My Facebook feed is full of good news these days. This is wonderful news for my friends and family, of course. It's not necessarily good news for my wallet. “Christmas in July” and of course the actual holiday season aside, it seems to me that June is one of the most festive times of year. Think about it — you've got:
- Bridal showers
- Bachelor/bachelorette parties
(Heck, actual births of new human beings!)
- Graduations of all sorts
(High school, college. I hear they even have graduation ceremonies for kindergarteners these days.)
- Father's Day
Even if you're normally frugal, it can be difficult to say no to events like these. And depending on the event, it can also be difficult to keep costs down. These occasions are often spendy, involving potentially expensive items such as gifts, dining out, and travel.
Expensive events, and does money equal affection?
While sometimes these costs can be mitigated, other times they can't. Perhaps it's cheaper to drive; but if the drive takes so long you won't have enough time for a substantial visit, you'd rather fly even though it's more expensive. Maybe the shower takes place at a fancy restaurant that's normally out of your budget. Even if you don't drink anything at the bachelor or bachelorette party, you're still expected to kick in to cover the future bride or groom.
This is complicated also by the fact that this kind of spending, or lack thereof, can be conflated with affection in some people's eyes. If you are in debt or living paycheck to paycheck and genuinely can't afford to participate, that's one thing. Most people I know would never pressure someone in that situation (though I'm sure there are people out there who would). However, if your spending is in check and you've got a healthy balance in your high-yield online savings account, how do participate without breaking the bank?
My current dilemma
I'm in a sticky situation at the moment myself. One of my bridesmaids and her husband recently had their first child. She really wants me to come out and visit her and the baby. I'm happy my friend's happy (she's wanted a baby for years); but unfortunately, I'm not prepared to celebrate with her.
I just started a new job and don't have enough accrual to make a meaningful trip. And while I have money in savings, it is currently allocated to other goals. It's just tricky to convey my sentiments to her in a way that doesn't come across as something like, sorry, your baby isn't worth the trouble.
Preparing financially for happy occasions
I feel bad about not being in a position to celebrate this milestone in her life, so I'm determined to put systems in place now so that this doesn't happen again. My preparation will include:
Saving up vacation time so I can afford to take time off work. Bonus: Once I've got some vacation time saved up, the baby will be old enough to make a visit more fun.
Combine trips. My sister lives in the area, so I can visit her at the same time rather than flying out twice.
Use points and miles. Redeeming travel points can help make celebrations more economical.
Beyond travel, there are strategies you can use to make celebrating with loved ones more affordable. Credit card points can be redeemed for gift cards, for giving or for offsetting the cost of dining out. Maybe you've got some dorm survival guide items around the house that you no longer need but that a recent high school graduate will appreciate as a gift. And of course simply creating a targeted savings account that you sock cash in throughout the year will ensure that there is money waiting for you to spend, guilt-free, when celebratory occasions roll around.
How do you prepare financially for celebrations, whether in June or throughout the year? Do you focus on cutting costs, saving money, or both? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
[Are you in your 20s and already a major saver of money? Tell us how you do it for upcoming profile. Email editor Linda Vergon at firstname.lastname@example.org.]