Talking About Money in Marriage

Disclaimer: I am not a relationship expert and this is not a marriage advice blog. The advice in this post is simply what has workied for me and my husband.

Here is the final part in my four-part series on Planning Your Financial Future.

Planning Your Finacial Future Series

According to Marriage.com the second most common cause of divorce is money. Call me crazy, but if I know something is more likely to cause a problem I want to face it head on. My husband and I have been very open with each other on spending and finances since early in our dating relationship. Remember how I helped him discover that he was spending $1,300/year on Starbucks? Yeah, that was probably 4-5 months in…

When it came time to get married, there was NEVER a question as to whether we would have joint or separate bank accounts. We are in this together, as a team which means a joint bank account all the way! I’m not going to delve into all the reasons you should have a joint bank account. Instead I’m going to direct you to my dear friend Jill’s blog. She very eloquently discuses how separate bank accounts can become a point of contention in your marriage.

I’m the primary money manager in our household. However, that does not mean I get to decide how to spend our money. So what does talking finances look like in our household? It typically starts with me sitting down with the computer and a notebook. I write out all of our expenses and their due dates. I look to see how we did with our budget the previous month. Are we spending a lot less in one budget category but going over in another? I check in with where we are in our financial goals, and I start brainstorming what can be done to improve.

When we are both fed, rested and not dealing with other stressors we sit down to look at all of the findings. The last time we sat down to evaluate our finances it was with a big change in mind. I was going to be out of work, without pay, for 3 months to recover from surgery. We needed to reduce our spending even more than we already had. Below are some key issues to discuss.

  • Can we cut anything and/or are we paying for a service we aren’t using?
    • We cut our Netflix DVD subscription. We weren’t using it because there weren’t any new movies we wanted to watch. When there are 8+ movies we want to watch we will subscribe again. (To make it the most cost effective you need to watch 8 movies a month.)
    • We love our Dollar Shave Club subscription, but we don’t see a reason to replace the blades every week when they still have a lot of life left. We ended up with a stockpile of blades. Therefore, we’ve postponed our subscription until we run out.
  • Discuss goals. Both you and your spouse deserve an opportunity to discuss what short-term goals you have in addition to your long-term goals.
  • Discuss areas that need improvement.
    • We went over our grocery budget by $100. Guess what equals $100? The amount of money we spent at restaurants. Probably need to work on reining in our eating out habit. Together, discuss what foods you might want to have at home. For us, running out of freezer meals is a recipe for failure to stay under budget.
  • Are there lifestyle changes that might help reduce costs?
    • Would you be able to cut a gym membership to start working out at home?

Keep your dialogue open and frequent. Together with your spouse you can make your financial dreams reality, but lean into one another through the hard times. At the end of the day your spouse is of exponentially more value than any amount of money.

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

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Making a Budget – and then sticking to it!

Here it is! Part II of my Planning Your Financial Future Series: Making a Budget. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. Amazing things can happen when you follow a budget, become accountable for your spending and start saving for your future. First, did you do your homework? I hope you sat down to look at where you are now, financially, and where you want to be in the next few years.

Planning Your Finacial Future Series

Dave Ramsey has taught me loads about how to end up debt free, but I’m not to the extreme he is. Dave Ramsey lives to the extreme of ALWAYS paying cash and not even having a credit score. Do I fuss much over my credit score? No. I check my free credit reports yearly to make sure all that is being reported is accurate, but I also don’t completely condemn lines of credit. I’m not saying to let things go to collections because your credit score doesn’t matter, but the system is rigged. Seriously, paying off a loan AND paying it off early hurts your credit score. Credit scores are not the be all end all.

For instance, I like Amazon.com. I like Amazon.com A LOT!! When we needed a new computer, we found a great deal on Amazon. The computer was a previous model and reduced to half off, it was tax-free weekend in our state and they were running a promotion to receive a $50 Amazon gift card instantly on approval if you applied for their credit card, plus 3% cash back on all purchases. So we applied. We got the computer, brand new, for $250 and earned $7.50 to spend later. A much better deal than we could find in a brick & mortar store without having to fight the crowds on tax-free weekend. The “catch”? We pay it off immediately. Always. Especially store cards, which have horrid interest rates, but the cash back allows us to save up points all year by buying items we would purchase anyway, to help buy Christmas gifts.

Let’s set up a budget now, shall we?

First, write down all of your planned monthly income. This is your regular income that doesn’t change too much from month to month. (Example: My husband works at a job where he makes salary plus commission. We NEVER budget for commission. Why? Because then what do you do when you are short on income because you didn’t make or made less commission than budgeted for?)

Next, use this handy Monthly Budget Planner I created to write down your fixed expenses. Fixed expenses are what have a specific due date. Examples include rent or mortgage payments, car payments, cable, internet, cell phone and utilities. Write down all of the expenses. If you can’t remember, check your online banking to refresh your memory.

This is the perfect time to evaluate your fixed expenses. Sit down with your spouse to see where your money is going. Are you spending over $200 on cable and internet? STOP! Please check out my post on Cutting the Cable for ways to watch what you want when you want for so much less! What about those really cool subscription boxes…? A little more than you realized, eh? When my husband and I first started dating he realized he was spending $1,300/year on Starbucks. Eek! Buy a Keurig instead. For a while he even used a milk frother and flavored syrups to mimic the latte’s he bought. Or maybe once you are looking at all your expenses written out you realize you haven’t used that Netflix DVD subscription that’s costing you $13/month for the last 2 months. Oops! That was a tank of gas… See if there are items you can cut to reduce your spending.

How do you account for your yearly Prime subscription? Or car insurance payment every 6-months? These items go into irregular expenses. Total up your yearly irregular expenses and divide by 12 months. Budget that amount each month to have the money available when you need it.

Finally, list out all of your budget categories. By looking at the last 2-3 months spending on your online banking estimate your budgets for grocery, gas/transportation and miscellaneous. You’ve probably noticed the personal money category listed. This is NOT a marriage advice blog, but here is some marriage advice anyway. HAVE PERSONAL MONEY! Seriously, even if it is just $25 each for you and your spouse, do it! Those arguments about “Did you really need to spend $2.56 at the gas station on an energy drink?” are gone. Make rules about what requires the use of personal money and follow them. Sometimes at work, I really need to sneak down to the cafeteria for a piece of cake… personal money, baby! No need to feel guilty or have to justify why I spent money in the cafeteria.

Everything filled out? All of your expenses accounted for? Now subtract your expenses from your income. Looking good? Or maybe not… Go back and revisit your expenses and budget as often as necessary. If you are coming in under budget in one category month after month, its probably too much. The money remaining after your budget should go towards paying off debt. If you are committed to paying off your debt that means that money gets prioritized for debt pay off over anything else. It’s up to you to make your financial dreams reality!

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Making Financial Goals

Let’s start talking about why this blog exists in the first place. I was raised hearing about this fellow, Dave Ramsey. When I was in high school my parents bought me the book Financial Peace. With a little incentive, I read this book. I learned what could lie in store if I was free from debt. However, I still ended up with student loans and my husband and I have two car loans. My husband brought to the marriage “stupid tax” as Dave Ramsey would call it. For example, a T-Mobile account in collections because he just stopped paying mid-contract. Luckily, for me, my husband has embraced the idea of living debt free, remedying stupid tax and setting ourselves up for success.

This is just the first post in a series about finances, let’s get started!

Planning Your Finacial Future Series

 

Have you ever stopped to think about what you want your finances to look like 1-year, 5-years or 10-years down the road? I’m going to give you the first goal: Be debt free except for a mortgage. Beyond that, do you want to travel? Do you want to buy your own home? Do you want to remodel or buy a new car? Make yourself some goals to look forward to.

For us, our 10-year plan looks like this: pay off debt, save for a home and buy a home.

Before we start learning how to make a budget think about your top financial goals. Knowing your goals will tell you how far below your means you should be living. Next time I’ll help you create a budget to achieve these goals!

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Pay Off Debt

Now that you have made financial goals and set a budget it’s time to live debt free! I won’t lie to you, the path to living debt free is not easy and its going to take a lot of hard work. You can do it!

Planning Your Finacial Future Series

The first step in your debt free plan is to understand Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps. (Even more information at his website, here.)

  1. Save a $1,000 emergency fund. Your emergency fund is there to keep you from going into debt for emergency expenses, but you can only use it for emergencies.
  2. Pay off all debt except for your mortgage using the snowball method.
  3. Save a 3-6 month emergency fund. This should equal all of your expenses for 3-6 months. Suddenly out of work or unable to work because of a medical emergency? You have 3-6 months of cushion.
  4. Start investing 15% of your total income towards retirement. (I recommend finding a great financial adviser to help you decide how to invest.)
  5. If you have have a kid or kids, start saving for their college education.
  6. Pay your mortgage off early.
  7. “Build wealth and give generously.”

Okay, so we are clearly focusing on Baby Step #2. So what exactly is the snowball method? First, order your debts from smallest to largest. Pay the minimum monthly payment on all of your debts except the smallest debt. Throw ALL of your extra money towards the smallest debt, i.e. any income above and beyond your budgeted amount should be applied to your smallest debt. Once you have paid off your first debt start applying the money you had been using to pay off your smallest debt in addition to the minimum monthly payment you have already been paying. The more debts you pay off, the more money you have to apply to the next debt.

The hard part is strictly following your budget, or even revisiting your budget to reduce it further. The more money you are applying towards your debts, the sooner you won’t be paying on debts at all because you will be debt free!

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Coca-Cola Cake

A Southern classic if ever there was one! I wasn’t lucky enough to try Coca-Cola Cake until I was out of college. A co-worker brought some into work and changed my life forever. What with the stress of impending surgery, I started craving this lovely take on chocolate cake. Luckily I found a recipe pretty quickly, and we had all the ingredients in the pantry. 😛 Yum!

Coca-Cola cake is a super simple, light and fluffy chocolate cake topped with a chocolate glaze, a.k.a. the “wow factor.” The hot glaze is poured over this hot cake and it works its way through the cake. Now I’m going to have to go make this, I’m making myself hungry!

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, ground cinnamon and sugar, set aside. (Sifting is very important to achieving a smooth-textured cake.) In a medium-sized saucepan, combine butter, cocoa powder, Coca-Cola and buttermilk. On high heat, bring these ingredients to a boil. Pour boiling mixture over dry ingredients and whisk together. Then whisk in egg and vanilla. Pour batter into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. Boil together butter, cocoa powder and Coca-Cola. Sift in powdered sugar and pour over cake immediately after removing from the oven. (Make sure to sift in powdered sugar to achieve a smooth glaze.)

For best results, let the glaze start to harden before slicing and enjoying.

Coca-Cola Cake

  • Servings: Approximately 16
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

Cake:
– 2 C. All-Purpose Flour
– 2 C. Sugar
– ½ t. Salt
– 1 t. Baking Soda
– ½ t. Ground Cinnamon
– 1 C. Butter
– ¼ C. Cocoa Powder
– 1 C. Coca-Cola
– ½ C. Buttermilk
– 2 Eggs
– 1 t. Vanilla Extract
Glaze:
– ½ C. Butter
– ¼ C. Cocoa Powder
– ½ C. Coca-Cola
– 4 C. Powdered Sugar, sifted
 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, ground cinnamon and sugar, set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, cocoa powder, Coca-Cola and buttermilk.
  4. On high heat, bring ingredients to a boil.
  5. Pour boiling mixture over dry ingredients and whisk together.
  6. Then whisk in egg and vanilla.
  7. Pour into greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Prepare glaze while cake is baking.
  10. In a small saucepan, boil together butter, cocoa powder and Coca-Cola.
  11. Remove from heat and sift in powdered sugar.
  12. Pour glaze over cake immediately after removing from oven.

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

These cookies remind me of childhood. In fact, I still enjoy smearing around the melted chocolate kisses. 😉 I’ve used this recipe with delicious results every time. This recipe is nearly foolproof, and I’m ready to share this recipe with you.

*See directions at the bottom of the page on how to freeze cookie dough.*

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt with a whisk (Baker’s tip: using a whisk to blend dry ingredients together will yield almost exactly the same results as sifting the ingredients together with half the effort). Using the beater attachment on your stand mixer, cream together softened butter and peanut butter. Beat in sugars, egg and vanilla extract until mixture is light and fluffy.

Peanut Butter Blossoms #1

The butter and peanut butter beat together.

Peanut Butter Blossoms #3

All wet ingredients beat until light and fluffy, it should have a slight sheen.

With your mixer on stir slowly add in dry ingredients, approximately 1/3 at a time. Mix until JUST combined.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls, roll through granulated sugar and place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Peanut Butter Blossoms #5

The cookies are baked once they start cracking and light golden brown on the edges.

Immediately after removing cookies from the oven, top with Hershey’s Kisses or Dove Milk Chocolate Hearts – especially cute for Valentine’s Day!

Peanut Butter Blossoms #7

Best enjoyed warm. Five seconds in the microwave makes them taste like they just came out of the oven.

How to Freeze Cookie Dough: Prepare cookie dough as usual, roll dough into balls and coat in granulated sugar. Place dough balls on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet and freeze overnight. Place dough balls in a Ziploc bag and store in the freezer. Bake homemade cookies in minutes whenever you want them. Follow the same baking instructions.

 

Peanut Butter Blossoms

  • Servings: 2.5 Dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ C. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Salt
  • ½ C. Butter, softened
  • 1/3 C. Creamy Peanut Butter
  • ½ C. White Sugar
  • ½ C. Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 t. Vanilla Extract
You will need some extra white sugar to roll the dough in, and Hershey’s Kisses to top the cookies.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt with a whisk.
  3. Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, cream together softened butter and peanut butter.
  4. Beat in sugars, egg and vanilla extract until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  5. With your stand mixer on stir, slowly add in dry ingredients roughly 1/3 at a time.
  6. Mix until ingredients are just combined.
  7. Roll dough into 1-inch balls.
  8. Roll dough balls through sugar to coat all sides.
  9. Arrange on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
  10. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  11. Top with Hershey’s Kisses immediately after removing from the oven.

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Back in Action

On June 1st I had a doctor’s appointment with my podiatrist. After seven months of intensive treatment for plantar fasciitis in both of my feet, he told me I need surgery. Seven months of physical therapy, overpriced shoes, orthotics and 3 rounds of steroid injections had failed. I spent the month of June trying one final, expensive form of torture called dry needling. While all the treatments helped some they didn’t fix the problem, and after a couple days back at work I would be in just as much pain.

On July 25th, I had a bilateral endoscopic plantar fasciotomy. I’ve been slowly regaining stamina, and I’m so close to ditching the walker! I’m 3 weeks out now, feeling more normal everyday. The plantar fasciitis pain is gone! Thank the Lord! Now comes the patience of slowly healing.

Between finding out I needed surgery and having surgery I was in major preparation mode. I made loads of freezer meals and a few treats in between cleaning and shopping. While I didn’t share my projects with you then, I’m going to now! I hate that I dropped of the face off the Earth, but I can’t wait to dive back in!

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.