Monthly Archives: May 2010

May 29

Check This Out: Project Happily Ever After

By Dustin | Check This Out

Project Happily Ever After - The Book!This post is the fourth in a series called “Check This Out.” The purpose of these posts is to introduce you to other great blogs and online resources that can help you achieve the extraordinary in your marriage and family life. Enjoy!

In this edition of “Check This Out,” I’m excited to introduce you to one of my favorite marriage blogs: Project: Happily Ever After.  The site’s creator, Alisa Bowman, gives raw, helpful and oftentimes hilarious advice on the struggles we all face in marriage.

Alisa’s particular focus with Project: Happily Ever After is helping those that have experienced the “dark side” of marriage and are seeking some guidance in getting back to a relationship that they love and enjoy.

Why does she care so much about this topic, and what makes her an expert?  Well, she’s lived it.  Here’s a bit of Alisa’s story in her own words:

I started this site because I once regularly fantasized about my husband dropping dead. I spent so much time thinking and hoping for that car accident or heart attack that I had his entire funeral planned out—down to the food and beer I would serve the mourners.

I knew my husband would frustrate me if we tried marital counseling, so I instead started a project, one that involved reading every marital improvement book I could find. During the next year, I changed, and so did he. He did more around the house. He paid more attention to our daughter. He asked me about me, and he actually seemed interested as I answered. I fell back in love, and so did he.

I started Project Happily Ever After to help others. It’s my hope that my advice and stories on this site can provide you with a sense of hope that happiness is not only your right, but that it’s also within your grasp.

Now, that is a story, huh?  Well, if you can’t exactly relate to Alisa’s experience and macabre thoughts, don’t be afraid. 🙂

The site is not just about the reconciliation process or planning funerals.  It’s actually one of the funnier sites I read on a regular basis.  Alisa does not mince words and she’s quite open, so you will find a wide variety of topics covered!

Here are a few examples to get you started:

Alisa is currently promoting her upcoming book, also called Project: Happily Ever After and pictured above, so she’s blogging like mad and posting everyday as part of a challenge.  Check it out!

You can also find Alisa (@AlisaBowman) on Twitter, and Facebook!

Let Us Know What You Think!

After you’ve had a chance to check it out, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Project: Happily Ever After and all of the great work that Alisa is doing for marriages!

Please give a shout out in the comments!

May 27

Dedicated to Fitness, Motivated by Marriage

By Dustin | Individual Fulfillment

Marriage and FitnessIt hurts so much to type exist right now.

You see, I started anew this week on a quest for improved fitness.  You may have heard of the P90X home training system or seen one of their super-persuasive infomercials.  Trust me, it’s the real deal if you have the right sadistic serious attitude to take on some varied, but quite intense, workouts.

I know it’s the real deal not from my three days of agony training thus far, but because I actually bought and used this system over a year ago when Engaged Marriage was but a twinkle in my eye.  I used it for about 10 weeks to build my base fitness level before training to ride my first Century (100 miles) bike ride on my 30th birthday last July.

I was truly in the best shape of my life.  Alas, as I approach my 31st birthday and the birth of our third child this July, I sit here in probably the worst shape of my life.  Completely damn annoying Funny how that happens.

Get Fit and Have a Healthy Marriage

As I look back at the last year, I can see how I basically got burned out after the big culminating event with the Century and just never returned to my active habits.  I actually turned my attention to a new hobby obsession at that point…and you’re reading it right now!

That’s right, I started Engaged Marriage at the end of August 2009 right after we returned from a vacation.  And unless you were one of the 10 people who were hanging out here in those early days, I doubt you’ve ever read a series I wrote called Get Fit and Have a Healthy Marriage.

Even though my writing’s changed a bit since then, and the formatting of the posts is a bit strange, I actually enjoyed reading the series again recently and ended up motivating myself to get my fat pleasantly plump butt back in gear!  Here are the links if you’d like to check them out:

  1. Get Fit and Have a Healthy Marriage: The Realization
  2. Get Fit and Have a Healthy Marriage: The Reasons
  3. Get Fit and Have a Healthy Marriage: Where Do I Find the Time?

Motivated by Marriage and Family

Have you ever been motivated by the stark realization that you aren’t practicing what you preach?

Well, that was my initial spark when I thought back to all I was doing in preparation for my 30th birthday, looked at the Facebook pictures of my exhaustion joy at the end of my Century ride, and then rediscovered those posts where I was telling the world why they should remain fit.

However, I’ve since realized that my motivation runs deeper.  Here a few of the thoughts that have weighed (literally and figuratively) on me lately and pushed me back to a healthier lifestyle:

  • My wife is so strong and tough at 8 months of pregnancy…I should be more like her.
  • We have a new baby on the way…I need to get ready physically for all that entails.
  • I have a very crazy active 5 year old boy who needs an equally active Daddy…and a sweet 3 year old girl who needs her Daddy to be patient and “present” even after he’s done playing outside with the crazy boy.
  • My Dad is in very poor health with lots of heart problems and damage from years of abuse…I need to take care of my own heart.
  • A good family friend is battling the last stages of ovarian cancer…I can’t take my health for granted.
  • God has been way too good to me and blessed me with all that I could ever ask for…and it’s only right that I honor the awesome gift of a healthy and able body by keeping it that way.
  • I preach taking a proactive approach to marriage and life every day…and I need to apply to this to all areas of my own life.

So I have a lot to think about each morning at 6 a.m. as I head downstairs to kick my own ass.  And even more to pray in thanksgiving about when I lay down next to my beautiful wife each evening.

And it makes me smile with every painful step as my body reminds me that I’ve been complacent for too long…

So, what are some of your best sources of motivation?

May 24

A Date Day? Break the Routine & Find Some Romance in the Sun!

By Dustin | Romance

I think we’re all familiar with a traditional date night, and I think most would agree that it’s an important part of any marriage.

A nice date night with our spouse lets us reconnect and break the daily routine that many of us experience in our busy lives…especially when we have children in our home.

Ideally, we would all have a date night scheduled every week or two, and we’d experience a magical evening out on the town romancing our spouse like it was our first (too awkward) third date all over again.

We would enjoy an exquisite gourmet meal, some incredibly unique entertainment and a horse drawn carriage or something before ending the evening with passionate sexcapades under the stars.

What?  Your last date night wasn’t like this?  Applebee’s and Twilight?  Not even in 3-D?  And you had to rush home to get the babysitter back to her house before curfew?

Yes, we don’t live in a fantasy world, and this is the reality of date nights for many married couples.  There are some great ways around this, including in-home date nights.  If you’re interested in learning more about that, just sign up for the free Marriage Time newsletter and you’ll get a whole lesson on it.

However, for today’s post, I’d like you to turn your thoughts to what you can do before the sun sets

Date Days: Not Just for Shift Workers Anymore

Time is precious, evenings are busy, babysitters are expensive and the same old dinner and a movie routine is becoming…well…routine.

Why don’t you think outside the evening hours for a bit and consider a romantic date day?

There are many ways to pull this off, but a few of my favorites involve making a weekday of it while the kids are in school, enjoying an awesome Saturday afternoon together while grandma has the kids or just taking a long lunch break if you are able.

If you don’t have kids, this is as simple as blocking out a Sunday afternoon and enjoying some time in the sun with your spouse.

The bottom line is that opening up your dating repertoire to daylight hours adds a whole new dimension to the quality time you can spend along with your spouse.  And it adds enough flexibility to make great “dating” possible for most married couples!

The Movie Theater is Closed.  What Do We Do?!?

If your date nights have become as predictable as a Chicago Cubs September losing streak (Go Cardinals!), you may be wondering what you would do during a date day.  This is the best part!

When you take your dates solar, it opens up a whole new realm of ideas and experiences to enjoy with your husband, wife or fiance.

One of my favorite ideas is to do something that one spouse really enjoys, but the other would never do typically.  Maybe he joins her at a day spa or she braves a weedy hike to his favorite fishing hole for an early morning excursion.  Or you can certainly do something you both enjoy…daytime sex, perhaps?

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking of your next daytime date adventure:

  • Wine tasting
  • Picnic lunch
  • Golf
  • A day baseball game
  • Breakfast at a greasy spoon
  • Day spa
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Shopping
  • Swimming
  • Zoo
  • Art museum
  • Breakfast in bed
  • Sex in bed
  • Sex out of bed

Of course, this is just a small sampling of the things you can doing on a date day.  Use your imagination!

Do You Ever Have Date Days?

I’d love to hear from you on this topic!

What other ideas can you share for date days?  Have you had a great daytime experience that you can share with the community in the comments?

Photo by
May 22

Announcing the Giveaway Winners & A Sex Challenge!

By Dustin | General

I hope everyone is enjoying a great weekend with your families.  We have a busy weekend planned as usual, including our first family trip of the year to Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon to watch our favorite St. Louis Cardinals in action.  I’m sure it will be a lot of fun, but we’ll have to see how we hold up to the sunny, hot and oh-so-humid weather in the afternoon…especially Bethany who is now around 8 months pregnant. 🙂

I am excited to share with you the winners of our Get Rich Slowly giveaways this week!  I chose each one based on how many entries they had using a random selection from  Here’s the rundown:

Michelle won a copy of You Need A Budget which will help her and her husband meet their financial goal of “staying out of debt as they start adding to their family.”  If you haven’t read my review of YNAB, please take a minute to do so and check this software out for yourself.  I truly love it!

Lesley won a copy of Your Money: The Missing Manual by leaving a comment on our Facebook page.  If you haven’t joined us there yet, please come over and see what 415+ folks are doing as an engaged Facebook community!

Amy won a copy of The Total Money Makeover as part of our first (of many) exclusive giveaways for those signed up for the Marriage Time newsletter.  Join us there for some unique content, personal interaction and of course some Marriage Mojo!

I really want to thank everyone who participated in these giveaways all week.  It has been an incredible week as many friends from Get Rich Slowly have joined our community after clicking over from my guest post there.  I also really enjoyed hearing all of your financial goals on the YNAB post, and all of the kind comments left on the Facebook page and sent via email really made my week special.

The 7 Days of Sex Challenge from ONE Extraordinary Marriage

I also wanted to call your attention to an awesome challenge being put together by my friends and partners in marriage improvement Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo at ONE Extraordinary Marriage.  Please check out their announcement post and consider signing up for the 7 Days of Sex Challenge!

Tony and I recently had a fun discussion about date nights, and he recorded it to share as a prize for one of the many giveaways they’re doing for the challenge.  I was honored to add my time and thoughts as a sponsor of this great challenge where they seek to help couples fire up the intimacy in their marriages.

Check it out…and Go Cards!

May 20

10 Easy Romantic Ideas to Spice Up Your Busy Marriage

By Dustin | Romance

10 Easy Romantic Ideas to Spice Up Your Busy MarriageThese days between jobs, kids and the drama of everyday life, romance tends to get lost in the shuffle.

Many couples say “It’s just too much work”, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

Some of the most romantic ideas are short and sweet.

To prove it, here’s a list of 10 romantic things that only take a few minutes to prepare:

1. Mystery Kisses

Stop by the store and pick up 5 pieces of candy with distinctly different flavors. Think of ones like butterscotch, peppermint, root beer barrels, watermelon Jolly Ranchers, lemon drops, and well, you get the idea.

Later on, when you’re alone, have your spouse sit down and close their eyes. Unwrap the first piece of candy and suck on it until the flavor has saturated your mouth. Take it out and give them a big French kiss! Can they guess the flavor? If they guess every one right they win…a kiss!

2. Strawberry and Chocolate Surprise

Buy some strawberries and a few bars of your spouse’s favorite chocolate on the way home from work to surprise them after dinner with chocolate-dipped strawberries!

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or by boiling water in a large pot and setting a bowl (with chocolate) inside to keep the chocolate from burning. Coat the strawberries and let cool, or just take the bowl of melted chocolate to the couch and feed them to each other freshly-dipped.

3. Origami Love

Express your feelings in a unique way by writing your spouse a love letter on an origami flower. Buy a few sheets of pink or yellow paper from a local copy shop and get started with these easy directions.

It only takes a few minutes of folding to create a love letter that they will never forget.

4. Custom Kisses

Remove the little slips of paper from a half dozen Hershey’s Kisses and replace them with your own slips of paper, each listing one thing you love about your spouse.

5. Their Favorite Ice Cream

Hide a pint of plain Haagen Dazs in the freezer and a few of your spouse’s favorite candy bars elsewhere. After dinner let them have fun creating their dream flavors Cold Stone-style with chopped-up Butterfingers, Snickers, M&M’s, or whatever!

6. Music of Your Lives

Take a musical journey through your lives by listening to the #1 song on your birthdays for every year you’ve been alive. See what your parents were rocking out to when you were in the cradle and laugh about the first songs you remember hearing. This is a great way to share childhood memories and funny stories.

Start by pulling up this page at Wikipedia to find the top songs and then go to grooveshark and listen for free!

7. Steamy Message

Tomorrow morning, while your spouse is in the shower, draw a big heart on the mirror with your initials (i.e. J + B) in the middle, or write a little note like “Beth is cute”. They’ll love it.

8. After Dinner Menu

After finishing up with dinner and the dishes, present your spouse with a menu for the evening’s entertainment. Design the menu to look like a real one and print it out with items for different “courses” like:

  • Appetizer: kissing, cuddling, tickling
  • Entree: romantic movie of their choice, music by the fire, board games, moonlit walk
  • Dessert: massage, candlelit bath, or ???

They can only choose one item from each course – don’t be greedy!

9. Automotive Treasure

Put together a little treasure hunt that takes place entirely within your spouse’s car. Hide 3 or 4 clues, such as “It holds your change and the next clue”, to lead them around the interior of the car and trunk. Start the hunt with a little text message or by leaving the first clue out in the open.

Make the treasure something small such as a few green M&M’s with a “Save for later” note, or bigger like a coupon for a massage.

10. Promise of Things to Come

Drop off or mail a gift to your partner’s work that hints at an exciting evening without providing any details. This could be a ripe strawberry with whipped cream, lingerie, a small vial of massage oil, or even a blindfold.

Include a note that reads “See you tonight” and let them spend the afternoon wondering. They will probably try to call you. Tell them nothing.

What are some fun, simple and romantic ideas that you’d add to this list?

Photo by blmurch
May 19

Get Rich Slowly Giveaways!

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

I am excited and quite honored to have a post featured today at Get Rich Slowly.  Please head over and share your thoughts in the comments of “6 Steps to Strengthen Your Family on the Journey to Financial Freedom.”

In honor of the occasion, I have some great giveaways to share…so please read on and enter to win!

Welcome to Our Friends from Get Rich Slowly

If you are a new visitor from Get Rich Slowly, I’d first like to welcome you to Engaged Marriage!  I encourage you to take a few minutes to look around, and I think you’ll find an awesome community of proactive people who love their marriage and family life.

If you like what you see, I’d also encourage you to sign up to receive free updates via RSS or Email whenever new posts are published here at Engaged Marriage.  If you’re really serious about getting killer content and exclusive advice aimed at helping you have an awesome marriage, please sign up for our free Marriage Time newsletter.

If you love finances as much as I do, I hope you’ll enjoy these posts:

Giveaway Number One – Your Money: The Missing Manual

J.D. Roth is the creator and lead writer over at Get Rich Slowly, and he recently released his first book.  Your Money: The Missing Manual has really been a hit, and it’s no surprise to me as J.D. is a dependable source of sensible advice for getting the most from your money.

In honor of J.D. accepting my post to share with his community, I wanted to share his fantastic book with the community here at Engaged Marriage.  More specifically, I want to give the nearly 400 members of our awesome Facebook page a special chance to win a cool exclusive giveaway.  If you want to join in, just head over and “Like” our page to join in all the fun we have there.

Let’s give away a killer book!

To enter to win Your Money: The Missing Manual, just do the following:

  • Head over to the Engaged Marriage Facebook page and leave a comment under the (very obvious) giveaway post there on the wall.
  • After you post on the Facebook page, you’ll get a bonus entry by tweeting the following message: Enter to win a FREE copy of “Your Money: The Missing Manual” from @EngagedMarriage #giveaway

I will randomly select one winner from all of the entries, and they’ll receive a free copy of Your Money: The Missing Manual!  The contest ends at noon CST on Friday, May 21st so act quick!

Giveaway Number Two – The Total Money Makeover

If you’ve read Engaged Marriage for very long, you know that another favorite financial book of mine is The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.  After all, it was Dave Ramsey who laid the groundwork and provided a lot of the motivation that we used to pay off all of our debt (other than our mortgage).

I want to give away a copy of this life-changing book, and I want to make it a special giveaway for our awesome Marriage Time newsletter subscribers.  Again, if you want to enter the giveaway, I encourage you to sign up for the newsletter.  I guarantee you won’t regret it, but if you do unsubscribing is always as easy as a click of the mouse.

To enter to win The Total Money Makeover, just do the following:

  • Reply to the welcome message email (which contains Marriage Mojo lesson one) you get when you confirm your subscription to the Marriage Time newsletter.  If you are already a newsletter subscriber, just reply to any previous email message and put “TMMO” in the subject line and you’ll be entered.
  • After you reply by email, you’ll get a bonus entry by tweeting the following message: Enter to win a FREE copy of “The Total Money Makeover” from @EngagedMarriage #giveaway

Again, I will randomly select one winner from all of the entries, and they’ll receive a free copy of The Total Money Makeover!  The contest ends at noon CST on Friday, May 21st so act quick!

Giveaway Number Three – You Need A Budget

In case you missed it, I wanted to remind everyone that we have yet another fantastic financial giveaway going on this week.  Please read my review of You Need A Budget and enter to win your own free copy of the awesome YNAB budgeting software on that post!

Thank you to J.D. Roth and all of the great members of the Engaged Marriage community for your continued support.  Good luck winning one of this week’s special “Get Rich Slowly” giveaways!

May 17

You Need A Budget: Money Management for a Happy Marriage

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

(Save $6 when you click this image)

You Need A Budget (YNAB) is the best budgeting software I have ever used.  In fact, YNAB is so awesome that my wife even likes it!  But more on that later…

If you are a regular reader here at Engaged Marriage, you may recall several recent posts about our search for budgeting software that met our needs as a busy family.

After many years of faithful budgeting that allowed us to pay off $54,500 in debt, we recently started to slip up in our spending and planning.

In a quest to find the right software to get us back on track, I reviewed 5 of the top budgeting tools on the market and wrote my opinions of them.  Each had their strengths, and many offered a way to track spending and plan for the future with far less time and energy than I had been spending with my homemade spreadsheets and manual receipt tracking.

The Best of the Best

After I did that initial review, I basically narrowed things down to just two choices that seemed like the best fit: Mint and You Need a Budget.  Well, after trying them both out and putting them to the test, I’m confident that we’ve found the right budgeting tool for our marriage.

While I enjoyed Mint’s online access and the overall picture it provided (including retirement accounts and other investments), I felt that it came up short in the primary area that we’re concerned with, which is budgeting.  Mint doesn’t “look ahead” and it makes the process of planning for the future quite cumbersome.  It’s not bad for a free service, but it simply didn’t stack up to YNAB.

You Need A Budget does all of the things you’d expect a premium budgeting software to do:

  • It allows you to import your banking transactions as you wish (with no need to give up account passwords like you do with Mint), so you never have to worry about saving receipts for every nickel you spend day-to-day.  Plus, with slick iPhone and Android apps (plus Kindle Fire), keeping track of your budget on the go is super easy.
  • It makes it easy to categorize your purchases for simple budgeting on the “envelope system” (without the need to carry around envelopes…unless you want to).
  • It lets you know when you are overspending on a certain category and lets you balance your budget on the go.
  • It allows you to plan ahead to save for large purchases and  irregular expenses.
  • And it gives you the insight you need to make wise decisions about your family finances.

Sounds great, right?  Well, what makes You Need A Budget superior is all that is goes well beyond the basics of normal spreadsheet budgeting!

The Four Rules for Financial Success…

OK, this is where the nerd in me really gets excited. 🙂

If you don’t already know that having a budget is the first step to financial success, well now you do.  Seriously, you really do need a budget.

So whether you use a great software like YNAB or you just write everything down on a piece of paper and track your spending manually, please know that you must have a budget if you want to achieve any level of financial freedom.

The budget is a great tool for identifying how you are spending your money.  However, the real power in budgeting is the ability to plan ahead and change your behavior to achieve financial goals.

I want you to read the following four principles for sound money management and think about how important they are for success in personal finance…and marriage.

1. Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

2. Give Every Dollar a Job

3. Save for a Rainy Day

4. Roll with the Punches

Pretty killer financial principles, right?  Well, the best part is that they…

….Are Built Right In!

Do you want to know why I’m so excited about You Need A Budget?  It’s because these Four Rules are built right into the software!

I encourage you to head over and read more on the You Need A Budget website (save $6 when you use that link!), but here’s a quick overview of  why these “rules” matter and how powerful they really are:

1. As you start using YNAB, the software will literally guide you to help you get ahead by a month (so you use May’s paychecks to pay Junes expenses, for example).

This will give you breathing room and allow you to stop wasting time by timing paychecks with bills.  Plus, if you’re on a variable income, your budgeting “problem” will be eliminated.

2. It helps you put every dollar to work with a specific purpose and plan.  Your financial awareness will increase tremendously, and you’ll find contentment as your spending aligns itself with your core values.

Communication between spouses about money can be restored in the process.

3. The software lets you anticipate and save for larger, irregular expenses so you’ll be ready.  This helps you eliminate the crazy ups and downs in your spending, and it lets you see a true picture of your discretionary income.

You can enjoy opening the mail again when the money is there waiting to pay the bills as they arrive.

4. We all mess up, and we all overspend from time-to-time.  The key is to stick with your plan over the long-term and maintain consistency.

YNAB helps keep you moving when you fail so you don’t quit, and it lets you start each month with a clean slate, which is a huge psychological boost.

Again, when you visit the YNAB site, you’ll find great videos that go over each of these points in detail.  I think you get the idea though, and I hope you can see why this makes me so excited.  OK, so no one probably understands that, but trust me when I say that I think this built-in methodology is sweet! 🙂

Purchase, Installation and Use

The You Need A Budget website is the place to go to read, listen to or watch tutorials that will show you everything you want to know about the software.  However, I want to hit the high points here for your convenience.

  • Purchase – YNAB is sold for a one-time fee.  Many of the other premium software packages require monthly fees, but if you are sticking with it for the long-term (as you should), then a one-time fee is certainly the way to go.  Plus, I’m convinced that one month of living “on a plan” will more than pay for the price of the software.

Also, you can try YNAB free for 34 days with no obligation (they don’t even take any payment information up-front), which is a great way to see if it fits your needs.  Plus, they offer incredible (free) support.

BONUS – I’m an official partner of YNAB, so when you use this link, you’ll save $6 on the cost of the software!

  • Installation – I found the installation to be a snap.  And the software did some cool things like automatically set up defaults so when I go to my bank’s website to download transactions, they pop right into YNAB in the right format.
  • Use – You Need A Budget is primarily desktop-based software, which originally concerned me because I didn’t know how I’d access it from both my home and work computers.  However, they’ve thought of that, too!

When you buy a YNAB license, it allows you to install the software on as many computers as you’d like, and with their CloudSync technology, you can hook it up to a free Dropbox account and keep your budget synced in real time on all of your devices!

So, I have YNAB on both of my computers, and I just keep our budget file on a flash drive so I can open, change and save it wherever I’m at.  I also picked up their iPhone app (also available for Android and Kindle Fire) so I can budget on the go.

So Awesome Even My Wife Likes It!

By now, you surely know that I’m a bit of a geek.

After all, I created our original budget spreadsheets and went through years of pain to track our spending manually while trying to plan ahead for our family finances.  And I didn’t mind it until I got so darn busy that I couldn’t keep up using those methods.

Well, you may not know that my wife is what Dave Ramsey would call a “free spirit” at heart.  She wants our family to be comfortable and she’s not an irresponsible person.  However, to say that she enjoys budgeting or has any desire at all to track spending on a spreadsheet would be a major stretch!

After I got YNAB installed and had a chance to play around with it for a while, I decided I just had to share it with Bethany even though I figured she’d think I was asking her to watch paint dry.

Well, I have to say that she actually complimented the look, feel and functionality of the software.  And she said it was something that even she could stand to use! (yes, that is a ringing endorsement of a financial product coming from her 🙂 )

If you aren’t the “budgeting type,” I would encourage you to give YNAB a try.  I really think anyone can intuitively “get” the budgeting process and, more importantly, achieve success in their financial planning using this awesome software.

The YNAB website and the software itself are packed with excellent resources to teach you about not only the software but financial planning as a whole.  They even have free forums, a blog, live online classes and a free “YNAB University” where you can gain a wealth of great information all at your own pace.

The Bottom Line

I could seriously write about this software and the topic of achieving financial freedom all day.  However, the YNAB website has all of the details you’d ever want to know about their product, and I have plenty of time to write posts about money.  Here’s the bottom line in my opinion:

  • You (really do) Need A Budget.
  • You also need a solid financial plan and goals for the future.
  • If you want to use software to aid you in the process, YNAB is the best product I have found to get the job done effectively.
  • Whether you use YNAB or not, please start addressing your finances today.  Your marriage will benefit more than you can imagine.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments to this post.  Please post a financial goal that you are currently working on with your spouse or fiance.

Here’s wishing you success with your money and your marriage!

May 13

The Joys of Boredom

By Dustin | Children

Bored Kids are the Best!Do you ever get bored?

Our five-year-old son has recently started throwing out the “I’m bored” line, usually when something he was looking forward to doesn’t work out and he’s “stuck” playing inside at home.

The funny thing is that I realized I was a bit jealous when I heard him say it!

When I was a kid, I probably told my parents I was bored no less than 100 times a week.

We grew up in the sticks, and we were quite poor, so I didn’t get the chance to do a lot of the stuff that my friends from school were doing.  No Little League, no soccer, no Boy Scouts and no neighborhood kids to play with.

Now, this wasn’t entirely bad.  It really helped me develop a love for the outdoors and a pretty wicked imagination.

I guess that will happen when your idea of fun is getting yourself lost in the woods so you can find your way back home, all while pretending you’re a ninja.  But, alas, I was quite a bored little guy for many years.

And I miss it.

No Time for Boredom!

Of course, nowadays there are WAY too many things going on to ever be bored.

I’m sure you can relate to the hectic life of a young married couple, especially if you have little kids looking to you to keep them entertained (and fed).

We work a lot to advance our careers, and many of us continue to grow our education at the same time.

We help out in our community and church as much as we can.

We coach tee-ball and attend every weekend soccer game to support our kids.

We visit our own parents to see how they’re doing and to show off their grandkids.

We take shopping trips to Wal-Mart (that sometimes make us feel like a ninja again), and we work on our family finances to provide the best life we can for our family.

We try to exercise and spend time with our friends occasionally.

We read books to expand our mind and watch TV to help it contract back a little.

We make sure our spouse knows they’re the top priority in all of this craziness by carving out a few sacred minutes each day to spend some quality time together.

And some of us even blog late into the night to help make sense of it all for others (but mostly for ourselves).

Personally, I am a lot of things, but bored is not one of them!

Help Your Kids Be Bored

I have to be honest: when I hear our kids say they are bored, I smile a little.

They are involved in a lot of activities and they certainly are not suffering from a lack of “stuff” to keep them occupied even if, God forbid, there’s a rainy day that keeps them cooped up.  But they do have down time in their young lives to just sit and draw, play together and imagine they are on crazy adventures that don’t require a TV or a schedule.

Our kids get bored sometimes, and that is awesome.

Photo by John-Morgan
May 10

The REAL Family Emergency

By Dustin | Time Management

Family Emergency

Editor’s Note: This is guest post from the fabulous Makenzie Kelly from the Freedom Venture Project.  I love this post, and I’m anxious to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Maybe you can relate to this Family Emergency? At just five months old, I left my younger son and his three year old brother in the hands of a nanny when I decided to start a business. It felt like when I walked out the door that day, I wouldn’t be back for what seemed like the longest 5 years of my life.

The business was rough and tumultuous, complicated with trying to balance a household, a marriage and two young sons. I used to wonder if my sons would even remember me, and hoped my husband wouldn’t divorce me. I had rationalized to myself that I was building a Financial Empire and the monetary payoff would offset the time sacrifice.

After 5 years, the monetary compensation was fantastic, the company was a Multi-Million dollar success, but I continued spending a lot more time in the business and very little time with my husband or children. The worst part was even when I was home, I was always on the phone, emailing and spending my time stressing about what needed to be done.

I was not present. My Family Emergency was an Emergency of Time.

Can You Relate?

Which part of this story do you resonate with? Coming home late and having no time to spend with your family? Or the part when you’re home, but not really present while you click away on your laptop, talk on your cell phone or text on your blackberry? Feeling guilty?

You’re not alone. There seems to be a Time Crisis in our nation with our families. I don’t need to throw out statistics to validate exactly how everyone feels about the subject.

Dustin is also very passionate about this subject, as you all have helped him identify that your biggest concern regarding a happy and fulfilling marriage is TIME!!  [PS – If you haven’t signed up for his newsletter, you should check it out.  When you sign up, he sends a great 7 day course called Marriage Mojo: 7 Simple Steps to Romance for Insanely Busy Couples and it’s an Awesome resource…plus it’s free!]

Our marriages and families are drowning in the pool of overwhelm and can’t seem to come up for air!

There are two somewhat disturbing trends in America, few vacation days coupled with an increase in overall productivity of American workers (an average of 4% increase in efficiency each year). So it would make sense that the employment demands, especially in two-income houses are creating more stress and more feelings of overwork and overwhelm.

Your Life Like a Car

One way to approach this problem is to use an analogy. Imagine the time in your life is like a car; your energy is the gasoline. Twenty five years ago, we would drive the car down the road at a brisk pace. We would use up some fuel during the day, while driving, and by the evening, there would be plenty of fuel left for us to take our spouse and children along for a drive around the country-side.

Now imagine your life like a car today. You have a fancy high tech car; it requires expensive high octane gasoline. While you are at work, you drive the car about 150 mph, through an elaborate road course, and you almost run it out of gas by the end of the day!

When you get home, there’s no point in taking the family for a ride in the country-side, the car will run out of gas, its useless. This is what our life feels like now. We then argue that the car is flawed, we must not have enough “Car”.

This is the point about arguing that we don’t have enough “Time”. We argue with ourselves that we must not have enough time, rather than pay attention to how we spend our energy in the time.

How do we treat our time? Do we expend all of our energy and awareness of time at work, only to come home totally on empty? Do we give ourselves space to fuel up before we get home?

Since our days are more intense than they used to be 25 years ago, energy management becomes even more important to renewing your body and mind so that you can get the most out of your time, or just feel like you have time!

Check Your Mental Status

Having been a paramedic for over 10 years, I love using medical analogies. A paramedic’s initial assessment of a patient when they first reach the patient’s side is to check their Airway, Breathing and Circulation (ABC’s). If that’s all intact,  we then check a patient’s mental status, or how aware and alert a patient is. I believe that to get the most effective use of your time, you need to check your own mental status, or awareness.

How present and alert are you right now? As you are reading this post, is your mind wandering off into other territories, or are you fully present? Do you often “zone out” in front of the TV or when people are talking to you?

When I was running my business, I used to be accused of not listening to my husband when he would talk to me; my mind was elsewhere. My face was focused on my laptop or on my blackberry. My mental status would have scored very low back then!!

Are You Living in the Past or Future?

When some coaches and teachers used to tell me to live in the “present”, my eyes would glaze over. The concept meant nothing to me.

I finally got it when someone explained to me that I use up my Present Time Resource if I am worrying about what I did in the past [guilt] or worry about what is going to happen in the future [anxiety]. With the increasing levels of anxiety and sleep medications being dispensed, it is clear that we are spending time living in the past and future instead of being present.

If you are worried about work tomorrow, are you able to be present with your spouse? It took me a lot of practice to be present and the benefits have been well worth the practice.

Be Okay With Doing Nothing

As the weekend rolls around, you may think, finally I have free time!! Quick, let’s fill up our weekend with fun things, parties, sports, activities so that we may feel like we spend some quality time together!

More of the time gets spent doing instead of being. There is a magic that happens when you can just be with your spouse with no planned activity, no schedules, no expectations. It is somewhat like a family group meditation. This means that you may need to practice saying, NO, and being okay with that response. Besides, studies show that rest and relaxation are necessary for your own well-being!

Our Time Emergency will not be solved by trying to do more, or be more efficient (get the faster computer, get more software, or hire more help). I feel that people are fairly productive, organized and manage their tasks effectively; I may only be able to save a couple of hours a week by interjecting some traditional time management concepts into their lifestyle.

My experience with coaching individuals around time overwhelm is that I have found it is not the tasks that stress them. It’s the feeling of not having control of the intangible aspects of their time. So rather, I teach them about their Energy, Awareness, and ability to be Present . These three concepts are what most effect the way that they view Time and reduce the feelings of overload.

While we can’t make more time, we can decide how we show up every day and react to the Time in our day.

What are some ways that you avert a Family Time Emergency in your household?

Makenzie Kelly is a Time Rescue ™ Expert and a Fearless Freedom Seeker!! She’s been known to do crazy things such as retire from a Multi-Million dollar business and give up a 6-figure salary to have more Time and Freedom! She blogs about Ultimate Lifestyle Design at the Freedom Venture Project ™ Blog.

May 07

Check This Out: Past Due Radio

By Dustin | Check This Out

Past Due RadioThis post is the third in a series called “Check This Out.” The purpose of these posts is to introduce you to other great blogs and online resources that can help you achieve the extraordinary in your marriage and family life. Enjoy!

In this edition of “Check This Out,” I’m genuinely thrilled to introduce you to my favorite new podcast and an excellent source of wise advice on finances and many other aspects of life.  If you haven’t checked out Past Due Radio, you really owe it to yourself to give host Derek Sisterhen a listen and a look.

You may recognize Derek’s name because he is one of the most regular and insightful commenters here on Engaged Marriage.  He really “gets it” and shares many of my thoughts and convictions on the subjects of marriage, family, money and communication.

So, why did Derek leave a corporate gig to become a financial coach and start an online radio show?  Here are his own words from his About page:

If you told me ten years ago that I’d be a radio show host, author, and helping others turn dreams into reality, I would’ve laughed pretty hard.  And yet, here I am: the host Past Due Radio and author of Get Naked: Stripping Down to Money & Marriage.

Ever since I climbed down the corporate ladder, I find myself going home to my wife Elisa with a positive attitude at the end of each work day.  God blessed me with an opportunity to do what I love and I’m having a blast.

If you’ve read Engaged Marriage for very long, you’ll know that I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey and his radio show (and podcast).  However, after listening to several of Derek’s shows, I honestly have to say that I prefer his genuine, deeper approach to all of the issues that surround personal finance.  Yes, I like listening to Derek better than Dave Ramsey, and that’s really saying something!

Like I said, Past Due Radio also includes blog posts for your reading pleasure.  I’d encourage you to check out these recent posts and podcast episodes for starters:

Podcast Edisode 102: Of Contentment and Credit Scores

Video Post: Save Your Marriage, Spend Some Money

One Roast Beef Sandwich, Hold the Kids, Hold the Parents

You can also find Derek (@DJSisterhen) on Twitter, and his company Lukas Coaching on Facebook.

Engaged Marriage Interview at Past Due Radio!

In support of our community, Derek graciously invited me for an interview on Episode 104 at Past Due Radio!

We spent nearly an hour talking about making the best use of time in our marriages, the importance of being proactive in life and a lot of other fun stuff, including the story behind Engaged Marriage.  Please head over now to listen to or download our interview, and I’d encourage you to subscribe to the Past Due Radio podcast while you’re there.

You’ll find it all right here: Episode 104: Don’t Waste Your Marriage