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Budget Bride II: Dress for a Mess

Something marked down, something askew, something old, something like-new--anything but a pretentious designer outfit you'll only wear once, with a four-figure price tag! Since my own wedding at age 24, I've attended many weddings of friends and family and seen many different styles of wedding dress--formal, casual, homemade, upcycled, discounted, and haute couture. At all of those different weddings, I have only ever heard family and friends of the bride throw shade on one gown--a very expensive, custom-made, imported piece of couture with a whole fussy and dramatic backstory. There was nothing objectionable about the dress per se, but the rumors of how much money, time, and effort it required sort of elicited snark and disgust among the practical Midwestern guests. Ouch!  I don't recommend that anyone choose their wedding attire primarily to avoid criticism or to people-please the whole guest list. Your big-day drag should celebrate you and your partner, and it should ref

Budget Bride I: Put Your Friends and Family to Work

Welcome to the Budget Bride series, in which I share wisdom from my "recessionista" wedding in 2007 on how to treat a small budget as a creative opportunity rather than an obstacle to the beginning of a shared lifetime of gorgeous memories. Over ten Thursdays, I am sharing updated tips on how to use the friction of financial restriction to spark the kind of light, warmth, joy, and graciousness in a wedding that money can't buy anyway. My husband and I have enjoyed almost 15 years of happy marriage (not without ups and downs but with the tools to handle challenges while remaining best buds with benefits), and we'll always have our wonderful memories of our wedding day to look back on--not just in shiny, retouched photographs but in the visceral reliving of the actual experience. Whether you've struck it rich in the stock market or you're just grateful to have survived the past year, there is timeless wisdom in starting a marriage by setting an intentional rhyt

2021 PLANS!

I am so grateful to have made it through 2020 with my life and my health, and I am so excited to fill in my good old-fashioned paper 2021 planner! It's great that my work and my daughter's schooling and our family holiday gatherings were all able to go virtual during the pandemic. And as much as I appreciate that, I am looking forward to getting back into the real world. I know that the pandemic's course is still uncertain and that I need to pencil everything in for now, but I am starting to let myself dream about everything I'll do after I get my vaccine: have dinner with extended family and friends, take walks and go shopping without anxiety about personal space and masks, get a haircut, go in to work, and gather with people in real, shared space for holidays and birthdays and other celebrations.  Like weddings! Oh, the weddings that will begin to flood our calendars starting in--I'll hazard a guess--late 2021! Can you imagine? If you've had to put off your we

TBT: How It Started vs. How It's Going... 2010s Resolutions

In hindsight, the year 2020 feels like a weird false start to me. The year that marks the beginning of a new decade isn't supposed to be so... end-timey. I've settled down into that long wait for this decade to truly begin, I hope after the pandemic fades out over the course of 2021. Forget about dramatic resolutions, I just want to make tentative plans again! One of the gifts of 2020 has been a gigantic time-out, a chance to reset priorities, and a lot of time to reflect upon the way things used to be in the Before Times and how much of that we'd like to leave in the Before Times. I like the idea of picking out only the best lessons and traveling light into a very new New Year--bringing forward more wisdom and skill, less stuff and baggage. Today's post is a look back at my weighty 2010 New Year's Resolutions (below, in text that is not italicized) with notes on how those went and how those lessons learned have affected my visions for the 2020s (in italics).   It&#

The Last $Monday: Dumpster Dived FIRE

The cursed year 2020 is finally ending! Let us warm our cold, tired bodies beside this dumpster fire and, before it goes out, dive in to salvage the embers that will spark new joys in 2021. For example, this is the last $Monday post I am going to write for " Money Money 2020 ," but it won't be the last time I write about money at all. I am simply going to change my focus to clarify that money is a means, not an end--and that personal finance isn't the only means to achieve our ends. During the 2010s, many of us were briefly interested in the FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) and ultimately discarded it as neither practical nor joyful for most people, because it only works if you can score yourself a six-figure income as a young adult (unrealistic for most Americans) and if your big life goals can wait until you're middle-aged (in other words, if you're willing to risk running out of time before running out of money ).  There are components

TBT: Absurdist Theme Parties

2020 has been a disruptive year that has forced us to think of new and creative ways to have fun and celebrate holidays and milestones with others. I am stoked about the distribution of coronavirus vaccines that will, I hope, set us free to mingle in real shared spaces again, but I've also enjoyed witnessing the shakeup of assumptions about how we have to share traditions and joys and sorrows with our friends and loved ones. I hope we don't ever forget how we were able to adapt to adversity and even turn our "prisons" into "playgrounds." During the last national crisis, the Great Recession, my friends and I came up with lots of creative and whimsical ways to recreate simply because we couldn't afford private jets and bottle service. Or even going out to eat every weekend. One way we had big fun on a smol budget was to throw absurdist theme parties. You don't have to be fancy if you can be funny. The aughts contained a lot of silly variations on 1980

$Monday: All Heroes Wear Masks

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And less than one ounce of vaccine can end the threat of Covid-19! It has taken the hard work of so many masked heroes to get us here--the doctors, the nurses, the scientists, the grocery workers, the bicycle and auto mechanics, the childcare providers, the pilots, the truck drivers, the security guards, the janitors and cleaners, the construction workers and handy people, the food distribution volunteers, the social workers, and too many others to name--but a lot of us are still here at the end of 2020, and we owe our present and future health to our network of mostly undervalued essential workers, volunteers, and unpaid laborers. Thanks to all of them, the end of the pandemic is finally within our reach! My husband has been working as "Santa's elf" (UPS air loader/unloader) for over 15 years, but this is the first time he's been on the front page of national news for it! It isn't the first time he's worked an

$Monday: Dreaming of a Wise Christmas

It's a tough holiday season for the half of Americans whose finances have taken a hit in 2020, especially families with children. And yet, we can make it a profoundly meaningful holiday. The pandemic is a tragedy of what you might call Biblical proportions. Paradoxically, that presents a unique opportunity for us to get serious about the reasons for the season. Think of all the Christmas and winter-holiday stories you know, from ancient times to the New Testament to classic cartoons and holiday films . Can you think of any that don't involve the overcoming of a terrible hardship? How many involve poverty and deprivation, like the Biblical Christmas story itself? This is the year of all years to shift our focus from greed and gluttony to love and hope and faith... from flashy vanity to quiet sparkles in the dark . If you have children, you are most likely experiencing some kind of financial hardship this year. Let go of the idea that you must buy your children a pile of toys. Ch

TBT: Queering Poverty, Part II

Continued from " Queering Poverty, Part I ," written in the 2000s when I was in my 20s and most of my income went to paying interest on student loans and I lived in a gross, dangerous slum and also had some really good times that are fun to look back on. Having a bit of fun within a generally frugal life isn't just mental health survival self-care, it's also an investment in future joy. Happy memories can serve as a delightful escape to get through tough or boring times like, say, a dumpster fire of a pandemic. And now, in December 2020, we finally have access not just to our past memories of partying but to some tentative future plans! As we await the imminent distribution of coronavirus vaccines, we can finally dare to dream about the rockin' good times we'll have out in public sometime within the next year! Soon, we can stop dressing up "just for ourselves" or just to take a photo at home to post on the internet--which was always an enjoyable prel