Category Archives for "Finances & Careers"

Jan 19

6 Tips for Creating a Household Budget

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

6 Tips for Creating a Household BudgetThey say opposites attract, but opposite views on finances can lead to dangerous territory in a marriage.

Many couples run into issues when they realize that one is a saver and the other is a spender.

One of the best ways to help lower financial stress in your marriage is to create a household budget.

Examine All Your Spending Habits

The first step to creating a household budget is to figure out exactly where you and your family are spending money.

When you’re writing down the categories you spend money on, don’t forget to include regular necessities that occur every month, such as groceries, mortgage or rent, utilities, credit card bills, and other loans.

Next, count in variable expenses such as emergency savings, vacations, and money for dining out. Once you’ve accounted for every expense you can think of, subtract the expenses from your household income.

It’s very possible that you’ll end up with a negative number at this point.

Find Categories Where You Can Cut Spending

If you do come up with a negative number, that means you’re spending more than you’re making. While it’s hard to do, you have to go back through your categories and figure out where you can cut spending.

The first categories you need to work with are the recreational ones.

While it’s not enjoyable, cutting back on money spent for vacations and meals out during the short term will help you reach stability in your budget for the long term.

Create a Weekly Budget

After you’ve decided where you can cut expenses, it’s time to create a weekly budget. Weekly budgets are better than monthly ones because they’re easier to create and they leave less room for error.

While you’re creating your weekly budget, don’t forget to plan for emergencies and put aside money for special occasions such as holidays and birthdays.

Make a Plan for Leftover Money

As your budget starts to become firmer, you should start to have some money remaining every month.

While you can certainly spend this money on the recreation categories that you had to cut from earlier, you should plan to save some of that money as well. After all, while one reason for setting a budget is to help you stay in the black, it’s also supposed to help you create a healthy savings.

Whether you invest this money in a mutual fund, add to your savings account, or make an additional contribution to your retirement fund, it’s important to create a plan and stick with it.

If you just let this money sit around, you’re less likely to save it and more likely to spend it.

Pay With Cash

One great way to stick with a budget is to prevent small expenses from adding up.

To do so, figure out how much you spend every week and take out just enough cash to cover those expenses. When you use cash to cover discretionary expenses, it’s easier to prevent overspending than with a debit card or credit card, where small expenses can add up before you even realize it.

When you see that you won’t have much cash left if you get that extra cup of coffee in the morning, you’re more likely to skip buying items that you don’t really need.

Sign Up With a Budget Website

If you’d like an online tool to help you create and balance your household budget, consider signing up for a website like Mint.com or You Need A Budget.

To begin on this free money-management website, simply use a device like one of the best 2-in-1 laptops from Lenovo to link all your financial accounts. Since these PCs can convert into a laptop, tent, stand, or tablet, it’s easy to use these powerful tools to help you manage your money, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing.

Simply add your expenses in typical categories, including gas, groceries, and credit card payments and create a budget around your spending patterns.

To help prevent financial issues from entering your marriage and causing stress, it’s important to work together to create and follow a budget.

Use these tips to make your own household budget and see how you can change your spending and saving habits.

 

(photo credit)

Sep 02

7 Reasons Every Smart Couple Needs a Side Income (and How to Get One)

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

7 Reasons Every Smart Couple Needs a Side Income

How would your family benefit from an extra $250, $500 or even $1,000 every month?

In this post, I want to share why it’s so important that your family develop a side income and show you how to make it happen – complete with real-life examples of the many ways we’ve added to the bottom line in the Riechmann household.

BONUS: Be sure to click here to grab our FREE guide "How to Find a Profitable Side Income Idea in 15 Minutes"

7 Reasons You Need a Side Income

Let’s start by outlining a few of the many benefits of developing a “side hustle” and bringing in an income outside of your 9-to-5 paycheck.

1. More Money ūüôā

Duh, right?¬† Let’s start with the obvious – just like a big raise at work, side income increases your bottom line.

If you’re doing the right thing and budgeting every dollar of your income, you probably know exactly where you’d plug in some extra cash.¬† Even if you’re not that organized, I bet you could find some awesome things to do with 500 bucks.

You could pay off debt, give more to charity, save for emergencies, go on nice vacations…all the wonderful things that more income allows your family to enjoy.

Good stuff for sure, but this is just the start!

2. Greater Freedom

If you put it in the right context, more money is ultimately about enjoying more freedom.¬† When you’re not stuck living paycheck-to-paycheck but instead start building more margin in your budget, it gives you options to do more of things you want to do as a family.

In practical terms, killing off debt payments and boosting your income to reclaim your monthly cash flow gives you the freedom to make choices about how to spend your money and your time.

It could also represent the opportunity to leave a job you don’t enjoy to do something you love.

3. Sense of Security

This is where a side income really starts to separate itself from a regular paycheck.¬† The raw truth is that dependence on a single income source is really dangerous – you’re only an economic downturn or angry boss away from losing it all.

When you develop alternative forms of income, you can not only build a bigger emergency fund and nest egg, but you can enjoy the security of knowing that one change won’t wipe out your inflow of cash.

And as your side pursuits mature, you’ll likely find that you can automate (or hire out) much of the work and create passive income that supports you without direct investments of time – that’s true financial freedom!

4. Opportunity for Something BIG

What starts off as a modest attempt to make an extra $200 could grow into something much, much larger.

Many of the world’s most successful companies started off as side ventures or small solo pursuits…have you ever watched Shark Tank?

The fact is that you never know where the market may take you – a simple idea can strike it big and grow into a massive success.¬† That’s exciting!

5. Help Others

One of the awesome benefits of doing good work is that you get to help others in the process.  The best way to make money is to provide genuine value by helping people.

While you may feel this in your day job, there’s a good chance that your side hustle will connect you more closely with the value cycle and let you experience the real joy of helping others.

6. Lifelong Learning

One of the surprising benefits I’ve found in developing side businesses is that it’s incredibly intellectually stimulating.¬† It’s much too easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day demands of a regular job and never stretch your thinking.

When you do work on the side, you’ll gain entirely new skills, feel excited to learn something new, and then get to implement it right away to grow your income.

7. Fund Your Dreams

When you think about your dream marriage, there’s a good chance that money will play a role in the lifestyle you desire.¬† I’m not necessarily talking about sipping drinks by the beach, but enjoying the freedom to live life on your terms.

In our case, it was our side income that was instrumental in allowing Bethany to stay home with our kids two years ago.  Only through side gigs were we able to pay off $54,500 in debt and position our family for the future we desired.

BONUS: Family Bonding

Are you thinking that developing a side income is going to steal too much quality time away from your family?¬† I totally get that, and it’s a legitimate concern.

It’s all about how you set your business up both in terms of how many hours it requires of you and how much of that time is solo.

When you see the list of former and current businesses we’ve done below – you’re going to think I’m insane and that I must have an extra 8 hours in the day…but the reality is that each side gig is set up strategically to minimize the time required (and we’ve dropped most dollars-for-hours tasks over the years).

One surprising benefit that we’ve found with our side pursuits is that we can actually enjoy some very high-quality time together.¬† As I note below, my son is my “partner” on one business, and Bethany is absolutely involved in Engaged Marriage and Fit Marriage.

You should view your side business as a real opportunity to connect around an interesting project that benefits the whole family!

How to Make It Happen (and What We Do)

If generating a side income was easy, you’d already be doing it, right?¬† Maybe.

It can certainly be intimidating but it’s probably not nearly as hard as you think.¬† Here are the three main suggestions I have for you as you consider how to generate side income:

  1. Start With What You Know
  2. Go Low-Cost & Low-Time
  3. Get Your Spouse & Family Involved

We’ve built different streams of side income throughout our 14 years of marriage.¬† When we started out, we traded more time directly for dollars, but we’ve learned along the way and also taken advantage of the power of the Internet.

Here are several examples of side income streams that we’ve enjoyed in our household along with a short description of each.

BONUS: Be sure to click here to grab our FREE guide "How to Find a Profitable Side Income Idea in 15 Minutes"

  • Golf Club reselling

This was one of the first side businesses I did, and it was quite profitable with more than $1,000 a month in income.  The model works for lots of different items, but I got into golf clubs when I was trying to find the right set for myself (this is often how I find business opportunities).

In a nutshell, I bought clubs locally (through Craigslist mostly), cleaned them up, and sold them nationally through Ebay.¬† It’s a classic case of buying low in a local market and selling higher to a broader audience who will pay true market value.

I only quit doing this because it was too time consuming for me to travel around the region buying the clubs, and we discovered more passive income streams.

  • Tutoring

Both Bethany and I have tutored kids in various subjects, and it’s a nice way to make extra money.¬† I still tutor a neighborhood high school student in math occasionally as a favor – I enjoy it and we use the money to pay our kids for household chores.

  • Teaching (online and offline)

There are SO many opportunities to teach what you know to others.  One the best ways to do this is to create a simple course on a platform like Udemy where you can reach the world.  You can create the course once and sell it many, many times.  I have one course on Udemy currently.

I’ve also taught engineering courses at a local University, which I found quite fulfilling.¬† This is more dollars-for-hours in scale, but you may find it’s a great fit for you to teach locally or for a college online.

  • Writing

If you enjoy writing, there are pretty much limitless opportunities to get paid to write.  One of the best places to find work is through blogs you enjoy Рwe employ four awesome writers here at Engaged Marriage.

I’ve written for other blogs for pay in the past, and I’ve also written articles for magazines.¬† They pay better, but of course this requires more work and specialized skills.

If you want to take it to another level and develop more passive income, you can absolutely self-publish a book!¬† The Kindle platform in particular makes it easy, and you can also have Amazon convert your ebook to paperback.¬† I’ve written three books personally, and they all generate a nice passive income through Amazon (and other platforms).

  • Engaged Marriage

This very site is a robust business with income from books, workshops, advertisements, affiliate relationships and coaching.¬† It is FAR from passive with nearly 400 posts written mostly by me and a continuous effort is required, but it’s a true labor of love getting to help others live a married life they love.

  • Fit Marriage

I’m also a partner with another online site/business called Fit Marriage where we help busy couples make fitness a key part of their marriage.¬† We have numerous income streams, but our primary revenue comes from a fitness program we developed for couples called Thrive90 Fitness – it’s pretty much completely passive at this point.

  • MLM (Team Beachbody)

One of the easiest ways for people to get started building a side income is through a multi-level-marketing (MLM) company.¬† There are many successful companies out there like Tastefully Simple, Mary Kay, Thirty One, etc. – just think of “home parties” you’ve been invited to and you’re likely thinking of an MLM.

Through my work at Fit Marriage and my past experience with the P90X fitness program, I became a coach with Team Beachbody.  This is the MLM company behind many of the most popular at-home workouts out there.  I treat this pretty passively, but it generates a nice income and discounts on their products.

  • Coaching & Consulting

You can get paid really well for sharing your expertise and guidance with others.¬† I don’t even advertise these services, but I’m able to generate a very nice side income through coaching and consulting.

You can coach/consult on just about any topic that you have specialized knowledge in.  In my case, I help married couples achieve their dream marriage through strategic planning (set big goals and follow a step-by-step plan to achieve them), and I consult with folks on getting control of their schedule and being more productive.

I also do consulting to help others get started or ramp up their online businesses.¬† It’s so fun to apply what I’ve learned in six years of online business to help others generate real income to help their families.

Like I said, I’ve never even advertised these services (people contact me), so there’s clearly a real demand out there for help.¬† If you’d like to chat about working with me in either of my specialty areas, shoot me a message. ūüėČ

  • Shin Splints Treatment Kit

This is my latest venture, and I love it because it’s really specific, pretty passive and I get to teach my 10-year-old son about business.¬† When I got into running about 18 months ago, I suffered BAD from shin splints.¬† Long story short, I found a quick treatment regime that really helped me and some of my friends (I actually just ran my first marathon two weeks ago).

In the process, I found an opportunity (you develop this mindset once you start a side business) Рall the materials I needed to do the treatments were only available from random sources and at pretty high prices.  I simply created a short guide on how to do the treatments, then found wholesale sources for the materials needed (foam roller, ice packs, resistance band).

I shot a 5-minute shin splints instructional video to put on YouTube and put the Shin Splints Treatment Kit up on Amazon.  With NO marketing, we make several sales every week with profits per kit of $15-$22 depending on shipping costs.

My son Braden packs the boxes for me and helps me with shipping.  I pay him $1 from every sale, and he loves it.  This is an awesome way to teach about the entrepreneurship and have fun together while helping others!!

OK that’s quite a list – so we clearly LOVE side businesses!

Keep in mind that we’ve had small children in our home that last 10 years, and I still work a demanding full-time engineering job (that I love).

You can totally do this. You’ll notice that a lot of our endeavors have been centered online, which we love for the flexibility it provides, but I know many other couples who thrive with “real world” businesses helping those in their community.

It all starts with one simple idea and a smart action plan…and I know just the guy to lead you on that front!

Want The Exact Steps We Use to Make Extra Money On the Side?

I can only share so much in a blog post before it becomes ridiculously long, but if you’re interested in learning more about creating a side income for your own family – we’ve got you covered.

We created an amazing program with my friend and New York Times best-selling author Dan Miller called “How to Make an Extra $500 per Month on the Side to Bless Your Family” and you can get instant access to it right now.

In this program, you will learn…

  • The difference between a side business and a side job (this is critical if you want to leverage your time)
  • How to start a simple side business that will bless your family with extra freedom, fun & opportunity (plus money of course)
  • The best types of side businesses for busy married folks… including many real-life examples from Dan (married 45 years), Dustin (married 14 years) & those we’ve worked with personally
  • How to find the right side business for you… even if you have no ideas right now
  • How to get started earning a side income this week… there’s no reason to wait!

Even if you have no business experience at all.

Click here to get instant access to the side income workshop at amazing value!

Aug 26

5 Money Moves Happy Couples Make

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

5 Money Moves Happy Couples MakeHave you ever seen one of those cheesy photos of a couple leaning over with their arms around each other, looking at a bank statement with big smiles on their faces?

Yeah, those are stock photos.¬† They aren’t real.

Unfortunately, for many married couples, the thought of money and finances brings up quite the opposite reaction.

In the early years of our marriage, we simply avoided the topic.  Denial seemed like a pretty good solution until we woke up $54,500 in debt with our first baby on the way.

How does money impact your marriage?  Does it create tension, stress, arguments and maybe even some dishonesty?

I hope that’s not the case, but the good news is that money doesn’t have to be a strain on your relationship.

Believe it or not, money can (and should) create happiness in your marriage when you handle it right.

Not creepy stock-photo happy, but coming together around your finances to achieve your dreams can actually be an awesome way to express your love and enthusiasm for your future together.

Just don’t smile at your bank statements…who has printed bank statements anymore anyhow?

[NOTE: Don’t miss the end of this post for some very exciting news! ūüôā ]

5 Simple Money Moves to Make in Your Marriage

It’s easier than you think to change the conversation around money with your spouse.¬† And if there is no conversation, that’s probably a good place to start.

Check out these 5 moves that are proven to bring happiness to couples who make them happen.

1. Create a Simple, Goal-Oriented Financial Plan

What are your dreams as a family?  What will it take financially to make it happen?

This is where a plan becomes essential.¬† It doesn’t require anything fancy, but it does require a good, open dialogue about what you actually want out of life and a goal-oriented game plan for how to take action to achieve the dreams you share.

In our case, it was a “money date” and a lot of conversation that helped us realize we both wanted deeply for Bethany to be a stay-at-home Mom for our kids.¬† Once we set that as a big goal, we were able to plan a path forward to make it a reality.

2. Make a Simple, Non-Boring Budget

If the “B-word” makes you cringe or throw up in your mouth a little, have no fear.

A budget (you can call it a family spending plan if you’d like) can actually be really simple and still be effective.¬† There are also lots of great tools to help you get going painlessly.

But the bottom line is you do need to get your income and spending down on paper so you can get real about your cash flow and where you’d like to direct it.

As our friend Dave Ramsey says, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”

3. Pay Off Debt & Save Money (Fast)

I know this one falls squarely in the “easier said than done” category, but it’s going to be easier than you think once you get going with a motivating plan (#1) and a simple budget (#2).

As freaked out as we were to realize how deep we had gotten into debt, we were also really pumped up to get it paid down so we could realize our new-found goals. And it truly made us happy (freakin’ ecstatic really) to kill debts as fast as possible and celebrate when we met that monster goal of debt freedom!

This is probably an area you’ll need more specific help with – more on that in a minute.

4. Start a Savings & Investment Plan to Support Your Future

I know investing isn’t exactly the sexiest topic, but it’s extremely important to your long-term success and happiness.

If you don’t already know why Albert Einstein called compound interest the most powerful force in the universe, you should look it up for some great motivation to start investing as soon as possible.

It’s never too late and never early enough to start putting some money into high-quality investments that will bring you peace of mind for all of those decades of awesome married life that’s ahead of you.

5. Discuss Money with Your Honey Regularly

Like so many important things, the key to successfully managing money in your marriage is good communication.

The happiest couples have an open and ongoing dialogue about their income, spending, saving, investing and their goals.

This very likely won’t come naturally, so it’s important to have regular “money dates” where you spend some time chatting about money…and more time drinking wine and enjoying the financial peace in your relationship!

Are You Ready to Take the Next Step with Your Money & Your Honey?

These 5 steps are pretty simple on the surface, but of course implementing them can be a challenge.¬† Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve teamed up Ann Arceo, an awesome couples financial planner from The Savvy Duo to create an easy-to-follow program called “How to Get Control of Your Money & Create the Future You Desire Together

We walk you through these 5 key money moves and showing you exactly how to make them happen in your marriage.

Plus, you’ll have the help you need to overcome the other money frustrations you’ve probably encountered…

…from trouble getting started (or staying on track) to a reluctant spouse.¬† And we’re giving you all the cool tools you need to make it as easy as possible!

Click Here to Start Your Money Makeover!

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

The best time to start your new smart money plan was yesterday – the next best is TODAY so don’t delay. ūüôā

Jul 06

How to Say Good-bye to Limiting Financial Beliefs

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

good bye to limiting financial beliefsPersonal money management has two very important, but unequal, parts.

The how-to is actually only about 20% of the equation, while your behavior holds the overwhelming majority of the control.

The nuts and bolts of the how-to are easy ones to address, but your behavior is a more interesting matter.

Your behavior is guided by your core beliefs: what you value, what is appropriate, what is possible, etc.

As a married couple, that makes handling finances all the more interesting, because you each bring different beliefs to the table.

Core beliefs can help you see a world full of possibility in successful money management, or they can cripple your movement forward.

History is littered with examples of limiting beliefs:

It’s impossible to sail around the world.

There will never be a true flying machine.

Humans cannot run a mile in less than four minutes.

Fortunately, pioneers existed who didn’t share these sentiments.

They broke through the barriers and set new standards of what was possible.

Self-limiting beliefs are psychological barriers that get in your way.

Here are five self-limiting beliefs and examples of how they might show up in your conversations.

Hopelessness. ¬†“There’s just no way to get out from under all the money we owe.”

Helplessness. ¬†“We’ve always been clueless about money management. It’s just too complicated.”

Uselessness. ¬†“It doesn’t matter what we do. There’s always something that sets us back.”

Blamelessness. “It’s not my fault. My parents never taught me. My spouse is the problem.”

Worthlessness. ¬†“We’re just not meant to have enough¬†money. It’s just the way things are.”

There are many other shapes these can take.

Pay attention to the chiding voices in your head and the negative things that roll off your tongue to identify yours.

However, if one or more of these already resonates with you, that’s actually good news.

Being aware of a limiting belief is not much different than realizing your foot aches because there’s a pebble in your shoe.

You aren’t going to be able to achieve a fitness goal, whether walking regularly or becoming a marathoner, until you take care of the pebble.

Similarly, you need to say good-bye to limiting beliefs to clear the way to setting and achieving financial goals.

Saying good-bye to limiting financial beliefs

Identify your self-limiting beliefs about money. Note that these are typically so deeply ingrained you and your spouse treat them as the absolute truth. They are not. Take note of the beliefs above that resonated with you. This is critical because you will remain stuck in an unhealthy financial place until you deal with these obstacles.

Recognize your mind is really, really, attached to these beliefs. Your mind will automatically go in search of evidence to support the beliefs, even when there may be much more evidence to the contrary. 

In¬†Stop Saying You’re Fine!¬†Mel Robbins¬†writes about what happens in your mind when you’ve been stuck, and you begin entertaining some game-changing thoughts.

It’s a constant battle between your game-changer thoughts (lose weight, start a business, find love) that want to upset the current order of your life, and the protective thoughts (I don’t feel like it today, what if I get hurt) that want to preserve order by keeping things the same. Your mind is always scouting all the incoming signs from the outside world, and trying to make predictions about what might happen next, all in order to maintain a high level of safety and a reduced level of risk. When it sees a threat of any kind, it finds a reason to retreat. It’s the wet-blanket theory of motivation. If your mind can kill a great idea by dampening it with emotional turmoil, it will.

Now that you have the tactical advantage of greater awareness, you can take the next step.

Ask quality questions to help bust those beliefs.

Author Jay Arthur shares simple ones:

If you believe “It’s hopeless,” ask “How is it possible?”

If you believe “I’m helpless,” ask “What do I already know about it?”

If you believe “It’s useless,” ask “How is it desirable?”

If you believe “I’m blameless,” ask “How am I responsible?”

If you believe “I’m worthless,” ask “How do I deserve it?”

Pull examples large and small from all parts of your life, not just the financial area. Sometimes your spouse is much better at seeing where you have been successful, so ask each other for input. Be sure to be encouraging, supportive, and open-minded in this conversation. Read stories from and about people who have walked this road before you and have help and hope to share. Dustin has great resources on¬†money¬†and¬†communication, and here’s a¬†Pinterest Board¬†devoted to Debt Freedom stories.

Take action and create new beliefs in their place.

When you look at the list of limiting beliefs, you will see they can all be transformed by gathering more accurate information that contradicts and undermines them.

Hopelessness turns into possibility when you see the ways different families have successfully tackled debt, and you take one or more of those strategies on as your own.

Helplessness is replaced by capability when you learn the simple steps to creating a home budget.

Uselessness changes to purposefulness when you envision how wise financial management is desirable and doable for your family

Blamelessness becomes empowerment when you embrace the satisfaction and growth that responsibility brings.

Worthlessness evolves into value when you realize you are able to not only provide well for your family, but also to help others, too.

With each step you take, every dollar you control, your hope and confidence will grow.

Your belief in yourselves to truly be in charge of your finances will strengthen, and your marriage will be healthier as well.

Comment: Which limiting belief do you struggle with the most?

Jun 16

Protect Your Marriage by Protecting Your Finances

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Protect Your Marriage by Protecting Your

The Bible tells us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

But experience tells us that the lack of money is at the root of all kinds of marriage problems. A survey of Certified Divorce Financial Analyst¬ģ (CDFA‚ĄĘ) professionals revealed finances to be the third leading cause of divorce, trailing only behind basic incompatibility and infidelity.

Other lists put it at #4. It is always in the top ten.

When you examine the lists more closely, you can see it all over the top ten lists. It appears disguised as other things.

Consider basic incompatibility. Finances are one of the main areas where couples find themselves incompatible.

Lack of communication is another place where financial issues hide, as couples seldom communicate about financial issues until it comes to a boil.

When you really think about it, money is not just on most of the top ten lists, it is most of the top ten lists.

The challenge is keeping your marriage from becoming one of the data points for one of those lists. It is abundantly clear that if you do not deal with your financial issues before you get married, you will be working through them after you’re not.

Here are some ways to keep money from parting you asunder:

Make Financial Stability a Precondition of Marriage

Assuming you haven’t yet tied the knot, it is not too late to make financial stability the priority it needs to be.

In modern times in a free country, no one would willingly marry without love as a precondition. Sobriety may be another precondition. If it’s not, it should be. Stable finances should be in that conversation as well.

That is not to say that you should use credit scores as a basis of marriage. But those scores should be known to both parties, and a part of the conversation. A low credit score may indicate bad luck, or irresponsibility. Either way, it is a sign of financial instability.

Why not wait until those issues are resolved before getting married? You are going to need good credit. While those issues are being resolved, you will have time to determine if there is an underlying matter of financial irresponsibility.

Let that be a deal-breaker before, rather than after the marriage.

Insure Everything

Health insurance seems like an obvious place to start. You fell in love with someone you consider strong, beautiful, and talented. Both you and your spouse are smart and nicely employed.

What could possibly go wrong? How about a tumble down the stairs while carrying the groceries, or an auto accident, or a brain tumor? What could go wrong? Everything! Lost health means lost work, means lost income.

Slightly less obvious is insuring your stuff. Just starting out, you might decide to rent instead of own. You might also be under the delusion that you do not have much by way of possession. But seldom is the time when this is actually true.

If you have to file a renters insurance claim due to a break-in or fire, you will quickly discover how much you have (had) to lose. Without renters insurance, you will have to find the money to replace all your clothes, jewelry, electronics and such.

You may even have to pay the medical bills of anyone injured while in your rented space. If everything is not insured, then anything can be a financial time bomb set to go off in your marriage at any time.

Save Money

A savings account is a type of insurance. It is a hedge against the unforeseen.

When uninsured expenses happen (and they will), saved money can mean a saved marriage. It is debt that you do not have to incur, an argument that you do not need to have, and stress you do not have to experience.

Savings is the difference between you remaining financially stable, and going financially sideways.

Marriage is fragile. Some percentage of divorce is inevitable. But it is tragic to have your marriage survive infidelity, shifting priorities, and boredom, only to be torpedoed by finances.

That is one tragedy that can be avoided.

This post was contributed by guest writer Christine Michaels.

Jun 01

The Tale of a Red Envelope and a Job Offer

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

red envelope and a job offerHave you ever been so tired of or discouraged with what you do that you are ready not just to change jobs but switch to a completely different field?

A young woman I know was in that very difficult place.

She had been employed in the healthcare industry for over five years, working her way from a per-diem position to full-time, and she had recently been promoted from assistant manager to a management position.

She was very excited about her new responsibilities, but it wasn’t long before she realized the fit was not right.

After lengthy discussions with her fiancee about the pros and cons of the situation, they decided it was time to not only time for her to leave the job, but to leave healthcare altogether.

The opportunity cost of staying was too great, and it was time for a big change.

After taking stock of her skills and what she loves to do, and then researching businesses that might be a match, she decided to apply to a company that caters to creative consumers like herself.

They do not accept online applications, so Ellie filled out the lengthy questionnaire, tailoring her experience to the needs of the company, making sure her responses were complete, well-thought out, and neatly and legibly written.

When she was ready to hand in the paperwork, she wanted to make sure it would stand out.

She knew she’d be in a large pack of potential employees because the company pays considerably above average for the area for hourly part and full-time employees.

Plus, the company didn’t even have any positions posted at the time.

After brainstorming different ideas for making her application memorable, she decided to put her creativity to use.

She wanted to fashion a colorful envelope, something that would be eye-catching.

It would need something on the outside‚ÄĒdecorations, or perhaps a name or message‚ÄĒfor some extra pop.

She found the perfect inspiration on the company’s website career page where there was a statement in large, bold letters:¬†We’re looking for you!

She proceeded to create her envelope from bright red felt and applied white letters to read the following:¬†I heard you’re looking for me.

This light-hearted project would potentially set her apart and make her memorable in other ways as well:

Showcasing her creative nature

Sharing her sense of humor

Illustrating her awareness of the company’s desire for great employees

The most important role of the envelope, of course, was to get the right person curious about what was inside so she would be invited for an interview.

When Ellie brought her colorfully packaged application to the business, she asked to speak to a manager.

They spoke briefly, and he explained they weren’t currently hiring.

He was amused by the envelope, however, and commented positively on it.

With the delivery of her application complete, Ellie thanked the manager for his time and again expressed her interest in working for the company.

A couple of months later, Ellie received a call from that same manager asking her if she was still available.

She went for her interview, and the first thing she noticed on his desk was her red envelope.

The manager told her there had been a hiring freeze, but he had been intrigued enough by her approach to read and keep her information close by so he could call her when an opening came available.

The questions and conversation began, and Ellie was hired that day.

Her skills, personality, and experience were a match for what the business needed, and she did all she could to be sure her information was seen by the person who makes the hiring decisions.

Consequently, this tale of a red envelope and a job offer had a very happy ending.

The good news is that while the red envelope may not work in your situation, there are other similarly clever and related ways to get your application to the top of the pile and in front of the right person.

As Dan Miller notes in his best-seller 48 Days to the Work You Love:

The major difference between successful and unsuccessful job hunters is not skill, education, age, or ability, but the way they go about their job hunt. 

So, get thinking, get intentional, get creative, and get hired!

Comment: What have you done or can you do to stand out to stand out to a potential employer?

May 11

Enabling your children can weaken your marriage

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

enabling your children can weaken your marriageWhen Kansas farm girl Dorothy closed her eyes and murmured longingly, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!” she was speaking as a twelve year old who had come to recognize the true magic of home, not as a young adult comfortably and seemingly permanently ensconced under your roof.

Home¬†is¬†a wonderful place, and it’s no surprise that millennials find the idea of moving back in‚ÄĒor never leaving‚ÄĒappealing.

Certainly there can be healthy arrangements for adult children and families living under one roof based on respect, gratitude, and good communication.

However, if you are ready to throw your door open wide¬†in the spirit of financial helpfulness, or if you already have, you’ll want to be vigilant so you don’t weaken your marriage.

How do you know if you are helping or enabling?

Christian Personal Finance defines the difference:

Helping is doing something for someone else that they are not capable of doing for themselves.

Enabling is doing things for someone else that they can and should be doing for themselves.

It is all too easy, as my hubby and I and many other parents will attest, to subtly and unwittingly transition from a situation that began as helpful to one that is enabling.

Helping, for example, is allowing your newly minted graduate to move back home for the summer while they continue to look for a job.

Enabling is still having that same child, now 27 years old, living at home, while you provide for their every need, plus footing the bill for those college loans, because they’re still weighing their options for the future.

If you have become an enabler, what’s driving you?

So many emotions might be at play:

Guilt:¬†You are your child’s protector and provider.

Fear: Your young adult will fall onto extremely hard times, become homeless, go hungry, or will suffer in other ways.

Doubt:¬†¬†You’ve never seen evidence they can actually take care of themselves financially.

Shame:  What will people think if they see your child living in poverty while you lead a comfortable life?

Discomfort:¬†It’s easier to just keep giving the money than handle a confrontation.

Control:  As long as you write the checks, you get the major stake in continuing to run their life.

Pride:  You feel self-righteous as you sacrifice, believing you owe your children everything.

Responsibility:¬†¬†It’s your fault you never taught them how to be self-sufficient.

Enabling your children can weaken your marriage

Very simply, it may put the opinions, needs, and the desires of your spouse below those whom you are enabling, thereby going against one of the most basic foundations for a strong marriage: putting your spouse first.

Husbands or wives may disagree on the amount and length of support needed, feel they are being taken advantage of, and especially may resent not being able to enjoy this season together as empty nesters.

Even if you agree as a couple that you both have become enablers, the financial stress in addition to the other difficulties that arise from this arrangement can spill over and create tension and arguments in other areas.

Learning to let go of enabling behavior

Remember that when you financially enable, you are effectively saying your offspring is not capable and is devoid of marketable talent or skills.

It’s time to change the message you are sending.

Get on the same page as your spouse. This may be the first of several uncomfortable conversations, but it is foundational to the ultimate success of launching your child into self-sufficiency. Here are a couple of terrific communication resources right here on Engaged Marriage: Thinking Styles, Improve Communication

Put some breathing room into your life. When you are overwhelmed in general, problems can loom larger than life, and your response is often outsized in return. Use the ideas here to brainstorm with your spouse to create an environment that works for you, your marriage and your family.

Love your child enough to say¬†No More Money,¬†it’s time to make a plan to go. It is the ultimate in tough love and frees your child to behave like the responsible adult they have the potential to be. For more in-depth help on the how-to, here are some resources:

Slouching Toward Adulthood:  How to let go so your kids can grow up, by Sally Kowlow

How To Stop Enabling:  When Our Grown Children Disappoint Us, a thorough round up of articles and books

The Enabler:  When helping hurts the ones you love, by Angelyn Miller

Realize you may feel worse before you feel better.¬†When you are asked to imagine your favorite dessert, you conjure up an image of an incredibly delectable dish. Conversely, when you think about how the conversation will go, you imagine the worst about what will happen to your relationship and for your son or daughter’s future. Generally, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Your situation likely has taken years to evolve, and you have been a party to prolonging it.

It’s time to draw that line in the sand.

The kids know what is appropriate, but they will push the boundaries just like they did when they were 2, and 7, and 12 and 16 years old.

Be the adult in the room and the loving parent you were designed to be and provide the guidance and wisdom and boundaries your children need so that your marital and family relationships can mend.

My husband and I have walked this path in addition to helping a single mom get the ball rolling, and I know you can do it, too!

Comment: What is your opinion on enabling your children?

Apr 06

Make Better Purchasing Decisions with the Power of 10-10-10

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

make better purchasing decisions with the power of 10-10-10Every so often you hear or read about an idea so simple and useful that you automatically add it to your life “toolbox”:

Using the 3 Door Rule for more peace of mind in a situation

Implementing the¬†Five Why’s¬†to get to the bottom of an issue

Remembering¬†there’s a pony in there somewhere¬†when the going gets difficult.

Last fall I read the book 10-10-10: 10 Minutes, 10 Months, 10 Years, A Life-Transforming Idea, by Suzy Welch, and my entire family picked up another powerful tool that changed the way we make decisions in all areas of our lives.

The concept is to make decisions by deliberately considering their consequences in the immediate present, near term, and distant future.

It is a reliable and methodical way to arrive at a sound decision that really works, yet takes into consideration your emotions, feelings, and values.

Here’s how to make better purchasing decisions with the power of 10-10-10

Begin with a question.¬†You’ll want to define and refine this so you know exactly what problem you want to fix.

Recently I had had it with our side-by-side refrigerator. It came with the house¬†we bought¬†last year and runs just fine, but it doesn’t hold much, particularly in the freezer section. I began to dream about a shiny new French door model, and actually shopped a bit with my husband, but then caught myself. What problem was I trying to solve?

After doing some brainstorming, I realized the problem was more about my irritation and dislike of side-by-sides because I have to be more careful about how much I purchase or cook so I do have room to store it.

The question then became this: Can we buy a refrigerator we’ll love, that will meet our needs, that is within our budget?

Move onto the information collection to determine options.

For us, that meant figuring out what our optimum storage needs would be and gathering information on pricing. It also meant looking at buying used, as well as what it meant to keep our existing fridge.

Determine the short and long term effect of each option.

This is where the 10-10-10 comes in. The first 10 is the present and could represent today, tomorrow, next week.

The second is that point in the foreseeable future when the initial reaction to your decision has passed but its consequences continue to play out in ways you can reasonably predict. This could be 10 days, 13 weeks, 8 months, depending on your situation.

The final 10 is quite a distance out‚ÄĒso you’ll estimate the effects in more vague terms.

We determined the effects of our options thusly:

The present: We’d have an awesome new fridge that went way over budget, or we’d buy a used one and stay under budget, or we’d keep the one we have until it dies. We’d have plenty of space for storage if we bought something different.

Near future: In about a year, the effect is still the same, although each passing year means the existing unit could stop working. If we bought new, we may really need that money we had to take out of another part of the budget to cover the shortfall in the refrigerator budget, and that might create some hardship.

Future: In five years, we wonder how our need for storage may change, especially since we’ve had closer to three to four persons living here most of the time rather than just the two of us. Also, we’d like to remodel the kitchen and realize the plan would have to work around the newer refrigerator. If we wait, we can save more money and buy what we want and need, assuming the existing unit lasts. That’s a calculated risk we’re willing to take.

Analyze the information alongside your values

Once we started to analyze the effects in concert with our values, the decision was incredibly easy to make.

Living within a budget has given us so much more peace of mind and freedom than we used to have because we are not spending endlessly and mindlessly.

We deeply value our debt freedom, our commitment to be wiser with our finances, and to be great role models for our family.

I wanted a new refrigerator, I did not need a new refrigerator.

We already owned a good used refrigerator, so we decided buying another used one at this time was silly.

We weren’t willing to buy a new refrigerator unless we loved it and it met our current and potential future needs, and we couldn’t do that in the budget we had.

So, the old refrigerator still hums along in the kitchen, but I don’t hate it anymore.

I love that it runs the way it should so that we can continue to save towards a different one down the road.

Sound decisions create a life you love and can live with

When you make your decisions using this process, you will come away with a solution that really works and with which you are really comfortable.

Every time each of us uses 10-10-10, we are thrilled with how it slows the adrenaline rush to buy just enough so you can make a decision that works for today and for your future.

Once you start using 10-10-10, you’ll discover it can be applied in all areas of your life including work, friend and family relationships and responsibilities, marriage and parenting, and finances, and eventually becomes an automatic part of your decision making process.

I highly recommend reading the book for more information and insight!

Comment: What decision can 10-10-10 help you make today?

Mar 02

12 Surprising Takeaways from our Debt Freedom Journey

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

12 surprising takeaways from our debt freedom journeyMy husband and I were Ostriches.

You know the breed: Not exceptionally self-aware, since when they feel threatened they will try to flatten their nine foot tall, 350 pound bodies against the ground in an effort to become invisible.

Assuming that move fails, they can run like the wind from predators at sustained speeds of over 30 mph. Contrary to popular belief, however, they don’t stick their heads in the ground.

When they are doing their¬†I’m invisible!¬†routine, their bodies are so large, that their heads appear to be buried.

Yes, that pretty much described us.

Thankfully, we have undergone a metamorphosis, much like a caterpillar into a butterfly, except we transformed from large, ungainly, birds that hide from financial trouble into gazelles.

With our transformation into intentional spenders, savers and givers very much in our rear view mirror, we were chatting recently about the surprises we encountered along the way.

Here’s our list of¬†12 surprising takeaways from our debt freedom journey.

1. We didn’t know we were ostriches.¬†It seemed there was plenty of money in the checkbook every week, so how could there be a problem? Besides,¬†budgeting¬†was like taking cod liver oil. Yuck.

2. Budgets can be fun.¬†Yes, fun and satisfying. It’s a lot like coming around to loving exercise because you love the results.

Which Budgeting Software Is Best for Busy Couples?

If you're looking to get started or revamp your budget so you can become debt-free, be sure to check out You Need A Budget.

We LOVE it and it really does make budgeting fun!

3. We are both more nerdy than we ever realized. I really dislike math and never liked balancing my checkbook. But, we are list lovers. Drawing up a budget is creating a different type of list that notes where we choose to have our money go.

4. Our discussions about money got more difficult at first. We were always on the same page financially because we always spent pretty much what we wanted. When we started budgeting, we had to start saying no to some things so we could say yes to others.

5. The process gets you communicating in ways you never have before. See #4. This is truly hard if you are conflict averse, but this communication is critical to the health of your relationship.

6. Your invisible scripts about money and marriage will bubble to the surface. See #4 and #5. Beliefs on earnings, priorities, goals, rewards, etc, that you may not have known you have will create questions that must be answered and agreements that need to be reached.

7. You really do feel more hopeful the further along you go.¬†But first, there’s the abject terror when you experience a big life event, like an accident, job loss, or a pregnancy, and realize your finances are not up to the challenge.

8. You will backslide, especially once you become debt free.¬†We were warned about¬†becoming complacent, and we fell off the wagon anyway. Not in a big way, but enough so our budgeting‚ÄĒif you can even call it that‚ÄĒgot sloppy and even non-existent. Once we realized what we’d been doing, we got back on track and started moving forward again.

9. You can change in ways you never thought possible. If you had told me that I would love creating and living within monthly budgets, I would have had you committed. Turns out you would have been right.

10. There is an easy to follow process to get your debt freedom train rolling.¬†Often times, even if you are aware you need to change, you are stumped by not knowing how. We used Dave Ramsey’s¬†Baby Steps,¬†as did¬†Dustin, and he details them¬†here¬†on the site.

11. You are role modeling terrific money management behavior for your children.¬†One of the greatest gifts you’ve given yourself you are now able to pass on to your children so they will be wise money managers.

12. You will have so many more opportunities and so much more freedom.¬†When you aren’t bound by debt, you can make choices to move to a job you like better, to be a stay at home mom, or move to a different part of the country, for example. You can also give more generously if that is on your list of desires.

You, too, can make the transformation, just as we and so many thousands of others have done.

Yes, there will be difficulties to iron out, conflicts to settle, conversations to be held, and mountains to climb, and maybe even climb again when you tumble backwards. 

I have no doubt you will experience surprise, delight, frustration, hope, and so much more.

Trust me, though, when I say that it will be well worth it!

Which Budgeting Software Is Best for Busy Couples?

If you're looking to get started or revamp your budget so you can become debt-free, be sure to check out You Need A Budget.

We LOVE it and it really does make budgeting fun!

Feb 02

What’s in your wallet?

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

whats in your walletThe question in the headline may bring to mind ads full of burly, weapon-waving Vikings in all sorts of amusing modern situations.

However, the question¬†What’s in your wallet?¬†is a serious one because it will determine your ability to think outside the box when you and your spouse have set your sights on a purchase.

You don’t necessarily need cash to do the deed, and especially if you’re working on dumping your debt, you know you don’t use¬†credit cards, either.

You can use the other currency in your wallet, though: time, talent, and treasure.

Especially treasure.

Like a Vitamix, for instance.

The resources of time and talent

These are the resources that¬†most¬†couples¬†reach for to generate more cash so they can buy what they’ve set their sights on.

You might spend your time and take on a second job.

If you’ve honed your¬†talent¬†over the years‚ÄĒyour marketable skills and abilities‚ÄĒyou might ask for and receive a raise, move to a higher paying position, or you can freelance.

But there is one more oft overlooked source of revenue.

The resource of treasure

Treasure, in this instance, is anything you own that you no longer need or want.

In some cases, it may also be something you still enjoy, but you’ve decided there’s something you want or need more.

For instance, friends of ours were redoing their kitchen and needed some appliances.

They knew there were deals to be had on Craigslist, so that’s where they headed with their treasure.

Will you take a Vitamix?

I’ll let my friends tell their story, which I’ve edited just a bit.

I had a Vitamix that was given to me and collecting dust on my countertop. I happened to be searching for an appliance set on Craigslist. I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found an ad for a much desired convection oven with the option to swap for a Vitamix blender. What luck! I replied right away, but didn’t hear back. We needed appliances ASAP for the house we were moving into. I continued searching and found a GREAT set of matching appliances for a GREAT deal. We had to take everything, including appliances we didn’t need, but we didn’t mind.

We borrowed a friend’s box truck, tossed in the Vitamix just in case, and drove the hour and a half to the nearby city. We loaded the appliances. I was a little bummed the set didn’t have a convection oven, but it was still a great deal without it. Just then the other person called me, very excited about trading for the Vitamix. We headed over to other side of the city, made our swap, and headed home with our finds: a matching set of stainless steel oven, microwave, dishwasher and refrigerator, an older model washer and dryer, and my beautiful convection oven.

Our cost? $500, plus the Vitamix.

But we weren’t done making deals.

A friend of ours was looking for appliances for an apartment, so we offered him our extras. He named a fair price of $400 for the nearly new refrigerator and oven, which we accepted. Then we sold the washer and dryer for $50.

The final cash outlay, after all of our wheeling and dealing: just $100

We now owned a “new” stainless steel dishwasher, microwave, and convection oven‚ÄĒwith the nice glass top I wanted ūüôā ‚ÄĒmaking them just $33.33 each.

This couple looked in their wallet, and in addition to their money, they saw the Vitamix.

At the end of the day, not only did they get what they wanted at a terrific price, but they also got to do a teensy bit of decluttering by letting go of the blender.

The next time you get ready to make a purchase, step back and take a moment to asses your situation, and remember to ask yourself that very important question:

What’s in your wallet?

Comment: How have you used time, talent, or treasure to obtain something you wanted?

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