Budgeting | Life | Personal Finance | Relationships & Family | Article

The Path to a Debt-Free Wedding and Home Renovation

by Sophia | 4 Feb 2020 | 5 mins read

It’s part and parcel for a Singaporean to eventually have to look forward to two major life events: holding a wedding and home renovation. And while these are seemingly unavoidable, are those Swarovski crystal-embedded wedding favour pens a little bit too exorbitant, not to mention unnecessary?

These are once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully) events, you might think. So taking a once-in-a-lifetime debt seems par for the course, right?

Not always. There have been couples who managed to pull all of this off and come out of it debt-free. Curious to know their ways and secrets, I went online to ask for advice, and also reached out to a young married couple who managed to come out of their journey, debt-free, to find out more.

Affording a Home and a Wedding… Without Loans

Cheryl and Jimmy, game artists, were 24 and 26 at the time when they attained their new home through a Sale of Balance exercise in 2014, after which they started heavily saving. Two years later, they married each other. All of this was accomplished, according to Cheryl, without taking a single loan out – from the bank or their own parents.

But this impressive feat does come with a caveat: “Our parents sponsored us some big-ticket items like our TV and fridge.”

When asked about their monthly savings target, Cheryl said, “It was just a few hundred dollars per month; we cut down on eating out a lot and skipped paid entertainment like movies.”

Prior to 2014, Cheryl and Jimmy had separate savings accounts. After getting engaged in 2014, their savings effort grew, in order to make the deadline.

And as for the bulk of their wedding shopping?

“We flew to Bangkok for the crazy discounts; we got an affordable, suit for my husband, shopped for bridesmaid and groomsmen outfits and accessories there, as well as our wedding favors and shoes.”

The couple turned to unconventional sources to stretch their dollar, for example, flowers and corsages came from a good friend whose mother was a florist, their wedding car was a rental car from Carousell.

Cheryl also joined a “budget brides group on Facebook” that supplied her with a steady stream of tips and cheap wedding vendors, including home manicurists and rentable photo booth props.

It wasn’t just about cutting costs and snagging big discounts. The couple made some sacrifices like not holding the wedding at their preferred location — a hotel. But instead, they settled for a country club venue on a weekday.

I asked Cheryl and Jimmy about other steps they may have taken to avoid going into debt or having to borrow.

“We staggered the expensive purchases for our home,” Cheryl told us, “and only bought the bare necessities first.” The couple got the keys to their flat only six months before the wedding and were thus saving concurrently for both events.

Cheryl added, “We also limited our renovation budget to $30,000 max when getting quotes from interior designers. This budget didn’t include furnishing.”

Wedding and Home Renovation Advice From Other Couples

So, what are some of the hottest tips from married couples out there? After speaking to a handful of them both online and offline, we’ve determined these to be the most prominent pieces of advice – if you were looking to not incur fresh debt as a “wedding gift” to you and bae, that is.

Wedding Tips

  • Get married later – like in your 30s or late 20s. Several couples have noted that waiting a little longer means more time to accumulate more money and afford that wedding!
  • Source for discounted wedding packages on Facebook groups like Budget Bride and Budget Reno. Note: Having a friend inside the group who can invite you will help.
  • Find an affordable venue. Holding your wedding at a restaurant instead of organising a hotel reception could mean a price difference of $80 to $100 per guest.
  • Minimise your guest list. If it’s possible to convince one’s parents, inviting only familiar faces (and we don’t mean vaguely familiar) will save costs, and allow you to use a smaller venue. Also, get rid of the plus one option to reduce headcount.
  • Skipping a banquet all together. If you have supportive parents and in-laws, you don’t need to save when you don’t spend.

Renovation Tips

  • Marry first, flat later. Red packets collected from your wedding may alleviate renovation costs if there’s surplus.
  • Progressive renovation. Married couples who’ve been through the grind swear by prioritising what they’re going to work on, often placing built-in furniture, fixtures, electrical wiring, and air-conditioning at the top of their list. The en suite bedroom can come first, and room-by-room renovation allows for better cash flow.
  • Refrain from too many built-in fixtures and furniture for future flexibility if one decides to remodel or design the flat anew.
  • When picking furniture and interior decorating options, avoid emotional decisions. For example, picking exotic Spanish floor tiles that give your home more character as opposed to something that’s more affordable and kinder on the wallet.

While weddings and home renovations are ultimately significant, they do not have to also be significantly costly, such that it lands one in a bad financial position at the start of a new phase in their life. Before diving headfirst into the flurry of preparations, take some time to sit your spouse-to-be down and have a talk to keep things realistic.