How not to fall into the cookie cutter trap: Planning our wedding our way

My boyfriend of 2 1/2 years, Michael, proposed to me last Christmas morning. I said yes, accepted a beautiful engagement ring, and started planning in late January.

People ask us questions about the wedding all the time these days: What are your wedding colors? Are you having a bachelorette party? Are you going to have an emcee, DJ, or band? What will your song be?

These are questions that have nothing to do with our wedding. I don’t blame people for asking us these things though; the wedding industry has shaped how Americans think a wedding should be. People have their own expectations.

Questions that do relate to our wedding include: How many cities are you visiting during your trip? Is it ok if I come to more than one celebration? What is your actual wedding date?

We’re going to have a small, private ceremony somewhere on the beach with just our parents, and going out to dinner later that evening. The following day, we’re throwing a big picnic for family, friends, and coworkers in a large park on scenic windward Oahu, complete with a tent if the weather shouldn’t cooperate and caterers serving a big buffet. Later that week, Michael and I depart on a month-long trip that includes ten days in South Africa (that’s our honeymoon), as well as stops in 4 cities in the mainland US and London to see friends and family and take them out for fancy dinners.

We decided early on in our process to focus on what we value for our wedding. We are only including what we want– a focus on delicious food! We will not need a fancy DJ or things in certain ‘colors’. Saving in some areas will enable us to celebrate in many more cities during our epic trip. Keeping it simple for us has meant drawing a line and making sure we stick to our guns.

Stay tuned for future blog posts about:

  • Selecting an affordable venue in Hawaii
  • Budgeting and matching your budget to your priorities
  • Managing others’ expectations for your wedding

If you have specific questions about our wedding planning process, leave a comment down below!

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Me and Michael on Kailua Beach, Oahu
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Budget Update (June 2017)

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Long time, no blog!  It’s been a while since I posted on my blog, but I wanted to let you know that the system I put in place at the beginning of the year is working well!

I wanted to be one month ahead in all my bills– that is, the paychecks I earn in June will cover all my expenses for July.  Last year, I was still allocating a certain amount to cover a range of non-monthly expenses (such as Christmas gifts and club dues that are only paid twice a year), but I didn’t physically move that money into another account as savings.  It just stayed in my main account and theoretically I’d have enough in there to cover any non-monthly expense that popped up.  The trouble was, these expenses aren’t all on the same schedule, and paying for my professional certification maintenance or cat’s medical expenses wouldn’t happen all at the end of the calendar year, so it wasn’t certain that I’d have enough saved when each of them needed to be paid.

So, starting after Christmas I would transfer that amount, along with regular savings toward an emergency fund, into a separate account.  The money in that savings account is for both non-monthly expenses as well as emergencies.  Currently, that account has enough money to cover three months’ worth of my regular living expenses (not counting any personal savings contributions, but still including life insurance and retirement contributions).

This month we’ve got one cat’s annual checkup and vaccine booster, and we need to stock up on the monthly drops we put on our two cats so they don’t get fleas/ear mites/other nasty bugs.  So if that amount is more than my monthly contribution to the non-monthly expenses (which is $107), then I’ll transfer the difference from my savings account back into my regular account to cover it.  This system of being one month ahead on bills, and non-monthly expenses transferred to a separate account so they don’t comingle with my regular balance, makes a lot of sense for me!

How is your budget working out for you? Let me know if you have any questions about budgeting in the comments below and I’ll be glad to chime in! 😀

Personal Budget 2.0

I posted a Youtube video a while back which outlined how I budget.

Since then, I realized that the assumptions I was making in executing my budget weren’t working for me.  The ‘non-monthly’ expenses that I saved for each month weren’t all on the same schedule, and I wasn’t actually moving the money each month into a dedicated place for those expenses.  Theoretically, after a year the non-monthly expenses such as credit card fees ($89) and membership dues for Toastmasters ($80) and a professional certification ($400+) would be covered by the money in my main account.  In actuality, it wasn’t that easy to track or ensure I’d have enough in the main account to cover each non-monthly expense when it would pop up.

So I decided to include the non-monthly expense total each month (now $107) as a transfer to a separate account that I make each month.  Then, when one of those expenses comes along, I can transfer the needed amount back into my main account from my savings.

That’s another thing worth mentioning– I used to have two separate accounts, one for emergencies and one for travel.  After we returned from our big trip to Europe last year, I wanted to simplify my finances and decided to close one of the accounts and just have one general savings account.  Emergency funds, money available for using to cover non-monthly expenses, and money to devote to travel are all co-mingled in that one account.  My goal is to maintain a hefty, healthy balance and pad it whenever possible.

In order to ensure my financial peace of mind, I decided to use what I had in my old emergency fund to pay off bills and expenses one month early.  Then I started building up my savings again, but this time it was with actual money that can be saved, not money that could have paid off my credit card expenses for the month.  I never carry a balance on my credit cards, but this way, each paycheck is devoted partly to paying off the next month’s expenses, partly to savings.  Being a month ahead gives me assurance that I’ll have enough in my main account to cover everything.

Thinking about moving abroad? Read this!

Ever since the presidential election in America picked up steam, many people have joked about moving to Canada if the ‘wrong’ person gets elected.

But seriously, have you thought about living in another country?

For many Americans, a brief vacation overseas or a semester abroad during college is the extent of their time spent outside their native country. As a thirty-something who has lived abroad in Europe and Asia for a total of 6 years, I know what’s necessary to successfully work, study, make friends, and learn to live in a foreign country.  The benefits of living abroad are many and far-reaching, and I want to help others explore the idea of living abroad. We can act as informal ambassadors of our country, building bridges across languages, religions, and cultures.

Last week I published my Guide to Living Abroad on Amazon, which helps you approach living abroad in a holistic way, preparing you to reach your goals and have an enriching time.  The e-book takes you from when you first have the idea, all the way through your return home with useful worksheets and flowcharts as well as anecdotes from my own time abroad.  Some of the ideas covered in the book include:

  • Is moving abroad the right idea for you?  What can you do to prepare?
  • What should you take care of before departing?
  • What things will help ease the transition to your new home?
  • What can you do to align your daily life abroad to your bigger picture goals?
  • How can you ease your transition when you head home?

My e-book is available both for purchase and as a loan through Kindle Unlimited.

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Why not try a new way of life abroad? (Venice, Italy 2016)

 

Thankful for What I Got: November’s Capsule Wardrobe Challenge

Are you a fan of the simplicity/minimalism movement?

Me too.

Are you successful in all your minimalist habits?  I know I still struggle to know what’s worth adding to my closet or home, and what’s not worth purchasing.  But I’m working on keeping my wardrobe to a small, but effective, size.  I’ve been trying to do so for the past few years.  Right now, I believe I have around 35 items in my work wardrobe.

As we celebrate Halloween and don our costumes that we probably won’t wear again, I think this is the perfect time to address the clothing that I have in my normal closet.  Wouldn’t it be great to wear everything I own before re-wearing anything?  This would make my closet an equal opportunity employer.

So my idea is to document each day, starting tomorrow, what I wear and keep track in my closet of what I haven’t worn yet.  As I wear each item, I can make a note of what I think works and what doesn’t anymore, and brainstorm ideas for future item purchases that might be versatile and work with many of the items I already own.

Do you have a capsule wardrobe?  Or do you struggle to find something to wear even though your closet is overflowing?  Maybe a simplified closet would help you to keep only your best clothing and get rid of the rest!

Check out this YouTube video that inspired me to tackle this challenge:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Foqfxo7nMLE  She’s got a different ‘Shop Your Closet’ challenge than me for November, but I think her idea is a great one– use and be grateful for what we already have!

Reading Update Q3 2016

My reading goal for 2016 was to read a book each month.  This was fine, a reasonable decision for a busy professional such as myself, and totally doable… until I started reading and listening to Shantaram in April.  This book is a hefty 946 pages.

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Our reading nook 

I read books mostly by borrowing them from the public library as e-books or audiobooks, so sometimes I have to wait until they are available if others are ahead of me in line.  So that is part of the reason why it took me so long to finish it, another reason is that it’s poorly written and very slow to get into.  But I recently finished it! So to date, I’ve finished 7 books this year, with two currently in the works as well.  See below for the books I’ve completed, and the others still on my list to read this year:

Go Set a Watchman  DONE!

In Other Words DONE!

How to Be a Productivity Ninja

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle  DONE!

Sea of Poppies

Last Man in Tower

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern  DONE!

Cutting for Stone

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Shantaram  DONE!

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

Positivity Attracts

The Winter of our Disconnect  DONE!

Food: A Love Story DONE!

Hagakure  In progress

Savor  In progress

I found Hagakure after watching the movie Ghost Dog with my boyfriend, and really appreciate the book’s link between behavior and values.  It’s also a quick read, at less than 200 pages.  I’d like to read a few shorter books to catch up with my goal.  5 more books before the end of the year is an ambitious goal, given that it’s almost November!

I’m also still reading the daily devotional book Savor.  I was good during the first few months of the year to read and write briefly about the essay every morning, but haven’t done it regularly since then.  Every once in a while I read the day’s essay and think about it, but I think it would be nice to get back into that habit to reflect a bit more every day and keep things in perspective.

What are you reading this year?  Do you have a reading goal on Goodreads?  If you’ve read any of the books I list above, what did you think about them?

Budgeting to Move Abroad

It was our European vacation in August/September that gave us the itch to move abroad.  No sooner had we returned home after our 3 week trip that we started talking about our next trip, or rather, the idea of moving abroad for a few years.

Being financially able to move abroad is a big consideration before we’re ready.  Some of the things we’d need to pay for include: savings to cover our transition abroad, an emergency fund in case we need to get home fast at any time during our stay, expenses to cover the time we’re finding a job abroad, which should enable us to afford our basic expenses as well as ‘extras’ like regional travel, language classes, covering storage of things we leave at home, or other expenses in our home country.  These are all things that must be accounted for before it makes financial sense to move abroad.

Besides the less fun financial planning and saving, there are the questions of what you’ll do abroad, where, and for how long.  Once you have the main game plan sketched out, you will know how much you need to save up.

These are details that might be easy to figure out, or you might need a lot of discussion and research to iron out the details.  Since it will be both my boyfriend and I moving abroad, along with our two cats, we both need to be included in the decision making and financial preparations.

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Cozy lights shine from shops in Kyoto, Japan (March 2015)

Have you ever thought about moving abroad?  How did you decide where to go, for how long, and how did you afford it?  Let me know in the comments below!