Monthly Spending – April 2017

I finally start feeling the change of weather this April. This is very much welcomed in my part of the world where it can feel that the gloomy weather is year round. This is also the time where I usually get anxious and go on a trip just to see the sun. At any given time, I would have taken my backpack and travel. It’s different this time. I’m unsure of what I feel. I feel normal for the most part but with the weight gain and fatigue, I’m hesitant to travel the same way as I did last year. Last year, I went to Portugal by myself, traversing the narrow streets, walking almost everywhere or taking the tram.

A little bit of sunshine

I gave in on my anxiety and agreed to go on a long weekend with the Mr to sunny Los Angeles. LA is a great choice because 1) there is sun 2) we have friends that live there 3) I’ve been there many times and I will not be on the “I need to see everything” phase. This was a pretty luxurious trip for our end. Instead of a hostel which I stayed at when I was in Lisbon, I booked a hotel overlooking the marina and yes it was pricey. I think that’s the reason that my friends and coworkers are calling it a “babymoon”. Let’s just say that I was not frugal for that weekend. Since the hotel trip was not charged till May, I didn’t see this spending for April.

Hobbies, etc

I also signed up for beginner sewing classes last month. After using my sewing machine and looking at you tubes, I decided to cancel my classes and received a refund from it. I felt that it is really easy to teach myself as long as I practice. My first project was a simple disposable baby wipes. My fur baby chewed on my 10 year old bed sheet and I used the cotton fabric to make a simple disposable baby wipes. We’re going to try to use a cloth diaper for the baby and we might as well use a disposable baby wipes. I was able to make about 30 pieces from the sheet and practice a simple sewing technique. At the same time, I received some scrap fabric from my local buy nothing group and I was able to make a table cloth out of it. I don’t intend to make complicated clothing out of the sewing machine, so at this point, I think I already know the “beginner”. I might sign up for an intermediate if I decide to continue on this hobby.

We also celebrated my mother’s birthday and it’s been somewhat of a tradition to go to Olive Garden’s. Of course, my sister and I split the bill. I think for next year, I need to plan for this more and check if I can get some discounts. I also finally got a double shower curtain rod from Amazon. This has been on my list for a while and it was installed yesterday.

And here’s my expenses for April. I closed with a little bit more than 3K.

DESCRIPTIONAMOUNTWHAT ARE THESE?
Mortgage & Rent 1,800Monthly mortgage payment
Gift 300Gift for my mother
Kids 300Birth classes fee
Student Loan 200This should be done this year
Restaurants 185A little high for the month with my Mom's celebration
Utilities 169WSG, lower than previous months
Groceries 80Really low since we stop going to Costco
Internet 56Internet less the overcharge last month
Rental Car & Taxi 34LA trip cab from the airport
Mobile Phone 34Super cheap from T-mobile
Business Services 25Office supplies
Shopping 24Double rod curtain from Amazon
Coffee Shops 9Trip to Starbucks at the airport
Parking 6
Snacks 42 chocolate bars when I got hungry
Auto Insurance (13)Refund from Geico
Education (119)Refund from the sewing classes
Grand Total3093.46

Want to know more – just ask. If you have any recommendation where I can manage to decrease this, feel free to comment. I thank you in advance.

Tracking: I track my expenses using mint. I really like the app and made categorizing my expenses very easy. I enjoy looking at charts and the comparison feature is fantastic.

 

21 weeks of pregnancy – the financial journey

I reached the midpoint of my pregnancy. We found out that we are having a baby boy and all my check ups had been normal. So far, we haven’t bought anything, but it already cost us $980.09. Even though we know the cost associated to having a child, I still cringe when it hits my credit card. We are fortunate enough to not go in debt and have insurance to cover for medical bills. I have enough balance on my Health Savings Account (HSA) to pay for my deductible but I choose to leave it invested. This expense is just now part of my monthly expense.

Things that I paid for

Majority of what I paid for are related to medical bills and pregnancy classes that we will take in June. I also bought a couple of maternity jeans. So far, I’m still wearing all my normal clothes and I received some shirt from my mom and my sister that are stretchy. I’m halfway there so I doubt that I’ll need to buy more maternity clothes.

Furniture shopping shocker

Given that I have never shopped for baby furniture, it was definitely a shocker when I started looking for baby items. Crib alone can go further than 1K. We visited ikea and although there are cheaper option, the furniture doesn’t look as sturdy as it should be. We also visited Pottery Barn. Everything there looks so adorable that I just want something exactly like that in the nursery. My husband reminded me that we don’t need anything cute, because our baby will make the room cute.. awww… He was also trying to make sure that I don’t purchase anything. We did decide that we will try to purchase a solid wood crib that will last and that hopefully can be passed on. I’m trying to look at the used market.

What we got for free

I already received a couple of anywhere chair from pottery barn and a rocker from our local buy nothing group. The chair will need to be personalized. It’s my chance to start embroidering the new name for our baby.  I can’t believe that I got this for free. It retails $89 in pottery barn for the smallest one. I also received 24 fuzzi bunz cloth diaper for free. It doesn’t have an insert, and we will need to change the elastics, but if we’re successful with using a cloth diaper, this can saved us quite a bit. We’ve already been told by coworkers and friends that we will receive some clothing too.

Furry baby is checking out the rocker

Fighting back by being patient

I have to remind myself to be patient from time to time. It’s hard because I just want to finish the nursery, and just purchase everything. For some reason, the baby companies knows that we’re expecting since every advertisement on my feed are baby furnitures. It is easy to purchase everything new, but I’d rather spend that money for my baby’s experience later on in life. As my husband keeps reminding me, the baby will not know the color or the design. As long as what we purchase is safe and comfortable and that we’re there for him, he will be fine.  

Monthly Spending – March 2017

Continuing on my goal to keep myself accountable on tracking my expenses, I give you my spending for March. There were few big expenses this month that I pay once once a year. I pay auto insurance every 6 months. This year, before my renewal, my husband and I decided to combine our insurance. I took the same opportunity to get a different quote for our home insurance since it is also up for renewal this year. I don’t think I will ever understand the algorithm behind insurance rates. We haven’t been in an accident or had a ticket for the past 5+ years and we drive an older car, but the insurance rate just keep increasing. We saved $260.49 by combining this expenses.

Oh hello baby!!

I also have some medical bills related to my pregnancy. Yup, I am pregnant and expecting our first child. We’re definitely very excited about this. The medical bill is my deductible. I am on a high deductible plan but our plan period ends in March and I had the opportunity to change my insurance and move from HSA to FSA. Both are tax deductible but with FSA, you can use the entire contribution for the entire year. My deductible is also lower. I haven’t touch my HSA since it’s invested. I have enough to cover the expenses and I plan to use my HSA as form of retirement fund. I am really lucky and very grateful for the insurance provided by my company. I know that for some other people, medical expenses can break a bank.

Oh Winter

I also paid to refill our oil this year. Last year, we have to refill it around February so it’s about that time. We’re thinking of ways to decrease the use of central heating. We have 4 rooms, the living room and the kitchen. In total, we’re really only in our living room, kitchen and our bedroom. I’m experimenting and bought a this heater for our living room. I need to watch out for electric bill to see the effect for the month. We’re also using less heat now, since we’ve been getting some sun – hello spring!

DESCRIPTIONAMOUNTWHAT ARE THESE?
Mortgage & Rent1800Monthly mortgage payment
Utilities734.42Oil
Doctor426.73Medical bill
Auto Insurance399.666 month auto for 2 cars
Student Loan200
Education125I signed up for sewing class
Electric Heater117.18
Internet75.51They overcharge me this month. I called and got a refund for the next month.
Groceries74.24
Hobby - Blog63.2I purchased a theme for this blog
Gas & Fuel45.98
Restaurants40.96
Mobile Phone33.88
Tolls30Refill of toll pass
Pet Food & Supplies21.53The furry baby got some poop bags and toys from Amazon
Wedding Expenses20.73The shipping and the ad that I paid for to sell my wedding dress
Movies & DVDs5.91Rented a DVD for a date night -- oops
Parking1.5street parking when I visited the doctor
Grand Total4216.43

Want to know more – just ask. If you have any recommendation where I can manage to decrease this, feel free to comment. I thank you in advance.

Tracking: I track my expenses using mint. I really like the app and made categorizing my expenses very easy. I enjoy looking at charts and the comparison feature is fantastic.

A moment in paradise – Why I spend money traveling

My favorite hobby by far is traveling. In fact, I get this urge to visit the airport if I’ve been in one place for more than 3 months. I used to travel almost every week for 3 straight months for work. It was exhausting, but I enjoyed it at the time. I still travel for work, but I try to limit it to once a year. It’s no longer as glamorous as it sound, but I still enjoy traveling for fun.

One of my favorite trip was way back in 2010 and again in 2013. It seems like a long time ago, but the memory is still so fresh in my mind. I visited Coron, Palawan in the Philippines back in 2010. It took a plane ride, a car ride on  a very rough road, a tuk tuk drive and a boat to get to the final destination.I did this again in 2013.  It was worth it,

I spent 4 days to a place where the beach is crystal clear, water is calm, the sand is white and sea creatures are on sight. I’ve met the most accommodating, nicest, and happiest people. Who wouldn’t be happy if they are surrounded by this, plus they get fresh seafood everyday?

I took the same trip in 2013 with my then boyfriend, now my husband. It was even better than I imagined. It was the same calm beach with sea creature on sight while snorkeling above waters.

The entire trip cost less than $1500 per person for 2 weeks. Majority of the expense was the plane ride to the Philippines and to the islands itself. It is easy to spend more than this. For one, we could have chosen to stay on a resort instead of local hotel, eat on a fancy restaurant instead of going to the local market, picking our own catch of the day and asking one of the vendors to cook it for us to our liking. We could have taken a private tour instead of joining the locals aboard their boat to travel from island to island. I’m very lax on my spending when I’m on vacation but I choose to spend it to activities that will bring me closer to the way of life of the locals. Because of this, I spent less.

I realized that $1500 is a lot of money. I spent more than $100 per day, including air fare. Is it budget? Maybe not. I’d like to think of this as normal – as I said, I’m pretty lax with money when it comes to travel.
Now, my next adventure will be different and might require me to stay put longer in one place. But for now, I’m enjoying all the memories. That’s the beauty of traveling, no one can ever take away that experience.

4 ways to file taxes for free

I recently completed filing 4 returns for my family (parents, 2 sisters) and myself. I remembered the time when my parents filed their first taxes barely a year after we moved to US. They didn’t know anything about taxes and consulted a tax preparer to file . They received a refund from the government and pay $200 to prepare their taxes. For them, it was worth it since they didn’t know any other way. This continued on for 3 years until I started the business school and took my first accounting class. First, I found out about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). I attended the training and took the certification. I learned how to file my family’s taxes and realized that the tax preparer were really making a lot of money from us and families that earned very little, just like my parents. So if you find yourself in a situation where you need help filing your taxes, but can’t afford to hire an accountant here are 4 ways to do it for free.

  1. VITA (Volunteer Income Assistance) – In my county, this is run by United Way. They have sites in the library and have hours from the morning till evening. If you do go, please bear in mind that this is run by volunteers and there will be wait times, especially when you come after 5PM or on weekends. Typically, the peak starts at end of January when companies start sending W2s. Also, VITA will only accept returns for families or individuals with income less than $54K.
  2. IRS Free file – If you’re income is below $64K, there are software that will let you file for free. You have many options from the IRS website. If you don’t feel confident, go to the library and check to see if they provide assistance in preparing or reviewing tax returns. Check the hours of volunteers and go when they are there. The managers will be more than happy to assist you with question. From my county, they even let you use their software to file.
  3. IRS Free fillable forms – If you earn more than $64K, IRS have a free fillable forms which you can use to e-file. Think of this as the electronic version of the tax return. Take it slowly and read through the instructions, you’ll find valuable lessons from doing your taxes this way. This is what I’m doing from the past 6 years now, until this year when I brought a tax software with my siblings.
  4. Old paper version – You can still get 1040 forms from the library and the paper version. I don’t recommend filing on paper. Instead, use this as a guide. If you don’t have a computer, check out your local library.

I highly recommend learning to file your taxes. I don’t have anything against professional tax preparer. I am a CPA myself and knows the value that we bring. But if you don’t own a business, don’t own properties and don’t have a lot of investment, you might be able to avail some of the free resources above. Or better yet, try to do it yourself. If you have time, volunteer for VITA and take the training. This program don’t just help you prepare your taxes but lead you to other programs in the community that can help you form some financial stability. If you know about it , please help spread the word.

Happy filing!

Spending Report – Jan and Feb 2017

I am very late on publishing this spending report. I even thought about discontinuing it, but listening to Liz from Frugalwoods yesterday on choosefi podcast inspired me to keep tracking my expenses. Before listening to the podcast and completing my last year’s spending, I told myself that I don’t need to track my expenses every month. I know what I’m spending on. At the same time, listening to Liz gave me this boost of energy and self realization that I need some accountability in order to achieve my goal of financial independence. Publishing this keeps me accountable. Perhaps, I will discontinue this at some point, but this year is not the year to do so.

My goal is to publish this once a month in 2017. I will decide after that if I want to continue.

January was the uber frugal challenge month

January was very light. This is the month that I joined the uber frugal challenge. I definitely noticed a dip on my spending. For example, I didn’t spend anything on restaurants. I also took my lunches to work for all of January. Drove less and entertained our friends at home. My goal is to spend about $3K per month but now I know that I can spend even less. 

February and lifestyle creep

February was a bit more.  The shopping line is very unusual. I bought a sewing machine. This machine has been on my wish list for more than a year now. I’ve been tracking the price on Amazon and I bought it after it hit less than $300. I’m excited to get to know this sewing machine. I also renewed my CPA license. The license is valid for 3 years until another renewal. My grandmother celebrated her birthday at her favorite restaurant and my sister and I split the bill. I bought lunches three times this month. I also filed taxes for my parents, 2 sisters and our taxes. I purchased an HRblock software this time that is downloadable and can e-file 5 returns for free. I used to do it by hand since I’m the only one who is not qualify for free e-filing, but this time, my sister didn’t qualify either. My brother who is self employed is also chipping in, so it is cheaper for the 3 of us to purchase the bundle and it only took me half a day to file 4 tax returns (1) parents (2) sisters (3) us, and I’m still waiting for my brother’s information. You’re welcome, family!

I started the year right, but I realized that it is pretty easy to throw away the habit that you formed throughout the years. For example, I’ve been taking my lunches to work ever since I started working. If I don’t, it’s because I innocently forgot my lunch at home. This time around, I was aware that I didn’t prepare it and justify the lunch purchase as a one time cost. That one time cost became 3 times in one month. That’s 300 percent more than I used to do.

I’m glad that it didn’t creep in and I’m out of the rut. Perhaps, I will experience the same feeling again, but for now, I’m celebrating this new found energy.

CategoryJanuary 2017February 2017Comments
Mortgage & Rent18001800Same month over month
Student Loan200200
Shopping15.39297.98My sewing machine, mostly
Groceries299.691.99January was a Costco run
CPA License Renewal230
Water, Sewer, Garbage204.59
Doctor171.85
Internet66.0666.01
Restaurants115.43Mostly for my grandma's birthday
Clothing82.09I bought 2 jeans
Mobile Phone33.8833.88
Tax Software49.6
Gas & Fuel39.28
Veterinary29.5
Car2Go / Lyft13.43
Coffee Shops8.74
Gift7.13My friend's son birthday party gift
Parking5.51.5
Christmas Cards6.57This was on sale on Ikea
Snacks1.99Chocolate cravings
Grand Total2646.033136.05

Want to know more – just ask. If you have any recommendation where I can manage to decrease this, feel free to comment. I thank you in advance.

Tracking: I track my expenses using mint. I really like the app and made categorizing my expenses very easy. I enjoy looking at charts and the comparison feature is fantastic.

How to sell your wedding dress online

I wrote about tips on buying your wedding gown online here. I bought my gown more than 70 percent off the original price and sold it for half the cost after I used it. There are many reasons to sell the gown aside from an extra income. Personally, I wouldn’t want to keep a fabulous garment in a closet. I would love to see the gown used by another bride again and pass the savings.

I bought my gown for $436 including shipping. I sold it for $270. I spent $15.69 to ship it and $30 to list it at preownedweddingdress.com

How to sell your wedding dress online

Step 1: Know your size the day of your wedding. This is an important detail because you will use it when you list the gown. Measure yourself and take note of it before you go on a honeymoon so it’s handy. This includes the length of the gown with the shoes that you’re wearing.

Step 2: Ask your photographer to take a photo of the gown by itself. A professional image can add value to the actual price of the gown. Take some photo with yourself as well. Seeing it on a person can give buyers ideas if it fit their vision.

Step 3: Clean your gown, either professionally or yourself. I personally put my wedding gown on a wash — yes you can wash your own wedding gown and saved at least $200 of dry cleaning fee. You have to make sure that the gown is polyester, which most wedding gowns are. For those that are scared, have it professionally dry clean. If you dry clean it, keep the receipt.

Step 4: List it as soon as possible. This can be hard for some. Who doesn’t want to look at their wedding gowns and be reminded of their special day? If you wait, you might find yourself staring at it in your closet 5 years later. Unless your gown is vintage, the value of the gown DO NOT appreciate. Don’t wait to list it.

Step 5: List on multiple sites or on a consignment store. Before listing it, I send some photos to my local consignment stores of the wedding gown. I prefer to sell it locally, but the shop didn’t accept it. I then listed on ebay and preownedwedding dress. Preowned wedding dress charge a $25 fee to list the dress. If you sell on ebay take note that they charge a selling fee. This fee includes the shipping cost.

You can also list it to the following website that specialized on selling used wedding gowns. I did not personally use any of these but I checked it out when I was looking to purchase.

Nearly Newlywed – This company will clean, ship and hold the dress for you. They charge a pretty hefty 35% fee. As a buyer, I also noticed that their prices are higher. It might work for you if you have a designer gown and looking to sell for top dollar. They charge an extra $235 to clean the dress.

Tradesy – This company will send you a shipping kit. If you don’t have a box that comes with the gown, this might be a good option.

Step 6: List as much information as you can. This includes, the gown size, the street size you typically wear, your measurements when you wore the gown as noted on step #1. Add the location of the wedding. An outdoor wedding typically means the gown is dirtier. Include the designer, fabric and the style of the gown. Add the photos too – at least 4 pictures of just the gown. If you have some details like beading, add it there. Add a couple more pictures with a person wearing it.

Step 7: Price it well. This is the most important step. I initially price my gown for $400. I searched through the site and it has a comparable price. I waited for about 6 months and I still don’t have any leads. I slash the price to $270 and I sold it within a week.

Step 8: Promote the gown. Post the link on Facebook or Instagram. I paid an additional $5 to promote the gown on preowned wedding dress. It’s totally worth it because I received 5 leads in a week and sold my gown during the same week.

Step 9: Ship the gown. I’m lucky that I get a discount from UPS and was able to ship it for 1/3 of the price. When you ship it, make sure that you box it well. I kept the original box it came with when I purchased it.

Step 10: Enjoy knowing that someone else can walk down the aisle with a beautiful dress just like you did!

How travel keeps me humble

I was hit by a travel bug ever since I spent 6 months studying in the Netherlands. From then on, I made sure that I prioritize travel from my budget. Knowing different people from different backgrounds got me hook. It was not necessarily the place or the architecture or the drama or the food (ok maybe some food) that excites me when I travel. It’s the chance to glimpse a way of living that is totally unknown to me.

Living abroad

I was born and raise on another country before settling here in the pacific northwest. College gave me a totally different experience. I was able to meet people from different backgrounds, hear different language and eat variety of delicious food. Studying abroad gave me a chance to see Europe and admire it not just from the photos. I visited major cities in the US and in Europe. I admired the architecture, history and food from each visit.

Going East

I continued traveling since then. On average I go to another country once or twice a year. I’m fortunate (maybe?) that I can travel for work. I visited India late in 2015. I took a week of vacation and traveled across the country. I signed up for a tour through Intrepid and traveled with like minded people from Ireland, South Africa, US and Australia. This experience was different. It reminded me of the simplicity of life. I saw the joy from people’s eye from the way they gather within their community, the way they share food and help everyone around.

First world problems

I’ve seen poverty first hand. This is normal when I was growing up. Everything seems relative so I never felt that my childhood was deprived. Lack of electricity and sometimes running water is normal. Food is cook daily, fresh from the market and eaten during the day since not everyone owns a fridge. Laundry is wash by hand and you re-use the same water to flush the toilet. I almost forgot all about this until I visited India. Life like this is unknown to majority of the people here. Perhaps, if we see it first hand, our outlook in life will be different. We’ll consume less and be grateful that our basic needs are met with abundance.

A humbling experience

I can only say good things about Intrepid and the group that I’m with. We were exposed to the streets of India and the way of life of majority of the people living there. I saw monkeys, dogs and cows roaming the streets. I ate the street food and drank chai from an elder that prepared it from his home shop. I stepped on poop, haggle in the market and saw the intricacy of pattern printing and jewel making from a family from a small village. The streets are narrow, the electric wires are hanging on the post, and you can smell a very distinct aroma everywhere.

These were the things that I remembered the most during the trip. I visited the famous sites. I saw Amber Fort, watched a Bollywood movie (in Hindi with no subtitle) and of course visited the Taj Mahal. But it wasn’t these buildings that I remember the most. When I looked at my picture from Amber Fort, it reminds me of the food that was cooked by our host that gladly invited us in her kitchen and showed us the magic of making her food. When I see my post from Facebook about my Bollywood experience, I’m reminded by the conversation that night with our tour guide trying to describe us what really happened. Until now, I don’t know the story line, but I laugh every time I remember some of the scenes. And when I see the Taj Mahal, it reminds me of every locals that I encountered during the trip. The genuine smile, appreciation of our difference and the love for their neighbors — the main reason Taj Mahal was built, for love.

It’s easy to lose sight of this, but traveling reminds me of the simplicity of life. It breaks the stereotype that are molded on my mind. It gives a new meaning to the word normal.

Wedding Under 20K

After more than 6 months, I finally have the final cost of our wedding. In total, we spent $17,582.65. I was surprised in a good way when I saw the result. I’m almost certain that we spent more than $20K since we didn’t set aside a budget.

Wait, we don’t have a budget?

Yes, this is odd, especially since I blog about personal finance. I had my doubts too in the beginning, but I know us well enough. Frugality is ingrained for both of us as an individual. We (mostly he) don’t obsessed at looking at every line items. As an accountant, I like looking at this. My husband was also surprised when I told him about the total.

Instead of setting a budget, we set our priorities. There were 3 things on top of my list, location, food and number of guests. For him, he want to have an open bar and he wants it to be “nice”. So really – open bar is part of the list.

We ended up with 104 guests. Half of our guests are from out of state. We stayed in the city as I wished and had a gorgeous water view, the food was delicious and libations were served generously.

Wedding Venue and Reception = $10,838.26

This is the biggest expense of the wedding. We got married during the summer and everything in the city with water view is ridiculously expensive. We prefer to have a wedding on a Saturday but the only availability of this place is Sunday. It ended up being a wise decision. We didn’t just save on the cost, we were also lucky with the weather.

We got married on a retired ferry that is permanently dock on a lake overlooking the city skyline. The ceremony took place on the bow of the boat and the reception was inside. The place was so nice that we didn’t have to do a lot for decor. We need to use the catering and I also opted to order the cake through the same company. The food and the cake were delicious. The food were generous. We didn’t want to skim on this. For the cake, I ordered a two tier cake and a sheet cake to save. I DIY my own cake topper instead of ordering through them.

Photography = $2,541.97

This is the next line item. I’m pretty happy with the result, although I wished that I research more. I could probably get this to less than $2K. Included here is a “gift” of either an engagement photo shoot or an anniversary photo shoot. We chose the anniversary photo shoot. For our engagement photos, I purchased a groupon deal for $35 which includes 3 digital copies of the photos. It was funny how the photographer was trying to sell the rest of the photos that she took. I almost bought a couple because I feel bad. My husband, the ever practical one was firm and chose 3. Men, I knew I married the right one! I also printed my own photos through mpix. It cost an additional $54 that were included on this. I received an album from my in-laws for Christmas and used it instead of ordering a wedding album.

Wardrobe = $1,155.79

This includes my wedding dress, tux rental for the groom (including shoes), ties we purchased for the groomsmen and products I used to paint my shoe. Majority of this is my wedding gown. I purchased a wedding gown on e-bay for $75. It was sample gown and I even had it altered which cost another $200. After the alteration, I didn’t really like it. I ended up purchasing a used one from preowned wedding dress. It cost $435 including shipping. The dress came on a wedding gown box from a professional dry cleaner. It fit like a glove. I wish that I was more careful with this purchase right away. Anyway, the gown is back on preowned wedding dress. I’m hoping that another bride can use it and can benefit from the savings. I’m a fan wearing a used wedding gown. It’s ridiculous that a dress this nice stays in a closet.

DJ = $800

One of my bridesmaids knows a DJ, who coincidentally is a godfather of my god daughter. His rate was $700 for the full ceremony and reception. We added another $100 for the tip. He is awesome and kept the party going.

Alcohol = $657.64

We were lucky that the place allowed us to bring our own alcohol. We paid for the bartending as part of the catering and purchased the non alcoholic drinks. We got our wine from Trader Joe’s, beer from Costco, sprits from Bevmo and champagne from Wine World. We purchased a LOT. We probably need another party just to get rid of the excess spirits and beer. The wine were a hit. I got an Italian white, a Spanish Red and a Riesling. We still have some left over alcohol 6 months later and going.

Misc = $1,588.99

The rest are below. Flowers, and invitations are DIY. The guestbook is a puzzle that I ordered online using our engagement photos. I paid for my brother’s flight as he was out of town.

Category20152016Comments
MiscBrother's flight580.2Flew my brother out
Hair and makeupHair and makeup351.96
FlowersFlowers313.43These are flowers from Costco and Trader Joes
PaperInvitations69.42
Ceremony and menu73.43
Thank you cards26.87
Save the dates16.71
DecorCake toper4.06
Decor28.88
Guest book45.75
RingsRings69.28These are from Amazon. I used an old gift card so it's low
licenseLicense93 copies of the marriage certificate

 

Cost that we didn’t pay

Our parents helped us entertain our guest from out of town. We had people over our home for Friday. My parents cooked the food. His parents hosted a rehearsal dinner that Saturday and provided the goody bags for our guest.

Overall, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m really glad that I had a wedding. Everyone enjoyed it. The out of town guest love the city. It really felt that 2 families became 1 during the day. It was a wonderful and joyous occasion.

Managing finances after marriage

My husband and I do not combine our finances. We do not have a prenuptial agreement. In theory all our assets and liability are owned by both of us. We had the same arrangement prior to our marriage when we were living together. It might change later on in life but I think it works for us, for now.

To set the background, before we met, I already owned my first property. He bought his first property six months after we started dating. We lived separately and managed our own household independently. When we go out, we always split the bill. This includes vacations. I let him pay for dinner for special occasions.

We lived together after 3 years of dating and decided to live in my condo, mainly because I have a 2 bedroom condo. His place is newer and can be rented easily. We split the rental income and expenses in half around that time. I also kept a spreadsheet and divide all communal expenses in half. Money were transferred by the person with a credit balance.

We then decided to purchase a property. This was the tricky part. I know the amount I can afford for downpayment. We searched for more than a year until we realize that we need to increase our budget. This is where my then boyfriend stepped up. He put in more in downpayment when we purchased the house. I sold my condo and offered to pay him for my full half, but he turned it down. Fast forward to a year and one month we were married. I still pay for half of the household bills, but our method now is not stringent.

How we split the household bills

The biggest expense is the house which is divided by half. We divide the utilities based on type. For example, I pay for internet and water, sewer and garbage,  and he pay the cable and electric. Our food is mostly from Costco and we alternate the payment every month. We don’t necessarily calculate the total and perhaps sometimes he pays more or sometimes I pay more. At the end of the year it evens out.

But aren’t we supposed to be a team?

We are a team. Before marriage, we have a goal, to buy a house and to live a life the way we want it. We regularly discussed retirement and came up with some numbers in mind to achieve it. We know each other’s net worth and think of this as ours.

Advantages of this process

I like our method. I don’t need to see his daily expenses and he doesn’t need to see mine. Since we managed our household before, I trust that he will not come home with a new car or purchase something big without letting me know. Having this accountability as an individual makes us very independent of each other. We chose to be together because we want it, not because of the convenience.

I also think that this works for us because we earn enough as an individual. He gets paid more, but I reached a point where I can afford what I want with my own salary, and I earn more than enough. It also works because even if he earns more, he respect that fact that our lifestyle should not be based on his earnings. He doesn’t ask me to go to a high end restaurant, or get a nicer car.

This also gives us independence to spend on things that matter more to us. For example, I bring lunch to work. Our group eats lunch in the kitchen together and I like the camaraderie that it brings. His group goes out to lunch so he eats with them. We also have different hobbies. We choose to spend our money to things that brings more utility to us. We also don’t need to ask for permission to purchase something big, but we do tell each other before purchasing and seek each other’s opinion. I probably told my husband that my computer is ancient before I purchased a new one.

Disadvantages

I realized that there are disadvantages. For example, we don’t really know our actual spending as a household. This data is a key in order to cut expenses on certain categories.

For now, this works. We never fight about money, ever. We respect each other and don’t need to hide our spending. We’re responsible for our own action as individuals and don’t necessarily need to rely on each other financial. This may sound so unromantic, but for me this is a true definition of romance. I have a marriage based on love, respect, loyalty and friendship. I can sleep very well at night.