Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Days...hours, in fact

It turns out that starting a hairy, new job and planning a wedding make blogging about said wedding nearly impossible. A few things I want to share in case I never blog again:

Google "Captiva, Florida" and click on the satellite view. You'll appreciate the value in being willing to ask family to stay in their free vacation home as a way to save money.

Go to Et Cetera Shop in Newton. They let Brant cull through their inventory of ties so he could find coordinating $1 ties for the groomsmen, ushers and dads. It has turned out to be a great idea -- the ties are very fun and eclectic and will add some visual interest to the "same old" wedding poses in our photos.

If you need to buy a new tie, Kohl's has them for $13. Ask Brant. He's the world's best Menno shopper.

We continue to feel very good about our choices of where to spend and where to save. For example, the food and booze for the reception will cost more than $3,000. That feels worth it to us because we will gather and break bread with all the friends and family who have joined us on our special day -- and that's among the primary reasons we didn't just run down to the courthouse to get hitched. On the other hand, the $45 we spent on table favors (170 of them to be exact) is exactly in line with the idea that we don't desire to infiltrate the world with more STUFF that nobody uses again anyway. (The table favors are little bundles of sparklers sold to us by a fireworks stand owner in bulk. So they're even usable!)

So as I look toward the next three days, I am completely at peace about the financial side of this wedding. We have enjoyed a lot of support in so many ways from everyone around us, including a lot of encouragement for our efforts to spend according to our values (which means NOT spending more than we make) on this wedding celebration. Praise, as always, belongs the Lord who brought us both to the place in our hearts where these were/are our desires.



Monday, May 17, 2010

Ring Around a Shoe String 2.0

In our ongoing quest to save money, Brant shopped for wedding rings that were in the "less expensive than white gold" category. That was made easy by the fact that we did not feel compelled to have our rings match, and also by the abundance of such products on the market.

We visited our friends at MuCullen Jewelry to look at their steel and tungston rings. Brant's research revealed that titanium would be more than he wanted to spend. However, they pulled out a titanium ring and it look great (similar to the picture below), was very light weight, and was only $116! Perfect!

So not only have we taken care of both our rings, but we did so for less than $500! AND we stayed committed to shopping locally. (Depending on where we're at with the wedding budget closer to the wedding, we may buy a very small band for me to wear next to my diamond engagement band. As with all things related to the actual wedding, it's all about the budget!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another Win for Brant

Once again, Brant demonstrates his uncanny ability to go above and beyond, and to excel at everything he does. (Seriously, people. It's a lot of pressure. I'm just trying to keep up with the guy.)

We needed to stamp and address wedding invitations this last weekend. During my very stressful and exhausting first week at my new job last week, I breathlessly ordered him to find stamps, and with some demanding specifications. They had to be non-wedding-y, non-cheesy, no animals or Disney characters, no human faces. They could be flowers or art. No charitable causes. Nothing political.
God bless him. He went to three post offices -- after researching on the internet to find the best stamp -- in order to find these. And I'll be darned if they didn't match our awesome invitation design exactly. (Shout out once again to Frances MacLeod for the invitation design; see a few posts below.) Seriously. The USPS has never MADE stamps so perfect as these.
Thank you, Brant, for being the most loving, involved, engaged, present, helpful, thoughtful groom I've ever heard of. I STILL don't know what I did to deserve you.

By the way, the only way this relates to saving money is that we kept the invitation list so short, that postage wasn't very expensive. $72 to be exact. Not bad!

The Good, The Bad & The Thrifty

Well, it's two months until the wedding date. Brant and I are busy with a lot of things, but very little is related to wedding planning. So much of the "heavy lifting" planning is already done! (Hence, the lack of blog posts.)

In fact, I've told people (and I believe it's true) that if the wedding were this Saturday, it'd be messy, but it would get done. So, I suppose in that way, I'm grateful we have two more months to work out the minute details, so that it will not only "get done", but will take place with as little stress on everyone as possible. As a career event planner, my goal for this wedding is to have so many details in place by July 3rd that all of us just get to sail through the day, enjoying the moment and each other and the gifts the good Lord has given us.

Now. While we don't have much wedding planning to do right now, we DO have a lot of financial planning to do. I'm tempted to leave out the parts about how we've experienced stress regarding money and the wedding, but then, that wouldn't be real. The truth is that we've been tempted to choose debt several times throughout this process, and we struggle to continue choosing to proceed in such a way that we'll only pay cash. While that challenge is hard sometimes, we know the rewards and freedoms waiting for us on the other side of the wedding day will be worth it.

Of course, we continue to work toward income streams that will keep "flush" in our wedding fund. Brant is able to sock away a very healthy sum every two weeks thanks to his overload teaching and the online classes he teaches. (On the flip side, his teaching schedule is described well by the illustration below.)

We did have a garage sale. Well, actually my step-dad and aunt and uncle had a garage sale, and they let us include our stuff in it. This served two positive purposes: It helped us clean out more of our belongings in anticipation of joining households on July 3rd, and it netted us around $180. Every little bit counts!

I have a couple of lucrative house/dog-sitting gigs between now and July 3rd, and that's always double the fun because not only do I get paid, but my parents and I get a break from living with each other. Below is Callie Chenoweth, my most frequent customer. We loooooove each other. :)

As I've switched jobs (which means a change in health insurance coverage, which equals less take-home pay) and Brant was hit with a big tax bill and some other unexpected expenses...and as I pay the City of Wichita for a diversion on a speeding ticket I got so that it doesn't go on my record and cause my car insurance to go up...and while Brant and I dissect our budgets for the sake of our pre-marital counseling sessions (which, I might add, was such a joy because the Lord has blessed us with incredible "unity of spirit" on all matters financial)...we continue to work toward putting our trust in the Lord and listening for the right balance between spending on the wedding and spending on things that are probably more important in the long run. Like food. And friends. And towel racks for our future married master bathroom. (Because nothing says love....)

Monday, March 29, 2010

As for us and our home...

There are many reasons Mennos have gravitated toward certain areas of the country. Though I'm sure they could not have predicted the incredible chasm between home prices on the coasts vs the Mid-West, I am willing to bet that's one reason why they've stayed in these areas!

In Wichita, KS, a couple can buy a three bedroom, two full bath home with a garage, a fenced-in back yard and several other great amenities for just over $100,000. You need only watch HGTV on a Saturday afternoon for a few hours (or live somewhere other than the middle of the country) to know how freakin' awesome that is.

In fact, those same two people can live in an amazing house like that, and after spending a year paying off every last debt except the mortgage -- including both cars! -- that same couple can live comfortably on one income, and save the other person's WHOLE INCOME!

We are so excited and blessed and grateful to be one of those couples. When Brant and I met, he was in an apartment. Before we were engaged (but when we knew engagement was eminent) we started searching for a home. And we both agreed (hallelujah!) that the home should be inexpensive enough for us to be able to pay our house payment and ALL our bills on one income, so we could save and give away the rest. Praise God and thank you, Brant!

That means we can save mightily for Emily's college fund, be generous to our church and other causes about which we're passionate, pay cash for our next cars (after we've driven these two until they're dead -- thank you, Dave Ramsey) and many other opportunities to create and give away wealth. Personally, I've never known such freedom. And we both know ALL OF THIS BELONGS TO THE LORD who can and does give and take away in His perfect timing; we hold all this lightly, and gratefully. But we're already setting ourselves up to live a life of freedom from financial debt, and we so appreciate that both of us have been called by God into the same ways of thinking about money.

So here's the house!

As an additional blessing, Brant and I discovered early a shared love of mid-century architecture and design. So this house just so happens to match our tastes perfectly. Who could ask for more??

Here's the front of the house; the front door is on the side.

Here's looking onto the back deck, which is really cool and wraps around from the area between the house and the garage, and the back yard. Lots of trees!

This is looking into the back yard from the opposite direction. There's a nice shed and plenty of room for entertaining guests, for Izzy and Emily to run and play, and for just enjoying Kansas evenings by ourselves.

Here's the living room portion of the uber-open floor plan. Note Brant's awesome vintage furniture, including the coffee table, end table and lamp. The house is all hardwood or tile. Not a stitch of carpet in the place! (We're shopping for area rugs.)

This is moving to the right from the living room area. Brant and his dad built these fabulous shelves for all our books and I went ahead and moved in my books last weekend. (It was fun to do some pre-nesting!) Eventually this will be a reading corner, complete with lamp, end table and 1 or 2 chairs.

Moving again to the right, this is the dining area. (Note again: Brant's vintage dining set.) There's a corner that was meant to house a wood-burning stove, but we don't see ourselves going that direction so we're trying to decide what to do with the big concrete thingy in that corner. The tile work sure is nice!

Moving along to where the dining area meets the kitchen. This is all one, big U shape, separated only by the half wall you see on the far right. We both really love the floor plan and it's very conducive to preparing meals, interacting with each other and Emily, hosting guests, etc. Lots of sunlight. Awesome floors. We love it!

And here's the kitchen! It's not a great picture b/c it doesn't really capture all the cool, fun aspects of the space. But you get the idea. The countertops are concrete. There's plenty of cabinet space on both sides, even after previous cabinets were replaced with those dark wood shelves. The tiling and backsplash are really great colors. We just instantly loved this kitchen, and still do! We're looking forward to preparing lots and lots of meals here!

We hope you enjoyed this photo tour and look forward to having you over in person soon!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nothin' But Grace

As of this week, I have nothing but empathy and grace for all those friends and family who have gone before us and who chose to use credit cards to pay for parts of their weddings. We're staying strong! But the temptation is great.

Brant's overload teaching is doing a fine job of padding our "wedding account," and my little house-sitting jobs make fractional contributions to it, as well. But with 99 days left until W-Day -- and with lots of unpaid cells in the budget spreadsheet -- I'm admittedly feeling the pressure. It's amazing to me to that we can be as conscientious as we're being about costs and savings, and still feel this pinched.

For the record, I believe the main reason for this is that real life does not yield to wedding planning (the nerve!) I need four new tires; Brant received some unpleasant surprises regarding his taxes; we are putting a high priority on end-of-life and estate planning with an attorney (something about which I'm very passionate and could be a blog post of its own); we've mindfully committed to giving extra to our church right now as they invest in the future of our youth by creating a middle school/high school space in an unfinished part of the church building; and sometime before the wedding, we'd really like to take a trip to North Dallas to IKEA for a few inexpensive modern furniture pieces.

So, of course, most of these and other expenses are choices we're making (though the taxes aren't a choice and the tires are close to making the choice for me) and therefore there is nothing "unfair" about them. They're choices we'd be making quite comfortably were it not for that pesky wedding day! But it's amazing and challenging -- and transformative even -- when we commit to paying cash only for all expenses because it forces us to discern and agree on priority status for everything that comes up.

There is no conclusion or tidy ending to this blog post. More of an observation, and maybe a bit of a confession. I confess that I desire more than I can afford, and that I struggle to choose wisdom and the "things of heaven over the things of this earth." I suspect I always will. Thank God for the grace of Jesus...and for the fact that my credit card is hidden in someone else's house! :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Menno Friendly Wedding Invitations

Please forgive the long absence. Everyone asking, "So, how's the wedding planning going?" has gotten the same response: All the planning is done! Now we just have to hurry up and wait to get married. This long mid-western winter has definitely felt longer since we're counting the days until our wedding. I believe we're at something like 106 or 107. Whatever it is, it feels like a LOT!

Anyway, we really haven't had to work on anything so there hasn't been much to blog about.

I can share, however, that we're ready to go to print with our invitations, and the story of those invitations is one any Menno would love.

First, there's the piece itself.

With years of event planning experience under my belt, I know how expensive invitations can be. Even if one wants a simple invitation, outer envelope, reply card and inner envelope -- that ain't cheap! I was inspired by another woman's invitation, therefore, to go with a folding self-mailer. Our invitation folds up and the reply card is perforated at the bottom so when invitees open it up, all the information will be right there and they can tear out the reply card to send it back. No envelopes, no extra reply card. It's all printed two per sheet, and then cut, perf'ed and folded. Voila!

Second, there's the printing.

I realize not everyone's mother works for a print shop, but mine does and I'm not ashamed to ask for favors. (See honeymoon post.) We were able to pick out a beautiful linen paper, of which we'll only pay the cost, not the mark up. And I'm hoping we'll get a discount on the printing, folding, etc. AND I know their work is great. Check 'em out.

Lastly, there's design.

One of my favorite people in the whole world is a young woman I met when she was attending "Real Life" high school ministry at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, and I was a volunteer adult leader. I knew the second I met Frances MacLeod that she was special, but I really had no idea. Over the years, Frances and I have hung out in some of America's coolest cities -- Chicago, Kansas City, Boston...Andover, KS. She's got the kindest, most loving heart I've ever known. If you want to meet someone who embodies the 1 Corinthians 13 scripture that gets overused at weddings, find a way to introduce yourself to Frances.

She also happens to be a very talented designer.

She is in her second year at Columbia College in Chicago studying design/art direction and she's rockin' it out. Brant and I humbly asked her if she would consider designing our invitations, program and any other printed pieces and SHE AGREED! I'm not going to reveal the AMAZING AWESOME COOLEST-WEDDING-INVITATION-I'VE-EVER-SEEN invitation, but I will leave you with some fun examples of her work. Keep an eye on this one. "Great things" doesn't even begin to describe what she's going to do.