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Clark Howard’s guide to saving money on your wedding

Published: Thursday, May 17, 2018 @ 8:34 AM

When money expert Clark Howard’s daughter was planning her wedding for May 2018, she and her fiancé used a lot of different money-saving strategies to hold down the cost while still putting on a lovely event.

The great news is that you can use those same strategies to plan your own fabulous wedding without going deep into debt.

RELATED: Clark Howard — How my daughter saved a ton of money on her wedding

Follow Clark’s advice to get married cheap and happy!

Wedding planning season is here, and couples are racing to plan the perfect nuptials in time for a late-spring or summer wedding date.

The average wedding today costs $33,391, according to the latest numbers. So before you get too deep into planning, you need to sit down and come up with a budget for your wedding. It can be $100 or it can be $30,000 or more.

The idea that weddings have to be frightfully expensive to be any good is an odd and amazing thing. I think about my in-laws who were married some 50 years ago and it cost them $25. Inflation adjusted, that would be like a $100 wedding today. — Clark Howard

Ultimately, it’s your budget that will determine whether your wedding is a courthouse ceremony or more like a coronation. It’s whatever makes sense in your life — or in your parents’ lives.

Such was the case with Clark when he gave his daughter a flat amount of money and told her whatever she didn’t spend, she and her husband could keep for the down payment on their first home.

As part of creating your budget, write down all the elements of a wedding you want — flowers, DJ, wedding favors, etc. —  and then start prioritizing them. That way you get a feel for what’s indispensable and what you can maybe do without.

“Just don’t do what I did to save money on the vehicle we drove off in [after getting married],” Clark warns of his marriage to wife Lane.

“My mother-in-law will probably never forgive me for renting a subcompact purple Mitsubishi that was $16 a day. I also remember the wedding photographer was so angry at me for ruining his exit shot. He wanted me to leave in his car, which was a Cadillac convertible. I said, ‘Nobody’s going to believe that it was really me leaving in a Cadillac convertible!’”

Without further ado, here are some ways you can keep it both cheap and classy…

The first rule of a cheap wedding is…Never say the word “wedding”

When you call around to vendors, don’t tell anybody you’re getting quotes for a wedding. Call it a ‘party’ because you’ll likely get a lower quote.

Don’t buy a million bridal magazines

Leading up to the big day, women love to thumb through wedding magazines. But the cost of those polished glossy magazines can really add up! Browse Pinterest for wedding ideas for free or just look at those magazines the library.

Besides, you won’t want a pile of those magazine hanging around after the big day anyway.

Be flexible on the venue

You can save the cost of a catering hall by holding the reception at your home or someone else’s home. Sometimes people who met at college will hold the reception on campus. Or, check to see if you can rent a museum or other public facility for your wedding.

Clark’s daughter and her fiancé looked at a lot of venues and found an event space in a public park. They got married outside and, luckily, had great weather.

You can save a lot if you hold the reception at a place that will let you bring in your own caterer and alcohol. In that case, consider buying the alcohol yourself at a discount store and bringing it to the reception.

Be flexible with your wedding date

Many event spaces have different charges on different days of week. Saturday and Sunday are typically high-priced days to get married. If you want to go really budget, consider a Tuesday or Thursday. If that’s too extreme, then maybe Friday is the right compromise between scheduling and pricing.

“I have nephew who got married on Monday because their venue in California was cheaper on that day,” Clark says. “When have you ever heard of somebody getting married on a Monday?!?”

Another way to flex to save money is to plan your wedding for a time of year that’s not traditionally associated with weddings. That could mean considering a January wedding instead of a June one.

Work with a canceled-wedding broker

It’s always a great idea to see what services you can pick up on the cheap. For instance, when engaged people break up and don’t make it to the altar, what happens to those non-refundable services they booked?

If they’re smart, they’ll sometimes sell the services they’ve paid for to a canceled-wedding broker. That helps recoup at least some of the cost.

But here’s the neat thing: Their loss can be your gain!

A site like CanceledWeddings.com buys broken contracts and offers them at a discount. This recent snapshot of their Twitter feed shows venues you could pick up on the cheap in Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and California for summer and fall 2018 weddings:

Consider your guest list carefully

You may have to make tough choices with your guest list based on your budget.

Since most catering facilities will charge you by the person, deciding how many people to invite will have a greater impact on the cost of the wedding than almost anything else.

Make your own invitations

Look for fonts that appeal to you online and use them to create your own invitations with a laser printer. Pinterest is perfect for this purpose.

Or, as an alternative, use online discount sites that can also make your Save the Date cards and invitations. This works especially well if you have a discount code that can bring the price down further.

Live band or DJ?

A DJ will be much cheaper than a live band. Ask about cash discounts or pay-in-advance discounts. It never hurts to negotiate, either. Just be sure to get the final agreement in writing.

If you want at least some live music on your big day, consider hiring a piano major from a nearby college or music school to play at the cocktail reception. Maybe you’ll luck out and even find a student jazz ensemble that will perform for much less than a professional band!

Opt for beer and wine — but not liquor

It’s much cheaper to serve just beer, wine and maybe one signature cocktail at your reception than to have an open bar serving liquor.

You could also consider offering a cash bar, or serving no alcohol at all.

Create your own décor

Joel, one of the producers on The Clark Howard Show, got married back in 2011. He and his bride Emily staged a very inexpensive wedding, working within the $12,000 budget from her parents.

Emily had fun creating the décor for the wedding. She crafted flowers out of paper instead of dedicating money to a huge flower budget.

(If you do opt for real flowers, ask the florist if you can buy the vessels in which to display them yourself. That could be a savings of $20 or $30 per vase or bowl right there if you find ones you like at a discount store.)

Joel says Emily liked the creativity behind the whole process and the saving money part just kind of fell in line with that. For their rehearsal dinner, they opted for catered BBQ and kept prices down that way.

Again, Pinterest is an amazing place to get ideas for DIY wedding projects. We’ve got a list of some of the many wedding items you can create and personalize on Pinterest here.

Sheet cake from a supermarket is a money-saver

A sheet cake rather than a multi-tiered cake will net you a big savings. Top off those savings by buying the sheet cake at Costco, Target or another grocery store bakery.

Clark’s daughter had a regular white icing cake from the Publix supermarket bakery. She bought four different sizes of round cakes and stacked them to dramatic effect to make one giant cake. The price tag? Under $40!

Don’t financially strap your bridesmaids

For the bridesmaids, try telling them a color (like navy or black) and encouraging them to wear an existing dress, rather than having them buy a one-time use only dress.

About the dress…

Buying a wedding dress off the rack is a great way to save money on this centerpiece of any bride’s wedding. H&M has wedding dresses for just a couple hundred bucks or less online. J. Crew and Ann Taylor sell wedding dresses, too.

Sample dresses at bridal stores are often discounted. You also shouldn’t rule out buying a dress secondhand or using a hand-me-down, particularly if you’re into either vintage styles or family heirlooms.

Renting a dress is another great option because then you don’t have to worry about storing or preserving the dress after your wedding. The reality is most people can’t tell if your dress is designer or from a chain. So, if you aren’t attached to a specific dress or designer, try a rental site like BorrowingMagnolia.com.

If designer is the way you want to go and you want to own, you can buy a name dress on deep discount from NearlyNewlywed.com.

Final thought

Does a glitzy wedding make the marriage? Not by a long shot.

In fact, recent research into the correlation between what you spend on a wedding and how long your marriage lasts shows the exact opposite.

If you insist on spending more than $20,000, you’re statistically going to get divorced at a rate that’s roughly 1.6 times higher than couples who spend between $5,000 and $10,000.

Want to have the longest-lasting and happiest marriage of all? The study shows you’ll have a lower-that-average rate of divorce if you spend $1,000 or less on your wedding.

Ultimately, the lavishness of the ceremony means nothing. It’s about who you’re marrying.

“If you’re a Bridezilla, I would encourage you to take a chill pill,” Clark says. “Remember that your vows and having a great life with your spouse are the most important things. A wedding can be very tasteful and it does not have to blow the budget.”

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Downtown Dayton office building/Table 33 home sells for $2.8M

Published: Tuesday, May 01, 2018 @ 2:08 PM

Dayton city garage maintenance worker Kevin Price points upward at the 130 W Second St./ 1st National Plaza in downtown Dayton in this 2001 photo. FILE
Dayton city garage maintenance worker Kevin Price points upward at the 130 W Second St./ 1st National Plaza in downtown Dayton in this 2001 photo. FILE

A downtown Dayton office building near the federal building sold for just over $2.8 million today, according to local property records.

Titan Loan Investment Fund L.P. is identified as both the buyer and the seller for the May 1 transaction at 130 W. Second St. in downtown Dayton, according to Montgomery County property records.

The transaction is a sale to an investor named Brian Lash, a new owner coming into the market for this building, said Katie Doup, a Columbus-area spokeswoman with  real estate firm CBRE. She said a fuller press release was being prepared now on Lash’s investment in Dayton and his plans. 

 MOREMaker of Gibson guitars declares bankruptcy

Doup also said a second announcement on the sale of another Dayton building may be forthcoming in the near future. 

The 22-story building at 130 W. Second was on sale with an asking price of $4.25 million, according to a LoopNet real estate listing. It offered a rentable building area of just over 326,000 square feet and was built in 1972.

Acadia, the Table 33 restaurant, IT firm DataYard and County Corp. are some of the building’s most notable tenants. 

Acadia moved to the building last year from Kettering. The company moved to 4,800-square-feet of offices in that building.

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6 tax mistakes procrastinators make and how to avoid them

Published: Thursday, April 05, 2018 @ 11:46 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 05, 2018 @ 11:46 PM

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Your Taxes

We get it. Doing your taxes is no fun, especially if you know you’re going to owe money. But as with any project on which you procrastinate, leaving everything to the last minute can lead to errors, both large and small, and some of those errors could cost you serious money.

If you’ve gone and done it, though, and are still looking at that pile of tax forms over there in the corner, we’ve compiled a list of six quick-and-dirty tips that could keep you from making some obvious, and not-so-obvious, mistakes when you finally sit down and tackle the task. They could also help you maximize your tax refund.

1. You Forgot to Sign It

You might wonder how anyone could forget to sign their tax form, but this simple process is one of the most common tax mistakes, according to the IRS. Just like forgetting to sign a check or a contract, it means your return isn’t valid. Usually, there isn’t a penalty or interest associated with this error (since you’ve already included a check or electronic payment if you owed), so the IRS will just send a notice asking for a valid signature, but it will delay the processing of your return. If you’re getting a refund, that too will be delayed.

So check, double-check — heck, triple-check — that you signed or completed the e-signature process before filing your return. Also, check out these last-minute filing tips from the IRS.

2. You Miscarried the 9

Math errors are also a very common mistake made by folks in a hurry. Fortunately for most people, the IRS corrects any miscalculations, so there’s no need for filing an amended return. But these mistakes can mean the difference between you thinking you’re getting a refund and the reality that you actually owe taxes, so be sure to check your calculations carefully.

One way to help you avoid math errors is to file electronically so the calculations are done for you. Bye-bye, No. 2 pencil! So long, calculator!

3. You Didn’t Account for All Your Income

Did you have a side hustle early last year? A freelance design gig for a friend’s business? If so, you’re going to need to account for it, regardless of whether you received a W-2 or 1099 from whomever paid you. That’s because, while there’s an IRS threshold for filing these documents by employers, there’s no similar threshold for claiming the income. Income is income is income. If you made money and don’t report it — and the IRS catches it — it’s going to cost you penalties and interest at best, and open you to a possible audit at worst.

4. You Forgot Deductions or Tax Credit

It’s easy to forget these things when you’re in a hurry, but they can end up saving you some serious money and are well worth the extra time to figure out if you qualify. So if you’re just claiming the standard deductions because you’re under the gun, you might want to take a deep breath and check out TurboTax’s list of 10 commonly overlooked tax deductions that can keep you from overpaying the tax man.

5. You Filed for an Extension but Didn’t Understand the Rules

Filing for an extension is a great idea if you’re down to the wire and don’t really understand your tax situation. But remember that an extension gives you an extra six months to file your paperwork, but not an extra six months to pay any taxes due. So, if you’re confused, tax pros recommend doing a quick calculation of your taxes, filing for your extension and making any required payment of taxes you think you owe. This will help you avoid penalties and interest once you get your final calculations together.

6. You Didn’t Bother to Request an Extension

You gave up. You shoved, slammed and jammed your return through and now it’s full of mistakes that are going to cost you money by way of penalties or because you’ve left money on the table. It’s a much better idea to file the extension, then get the help you need from a tax professional to ensure you’re not overpaying your taxes.

Whatever you do, make sure you file your taxes. Unpaid taxes can have serious consequences on your personal finances, including your credit scores if they go unpaid long enough.

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11 ways to reduce next year’s tax bill

Published: Thursday, April 05, 2018 @ 11:55 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 05, 2018 @ 11:55 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 14:  Liberty Tax Service tax preparer Ronn Seely works on tax returns on April 14, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 14: Liberty Tax Service tax preparer Ronn Seely works on tax returns on April 14, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

If you claimed the right number of dependents and standard deductions on your 2017 federal income tax return and you still ended up owing the IRS, you’re probably looking to avoid a repeat performance next year. Luckily, there are several ways to increase your chance for a refund (or at least reduce the amount you’ll owe) and you don’t have to be a tax whiz or accountant to take advantage.

Here are 11 ways you can pay less in federal taxes for your income return next year.

1. Contribute to a 401K or IRA

Contributing to a retirement fund is an important way to ensure financial independence in your golden years, but it can also convey short-term tax benefits. In most cases, the contributions you make to your 401K and IRA plans are tax-deductible and are not included in your taxable income at the end of the year. (Note: If you didn’t contribute to an IRA in 2017, you still have time. You have until April 17 to contribute up to the maximum amount and shave off a good chunk of your tax bill. Filed your taxes already? That’s OK. You can file an amended return to reflect the contribution.)

2. Buy a Home

There’s a distinct tax benefit to home ownership. The interest you pay on your mortgage is tax-deductible, and the interest is front-loaded. For the first several years, most of your mortgage payment goes toward interest, which will drastically reduce your adjusted gross income at tax time. Want an extra boost for your taxes next year? Consider paying January 2019’s mortgage payment in December to get a tax benefit before the end of the year.

3. Donate to Charity or Volunteer

You probably know charitable donations can be itemized and deducted from your income, so you’ll want to save receipts anytime you donate cash or items to charity. You can even deduct miles you travel for volunteering or other charity work.

“Miles you travel on behalf of a charity are deductible at 14 cents per mile for 2018,” said Gail Rosen, CPA.

4. Start a Home Business

Starting a home business can provide you with a new source of income and allow you to take deductions off any income the business generates.

These deductions include business costs you incur throughout the year, a portion of your mortgage and utilities if you use a home office and the cost of goods needed to keep your business running. You can even deduct startup costs.

“Any expenses that are incurred before the first sale are ‘start-up costs,’” Rosen said. “These costs cannot be deducted until the first sale. Then they are deducted over 15 years and you can deduct the first $5,000 in the first year.”

5. Search for a New Job

If you hunt for a new job in your field this year, you can write off some qualifying expenses as you search. There are exceptions, but potential write-offs include things like clothes or travel.

“If you looked for a new job in 2018, you should be aware of the income tax deduction that may be available with respect to job-search costs,” Rosen said. “Qualifying expenses are deductible even if they do not result in a new job being offered or accepted.”

6. Open a Flexible Spending Plan

Many employers offer flexible spending plans that let you contribute toward yearly medical expenses pre-tax. These contributions typically don’t count toward your taxable income.

7. Deduct Medical or Dental Expenses

Many medical and dental expenses are tax-deductible. According to Rosen, the cost of getting to and from medical treatment is deductible at 17 cents per mile, plus the cost of tolls and parking, and dependent expenses are also deductible.

“If you cover the medical cost of dependents, these can be deducted. Additionally, if you are covering the costs of an individual who would qualify as your dependent except that they have too much gross income — for example, an elderly parent — you may be able to deduct these costs as well,” said Rosen.

8. Education-Related Expenses

Current and former students have many eligible deductions and credits related to their education expenses. Paid student loan interest and tuition and fees can be claimed as deductions. Eligible current students can also access the American Opportunity Credit, which can cover up to $2,500 annually for four years, and the Lifetime Learning Credit, which can cover up to $2,000 per tax return.

9. Install Solar Energy

Homeowners who install solar energy systems in their home can get back tax credits at up to 30% of the cost of installation. This credit will begin to decrease after 2019 so you may want to act soon if you’re planning on installing solar panels.

As an added bonus, solar energy can significantly reduce your energy bills.

10. Hunt Down Every Available Tax Credit

We’ve named several tax credits above, but there are more, including credits for adopting children, the cost of child care and low-income households. Tax credits are more valuable than deductions, as they reduce your taxable income on a dollar-for-dollar basis, so make sure you’re taking advantage of every option.

11. Get a Pro to Do Your Taxes

No matter how much research you do, a professional may be able to identify tax deductions and credits that hadn’t occurred to you. Paying a reputable professional you trust can help you stay organized and minimize your tax liability. Here’s a handy guide to finding the right tax professional for your needs.

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5 surefire ways to retire earlier than you thought

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 11:27 AM

The following are five surefire ways to get to retirement quicker Set clear goals for yourself and track your progress Working hard and being disciplined is the most reliable ways to retire early Streamline your spending and scale back on luxuries Cut your housing expenses Put your money to work - wisely

Retirement can seem like a difficult goal to reach, so the thought of achieving it early may seem downright impossible.

But getting to retirement quicker doesn't require genius-level investing knowledge or extreme deprivation. With a plan, hard work and discipline, you may be able to get there sooner rather than later.

RELATED: House hunters, here are 5 secrets to getting the best home loans

The following are five surefire ways to get to retirement quicker:

Set clear goals for yourself

Consumer adviser Clark Howard recently shared advice from Chris Reining, who decided in his late 20s that he wanted to retire early. By the time he turned 37, he was able to reach this goal.

Howard said he thought setting clear goals was one of the most important things that Reining did. He labeled his investment account "Retire early" so he could see the words every day. In addition, Reining tracked his progress by using a spreadsheet you can get on his website. He wanted to save up 25 times his annual expenses before retiring.

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Work hard

The Forbes Finance Council recommends working hard and being disciplined as the most reliable ways to retire early.

This can be achieved through a high-paying job combined with saving as much of your income as possible. Another path is starting your own business.

Reduce spending

Forbes quotes a blogger who retired early and says that streamlining your spending is an important step toward achieving this goal. It's not glamorous or complicated, but it works.

He suggests scaling back on luxuries and investing your savings in a low-cost index fund. When you accumulate 25 to 30 times your annual spending in this type of account, you can quit working for the rest of your life.

This Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, photo shows a new home for sale in a housing development in Raeford, N.C. On Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, Freddie Mac reports on the week’s average U.S. mortgage rates.

Cut your housing expenses

If you're like most people, your home is your biggest expense, so it's also your biggest opportunity to save, according to Money.

Housing costs take up about a third of the average budget, so Money recommends not taking out the biggest mortgage you can get. Live in a more modest-sized home when possible, and in some cases, homeowners can purchase a two-family home, living in one side and renting out the other.

Put your money to work - wisely

CNBC talked to Scott Alan Turner, who had more than $70,000 in debt at age 25, yet managed to turn things around and retire by age 44.

He put his money to work and although he made some mistakes in the beginning, he evolved into what he calls a boring investor. His savings are automatically funneled into low-cost index funds, which Warren Buffet calls a surefire way to build wealth.

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