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:



If You Want to Save Money Take Safety Seriously

Safety is Frugal

The other day I read an article about frugality where a young woman told a story in which her tires were bald and unsafe, but she didn’t want to spend the $400 to get them replaced. She seemed to believe that this was the frugal approach, but she couldn’t be more wrong.

Safety violations waste money whether they are at home, at work, or on the road. Every year millions or maybe billions of dollars are wasted cleaning up messes that could have been avoided with some simple safety precautions that were skimped on. Remember the gulf oil spill? If regular maintenance is good for the wallet, then taking safety precautions is mandatory to keeping you finances in good order.

It is not hard to imagine all the ways that skimping and procrastinating on safety measures can bring hardship. It might even cause death or serious injury to you aor someone you care about. Those bald tires might cost you an accident that totals the car. Or they could cause a deadly accident. Taking care that your equipment is in order isn’t just frugal, it is essential to good citizenship.

So don’t stint on tires, checkups, fire protection, or proper gear for your activities, such as helmets for bicycling. Whatever it cost in money or time to stay save is actually a bargain. So take some time to evaluate in the next couple of days. Make a few lists: home, car, work, hobbies, and any other place you spend time. Write down all safety issues and make sure that everything is in order. Check the batteries in things. Check the fire extinguisher. If there are items that aren’t up to snuff—fix them now. And breathe a little easier.

The Frugal Health Plan—Exercise


A Sunset Stroll

The frugal health plan is the one you create yourself, not the one the insurance companies sell, though that will be the topic of a future post. Today’s focus will be exercise, one of the cornerstones of a healthy life, and completely under your control 99% of the time. Even if you are bed-ridden you can likely still wiggle around, and that is better than nothing. But the vast majority of us can do much better than that. Exercise does not have to involve expensive equipment. It does take time, but not THAT much. It can take many forms.

Here are a few of the ways we can fit exercise into our daily lives:

Walking—try parking as far from where you are headed as possible. And if you are going to a big walkable city, take public transportation and walk when you get there. You will be doing yourself a favor when it comes to parking too! Or make walking in your neighborhood a daily ritual. Take a sunset walk. Bring the whole family or a friend for a stroll and a chat.

Dancing—this is great fun and great exercise. Many places have free music in the summer, and even if not, getting into a club is not expensive if you stick to water and dance your buns off. If you want to get fancy take salsa or ballroom lessons, but you can also just go and do whatever the music moves you to. I know one man who dances four nights a week and that is his whole program. A woman I know was newly divorced and miserable. She started to gain weight on the Ben and Jerry’s post breakup program, and that made her even more miserable. Then a friend DRAGGED her out dancing. She LOVED it. Soon she was out every night, lost 20 pounds, and met a new man. When you dance anything can happen.

Working Outside—gardening, raking leaves, digging in the dirt. You have to be careful to vary your movements for a full workout, but it still beats sitting by a mile.

Get in the Water—swimming is an amazing low impact full body workout. Just take a gander at the bodies of the Olympic swimmers to see what swimming can do for you. And if getting in the water isn’t for you, try paddling, sailing, or other boating adventures. Remember to put safety first and you will see a side of the outdoors you can’t see any other way. Near me is a Laguna with a huge nesting ground in the middle, accessible best by kayak. Is there something wonderful in your neck of the woods that you can only get to by boat?

Then again, if none of these ideas work for you there is always the gym. Exercise is one thing a frugalista should not mind investing in. Medical bills are much higher than even a gym membership. Not exercising is a known health risk. People who sit too much have a higher mortality rate than those who move. But there are also positive benefits to exercise besides not dying so soon. Many disorders, including depression respond well to exercise. Studies show that exercise is the best natural antidepressant. It’s good for both body and mind. So put on those sneakers and let’s rock!!

She’s Frugal and He Isn’t—How to Handle It


Another Money Fight!

Handling money wisely can be hard enough when there is only one person involved. Frugality, though very rewarding, takes work. But, as a single person your own needs and desires are the only concern. This becomes much more complicated when another person with their own viewpoints and needs comes into the mix. It is complicated even if the two of you are as alike as can be. So we can just imagine has difficult it becomes when the two of you have radically different ideas about spending and saving.

Fights about money are very high on the list of things that cause trouble in relationships and marriages. Money fights can even lead to divorce.  And even if there is no fighting, having a real spendthrift as a partner can lower your quality of life, or even leave you in a very difficult financial predicament if they should die before you. So getting this right is serious business.

If you are just starting out in a relationship with someone that you suspect has a wildly different idea about spending you have plenty of options, and no real obligations. Just keep the money separate until you are sure that any problems have been worked out-which may be forever. And don’t let your self be forced to spend more than you are comfortable with for any joint activities.

If you are living with your spendy partner already but are not married, now is the time to separate the money. They might get mad, but this is better than you getting broke. One thing that works is the three-account plan. One account for you, one for your sweetie, and one for the house. You are then able to control your money while still contributing to the household. There are differing views on figuring the household contribution. Some say it should be equal, but the Frugal Goddess prefers to have each contribute a share commensurate with their income.

To figure this out, add both incomes together. Then divide the by smaller of the two incomes by the combined total. This will be the percentage of household expenses paid by the person with the smaller income.

For example: If she makes $2500 a month, and he makes $1500 a month, the total income is $4000. So, divide $1500 by $4000. The result is .375. Now let us imagine that the total household expenses are $2000. He would pay $750 a month, and she would pay $1350. Each would retain control of the rest of their own money.

The household account should cover housing, food, home insurance, and anything else that is shared. Personal phone bills, and individual car expenses if each has their own car would not be included. Each couple has to decide for themselves what should be shared.

If you are thinking of marrying a spendy person when you are frugal, I would recommend a pre-nup that details the extent of your financial involvement before the fact, and, if you are in a community property state will serve as a protection on your future earnings. It may not be romantic, but neither is being poor when you didn’t have to be and it wasn’t your fault.

If you are already married you are in a bit of a predicament. Have you had a heart to heart with your spouse? If so, and no agreement was reached, or agreements have been broken, you may have to take stronger action. It may be good to consult a lawyer and find out if you can protect yourself and remain married. If this is your situation I wish you the best of luck. For the rest of us—romance is much more satisfying when our financial boundaries are not being violated. So take action now to make sure that being in love is not the same as being subject to the whims of another.

What’s for Dinner—The Relentless Question

What's for Dinner?

There are few questions that we HAVE to answer every day. None is more relentless than the question of dinner. It doesn’t matter whether you live completely alone or in a commune. It doesn’t matter if you are a vegetarian or a carnivore. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. Every single day someone in the household must answer the question and then get the meal on the table. If you live alone, at least the only opinion you must consider is your own. The rest of us have a regular chorus of opinions and requests pouring in.

If you are very poor, the answer to this question is easier—though certainly not happier. The answer is probably Ramen, or maybe a 99cent burger at a fast food place. Not healthy or inspiring. But, for most of us it is more complicated. We have choices to make. Eat out again, even though it will blow the food budget and is less healthy? Not if you are a frugalista. Take out? Same problem. Expensive and packed with unwanted calories and salt.

That leaves cooking at home, as I recommend strongly in all my posts about food. The reason we are attracted to take-out or going out isn’t the superior quality in most cases, but rather the convenience factor. Making a big pot of something and serving it everyday would solve that problem, but would also generate cries of discontent from our audience—maybe even mutiny. This is true even if you live alone. So, what to do? Try these tips to break the dinner code:

  1. Find out what your crew REALLY thinks about the menu. Making what they like ensures clean plates and less hassle. If they are partial to things that take a boatload of work, parcel those evenings out, and make them clean up!
  2. Shop once a week, and take advantage of specials. Try to get absolutely everything you need. In order to know what you need you must make a menu.
  3. When you do your planning on shopping day, think about all the activities that will be coming up that week. Where will you and your crew be when hunger strikes? If you know you have an activity planned for right before or at dinner-time you have to figure out ahead of time how you are going to handle it. You could bring something along, in which case you need a portable dish. You could wait and eat at home, in which case you need something fast, like pasta. Or you could just grab something if you must. Just have a plan.
  4. Buy a stock of cheater foods—pasta, cheese and crackers, cans of things you like.
  5. Have a plan A, but also a plan B in case something comes up. For example, if you were planning on BBQ, but get invited to happy hour or a surprise kid’s soccer game, you might shift to a quickie pasta dinner for that night.
  6. Now that you know what they like and you have a plan, go ahead and make a few large batches of things. Just don’t serve it day after day. Have the stew or casserole or whatever it is the night you make it. Then put enough for one more meal in the fridge, and serve it three nights later. The rest freeze in meal-sized portions. If you do this a few times you will start to have a stash of quick, easy, and not over-served dinners.
  7. While you are at it, make and freeze some meal-builders such as homemade tomato sauce. This is one of the smartest, most frugal things you can do.

Now when the daily question comes up, you won’t even have to think about it. Work the plan and smile.

Here are some helpful links:



Spring Cleaning is Frugal and Fun

It's Spring! Time for a Clean Sweep!

Today is the first day of spring! So what does spring cleaning have to do with frugality, and how can it possibly be fun?

Frugality is all about old-fashioned values, and requires that we maintain what we have. A little over a half century ago we were all much more affected by the natural changes that came with the seasons. Spring was a time to open up the house and sweep out all the mustiness that came with being stuck indoors all winter. Now we have advanced ways to make the indoors comfortable all year round. We control our environments with technology. We can almost ignore the seasons. But there is a natural exuberance to the spring that it would be a shame to ignore.

Our stuff may not need to be “aired out”, but it does still need to be maintained. Starting the new season by deep cleaning will prolong the life of our interiors and furniture, and create a sense of order necessary for a frugal life. Spring cleaning means knocking down the cob-webs on the outside which then knocks out the internal cob-webs.

But how can this be fun? Some of the actual work may be a pain in the neck. That is why we only do it a couple of times a year. But if you do it as a family it is a team-building, self-esteem building activity. And when you are done it is fun to see the results. So go ahead, order a pizza and get out the cleaning rags.

Here are a few things you may want to include:

  • The windows, at least the insides. Save the outsides for later if you expect more foul weather.
  • The kitchen cupboards should be emptied and wiped down. This is a good opportunity to reorganize as well.
  • The stove and refrigerator should be cleaned inside and out.
  • The furniture should be pulled back from the walls so you can clean under and behind where it usually is.
  • All rooms should be cobwebbed and dusted.
  • The carpets and drapes should be cleaned.
  • As you clean make a list of anything broken so it can be repaired.
  • The laundry room should be cleared out and scrubbed down.
  • Any other obvious messes should be cleaned up.
  • The winter things should be put away, and the summer things taken out and repaired as needed.
Just try it and see how great it feels. Happy spring, my frugalistas!!

Here is a link on frugal and green cleaning to help you get the job done:

Frugal Abundance: Daily Rituals add Luxury to Life for Free

Sunday Morning

What is a Ritual and Why is it Important?

A personal ritual is anything that you do just for yourself that makes you slow down or stop completely and come back to your centered self. It can be done alone, as a couple, as a parent and child, as a family, or as a community. It can be daily, weekly, or seasonal. It is generally free or very inexpensive. That is why it is frugal. Money may not be distributed equally, but time is. Taking your first cup of coffee outside in good weather to drink slowly in the backyard while you watch the birds is a ritual.  Baking bread, getting your nails done or doing them yourself, walking to the park with your toddler, or having a drink with your pals every Friday at the same time can all be rituals if you do these things mindfully and allow the break in the frantic pace of life, with all the attendant obligations.

Rituals Should be Enjoyable

Whatever rituals you have incorporated into your life, they should be things that you truly love. Your rituals may even look like work to other people that do not have the same temperament as you do. One person may relish a five mile run, another a slow “getting ready” with time to do hair and make-up. A third person may rock out with loud music. The only two questions are “do you love it?” and “does doing it break the time sickness and bring you back to you?”

Rituals can Create Connection

The couple who takes breakfast together each day, or the family that has a traditional Sunday dinner are on to something really important. When we rush through our days without breathing we lose each other. Stopping and taking the time to do something together on a regular basis that involves giving each other our time and attention is really one of the only ways to enjoy true intimacy. The form of the ritual is completely up to you and your companions. The fact that it happens and happens regularly is what counts.

If You are Forcibly Frugal, Rituals can Help You Reclaim Your Life

In this economic climate, there are many people who feel displaced. Losing a comfortable economic place in the world can be very disorienting. But, one thing you still have and still control is time and your relationship to time. Being poor is hard work, and by definition keeps you from the type of comfort that money can buy. But—you still have twenty-four hours to fill. You still eat something every day, and likely have coffee in the morning, even if it is now made at home. If you can slow down enough to change your mind set you will notice that the sun is shining on the tree outside your window just so, and that you are still truly alive. You are still you. As long as you are alive your circumstances may change. In the meantime, what small thing can you do each day that will make you smile?

When I went through my own crash in late 2007 and early 2008 I though the world was ending. But, each day, no matter how bad it had been, I would pour a glass of (cheap) red wine and stop doing anything else. Sometimes we would sit outside and listen to the boom box. Other times it was a fire in the woodstove and curling up in my chair. It could just as well have been tea instead of wine. The important thing was the turning off of the day in favor of complete relaxation. The total cost of this exercise was near zero. You could do the same thing and if you do you will soon feel the results in the form of greater happiness and less stress. This is your life, no matter what.

%d bloggers like this: