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The cost of death

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I hinted in my last post about the costs associated with illness especially for the elderly and terminal illnesses which require lots of care. While those costs aren’t something I have needed to cover, thankfully, due to my dad’s excellent money management skills. The cost of death is something that has been a topic of discussion around our home quite a bit lately.

Selection of benefits

The kids and I are all aware of the end of life situation we are facing with my mom, their Gramzi. It’s also come up several times in regards to the twins. No, they are not sick. But they have both recently changed jobs and therefore had to review and select benefit options.

Sea Cadet is a full time firefighter/EMT. The job in and of itself carries a higher risk. And History Buff just started a new job involving testing transformers. It was time for them both to select some life insurance. Since neither of them is married, my advice was twofold:

  • Make sure you select enough to cover your end of life costs. (Yes, I am very blunt and matter of fact about these things, have always been this way.)
  • Keep in mind as you get older qualifying for lower rates can become more challenging. So I recommend electing for an amount your comfortable paying for rather than just the minimum – taking advantage of the “no health assessment option”.

Would you give other or additional advice to your 20-something year old kids?

When my mom dies

There have also been a lot of conversations about when my mom dies as well. I feel at peace with this because we did discuss it so frankly throughout the last decade. She wants to be cremated. She didn’t want a viewing. She always joked that she wanted a Mexican fiesta as her celebration of life with chips and queso. I realize this is not realistic, her conservative community would definitely not understand that. But frankly, I love the idea.

Anyways, we have spent time this week in Texas discussing the details and what us kids and the grand kids want and need. There will most likely be two services, one in Texas where her and my dad have lived for the last 8ish years and all of my siblings have their communities. And then one where I live, which is where my dad and she were born and raised and still have significant ties to the community. (This was my dad’s call and I support it. I told him we didn’t need to do a service where I live just because of us.)

I plan to attend both and will offer the same to my kids. My dad has indicated to all us kids (5 of us) that he will have some money available to help us and the grand kids (there are 6 in total, my 5 and one of my brothers has a son) with travel expenses. We also discussed the timing of those services as the quick trips are a lot more costly.

Memorials

Since both of my parents plan to be cremated, the idea of a burial plot went out the door. But for some of my siblings, having a “place” is important. We are reviewing options for that especially with the distance and the “significance” of the location being a factor. We have moved so many times that we don’t have roots like I feel a lot of people do have. There is no childhood home or even childhood city that encompasses all of us.

Dad recently discovered the option of “stones”. Essentially they take the ashes and create stones from them. I like this idea a bit better than an urn of ashes or even the little jars of ashes. But frankly, I will be okay with whatever is decided as I know my mom will no longer be here and she won’t care one way or another. The decisions we are making now are for those of us left behind.

We’ve also discussed jewelry and other alternative memorial pieces. I have been discussing this with my kids in preparation over the last month and I have to share a funny…

A funny take on having a memorial piece

When I asked my boys if they would want some type of memorial for Gramzi made of her ashes, more than one of them had this response…

“Mom, I love that idea. But I lose things so much. You even say I would lose my head if it wasn’t attached. What if I lose Gramzi?”

More factual words have never been uttered…keys, wallets and even jewelry. They are all terrible at keeping up with their stuff. I think it’s part boy and part their age.

Preparing now

The financial cost of death is significant. The arrangements, the “stuff” and the travel. I appreciate how prepared my parents are and how open to accommodating our needs and wants they are. (My mom is no longer here mentally, but my dad speaks for her and we had many, many discussions in advance with her so I know this is a family effort even if she can’t say so now). We are preparing now for my mom’s final send off. They are teary discussions. But, the memories and laughs we have shared are priceless. And we all recognize that we need to do this now. Because the after is going to be so much harder.

The $100 Wedding

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For today’s blog post, I thought it would be fun to write a little blast-from-the-past about my wedding back in the height of pandemic shutdown, May 2020.

Expectations

We got engaged in early January 2020, back when “Covid-19” was still by far and wide not affecting our lives. My husband and I had both been married before so we knew we wanted a small, simple wedding. We were originally planning for late summer/early Fall 2020. When family got involved with wedding planning, things just kept growing bigger, and bigger, and bigger. We were originally planning a rose-garden wedding with a catered reception. But then my MIL wanted to host a brunch reception the morning after the wedding. My Mom wanted to host a “girls spa day” with pedicures for all the females involved the day before the wedding. Before we knew it, our small/simple wedding was going to be an entire weekend extravaganza! It’s not what we’d wanted, but we wanted family to feel included and involved so we kept going with it.

Then the World Shut-Down

Mid-March 2020 when we started our “2 week shutdown” our minds started spinning. I had two second-graders who I suddenly had to teach full-time on top of my full-time job and all the other unpredictability with which the country (and world!) was suddenly faced. When the two weeks stretched into 4, and then into 6, and there was still no end in sight, we thought about how we may need to switch gears for our wedding. No one knew how long it would last and we have some immuno-compromised family members who certainly couldn’t travel. I cancelled our venue (it was a refundable deposit), and we started talking about the possibility of having a wedding without any extended family present.

Wedding Plans

When we first got engaged, I thought of wedding at a popular hiking spot we both loved, but it was quickly ruled out because it was not wheelchair accessible, so it would not be possible for some of our family. But what if no family was present? Maybe we could have the small, intimate affair we’d originally wanted.

A couple conversations later, one of our friends (an ordained minister through his role as an Army Chaplain) volunteered to wed us. Another friend volunteered to take some photos (she’s not a professional photographer, but does photography as a hobby and has a nice camera). A third friend and his wife were our official “witnesses.” And that’s how we came to be wed with literally only 4 people present: the officiant, the friend taking photos, and two friends to sign as witnesses who held up a phone camera open to Zoom so the rest of our family could watch from afar.

Wedding Costs

The ceremony was perfect – lovely location, short and sweet, and so full of love! We didn’t have a big fancy reception. We bought a cake for $34 and my dress was $32 from Amazon. These came out of my normal food and clothing budgets (not a new line item). My mom bought the girls’ dresses as a wedding gift. I offered to pay the officiant and photographer, but they both refused. I did buy them each a $50 gift card, but that came from my normal gift-giving budget. The only thing not already part of the normal budget was for the marriage license filing fee, $83.

Our witnesses were part of our “quarantine bubble” so they came back to our house after the ceremony and we ate together (a stew I’d thrown in a crockpot ahead of time) and hung out. It was perfect. All for under $300 in total, but less than $100 in budgeted wedding costs since the other costs all came from regular budget categories.

It goes to show you the value of good friends, and that if you look for the silver lining of a rain storm, it can always be found. We had the most perfect wedding I could imagine and it would not have happened this way, had it not been for the pandemic.

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