Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting Married - Steps to Take

I realised that a frequent question I get from people is how much savings one needs to get married. I am not that old but I guess being married- being a person that has walked down that path, makes me a qualified individual.

Or perhaps people know that I am a person who likes to plan ahead and seems to have everything under control. And that is why they ask me for advice.

Recently, when browsing through the IMSavvy site, I realised that it was one of the discussion topics too. So I guess I will chip in to the many opinions out there. But perhaps a better way is to tell you my story.

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I decided to get married when I found the right person. Of course, it is a commitment that one takes as you never ever know whether there might be someone out there in the world who might be prettier, or better suited for you. But one does not have time to meet all members of the opposite sex in the world so you take the leap of faith.

Having known my girlfriend then for sometime, I decided that enough was enough and I was ready to settle down. It was getting tiring to just date without anything to hold us or bind us together.

So I sat my girlfriend down and asked her how much we needed to get married. (Yes, I know it is not romantic at all). But for most guys, I guess this is the preparatory stage before the actual proposal. You just want to make sure that the both of you have sufficient resources to hold a wedding. buy a house, buy some furniture and if possible, go for a nice honeymoon.

Of course, on 2nd thoughts, I should have just bought a ring and proposed straight up, then do the planning later on. But like I told you before, I am really a planner kind of person. And it simply did not make sense to hide my plans from my girlfriend. (okay, i admit that I am not romantic)

Well, the conversation went well and she actually got excited. I think she was just happy that I was actually thinking of settling down. We did our math on a rough sheet of paper which I grabbed and listed down item by item the things that we had to pay for. In fact, she kept that sheet of paper and we still have that piece of paper as a sort of memory.

In short, we added up every single item we could think of that we needed and tallied the total bill. We then forecasted how long it would take us to save that amount of money.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Now came the savings part.

As we were both working and literally quite fresh out of university, we basically were able to save quite a bit each month as long as we did not splurge on unnecessary stuff.

So it was actually quite workable. And we realised that we needed less than 1 year to save up for marriage. In this manner, we sort of revealed our finances to one another.

Good thing: we both did not have any debt.

Bad thing: we would be in debt the moment we got married as we wanted to buy our own place.

But that did not deter us and basically, we continued to save up fervently. Of course, I eventually did propose, buying the ring with a hidden stash of cash that I did not reveal to her at the start =)

Were there fights? Well...not really. We really stuck to the budget as the wedding day draw nearer. We tried to keep to the budget for most of the items and I am glad that such detailed budgeting helped solve a lot of the problems I believe couples face. As the budget was worked out by the both of us, we gauge all prices quoted to us based on what we have budgeted for. Anything too expensive...sorry...we looked for a lower quote. If there was anything that happened to be cheaper..then good..we saved some money.

The few months before the actual wedding was really a mad frenzy. Each weekend was spent trying to buy some item or furniture for our new home. The credit card bills came in fast and furious and it was not uncommon to be signing off thousands of dollars in a single shopping spree. But like I said, we stuck strictly to what we budgeted for.

I still remember that there were times I had to call up the credit card company to ask them to temporarily increase my credit limit so that I could pay for the big items. In fact, I have never ever spent money like that in my entire life before. Thinking back on it, I guess it is a phase that everyone has to go thru especially if you are getting your own place to live in. Furniture after all can be very expensive.

In fact, the renovations were the most expensive item that we budgeted for. But we decided that it was worthwhile to spend that money as we will want our home to be a nice and comfy place to live in.

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We counted down the months. As each month drew closer, our bank accounts got more and more depleted. It can really be quite stressful at times to realise that you are spending almost all your savings just to set up a home with somebody else. It was during this period that I really could see the sacrifices that my parents have made.

(I actually went further and started planning for life together and calculating our recurrent expenditure when we would move out of our parent's place and live in our own flat. It was then that I realised the amount my parents have been paying in terms for water, electricity, cable, etc over the twenty years of my existence. The amount they have spent on me must be lots!!!). Love you Mum and Dad!

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D-day arrived. It happened quickly and before I knew it, we were off to our honeymoon. When we returned home, we looked at the damage that the wedding had done to our finances, shrugged it off and decided that it was worthwhile. We did not spend a lot but it was still quite a substantial bit.

Nevertheless, because we did not spend our entire savings, we were able to start off our married life with a sure footing. (For example, even after our wedding and paying for all the bills, we still had 6 months of expenditure as an emergency fund set aside with room to spare)

Getting married is an expensive affair. It can be cheap if you want it to. But the best thing one can do is to sit down with your partner and work out the sums. Create a detailed budget and see whether some things are good to have and really necessary. The most important thing is open communication.

I hope this post has been useful for those who are planning to get married.

The writer has been married only once in his life. He does not plan to get married again. He thinks that weddings can actually be a lot cheaper if couples are willing to take the unconventional path of not having a huge celebration that Asians are so fond of doing. Perhaps a bbq or buffet will suffice in the future?

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