The Frugal Bride—Are You Getting Married? Save Money and Still Have a Great Wedding!

A Lovely Wedding Can Be Frugal!

A wedding is one of the biggest events most of us will ever be involved in. It is also one of the most emotional. And of course we want our guests to have a wonderful time, and we want to create happy memories that will last forever. But—we may not have enough money to go around. What is the frugal bride to do?

When I got married in 2000 I only spent $1200 dollars. I recycled the rings from a pawn shop (after we smudged them with sage, that is.) I used a dress that I had bought awhile before but never worn, a frothy shell pink number with lots of lace. We got married in the empty field next door. We served homemade food to our guests, and my friend who is a baker made the cake. The minister cost $250, so we had to pay that. The only thing I splurged on was the flowers—the bouquet and one big beautiful arrangement.

The first thing you need to do to plan a frugal wedding is break down all the components. Venue, food, drinks, music, flowers, other decorations, officiant, wedding attire, rings, and whatever else you want to include. Then think each element through, with one question in mind—“How can I get this taken care of for little or no money?”

Do you have a dress in the family that would suit you? Wearing a family heirloom at your wedding could be very charming. Does someone you know have a lovely cutting garden? Maybe they would donate the flowers. Know a baker? Perhaps they would do as my friend did and make you a pretty wedding cake. Is someone in your family a remarkable cook? Let them run the lunch or dinner plans. Do you belong to a church, temple, or other congregation? Many times the group will provide the space for the wedding and the minister or rabbi will officiate free of charge for members. Why not ask?

Go through the list and dig up every source of help you can. When you have run out of free or discounted helpers it is time to take stock of the things you must pay for. This is one of the reasons planning ahead is so important. You can’t get good deals at the last minute unless you are very lucky, and who wants to rely on luck at a time like this?

Because it is your wedding, and that is a most important occasion, it is totally with-in the frugal plan to splurge on one or two elements. The only requirement is that you give due consideration to every detail before you open your wallet. It may be the wine or the dress or the rings. Whatever it is, think it through carefully, spend what you need joyously and without regret, and whatever else—enjoy your day!


Here are a few resources:



Frugal Furniture-Don’t Buy It When You Can Find It!

Get Your Furniture Free of Charge

If you live in a decent sized city, you have a frugal decorating tool in your belt that you country cousin doesn’t. If you need furniture, try scrounging first. I am not saying that this sort of gift NEVER happens in the country, just that the quality is a lot more likely to be compromised when something has been left by the roadside for quite some time. In the country you get people’s “outdoor” couch left sitting by a back road in the rain. In the city there are more finds, and of higher quality.

But—if you see something good, be prepared to get hang out with your find until you can get help moving it. If you leave it you likely lose it. There is also more competition in the city.

There are also things you should pass on, no matter how tasty a deal you think it is. Things like mattresses, pillows, or other bedding. With chairs and couches check for fleas or other undesirable qualities. Also pass on bloodstains or anything nasty like that, not that I need to tell you that. But lesser stains can be dealt with. As for tables, chairs, bookcases, and other “hard” items, there is no downside.

If you see something that has the right profile (size, etc.) but is a hideous color or has a few holes or some other defect, grab it anyhow. You can refinish or paint wooden items, and reupholster fabric furniture. Or just throw a colorful sheet or blanket over it.

For more helpful information:

Don’t Throw Your Old Clothes Away—Mend Them!


The Sewing Kit


We all have them—a little pile of cloths that are still it great shape except for that missing button or stuck zipper. You could go out and get a new one. Or, you could spend five or ten minutes doing a quick repair and save the money for something else. Like everything else, some repairs are easier than others. Sewing on a button is at the extremely easy end of the spectrum. Replacing a zipper is one of the hardest.

The first step is to create a sewing kit. Get a small box, about the size of the old cigar boxes. Gather several colors of plain thread, needles, straight pins and safety pins. Also get small pair of scissors, a thimble, and a very small box for stray buttons. The clear boxes that straight pins come in work well.

Then it is time to sort through and get the things that need repair into a pile, and put them into some sort of container. A basket is nice but a cardboard box will do. Pick out the most important item and decide what it needs. If it is missing a button, do you still have the old button? Get out the sewing kit and find out. You may need to buy a new button. Take the item along if you need a new button, so you can match it to the old ones. Then thread a needle with thread to match the garment and tie a knot at the end. Go through the little holes in the button over and over. When it is on tight, clip the thread and tie another little knot.

If the problem is a straight tear at the seam, turn it inside out and re-sew in matching thread using small stitches along the same place where the seam came out. Don’t make the stitches too big or they will gape when you turn it right side out.

Those two repairs are very simple. But what if the tear isn’t along a seam? You may have to use a patch. This is where some judgment comes in. If the item in question is a pair of comfy jeans, by all means patch away. But if it is a silk business blouse you should realize that you won’t likely be able to use it again for its intended purpose. You may have to replace it. But—don’t throw the old one away just yet. Drop it into yet another container. This last container is the patch and scrap bag.

To do a patch, find a fabric that is about the same weight as the target fabric. Cut a piece that will fit over the tear or hole generously. Fold under the edges of the patch and pin down with the straight pins. Then sew a seam all the way around the very outside edge of the patch.

If the trouble is a misbehaving zipper the whole thing is going to take a bit more thought. I am including a link to show you exactly what to do. But you may be better off paying a seamstress to do it for you. It won’t cost that much and may save you a lot of trouble.

While you are at it you should check out your shoe wardrobe. It is always a good idea to repair your shoes for as long as you can. This is generally a job for a professional. Even if you pay someone you will save hundreds of dollars over time.

So next time you are tempted to blow your clothes budget over a little tear, think again, and bust out the sewing kit instead.

Here are some helpful links: General Sewing Post Zippers Buttons Patches

Never Buy Store Bought Salad Dressing Again-3 Great Dressings You can Whip Up in Minutes!

Simple Ingredients

Making salad dressing at home is one of the easiest things you can do in a kitchen and in many cases it is also less expensive as well. But even when the cost is the same in actual dollars, the homemade dressing is still better. When judging the frugal choice it is important to factor in quality and not just price. When I decide what to cook I either want a real cost savings or I want a much better product at the same price. Once in a while it is possible to get both.

Simple vinaigrettes generally cost less for a higher quality. Fancier creamy dressings may cost as much as the store bought kind when you add in the high cost of certain ingredients, but if you are a serious frugalista you likely already have a windowsill herb garden if not an entire kitchen garden.

Here are three simple salad dressings to try:

Garlic Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup good olive oil
  •  1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 gloves garlic peeled and minced
  •  1 tsp prepared mustard
  •  a pinch salt

Place all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Place an immersion blender on the lowest setting with the whisk attachment. Whisk till the mixture emulsifies. It will look almost creamy. This will take less than a minute. Put in a pint jar and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using. This dressing will keep for several weeks.

Ranch Dressing

  •  3 scallions
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp prepared mustard
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil 1 garlic clove minced ½ cup mayonnaise ½ cup plain yogurt
  •  ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 pinch salt
  •  freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients and whisk by hand or with an immersion blender till thoroughly blended.

Russian Dressing (sweet)

  •  ½ cup ketchup
  •  ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 T prepared horseradish
  • 1 T minced onion
  •  1 tsp  Worcestershire sauce a splash of vinegar

Mix together and use on salads or as a spread for a corned beef or Reuben sandwich.

There are hundreds of other simple inexpensive salad dressings you can whip up fresh in just a few minutes. So, if you have been relying on over-priced, over-preserved store bought dressings just stop– and find out how great a completely fresh salad can be!

Frugal Skills-Sewing Can Brighten up Your Life


Sewing is Frugal Fun

If you haven’t been bit by the sewing bug yet, now is a good time to give it a try. Sewing is a basic frugal skill, whether you are mending a rip in your old jeans or creating a whole new wardrobe. It may seem complicated at first, especially if you get mired down buying equipment.  That is why I suggest getting a simple used machine at first, and only upgrade if it becomes necessary. To find a good used machine, try asking around, and if that fails, keep an eye out at garage sales or try Craigslist. Until you are proficient you don’t need bells and whistles, just a few basic features.

Once you have your machine, you will need fabric and a pattern. And probably a lesson or two. Going to the fabric store may well prove to be a lot of fun. Try making something really simple like a gathered skirt to begin with. It is just two seams and a waistband with elastic in it. This way you will have an early success and not get bogged down. As for lessons, if you know a seamtress they might answer a few questions or even show you a thing or two. After that try your local adult education facility or Junior College. Almost every community has some inexpensive sewing classes available. After you enroll your teacher will guide you in picking good projects.

If you are the type that does well with books try the local library. There are many great how to books in the sewing and fiber crafts area. Pick an easy one and work your way up. Also look at the magazine section in your local book store. If you see a pattern you like it may be worth the price of the magazine.

Though the sewing industry has changed and it is harder to find a real old-fashioned fabric store there are still a few if you are willing to hunt them down.

The other alternative is the “crafts store”. Go only if you must. Hang out, ask questions, and see what patterns are out there. There are thousands available for clothing, home decorating, and costumes. Even if you have never sewed before you will be able to find what you need.

Once you learn this valuable skill you will be able to enhance your wardrobe, beautify your home, and maybe even make some money if you stay with it. Once you start it could become a wonderful obsession.

DIY-Should You or Shouldn’t You?

For the frugalista doing it yourself is always the first line of defense. This is true because the cost of the raw materials with the added value of your own labor is always the best value. Or is it? Like most other things, it is a little more complicated than that. There are things that benefit so much from economies of scale that both the quality and the price are better if they are store-bought. And there are things that are very hard to get the materials and skill to make them at home. The toothbrush for example. Though you might be able to fashion something that works, it likely wouldn’t work as well, and fashioning just one or two every couple of months would take a long time and be very labor intensive for an item you can buy for under a dollar. But that is not the drawback that really needs exploration.


The real question that needs asking concerns our individual ability to do the DIY project at hand. There are literally hundreds of things a person could make or do for themselves. And we are probably only really good at a few of them, and really bad at a few. For instance, I am a wonderful cook and baker, good at making household formulas and organizing, and good at fixing my own software based computer problems and doing simple home health care. But I am no good at all at building anything, or doing anything mechanical. And there are much better gardeners. At most things in between I am merely adequate.

This is true of all of us. Our skill sets are limited. So, how do we decide whether to do it ourselves or spring for a professional when the task that needs doing isn’t in our top five? Ask yourself how important it is that the results be perfect. If perfection is not a requirement and the task isn’t in your bottom five, why not give it a go? I do all my own food processing including catering my own parties. And if I tear something I mend it myself, and have sewn some of my own clothes, mostly simple things like gathered skirts. But I would never fix my own car. It has to be done right and I’m just no good at it.

Another thing to ask yourself is how much you enjoy doing the task, even if you are merely adequate. If you love to do it and perfection is not a requirement, then dive in. It’s your life and you get to choose your results. But what if you just plain hate a task, even one you excel at? There are things you can do to mitigate the situation before running out and paying retail prices. Try bartering. Many areas have time-banks or bartering clubs. If yours doesn’t, start one. Or just get out there and make some one- on-one deals with your friends and neighbors. Trade your best and best loved task for something they love and are good at but you aren’t. Be sure that if it really has to be perfect your trading partner can make it so. I have a young friend who is an ace mechanic, and is willing to trade, but I wouldn’t make the deal with a lesser talent. Sometimes you just have to get out the wallet. Just make sure that is your last resort instead of your first.

Here are some resources for further consideration: the mother of all DIY publications to get started bartering

Want Free High-quality Eggs? Raise Your Own Chickens

Backyard Chicken

Eggs are one of the best sources of protein on the planet, but the good ones are expensive and the cheap ones are scary, especially in light of the recent recall. Fortunately there is a solution. Build a chicken coop and get a few laying hens. You will have all the eggs you need and maybe some to sell, trade, or give away. Home grown eggs are a great gift. And once the coop is built they are basically free. OK, you do need to feed them, but the cost is very minimal. They need a bit of chicken feed, but they also it bugs and leftover produce from the garden that is too far gone to be of interest to humans. They repay the garden with excellent fertilizer. The eggs produced at home by your own flock are of amazing quality and freshness. Once you have tasted one you will never want a store bought egg again. And the birds themselves provide great amusement.

You will need to figure out how many hens you need and build accordingly. Chicken housing has two parts, the coop, or shelter where the hens roost at night and lay the eggs (usually) and the run or yard where they forage and get exercise by day. Different breeds have slightly different space requirements. This article at has a useful table. You may also want to try a chicken tractor, or portable pen with no bottom that can be moved around the field. The entire chicken house must be built to keep predators out.

Once you have the chicken yard set up, it is time to decide on what breeds interest you the most. There are literally hundreds of types of chickens. By choosing a less common breed you will be helping to preserve biodiversity. White Leghorn chickens have created a dangerous monoculture. So get a different breed. The eggs that your flock produces may be brown, green, or even blue. To help decide go to and use the breed selection tool.

You must decide if you want a rooster or not. The bad thing about a rooster is the four A.M. wake-up call. They also may peck the hens. The good thing is being able to increase your flock without further expense. Just remember that you should only have one rooster to cover your flock. More than that can cause aggressive behavior, and the dominant rooster might kill the other.

For truly organic eggs you have to use the slightly more expensive organic feed. Here is a link for organic feed, including a recipe to make your own.

Even if live in an urban area you may be able to raise chickens. Many local governments allow small scale farming such as this within their jurisdictions. Here are two sources of further information: and

You will need to learn a little about chicken health, and have a good veterinarian, one that specializes in livestock. Keeping them clean, protected from predation, and well fed is a good start, but they still may need a doctor every so often.

So, whether you live in the city or the country, consider adding a flock of chickens to your household. Every time you eat an egg you will be happy. And you can sell the overflow for about five dollars a dozen.

Here are some books to help you plan your foray into livestock farming:

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