how to financially survive the graduation

Don't break the bank this wedding/graduation season

Spring, the season for weddings and graduations, is once again upon us. Nearly two million students will graduate from college this spring, and it’s projected that just over four million Americans will get married this year. Most of us will attend at least one of these events, shelling out hundreds of dollars for travel, lodging, new clothes and (of course) gifts.

Yes, the coming months will be a joyous time for those celebrating huge milestones, but all that going to the chapel, pomp and circumstance can be costly for the rest of us. Luckily, there are ways to survive the season without breaking the bank.

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1. Know Thy Budget

First, give your finances a hard look and create a plan for the entire season instead of event by event. Budget items might include gifts, clothing, accessories, hotel stay and accommodations, airfare and local transportation. With a budget in mind, you can more easily prioritize how many and which events you can afford to attend and which invitations you’ll have to decline “with regrets.”

2. Shop Your Closet

Unless you're actually in a wedding party, there’s no reason to buy a new outfit. So instead of buying new clothes this season, just pull from your closet. For a fresh look, you can always add new shoes or inexpensive accessories. If you must have a new outfit, get it for less, from a retail website like ShopItToMe.com, where you can find low prices on designer items. For women specifically, there’s also Rent the Runway for borrowing designer duds.

3. Travel on the Cheap

One of the most expensive items in your spring event budget is probably going to be travel, especially if the events are out of town. The one surefire way to save on a flight is to buy at the right time. According to CheapAir.com, domestic flights are at their most expensive within two weeks of their departure dates, and at their cheapest around seven weeks in advance. That means plan early.

And if you’re thinking about a road trip, try finding the lowest gas prices along the way through Gasbuddy.com, a website and app that maps gas stations with the lowest pump prices by searching your location. Or you can avoid the high cost of gas and airfare altogether by travelling with Megabus, Boltbus or Amtrak. All are, on average, less expensive than driving or flying long distances.

4. Buy Your Gifts Now

Finally: the all-important gift. I’ve learned that when it comes to saving on a wedding gift, the best thing to do is shop early from the registry. Items on a wedding registry can range from inexpensive home accessories to costly gourmet gadgets. Acting fast allows you to find something in your price range before all that’s left is the fine china. For a graduations, gift cards rarely disappoint. It’s an appropriate present for a recent graduate who may not have any immediate needs but could use some free cash from their favorite store when settling into a new job or city. To save on the price of a gift card, head over to Gift Card Granny, a site that lets users buy gift cards from other consumers at a discount. There, you can save as much as 35% off the face value of a gift card.

Donovan X. Ramsey is not a personal finance expert. He’s a multimedia journalist who writes about all things social, political, cultural and whimsical. After college, Donovan set out to discover everything he didn’t know about the world of personal finance. Learn along with him weekly on EBONY.com as he explores more everyday money matters. Follow Donovanon Twitter @iDXR or at DonovanXRamsey.com.