Just over two years ago, I wrote the first in a series of cheapskate columns.
Like most things in my life, I didn’t just go out on a whim. I had been walking around with the idea for a satirical column for months, agonising over whether it would be a good idea at all. If life was an investment, my appetite for risk would put me squarely in the money-under-the-mattress category … Would people get my off-beat humour? Apparently, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. Is it even a good idea for a camera-shy introvert to put their life and views out there for the world to judge?
As the daughter of a minister (the kind that preaches in a church, not the kind that promises sunshine and happiness if you vote for them) I’ve always had a natural affinity for a soapbox, but I was also well aware that the type of sermons that tell people to put money aside for a good cause are generally much less well received than the types that promise land and jobs.
After significant scenario-planning, I decided that this was something I had to do. I braced myself for the fallout and started shopping for comment section tombstones.
The one scenario I didn’t plan for was that I would receive an e-mail, funnier than anything I could ever write, asking me out. One would think that at my age, a plummeting metabolism, growing cynicism and crow’s feet would unite to automatically protect me from any suitors, but apparently, if you understand compounding and know your way around Excel, there is an inexplicable allure to a frugal woman!
So here we are, one week away from saying our I dos … The ride has been unexpected in more ways than one.
Despite my best efforts to convince the family that a wedding at home affairs would do, and that my pale skin colour would make it impossible to distinguish the person from the dress, my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Apparently, this is easily fixed by some spray tan that covers you in a light orange … sorry ‘bronze’, although it comes with the heightened risk that you may have to introduce yourself to the wedding guests.
I’ve also tried to sell an idea for a pop-up boerewors roll stand next to the church as this would allow us to make a small profit from the event, but the broader circle of friends immediately waved this away as “too left field”.
If you haven’t recently been exposed to the craziness of the wedding industry, consider yourself lucky. It is a world that bears some resemblance to the South African economy from the outside, but once you enter, things change for the worst. Inflation easily runs at 20%. A second-hand … sorry “pre-loved” dress can set you back several tens of thousands of rand easily. However, the shop would be more than happy to resell it for 60% of the retail price afterwards. You can pocket 40% of that. By my calculation, no matter how frugally we live, the marriage would have to last at least 90 years before we would break even given such extravagance. So much for the Excel spreadsheet.
And while you can have an amazing meal at an upmarket restaurant for R350 per person, most wedding caterers would only be able to supply boerewors rolls on this budget. This would exclude the caramelised onions.
Scared that I would not only have to spend all the money under my mattress to host this wedding, but that I may need to sell the mattress itself, I’ve decided to rather let (some) sanity prevail.
These are my suggestions:
- Get married in autumn/winter. This is considered off-season and most venues offer significant discount. While you can always ‘filter’ your way to a beautiful wedding, Photoshop is less helpful when it comes to protecting your bank balance.
- Reduce the guest list. I realise that not inviting those family members you haven’t seen for years is a risky move. To solve this, you may want to host the ceremony in a place that is difficult to locate on Google Maps. Like Joburg.
- Use your connections. While a few people thought it was quite a big ask to expect my dad to walk me down the aisle and officiate the ceremony, I’ve reminded them that we all had to make sacrifices. Some of us had to go as far as wearing a white dress.
- (If you are lucky enough to count the other type of minister among your circle of friends, remember that Waterkloof Air Force Base is always available …)
- Break with tradition. Most guests would survive if they didn’t receive some coffee beans, seeds or handmade soap as a gift, especially if it means they can actually get caramelised onions with their boerewors rolls.
- Avoid debt. While I will probably be forever indebted to my friends, family, family-to-be and husband-to-be for the tremendous effort they all went to to contribute to this event, borrowing money has never even been a discussion point.
Ultimately, I guess, the best decision is to choose your spouse wisely. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I have received is to keep your eyes wide open before you marry someone, but to close them afterwards.
I never imagined that writing a cheapskate column aimed at encouraging other people to live below their means could yield such an outsized return for me. I’ve been incredibly fortunate.
PS: If anyone needs help planning a wedding in Excel, I know a great guy. Would be more than happy to rent him out at a discounted rate for Moneyweb readers.
PPS: This column concludes the Commandments of a Cheapskate series. Today is my last day at Moneyweb. Thanks to everyone for their support over the past six years.