Women who’ve run the wedding-baby-birthday gift gauntlet tell Moneyish how to celebrate your loved ones without blowing your budget.
Good times are not cheaper by the dozen.
Queens creative director Kathleen Busch learned that after spending “a few thousand dollars” celebrating five weddings and two births with her close friends and family last year. After all, those beautiful life events ballooned into 12 different shindigs when she factored in the requisite bridal shower, bachelorette parties and baby showers — two of which she hosted.
“My sister got engaged. Then my brother’s wife announced her pregnancy. Then my niece arrived shortly after the wedding, and then my sister was pregnant very shortly after that,” she said. “The surprises just kept coming.”
This predicament is something she has in common with the British royal family at the moment: Queen Elizabeth just celebrated her 92nd birthday; Kate Middleton gave birth to the third royal heir on Monday; Pippa Middleton revealed that she’s expecting her first baby; and Meghan Markle will wed Prince Harry next month. The Markles are marrying into a very expensive spring.
“They are totally copying my family’s 2017,” joked Busch, 31, adding that she’s not complaining about her family’s blessings. “I just did not expect all of the excitement to happen at once.”
Watching love ones tie the knot costs a pretty penny. Members of the wedding party spend an average of $728 on the wedding and associated pre-parties, according to Bankrate. Close friends or family spend $628, and more distant friends and family drop $372.
Busch got a raise last year, fortunately, so she put the extra income aside for the unexpected gifting and party-planning expenses. She wore the same dress to three of the weddings and borrowed a dress for the fourth, and wore shoes that she already owned. “I also turned 30 in the middle of it all, so I started going out less,” she added, saving $150 a week.
Rochelle Sanchez, a marketing strategist in Suisun City, Calif., told Moneyish that she’s been having an expensive first quarter this year thanks to four birthdays and a baby shower.
“Apparently everyone in my family’s inner circle has birthday, and their children have birthdays, all at the same time,” said Sanchez, 34. “These are close relatives where you can’t really pass on it. And with the children’s birthdays and the baby shower, they open the presents in front of everyone and announce who they’re from, so it was like, ‘OK, what I give matters!’”
Like Busch, she sacrificed going out to boost her gift-giving funds. “I definitely cut down on my own personal spending. I stopped going to Starbucks, and I put off fun little outings like movies and things like that until later,” she said.
She also lowered her usual spending cap from $20 to $30 per birthday gift or a baby shower item to $10 to $15 per gift. “I got pretty creative, which was actually pretty fun — not necessarily just grabbing a toy off the shelf, but really thinking about those kids’ personalities,” she said.
For example, she put together a sports package for her 5-year-old niece that included a soccer ball, a football and a plastic trinket that she can smash on the ground to get more toys. “It was really cool to have an active theme, and I will probably interact with her more playing with these toys than I would have if I’d gotten her something else,” said Sanchez.
Erin Lowry, author of “Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together,” told Moneyish that she’s seen too many young adults go into debt for a friend or relative’s wedding. In fact, a recent survey found that age 31 is already the most expensive year of your life, since it’s when many millennials are getting married, buying homes and having kids — or celebrating their friends and family around the same age doing the same things.
“You should never spend more than you can. It isn’t worth it,” said Lowry, who ran the gift-giving gauntlet with seven back-to-back weddings two years ago that ran about $3,500. Here are her tips for saving money when loved ones’ milestones threaten to wreck your finances.
Plan ahead. If you know your close friends are close to getting engaged, or your sister is trying to have a baby, then start putting money aside now. “I started a savings account specifically for other people’s weddings when I was 24 so that I could have some flexibility when the events arose,” said Lowry, who put away 10% to 20% of each paycheck from her writing side-hustle. In fact, she named the account “Other People’s Weddings.”
Just say no. You do not have to accept every invite. “Unless this is for an immediate family member or an in-law, you can always graciously back out of it,” said Lowry. Even though she budgeted for weddings, she admitted that, “I still couldn’t go to every event, but I would always send a small gift off the registry if I was invited to someone’s wedding and declined the invitation.”
Choose either the bridal shower or the bachelorette party — or skip both, and just hit the wedding. “I wouldn’t do both the bridal shower and bachelorette party unless they were the same weekend,” said Lowry. Or if you’ve got to choose between the run-up events and the nuptials themselves, just explain: “Unfortunately, I can’t do both the shower and the wedding, so I would prefer to come to your wedding. But how about I take you out to dinner separately to celebrate?”
Divide and conquer. One of the downsides to being in a couple is that you get roped into your partners’ friends’ weddings, too. “You can split up! You don’t both always have to go to the wedding together,” she said. “Especially if one of you is in the wedding party, you really don’t need your partner there, and you don’t need to spend the extra money to have both of you go.”
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