These wedding photographers used to make $6,000 a month — now 'there's literally nothing coming in'

Julianne Markow photographing a wedding.
Courtesy The Markows Photography

This time of year is typically pretty busy for wedding photographers Julianne and Steven Markow of The Markows Photography in New Jersey. They shoot around five to six weddings per month in the spring. The business usually grosses between $15,000 and $30,000 per month, and the Markows together typically pull in an average monthly salary of $6,000.

But this spring looks very different. All of their April 2020 weddings were postponed and many of their prospective clients who planned on walking down the aisle later this year are choosing to reschedule for some time in 2021.

The Markows' income has significantly diminished. "There's literally nothing coming in aside from once in a while if someone wants to buy an album from their wedding from a couple years ago," says Steven. Luckily, they have long prepared for a catastrophe: They have $45,000 tucked away in emergency savings.

Here's how the Markows will be making their savings last as long as possible.

How the pandemic has disrupted these wedding photographers

Video by Jason Armesto

The savings strategy: When food is on sale, 'buy a lot of it'

Usually they use their monthly salary to cover expenses, including a $1,700 mortgage, $300 in car payments, and about $350 in utilities. Their mortgage and car payments have been deferred and "the bills are all not due at the moment," says Steven, so they're able to save that money instead.

They've also started taking advantage of bargains at the grocery store. "When I see something at the food store that's on sale," says Steven, "I'm gonna buy a lot of it." The two spend about $600 per month on groceries.

Julianne Markow.
Courtesy The Markows Photography

The spending strategy: Less Amazon, more 'cooking all of the time'

They've cut about $1,000 per month by curbing their love of dining out. "We're those people who do takeout every night," says Julianne. "Now we're cooking all of the time."

Steven says he's cut back on his online shopping, too. "In the past," he says, "if I wanted something like a video game, I'd just pop on Amazon and get whatever I wanted. Now, whenever I start to go to the Amazon app on my phone, I just kind of stop myself."

Looking to the future: Hopefully 'we'll be OK'

Many of the couples the Markows are either currently working with or worked with in the past have emailed or reached out on social media to see if they're all right.

"A lot of our couples," says Steven, "even ones for next year, have reached out to see how we're doing and just check in." The two know their clients "genuinely care" about their well-being, says Julianne, "and it's made it a little bit easier."

Steven Markow.
Courtesy The Markows Photography

Steven believes the two of them can cover their expenses using their savings account for a good six months, especially if they can keep deferring bills. 

Having an emergency fund turned out to be crucial for them, and experts say padding or starting yours, if at all possible, is one of the smartest money moves you can make. Ideally, like the Markows, you should have enough saved to cover six months worth of living expenses, from rent to groceries, says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.

Having even $500 or $1,000 put away for a crisis can be tremendously helpful, though. And getting started can be less difficult than you may think: If you're earning the average household income of $62,000, you'd need to set aside just over $38 of each paycheck to save $1,000 within a year.

Bolstered by his emergency fund, Steven is feeling cautiously optimistic about the rest of 2020: "If we can get back to shooting weddings at any point this year," he says, "we'll be OK."

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