• Guest post: How lump sum payments can get you out of debt fast

    This is a post by Katie, who writes for numerous daily news websites and blogs about personal finance and saving money. For more information on dealing with debt and advice on saving money, Katie recommends visiting the Fox Symes blog.

    Debt is one of those things in life that you know you’d simply be better off without, so if it’s already looming over your head you’re probably wishing there was a faster and more effective way to get rid of it. Lump sum payments are a beneficial approach to clearing debt faster – here’s how it works.

    Reducing the Term

    By paying lump sum payments you’ll be reducing the time it takes you to pay off your debt. The larger the lump sum amount, the smaller the remaining debt, so each time you make a lump sum repayment you’re taking time off your loan, not just money.

    Reducing Interest

    The interest on a loan is calculated based on the remaining amount. Each time you make a lump sum payment you’re reducing the remaining amount and, therefore, reducing the calculated interest. This means you’re actually reducing the amount of interest you’ll be paying overall, and consequently shrinking the end amount you’ll have paid.

    Earning Interest vs Paying Interest

    Saving all of your money rather than using at least a portion of it to make lump sum payments on your debts is usually the less favourable option in terms of interest. In most cases, the interest you’ll be earning by keeping the money in a savings account will be much less than the interest you’re being charged on your debts. It may be tempting to hold on to the money in savings, but it’s costing you much more to keep it.

    Removing the Temptation to Spend

    By paying lump sum amounts on your loan you’re removing the temptation to spend that money on other things. Once it’s been paid back to your debtor you can’t spend it, so it’s getting you out of debt rather than helping keep you there.

    Beating the Interest Free Periods

    It’s particularly beneficial to pay in lump sum amounts if your debt relates to a credit card, loan or purchase boasting an interest free period. Generally this is a tactic to draw in customers who are often unprepared for the high interest once this interest free period expires. By paying off your debt in lump sum before the interest free period is up, you could be saving yourself a huge amount in interest and fees, and paying much less overall for your purchases.

    Debt Consolidation

    Taking out a loan for debt is another way of paying off owed amounts in lump sum. Through debt consolidation all of your smaller personal debts are paid off by a new loan. If your loan for debt is through a reputable provider like Fox Symes, for example, ideally you will be able to benefit from a lower interest rate and perhaps more favourable terms.

    Voluntary Repayment Bonus

    If your debt is a student loan, the Australian government offers a voluntary repayment bonus for students and/or graduates making lump sum payments on their HECS-HELP loans. This means a bonus of 5% is offered for repayments of $500 or more, credit 5% of the payment back to the student’s account. This is a great way to clear your student debt much faster and reduce the end amount paid. (Ed: The IRD offers a 10% bonus on extra voluntary repayments you make on your NZ student loan.)

    It’s pretty simple really; the more you pay, the less you owe. Lump sum payments are the best way to manage debt, and while you may feel the sting of larger payments now they’ll save you much more money in the long run.

     

  • Guest post: Do some volunteer work for your community

    This was written by Aaron Whyte, who is currently volunteering for the Wiltshire ACF. Aaron believes that volunteering is a good way to help your community and grow as a person.

    Helping others: It’s one of the most rewarding experiences available. In every community exist volunteering opportunities to ease the struggles of those in need. Although many people will donate food for those in the community with none, what some of these distribution centres actually require is manpower. Understaffed facilities are seeing longer lines, longer wait times, and the volunteers they do have, are working much harder.

    Spending a few hours a week assisting at a food pantry is sure to create a sense of accomplishment in those that do volunteer. Knowing that their labour has benefited their community is not only a positive action for themselves, but for the community itself. Bringing others up out of their predicament and possibly providing the resources to acquire employment.

    After all, how is a person that is hungry ever going to rise out of their situation? When one is focused on where their next meal is going to come from, how much thought is given to employment? They are not, but with a concerted effort from the community to provide for those without the means to provide for themselves, these poor individuals will be given the opportunity to elevate their status. Become employed, and in time, stand in that same place, helping others.

    Many times a person will contemplate volunteering, but with a busy life, never follow through. Although well intentioned, it just does not count. Placing some groceries in a bin to distribute is an immense help, but more is needed. (Ed: I’m slightly guilty of this – applied for a volunteer gig last year that I never heard back from, and haven’t followed up any other opportunities since…)

    The type of person that volunteers in their community is one that wants to elevate humanity, create a better world for all. To support others is a noble act that will provide infinite rewards. Internal and external benefits are available to those that spend time helping others.

    Sometimes, wealth is not the only thing needed. Just as valuable, time is also necessary. Food distribution centres are witnessing a massive influx of those in need. With not enough volunteers to competently manage the centres, it is difficult to provide the services.

    Not in my community! In every community there is a need, it might be a hidden need, but every community has residents that occasionally require some assistance. By volunteering in the neighbourhood to provide food for the downtrodden, their plight is made somewhat easier. Maybe, just maybe, they will be able to do the same in the future. Either way, helping other people will be one of the most satisfying endeavours ever pursued.

    Do you volunteer in any way, shape, or form?

  • Guest post: The day after the big one – what spouses should expect from each other

    Goldie Spivey is a full time staffer at a wedding invitations company and a freelance bridal make-up artist.

    Today, flash mob weddings are becoming more and more common among couples. They say that this type of expression is one of the grandest ways to tell the world how people love each other. One of the most famous and memorable flash mob wedding proposals happened on April 21, 2012, in Westlake, Seattle, where almost 1000 flash mobbers gathered to celebrate the third
    Annual Glee Flash Mob. It was the biggest Glee fan event in the US and spectators were surprised when, in the middle of the mob, there was a marriage proposal.

    The show lasted for 7 minutes and 30 seconds where the guy, Tim, proposed to Emily, his girlfriend during the half part of the show. Everyone was quite happy and inspired with the event as it depicts affection and diversity as the couple announced their love with people from different parts of the world.

    Most people think that the proposal itself is the happy ending. What they fail to realise is that real life happens after the big day. After the wedding, a couple is no longer how they were before. They have to go through several changes and adapt to different scenarios in life. There are things that people should keep in mind when getting married. Expectations should be established prior to tying the knot as most marriages fail when they set the wrong expectations.

    First of all, marriage is not a magic pill that can resolve anyone’s problems in life. When you marry someone, you need to face the odds and other things that may happen in the future. This includes tough times such as losing a job or incurring an illness. It is not about thinking negative thoughts about the relationship but rather being emotionally prepared as a couple.

    Another important thing to keep in mind is that change is constant. Many things can change through time and this includes sex life, career, health condition, and other things that are subject to age. It is vital to understand that changes can happen through time and as a couple, you are expected to accept your partner’s vagaries when certain situations arise.

    Marrying someone can be something that most many dream of as people are naturally moved by love and romance. On the other hand, what people should focus on are the responsibilities that lie ahead after the ceremony such as the likelihood of being parents, the ups and downs and everything else that can happen as a couple.

    Overall, what spouses should expect from their partners is very simple. For instance, if you want your partner to be a responsible person, you should ask yourself if you are the same. Always set realistic goals so you are not frustrated with the things that you want to see in your partner. If you cannot be the type of person that you want your partner to be, then it is not healthy to expect him or her to be that ideal person.

    Have you ever struggled with mismatched expectations in a relationship? What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever experienced as part of a couple?

  • Guest post: Living a rockstar lifestyle on a shoestring budget

    How to live a rockstar lifestyle on a shoestring budget

    I’m taking a brief blogging break at the moment. For your entertainment, a few awesome guest bloggers are stepping up to fill in the void. Today’s is David Bakke, who enjoys finding new ways to save money while expanding his lifestyle. He shares his insights and tips on Money Crashers Personal Finance.

    During my professional career, I’ve never earned a high salary, yet I’ve been able to travel internationally multiple times and have plenty saved for retirement. I bought a new car late last year and paid for it in cash. I even walked away from my day job a few months ago to make money from home full-time.

    How was I able to afford all of these things? It’s simple: by living on a shoestring budget. And my method is by no means difficult. While there’s nothing wrong with climbing up the corporate ladder to earn a larger salary, you can learn to live the life of a rock star on any paycheck. Here are some tips to get you started:

    Reduce the Cost of Needs
    Examine all of your regular expenses, and trim the costs wherever possible. Call your cell phone provider to see if there’s a cheaper minutes plan that still meets your needs. Slash your TV channel package and paid movie services to only those you actually watch. Adjust your thermostat to reduce home energy costs, and eliminate your home telephone service. It’s all these small expenses that add up over the course of the year.

    Some providers (especially cable TV and Internet) may even offer you a small monthly discount just by calling and inquiring. They’d much rather cut you a deal than risk losing you as a long-term customer.

    Eliminate Unnecessary Purchases
    If you could afford a trip to Paris by taking a brown bag lunch to work every day for a year, would you do it? You can save about $1,000 a year by taking your lunch to work rather than eating out.

    Learn to distinguish between “wants” and “needs.” Many purchases, such as lottery tickets, newspapers, excessive wardrobe items, and small electronics are all wants and should be reduced or eliminated from your spending. If an item from this list is something you’d like to include in your rock star lifestyle, just cut back on the other unnecessary purchases.

    Change Your Spending Mindset
    A major aspect of living a high-quality life comes not from earning a large salary, but rather from adjusting your spending habits. Whenever you go to spend money, ask yourself if you truly need the item. That usually eliminates about half of your potential purchases. Then, ask yourself if there is a way to get a better deal on it. Research the price online before making your decision.

    Never Stop Saving
    Saving money is a never-ending process. I had always thought I was doing quite well with my bare bones cell phone plan at $30 per month. However, after I did further research, I found that by switching to a pay-as-you-go plan, I could reduce my monthly expense for a cell phone to just under $20 per month. This saves me $120 over the course of the year. You should continually be on the lookout for new and different ways to save money.

    Sell Anything You Can
    I started an impromptu reselling business a few years back by selling my wife’s unneeded college textbooks. Once I searched my closets and drawers, I found a wealth of additional items to sell: an old digital camera ($25), a globe ($45), a large stuffed animal ($35), and a digital photo frame ($40).

    You’d be amazed at what people are willing to give you money for, so set up an account for free and start selling on eBay. In addition to creating income, this also helps you to declutter your home.

    Final Thoughts
    Living a rock star lifestyle by no means requires a rock star salary. If you can effectively manage your spending choices and reduce your monthly bills, you’ll have the money you need for more lavish expenditures.

    What other ways can you think of to save money so you can live like a rock star?

  • Guest post: Ways to save your wedding dollar – whatever your budget!

    Blogging isn’t as big in New Zealand as it seems to be in the US, so I’m stoked to have a fellow Kiwi blogger on here today! Sweet Mama M lives in Auckland and blogs about her life as a newlywed and her love of books, food and travel at sweetmamam.wordpress.com. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.How to save money on your wedding! - NZ Muse

    According to New Zealand Weddings magazine, the average cost of a NZ wedding is $30,000 and that’s a figure from 2008! Wedding funding can be a tricky minefield and it can often feel awkward as adults to negotiate whether your parents are contributing at all – or maybe that’s just me, fiercely independent since 2003. My first tip is to make sure you HAVE a budget. Big, small or somewhere in the middle, know how much you have to spend! With the first big step out of the way, here’s a few ways in which you can make your wedding dollars stretch further:

    Get married off-peak

    Papa M and I got engaged in May 2011 and decided to get married in a year, on the 1st of June, 2012. We didn’t want a long engagement but planning for a winter wedding gave us the entire year to save. In addition, many vendors are willing to consider a discount for using their services in the off-season – we managed to negotiate with our reception venue, our photographer and our videographer.

    There was an added bonus in this choice of date – people genuinely seemed really excited to have an event to go to in the middle of winter. If you are anything like us, your summer season is usually packed and everything goes into a little bit of hibernation in the cooler season. We selected indoor venues for both ceremony and reception so we were prepared for the worst weather eventualities – turns out that June 1st was one of the finest weather days New Zealand has had this year!

    If you have your heart set on marrying under cherry blossoms or on a particular holiday or anniversary then marrying off-peak may not work for you. It definitely is something to consider, however, especially if you can find the right venue – ours had an open fireplace! Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s leeway on prices, the worst they can say is no.

    Caring communities

    (Accent Photography.co.nz)

    Papa M and I are Christian and are lucky enough to attend services at a beautiful stone church. Once we’d ruled out having our ceremony at the reception site (the onsite chapel being too small) the most obvious choice was the church that we attend. Being members of the church community was a huge boon for us – we had free use of the church, a free celebrant, a free sound tech and use of the church portable PA system and no shortage of hands to help us to provide an informal afternoon tea while we took formal photos.

    Church might not be your particular cup of tea and that’s cool, each to their own. Think about other communities that you participate in that might be able to assist. I’ve been to a reception in a school hall that had a beautiful view of a lake. My cousin was married to an Air Force man and was subsequently able to have free hire of chairs for their outdoor ceremony. I’ve also known of members of classic car clubs being able to utilise other members’ vehicles as wedding transport. This is a case in which it is truly who you know rather than what you know.

    Decide what your priorities are and then be OK with “Good Enough”

    Our wedding budget wasn’t small but it definitely was finite! Funding about two-thirds of the wedding ourselves meant that we had to be judicious about where we spent our money. We bought Papa M a proper suit (although we hired the groomsmen’s suits) as he didn’t own one but is getting to the stage in his career where it made sense to invest in formal attire. On the other hand, I spent hours on a local auction site trying to find a second-hand dress as I didn’t want to spend huge amounts of money on something I would only wear once. Foiled in this plan only by the fact that I am giant and all these dresses had been altered to fit people 5’4″, I ended up going for a simplistic but beautiful dress from the basic line of a local bridal salon and plan to sell it on to recoup some of the cost.

    Decor wasn’t a huge priority and we had no additional decor in the church. Our afternoon tea was served on purple plastic plates purchased from the supermarket and you know what? I don’t think anyone noticed. They were far too excited about getting a cup of tea and a cookie. On the other hand, we spent about a quarter of our total budget on photography and videography – with a terminally ill parent, having a great visual record of our last big special occasion was really important.

    Looking back now, I don’t regret a single one of those “Good Enough” decisions that we made. Our guests had a great time and we have great photos and video memories of what was a day that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. Remember that it is your wedding and your priorities – as long as you provide the basics (food of some kind, liquid of some kind, somewhere to sit), your guests will be happy!

    Think outside the box

    sweetmamam guest post wedding costs

    (Accent Photography.co.nz)

    Thinking about the cost of flowers in midwinter was giving me a little bit of a heart attack. So we did without! Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers! We have a bunch of them on our dining room table right now. With the cost of centrepieces, bouquets and corsages, however, the costs definitely start adding up. Thinking outside the box, we decided that the bridesmaids would carry lanterns and that the groom, groomsmen and father of the bride would adorn themselves with a simple pocket square. I carried a bible down the aisle, which was used by my mother for our bible reading in the ceremony, and this left my hands free during the ceremony to hold my darling husband’s hands. While brainstorming and throwing around ideas for centrepieces I came up with something that was peacock-coloured (colour theme), wintery and faux-floral – our yarn pom pom centrepieces were born! Our guests loved the scattered little poms as well – many a bracelet was made and many fun games played with them throughout the night. Don’t be afraid to go a little different, it can totally work!

    We also felt that we couldn’t justify the additional cost of getting our rental cars to come and fetch us at the end of the reception but we both wanted to be relaxed about how much we had to drink. After hearing horror stories of taxi pricing in our area, we contacted a companion driving service to see if it would be something that they would possibly be able to do. BEST DECISION! They made the end of our night so special because they were so excited to be involved. Our sweet getaway driver arrived with tin cans attached to the back of his little Mazda, an ice bucket with bubbles in the back seat for us and we drove up the drive and away from our reception with Bruno Mars’ Marry You on the stereo. The night could not have ended more perfectly and I’m so glad that we thought outside the regular options.

    When you are coming up against costs that seem way too high (or that you are just not willing to pay), think outside the box for creative solutions. Both of the above saved us a significant amount of cash and ended up being a couple of the entertaining highlights of the evening. Don’t be afraid to take your time and come up with a solution that works for you – and employ your family as slave labour to get those pom-poms done!

    What wedding planning tips have you got to share? Any novel ways you’ve seen people personalise their weddings?

  • Guest post: Reflections on a summer of couchsurfing

    Reflections on a summer of couchsurfing

    Today’s post is from cantaloupe, a 25-year-old American living in Abu Dhabi. I stumbled across her I-don’t-know-how-long-ago via one of her previous blogs (two blogs ago?) and followed her adventures in teaching abroad with interest. Some couchsurfing may be in my near future, so I was more than casually curious about her recent experience. Take it away!

    This past summer I was lucky enough to travel in America. I’m from America, but I’ve been living abroad for a job and thus don’t have a place to stay in the States anymore. But I do have a lot of friends. And these friends were gracious enough to offer me their couches and futons, more couches and futons that I even needed. Free place to lay my head at night? I’m in.

    But my summer of couch surfing offered far more than just a free place to stay.

    One of the most unexpected perks of crashing with people was the ability to peer into their private lives. Which sounds really creepy, but was actually really awesome. No matter how brief my stay, I learned a lot about each one because I was intimately in their space. I saw where they took their showers and what foods they think are worth stocking. I learned their daily routines and secret habits. One friend that I stayed with is loud and outgoing when we’re out, but has some surprisingly hermit habits. She turned down multiple invitations just to stay in and watch TV. Another friend is a total minimalist, with cupboards so bare that even I, a minimalist myself, was shocked.

    And seeing all of their private lives made me realize some things I wanted to change in my own private life. I saw the clever way a friend had arranged her bags and jewelry and made plans to copy the model into my own bedroom. I realized what clean really means, by seeing dirt in odd places that I rarely check for in my own home, but easily noticed in a new one. I saw an inexpensive TV dinner tray used as a side table and imagined it perfectly into that empty corner of one of my rooms. And I realized how nice it might be to turn down invitations to stay in and watch TV.

    Plus I experienced new brands and media. I have a routine of my own, after all. I watch the same shows, read the same genres of books and have certain brands that I prefer. But as a guest, you don’t necessarily get to pick the channel or the label of shampoo. I found a great new shampoo in one bathroom. I played against a friend in a computer game that I found insanely addictive. I played it on a MacBook Pro too, despite the fact that I refuse to buy Apple for myself. I watched sports that I had forgotten that I enjoy. I’m still not going to go buy an Apple product, but I totally downloaded the addictive computer game I played on it.

    After four weeks in five different borrowed spaces, I got to see new sides of the world. Sure it’s great to travel to foreign lands, but I spent my summer in cities I’ve lived in and it was just as eye opening. Just in a more private, self-revelatory way.

    Have you ever couchsurfed (formally or informally?)

  • Guest post: Do what you say, say what you mean

    I proofread menus, public signs and cereal boxes, so today’s guest post is right up my alley! And hopefully you’ll get a laugh or three out of it.

    Mrs. PoP is one half of the newlywed personal finance blog, Planting Our Pennies. She loves kittens, sharing good ideas, long runs on the beach, and of course talking money and numbers – especially tracking those belonging to the PoPs! Check out their money progress at plantingourpennies.com.

    I was driving behind a construction van for a few miles the other day and something just didn’t seem right. But I was zoned out listening to the radio and wasn’t too bothered by it when it hit me. The tag line on the back of the truck – “Roofing Professionals”. Just like that. In quotes.

    As I passed the van and continued on my way, I started cracking up. This had to be one of the more unfortunate uses of air quotes (but in print!) that I have ever seen. “Roofing Professionals”? Why would I want to hire “Roofing Professionals” when I can find honest-to-god roofing professionals. Do you want a “doctor” performing an emergency appendectomy on your sister? No! You want a friggin’ doctor! (Well, unless you’re not really getting along with your sister…)

    Crapé Diem!

    Another unfortunate misuse is courtesy of one of my favorite bloggers. She runs a travel/sailing/lifestyle blog and on more than one occasion has reminded her readers not to waste their lives and to “cease the day!” Um … I don’t really want to cease my day. At least not for quite a few years yet. I’d much rather “seize the day” by living life to its fullest, rather than stopping my days dead in their tracks.

    ‘Tis the Season

    And since you can’t go five minutes in the US without being reminded that it’s the presidential election season, here’s one of my favorites from the party nominating conventions. Even the liberal bastion of the Huffington Post had to point out that Joe Biden literally misused the word “literally” multiple times in his speech. Luckily the Obama campaign has enough of a sense of humor to go with it and purchased the promoted hashtag #literally on Twitter. Way to have some spirit, Obama campaign. I respect that. (Ed: I also seriously dig the Obama Tumblr.  I mean, look at this. Also, Darren Criss?!)

    Like the Obama camp, I like to laugh at stuff like this. I know I’m not perfect as a writer. Heck, perfect is so far from where I am it’s not even on the radar. But can’t we still enjoy each other’s foibles and imperfections?

    And since they’ve clearly still got it almost 30 years later, I’ll close with The Fixx singing One Thing Leads To Another on Jimmy Kimmel Live a few weeks ago. Let’s all join in singing the chorus with them. “Do what they say, say what they mean…”

    Anyone else have any good “aww, they didn’t mean to say that!” moments they’d like to share?

  • Guest post: The perils and pitfalls of online shopping

    Multiply the sentiment in this post by about 1000 and you get an idea of what it’s like in NZ. Vanessa writes about (mainly) money and personal finance over at Vanessa’s Money.

    As a lover of bargains and fashion, I just have one thing to say – living in Canada sucks.

    {via}

    It wasn’t bad enough that, as a kid, I was never able to enter contests that ran on TV or in Archie comics (because I was not an American resident) but now, as an adult with disposable income, I can’t even spend my money on all the cute dresses and shoes that I see online!

    I know, I know. The logical solution would be to just buy stuff online and return it if it doesn’t fit. Simple n’est ce pas? Wrong. Have you any idea how much it costs to ship to Canada? A quick example that I just pulled up… A pair of $348 shoes from Nordstrom will cost me $23 to ship and $110 in taxes and duty. And if they don’t fit? It will cost me another $23 to return and I will have to fill out a ton of paperwork to get my $110 refunded. Basically, I’d better be 100% sure of my shoe size or else I’m out $46.

    Alternatively, I can have my shoes shipped to a P.O. Box near the border and drive down right? Um, no because most stores have caught onto that little gambit by now and don’t deliver to P.O. Boxes. Also, it would probably cost me $46 in gas anyways and if the shoes didn’t fit, I’d still have to return them on my dime.

    Trip to the States? Sure, I’d love that but again, the money.

    Buy Canadian? No. I want my LK Bennett pumps and my cheap ASOS clothing. Canadian clothing… pfft.

    I’m sure that people from other countries can relate but seriously, I can see America from my backyard (not really, but I couldn’t resist a reference to Sarah Palin…) and yet I can’t find a cost effective way to just give my money to their economy. And this is why living in Canada, is like being the younger sibling that is never quite old enough to do anything fun.

    Is online shopping a thorn in your side or do you enjoy all the perks involved?

  • Guest post: OTT weddings and cutting costs

    Today’s post is part of a Yakezie blog swap on the topic of weddings! You can read my post over at Fiscal Phoenix.

    Before we cut our cable, I enjoyed watching Say Yes to the Dress.I was continually fascinated by the women who would spend $10,000 to $20,000 on a Pnina Tornai dress. True, the dresses were often gorgeous “princess” dresses with elaborate detailing and beading and a gorgeous train. Yet, I could never imagine dropping so much money on a dress I would wear one time for one day. ONE DAY!

    American bride wearing a Contemporary Western ...

    (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     

    How We Cut Costs for Our Wedding

    When I got married 10 years ago, I just happened to fall in love with a wedding dress that cost a little over $100. After alterations, the final price tag was just a bit over $200.

    Because I come from a very large family (my dad was the youngest of 10 kids and my mom was the second youngest of 9 kids and I have over 40 cousins on my mom’s side alone), my husband and I knew we would have to keep things simple to be able to afford to invite over 250 guests. In the end, my husband and I made all of the table decorations, made our own flower arrangements and did much of the other prep work ourselves such as wrapping the silverware in a napkin with a bow around it and even making our own arch to walk through when we entered the reception.

    My aunt made our wedding cake, my cousin was the D.J., and my uncle took the wedding video. We had a hot buffet of food we had made the night before the wedding. Our wedding was DIY, and we only spent $6,000 for 250 guests. That price is not just for the reception, but for every single wedding expense.

    What I loved about our wedding was that there was no residual effect. We didn’t have to put any of the wedding expenses on credit. We weren’t still paying for our wedding years or months after it happened. What I disliked about our wedding was that we did so much ourselves, we were exhausted when it was over!

    Over the Top Weddings

    I have attended plenty of weddings where the bride and groom dropped a great deal of money and were paying the wedding off for several years. What I noticed about these weddings is that they had a lot of little things that people didn’t want.

    My friend had a wedding where they gave out flower bulbs so people could plant them and remember the wedding. This is a nice idea, but in reality, most people probably didn’t want plant bulbs, so they didn’t plant them. To me, that was wasted money. While the napkins that have the couple’s names and wedding date embossed on them are pretty to look at, at the end of the day, they are just napkins. People aren’t going to bring them home and cherish them; they are going to use them to wipe food off the corner of their mouth.

    I may not be the best person to ask about these issues because I am a bit of a minimalist when it comes to parties and decorating. However, considering fights about money are the number one cause of divorce and couples tend to fight more when they are saddled in debt, starting a marriage in debt because you had an expensive, over the top wedding doesn’t seem like the smartest relationship choice.

    Melissa blogs at Fiscal Phoenix and Mom’s Plans where she writes about finances, getting out of debt, food and family.

  • Guest post: From student to 9-5 worker

    My Cubicle @ Work

    Image by Vincent Ma via Flickr

    When I graduated last fall I was one of the very few from my class to get a job straight out of college. And while I was thankful — the money in my pockets made me grin — I wasn’t truly “happy.” I was tired all the time. I missed my friends and family that I was forced to leave behind. And that 9 to 5 schedule? Yeah— it got real monotonous real quick.

    Let me be the first to say that the transition from college student to the working life can be difficult. But it’s different for everyone. While some can adapt more quickly, others linger in that weird limbo stage of being a half-grown up, half-student. But there are some ways to make the transition a little easier. Below are some points recent grads need to watch out for and some ways to deal if you’re caught between both the student and professional world.

    Rigid Schedule
    In college most students tailor their class schedules to meet their own personal needs. (Ed – I missed out on this, and resent it! Damn you AUT and your inflexible Communications courses.) You’re not a morning person? No problem. You can simply take a class in the afternoon. You like to have lots of breaks to take naps? No problem. You can spread your classes sporadically throughout the day. The point is, students are used to doing things on their own time and to their own liking. Once you enter the professional world however, this changes. You will have a strict schedule of how long your lunch break is and when you need to arrive to work. And don’t think that if you arrive to work just a few minutes late that your boss will let it slide like your professor—you could be “written up” for your infraction. Too many and you can get fired.

    Get Some Sleep
    So why were you late in the first place? Did you stay up till 4am drinking beers with your buddies or lose track of time tuning-in on the Family Guy marathon? In college you may have been able to stay awake till all odd hours of the night and stagger into class in your pajamas the next morning, but you can’t do this in the professional world. You need to be able to present yourself in a professional manner everyday and must come to work energised and clear-headed so that you can focus and do what your bosses are paying you to do—your job.

    How are you going to successfully accomplish your tasks at hand if you’re falling asleep at your desk? Do your best to get the standard 6 to 8 hours of sleep. It might be difficult at first but try to make set a sleep schedule. For example, you go to bed at midnight and wake up at 7am everyday. If you are a heavy sleeper, by all means set more than one alarm to get yourself going in the morning. But chances are if you stick with your schedule your body will build an eternal alarm clock and you will start waking up on time on your own.

    Eat Right
    Even if you do get an adequate amount of sleep, sometimes your body can get tired because you are dehydrated or you are not nourishing your body with the proper nutrients and vitamins. With that said, you collegiate diet of Ramen Noodles and boxed macaroni and cheese needs to go. If you don’t have time to cook, try to make smart food choices when going out to eat, loading up on energising fruits and veggies such as apples, pears and dark leafy greens such as broccoli and spinach. Avoid dehydrating drinks such as soda and alcohol and consume more water.

    Make New Friends
    Part of the reason the transition is so hard is because you miss your college friends. While this can make things difficult you can always make new friends. A good place to start is at the workplace. Your coworkers are the ones who will not only make coming to work every day more pleasant but will give you praise for your achievements and promotions and will encourage you to stay strong if times get rough.

    Have Fun
    Remember that just because you may feel like you’re a 40-year-old because your new schedule forces you to go to bed by midnight that doesn’t mean that you are. You’re young and it’s important that you still find time to have fun. There is no rule that says you can’t continue to do the things you found enjoyable in college such as dancing, drinking or playing video games till 5 a.m. Just try to save these activities for the weekend so that it does not interfere with work.

    This guest post is contributed by Kate Willson, who writes about top online colleges.