When Jack Sandford met the love of his life he found enjoying the good things and planning for the future a tough balancing act. And when he popped the question, he realised the wedding they had both dreamt of would require incredible financial discipline
After leaving university in 2012, I was fortunate enough to quickly land a good job in insurance.
I was in the honeymoon period of finally earning a proper wage after years of studying. I set up a modest savings plan to fund the things I wanted: a proper winter coat, a new bike, a decent phone contract. At least that’s what I planned in my budgeting spreadsheet.
I soon realised that I should be saving a lot more than I was, for something more meaningful.
I set up a Stocks and Shares Isa and began paying in around 30% of my disposable income each month, laying the foundation of what I hoped would be a deposit for a property.
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But I hadn’t planned for one of life’s major events. I met the love of my life just a few months later.
Saving didn’t seem as important any more. Neither of us had our own place, so we spent a lot of our time in pubs, restaurants and cinemas.
I rethought my long-term savings plan and replaced it with holiday goals, fancy restaurants and spa breaks.
We were both living in the moment. I was just about living within my means, but not every month, which meant debt started to creep in. I reduced my Isa payments further, to pay my overdraft.
I felt like I was losing control of my finances. A pattern of uncontrolled spending followed by months of austerity developed. I knew this wouldn’t get me to a deposit.
When my girlfriend and I got serious we realised we should plan for the future.
We started renting together, but not long after I inherited some money which put us in a position to buy our own flat.
We were able to do something positive in an unfortunate situation. Our new mortgage was cheaper than renting and I was able to save again.
Jack and his fiancée, Hannah
Fast-forward to March 2018. Hannah and I had been together for five years and we’d owned together for nearly three.
I found a use for a chunk of my savings and got down on one knee. She said yes (never any doubt!) and we were engaged.
I’d spent months thinking about rings and how much to spend. But, blinded by the excitement of getting engaged, I got carried away and forgot that after the engagement comes a wedding to pay for, the biggest one-off expense we would face in our lives after buying our home.
We’re very fortunate that our families can help with some aspects of the wedding, but we will be paying for most of it ourselves.
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The wedding is in April, and we have a rigorous savings plan.
We’ve never had such a big savings target before. When I was saving for a deposit there was no time limit and I had no real idea how much I needed, but the wedding has a price tag and a deadline.
We’ve had to completely rethink our approach to money.
As the author of many personal finance spreadsheets, I did what I do best in the face of money challenges and opened Microsoft Excel.
First we itemised every wedding-related cost.
Next, we listed all of our outgoings and looked at our total disposable income over six months rather than monthly.
Looking at finances on a longer-term basis is great because you immediately see the long-term benefit of small adjustments.
Just taking in a packed lunch to work on three out of five working days and cycling to work at least twice a week I have saved over £700.
It’s also good for morale. Seeing our monthly disposable income multiplied by six shows us that the wedding target is achievable.
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But it does also mean constantly checking statements and updating the plan based on the previous month’s actual spend.
No more reckless months: we both stand on the money scales every week to see how many pounds we’ve gained or shed.
The motivation is that we’re going to have the biggest celebration of our lives with our friends and family.
We know how lucky we are to be able to have the wedding we want and it has reminded us that saving and planning is part of life, no matter how small those savings are.
I hope after the wedding is done and paid for, we will keep up the momentum and grow our nest egg.
But maybe a honeymoon first.
Do you have a lesson you’ve learnt about money you’d like to share? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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