Side Gig Summit

Hey there L$G fans!

This post contains an affiliate link. If you click on it and buy a pass, I will receive a commission. For more information, view my Disclosure.

I’m excited to let you all know that I got the opportunity to be part of LessDebtMoreWine.com ‘s awesome Side Gig Summit, happening now!

Every day until September 4th, the fabulous Liz Stapleton will be posting videos of interviews she’s conducted with over 25 experts on different side gigs.

Each interview will focus on what a newbie can do to start making money doing that side gig. If you’ve been thinking about getting in on the gig economy, this might be the push you’ve been waiting for.

The best thing (in my totally non-biased opinion) about the summit is that yours truly is in it! My interview, in which Liz and I talk about how you can get started tutoring for money, comes out September 1st. Go check it out, along with all the other amazing hustlers’ videos.

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Already working on a side gig? These videos are still for you. My friend Katherine, AKA The Bookkeeping Artist, has an interview in which she discusses how to manage all the cash you’re pulling in from your hustle. You also might get inspired with ways to boost your income and reach. We all have room to improve, right?

These videos are free to view the day they are posted and for 24 afterwards. If you want to maintain access to rewatch your favorites in the future, you can purchase an All-Access pass, which gets you lifetime access to all the interviews.

This ends my shameless plug of the day. I’m so excited for some great stuff coming down the pipe for L$G. Next post = back to normal, I promise.

What is Insurance & When Do You Need It?

Let me just start by admitting that insurance is a HUGE topic and there’s no way I can cover it all in one post without it turning into a book. The goal in this article is to cover the basics of what insurance in general is and when it’s important for everyone to have insurance.

What is Insurance

All “insurances” are basically an agreement between you and a company. You pay the company a set amount of money, called a “premium”, and they agree to pay you a certain amount if something happens to the person or object you are insuring.

Most insurance premiums are due monthly or every six months.

Why does insurance exist?

Insurance exists because disasters are expensive. If insurance didn’t exist and you wrecked your car, you might be stuck having to pay thousands of dollars to replace it, plus possibly thousands more in medical expenses. If your house burned down and you didn’t have insurance, you would be faced with replacing the house and everything in it with your own money. Very few of us have that kind of cash lying around.

Basically, when life dumps us in the deep end, as it sometimes likes to do, insurance acts as the life vest that brings us to the surface again. Without it, we could wind up in debt or bankrupt.

 

What can be insured?

Almost anything can be insured, as long as it has value of some kind.

Home, car, boat, motorcycle, and RV insurance all exist in case something drastic happens to any of those possessions. Any vehicle you own will need insurance.

You can buy renters insurance in case your possessions are ruined while you’re renting. In fact, many landlords require their tenants to show proof of renters insurance before they are allowed to move in.

If you own any valuable art, jewelry, or collectibles, you can usually insure those.

Some people buy pet insurance which helps keep costs down if their pet becomes very ill.

Travel insurance can be a good option if you’re going on a big trip because it keeps you from being stranded if part of your plans falls through.

You can even insure yourself and your family with health, disability, and life insurance.

Psst. Don’t understand a term or phrase in your insurance documents? Check out the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’s glossary. Many insurance companies also provide glossaries of terms they use. Don’t sign until you know!

What kinds of insurance do I need?

There are a couple types of insurance that everyone should have. Which additional types you need depends heavily on your stage of life.

Everyone needs…

Health insurance:

Currently, everyone in the US is required to have health insurance or face a fee at tax time. Most of us will get this benefit through our employers, but those who don’t can buy their own through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Open enrollment only happens once a year, but if you experience a “life-changing” event, such as marriage, the birth of a child, or losing a job, you can get special permission to enroll outside of that enrollment period. I know it’s expensive, but a medical emergency can destroy your savings. The last thing you want to be worried about in a medical crisis is money.

Car insurance:

You only need this type of insurance if you own a car, but most Americans do, so I figured I’d include it here. It is illegal to drive a car without insurance, and cars are expensive enough to maintain without having to pay out of pocket should it be in an accident. Most car insurance will also provide some coverage for injuries or other medical costs resulting from an accident. The same applies for any vehicle you drive, whether it’s on the road or water: insure it!

Homeowners or Renters insurance:

Everyone should have one of these, since we all either own or rent our homes. It’s obvious why you would want homeowners insurance, since a home is a massive investment and losing it to a disaster would destroy the finances of most people. A lot of renters, however, tend to skip buying renters insurance. If you’re one of those people, I would strongly recommend getting at least a little bit. You might be surprised how cheap renters insurance is and what it covers. Don’t let a burst pipe, fire, or natural disaster leave you with nothing but an empty wallet.

Some people need…

Personal property insurance:

If your homeowners or renters insurance doesn’t provide enough coverage or has exceptions for certain types of disasters or events, you might want to purchase extra personal property insurance to make sure you’re covered for all possibilities.

Valuable personal property insurance:

This kind of falls under the previous category, but it’s more focused on special, valuable items you own, like collectibles, art, jewelry, cameras, instruments etc. Usually, these items have to be worth over a certain amount to qualify for valuable personal property insurance. Otherwise, they would just fall under regular personal property insurance.

These things don’t have to be worth a million dollars to count as valuable. Many people insure their wedding or engagement rings, and remember, if you use expensive equipment like instruments or cameras to create income, those things are much more valuable to you than just their sticker prices!

Life insurance:

Most of us will need life insurance at some point. It usually pays out after the death of the insured person and is meant to help keep a family financially stable even when the breadwinner has died.

Most people buy life insurance during the years they have dependent children or when a spouse or parent is relying on their income to survive. When you’re single or in a coupled situation in which the death of one partner would not cut off the only income, life insurance is less important.

Some jobs will provide life insurance as a benefit, but even if we have to buy it ourselves, all of us with living family should at least consider having life insurance, especially if our jobs involve physical risk. Even a few thousand can make a difference to those left behind who will have to handle funeral and other estate expenses, all while grieving.

Long-term disability insurance:

This one is a little like life and health insurance combined. It will help provide income in the case that you become unable to work for long periods of time. This is especially important if you are the only source of income for your household. Long-term disability is another type of insurance that employers will sometimes offer.

Travel insurance:

Some people have never heard of travel insurance, and others never go anywhere without it. Travel insurance comes in a wide range of flavors that cover anything from canceled trips, to lost luggage, to medical emergencies abroad.

If you’re planning to go abroad, especially for several weeks or a month, it might be a good idea to look at buying some travel insurance in case something goes wrong and you find yourself stuck in a foreign country and having to replace your whole wardrobe or buy last-minute tickets to replace your canceled ferry or flight.

You can buy travel insurance from your insurance company, but some credit cards provide free or discounted travel insurance on trips booked with their cards, so check your card benefits before booking.

Pet insurance:

Of all the insurances we’ve talked about here, this one is probably the least necessary. A dog or cat of average health and life-expectancy won’t cost enough over its lifetime to make pet insurance worth the cost. However, insurance is always meant to protect against huge, catastrophic costs, which can happen with pets who develop a serious illness or need surgery.

If you get a specific breed that is known for having medical problems, you might consider getting some level of pet insurance, but remember that those breeds will cost more to insure because the insurance companies know that they are more likely to need treatment. In most situations, setting aside a little cash in “Fido’s Emergency Fund” is a better option for covering expenses than buying pet insurance.

Wrap Up

Should you decide to get some or all of these types of insurance, consider buying them all through the same insurance company. Most big companies will offer discounts for customers purchasing multiple types of insurance. Just be aware that the company might try to up-sell you on policies you don’t really need because they’re “deals”. As always, shop around for the best price, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

It can be tempting to think of insurance as a luxury. Watching money leave your account every month to pay for something that may never happen can be frustrating. Resist the urge to “save money” by dropping your insurance, though.

If a disaster does strike, you will spend far more money recovering without insurance than you would with it. Plus, there’s something to be said for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that, if something should happen, the cost of recovery will be the least of your worries.

My Wedding in a Week: The Big Day

Welcome to the fourth installment in my Wedding in a Week series. If you want to know more about how we made the decision to get married in a week, took care of the decorations and food, and dressed ourselves with a week’s notice, check out the prior installments.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and buy anything, regardless of whether it’s the product linked, I will receive a commission. For more information, view my Disclosure.

After a whirlwind 6 days, it was finally time to actually do the deed and get married.

The Officiant

Our officiant, Aaron, had been recommended to us as a photographer, but it turns out he offers both services and actually specializes in elopements. We hired him to be the officiant and also take our official photos after the ceremony. He made the process so easy, and we had our finished photos just a few days after the event. If you live in Virginia and are looking to put together your own simple wedding, I’d recommend checking out Aaron’s site to see what he offers.

The Photographer

Although Aaron took our official photos, our friend Adam, who is also a photographer, offered to take some more candid and environmental shots, and I’m so glad he did. All the posed photos are lovely, but the candid ones bring a smile to my face every time I see them. There’s nothing like capturing people’s emotions in the moment. Also, if you’re the one getting married, believe me when I say that it’s such a whirlwind that you will want some shots to look back at and digest later.

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Candid first kiss photo!

The Vows

Joe and I elected to say standard vows but also add our own little twist. We each came up with something to say before the vows to personalize them to our relationship.

The Music

No wedding celebration is complete without a little goofy dancing. We didn’t really have the budget for a band or DJ, and it would have been yet another huge hurdle to jump in our limited time, so our music source had to be quick and dirty.

My now-husband and I enlisted the help of his sister and her fiancé to create a playlist of songs on Spotify for the dancing portion of the evening. We also chose songs for our entrance to and exit from the ceremony and for our first dance.

To play the music, we hooked an iPad into some speakers that Joe’s parents had in their house already, and voilà, the halls were alive with the sound of music! The only cost to all this was technically the subscription to Spotify, which we already had.

If someone who wasn’t a paying Spotify member wanted to take this approach to his or her playlist, I would recommend using a free trial of Premium during the month of the wedding, then canceling before the subscription kicks in. Free music, no ads, what’s not to love?

The Food-Wrangler Volunteers

I mentioned in the first Wedding in a Week post that we could never have pulled off the wedding without some serious help, and that is so true. The more time I have to think about it, the more I realize just how much everyone pitched in to make it happen.

From Joe’s parents offering their home as a venue, to the help from the rest of our family and friends to decorate, clothe us, and even play the music, we were surrounded by helpers. On the day of the actual wedding, however, two of the most valuable helpers were a couple of neighbors who volunteered to be the kitchen crew. My mother-in-law had made them some gorgeous cookies for another wedding not long before, so this was their way of returning the favor.

They set up the food and tables, cleared away dishes, and just generally made sure things went smoothly. That way, my mother-in-law wasn’t running around trying to feed everyone, and all of us could relax and have fun.

Many venues come with staff to help take care of these minor problems, but in this case, we didn’t have any built-in staff. It was amazing to have two extra helpers who weren’t guests but were willing to help. If they had not kindly volunteered, it would have been 100% worth it to pay people to come in and do the same work.

The Bonuses

The photo booth

Photo booths aren’t a new concept at weddings these day. We went back and forth on the idea a little bit, but when we ran by Michael’s craft store and saw they had a Fujifilm mini instant camera on sale, we went for it, and I’m so glad we did. With a box of accessories I grabbed at Charming Charlie and a few cute background decorations from Michael’s, we had a cute photo booth set up.

Having a portable camera proved to be a great choice, and luckily, I’d bought a twin-pack of extra film. Once the dancing started, we passed it around and got some great shots of our friends and family having a blast. I plan to put them in a photo album to cherish for years to come.

The hot cider bar

“Bars” of various kinds aren’t unusual at weddings either. Allowing your guests to personalize something delicious can be a great way to make sure everyone gets exactly what they want. Since all our food was taken care of already, we decided to go for a hot cider bar that was made available immediately after the ceremony, during the cocktail hour. It fit with our autumnal/Thanksgiving theme and made sure no one got too full before dinner was served. Boozy additions and orange slices were provided as options and the hot drink was so welcome as the evening temperatures dipped.

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Our hot cider bar. Photo by Adam Patterson Photography

The Cost

The officiant/photographer was super reasonable, plus the speed at which we had our photos was very impressive. Our friend offered his pictures as a wedding present, which was lovely. Cost: $600

I don’t count our Spotify subscription as a wedding expense because we would have paid for that regardless. Cost: $0

Our kitchen volunteers were invaluable, but offered their services for free, which was so sweet and much appreciated. Cost: $0 

The photo booth supplies were more costly than I would have liked, but we sacrificed a few dollars in order to buy the camera and film immediately. Had we decided to get them earlier and ordered online, they probably would have been cheaper. Cost: $120

The cider bar used a lot of items my in-laws already had. We did get some booze, fruit and cinnamon sticks, not to mention the cider itself. Cost: $50

Total wedding cost so far: $4,822

Wrap Up

For a wedding that was planned in less than a week, I think we did pretty darn well. It was truly a team effort and with some creativity and a lot of help, we got to have all the important parts of a wedding, and then some. Having a little extra time might have saved us a few bucks here and there, but it’s entirely possible that extra time would have allowed us to find other extras to spend all that money on anyway.

My Wedding in a Week: The Bride & Groom

Welcome to part 3 of our “My Wedding in a Week” series! If you haven’t read about how we decided to get married and tackled the decorations and food, I’d recommend catching up on those first, but all the parts can pretty much stand on their own. Today’s post will focus on how we, the bride and groom, prepared for our wedding!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and buy anything, regardless of whether it’s the product linked, I will receive a commission. For more information, view my Disclosure.

The Bride

The Dress

After we’d sorted out the bigger questions about the wedding, I realized I was missing a big part of the “bride” experience — the dress.

I obviously wasn’t going to have time to go through the whole rigamarole of going to a bunch of boutiques, trying on different gowns, and getting my favorite one altered to fit me perfectly. Cue desperate online searching.

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Basically a montage of me dress-shopping

I knew I wanted one with an A-line skirt and some lace, but other than that I really wasn’t sure what I should get. I found a couple of contenders, but some wouldn’t get here in time or would be cutting it close, and others had mediocre reviews. In the end, I took a flyer on this beauty from Modcloth. I ordered a size up, as reviews suggested, and crossed my fingers.

Honestly, I probably should have ordered more than one dress to hedge my bets, but I know myself and how bad I am at returning online purchases. (They tend to sit in a “to return” pile until they are well past their return deadline.) Plus, I figured I could run out to a department store and grab something in person if it came down to that. I also ordered a gold metallic belt as a statement piece.

Luckily, my gamble paid off and the dress fit perfectly. I was thrilled I got the aesthetic I wanted at an amazing price. The belt, on the other hand, wasn’t really a look I liked, but the dress definitely needed a little something to spice it up.

The Accessories

The day after Thanksgiving, I dragged Joe to Charming Charlie. If you’ve never been to this accessories chain, let me describe the glorious ridiculousness of it: every store is filled with jewelry, scarves, shoes, purses, and random stuff like mugs all organized by color. Nothing in there is super high quality, but the prices are good for what you get, especially since it’s all stuff that’s very affected by trends. Since it was Black Friday, they were allowing visitors to spin a wheel of coupons, and I got one for 10% off! Any little bit helps, right?

There’s a bridal section at the back of the store and there I found a couple of potential, blingy sashes to replace the metallic belt that didn’t work out. One of them worked perfectly and really took the dress from beautiful to bridal.

The next day, I actually returned to this den of accessories with my bridesmaids and found earrings and a sparkly comb for my hair. I spent way more in Charming Charlie than I ever have before, but considering what I got for it and how convenient it was to find all those things in one place, I was happy.

The Face

Makeup is yet another thing a bride has to think about! I had some basics, but I’d run out of my nice foundation, so I ran over to Sephora and grabbed some Makeup Forever foundation and their matte HD finishing powder, which I had heard helps make you look great on camera. Not a cheap combo, but way cheaper than hiring a makeup artist. My sister-in-law and my Maid of Honor did my makeup on the day, using these products and some we already had, and I think it turned out fabulously.

The Shoes

The saga of my wedding shoes is a sad one. I found the perfect pair of wine-colored heels at DSW two days before my wedding. Sadly, I left them behind in the rush and they spent my wedding day at my parents’ house instead of on my feet. Luckily, my sister-in-law lent me her black heels for the ceremony and photos, and I had brought a pair of black flats for dinner and dancing anyway, so it wasn’t the end of the world, but I was still bummed. I’m counting the shoes as an expense, since I’m keeping them and I wouldn’t have bought them if the wedding hadn’t been happening.

The Groom

The Outfit

On the Wednesday of our pre-wedding week, Joe and I headed to a mall near his parents’ house to hunt down his wedding outfit. Since he works from home, he hasn’t had to wear a suit since his brother’s wedding a few years ago, and that one didn’t fit with the color scheme we were going for.

Our first stop was Nordstrom Rack, which is one of our favorite stores to find sneaky deals, but nothing there quite fit. He needs a tall, wide-shouldered fit, and most average sizes just don’t cut it. Oh well, it was worth a shot, and we did find a nice white shirt on sale that we snapped up.

Next stop, Brooks Brothers, where we met a nice salesman who helped us narrow our choices and eventually decide on a navy blue suit that would look great with the fall color scheme of the wedding. It fit really well for an off-the-rack suit, which was key because we had no time to get it altered. Plus, there was a sale going on for the holidays that brought the price down a little, and now Joe has a suit he can wear in the future.

Finally, he needed a tie to match the burgundy that was going to be our base color. We bought three that might work and returned the two that he didn’t wear.

The Ring

The last piece of the groom puzzle was his wedding ring. I was just going to use a ring I had as my wedding ring, but Joe doesn’t wear jewelry normally, so we poked around in some stores looking for a cheap ring. No one wanted to sell us anything under $125, and since we knew this probably wouldn’t be his permanent ring, we weren’t willing to spend that much.

Then I realized we had overlooked maybe the most obvious option — buying the ring online. Amazon to the rescue! We found a white tungsten ring with great reviews for less than $14.

This is the one we chose, (click on the image to see it on Amazon) and it’s been great so far:

 

The Cost

Note: I’ve rounded all the prices to the nearest dollar to make the totals easy.

I paid for fast shipping for my dress and belt, which was an extra $20. Cost: $206

Makeup from Sephora is expensive, but I know I’ll keep these items for a while and get a lot of benefit from them, so at least it was a multi-use purchase. Cost: $83

Charming Charlie accessories for days! I’ll definitely wear the earrings again, and this includes some items that I’ll talk about in my next post. Cost: $144

The shoes I got are gorgeous, so despite the debacle, I’ll keep ’em. Cost: $36

Joe’s new suit was on sale for 30% off. Cost: $317

A nice, lightly patterned white shirt with French cuffs to wear with the suit was a nice find at Nordstrom Rack. Cost: $32

A burgundy tie rounded out the groom’s outfit. Cost: $15

Once we realized online was the way to get Joe’s ring, we bought it in about five minutes on Amazon and it arrived well before the wedding. Cost: $14

Overall outfits/jewelry cost: $847

Total wedding cost so far: $4,052

Wedding Photo

The final products! Not bad, if I do say so myself. Photo by Aaron Riddle, of Virginiaelope.com

My Wedding in a Week: The Decorations & Food

Welcome back to our Wedding in a Week series! This is the second part of the series, so if you missed the first one, check out how we decided to get married and found a venue, then meet back here.

Today we’re tackling how we decorated the venue and fed our guests, all accompanied by photos by our friend, the amazing Adam Patterson.

The Decorations

My in-laws had been amazingly kind to offer their home as the venue for our wedding, but we were still going to need to make it look like a wedding, rather than a dinner party. I hadn’t really thought too much about that sort of thing before, so when my mother-in-law asked what colors I wanted, I panicked for a second before thinking “Duh, it’s Thanksgiving, go with harvest colors.” Burgundy wine became the base color, and we added blues, oranges, yellows, greens, whites, and reds to the mix. They all screamed Autumn to me and I knew they’d probably look pretty good. From there, my in-laws worked magic.

To start, they ordered some long green garland from Costco. It arrived in a couple of days and they draped it around the living room/party room and on the decks outside. It already looked amazing and I started getting really excited.

The flowers were a worry until we remembered a neighbor of my in-laws, who happens to know my mother, is a florist. She leapt at the chance to do the arrangements, so we gave her the color list and let her do her thing. I didn’t see any flowers until the wedding day, which might sound crazy to anyone who’s spent hours agonizing over bouquets for events. Remember, though, that I didn’t have much time to be picky, and I trusted that any bouquets a professional could come up with would look beautiful. Flowers tend to do that no matter what. Check them out:

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One of the altar bouquets with the garland

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A closeup of my bridal bouquet

Since we were using the same space for the ceremony and reception, we had to make sure the furniture set-up could be clean and simple. My in-laws found a place that would rent us several round tables, a bunch of nice chairs, and the linens to go with. We’d put some tea lights and mini-bouquets on the tables and call it a day.

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The reception set-up

 

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Simple but pretty centerpieces

And that was basically it for decorations, although a few extras got added as people decided to chip in. My mother-in-law drew a beautiful welcome sign on a chalk-board, my husband’s aunts made us ADORABLE favors from chocolate-dipped pretzel rods, and my sister-in-law made us a cute, stenciled sign that reads “The Adventure Begins”. Even without those, the wedding would have been beautiful, but those personal touches really made it perfect.

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Our handmade favors!

The Food

Since our venue wasn’t a restaurant, we had to come up with food for our guests. I knew I wanted it to be buffet style because it would be easier for everyone involved and I just plain love buffets anyway.

When Joe’s mother asked what I wanted, the first thing that came to mind was barbecue. It’s a favorite of my family and it generally works well as a buffet meal. As it happens, Joe’s parents live close to a new, highly rated BBQ joint. Awesome. Decision made.

When we called them up, the restaurant was swamped with pre-Thanksgiving orders, so they asked us to get back to them on Friday, which we did, and it all worked out great. Brisket, pulled pork, beans, coleslaw, cornbread — we had the works. I shied away from ribs because I tend to get a little too messy with those, and with my white dress and all…yeah, not a good idea.

One of my favorite little additions we had was a hot cider bar that we put outside on a little deck. There were toppings and rum available, and the chill was kept at bay by a standing heater that we rented and a basket of cozy wraps for cold partiers.

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A cozy hot cider bar!

We did have to provide the dishes, candles, silverware, glasses, and drinks for the wedding. Everything came from Ikea with the exception of the drinks, which came from Costco. My MIL picked up dishes, water glasses, and wine glasses for 20 people and champagne and silverware for 40. We also picked up a few throws to put in a basket outside next to the hot cider bar.

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to have a bundt cake as my wedding cake. Normal wedding cakes almost never taste as good as they look, but bundt cakes are the sleepers of the cake world: they look simple and taste amazing. My mum makes an amazing Black Russian bundt, so I asked if she’d make one for wedding. We stuffed a handful of flowers in the middle and it looked adorable while also being super delicious.

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So pretty and so delicious

The Cost

The decorations were the most expensive part of the wedding, even with a “friends and family” discount from our florist. However, I am so happy we allowed a professional to work her magic. It freed us up to worry about other, more personal, aspects of the wedding and people still got to add their own DIY flavor without the pressure of providing the only decorations. Cost: $950

The garland from Costco was gorgeous and really tied the room together. Even before the flowers arrived, it all felt very bridal. If we hadn’t had a florist contact who could do the arrangements at short notice, I definitely would have considered buying the flowers at Costco, too. Cost: $424

Renting furniture was a must. Bonus points for linens being included! Cost: $511

Silverware, glasses, plates, and throws from Ikea made everything uniform and professional-looking. A few unused ones were returned afterwards, so I subtracted the return amount from the total. Cost: $504

The food was another fairly high expense, but we got it fresh, hot, and as-advertised. Everyone thought it was delicious and we didn’t have to worry about cooking anything. Cost: $720

Champagne turned out to be the only wedding-focused booze expense. Most of the other purchases were simply refreshing bottles that were open or almost empty. Cost: $96

My mother making my cake lent a personal touch to it while also making it cost nothing for us. Since she already had the ingredients, it didn’t cost her much more than a little time, which she was happy to give free of charge. Cost: $0

Overall food/decoration cost: $3,205

Total cost so far: $3,205

Wrap Up

Whew! Well, it definitely wasn’t a free wedding anymore! All of the big-ticket items were out of the way, though. We had a gorgeously decorated venue, seats for our guests, and food and drink galore.

Up Next: The Bride and Groom — the dress, rings, suit, and more!

Welcome to 2018! What’s Your New Hotness?

Hey there, welcome to the new year!

You feeling that New Year, New You vibe? Me too. I’d just like to throw out a little question to all the money nerdlings out there:

What’s the new hotness in your life?

Is it a present, a person, a pet?

This year, I want you to consider making your wealth the new hotness.

Consider that this time next year, you’ll be another year older and another year forward in your journey to where you want to go.  Imagine looking back on 2018 and saying “This year, I took steps to make sure I’ll never be broke again,” or “Because of what I saved this year, I know I’ll have enough money to retire,” or if you’re competitive, even “I took charge of my money this year and I’m now secretly wealthier than all my friends.” Wouldn’t it feel AMAZING??

Whatever your motivation is, use it to make 2018 the year you build your financial foundations. Learn what you don’t know, Save what you can, and Grow your wealth.

It’s easy to get swept up in the all the possibilities a new year brings. Maybe you’ll finally get those 6-pack abs, or that hot BF or GF, or that promotion, or that round-the-world trip. I hope you get all those things.

But in the meantime, keep Learning, $aving, and Growing. You can do it!

Love,

Elizabeth Signature

My Wedding in a Week: The Decision & The Venue

Holiday greetings, money nerdlings!

I know things have been pretty quiet in the L$G world over the past couple of weeks. There’s a lot going on at the moment, but a major reason it’s been so quiet is actually a pretty good reason: I got married!

Now, you might think I could have been a good blogger and set up some posts to cover my absence from the keyboard, and you’d be right, except that I didn’t know I would be getting married until less than a week before we said “I do”.

You read that right. Even though we got “engaged” on Monday, November 20th, we managed to have a wonderful wedding on Sunday, November 26th. I learned so much in that week about myself and weddings in general that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share it with you all.

Hooked yet? Settle in, because I’m going to share all the delightful details with you over a series of posts I’m calling the My Wedding in a Week series. We’ll talk decisions, cost, and lessons learned. Enjoy!

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Making the decision

Health problems in my family prompted my lovely boyfriend, Joe, and I to pull the wedding trigger at breakneck speed. We’d been dating for 7 years, so it wasn’t like this was completely unexpected, but we’ve always been that couple that took things slowly and steadily, so we caught a lot of people off-guard with this decision.

We had been talking about getting married soon for a few months, and had even gone ring shopping. Then, on that Monday, we were on the phone talking about how everyone from both our immediate families was coming into town for Thanksgiving and it hit us: why not get married while everyone was here? It sounded crazy, but we decided to go for it.

Despite it being so last-minute, as soon as we told people the news, everyone — EVERYONE — immediately asked what they could do to help. I’m going to tell you right up front that this wedding would never have been the success it was without the help and support of our families and friends. This will be a theme in these posts, and the whole process just solidified how important a network is and how you really never know who you know until you need help.

We told our parents and siblings first, since we had to make sure they all were okay with the date and time we were aiming for. Once we had them on board, we messaged our friends to let them know. Every local friend we told was able to make it. Score!

At this point, we kind of thought we’d done what we could attendee-wise. Thanksgiving is a tough time for people to travel last minute and it was going to be a Sunday wedding, which meant most people would need to be back at work on Monday.

However, to our surprise and delight, several members of Joe’s family moved mountains to get here and what we thought would be a 20-person gathering turned into a 40-person celebration.

The Venue

This is probably the biggest obstacle when planning a wedding at short notice. Most professional venues require pre-booking and deposits. Restaurants are great options for small, quick weddings, but you might have to guarantee certain spending limits to make it worth the restaurant’s while and you’re stuck with whatever food they happen to make.

We got lucky: Joe’s parents offered their home as the venue.

Joe’s parents’ house is right on a body of water and their living room is open and gorgeous, with cathedral ceilings. They had even already thought through how they would host a wedding there since another family member is getting married next year and had considered their house as a venue. The choice was an easy one: a home wedding it would be!

The Cost

We didn’t pay for announcements/save-the-dates or invitations since we just called or emailed everyone with the information. Cost: $0

Since most of our guests were local and several others could stay with family, only a couple of people needed to resort to hotel rooms to stay, so we didn’t need to reserve a block of rooms or anything. Cost: $0

Our venue needed no reservation or pre-booking, and the food, drinks, furniture, and decorations were going to be separate. Cost: $0

I used a claddagh ring I already owned as an engagement ring, since we hadn’t finalized one yet, and it’s currently serving as my wedding band! This will be a future expense, since Joe wants to buy me something to represent our new milestone, but I love my placeholder. Cost: $0 (so far)

Wrap up

Of course the decision to get married and the announcement are easy. The venue worked out wonderfully, and we didn’t have to worry about a ring for me, but there was still so much to consider. Our so-far free wedding wasn’t going to stay that way!

Up next: Decorating the venue

How I paid 2 cents for 2 items of clothing

I love Nordstrom Rack. It’s one of my top go-to places when I need to replace something in my wardrobe. It has all the brands and quality of a department store at much lower prices. I especially love the clearance section. You never quite know what you’ll find and if you’re looking for something less classic and more trendy, it’s a great place to check. We all want to be on trend, but we definitely shouldn’t be shelling out full price for clothing that’s going to out of style in a season.

So, yeah, I love the Rack, but recently I had a bizarre and funny experience that I absolutely need to share.

The story

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend, Joe, and I went shopping and stopped into the Rack near us. After a lot of poking around and hemming and hawing, we chose four items, all on clearance, and went to check out. One of the items I’d chosen was a bralette, and when the lady at checkout rang it up, she laughed.

“This only costs a penny!” she told me.

“What?” I asked, “How is that possible?”

What I learned is that when something has been marked down repeatedly in clearance, it sometimes gets dropped to a penny. Nordstrom Rack employees are supposed to regularly scan all the clearance items and remove any that show up as $0.01 from the rack entirely and send them to reject-clothing heaven (AKA the warehouse).

“But you found it before it was taken away!” she said, beaming at me.

Cool. I love a little money win. The bralette had only been about $4 anyway, but woo!

She continued to ring us up, and then gasped.

“It happened again!” she said. “I’ve never see it happen twice in one transaction!”

Joe and I exchanged confused glances. What she had just scanned was a thick wool shirt for him that had been marked at around $25.

“So…we get the shirt for a penny, too?” I asked.

The sales lady nodded excitedly at me. “Yep! You guys are so lucky!”

In the end, the four clothing items we bought that day totaled around $13. I might have done a little dance as we walked back to the car.

emma watson dancing

How to find your penny treasure

Unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed secret to finding those sneaky penny clearance items, but I feel like everyone should be aware that it’s a thing. I think a couple of factors helped us snag these deals.

  1. The bralette I bought had a weird top strap that I had to alter once I got home. I think most people just thought it looked silly and left it on the rack.
  2. Joe is tall and has long arms, so he often has trouble finding shirts that fit. The wool one was a bit of a unicorn for him. It’s also wool, and is thicker than a shirt but not as thick as a jacket, which might have made other people less willing to buy it.

If you decide to go hunting for a one-cent Rack bargain, I would recommend scouring the clearance section for anything with multiple red stickers on it, showing it’s been marked down repeatedly.

Keep in mind these might have been left on the rack for a reason. If you’re willing to accept a piece that is a little quirkier or might need some creativity to make it work, you’ll probably be more likely to hit gold.

Obviously, don’t buy things on the speculation that they MAY be a penny. Only buy the item if you’re sure you’ll still want it even if it rings up at its marked price. That way, whether or not you hit the penny jackpot, you’ll still be going home with something you’ll look forward to wearing.

How one teen started a business by accident

I tutor students during the week, and I always like to ask a little about what their passions are so I can get to know them a little better. This helps me tailor the lessons a bit, but also gets them comfortable in class.

Last week, I was working through a cost/revenue problem with a high school student and he just casually said “Oh, I get it. It’s kinda like the business I started.”

I’m sorry, but you can’t just say that around me and NOT expect to get quizzed about it. Afterwards, I asked him if I could share his story anonymously on here and he agreed. For the purposes of our story, I’m going to call him Evan.

Evan’s story

The business began with a hobby, which we’re going to say was building models. Evan was part of a group who built models together. At some point, Evan was looking to purchase some materials for his models and went looking online to find them. The cheapest decent items he could find were only sold in bulk from China. The price per unit was too good to pass up, though, so he bought a big old box.

Obviously, he had way more than he needed, so he started selling off the others to members of his hobby group. The next time those other people needed something for their models, they turned to him, and he turned to the internet again.

Soon enough, he was the go-to guy for model-building materials. Already, he had a little business.

What really kicked him into gear, though, was when a friend who attends a nearby university started a model-building club there and hit up Evan to provide gear for the club.

Evan suddenly found himself making enough money that he was able to quit the part-time job he had. He’s now saving money for college and planning how he’s going to move the business online so he doesn’t have to lug the boxes around himself.

Lessons to take away

I love this story for a couple of reasons.

First, Evan is a high schooler, but he’s already learned that he can take the idea of supply and demand and turn it to his advantage. He used his own needs to tell him where there was an opportunity and didn’t think “Oh, I’m a kid, I can’t do that.”

Secondly, when people in his club started asking him for other materials, Evan didn’t just tell them where to buy their own boxes, he took the initiative to order them himself. He saw the demand as opportunity and realized he could use his experience to help his friends AND himself. They still got materials for cheaper than they could otherwise, and he made some money.

Lastly, he is thinking of the future. He’s already done more than many people his age would have with his idea, but he keeps thinking about the next step. He said he plans to to continue the business in college, and he’s going to learn so much about entrepreneurship that I’m kind of envious.

Wrap up

Are you secretly yearning to be an entrepreneur? Take a look around at the stuff you take for granted. What activity or passion do you have that you could monetize?

Whether you sell a physical good like Evan is doing or you sell services like mowing lawns or scooping dog poop, there’s something out there you can try. And for those of you who are applying to college soon, I’ll tell you what I told Evan: taking initiative and putting yourself out there looks killer on a college essay. Go stretch your entrepreneurial muscles!

Need a little side hustle inspiration? Check out Side Hustle Nation’s list of potential side hustles to see if one could be for you. or Penny Hoarder for some ideas.

Equi-what? Why the Equifax Breach is a Big Deal for Everyone

You may have heard of the big Equifax breach from your parents, friends, or co-workers.

So what is this mysterious company and why is its data breach a big deal?

Equifax

Remember when we talked about credit scores?

Equifax is one of the three companies that tracks your credit history. The others are TransUnion and Experian. Your credit score is determined by the reports that these agencies create.

Why all the fuss?

There are a couple of things that make this data breach potentially worse than others.

  1. The number of people affected is pretty huge. About 143 million Americans’ information was exposed during the hack. That’s almost HALF of the total US population.
  2. Because Experian tracks people’s credit, it has access to basically every important piece of everyone’s personal financial information. This includes Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and bank accounts, along with addresses, birthdates and driver’s license numbers. With these details, someone could easily steal your identity and take out loans or make big purchases in your name.

What should I do?

  • Go to experiansecurity2017.com, the ONLY official site to check whether you’ve been affected, and enter your last name and Social Security number. It will inform you whether your information might have been compromised.
  • Even if you are not over 18, it is a good idea to check whether you’ve been affected because children have Social Security numbers, even if they have never held a line of credit. Someone using your SSN could ruin your credit before you ever have a chance to build it.
  • If you have been affected, pull your credit reports from annualcreditreport.com and check them carefully for errors.
  • Also look over statements for any credit cards you have and check for fraudulent purchases.
  • Contact the credit bureaus — all three of them — to freeze your credit. This will temporarily prevent ANYONE from opening a new line of credit in your name, including yourself. If you want to open a new line of credit, like a credit card or loan, before the freeze period ends, you’ll have to unfreeze it. Depending on the state in which you live this may cost $10 – $30, and you may have to pay to unfreeze it, too.
  • Equifax is offering affected customers a free year of credit monitoring. At first, it seemed that signing up for this service would also prevent you from potentially suing Equifax in the future, but the contract has since been amended so that it no longer implies this. Signing up for the service will only freeze your credit from Equifax, so you’ll have to request a freeze from the other two separately. Whether or not to take Equifax up on its offer is definitely a personal call.
  • Be vigilant. Check your credit reports regularly, which you should be doing anyway, and keep an eye out for anything suspicious.

Wrap-up

If any good comes out of this data breach, let it be a reminder to all of us to pay attention to our finances and not let them be “out of sight, out of mind”.