3 Financial Attitudes You Need to Adopt After Getting Engaged to Keep Your Sanity

This article was originally published as a guest post on Britt & The Benjamins, but Brittney has kindly allowed me to post on Quills and Crystals as well. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section. I’d love to hear about your own wedding planning experience–or what you imagine it will be like! 

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I guess he's stuck with me. 🙃

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On a scale of Pinterest-perfect centerpieces to spontaneous courthouse elopements, my wedding plans always fell somewhere in between (messy chalkboard art, perhaps). The closest I’ve ever had to a “dream wedding” was during a family trip to Disney World, where we spotted a bride and groom head towards their happily ever-after in a horse-drawn carriage. My jaw dropped. “I want to get married here,” I announced. I mean, why wouldn’t I get married at Disney World?

Of course, that was when I was about twelve years old—way before I knew how much weddings actually cost. Fast-forward ten years or so, and I didn’t know much other than the fact that I wanted an affordable wedding that was beautiful, but not too big or fancy. I scrapped the Disney idea (but if you managed to pull off a Disney World wedding, I. WANT. PICTURES.) and scoffed at the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding.

And that was before I got engaged. Initially, my fiancé, Drew, and I had a goal of spending no more than $10,000. The average cost of a wedding in the United States is around $30,000, so I felt pretty frugal in comparison.

I still think a $30,000 wedding seems a little extravagant, but after booking our vendors, I’m more understanding of how couples reach that point. I know now that some venues require that you use their own caterer—which means no bargain hunting for charming buffet dinners. You may want to invite all of your friends and family, which—surprise!—will cost more. You might have to travel just to get to your own wedding. And don’t forget about those deposits. And dress alterations. And postage.

Lesson learned: it’s very easy to spend more than you anticipated. We’ve had a lot of conversations about money—about wedding budgets, yes, but also in the context of our marriage—and I’ve had to adjust my financial philosophies accordingly. Here are three ideas I’m trying to put into practice before our big day.

  1. Decide what to prioritize. Before Drew and I even started looking at venues or vendors, we came up with a list of wedding must-haves. For instance, we both want incredible food and an open bar, but neither of us have particularly strong feelings about floral arrangements—so, we’re splurging on food and going the DIY-route for bouquets. Be equally upfront about who you want to invite. While I love the idea of a small, intimate ceremony, it ain’t gonna happen: my family is ginormous and incredibly tight-knit. Cutting out cousins, aunts, and uncles is simply not an option; cutting out favors or decor, however, definitely is.
  2. Don’t focus on the differences between your salaries. I’m a writer who has done my fair share of job hopping; Drew has had the same job in IT for several years. I realized long ago that writers don’t usually become millionaires, and I knew that I needed a steady source of income before I cranked out a bestseller (or anything, really, but I’m trying to be optimistic). What I didn’t know is how strange it would be to discuss finances with my fiancé, who might always earn more money than I will. Have an open discussion about your financial situation, but don’t let the numbers paralyze you. Remember: you are a team. No matter how you decide to combine finances—if at all—your ultimate goal is to have a better, more beautiful life together.
  3. Learn how to accept help—financial or otherwise. Full disclaimer: Drew and I are coming from quite a bit of privilege, and we are insanely lucky to have family and friends who are willing to help with wedding expenses and planning. For some (like me), money and pride go hand-in-hand. Generosity may be difficult to swallow if you are striving for independence; while independence is not a bad thing, this can be an opportunity to learn from people who are chipping in or offering advice. If your parents are able to pay for your wedding, how did they manage to save that much money? Even if you are paying for your wedding, there are a lot of people who are probably willing to give you advice. Ask questions about budgets, planning a honeymoon, and everyday married life. Listen to them. You’ll feel less alone, and you’ll be relieved when you learn you weren’t the only one who didn’t know dress fitting appointments were a thing.

Our wedding is still months away, and the thought of so much to purchase and plan can get overwhelming, to say the least. But I’ve realized that at the end of the day, our engagement is a time to celebrate. And better yet, we’ll soon be living our own fairy tale. No carriage required.

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March On, Sisters

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This post was inspired by Samantha Chaffin’s blog post about the Women’s March in LA. The title is not meant to exclude the wonderful men or gender non-conforming people who attended marches, and I love each and every one of you who showed up to support the cause.

November 8, 2016: 

Election Day. It’s finally here, and it feels like Christmas Eve and finals week all at once. Something exciting is happening, for sure–but I also know that things could go horribly, horribly wrong.

I wear the only political shirt I own, which is emblazoned with a donkey, an elephant, and a cat. The donkey and the elephant have no votes; the cat, however, is rewarded with a confident check mark.

I voted early, but I make the now-obligatory social media to encourage others to do the same. I listen to NPR and say a prayer for my country.

Please, God. Just let America truly be a country for all of us. 

November 9, 2016: 

I wake up early. My alarm still hasn’t gone off, and there is an anxious ache in my chest. With a forced sort of hope, I look over at Drew and say, “I hope Hillary pulled through.”

“I already checked. She lost.”

I immediately reach for my phone and open my CNN app. The first story is bright and bold and impossible: PRESIDENT ELECT DONALD TRUMP. 

It doesn’t feel real, but it is. It is so, so, real, and I close my eyes and try to forget–but of course, it’s all I can think about.

January 20, 2017:

I’m driving to work, and for the first time in weeks, I don’t feel like listening to NPR. Instead, I listen the Hamilton cast recording. I sing along–badly, loudly, happily–as I sit in traffic.

I’m just like my country/ I’m young scrappy and hungry/ and I am not throwing away my shot

But we’ll never be truly free/Until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me

When you’re living on your knees, you rise up/ Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up/ Tell your sister that she’s gotta rise up

Thirty minutes later, I take the exit that leads downtown. There’s an explicit anti-Trump banner hanging from the bridge; it’s painted with sloppy red and black spray paint and for the first time that day, Donald Trump’s presidency becomes real.

I think of the rise of dystopian young adult novels. Perhaps we romanticized them too much. Perhaps we dismissed them too soon.

I take a deep breath, and I keep driving.

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January 21, 2017: 

I can’t stay off Facebook.

But it isn’t because I am left shocked and helpless by the news. It’s because there are so many people in Washington, D.C, marching for social justice.

And it doesn’t stop there.

There are people in London. Melbourne. Los Angeles. Chicago. St. Louis. They’re holding up signs that say things like ‘THE FUTURE IS FEMALE’ and ‘WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS.’

In Atlanta, it’s raining. We planned to march, but it doesn’t look good: the forecast includes severe thunderstorms and a tornado watch.

Drew can’t decide if he should go. “I just don’t want to be there if there is lightning,” he says. He tells me he feels guilty.

“I don’t want you to feel unsafe or uncomfortable,” I tell him. I understand completely–normally, I’m terrified of thunderstorms. “I just feel like I have to go.”

And I do. I feel it deep in my bones. That’s what Jesus did, isn’t it? Stand with the people who were ostracized and oppressed? Besides, I’m tired of feeling so helpless. I want to march. I want to remember why we have to keep fighting for what is right.

I’m finishing getting ready when Drew comes charging through our room.

“I changed my mind,” he says as he pulls on his shoes. “I’m coming.”

I squeal with excitement as he grabs a backpack and stuffs it with umbrellas and jackets.

“Should we stop somewhere and grab ponchos?” I ask.

“Nah. We aren’t wimps.”

I laugh, and after a quick lunch, we head out the door.

 

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We arrive to the march around two o’clock. I love Atlanta more and more each day, but this is by far the most amazing sight in the entire city.

There are hundreds and hundreds of people, holding signs and wearing shirts in support of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, the Affordable Care Act, and the environment. People ask to take pictures of my shirt. I ask to take pictures of signs. I want to hug everyone and tell them how good and inspiring they are, but I figure that would be a little weird. By some miracle, the rain has stopped and the sun is starting to peek through the clouds.

“We’ve been blessed!” Drew says. He’s making a joke, but I think there’s some truth to it.

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Little by little, the crowd begins to move. We’re heading for the Capital building, about two miles from our starting point at the Civil Rights Museum. Soon, the crowd begins to chant:

“BUILD BRIDGES, NOT WALLS!”

“LOVE, NOT HATE, MAKES AMERICA GREAT!”

“PEOPLE UNITED–WE’LL NEVER BE DIVIDED.”

I look around. I love this place. I love these people. And despite everything, I have so much hope.

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During his campaign, Trump promised to make America great. I never believed him. We can’t change the fact that Donald Trump is president, but we can damn sure keep him accountable.

Today was only the beginning. March on, sisters.

The march in Atlanta was a peaceful and incredibly positive experience. Thank you to everyone who organized the marches across the world, and thank you to anyone who offered support in any way. If you have any questions about my political beliefs, the march or the reasons behind it, feel free to contact me. 

Endorphins Make You Happy

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Perhaps it is because I have always been relatively healthy, but fitness is usually low on my list of priorities–if not last.

Exercise and I didn’t always have such a bumpy relationship. Growing up, I was always involved in some kind of sport (whether or not I possessed the necessary talent is another matter entirely.). But the most demanding of my athletic endeavors was high school swimming. Three days a week, I woke up at 4:30AM to make 5am practice; afternoon practices were followed by weight training. I was, without a doubt, the healthiest I had ever been in my entire life.

During my senior year, I decided that I wasn’t passionate enough about swimming to continue.  I had more free time to pursue my true passions, and I took what I thought was a well-needed break from vigorous exercise.

Looking back, I realize that this is when I started to view exercise as a chore.

I’m now in my twenties, but not much has changed. I still struggle to roll out of bed, or get off of the couch, or pause an episode Friends in exchange for a yoga video.

know that my current habits will likely affect my overall health in the future–but it is not difficult to gain knowledge. Think about it: how many times have we all heard that exercise can reduce stress and increase energy?

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They just don’t. 

Turning that knowledge into action…well, that’s the real challenge.

But I know that it isn’t impossible. Drew lifts weights almost every day; when I asked him how he stays motivated, he simply shrugged and said that he always feels better after working out.

When I work out, I kind of hate myself and feel like throwing up.

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Shut up, Ross. 

Then, I found something incredible: Bad Witch Workout. Gala Darling and Garnett Strother have created a free seven-day fitness challenge for anyone beginning their fitness journey–and I loved it so much that I bought the Starter Pack. While I’m still struggling to do the workouts regularly, this program has worked wonders. The community is amazingly supportive, and I’ve even met a few friends along the way!

To supplement Bad Witch Workout, I plan on practicing yoga more often. Yoga With Adriene has been my go-to workout resource for years; unfortunately, I tend to go on a three-day streak and stop.

Through yoga, Bad Witch Workout, and a bit of soul-searching, I’ve realized that I need to find my own source of motivation. Some people just know they feel awesome after a good workout. That’s wonderful, and I admire anyone who knows that exercise is worth it–but I feel awesome when I eat junk food or hit the snooze button multiple times. So, I’ve settled on a new mantra:

When I exercise, I am taking care of myself; therefore, exercise is an act of self-love. When I honor my body, I am honoring God.  

I may never be a bonafide fitness junkie. However, I can always make my physical health a priority….even if it is just making sure I drink enough water and get enough sleep.

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What are some of your favorite workouts? How do you prioritize your health? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter

 

Land of the Free

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My first real introduction to politics was the year 2000.

I was eight years old. Our teacher had just given a lesson about the two presidential candidates: George W. Bush and Al Gore. He then handed us a worksheet with a short, kid-friendly version of each candidate’s platform.

I didn’t know anything about those two men, but I was thrilled to learn. As I weighed my options, I decided that George W. Bush didn’t say anything bad…but I liked Al Gore much better. The reason was simple: he said he wanted to take care of animals and the environment. George W. Bush hadn’t said anything of the sort.

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Clearly, not much has changed, because I was super pumped to wear this ‘Vote Cats’ tee.

A few minutes later, I cast my “vote” for Al Gore and felt patriotic as hell (for an eight-year-old, anyway.).

I made my choice the way most children make decisions: quickly, passionately, and so confidently.

Needless to say, I was shocked to discover my parents weren’t all that fond of Mr. Gore.

“But he cares about animals!” I protested. My tiny treehugger heart was breaking. How could they not care?

My parents tried to explain that George W. Bush probably cared about animals, too. That they had personal, well-thought out reasons for voting the way they did, and you can’t always vote based on one issue alone.

It did not help. I was desperate to make someone understand. I kept telling my parents that animals were important. When relatives came to visit, I pestered them mercilessly about their vote. I was distraught: someone had to be wrong, and I didn’t want it to be me.

That was sixteen years ago–and yet, that passionate, confident version of myself is alive and well. I am a vegetarian. A feminist. A Christian. I voted for Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, while my parents almost always voted Republican.

I have been disagreeing with people about politics for a long, long time. And in that way, this election feels incredibly familiar.

The fear and anger does not.

I am not angry because my candidate lost, or because people voted differently (however vehemently I disagree).

I am not afraid because I believe that Donald Trump holds infinite power.

I am angry because of the bigotry, ignorance, and hatred that is so clearly rampant in the country I call home.

I am afraid because people I love are afraid.

I know what it is like to be a woman in this world; I do not know what it is like to be LGBTQ, an immigrant, a refugee, a person of color, or a Muslim. The government may be against many aspects of my life, but I am living with a great deal of privilege.

My intent is not to shame anyone for voting for Trump. I do, however, want to bring attention to the systems of oppression that exist in the twenty-first century.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

-Desmond Tutu

Long before I cast my pretend vote for Al Gore, I admired people–especially women– who spoke their mind. I was shy, but I wanted to be like Disney’s Esmeralda. And then I wanted to be like Hermione, and Elphaba, and countless other women (fictional or otherwise).

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I want to be like those women, and I want to be like Jesus. He was sinless, yes, but he ruffled some feathers in his day, too.

I will not be silent. Not now. Not when so many fear their rights will be stripped away.

I am not perfect. I may be doing this justice thing totally wrong. I may have an especially bad day and say something I don’t mean. I am sure I already have, and for that, I am sorry.

If you feel marginalized, angry, or afraid, I am with you. I am here to listen to your stories and offer support. We cannot simply claim to be the land of the free; we have to live it. I am here to fight back, because there are no outcasts in God’s Kingdom. 

This week has been horrific in many ways–but in spite of it all, I have seen so much kindness. Pain is an odd thing: where there is hurt, there is also healing. And there is hope, and love, and all the things I was sure would vanish when I woke up Wednesday morning.

The truth is not that we are more divided than ever; it is that we are all in this together.

United.

hello, september

Why, hello, September! I can’t believe 2016 has gone by so quickly, but here we are–and there’s already so much happening!

This weekend, I am headed to Dragoncon in Atlanta. Despite my extreme nerdiness, this will be my first con ever…and apparently, they throw a Yule Ball every year. I CAN’T WAIT.

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After we’ve recovered from a weekend of partying (introvert alert), Drew and I are heading to San Francisco! Drew was invited to a conference in San Fran, so we decided to extend our stay and take a vacation. I’m sure lots of Instagramming will ensue.

As for my newest literary pursuits…

I am thrilled to announce that I have recently joined the team over at  Thistle Magazine! I’ll be posting on Tumblr and promoting upcoming issues. Each staff member will also be featured in our mini-issue, Portraits. Be sure to follow Thistle on Twitter and Facebook for more updates!

I have also returned to the world of freelance. At the moment, I am focusing on editing and proofreading (and short writing gigs–unfortunately, I don’t have the time to take on huge writing projects.). If you have a manuscript or blog post that needs polishing, feel free to contact me!

Overall, September’s looking pretty fabulous. I’m especially looking forward to writing as I sip on a pumpkin spice latte. ❤

 

What do you have planned for this month? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

 

 

a small update

Why, hello there! I have returned from my (unintended) hiatus and come back to the blogging world with more cat pictures and Pokémon references that you ever thought were possible.

I was shocked to see that it has been almost a month since my last blog post. In my defense, July has been a bit of a whirlwind. For one thing, Drew and I have a July anniversary. And we both have July birthdays. AND Pokémon Go was released, so catching Pokémon has obviously been a priority.

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AND DID YOU KNOW THAT ALL MY DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE?!

 

I’ve been adulting pretty hard, too. In addition to my part-time bookstore job, I’ve been working  with The Storyline Group, a publishing company based here in Atlanta.

It’s been wonderful. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and in college, I fell in love with the entire publishing process–from book proposals to meticulous editing sessions. Making a book is a truly magical process, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

 

Between my two jobs, various writing projects, and my insatiable bibliophilia (i.e, buying books faster than I can read them), books have become an even bigger part of my life. I didn’t know that was possible, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So–what’s next?

How about:

living the #GIRLBOSS philosophy; French and Spanish lessons; books upon books upon books; cuddling with Constable Chubs; learning how to bake; Pokémon Go adventures (you’d be surprised how much fun you have, and how many people you meet); new travel destinations; coloring sessions; writing novels; watching this blog grow; yoga workouts; reuniting with old friends and meeting new people; rescuing animals; finding a brand-new wardrobe; and serving at church.

I know there’s no way I can do everything at once. There’s more happening in my life at this moment than there has been in a long, long time. It’s a little overwhelming, because I’ve never been the kind of person that thrives on  a hectic schedule.

In spite of the craziness, it’s been pretty awesome. I’m healing the parts of myself that were a little beaten up, and I’m moving forward.

But like everyone else on the planet, I have days when getting out of bed feels like a task worthy of an Olympic medal. Mornings still aren’t my thing, and I feel like I am totally unqualified to be an actual adult. But I’m starting to realize that that’s okay–who said there were any rules for adulthood, anyway?

To make a long blog post short: I’m doing wonderfully. I hope you are, too. ❤

 

Friends, Waffles, and Work: Athens, GA

Despite the fact that I lived in Georgia for part of my childhood, I still feel like the entire state is brand-new–and fortunately for a wanderlust-ridden twenty-something like me, there are dozens of places to explore.

Last week, our friends Abby and Chris invited Drew and I on a double date adventure to Athens, GA. I was there recently to attend a wedding, but I was more than happy to see more of what this adorable college town had to offer.

Armed with Abby’s map of local shops and restaurants, we hit the road for a day of shopping, eating, and the occasional beer.

Our first stop was Zombie Donuts, a) because Chris and I claimed we needed caffeine, and b) because I love donuts more than anyone should.

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Needless to say, I got all hyped up on sugar and coffee. It was awesome.

While wandering downtown, we found a plethora of charming places…

I especially loved Bizzaro-Wuxtry Comics & Stuff, a quirky comic book store that comics and graphic novels of all kinds, plus action figures and other fandom goodies.

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I couldn’t stop laughing. Because cats. They also had How to Talk to Your Cat About Evolution and How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety. 

We also loved the rooftop bar at Georgia Theatre, where we stopped for a beer and talked to the bartender about weird thrift shops (she was wearing a shirt with a cat riding a unicorn. How could I not ask?!)

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Maybe we loved it a little too much.

After finishing our drinks, we discovered more clothing shops and local bars. Abby and I stopped at Philanthropy Fashion , a Christian-based, locally-owned shop that donates at least 10% of their sales to charities. They even had a space for writing down prayer requests.

 

We then met Chris and Drew headed for the Rook & Pawn, a nerd-themed bar with plenty of board games to play while you drink or grab a bite to eat. They were also celebrating their one-year anniversary, so Drew got a free party hat.

And he wore it for the rest of the day.

 

Our next stop was Avid Bookshop. In my excitement, I forgot to snap a picture, but trust me when I say it was adorable. We even got to stay for an author reading and signing!

For dinner, we ate at Pulaski Heights BBQ. As a vegetarian, I don’t typically go out for barbecue…but thanks to Abby’s awesome map/planning skills, we knew it had vegetarian and vegan options. You can get a tofu sandwich, or substitute the meat on any sandwich or taco for tofu. It was delicious–however, I also feel obligated to say that nothing compares to Kansas City barbecue (even though obviously don’t really know from experience. I just feel like pointing this out is my duty as a Missourian.).

With all the awesomeness that Athens had to offer, I’d say our double date was a success–and I feel especially glad to have such wonderful people in my life. Life is good, folks.

Other Happy Little Thoughts: 

discovering adorable coffee shops • much-needed phone calls with best friends • e-mails from my dad • pictures of my baby cousins • beautiful sunny weather • going back to childhood and re-reading The Secret Garden • trips to the library • prayer times • road trip playlists • spontaneous date nights (“We should dress up one day and go somewhere.” “LET’S GO RIGHT NOW.”) • knowing that tomorrow evening, I get to visit kittens at the animal shelter • listening to Spanish podcasts on the way to work • meeting new people while I’m at work • “#falsedeep” • cooking shows • anticipating summer birthdays/anniversaries/holidays

How have you been? What are your happy little thoughts?