If you’ve been following me at all in the past year, you know I’ve been going through a lot of changes. I got engaged, I bought a house, and I quit my day job. These are all very financially risky and stressful changes to make, especially all at once! But I also wasn’t willing to give up or substantially delay any of these big changes. I wanted to buy a house before quitting my job so that we weren’t given a hard time by the mortgage lender. I also couldn’t imagine going into 2018 still employed at my day job. And I didn’t want to put off getting married beyond 2018 (I turned 30 last year and suddenly felt like there wasn’t a ton of time to spare).
All of these changes are pretty expensive, so we had to be pretty strategic to afford them all. This is especially true when it came to saving for our wedding. Weddings are expensive and we had a specific dream in mind for ours. It ended up being a lot more expensive than I expected, but we made it work and have saved the full amount months ahead of the wedding. Here’s how we did it!
I saved over 10% of a windfall
In July 2017, I received a large sum of money as a settlement from the Department of Health and Human Services. In December 2015, I got a routine flu shot at CVS so that I wouldn’t risk giving the flu to my then-newborn nephew over Christmas. Within an hour, my shoulder hurt so badly that I couldn’t lift my arm. I had never gotten the flu shot before, so I figured it was a normal reaction to the shot. Well, I was wrong. I could barely lift my left arm for six months. Dan had to help me get dressed and even take off my jacket. It took over a year, an MRI and CT scan, and many doctors telling me I was crazy, but eventually, I received a settlement from the government for my injury.
I immediately put over 10% of that settlement into a savings account earmarked for our future wedding. If you had any doubts about my knack for planning ahead, you should know that we weren’t even engaged yet at this time. But I put this large sum of money aside and that made it so that we had nearly half of what we would ultimately need for the wedding. I recommend this approach if you ever receive a windfall in the future.
I saved 20% of my take-home pay
For the last four months of my time at my day job, I saved about 20% of my take-home pay for the wedding. That amounted to about $700 a month, so by the time I left the job at the end of December, I had saved $2,100 for the wedding from my paycheck.
I think this is one of the best ways to save up a lot of money over time, if you have the money to spare. Set up direct deposit from your paychecks and save a percentage each month. You can do this for any goal, whether it’s building up your emergency savings account or saving up for a trip.
We saved our tax refunds
Since Dan and I were both fully employed in 2017, we both received tax refunds in April. 2017 was the last year that we could meaningfully write off the interest on our mortgage payments and real estate taxes. We also wrote off the start-up costs we incurred for getting our Airbnb up to snuff. These write-offs helped increase our tax refund. We put those refunds directly into our wedding fund.
Are you wondering what you should do with your tax refund? Here’s what I think!
I saved all my business income
For the first four months of 2018, I saved all of my business profit and put it directly into our wedding savings account. As I’m getting my business off the ground and building profit, Dan and I are living off of his paycheck completely. All of my take-home pay from my business is going directly into savings. The first priority this year was obviously the wedding. By April, we had reached our savings goal for the wedding. Since then, I’ve been putting the money into our home improvement fund.
Dan saved his freelance income
Dan is an interactive graphic designer, so he often designs and builds websites (like mine!). Earlier this year, he built the website for the new DC cidery, Capitol Cider House. He put that freelance income directly into our savings account (after setting aside 30% for taxes, of course). In the future, we will likely put his freelance income towards our dog fund and our home improvement projects.
Maggie Germano is a feminist and financial coach for women. She helps women improve their relationship with money so they can take control of their financial future. She does this through one-on-one financial coaching, workshops, writing, and speaking engagements. She also founded Money Circle, which is a safe space for women to talk about money without feeling judged. It’s a way to create community and openness around personal finance. Passionate about many issues affecting women, Maggie is a member of the Women’s Information Network and was trained as a salary negotiation facilitator by AAUW.