Wedding on a Budget

Living With Less

So many people asked us why Austin and Larisa’s wedding was on a Thursday evening. Granted it’s a little unconventional, but quite honestly it came down to their budget. They found the place where they wanted their wedding and reception but the Friday or Saturday night price was way out of reach. However, the cost during the week was 50% less…and that’s how a Thursday evening wedding was born!

Weddings are expensive events. However, there are many ways to cut costs and stay within your budget. Austin and Larisa’s wedding was the fourth for our family. They were all planned with a budget in mind, but I can’t even imagine how they could have been any better even if more money had been spent.  

We’ve lived most of our married life with a limited income. We have shopped at Aldi, practiced “delayed gratification,” and limited our kids’ activities simply because we often couldn’t afford registration fees or lesson tuition. When it came time to plan weddings–particularly for our girls where we carried the most financial responsibility–we proceeded in the same manner. It took some extra effort, but we determined that we had more time than money so we used our time to comparison shop and consider all possible ways to accomplish whatever task was before us. In the process, we found that there are many ways to have a beautiful celebration on a limited budget. Here are some tips we can now share:

  • Shop clearance racks: A full price wedding gown was out of our budget, but we found many beautiful gowns on the bridal shop clearance racks. Our oldest daughter eventually chose a beautiful $1200 gown that we found on the clearance rack for $279.  Erica chose to wear my wedding dress (which was my mother’s wedding dress, too!) and alterations were less than $200.  I did the same for my dress for Austin and Larisa’s wedding. I’ve had so many compliments on my dress and I spent all of $39 on it at a Ross–Dress For Less store!
  • Shop outside of bridal stores: The average tiara in a bridal store is around $100, but stores in the mall carry tiaras, too. We found Anne’s for less than $10 and it was beautiful! Jewelry can be purchased in the same manner. Even the Dollar Store has a wide range of wedding supplies that don’t look at all like they came from a “discount” store—the throw away garter is a perfect example of what can be purchased at the Dollar Store. For their wedding, Larisa found the flower girl dresses at an online store for just $35.
  • Take advantage of tux store offers: Many tux rental stores offer free invitations with tux rental. This saves hundreds of dollars.  Erica and Kendall chose to forgo the tuxes.  They did dress shirts, ties, and pants that the guys bought themselves and could keep and wear again. Austin and Larisa also created their own wedding invitations and had them printed at which also came with free envelope addressing with an order of invitations.

Borrow what you can: Rather than renting a limo for the drive from the church to the reception, we asked family friends if we could borrow their convertible for one of our daughter’s wedding. Another friend offered decorations she still had from her daughter’s wedding. The church had silk greenery we were able to use and candle stands and white pillars were also borrowed for another daughter’s wedding. For Larisa and Austin’s wedding, Anne put out a need on Facebook for a 5T tux or suit for Landon as the ringbearer. Thankfully a friend had one to borrow.

  • Serve appetizers at the reception: Rather than a meal, if you time the wedding just right, you can serve appetizers or simply cake and punch.  One wedding we went to served donuts rather than cake!
  • Limit invitation numbers: This is a hard decision to make for sure, but it also controls costs. Larisa and Austin limited their invite list to a little over 100 guests. Because there were so many of their friends and family, this meant Mark and I couldn’t invite some of our own friends who we would have loved to have there. That was hard, but understandable and important for staying within the budget.
  • Make anything you can: The wedding party can be more than just pretty faces on the wedding day. Let them help address invitations, make bouquets and bows or table centerpieces.  Three of my friends spent just a few hours helping me make the hot chocolate favors at Larisa and Austin’s wedding.
  • Think outside the box. Rather than paying for an elaborate wedding cake, Austin and Larisa had a pie bar for guests. They had a small cake that Larisa made herself for just the two of them to cut and eat.
  • Purchase flowers yourself: Some florists will use your silk flowers and charge an hourly rate for assembling corsages, boutonnieres, and bouquets. We found silk stems for half price at Hobby Lobby and purchased the remaining flowers online at wholesale prices for our girls’ weddings. This reduced cost significantly.
  • Attend Bridal Shows: Not only do you garner ideas for your wedding, but you can sign up for giveaways as well. After one bridal show, we won $70 off tux rental.

  • Ask friends to be a part of your day: Rather than paying musicians, you might ask musician friends to be a part of your special day.  Ask friends to help decorate the church or set up the tables for the reception.
  • Do without: What items that are considered “traditional” do you really not need or even care about? Anne determined that she didn’t really care if she had an aisle runner at the church. That was one less thing to purchase.
  • Plan in advance: Erica and Kendall had a three month engagement. From a planning perspective, we loved just getting things done and not fretting over too many details.  Larisa and Austin had a two year engagement.  While that allowed for a lot of time for fretting over details, it also netted them some great financial deals. For instance, their videographers were fellow Moody students Austin booked two years ago when they were inexperienced and just starting their business. By the time they actually did Austin and Larisa’s wedding, their prices and experience had greatly increased. As they told me at the wedding, “These two got an incredible deal because our prices now are not even close to what Austin booked us for two years ago!” (Below is the six minute highlight video if you’d like to see it.  Click here to see it if you’re reading this in email and the video doesn’t show up.)

The most important part of planning a wedding is letting the bride and groom create a day that is their very own. With a little bit of effort and creativity, a very special day can be created on any budget!

What about you? Do you have any tips you would pass on for planning a wedding on a budget? 

Why We Choose Samaritan Ministries

As a double entrepreneur family–both Mark and I have our own small businesses–health insurance is not a given.

When Obamacare became available we bought a policy through the marketplace. We quickly learned, however, that the “Affordable Care Act” was anything but affordable. Insuring Mark and I and our college student son required a $1500 monthly premium for a high deductible health insurance policy. Instead it should be called the “Accessible Care Act” because it did indeed cover pre-existing conditions like breast cancer which I battled in 2013 and 2014. For that we were grateful.

As we were considering our options we kept hearing about a health sharing program called Samaritan Ministries. I couldn’t imagine not having health insurance. To me that was like not having car insurance or homeowners insurance! You have to have health insurance! Yet, health insurance was becoming unreachable to us financially. We finally decided to do our research and ultimately chose Samaritan Ministries as a different way to do healthcare beginning in January 2016.

I’ve waited to share about our health sharing decision until now because I wanted to get time and experience under our belt. I won’t recommend something until I’ve used it long enough to feel comfortable with the resource or product. We’re now finishing up our second year with Samaritan Ministries and I can wholeheartedly say that this is our new normal for managing healthcare expenses.

Here’s how it works: The first $300 of any health incident is covered out of pocket–kind of the same concept as a deductible. (That first $300 can also be shared if you secure a discount for services. For instance, if you have a $3000 medical bill and you ask the provider for a cash pay discount and they give you a 10% discount for cash pay, your $300 responsibility has been eliminated by the discount you negotiated. Our experience, by the way, is that most providers offer anywhere from a 20%-50% discount for cash pay.)

Expenses above the $300 are shared with other members. So every month we pray for and send our $495 share directly to another member who has a healthcare burden that is being shared. ($495 is the share for a family of 3 or more. When Austin gets married in December, our share will reduce to $440/month for the two of us.) One month out of the year our share goes directly to Samaritan to cover administrative expenses. The other 11 months our share goes directly to another member who has a need. Samaritan matches the needs up with the shares and tells you who to pray for and send your money to each month.

Mark and Austin only have Samaritan membership. Due to my breast cancer history, we choose to carry a high deductible health insurance policy on me only and I also am a Samaritan member. We choose to carry health insurance on me because Samaritan will not share any expense related to a pre-existing cancer diagnosis until you’ve been treatment-free for five years. I have one more year and then I’ll meet that requirement.

I can’t wait until I can drop my health insurance, but Samaritan can be used alongside health insurance. In fact, when we were trying to decide what to do, I called Samaritan with some questions. They informed me that if I did health insurance plus Samaritan, it was likely that in most situations, Samaritan shares would cover any health insurance deductible I would have.

Indeed that is exactly what has happened. I had rotator cuff surgery earlier this year. With my $6000 deductible, we were looking at $6000 of out-of-pocket medical expenses. As the bills came in for my surgery and follow up physical therapy, every penny of my deductible was shared by Samaritan members. I had no out-of-pocket expenses. We didn’t even have to pay the first $300 because the insurance discounts reduced that (most providers give insurance companies pre-negotiated discounts on medical costs).

Even if there is an expense that doesn’t qualify for being shared (such as a pre-existing condition, orthodontic work, oral surgery, etc), you can submit those things as a Special Prayer Need (SPN). Each month we’re assigned one special prayer need that we’re asked to pray for and given the opportunity to voluntarily donate $20 or $25 to if we’d like. If every person who gets that SPN is able to also donate the suggested amount, the entire financial need for that unsharable medical expense will be met for the member! We could choose to manage our risk of breast cancer recurrence through the Special Prayer Need option, but we’ve determined carrying a high deductible traditional health insurance policy is our best strategy for one more year.

This year Samaritan introduced a new level of membership. What we have is Samaritan Classic. They now offer Samaritan Basic which comes with a lower monthly share amount and a higher threshold amount that is your responsibility before a need can be shared.  We’ll probably stay with Samaritan Classic, but for some folks Samaritan Basic is just what they need to make healthcare even more affordable. Oh and by the way, healthcare sharing members are exempt from the federal requirement to have insurance or pay a penalty-tax.

We’ve been so pleased with our decision to leave behind health insurance, replacing it with a health sharing plan. If you’re struggling with affording health insurance and are looking for a different way to handle your healthcare needs, we highly recommend Samaritan Ministries.

As of September 2017, more than 229,000 Samaritan Ministries members share over $25 million per month in medical needs directly, one household to another, without using health insurance. It’s a healthy, stable, Christ-honoring ministry that has figured out how to harness the power of community!

If you’re thinking about making a change and have any questions, please ask! We’d love to help you determine if this could be a good option for your family.

And if you decide to make the switch…tell them the Savage’s sent you! We LOVE knowing when we’ve helped someone along the #LivingWithLess journey!

It’s Amazon Prime Day!

Living With Less

Special Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase. It’s important to me that you know, however, that I only recommend products and services I love and personally use! You can read my full disclosure policy here.

In my #livingwithless life I love a good deal and today Amazon has one! Tuesday, July 11, is Amazon Prime Day and it’s kind of like Black Friday in July!  I hate when I miss out on hearing about a good deal so I wanted to make sure and share it with you, too, so you don’t miss out if there’s something you’ve had your eye on!

Not a member of Amazon Prime?  You can actually join for free for 30 days and take advantage of these opportunities!  Here’s a link that will get you connected to today’s deals: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

Once you’re in, here are some great deals available today:

Instant Pot–I bought my Instant Pot on Black Friday last November and I USE IT ALL THE TIME!  It has transformed my cooking! This one is $79 today which is a great price!

Kindle Unlimited: Kindle – Up to 40% Off Kindle Unlimited–While I’m not a big e-reader, Mark LOVES his Kindle! If you love e-books this deal’s perfect for you!

All of the No More Perfect Books are in the $9 or $10 price range with free shipping for Prime members! No More Perfect Marriages, No More Perfect Kids, and No More Perfect Moms!  Some of my other books have great deals too like My Hearts at Home ($8.66) and Real Moms…Real Jesus ($8.87) And if you use the promo code PRIMEBOOKS17 you can save $5 off your book purchases of $15 or more!

Here are a few more offerings today:


Hospitality at Home

Why We Choose To Be Airbnb Hosts

We’d been married just about six months and lived on the west side of Indianapolis. Mark drove a delivery truck all over Indiana for his family’s glass and plastics business. He’d been in southern Indiana that day and I was waiting for him to come home to a spaghetti dinner I’d spent the last hour making. This was 34 years ago, before there were cell phones or texting or other easy ways to stay in touch when you were apart.

I heard Mark’s truck pull up outside our mobile home. I greeted him at the door with a smile. He kissed me and said, “Hey, I brought someone home for dinner.” Surprised, I asked him who it was. He said, “I picked up a guy at the truck stop in Evansville. He was trying to get to northern Indiana so I told him I could give him a ride as far as Indianapolis. We talked as we drove and he could really use a good meal before I run him up to the mission where he can spend the night. I hope it’s okay for him to join us.”

I was surprised, but happy to share what we had. Thankfully, I was raised in a home where there was always room for one more at the dinner table.

Mark went out and invited Foster to come inside and join us for dinner.  We added a third chair around our little table for two, making our dinner for two into a dinner for three. After dinner and delightful conversation, we all jumped in the truck and drove to the homeless shelter in downtown Indianapolis.  It was the middle of December and terribly cold. I remember noticing that Foster wasn’t wearing gloves. When he confirmed that he didn’t have gloves I took off my own pair–a black stretchy pair that easily fit a man or a woman–and handed them to him wishing him the best along the journey.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Those words in Hebrews 13:2 have always stuck with me.  While we never heard from Foster again, Mark and I were bonded together that day by our shared value for hospitality.

That’s why we decided six months ago to start hosting Airbnb. We’ve loved sharing our home and meeting so many wonderful people. So far we’ve hosted dozens of folks: a family coming to visit their ISU student on Parent’s Weekend, a businessman from China, a couple driving from Florida to their home in Wisconsin, a mother needing a break from everyday life and wanting a long weekend away, a family coming together to celebrate their son/grandson’s graduation from ISU, three families on house-hunting trips preparing for a move to our community, a father and daughter taking a trip down Route 66 before the daughter headed off to the mission field.  We even hosted a baseball team of free agents playing AAA teams like our local Cornbelters, each one living the baseball dream and hoping to get picked up by one of the teams they played (and one of the guys ended up getting picked up by the Cornbelters that day!)

Sometimes we get the opportunity to visit with folks and sometimes they arrive just in time to head to bed and head out early in the morning. Either way, we get the opportunity to give them a home away from home for the night.

We have a big, nearly empty home now that most of the kids are gone. Why not use it for hospitality? I can truly say it’s become quite a mission field as we’ve encouraged marriages, helped folks new to town, and even shared deep faith-building conversations when the opportunity has presented itself.

We set our own calendar and choose to approve each reservation request, always screening their reviews from previous stays before saying yes. We’ve had a few first time Airbnb users who didn’t have reviews, but our interaction with them through the Airbnb app or website always allows us to get to know them and their reason for travel before saying yes. All money is handled through the Airbnb app, allowing us to earn a little extra income on the side. We’ve been pleased with Airbnb as a company and they’ve set up a great plan for establishing trust and safety into their program.

If you have the gift of hospitality, you might consider joining the Airbnb family as a host. We’ve found it a wonderful way to meet people and provide a warm, safe place for folks traveling to or through our community.

We now use Airbnb in our own travels and prefer it over a hotel. It’s less expensive and we often meet wonderful people. Our first experience was in December of 2015 when we traveled to visit our son, Evan, who lives near Hollywood in Los Angeles. Every hotel in the area was $250/night and that was simply out of our price range. We found an apartment to rent on Airbnb for $85/night. The couple happened to be out of town so we had the place to ourselves, including a kitchen where we could make our own meals for the week. We caught the Airbnb bug on that trip and decided to start using it for other trips.

Want to use Airbnb on an upcoming trip? You can get $40 off your first stay of $75 of more using this linkAnd if you’re ever in Bloomington-Normal, come stay with us! We’d love to have you!

I am still amazed that a hospitality seed was planted some 34 years ago when Mark and I shared an impromptu spaghetti dinner with a man named Foster. Maybe he really was an angel and we didn’t know it. He certainly made an impression on us and we’re still living that out today.

What about you? Have you ever used Airbnb or any other home sharing experience? What do you do to reach out to those around you?

Chicken That Fits Our Living With Less Lifestyle

I love chicken.

I love saving money.

I love buying in bulk and getting a great deal.

I love any deal that keeps me out of a grocery store!

I love Zaycon Fresh meats and especially their chicken because it’s the best of everything I love!

Zaycon Fresh is a unique way to order meats where you can save 30-50% off store prices by cutting out the middleman (i.e. the grocery store). You get meat for much less and most of their meats are farm fresh and from local farms. It is comparable to the highest quality, non-organic meats in the grocery store. I’ve been buying my chicken from Zaycon for several years and I have never been disappointed. They are very diligent in ensuring the quality of their meats and I’ve recently learned that if a local farming supplier does not meet Zaycon’s standards, they will stop business with that farm. I love knowing that!

So here’s how it works: the meat is ordered in bulk 1-4 months in advance. The product is delivered to the local areas in a refrigerated truck, with pickup in a private business or organization’s parking lot (I pick up my order in the Eastview Christian Church parking lot in Normal,IL–just two miles from my house!). Here’s the best part: I NEVER EVEN GET OUT OF MY CAR! I simply pull up in the car line, give the representative my name. I  pop open my trunk and the volunteer lays down plastic to protect my car from leakage and loads the box(es) in my trunk for me!

I get value, quality, and convenience with Zaycon and I never have to go to the store!

Want a little peek at the process?  Here’s a video Good Morning America did on Zaycon Fresh. It’s a few years old but shows you how Zaycon works!

Zaycon is best known for it’s chicken but I have friends who rave about their ground beef and bacon and other goodies! They only offer their chicken a few times a year but you can order now for the next delivery!

Wanna give it a try? If it’s available in your area, my guess is you’ll love it!  And if you’re a new customer, use coupon code MYFIRST40 to get their chicken for .99/lb–through Saturday February 17 or until inventory sells out! It’s the best deal they EVER offer!

Shop Now at Zaycon Fresh




Two Ways To Make Money Without Working At It

Living With Less

Several years ago Mark and I wrote Living With Less So Your Family Has More. The book is about living with less stress, less activities, and less money than what is culturally acceptable.  It’s actually about standing up to adult peer pressure and doing what is best for your family.

Most books about living with less would be about actions you can take to save money everyday. Instead what we look at are the attitudes needed to successfully live with less.  Attitudes like contentment, sacrifice, frugality, simplicity, and creativity help us to live out our values for the long haul.

One creative way to live with less is to actually earn on activities we do everyday.

I’ve never been much of a shopper. If I hit the mall once a year…that’s too often for me.  Online shopping, however, has been a game-changer for me. I don’t have to fight the crowd. I don’t have to go from store to store trying to find the best price.  And most of the time, I’m able to find a coupon code for my purchases.

Just the other day, I ordered something online and the store site was advertising a 20% off coupon code. At first I thought, “Great…there’s already a coupon code on the site!” On a hunch, I googled “coupon code for [store name]” and found a 30% code! Gotta love that! (My personal favorite site for finding coupon codes is What’s yours?)

In addition to finding coupon codes for nearly all my online purchases. I’ve also found two ways to earn on online purchases: Ebates and Swagbucks!  Each site gives you back a percentage of your purchase on most online shopping sites.  I use the browser extensions for both which reminds me to choose one for my purchase (if I had to remember on my own…I’d surely forget!)With the extension installed, this is what it looks like when I go to a store’s website:


I then click on whatever site offers me the best percentage back and continue my shopping.

Ebates sends you a check (or deposits into Paypal) your earnings every quarter. Swagbucks allows you to earn “Swagbucks” that you can use to purchase giftcards to some of your favorite stores (I recently “bought” an Amazon gift card with my bucks.)  Honestly this has been a great way to fund our Christmas fund.  If you buy much online, make sure you’re getting the benefits with Ebates and Swagbucks!

Don’t miss out on earning money on something you’re already doing!

What about you? Are you using Ebates or Swagbucks? What’s your experience been? Do you have other strategies you use to save or earn money with your online purchases? 

TODAY ONLY: $5 off $15 Amazon Book

I love to both give and receive books and because I’m a living with less girl, I also love to pass along a good deal.

I just learned that Amazon is offering $5 off any print book purchase of $15 or more by simply using the promo code: GIFTBOOK.  Today (Sunday) is the last day for this deal so I’ll be taking advantage of it for some Christmas gifts and I wanted to make sure you knew about it too!


If you’re thinking about picking up a copy of No More Perfect Marriages when it comes out, you can go ahead and pre-order it and use this coupon! (The book under $15 so you’ll need to package it with another book purchase.)

If you’re looking to purchase for a special mom in your life, you can also check out my Hearts at Home books!

While we’re talking about books, here are some of my favorite reads this year:

Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud
How We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich (I read it at least once a year!)
Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton
8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids by Dr. Todd Cartmell
Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

And here’s one on my list to read in the future:

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Love Does by Bob Goff (he’s going to be one of our keynote speakers at the 2017 Hearts at Home mom conferences!)

What about you? What were some of your favorite reads in 2016?

Some links are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase. It’s important to me that you know, however, that I only recommend products and services I love and personally use! Thanks for your support in this way!

Living With Less So Your Family Has More

Peer pressure.

Those two words are usually associated with the teen years.

living with less cover with black edgeYet you and I face peer pressure everyday.

When you see your neighbor’s new minivan, does it make your old beater look even worse?

When you hear all the activities your best friend has her kids involved in, do you feel like maybe you’re a loser parent because you don’t have your kids involved in any activities?

Do you struggle when you hear about how the family down the street went to Disneyworld during Christmas vacation and you can’t figure out how to afford a camping getaway for three days?

Have you decided to limit the number of activities your kids do, but question if it’s really the right decision?

Do you say no to volunteering more often than you say yes, but feel guilty doing so?

If so, you have come face to face with adult peer pressure.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing with Dr. James Dobson on the Living With Less So Your Family Has More book Mark and I wrote.

I just learned yesterday that they are re-airing the interview today and tomorrow!  Need some encouragement on standing up to adult peer pressure?  You can listen online today!