More Living Within Your Means

Last time we looked at practical things you can do to check if you are spending more than you are earning. If you are, then you’re going into debt. Your credit card balances are probably going up and you’re not making any progress in paying down debt. Your checking account balance simply goes up and down as you deposit your pay checks and pay your bills; but nothing additional goes into reducing your debt or building savings.

Why does this happen? I feel that the constant drumbeat of easy money makes it convenient for us to get into debt. We don’t have to “buy” the new car; we just get a loan. After all, they make it so easy. The monthly payment will be low enough to fit into what we spend each month. We don’t need to “buy” the new computer; we can just add it to our Best Buy account. How easy is that? We don’t have to save for vacation with family this summer; we can just charge it. It will only make the monthly payment go up by a few dollars. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is we never get to a place where we focus on paying off all of the debt. We simply live with the ever growing balance due until it hits a breaking point. The big deal is increasing debt and increasing payments add enormous stress to our marriage.

– Does all of the stress of money cause fights and arguments?
– Do you fight about adding another bill?
– Do you fight about whether or not to buy something?
– Do you decide to not spend for the kids because you don’t have enough money?
– How often do you fight about money issues in your home?

Or have you reached a point where you just stop fighting because you have given up. It’s hopeless now. You are getting further into debt and no matter what you say, it isn’t going to stop.

It’s interesting to note here that fighting over money is a problem for those who don’t have enough income to support their expenses and for those who have enough for all their expenses but fight over how to spend their excess income. Fighting and arguing over money can happen on both sides of the balance sheet. It is a problem that can exist for those who have little and those who have much.

In either case, honest and open communication about needs and expectations is necessary. We must discuss finances and what we need to do to solve our impasse.

More next time on how to resolve problems when we don’t have enough and how to handle problems when we have enough but we fight anyway…

Live Within Your Means

In my next several blogs I will cover topics related to money and marriage. These will be common sense principles related to how we handle our money within our marriage. So let’s get started.

First and foremost is a very simple concept. We should not spend more than we earn. Or live within your means. No matter who you are, you have a finite amount of income. If you spend more than you earn, you go into debt using other people’s money to finance your overspending. That will cost you even more in interest, fees, and late charges.

So are you are living within your means? First, add up your’s and your spouse’s net income after taxes for each month. If you have payroll deductions for a variety of items, add those deductions back in to your net pay to come up with a TRUE net pay for each pay period. Compute your yearly net pay then divide by 12 for your monthly amount. Add any other income you get from part time jobs, child care income, rents, royalties, dividends, interest, or any other income. Add all of these together and come up with a monthly net income for your household.

Next, together, list all recurring monthly expenses for your household. Go to your cash receipts, checkbook statement, credit and debit card bills, automatic pay bills, and payroll deductions for the last 4-6 months. Add everything. Mortgage, utilities, gas, food, clothing, household, all insurance, car payments and maintenance, cable, phones, loan payments, child care, donations, vacations, property taxes, dining out, daily coffee, gifts, pets, entertainment, school expenses, personal care, hobbies, dues for clubs and magazines, and any other expenses. Also track what you put into savings. Put all of these items into a simple spreadsheet with the like expenses listed in separate columns. For example, keep all types of insurance together. Be as specific as possible with each expense. Next, add the columns up and add all the columns together to get a grand total. Get an average for expense categories that vary month to month. For example, food expense will vary, but a four month average will probably give a good idea of what you spend.

That’s part one of looking at your expenses. Part two is a project. Each of you should track EVERYthing you spend for the next three months. Use the same spreadsheet, each DAY writing down what you spent in each category. Keep a spreadsheet each month, totaling them at month’s end. Now you have a clear picture of what you spend each month and you can come up with an accurate monthly average for each category.

Compare your average monthly income to your average monthly expenses. Is it positive income or negative? If it is a negative amount, you are spending more than you earn and will no doubt be going into debt. More on living within your means next time…..

The Rest of Our Story

This last week as we visited our daughter and her family, I watched my husband playing ball with the grandkids. A simple game, him throwing the ball out in the yard and they’d retrieve it and throw it back. There were wild screeches of delight every time the ball landed in the kiddie pool as the kids announced another “wet ball.” Such a simple game, yet such fun was had.

It reminded me of times Alan would play with our own children. He has a way of making anything fun. I am really thankful for this quality in him and it made me so happy to see it again impacting another generation.

There have been other instances too when I think about how glad I am that we stayed committed in our marriage and worked out the problems so that we could still be together to enjoy moments like that ball game. We had some really hard things to work through, and it took years. There were many times that I thought maybe it would just be easier to split up. I wondered if it would ever get better. I know Alan had those thoughts too. But we got through it with the grace of God.

And now we are living “the rest of our story” together. Moments like the ball game become poignant because they could have been lost to us. If we’d split up I wouldn’t have witnessed that scene. So the hard times we went through seem so worth it to have the rich relationship we have now.

Of course, life isn’t perfect. There are stresses. But this is the part of our story when we experience calm in the storm together. We feel the support of the other even during a disagreement. And we come to understanding more easily.

My hope for you is that you too will persist in love and forgiveness so that you can joyfully live the rest of your story together.

 

Money Talks and So Should You

It’s often said that money is the number one  cause of stress in a marriage. It is not true. Money, in and of itself, does not cause any stress. Whether you have a little or  abundance, stress is caused by what you do with the money you have.

Many people think if they had more money they’d have less stress. More money can get you more things, but also more stress. Lack of money may tempt some to go into debt to get more stuff because of a false belief that more things will make them happier. And everyone knows that  too much debt is super stressful.

Dealing with all the issues revolving around money will never go away, whether you are young and newly married or older and ready to retire. How you deal with money in your relationship is extremely important. Failing to navigate this area in your daily lives means your relationship will be plagued by tension and strife. Better to deal with it sooner rather than later.

So what’s true about your relationship?

– Do you find yourselves fighting about money issues on a regular basis?
Are you worried about bills and debt?
Are you worried about providing for your children?
– Are your worried about your future and retirement?
– On some money issues are you in a cold war with your spouse?
– Are you diametrically opposed on some spending decisions?
– Is one spouse feeling angry or betrayed because the other won?
– Do you feel that money is a wedge between you and your spouse?

If you answered yes to some or all of the questions above, the issues around money are clearly causing stress in your marriage. And unlike the common cold, it will never get better over time if just left alone. You need to have a game plan for success, a strategy, so the money issues no longer plague you.

Similar to an overweight person, ignoring their condition will change nothing. It takes a conscious effort to adopt a healthy lifestyle of good eating and exercise. He must face the challenge of personal growth and practice the necessary changes. To complete the analogy, those of us who have accumulated excess debt and can’t pay our bills are financially obese!

It is time to decide we must exercise our will and limit our spending.

Personal growth is painful and by definition requires change but the rewards far outweigh the cost. Envision your relationship virtually free from the stresses and worries about money and you’ll feel like a miracle happened.

If you and your spouse have stress in this area, I hope you stay tuned for future blogs, when I will go over some basic principles about money and spending.

Maybe there will be a miracle in your future!

Love Requires Sacrifice

Serving one another is the cornerstone of a thriving relationship. For many of us, lovingly serving our spouse is joyful. We do or say things that are kind and giving. We aren’t required to, but we give out of a heart that is loving. We open the door for our wife, we compliment a wonderful dinner, or we leave a thoughtful note that expresses our appreciation. There is an ease to expressing our love in a way that serves our spouse.

But what about the times when it’s not so easy? What happens when the acts of kindness are getting few and far between? We may feel ignored by our spouse. Days or weeks go by with no thoughtful acts of love. What do we do then? How should we respond to a vacuum of the simplest acts of kindness? How do we give when we feel so empty, unloved, and unappreciated?

Sacrifice is defined this way —

To surrender or give up

To permit injury or disadvantage to for the sake of

something else.

To yield, surrender, offer

To resign oneself to endure, forbear

Self-denial

At times in our relationship the very act of selflessly serving will reach the level of sacrifice. Our own emotional bucket may be low or empty, but love still finds a way to give. We can love sacrificially if we understand that truly loving is not dependent on us being full. We can give even in our emptiness. It is yielding our needs to the needs of our spouse. It is self-denial. This is selfless love.

A recent film portrayed this kind of love when a young couple was engaged to be married. She shared her dream of a large family with many happy children. WWII broke out; he was drafted and came back three years later with an injury that left him unable to sire children. They stayed married for years but the intense desire to have children of her own never went away. She tearfully decided to leave him. Before she left, he told her that he loved her so much that he didn’t want to stand in the way of her dream. He loved her so much, he let her go.

He was depressed and despondent. The one he loved so much left him because he couldn’t give her what she so desperately wanted. Time passed and his despair deepened.

And then, there was a knock on the door. His wife had made the difficult choice to return to him. They grew old together and found their joy in each other. He was willing to give up what he wanted so she could have what she desired. And in the end, she gave up what she desired to have what she really needed, the love of her husband.

Sacrifice – giving up something for the sake of something better. At times, your love may require sacrifice. It may require all that you have to give.

Ideas For a Fun Time, Out or In

Go for a walk at the local mall and get an ice cream cone together.  The exercise will be great if you take two to three laps around the mall, alternating between upstairs and downstairs.  Walk at a fast pace, just enough to get the ‘ol heart beating.  Take note of the specialty shops and after your laps, stop by a few and just window shop.  No need to go crazy and spend next month’s budget, but it’s ok to dream a little.  Remember to chat along the way.  Tell her why you love her so much.

 Look up historical sites in your town and go visit at least three.  Hey, this can really be fun.  Most cities have a chamber of commerce or a visitor’s bureau or you can search online for the local sites and look up the history.  When Darleen and I visited Oysterville on the Washington coast, we found a little church built in the early 1800’s.  On the same street were several original homes.  Historical markers out front told a brief history.  As Spock would say, “Fascinating!”  Tell each other your favorite time in history and who you would like to meet if you could go back in time.

 Look up the largest and smallest park within a fifteen mile radius and visit each.  Take along  some muffins, juice and fruit.  Enjoy the first park with a walk and find a nice place for your mid-morning snack.  Then, off to park number two.  Take a walk around the park, stopping to take a few pictures here and there.  Note the flowers, trees, and any birds you spot.  After your walk, bring out the special lunch you packed earlier.  Find a nice picnic table in the shade, or sun if you prefer, and relax.  Share your most favorite place to spend time together.

 Shop for all the necessary ingredients for an unusual dinner and make it together.  This could be really fun.  Make a homemade pizza with your favorite toppings. Or a special hot and spicy south of the boarder dish. Maybe try something stir fried.  Or, if you like adventure, get a cook book with various ethnic dishes, and each of you pick out three that you would really like.  Then number all your choices and put the numbers in a box.  Pick one out, get to the store, and shop for the stuff. Come home, open a bottle of your favorite wine, and get cooking.  After a fine dinner, you can get other things cooking.

 Take the time to laugh, play, and make special memories together.

More on Daily Doses of Selfless Serving

Everyone wants to have a great marriage. When dating, couples will often think “How can our relationship be anything but perfect? We are so in love and we have no problems.” So what happens? Why is the illusion of uninterrupted bliss destroyed?

There is a component in most dating relationships that is unique. While dating, we tend to be other centered. We are generally more thoughtful, kind, and considerate. We go out of our way to do special things for each other. We are less inclined to make a big problem and have a long discussion over minor disagreements. We tend to see the best in each other. We are more forgiving and less apt to hold a grudge. There is a high degree of serving and loving each other selflessly.

What happens to relationships over time? Why does the euphoria of dating disappear to be replaced by the doldrums of daily life? Quite simply, for many couples, making their spouse a priority is replaced with other priorities.

Here’s how to keep the love alive and growing. Get in the habit; yes make it a habit, of doing kind selfless acts of service for your spouse. This can be accomplished in word and deed.

Praise and compliments should be the ordinary.

“Thank you, honey. That was a wonderful dinner. You’re such a good cook.”   or…

“Thanks so much for fixing that. It really helps me.”

The daily things we do for each other are often taken for granted. Verbalize your appreciation. Express your thankfulness with a hug and a kiss. Look for opportunities to verbalize your awareness that your spouse has done something for which you are thankful.

Selfless acts of service can take many forms. Never underestimate the power of a neck or foot rub. After a long day at work, if your spouse has to bring home some of that day’s work and is hunched over the computer long after dinner, sneak up behind him/her and begin a five or ten minute neck and shoulder message. Whisper something endearing about how his/her efforts every day are really appreciated.

And since I am a firm believer in reciprocity, the thoughtful selfless spouse can offer a relaxing foot massage to the wife who has been on her feet all day at work or taking care of the kids and shopping and cleaning. These simple deeds profoundly nourish the relationship. They offer daily doses of love.

You need to be the expert on your spouse. What acts of service or words of affirmation are most meaningful to them? ASK them and make a habit of making these a priority in your day.  Each day, find ways to serve your spouse. Nurture your love daily and before long it will seem like your still dating.