Tips For Being an On-Budget Bridesmaid

The first time I was ever asked to be a bridesmaid, I was a ripe 22-year-old, who had just walked across the stage at my college graduation. I had a résumé, but my work experience only managed to take up less than half the page. I was living back at my parents' house and working a part-time job where I had to clock out when I left to get lunch, use the bathroom, or step outside for a glimpse of fresh air. When I found out that the bridesmaid dress the bride picked out for us was $290, I nearly fainted. How in the world was I going to afford that? But then I found out that in addition to the $290, I would have to pay $75 for alterations and $55 for a good-fitting bra. And then, the dollar signs kept popping up in my inbox. I was told I had to spend $450 on a two-day bachelorette party and $125 on a gift for the bridal shower. There were other costs, many of them. I know because I contemplated walking into Bank of America and asking for a small loan. I even thought about working at a clothing store on the weekends just to pay for this extravagant bridesmaid role that I was so excited to say yes to months ago.

It's been five years since my first attempt at being a bridesmaid, and I've since learned that in order to not go broke as a bridesmaid, it's important to set and stick to a very stern budget early on. Here are six ways to make sure that happens.

1. Say Yes to a Budget

Say yes to being a bridesmaid and then go home and say yes to a budget. Look at how much disposable cash you have to spend on this adventure and then plan backward to see how much you can afford per wedding milestone (on the dress, the bachelorette party, gifts, travel, etc.).

2. Say No to What You Can't Afford

If there are things that don't fit into you budget, know that it is okay to say no. If you can't attend the bridal shower because you'd have to buy a $430 flight to get there or you can't go to the bachelorette party because the trip, in total, will cost you over $1,000, it's okay to skip it. You can make it up to the bride in many other, less expensive, ways.

3. Get Involved With the Details

If the maid of honor is planning a lot of the major wedding activities, ask to get involved and help her out. Knowing what she is thinking of planning and how much those things will cost will allow you to know how much you may be required to spend. You can also talk some sense into her if you notice she's planning activities that are going to cost the other bridesmaids more money than anyone has or wants to spend.

4. Share Your Budget

Bridal parties are filled with women who have been a bridesmaid multiple times and those who have never been a bridesmaid. It's always helpful for others to see your budget, so after you've created it, ask the other women if they'd like to take a peek.

5. Skip the Something New

Say no to buying a brand new bridesmaid dress — you can get it used or even rent it. And say no to buying gifts directly off the bride's registry, especially if you can find it cheaper some place else. If you can't afford a traditional gift, you can make her something instead.

6. Don't Wait Till the Last Minute

The best way to make sure you stick to your budget is to plan ahead. If you need to book travel and accommodations for the wedding, look in advance and scoop out good deals. Waiting till the last minute will have you shelling out a lot of unnecessary extra cash