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In this post from our friends at Five Year Fire Escape, Lina shares how you and your partner can use your wedding planning process to learn how to live frugally and become better savers.


“Is this side of guac worth it compared to my dream?”

Years ago my husband (then boyfriend) proposed to me at the same time as he proposed the idea of early retirement. 

The early retirement thing was a lot to take in even if it didn’t come with a side dish of marriage. We’ve always been pretty frugal, except on nights out with friends when we got my favorite… BURRITOS. That, and a couple of margaritas burned a bit of a hole in our wallets every week.

We quickly realized that we needed to save a lot of money for our new lifestyle and we’d have to take our frugalness to the extreme. Luckily for us, we were super motivated! But we also had a wedding to plan, which meant we were about to ascend a huge budgetary mountain. 

A lot of people think of weddings as a huge expense, and they definitely can be. But it’s also a chance to really zero in on how you handle your finances and get clear on your dreams for your future. And that was the beginning of our ultra-frugal pre-wedding year. 

Truth be told, it was hard to mentally juggle the two goals. A beautiful wedding and a new frugal lifestyle. But in hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Being super frugal while planning a wedding changed our lives in incredible ways. 

Fast-forward to now, we’ve retired in our early 30s and life is pretty great. We have a finance blog, we have time to spend with our kids, and I even have a side-business just for the fun of it. But none of that would be possible if I didn’t learn huge lessons on my way up that financial mountain.

Living frugally is so much more than value shopping. 

Start by cutting down your monthly expenses, until you have cut out nearly everything that is possible. Even the things that hurt. Even the things you *think* you can’t live without. Then treat it as a new lifestyle and modify your life from there.

And if you think living frugally just makes life way too hard, think again. Because everything pivots around this simple phrase:

“Is this purchase worth it compared to my dream?” 

The key is to have a big dream! 

Living frugally now will enrich your life later. Sure, everyone knows that.

But no one wants to cut back. There will always be something that catches your eye and tempts you to spend.

Maybe right now you’re saving up for your dream wedding, a romantic honeymoon, and even your first home. But guess what, you can dream EVEN BIGGER.

  • Do you want to retire in your thirties?
  • Do you want to travel 6-months of the year? How about, 6-months, every year?
  • Do you want to start a business?

Nothing’s off limits once you have achieved super finances! But you won’t get there by doing the same things you’re doing now. 

“Is this purchase worth it compared to my dream?” 

When you have a big dream, it’s easy to turn down almost everything else. (Even a burrito with a side of guac!) 

Build your dream together. 

Your engagement is a great time to get super financial. Your future feels like it’s just beginning and you need to set some super clear goals. Thankfully, talking about your future is what marriage is all about!

Find something that really motivates both you and your partner. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you yearn for it. Once we knew our end goal, I defined a more concrete goal – become a millionaire in 5 years and started working towards it. 

And now for our magic phrase: 

“Is this purchase worth it compared to my dream?” 

Whether we’re talking about a new lipstick that’s slightly redder than the one in your purse, or an extra glass of Chardonnay with your girlfriend, ask yourself this question before you swipe that credit card. Nothing’s off limits. Not even Netflix. 

And hey, maybe that purchase is totally worth it to you. Who am I to judge? If it is, then go ahead and spend guilt-free. But if it’s not– then save it! Even better, set up a “dream account” and immediately move that saved money there. ? GAME CHANGER. Trust me, no trinket, gadget, or treat will be as satisfying as watching that account grow and get you closer and closer to your BIG DREAM. 

If you find that your dream account’s not filling up very fast, then you’re probably not motivated enough. Get a cheap bottle of wine with your fiancé and set your sights on even bigger, more motivating dreams to chase. Were you dreaming of a trip to Greece someday? Start planning a sailing/hiking/wine-tasting 1-year adventure all over the Mediterranean!

Have a small budget wedding

3 Reasons why it’s good to learn how to live frugally (even now): 

1. You learn what’s important to you

This is probably the biggest one for us. When you purposefully cut things out of your life, you realize what you actually value. Try to cut out everything. It will give you more time to talk about your dreams and you won’t know what you can live without until you try it. 

I discovered that I’m perfectly happy without most media sources, without ever ordering dinner, and without having a nice car. I’ve also, (painfully) discovered that I’m willing to pay for high speed internet, a gym membership, and even for an assistant. 

Are there things in your life that you’re paying for just out of habit? Are there things that you think you can’t live without? Get creative and start cutting back. You’d be surprised by how many things you can live without and what a big impact it can have on your savings account.

So living frugally now teaches you how to appreciate the things you have and justifiably pay for the things you enjoy.

2. You learn how to save 

Remember how I said that saving was really important? It’s even more important than investing. It can also be more important than earning! And training yourself to be a saver now can make for a very luxurious-feeling life.

If you can only manage to save $50,000 per year when you’re earning $200,000– you might be in trouble when it comes to doing anything that messes with your income.

If your lifestyle demands $150,000 per year, and you’ll find reasons to spend it whether you actually need it or not.

But if you’re saving $50,000 per year when your income is $100,000– you’re in great shape! That means you’ve learned to live on $50,000 per year and you won’t need much of a nest egg to cover yourself while you live your dreams.

So living frugally now teaches you how to enjoy a lifestyle within your means and frees up some spending for the justified luxuries. The ones that actually matter to you!

We cut back aggressively years ago but now we’ve realized that we really don’t like cleaning the house. Luckily we have the money for a cleaner and a robot vacuum. Voila! Clean house with no stress.

3. You start investing early 

Remember that dream account I told you to start? Use it to get your feet wet with investing. Trust me, it’s easier than you think! When it comes to compound interest, getting even a couple of years ahead of the game will make a huge difference

Let’s make a little comparison.

Say you can set aside $1000 every month and invest it at 7% returns. (Which is historical market rates, after inflation..blah blah). After 10 years, that account will be worth $173,084.81! (with over $53K earned in interest!

Now say you started 2 years earlier, so 12 years. Want to know how much will be in your account? (Not just an extra $24K…) 

$224,694.98! Over $50,000 more! 

But here’s the thing, we all know we should start investing but we don’t get around to it. 

Make the time for you and your partner to come up with your big dream… you can get started right now! I know I said that saving is more important than investing, but investing is pretty simple if you let it be, so it’s worth it too. 

So living frugally now, will generate some money to start investing and that’s a great skill to learn early! 

And by the way, don’t think of investing as just putting money into the stock market. Even a little extra cash can have huge returns when you put it into the right thing like:

  • Upgrading your home to have a rentable basement 
  • Enhancing your skills to get a raise at work 
  • Using your money to get comfortable with investing
  • Investing in a cause you care about

Whatever it is, if the money is going towards your future, or building more wealth, it’s a good investment!

Is living frugally all about restriction and extreme couponing? 

No way! 

My life is full of fun. I travel with my family (pre-COVID… boo). I take courses and learn with tutors. We have babysitters and handymen. I’ve even hired an assistant to help me with my blog! I do skimp or go cheap on some things, such as doing my own taxes instead of paying a pro and driving an old car. I wouldn’t have it any other way though.

The thing about frugal living is that you don’t have to do it forever! Once you’ve mastered it, you know what you truly miss and you can start to gradually emerge out of your frugal lifestyle. And as a bonus– you’ll feel like royalty when you choose to be a little extra spendy… like when you get guac on your burrito after skipping it for a year. Heaven! 

Knowing how to live frugally and be happy even when restricting your budget helps you to be more grateful for everything you have in life. And when you return back to normal spending habits, you’ll appreciate the splurges so much more!

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the benefits of living frugally - help save money for your wedding and long term money goals


Lina Kristjansen is the co-founder of FiveYearFIREescape.com where she and her husband write about finances and early retirement for busy people. In their early 30s, they retired from their corporate 9-5 and want to teach you how you can do the same. They have kids and a house in a high cost of living city but managed to succeed via saving skills, savvy and rental houses.