget $200                      FAIL
Gas total                              $215.91/Budget $300                      PASS
Grocery total                     $324.49/Budget $400                      PASS
Misc/shopping total       $673.50/Budget $200                      FAIL

These are way~~~ over what I wanted to spend each month.  We went over by $750.79 in total.  Since we haven’t had any guests and I don’t think we went out much in February, the numbers should look much better.

How is 2014 going for you so far in terms of new budget and new financial goal?

1 Year Blogoversary

I can’t believe it.  It’s been a year since I started my humble blog and it’s been one year since I decided to buckle down and tackle my debt and be an adult about my money.  There were times when I was discouraged due to the lack of commitment I had for my money plan and my blog.  There were times when I wanted to quit writing on my blog since I felt like no one was reading it and cared for it.  But there were also times I felt incredibly grateful for the few readers that encouraged me.  There were times when I felt accomplished and really satisfied looking at the numbers changing in my finances and just an overall change I see in my life.

Now that I’m looking back at the one year life of my blog, I’m glad I stuck to it.  This was my driving force in pushing through with my efforts to clean up my financial life and life in general to achieve that.  I met a few friends through this too.  I’m not sure if they think I’m their friend, but I don’t care.  I feel a sense of belonging.  Granted it’s a small circle, but size doesn’t really matter, right?

So I thought I’d mention top 3 of my most popular posts for those of you who missed them.  Other than the About and Debt Status pages, my most viewed post was Wedding Dress and Cake.  I’m one of those people who is automatically drawn to anything wedding related.  I guess there are others who are like me in that respect.  My fascination with weddings started when I was planning for my own, but it never died.  I still love looking at wedding blogs and reading about people’s wedding planning journey.  I actually want another wedding for myself, but with the same guy of course~^^

Number 2 on my list is How Much Do You Budget For Gifts?  People must have similar problem as me in trying to figure out what and how much to include in gift budget if at all.  I did get better since then, but certain things just come up without a warning and all you can do is to deal with it the best way you can by either saying no or be super frugal.

Number 3 on my list is Do You Have Misc. Category In Your Budget?  Budget category seems to the topic many people liked on my blog.  I think most of the commenters said they don’t have misc. budget.  I got better at anticipating expenses and staying under budget, so this sort of became a non-issue for me.

Well thanks for following me on my journey for the past year and if you’ve just found me, feel free to snoop into my past.  Please continue to follow me and encourage me while I’m trying to get rid of my nasty debt and let’s try to have some fun.  Yay~!!!

What was your favorite post on this blog?

MY Favorite Things – Drug Store Edition

We had another ice storm last night and when I walked out this morning, all the trees were coated in beautiful shiny ice making it look like crystal.  My car was also covered in snow, so I had to break into my car(?), I mean I had to break the ice to get into my car.  It wasn’t too bad though.  It melted quickly once I started the engine and broke easy.  Looking at those pretty ice made me think of glitters and glitters made me think of eye shadows and eye shadows made me think of make-up in general.  So I wanted to list my favorite things for this month concentrating on my make-up favorites.  Since I’m on a budget, I started using drug store brands.  Huh~ The horror!  I’m actually pleasantly surprised by some of the products and here are my surprise drug store finds.

1. Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles Concealer by Maybelline – As I complained many times before, I have acne and acne scars that make my face look dirty and spotty.  So I usually focus using concealer for those acne marks to cover them up.  But I realized that my dark under eye circle was contributing quite a lot to my overall uneven tone.  So after reading some reviews online, I headed to buy this at a drugstore.   I’ve used drugstore make-up before, but not anything that’s for the face.  For some reason, I feel like it’s going to damage my skin and make me look cheap or something.  However, I’m glad I got this.  It really brightens my under eyes and that itself brightens my whole face.  You have to turn the tube to get the concealer come out of the spongy part, but the first time you use it you have to turn it many times.  I thought I bought a damaged one, but it eventually oozed out.  It’s easy to use and it doesn’t leave streak marks either.  It feels very smooth and you don’t really need much of it.  I also put a little on top of my nose and the center of my forehead to brighten it up and put a highlighter on top to add some shine.

2. Volume Express The Falsies Washable Mascara by Maybelline – I love mascara.  I think I love it more than black eye liner.  I think you can wear mascara without the eye liner, but I don’t think you can wear eye liner without the mascara.  Maybe it’s just my eyes that make it weird, but that’s just my make-up philosophy.  This particular mascara really gives volume and mass to your lashes and even though the brush is big, it’s still easy to apply.  It didn’t clunk up my lashes surprisingly.  I have oily skin and even oilier eyes, so it did smudge a little, but when I used a make-up setting spray right after I was done putting the make-up, that problem went away.

3. Rapid Clear Oil-Control Foaming Cleanser by Neutrogena – I know this is a cleanser, but cleansing is an important part of make-up routine.  I especially like this one, because it leaves me feeling like all the oil on my face has been sucked out.  It lathers pretty well and it does quite a job of removing make-up.  Though I find that you have to use eye make-up remover for mascara and black eye liner to be completely gone.

4. Daily Facial Cleanser by Cetaphil – I use the oil control foaming cleanser at night to lather it up to remove my make-up, but I use this one in the morning.  It’s gentle and doesn’t break me out.  Good cleanser to wake up a sensitive and very acne prone skin.

5. Super Lustrous Lipstick in Wild Orchid by Revlon – I’m not usually a lipstick wearer.  I feel like I’m channeling a clown when I’m wearing it.  I was always envious of people who can rock a red or hot pink lipstick.  They look so stylish and bold.  So I finally decided to try wearing lipstick in bold color.  But I didn’t want to spend $30.00 on something that I might not like.  So I went to a drug store and picked out a color from the cheapest lipstick brand.  On that day, this brand was on sale, so I picked it up.  I’m satisfied with my choice, because the color’s not too deep and it’s enough to bring nice color without overpowering everything else on my face.  It glides on smoothly and it doesn’t dry my lips out either.  I usually put a light color lip gloss on my lips and put this lipstick mostly toward the inside edge and blend the outside to have a gradual fading effect toward the lip lines, if that makes any sense.

6. Dream Bouncy Blush in Pink Frosting by Maybelline – Hmm.  This is my 3rd Maybelline product on this list.  I guess the price point was good for me to try it and I ended up liking it.  I like the color, which is bright and pops without being too much.  It has a gel/balm texture and I didn’t like it in the beginning, because the top would be pushed out of the container, but once you get passed that point no hassle there.  I like pink tone for my blush, but I think I’m going to try a peach tone next time.

What are your favorite drug store make-up products? 

My Real Wedding Budget Part 1

There are many fellow PF bloggers that are engaged and planning their wedding right now.  I don’t know if there’s similar number of engaged PF bloggers every year, but it seems like a lot of the ladies/men got engaged last year.  I’ve been meaning to post my own budget for a while, but my lazy butt got me again.  I remember getting frustrated when I was searching for real wedding budgets that other average American brides were spending.  Stuff I found were either extravagant $100k weddings or super frugal ones with $8k budget.  No matter how I changed the numbers around and searched and searched, I could not get my numbers that low for 100 people wedding.  So even though it’s been a few years since I got married, I wanted to post my wedding budget to tell you to not feel bad either way.  I felt like I was too poor to have a nice wedding and I also felt like I wasn’t frugal and smart enough to pull a real budget friendly wedding.  It’s your wedding, so as long as you can afford it and it makes you, your fiancé, and your family happy, don’t think about what other people are spending.  It goes without saying though that you should be smart about it and get the best deal possible.

1. Flowers $1,500.00 – My theme color was deep purple with hot pink as secondary color, so the main flowers used were lisianthus and hot pink roses and other flowers as fillers.  But I specifically asked to not use daisies, mums, carnations, and lilies.  Because I ruled out a lot of cheap flowers that can be used as filler, the price went up.  Now that I think about it, I should’ve let her use some of those flowers and cut the price by few hundred dollars.  But the flowers turned out well in general.  I didn’t really care for the flower girl basket or the way she decorated the cake, but I loved my bouquet and the head table arrangement.

So the pieces that were included in the price was: -1 theme color bride bouquet -3 ivory and cream bridesmaids bouquets – 1 theme color groom boutonniere – 3 ivory and cream groomsmen boutonnieres – 7 boutonnieres for family, pastor, ushers – 1 mixed color welcome table arrangement – 8 theme color aisle chair arrangements – 1 flower girl basket – 1 theme color head table arrangement – hot pink rose pedals for cake table and the aisle – 10 mixed color centerpieces for reception tables – 2 theme color altar arrangements

2. Cake $300.00 – This price included 3 tier cake for 74 servings, VT football shape groom’s cake for 12 servings, 7 cupcakes, and delivery fee.  I was really happy with all the cakes she brought.  They looked gorgeous, flavors were rich, and the cake was so moist.  I didn’t do a bouquet toss and instead I had the baker put a silver ring that I gave her ahead of time to one of the cupcakes and did a cupcake pick.  I had 7 single girls out in the front and had them pick a cupcake and eat it.  Whoever found the ring got to keep it.  Overall, money well spent.

3. Venue for ceremony and reception $6,648.28 – We got married at a mansion on a golf course.  This place is pretty inclusive of many things needed for the wedding reception.  Basically you pay for the food and meet the minimum spending amount with food, then the tables, coordinating, servers, candle vases, tables, chairs, covers, and most everything is included.  We got a great deal at $44.76 per person.  Ceremony fee was $249.95 and host bar tab came out to be $726.30.  It was a lunch wedding and our friends don’t drink that much.  Plus, their host bar drink price was pretty good.  The total amount includes the tax and service charge of 20%.  Overall, I’m really happy that I chose this place.  They were easy to work with and they didn’t nickel and dime me.  Since they’re pretty much all inclusive, I didn’t have to rent anything or pay for anything additionally as little thing as table number stand.  They even included projector and screen service for free.  The place is beautiful and the food was great.  We didn’t do steak, but instead went with chicken.  I was a little worried if people might complain about the lack of choice or the fact that I didn’t serve beef, but quite a few people came and told me after the wedding how they liked the food.  The service was attentive and quick.  My wedding day had thunderstorm all day, so they had to move the ceremony indoor.  They did it quick and although I was upset I didn’t get to have my outdoor wedding, the set up was gorgeous and made me stop whining.

4. Rehearsal dinner $579.80 – We had our rehearsal dinner at the same venue as our wedding, but they have a pub/café in a separate building right next to the mansion.  After the rehearsal, everyone walked over there for dinner.  It was $28.76 per person and this included little candle light decoration, plated Italian dinner, displayed appetizer, and dessert.  Also included in the price was coffee/tea station, tax, and service charge.  We had a host bar set up as well and that price was included with the reception host bar total.  Not much drink was consumed on rehearsal dinner night.  Since our wedding was at lunch time that meant that the girls had to wake up at 5am and the wedding venue is about an hour away from where most of the people lived.  Most of our friends don’t drink much anyway, so we all went home pretty early in the evening.

5. Invitations $200.00 –  We didn’t make a custom designed invitations.  We ordered invitations from Korea since printing in both Korean and English is super expensive in the U.S..  The price includes 200 invitations, envelopes, stickers, shipping, and currency conversion rate.  I couldn’t order it myself online, so I had my friend in Korea order it for me and she shipped it to my address.  I had to wire funds to her account, so it was a little complicated, but still cheaper than what I was quoted here.  We designed and printed a simple RSVP inserts ourselves and put it with the invitation.  We had them RSVP through just calling our moms or posting it on our wedding website.  So no separate envelopes for the RSVP cards.  I really like the design of our invitation.  It’s very simple and has traditional Korean feel in a modern way.  Everything printed correctly without any problem.  I had no high expectation, so that’s good enough for me~

6. DJ $674.00 – This was for 4 hours of service from ceremony to reception.  I went to a bridal show and got a coupon for $550.00 discount.  It would’ve been well over $1,000.00, which I don’t think is worth it at all.  I didn’t have live instrument for the ceremony and just had the DJ play all the music for us.  This included the microphone equipment, tip, and tax.  Overall, it was whatever.  During our slideshow, the video only showed half of the screen for some reason and he played the wrong music when the ceremony was done and my hubby and I were talking out for the first time as hubby and wife.  The dance portion of our reception, he didn’t hype people up.  I think it would’ve been better to use Ipod and just use the money for lighting service to make it more intimate and make the atmosphere more pop.  Even with the discount, I don’t think this was worth it.

7. Photography $1,500.00 – The photographer is someone we know through church and we had our couple’s photo session done with him when we were dating.  Although he’s talented, I wanted to look around for a  different photographer since he uses photo shop heavily and I wanted more natural looking pictures.  However, my hubby insisted that we go with him since he hates taking pictures already and it’d be better to deal with someone he’s comfortable with.  That’s the one thing he asked for during our wedding planning process, so I gave in.  The price included session starting from when we were getting ready to ceremony, cocktail hour, and through reception.  400 4×6 prints, 1000 enhanced digital proofs in a CD, 1 20-page coffee table album, one picture canvas signing board were included as well.  We had a quick picture session before the wedding for him to make the signing board, which turned out great.  I really didn’t looked into pricing of other photographers that I liked looking through blogs, so I can’t compare my photographer to others in terms of combined value of price and quality.  But I’d give him B.  I wanted an A+ on photography since this is what lasts, but it is what it is.

8. Pre-marriage class $50.00 – We had a 4 week 2 hour group sessions at our church.  It forced us to talk about things that we never discussed in detail and it opened us up more.  We even fought while doing homework from this class one time because we actually talked about important real things that we needed to sort through.  Fighting part wasn’t good, but talking about tough topics and questions was necessary.

9. Church $300.00 – We made an offering of $300.00 to our church for our pastor officiating our wedding.  No doubt it was worth it.

10. Facial $360.00 – I had one of the worst acne problem during this time and I bought 10 sessions of facial on a discount.  One week before the wedding, my face calmed down and I looked great, but 2 days before the wedding I broke out again.  I wasn’t getting much sleep and was so stressed out, it kind of reversed the effect of few months of facial in a few days.  Getting facial was good, but I should’ve gotten some prescription acne pill too.  I had to cake on makeup to cover up my bumpy face on my wedding day.

11. First dance lesson $50.00 – This was a nice surprise from hubby.  He bought a groupon deal for 2 group sessions and 2 personal sessions for $50.00.  It wasn’t enough time to get a whole choreographed routine, but we got our simple steps down and the intro and ending.  We weren’t planning to do anything fancy, so it was fine.  I recommend dance lesson to any couple period.  It was lots of fun and I felt so close to him learning this together.  One thing I didn’t like about it was how they’d call us over and over to sign up for regular dance classes.  We told them it’s not in our budget.  Haha~   

12. Videography $300.00 – My nephew (second cousin) is a videography major and it was a lot to ask of him to do this since he was coming from California.  But I put my thick skin on and asked him.  He gladly accepted it and I’m so grateful for his generosity.  I basically made him work on my wedding day.  He sent the finished product to me a few months after.  He was so apologetic to me saying that he wasn’t able to put much time into it because of his school and work.  I didn’t care since I just wanted something.  But it didn’t matter, because it’s great.  I sent him a VISA gift card for $300.00.  I wanted to give him more, but we had to be brutal with our money at this point.

This is just part 1 of my real wedding budget.  I will reveal the grand total after I list all my categories of expenses.  I hope this is helpful to someone and it’s also fun for me to reminisce about my big day.

What were your biggest wedding day expenses?  What do you regret spending money on for your wedding?

Debt-Free Bucket List

I’ve seen a few posts last year about people making debt free bucket list.  Until I read those posts, I never really thought about what I’d do once I’m debt free.  I mean I was going to save more for my retirement, eat out more without crunching numbers too much, and go shopping more or something.  But I didn’t have any specific things that I was waiting until I’m debt free or that the debt freeness(?) would allow me to do.  I know I have quite a debt to pay off still, but I wanted to join in on the fun of imagining my life after debt and what it would afford me to experience.  My definition of debt freedom in this scenario is no other debt except mortgage and I’m assuming that I saved 20% for a down payment to have bought a house already.

1. I want to celebrate my debt freedom in style by going on a trip and of course, that trip has to be paid in cash.  So there would a several month gap between the final payment and the actual trip to save the money and make plans, but that’s fine by me.  Although it would be fun to go on a long trip, both my hubby and I have to work, so I’ll settle with a 2 week trip.  Who knows where we will end up, but I’m thinking of a few options.  I’m thinking of a north east trip with a few cities in Canada since it’s a neighboring country that I didn’t explore other than Niagara Falls.  I want to visit Quebec city, Montreal, Prince Edward Island (tribute to Anne of Green Gables) and stop by Maine for some lobsters.  Another option is to visit Italy and Greece.  I want to visit Tuscany, Naples, Athens, and Santorini.  Third option I’d include here would be to do a Napa valley wine tour and also visit San Francisco.  Just thinking about these trips makes me excited.

2. Less exciting thing is to make sure each of us is putting 15% toward our retirement and paying extra payments to our mortgage, so that we won’t have mortgage for 30 years.

3. I want to take my brother to visit South Korea.  Since our family moved to the states, he hasn’t visited Korea, not once.  He tried when he was in the Navy to go there with my mom and I.  But his boss or boss’s boss didn’t send a request to the Pentagon, so he couldn’t go with us.  I guess he could’ve just went, but he didn’t want to take the chance of going there without an approval and something happen.  He’s the one who bought flight tickets for us, but he couldn’t go.  So I want to take him there to see our extended family and go to different regions and try all kinds of yummy food.  I want to make sure I take him to Jeju island as well.

4. Buy our cars with cash.  Other than the first car I had when I was 16 that was a complete mess, all my other cars have been financed to the max for 5 years.  Once we become debt free, we’ll be able to save money quickly to buy a car with cash.  The thousands we’re throwing away now for car payments, tuitions, and student loan payments will be our money to keep, so we can save that to buy a car in cash.  I awesome it would feel to negotiate the deal with such confidence and walk out with a car still debt free.

5. Churn credit cards to travel cheaper.  I know many PF bloggers are already doing this and some still have debt.  I’m just not comfortable doing this while in debt.  But once I’m debt free, I want to study this and participate in it myself to earn rewards and travel cheaper with those reward points.  I want to make sure I fly first class.  I so want to fly in first class and have some leg room, eat caviar, and drink champagne.

6. I want to go back to school.  Not that I like school, but I want to get my Master’s degree.  While I was doing my Bachelor’s, that was always my goal.  But after taking forever to graduate taking part time course, I just got sick of doing it anymore.  But I think I got enough rest just working 40 hours without anything else.  By the time we’re debt free, my hubby will already have his MBA so I want to save money to go to school and cash flow the whole thing.

7. I want to sponsor more children.  I mentioned about Compassion International early last year.  My hubby and I have been sponsoring a child each through this organization since we first started dating.  I want to sponsor another child together on our 5th wedding anniversary.  But this is going to happen regardless whether we’re debt free or not.  But once we’re debt free, we want to sponsor another child.  Our desire to be debt free was not to just get more stuff for ourselves, but to be able to give more.  I do have another task before I do this though.  I need to be better at writing to my child more often.  I write to my girl, Andrea, once every quarter or so.  But I need to step it up and write once a month.  It takes longer to get there anyway with translation and processing.

8. Get laser treatment for my acne scars.  I’ve mentioned about my crazy acne problem and it’s messy scars that’s still on my face.  It’s way too expensive for me to get laser treatments to remove scars and even my tone.  And I have to make sure I go to a reputable doctor with great track record with Asian skin.  Once I’m debt free, I’m going to indulge in a series of laser treatments to fade my acne scars.  As much as I try to accept my skin type, I hate looking at red and dark patches all over my face.  This makes me want to cake on more make up to hide it.  Hopefully, when I do get this treatment, I’ll have clearer and more even skin tone.

9. Get a personal trainer.  You know I hate going to the gym.  I already feel like I’m wasting my money on monthly gym membership.  But once I’m debt free, I want to invest in a personal training session to get a good routine set up for me.  I don’t know exactly how many sessions will be sufficient, but I’m going to sign up for it and make myself go and learn what to do on my own.  I think I need a major push to get in the habit of exercising.  I’m not saying I’m going to wait until then to start exercising, but I always wanted a personal training session, so I’ll finally get it when I’m debt free.

10. Save my entire paychecks and only use hubby’s pay checks for all expenses and bills.  Once we’re debt free, we’ll be able to live just on our hubby’s pay checks and all my pay checks can be saved to do all the stuff I listed above.  That would be really cool to have that much buffer.  I don’t make much money, but it’s good to be able to save for a rainy day or indulge in wants time to time.

11.  Maintain 6 months of emergency fund.  I know some people think this is a waste and money that can be used to earn more money.  But I need peace of mind.  I want to set aside money that we can easily access if something were to happen.  Of course the 6 month only counts all the important bills like mortgage and utilities, but not personal trainer fee.

In general, I want to travel more once we’re debt free.  But we’ll still have bills to pay and money to buy food and other items.  It’s not like we’ll have unlimited money to spend on.  So we will continue to have a budget and stay frugal.  We’ll just have freed up money from debt payment to build wealth and enjoy life more.  Writing this forced me to imagine my life after debt and it just put me into a happy place.  Even though it’s raining outside (actually it just turned to snow when I looked out the window), my mind and heart is in a warm and cozy place~

What’s on your debt free bucket list?