First Person: Weddings and Funerals Were Putting Me in Debt

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Weddings make me feel happy and funerals make me sad, but both events were putting me deeper into debt. I recently read a CNN article about a man who said he spent $10,000 to attend a dozen weddings. Through the years, I've had to budget not only for friends and relatives' weddings, but for the less celebratory funerals. In fact, funerals can be more expensive because of last-minute plane tickets.

According to the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker's recent survey, wedding guests expect to spend an average of $539 per wedding this year. The costs are up 50 percent compared to last year.

Attending local weddings

I had to make it a rule to only attend local weddings than to attend weddings in other parts of the country. A quarter of couples are planning destination weddings, according to TheKnot.com, which could explain why people expect to pay more to attend a friend's wedding this year. Although I'd love to don mittens and watch my former coworkers exchange nuptials with the Swiss Alps in the background, I can't afford a trip to Switzerland.

Swapping out vacations

Another way I stopped getting into debt over weddings and funerals was by cutting out all leisure travel and vacations. Experts call weddings and funerals "obligation travel." I had to make room in my budget for obligation travel with so many people moving to the next stage of this life or the afterlife. According to the CNN story, almost 50 percent of adults say they spend their vacation budget on weddings and family gatherings.

Giving homemade gifts

I also save money by making homemade wedding gifts. In one instance, I created a scrapbook for a friend that included her family's favorite recipes and photographs of family and friends. A lot of people seem to appreciate homemade jam and jellies accompanied by cards with cash or gift certificates. I cut back on birthday gifts so I have more to give when friends and relatives get married.

Refusing to use credit

If I have to use a credit card in order to attend an event, I simply decline. After attending 12 weddings that included bachelor parties, one Ohio man said he racked up $10,000 in debt. His credit card accumulates $130 a month in interest. In the past, I've been able to avoid using credit cards by simply staying with friends and relatives instead of hotels. None of my friends have ever cared whether I wore the same dress to several different weddings. One of my friends felt hurt when her best friend had to bow out of being in the wedding party because of the expenses of buying a dress. It's a lot less expensive to attend a wedding as a guest rather than be part of the wedding party.

Although I personally racked up about $5,000 worth of debt going to weddings and funerals in the past, I've learned to budget for so-called obligation travel. With so many people stressed out about their big day or upset about their loss, it's nice to have no financial worries associated with the occasions.

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More from this contributor:

Getting Rid of Newlywed Debt

My Cheap Wedding

5 Best Money Moves After Getting Married

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