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7 ways to not blow your wedding budget on save-the-dates and invitations

After moving to NYC, I made very little money and had to maximize every dollar I earned. That lifestyle taught me many different techniques on how to save for the things I wanted.

Don't let invitations and thank you cards eat up your wedding budget

I sent away for the free samples and browsed hundreds of designs when deciding on our wedding stationary. Then I realized something: We were inviting over 300 people, meaning at least 150 save the dates and 150 invitations. That is a lot of stamps! After that realization, the overall goal for the wedding invites — from save the date to thank you cards — was to minimize postage across the lot. This meant being conscious of paper weight and design and saying no to customized stamps — a waste of money and time, I think! Even though my focus is weddings, you can apply this logic to anything from baby announcements to graduation invitations to birthday cards.

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1. Save the dates

For save the dates, we chose a postcard, saving us at least $150-$200 for not going with a card inserted into an envelope. We also ditched pictures of ourselves because no one needs to see us making out on their refrigerator every day. On that note, most people toss the card once they store the wedding website and mark their calendars, anyway. The key to purchasing these was that I also waited until Zazzle had a 50% off coupon, thus saving us another $112.50 (we ordered more than the 150 we needed). On these alone, we saved over $300.

2. Postage

The postcard save the date also enabled us to save an additional $25 in postage because the postcard stamp was $0.15 cheaper than a letter stamp at the time. For the invites, I was hell-bent on not putting two stamps on the outside envelope (for a savings of around $75) to accommodate the weight of the invites. The international postage threw off my game, but we only sent two, so it didn't break the bank! All in all, I saved about $100 just on postage.

3. Invitations

This one killed me because after a lot of research, I found the average card is $7-10 per card. So when you get an invite in the mail, it might have cost up to $10 to mail it to you. I find this insane, and it makes me hate the whole wedding industry, but alas, we needed to send them. We limited our search to simple designs that weighted, in total (envelope, invite, info card, RSVP card, RSVP envelope and RSVP stamp), just enough for one regular stamp to mail. To save more, I really wanted a postcard for the RSVP, but my husband wouldn't allow it (cue sadness from not savings more).

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We chose a nice design in our colors and font on two different sites. I called each of the sites (yes, on the phone) and told them I was pitting the two sites against each other and whoever could give me the best deal would win my business. One site said there was a 20% off they could offer and the other offered 30% off. Clearly, I wanted the bigger discount/higher net savings, and to my surprise, David's Bridal won. No, I didn't have to buy my dress there to get the discount on the invites. Therefore, postage plus invites per household came in at around $2.50. Total estimated savings on invites were between $500-$750 — and another $75 on postage listed above.

4. Thank You cards

Most people like to match the thank yous with the invites. We opted for a simpler route. If you think about it, people are most likely giving you gifts of money, so why would they want it spent on their own thank you card? You can easily rack up a cost of $4 per note if you aren't careful. Our solution was to buy two 100-packs of Thank You cards on Amazon. They were plain, classic and did the job. Again, it will just end up in the trash anyway! Total savings were between $175-$500, with leftovers for Christmas thank yous!

5. Return address labels

Part of me wanted to use the free ones that come in the mail when companies ask for donations, but that was vetoed immediately! Typically, I get my return labels from Shutterfly for free and add a picture, but that deal is once every three months and only yields 24 labels, only covering invite and thank you cards for 12 guests. And "free" isn't really true; you pay $4 in shipping. So we looked into labels, but again we needed hundreds. I came across a Groupon for a personalized self-inking stamp and waited for a day when Groupon had a deal, which was $10 off at the time, so for $20 I stamped our address about 300 times, and now I have the stamp for all the other letters we mail.

6. Double up on savings

Ebates is my favorite site, and I was able to get cash back on the majority of my wedding purchases. The day the USPS offers cash back will be a glorious day! I would estimate I got about $8 back from my stationary purchases for the wedding — not much, but more than nothing!

7. Do-it-yourself or Etsy

I am sure these options are wonderful, but I found that for the cost of my time and the additional cost of paying someone else, the route above was my best bet.

The common thread linking all invitations is that it will all eventually end up in the trash, so don't go insane spending to make something cute when you can put that money toward something at the actual party. Finally, a fun tip for avoiding having to lick hundreds of envelopes — you don't have to! Just use a damp sponge!

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