What to Do So Weddings, Baby Gifts, Etc., Don’t Break the Bank

Graduations, showers, bar/bat mitzvahs, retirement parties – joyous occasions certainly can be pricey. Here’s how to keep milestones from becoming millstones.

So you’re paying back student loans on a starter salary, or meeting a mortgage while raising a family. Still, you’ve managed to get an emergency fund going and are squeezing dollars into a retirement plan.

Maybe you’ve even got a “pay cash for next car” fund or a college plan for your kid. Things are tight, but you’re doing pretty well.

Then your older sister gets engaged and wants you in the wedding party. An in-law is expecting a baby. Your BFF buys a place and invites you to the housewarming. A niece will graduate from college in December, and cousin Maria’s quinceanera is approaching fast.

While a sensible budget should include room for special occasions like holidays and birthdays, your finances can get nibbled to death by occasional occasions: bridal/baby showers, retirement parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, godparenthood and the like.

Happy times certainly can be pricey. That’s why it’s important to build a Milestone Fund alongside that EF and your holiday spending plan.

The process is pretty simple:

  • Guesstimate how many occasions might pop up.
  • Decide what (if anything) you can afford to spend.
  • Find the money.

I said simple, not easy. When your paycheck is already mostly spoken for, it can be hard to parse out more dollars. Give it a try anyway vs. panicking when all those invites pile up.

How many parties?

We can’t always know exactly how many special occasions to expect. Yet some are easy to anticipate: a parent retiring at the end of the year, a niece finishing high school in June, a 12-year-old nephew studying for his bar mitzvah.

Next, cast around your circle of friends and family: Anyone recently announce an engagement or let it be known they’re trying to adopt? Two more potential giftees.

Close friends looking at condos? You might be invited to a housewarming. Is a pal ring shopping for a longtime sweetheart? Put him on the list – and if it’s a close friend, be ready to rent a tux and/or host a bachelor party.

Plan for wild cards, too, such as sudden marriages and even more sudden babies.

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