Monthly Archives: November 2010

Nov 29

Vote for Your Favorite Marriage Blog 2010!

By Dustin | General

Vote for Engaged Marriage!It’s time once again to vote for your favorite marriage blog!

My cyber-buddy and fellow marriage supporter Stu at The Marry Blogger is composing a list of the Top 10 Marriage Blogs 2010, and I would love it if you can help by taking a minute to vote.

On last year’s inaugural list, you voted Engaged Marriage to the #1 spot on this list.  As it turned out, this really helped us grow our community because people searching for online marriage advice would find Stu’s list, see Engaged Marriage at the top of the list and click over to check us out.

Once they were here and had the chance to interact with you fine folks, they were hooked! 🙂

How to Vote for your Favorite Marriage Blog:

1. Click here to find the short voting form.
2. One vote per person…but you can encourage your friends to vote.
3. Voting closes at midnight December 14th (but you should vote now so you don’t forget).
4. That’s it!

Thank you for helping out with this. Of course, I would love it if you voted for Engaged Marriage, but I won’t be offended if you choose a blog that you enjoy a bit more.

If you do vote for Engaged Marriage and you’d like to encourage others to join you, here’s a short message you can share on Twitter or Facebook:

I just voted for Engaged Marriage (@EngagedMarriage) as the Top Marriage Blog 2010.  You should too! http://bit.ly/eWZApV

I think there is a real need for this kind of list, and it is so great to have a central resource to find all of the best marriage-rocking content on the web.

Remember, you have to click over to The Marry Blogger to post your vote.  It only takes a minute.

Thanks!

(photo source)

Nov 23

10 Life-Changing Online Christmas Gifts for Married Couples

By Dustin | Book & Product Reviews

10 Life-Changing Online Christmas Gifts for Married CouplesBased on the popularity of last year’s 10 Awesome Gifts for Married Couples (newly updated), I knew I needed to follow-up with another super-useful and fun gift list for Christmas.

I also wanted to provide you with some unique ideas that (mostly) won’t be found just browsing around on Amazon.

So, I decided to put together a list of the top online resources for busy married couples.

Whether you are shopping for your spouse or another married couple, I’m sure you’ll find something on this list that will be well-received as a meaningful gift that will help to improve the recipient’s life!

While you might not immediately think of a digital product as a great Christmas gift (after all you can’t gift wrap most of these suggestions), keep in mind that more and more people are consuming their information electronically.

Plus, these e-books and other online goodness are delivered instantly, so they’re perfect for an awesome last-minute gift!

Without further ado, here are my Top 10 picks:

10 Great Online Christmas Gifts for Married Couples

10. Melt: Massage for Couples

Melt: Massage for Couples

This is an AMAZING at-home massage program for couples.  If you’re looking to add a new level of intimacy and fun, you need to check this out.

The simple, easy-to-follow (and totally PG-rated) videos have become a go-to at-home date night for us!

9. Stripped Down

In this great book, Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo deliver a powerful look at intimacy in all areas of marriage, both in and out of the bedroom.  In a uniquely candid way, they share their personal struggles and give us real, practical ways to improve the intimacy and closeness in our own marriage.

Go check out Stripped Down for yourself and choose between the e-book, audio book and even an autographed physical edition.

8. You Need A Budget

When you think of an awesome Christmas gift, budgeting software may not immediately come to mind.  However, I can tell you from very personal experience that building a budget and communicating about money is one of the best things that a couple can do for their marriage.

And You Need A Budget (YNAB) is the best software I’ve found for bringing this valuable tool to your family with as little pain as possible…you might even think it’s fun!

Go check out YNAB for yourself here or read my review here.

7. How to Communicate Your Way to a Better Marriage

Learn how to rekindle the intimacy in your marriage through better communication, in all forms.

6. Intimacy Reignited

Learn how to reignite the passionate intimacy in your marriage and create a lifestyle that encourages more and better sex.

5. Romance the Write Way

Rekindle the romance (and intimacy) in your marriage with a step-by-step letter writing process that takes less than 15 minutes.

4. How to Get Control of Your Money & Create the Future You Desire Together

Learn how, when it’s handled the right way, money can be the source of much joy in your marriage and family life.

3. Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite is a great gift idea for those husbands that enjoy reading.  There are many types of Kindles to choose from, but this one allows the reader to use it even in the sunlight with no glare!  He can relax anywhere while reading his favorite book!

2. Thrive90 Couples Fitness Program

Thrive90 FitnessThis resource, which I’ve developed alongside super-fit marriage guru Tony DiLorenzo, will help you improve your physical fitness and enhance your family life at the same time.

This 12-week, video-based exercise program was designed specifically for busy couples who want to get fit and build a thriving relationship in the process.

With over 20 workouts that are all home-based and less than 30 minutes, you’ll finally be able to look and feel awesome while maintaining your busy life. This program has both an all-digital and a DVD option so it also makes a great gift for a friend.

If you are looking to lose weight, regain your energy and add some sizzle to your relationship, go check out Thrive90 Fitness and sign-up to try it risk-free.

1. 15 Minute Marriage Makeover
This e-book was written by me for the Engaged Marriage community of busy married couples. The 15 Minute Marriage Makeover is designed to help you Refresh Your Relationship, Add Sizzle to Your Sex Life and Be Happier Together in Just Minutes per Day.

This is a guide designed for couples to work through together in less than 15 minutes each day.

Over the course of several weeks, the lessons and practical exercises shared will lead to better sex and deeper intimacy, communication that counts, real romance for real busy couples, and new-found control over money for any couple.

Check it out today and see what 15 minutes can do for your marriage!  It’s available in paperback, Kindle, i-Book, Nook and PDF formats to suit your needs.

So, what can’t-miss online resources for married couples would you add to this list?

Nov 19

15 Minute Marriage Makeover (it’s coming…)

By Dustin | Ask the Community

After much consternation, I’m happy to let you all know that my new e-book has a name: 15 Minute Marriage Makeover.

I really appreciate all of the interest and great suggestions in the Name the E-Book Contest.  In the end, I decided to tweak the title and didn’t actually use any of the entries exactly.  However, I am still going to send a free copy of the new book to the closest entry, which was my friend Brad Chaffee who suggested “The 15 Minute Marriage.”

I’m still kicking around a few subtitles, but I think the frontrunners are “Your Proven Plan for Better Sex, Romance, Communication & Finances in Just Minutes a Day” OR “Refresh Your Relationship, Add Sizzle to Your Sex Life & Be Happier Together in Just Minutes a Day

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these, and any other suggestions you may have in the comments.

Now that I have a title, I can put the finishing touches on the writing and get this thing to a designer to get a great cover and nice layout.  If you or someone you know designs e-books, please send me an email to Dustin [at] EngagedMarriage [dot] com and let me know about it.  I’d love to hire someone from our community for this!

Also, if you’re interested, don’t forget to add yourself to the early notification list so you can snag a nice discount when 15 Minute Marriage Makeover is released in a few weeks.  Just click here and enter your email address, and you’re all set.

Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for your continued support of Engaged Marriage! 🙂

Nov 15

Married Money Management Step 8: Pay Off Your House!

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Pay Off Your House!How would it feel to own your house?

Not owning in the sense that we’re all familiar with where we remain beholden to the bank that actually holds the deed to our property, but really owning it for ourselves.

Since the New Deal, and especially since our veterans returned home after WWII, the long-term home mortgage has become a mainstay of American culture.

In fact, it’s now really difficult to imagine life without a house payment.  But I’d like you to try. 🙂

Life Without Payments

If you’re following the Married Money Management steps, then you’ve already paid off all of your non-mortgage debts.

Assuming you’re not a lifetime renter or a squatter, that leaves your home mortgage as your last debt. Let’s think a bit about the implications of paying it off and living a life with NO payments.

For most of us, our mortgage payment is our single largest monthly expense.

Keep in mind that paying off your mortgage will not eliminate your real estate taxes or insurance, which likely make up a big portion of your current monthly outlay if you escrow those expenses.  However, we are still talking about a large chunk of your disposable income that you currently send away to the bank each month.

What could you do with that extra cash flow created by eliminating your house payment?

Give more, invest more, save more and spend more on things that you enjoy.  Sounds good to me!

While the positive impacts on your monthly budget are pretty obvious, there are some other benefits that may not immediately come to mind.  For one thing, you won’t have to worry about foreclosure if you find yourself facing tough times financially.

As Dave Ramsey likes to say, “100% of foreclosures occur on homes with mortgages.”

You will have also have the peace of mind, security and pride that comes with really owning your home.  And that sounds pretty priceless.

Investing vs. Paying Off Your Mortgage

The classic argument against paying off your home mortgage is that you’d be better off financially if you kept the mortgage and used the extra money to invest.

The thought is that your mortgage interest is tax deductible and typically at a fairly low rate, so you could get more financial gain by instead investing your money at a higher rate.

I would encourage you to do your own financial analysis or ask a professional what makes the most sense in your particular situation before making this decision.

However, some important things to keep in mind are that the interest saved in paying off your mortgage is a guaranteed return, while any better-performing investments will likely not be guaranteed.

Also, while your mortgage interest is tax-deductible (but only if you itemize your taxes), the gains on your investments will be taxed. The only time this isn’t true is when you invest in tax-advantaged retirement accounts, but we’re already doing that in Step 6.

Personally, we are opting to pay down our mortgage.  We love the idea of eliminating all payments from our life, improving our cash flow, increasing our financial security and taking a guaranteed return while doing it.

Plus, if we find we hate living in a paid-for house, we can always go take out a mortgage and start making payments again! 😉

How to Pay Off Your Mortgage

Paying off your house early is a pretty simple process.

You’ll take any extra cash flow you have each month after completing the first 7 steps of our plan and send it to your mortgage company.  They should apply these extra payments directly to your principal and reduce your mortgage balance each and every month.

You can also save up the extra money and apply it once each year in a big payment if you prefer to have the cash 0n-hand throughout the year (caution: some may be too tempted to spend this cash).  And you can apply any “found money” like bonuses, tax returns, gifts, etc. to the cause to help accelerate your payoff even faster.

The bottom line is that you need to put extra money toward reducing your outstanding mortgage debt just like you would approach any of the financial goals we’ve outlined in this series.

It’s not difficult to understand, but it will require commitment and perseverance to stick with your plan over the long haul and accomplish this huge goal.

My family will be working on this step right along side you in the years to come.  I look forward to hosting a mortgage burning party and inviting you over to celebrate in a few years! 🙂

Beyond Step 8

This post brings us to the end of our Married Money Management tutorial series.  I hope you’ve learned a lot along the way and are fired up to achieve financial peace in your family.

So what do you do after Step 8?  Anything you want!

Seriously, when you reach this point, you’ll be in the top 1% financially of all Americans, and you’ll have incredible flexibility to give and invest your money however you see fit.

Enjoy it and pay it forward by sharing your knowledge with others!

Here’s a rundown of all the posts available to you in the Marriage Money Management series:

(photo source)

Nov 08

Absence Really Does Make the Heart Grow Fonder

By Dustin | Time Management

Thank You Vets!I just returned home from a long weekend away with “the guys” on our annual bowhunting and camping trip.  We don’t travel very far away, and the cost is minimal, but we do enjoy the chance to get together each year and spend some “man time” hunting, sitting around a campfire drinking beer and just doing manly things.

As she proves time and time again, Bethany is a total saint and doesn’t even complain too much when this trip comes up year after year.  It might help that her Dad is part of our group and she likes us to have some time to bond, but I think she really just smiles (and probably cusses just a bit under breath) and wishes me good luck because she knows how much it means to me.  She’s cool like that. 🙂

I Wanna Go Home

As much as I enjoy this experience, I have to say that I start to grow quite homesick after a few days away.  While sitting in a treestand for hours on end this year, I started to find my mind wandering to thoughts of hanging out with Bethany and guessing what the kids were doing at that moment.  I was definitely ready to drive straight back to our house today to spend as much time as possible with my family.

Even though I write about marriage and family life on a regular basis, I find it’s really easy to take our blessings for granted.  As I shared my time away with a close friend who recently lost his wife to cancer and other single guys that don’t have families at home, I was reminded of just how awesome my life really is and how special we have it as a family.

And I really missed it.

My first few hours at home were filled with extra hugs and a longer attention span for the kids along with some extra kisses and touches for my wife.  It’s unfortunate that it takes time away to make me realize that I should be doing these things anyway, but I guess that’s human nature.

It may seem strange, but I truly believe that these short stints apart from our spouse can provide a little boost and add intimacy to our marriage as well as energy for our roles as parents.  I know my heart feels a bit “fonder” this evening.

Thank You to Our Military Families

As we celebrate Veteran’s Day this week, I wanted to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude to our military veterans along with their families.  While I felt the pains of separation after just a few days of recreation, our military families endure months and even years apart in service to our country.

This degree of sacrifice is amazing, and it’s evident that the bond between military members and their spouses is particularly strong.  We would all do well to emulate the self-sacrifice and faithfulness exhibited by these remarkable folks.

Thank you for all that you do and the way that you do it.

(photo source)

Nov 04

Help Name the New Engaged Marriage E-Book! (and win)

By Dustin | General

*Don’t miss the special announcement about being an early bird member at the bottom of this post.*

I need a bit of help from all of you awesome Engaged Marriage community members.

After a long writing journey, I am finally done with my first e-book.  I’m super-excited about how it’s turned out, and it’s just about ready to send off to a designer for the finishing touches.  The only problem is this book needs a catchy name!

In a nutshell, this e-book (or perhaps it’s better described as a course) takes couples through a journey together where they work on four specific key areas in their marriage:

  • Communication That Counts
  • Real Romance for Real Busy Couples
  • Better Sex and Deeper Intimacy
  • Control Your Finances…Together

Each of these main topics is covered over the course of a week for a total of 28 days, though couples may choose to only work on specific areas rather than complete the full program.  So, each of the seven-day sections presents a new lesson and an exercise that they do together on that topic.

One of the things that sets this material apart is that each daily exercise only takes 15 minutes, so it’s very achievable for super busy couples.

So by devoting 15 minutes a day to each other for 28 days (or less if they so choose), a couple will enhance their sex life, financial situation, communication skills and their romance, and they’ll have built a foundation for an awesome marriage for life.

Help Me Name This Thing…and You Can Win!

I’d love to get your input on a great name for this e-book!  Please leave your suggestion for a title and/or subtitle in the comments below.

If your proposed title is used, I’ll send you one of the first final copies of the book.  Plus, I’ll be sure to mention you (and your site if you have one) in the book’s acknowledgments to show my thanks.

I’ll be taking entries until noon CST on Tuesday, November 9th.  At that point, I’ll be picking the best suggestion and moving forward.

At this point, I have the following “working title and subtitle” but I just don’t think it’s catchy enough, so don’t let it skew your creativity!

15 Minutes to an Engaged Marriage
Your Proven Plan for Better Sex, Romance, Communication & Finances in Just Minutes Per Day

*By the way, if you’re interested in buying your own copy of this unnamed course, I will be giving the first opportunity and offering a nice discount to everyone that joins our Early Notification List.  If you’d like to be included (there’s no obligation to buy anything), please click here now and get added today.

Nov 01

Married Money Management Step 7: Invest for College (But Only If You Want to)

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

How to Invest for Your Kids' College - But Only If You Want toIf you have children, this is the step in your financial journey where I’d recommend you start putting away money to pay for their college education.

That is, of course, if you actually want to save money for this purpose.

Before we get into any details on this step, I think it’s important for all of you parents out there to ask yourself a tough question:

Do we really want to save for our children’s college education?

If the answer is yes, then that’s great and you can move on with the rest of this lesson.

However, I want you to know that despite all of the pressure you may feel from society and perhaps your parenting peers, you do NOT have to save for your kids’ college expenses.  There is no parenting law that says your kids must get a Degree in Finance on your dime.

While I think it’s a cool thing to do if you are able and desire it, I think too many people assume that college savings is a firm responsibility of all parents, sometimes to the point of stupidity (more on that below).

Personally, I had absolutely no help from my parents in this area, but I was able to get great undergraduate and Master’s degrees in engineering with no student loan debt.

How? It required scholarships and a lot of hard work during my college years, along with some practical choices in my college selection and lifestyle, but I made it.  And to be honest, I think the need to work hard has been one of the best things that happened in my development into adulthood.

So for Bethany and me, we are saving some money for our kids’ college education, but it’s not guaranteed for them and it certainly won’t cover the entire cost.  They can earn their own higher education should they choose to go that route.

There’s a Reason This is Step 7

So for those of you who want to put away some cash for college, my main point is to put this investment into proper perspective.

I have actually heard from couples who proudly put money away every month for college savings while they literally couldn’t make the minimum monthly payments on their debts.  This is simply stupid!

Saving for college is absolutely optional, and there will be other ways for your kids to attend if you don’t have their entire tuition bill set aside when they matriculate.  However, your family’s current ability to deal with a financial emergency and your own retirement funding is not optional, and you will have far fewer options available to you if you don’t adequately prepare in these areas.

Unless you like the idea of living in a van down by the river and perhaps eating dog food when you’re 70 years old, it’s essential that you keep college investing firmly in Step 7.

That means your debt pay down, emergency fund and retirement savings should all be happening in full force before you start putting aside money for this purpose.

In my opinion, that’s where this should be placed among your major financial priorities.

How Much & Where to Invest

Unfortunately, the question of how much to save for college education is not easy to answer because it varies so greatly for each individual situation.

Some variables that will impact your decision are the amount of time until you need the money, the type and location (private vs. public, in-state vs. out-of-state) of college you are anticipating, the portion of the total costs you will be covering, scholarships and loans expected, etc.

For some guidance on how much to save in your individual situation, I’d recommend you check out this great online calculator: World’s Simplest College Cost Calculator

Once you know how much you need to save monthly to reach your goals (and you’ve regained consciousness), you’ll need to decide where to invest your money to get the required returns.  While I am not going to give specific investment advice (I’m no financial professional), I will encourage you to check out the options available that provide you with a tax break on your contributions.

The two primary vehicles for tax-advantaged savings accounts are Coverdell Education Savings Accounts and 529 Qualified Tuition Programs. 

For most families, a good 529 plan will meet their college savings needs, but I’d encourage you to read more about the different options available.

If you decide to look into a 529 plan, you should know these basics:

  • They are state sponsored, but your money can be used in any state.
  • You contribute to the 529 account with after-tax money
  • You can withdraw from your account for qualified education expenses without paying any tax on your investment growth
  • If you use the 529 plan offered by your home state, you’ll likely get a break on the state income taxes on your contributions
  • You can choose to contribute to any state’s plan, and a good plan out-of-state will likely outperform a bad plan in your home state, even though you’ll miss out on the state income tax breaks.

For more specifics and some excellent resources to help you choose the right plan for your family, I encourage you to visit Saving For College and use their thorough research tools.

Let’s Talk About College Funding

As you can tell from the introduction to this post, I don’t buy into the assumption that you need to put your other financial responsibilities behind investing for college.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.

Do you plan to pay for your kids’ college?  If so, how do you plan to pull it off?

Here’s a rundown of all the posts available to you in the Marriage Money Management series:

(photo source)