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.

What to Do So Weddings, Baby Gifts, Etc., Don’t Break the Bank Photo (cc) by Dan Harrelson

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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