Category Archives for "Finances & Careers"

Jun 13

Build Your Emergency Fund: 5 Ways to Save on Bills

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Build Your Emergency Fund - 5 Ways to Save on BillsHow much cash do you have in the bank?

Could you and your spouse survive a financial crisis?

Many couples recognize the importance of building a savings account but can’t put money aside because of their financial obligations.

There is no escaping personal obligations, as bills are a part of life. However, there are ways to lower how much you pay in household bills.

If you can reduce your expenses by as little as 10% a month, this frees up cash for increasing your nest egg.

Here are five ways to stop spending so much and increase your savings.

Re-Evaluate Your Housing

What percentage of your income do you currently spend on housing? Thirty-percent? Fifty-percent?

Housing is a big expense, however financial experts recommend keeping house payments at 30 percent of your income or less. Calculate your housing ratio by dividing your monthly house payment by your gross monthly income.

For example, if you gross $4,000 a month and you pay $1,200 in mortgage or rent, your monthly housing ratio is 30%.

How Much Do You Pay for T.V. Services?

Ordering the best cable package increases your T.V. and movie options, but it doesn’t benefit your pocket.

Lower your cable package – or get rid of the service altogether – and you can put money in savings each month. Not only will you save money, but you’ll waste less time.

This is perfect for spending quality time with your family or discovering a hobby.

Reduce Energy Use

Maybe your electricity bill is your next biggest expense. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce energy consumption and lower your monthly bills.

Getting cheaper rates on utilities from Direct Energy can save you money each month. Additionally, working with your family to use less electricity helps. For example, teach kids to turn off lights and electronics when they leave a room.

You might use LED lighting, or choose energy-efficient appliances for your home. These efforts combined with other energy savings techniques can noticeably decrease your bills.

Ask for a Lower Interest Rate

If you have a balance on your credit cards, and you’re paying more than 11% or 12% in interest, get on the phone and ask your credit card companies to lower your rate. This approach only works if you maintain a good payment history and credit history. Creditors aren’t obligated to lower your rate.

But if you can get your rates reduce, your creditors will charge less interest, thus making it possible for you to pay down balances faster.

Be Smart with Groceries

Reduce your grocery bill by half and put the extra cash in your savings account. Plan meals that require the same ingredients, thus reducing how much you have to purchase.

Secondly, clip coupons and shop on double coupon days to maximize your savings.

Maybe you haven’t had much success with saving in the past – but this can change. Modify your spending, look for ways to cut back, and you can build the cushion necessary to weather financial storms.

Apr 21

How to Keep Job Stress from Ruining Your Marriage

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

job stress and marriageNote: This is a guest post from Betsy Alvarez.

No doubt, a successful marriage requires a lot of hard work at times.

While getting married may seem simple, staying married can often be a challenge.

If you and your spouse want to spend the rest of your lives together, there are certainly things you can do to help your relationship remain healthy for many years to come.

Unfortunately, though, sometimes outside influences can cause trouble.

One outside influence that can majorly affect the health of a marriage is job-related stress.  If job-related stress is affecting your relationship, here are some things you can do to make sure your love remains strong during this trying time.

Leave Work At Work

One great way to stop job stress from affecting your home life is by leaving your work at the office.

Leaving your work at the office involves more than just not checking work email or doing work at home, though. It also involves forgetting about work as much as possible when you are spending time at home with your family.

Talk To Your Spouse

Great communication is one of the most important factors in a successful marriage.

If you are able to talk to your partner about anything, the two of you will have a healthier marriage. When work-related stress is causing friction in your marriage, make sure your spouse knows.

If you are lashing out at your significant other because of work stress, make sure he or she understands not to take it personally. Also, getting things off your chest by talking is a great way to alleviate stress.

Spend Time Together

Even if you have a job that requires 80 hours of work a week, make sure you always spend time with your spouse.

Even if it is something as simple as spending an hour a week at your favorite coffee shop, spending quality time together with your spouse can help stop work related stress from ruining your marriage.

Ask For Help

If you really want to stop job-related stress from ruining your marriage, you might need to ask for help.

From asking your boss to lessen your workload so you do not have to work so much overtime to seeking out the help of a counselor or psychiatrist, you never have to allow work-related stress to destroy your marriage.

While your job is important, your marriage is more important.

That’s why you need to find ways to help stop job stress from destroying your marriage. If you find that stress is negatively impacting your connection with your spouse, following these tips can help give you and your husband or wife a better relationship.

From spending time together to keeping the lines of communication open, there are effective ways to stop job related stress from ruining your relationship with your spouse.

I’d like to hear about your experiences with job stress – please share a comment below letting us know one tip you’ve found helpful for dealing with work-related stress in your marriage.

Betsy Alvarez writes about relationships and familial strategies – her recent work is about her journey earning an online family counseling degree.

Jan 10

5 Reasons You Need a Debt-Free Marriage

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

5 Reasons You Need a Debt-Free MarriageWhen I shared our family’s story of how we paid off $54,500 in debt, the response was overwhelmingly positive, and I heard from a lot of people who were in the process of shedding their debt (or at least wanted to get started).

However, the reasons that I heard for becoming debt-free were mostly focused on the usual, more material motivations.

It seems that most people dream of paying off their debts to reclaim more freedom in their financial life.

The idea of getting creditors off their back and having more of their income to save or buy things to improve their quality of life is very appealing.  Honestly, that was a big part of why my wife and I decided we wanted to become debt free, and we achieved that goal (other than our home mortgage) three years ago.

I think the purely financial benefits are pretty clear and widely written about.

Instead, I want to share with you some of the awesome marriage benefits that a debt-free lifestyle provides.  While they weren’t our original motivation, our experiences in these areas have really grown our passion for getting (and staying) debt free.

5 Fantastic Benefits of a Debt-Free Marriage

1. Contentment

A funny thing happens when you get control of your money – you cling to it less.  With financial freedom comes a renewed focus on the things that really matter in life.  And when your values are in the right place, you depend much less on “stuff” and the false happiness that comes with it.

2. Communication

If you are married and you want to make substantial changes to your financial situation, you will need to talk…a lot.  The process of getting out of debt will require a real intimacy with your spouse and a deepening of the trust between you.  The spirit of teamwork you develop on your financial journey together carries over to other areas of your marriage as well.

3. Courage

If you have a lot of debt to pay off and/or you are already on a tight budget, achieving debt freedom will be a significant accomplishment.  When you meet a major goal, it fuels your faith in yourself and your ability to work alongside your spouse.  And it fills your relationship with the courage to face any challenge.

4. Change (for your whole family)

When you decide to shed your payments, you are breaking a cycle that most of us have witnessed throughout our lives, and you are setting a new example for your own kids.  With a solid financial plan, you’ll actually have resources available to help with your children’s future, retire with dignity and have the freedom of time to spend more with your family.

Personally, the best benefit that we’ve experienced since paying off our consumer debt is an increased ability and desire to give.  When we are generous with the gifts we’ve been given, we can change not only our own family tree but a little piece of the world as well.

5. Comfort

I will be the first to say that money doesn’t solve all of your problems, and no one should expect that debt freedom somehow brings instant happiness.  However, we certainly do sleep a little better at night knowing that we owe no one (other than our mortgage company ) and we have a healthy emergency fund in the bank.  This feeling of security and comfort is what financial peace is all about.

Debt Freedom Sounds Great, But How?

There are many great resources available to learn the mechanics of getting out of debt.  For us, it was Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps alongside a solid budget that provided the game plan we needed.  I would encourage anyone interested in paying off debt and building a solid financial plan to pick up Dave Ramsey’s very popular book The Total Money Makeover.

Establishing a game plan and garnering motivation from these resources is great.  However, I have to say that we have discovered the real key to becoming and remaining debt free: mindset.

You have to believe that it is possible.  And you have to want it.  Bad.

Read the five benefits above again, and talk to your spouse about them. If you have debt, take some time to discuss what would be different in your life if you paid everything off.  Only you can decide if financial freedom and going against cultural norms is worth it for your family.

How bad do YOU want it?

(photo source)
Nov 17

Is Your Marriage Ready for a Financial Emergency?

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Is Your Marriage Ready for a Financial Emergency?With all the emergencies in the news lately – both from natural disasters and economic problems – the thought of a financial crisis within your own home may have come to mind.

The best time to prepare was yesterday, but the next best time to get started is today.

So, what stands between your family and major financial trouble?

Hopefully, it’s not just a credit card or a home equity line.

Trust me, we know it can be tough to “get ahead” enough to think about opening a bank account and putting away money specifically for an emergency.

But it’s vital that we prepare for those inevitable rocky times that lay ahead. After you get an emergency fund in place, you’ll be ready to face those costly home repairs, unexpected medical bills and periods of unemployment.

You won’t like it when an emergency strikes, but you’ll be prepared and ready to cover the financial impacts without resorting to debt.

How Much Should We Save?

As a general rule, most families should have approximately 3-6 months worth of expenses in an emergency fund.

It’s important to understand that this not 3-6 months of income, and it’s not inclusive of all the money you spend in a typical, non-emergency month.

To calculate an appropriate amount, go through your budget and decide on a line-by-line basis whether each expense is something that you’d need to cover if you were faced with unemployment. Once you have that monthly “bare-bones budget” amount, multiply it by a factor of 3-6 and you have your goal.

The 3-6 month time-frame will allow most people to regain meaningful employment if they are faced with a job loss. While unemployment isn’t the only potential emergency out there, it’s certainly a relevant threat for most people and this amount of savings will also cover most reasonable “expense” emergencies that you may face.

So, should you save 3 months, 6 months or something in between? Well, your personal amount should be based on your exposure to risk as well as your risk tolerance.

If you have two stable jobs and a fairly “calm” life with little volatility in your expenses, then 3 months is probably sufficient as long as that amount makes you comfortable.

On the other hand, if you are a one-income family with lots of little kids around and you feel like trouble is always lurking, you should shoot for 6 months of expenses. At the end of the day, it’s a judgment call.

When Should We Use It?

Once you have a nice emergency fund stashed away, you may wonder just when you are supposed to take money out of it. Well, you don’t want to tap into your emergency money unless you have an actual emergency that you couldn’t foresee.

For example, regular home maintenance should be part of your budget and not something you need to take from your emergency fund to pay for. And you know your car insurance is due each year, so that’s not a good use of these funds.

On the other hand, you can’t plan for a broken leg or a job loss, so when you have a true emergency, tap into your account and feel good that you are prepared.

Once you get your full emergency fund in place, you’ll probably want to move onto investing, paying off your mortgage and meeting some other financial goals.

If (or when) you do encounter trouble and you have to take money from your account, you’ll need to pause these other goals temporarily and redirect your “extra” money each month back into building your emergency fund until it’s back to your comfortable level.

If you’d like more information on building an emergency fund or the several other financial planning steps we recommend before you get started, please check out our full Married Money Management series.

It won’t be easy, but the feeling of security and freedom that you’ll get by building an emergency fund will bring new levels of peace to your marriage.

Nov 13

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Questions to Ask Before Buying a HomeIt wasn’t long ago that buying a home seemed like a no-brainer for every married couple.

However, times have changed a bit with the housing crisis and the economic woes of the last several years.

That said, home ownership still makes sense for many couples, and it remains one of the most important financial decisions you’ll make in your marriage.

If you’re considering buying your first home, upgrading or relocating, you have a lot of items to consider.  We’d suggest starting with these five questions:

How Long Do We Plan to Live Here?

This is probably the most important question you and your spouse should ask each other.

You may run into some financial issues if you buy your dream home and then a new job or other extenuating circumstances force you to move.

You could end up paying money to sell your home for a number of reasons. The value of your home may not have appreciated enough to cover the costs that you paid to buy it and the amount it will cost you to put it on the market.

On average, it takes about three or four years to cover buying and selling costs. However, this number may vary depending on economic factors and your geographic location.

Can you afford it?

Make sure to examine your financial situation, including your credit score, and make a prudent decision about whether it’s the right time for you to buy a home.

As a general rule, you should have saved at least three to five percent of the purchase price of your home as a down payment. Remember, the bigger the down payment, the better the interest rate.

Also, do you have a stable job? Obviously, you will need a consistent paycheck to make your mortgage payments. If you move cities or divorce, you could lose big on your investment – even if you’re able to sell the house.

It’s also important to pay attention to the interest rates and the condition of the real estate market in your area.

What do you need in a home?

Before you decide to buy a home, you need to evaluate your current and future needs.

Will they change? Do you plan to have children? Will the home be suitable for a growing family? These are all important questions to ponder.

One thing you should always invest in is a home security system if your home doesn’t already have one. ADT offers 24/7 home monitoring for a very affordable price. Check out Homesecuritysystems.com to learn more about home security.

Can you handle the responsibilities?

When you’re renting, the landlord typically takes care of all the necessary maintenance. Contrarily, when you become a homeowner, you’ll be responsible for things like plumbing problems and lawn care.

Is this something you’re prepared to deal with?

How is the neighborhood?

Before considering a home, do some digging into the neighborhood to make sure it’s right for you and your family. Visit at different times of the day, talk to people in the community and research the crime statistics in the area.

If you have or plan on having young children, it’s critical that you look into the schools as well.  Not only will they impact your family’s education but the long-term value of your property.

Buying a home together is an exciting experience for a married couple.  Make sure you do your homework and discuss the right questions to make sure you’re prepared with all the joys (and challenges) of home ownership.

Dan Martin is a financial consultant with more than 20 years of experience in the real estate business. When he’s not giving advice about home buying, he enjoys hiking with his wife and boxer mix, Rex.

Oct 10

4 Financial Problems Every Couple Faces and How to Fix Them

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Whether you are fresh off your honeymoon or have been together for decades, financial problems have surely come up in your marriage.

In fact, numerous studies cite finances as the number one reason couples divorce. That said, it’s possible for a couple to work through concerns related to money and spending; it simply takes patience and a willingness to communicate.

The following are several financial issues you may encounter during your marriage, as well as simple hints for easing these problems.  As you’ll see, the solution always come back to healthy communication.

Joint Account vs. Individual Accounts

The question as to whether to merge your finances may very well be one of the first you face as a married couple.

One system is not inherently better than the other; it all depends on your overall approach to marriage. These days, many couples are opting for a middle ground approach, with both spouses keeping some money in individual accounts and also saving a certain amount in a joint account. Later on in your relationship, it may be easier to merge everything into a joint account, but this is not a necessity right off the bat.

Note: For much more on this topic, be sure to check out Dustin’s article – Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts?

Shopping Habits

Are you an impulse shopper or a spendthrift? How about your partner?

If the two of you have completely different approaches to shopping, you may be in for a few nasty arguments. In many marriages, one partner is labeled the spender and the other is labeled the saver.

However, in most cases, this arrangement is not based on the facts. Studies suggest that men and women spend the same amount of money on average; they simply spend their money on different things.

As a couple, you should sit down together and draft a budget, recognizing the fact that one partner’s spending habits are not necessarily superior to the other’s.

If you need help setting a budget that works for both of you, check out this post for a step-by-step guide.

Handling Debt

SmartMoney survey found debt to be the most contentious financial issue a couple will face. Arguments might arise as to the amount of debt a couple is willing to take out in order to pay for a home or a car. Worse yet, one spouse may enter the marriage with absolutely no debt while the other carries a load that seems unmanageable.

Blaming each other for debt will only lead to more problems. Regardless of whether one spouse entered the marriage with debt, you now need to think of it as a joint debt load and figure out how you’ll pay it off together.

Planning for Emergencies

Couples may argue about whether saving money for a rainy day fund is worth it. Hopefully, the stagnant economy has taught you that saving is definitely worthwhile.

How you save and how much you save may present more of a problem. Should the money go into the bank, into real estate or in stocks? These questions may best be resolved with the help of a financial planner, but you can get some tips on setting up an effective emergency fund here as well.

In the end, your relationship can survive and even thrive in the face of these common financial problems – if you and your partner are able to keep an open mind.

Discuss any issues in a civil manner and don’t be afraid to seek help from a financial counselor when necessary.  Above all, talk about it!

About the author: Zach Buckley is a freelance writer based in the Midwest. He enjoys exploring developing trends in education, technology and culture.  When he isn’t reading or writing blogs, he enjoys sampling good music and good food. Follow him on Twitter! @Zach_buckley


Sep 28

7 Simple Steps to Financial Success in Your Marriage

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Money MarriageThere are certainly many issues that impact the quality of our marriages.  But if I had to pick the top one, especially in recent years, I would choose money.

It’s said that money fights and financial problems are the top reason for divorce, and that seems likely since it touches most areas of our lives.

But I don’t think we should focus on the negative aspects of managing our finances.  With the right plan, your finances can be a source of comfort within your marriage, and the managing of your money really can bring you much closer together in your relationship.

Money handled properly in marriage can be a source of amazing intimacy. (click to tweet)

That is not to say that money is the center of life or that managing the family finances must be a heavy burden. In fact, financial success is really just a matter of making good choices consistently. And do you wanna know the best path toward achieving your financial goals?

Keep it simple.

Really. In a world dominated by consumerism, credit card commercials and crazy derivative stock options, you will be well-served to take a deep breath and consider what you really want from life.  I’m willing to bet that your true priorities fall close to home and close to your heart.

If so, I have some advice that I trust you will value. This isn’t earth-shattering and it’s really not original. In fact, it is the same advice we have heard from our grandmothers our entire lives.

It’s not complicated, but it sure is effective.

Seven Simple Steps for Financial Success

1. Build a basic budget…together.

OK, so maybe you hate idea of having a budget and counting every penny. Honestly, I don’t care how detailed and meticulous you want to be with this. In fact, simple is better.

The two key components of a meaningful family budget are: (1) to proactively plan ahead for how you will spend your money and (2) to create it with your spouse. And the real beauty lies in the latter.

You and your spouse must create your budget together and you must agree to follow the same budget, pinkie-swear and spit-shake. When you take this approach, a budget can become a surprisingly valuable tool in your marriage. Real communication is needed to formulate a plan, and real trust is developed when you both stick to it out of respect for your spouse.

Click here to learn exactly how to create a great budget that will serve your marriage well.

2. Work together from a single account.

Do you and your spouse operate with separate checking accounts or a “yours, mine and ours” approach to your family finances?

I would strongly encourage you to consider simplifying your life by consolidating everything into a single checking account. Not only will it be easier to keep track of, but you will benefit by shifting your mindset to one of unity with your money.

As a bonus, you can expect that the openness and communication required to make a single account a success will carry over and enhance other aspects of your married life.

I’m aware that this suggestions come with a crazy amount of controversy.  You can read my thoughts along with over 120 other comments on the topic right here.

3. Eliminate your debt.

None of us enjoy sending out those payments to the bank, car finance company or student loan office each month, right? In fact, I think we can all agree that it sucks to have your income spoken for by debt payments before you even receive a paycheck. So, if we all hate the payments, why do so many families have them?

It’s a matter of mindset. If you feel like you’ll never have anything of value without an accompanying payment book, you’re probably right.

However, if you are fed up with being normal (i.e., deeply in debt), you can shed the debt and achieve financial freedom. You set the priorities, and you make the decisions that will allow you to dumb the debt.

Bethany and I paid off over $54,000 in debt in around three years, and I can tell you that it’s not easy but it is worth it. And the lack of payments really simplifies your financial life.

4. Stick with simple (and effective) investments.

As a rule, if you don’t fully understand something, you should not invest in it. If you chase the latest hot trend and buy what everyone is recommending, you are almost assuring yourself of poor returns. Keep in mind that if thousands of highly-paid professionals spending their entire lives studying the market cannot beat it, neither can you.

Instead, take a simple approach and focus your investing in areas with a long track record of success. Personally, I think it is tough to beat a diversified mix of index mutual funds for retirement investing. They are not sexy or flashy. But they are very effective, low in cost and easy to understand.

That’s a formula for long-term success.

5. Enjoy the simple things in life. Live within your means.

At the end of the day, it really does come back to living on less than you make. I hope you make a lot of money and love what you do to earn it. However, the critical point here is that you really don’t need a ton of money to be financially successful.

The key is contentment. Quit placing your value in material things and trying to maintain a high-cost lifestyle. When you learn to appreciate your family and value the simple pleasures in life, your need to impress the neighbors really does start to fade.

Life is all about the simple things.

6. Pass it on.

In my opinion, the best part of simplifying your financial life and finding contentment with your lifestyle is the impact it has on your relationship with your spouse and the example it sets for your kids. When you break the cycle of debt dependence and fights about money, you set the stage for financial success for generations to come.

You literally have the ability to change the future shape of your family tree.

7. Keep Learning & Stay Inspired

There are certain milestones that you will love to celebrate in your financial journey (can I hear a “heck yeah” for paying off your last debt?).  You should cherish them and never look back after hitting these key moments.

But you’ll be dealing with money in your marriage for the rest of your life, so I’d encourage you to continue to seek more knowledge and to stay motivated to accomplish great things for your family.  To get you started, I’ve created a simple collection of the best advice we have to share on the topics of money, careers and debt freedom.

Were these suggestions brilliant, original and completely unexpected? Of course not. I’d venture to guess that you knew these things, but you may not be living them. The key is to take action.

Simplify your financial life and invite new success with your money and, most importantly, your marriage.

How do you feel about these suggestions? Where can you improve your finances by taking a simpler approach?

(Photo by alancleaver_2000)
Aug 22

Back to School Time! How to Save Money & Have Happier Kids

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Did you know that this time of year is sometimes called “the second New Year”?

In the fitness industry, September is second only to January in new gym memberships.  If you follow many blogs, you’ll start to see more posts on goal-setting.  We’ve seen an influx of new folks signing up for the free Marriage Time newsletter to renew their focus on living a great married life.

So, what’s the big deal about late August/early September?  Well, in addition to closing in on a new season, it’s Back to School time for many of us!

If you have kids, that could mean some big changes around your household and your schedule.  Or you might be returning to college or back to the classroom in you’re a teacher.  Even if you aren’t impacted directly, you can probably sense the fresh start vibe around you.

Save Some Money & Have a Healthier Family

I don’t know about you, but our (insanely HOT) summer was full of barbeques and more meals out than I care to admit, and void of a lot of structure around meals – especially lunchtime.

Of course, back to school means we have to start planning lunches for our children, and it’s a great time of year to start making healthier choices for our own meals.  Hopefully, it also means getting back on a schedule that allows you to share dinner time with your entire family.

Enjoying wholesome, fun food together is a great way to enhance our relationships, and getting our kids going with nutritious food is one of the best things we can do to set them up for success.

Make It REALLY Easy

I know all of this talk about healthier eating, enjoying dinner together, and trying new foods sound great, but it’s tough, right?

You have to plan ahead, shop for foods you don’t usually buy and have the creativity to put together new meals.

You already have enough going on without that!

Well, I’m excited to let you know that one of my favorite companies – Emeals – has just added LUNCH MENUS to their offerings.  Woo hoo!

If you aren’t familiar with Emeals, please read this post to learn how we save $317 each month on our food bill using their service.  Seriously – and it saves up time and helps us lose weight in the process.  Good stuff.

Until now, they only provided plans for dinner, but now anyone who subscribes to the dinner planning service can add lunch menus for $4 a month.  You will absolutely save more than $4 using their service – you’d probably save that in ONE meal, let alone 20+ lunch ideas each month.

Save Big Right Now

LIMITED TIME OFFER: To celebrate their new lunch menu service, Emeals is currently offering 20% off any new subscriptions and the lunch menu.  Just get signed up and enter the coupon code “LUNCH” at checkout.

While you’re checking out the Emeals site, be sure to grab their free lunch plans for Turkey Pinwheels and the Peanut Butter Bagel sandwich. Oh, and all subscriptions also include their Back to School Survival Kit free of charge.

Our family loves Emeals (we just enjoyed a Coconut Chicken dish last night – awesome), and Engaged Marriage is proud to endorse their great service!

Any questions?  Check out the video below or just let me know in the comments.  Enjoy!

Jul 26

Marriage Lessons From The Road

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

“You’re crazy.”

Pete and I have heard that more in the past three years than ever before. And we can’t entirely deny its truth.

“You quit your jobs and sold everything you own to travel? You’re crazy.” Yes, we realize that this is not a normal thing to do.

“You live on whatever you fit in those backpacks? You’re crazy.” Smelly and wrinkled some days, yes. So perhaps a little crazy.

“You spend 24/7 with each other? You’re crazy.”

Whoa, hold the phone on that one.

Sure, the adjustment was tough. We went from being independent corporate climbers who worked long hours apart to spending every minute of every day together, learning to live with each other’s eccentric (and often annoying) habits.

Old roles were also thrown out the window – no more splitting who mows the lawn or takes the car in for an oil change, instead we had to settle on who would do the research for our next destination and who would write the latest blog post. For the first few months, it was quite painful and hard on us, and it all took place in the middle of a foreign country where comforts were few.

Fast forward almost three years. We are no longer just co-existing spouses, we are a part of each other, important appendages even. Compacted time together means it feels like we have been married twenty years instead of ten. We have become a fairly well oiled machine in travel, in business after pursuing Incorporation Canada, and even in our relationship.

We’ve learned some important lessons about marriage – things we wish we would have known at the start of our travels, or even day one after our wedding.

Marriage Lessons from the Road

  • Keep some space and independence.

In the first few months of travel, this was the hardest thing to realize. Little annoyances brewed into big fights, when in reality just stepping away from the situation to clear our minds would have been the best solution. We have since learned to ask for time apart if we need it, and to not judge each other when it is asked for. Space and time alone always provides a new perspective.

  • Respect each other’s limits, but don’t limit each other.

As we worked our way from south to north in Colombia, Pete talked repeatedly about wanting to do the trek to La Ciudad Perdida – a lost city of the Tayrona people that required five days in the remote jungle. However, sleeping in hammocks and hiking with jungle creatures is not my idea of a good time. Rather than one of us having to compromise on this fork in the road, I ended up beach-side on my own for five days while Pete encountered scorpions and hiked in heavy humidity, and we were both happy.

  • Give gifts of experience.

For the past three years, anniversaries, birthdays and other momentous occasions are marked with new experiences, not material goods. Granted, our limited backpack space doesn’t allow for new “things” anyway, but we’ve really learned how to make special days even more memorable. I can tell you exactly what I did for my thirty-fourth birthday in Peru (took a small plane ride over ancient ruins), but ask me what I got for my twenty-ninth when still cozy at home…I couldn’t tell you.

  • Keep the romance alive, even when it’s difficult.

Most recently we’ve been in Turkey for three months, a Muslim country where public displays of affection are taboo (except in the more touristy areas). Well aware of how awkward it would be to land a smooch on one another in a public place, we instead starting tapping each other’s shoe when we felt the urge. Once we got over the fact that our loafers were getting pretty scuffed up, we were pleased to have our own little ritual in place to show affection.

So, are we indeed crazy?

Each morning we wake up and are excited to see what the day will bring.

We are constantly introduced to new cultures, amazing scenery, food that tastes like nothing at home, all the while facing the same challenges all marriages do.  But this lifestyle has allowed us to constantly grow and understand each other unlike any other situation we’ve been in before.

It has been the best thing we’ve ever done for our marriage. And for that reason, we really don’t think we’re that crazy at all.

What do you think?  Could you be with your spouse 24/7 and love it?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Dalene and Pete Heck are a Canadian couple who sold everything in 2009 to travel the world. They have since been to twenty-six countries together and have no plans to stop.

Follow their journey…

http://www.hecktictravels.com

On facebook  http://www.facebook.com/hecktictravels

On twitter: @hecktictravels

May 31

Arguing About Family Income and Chores

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Note: This guest post is from Marina Salsbury.

It takes hard work to care for and support a family in and out of the home.

With an ever increasing number of women flourishing in the workforce, the traditional family structure of rigidly defined gender roles has given way to a more equal participation of men and women in all areas of family life.

While liberating both sexes from prescribed societal norms, it has become fertile ground for arguments about contributions to the family unit.

The empathy gained from this shift combined with a common measurement for valuing contributions can be the deciding factors in a successful and long-lasting marriage.

In the last twenty-five years an increasing number of women have not only entered the workforce, but have earned more money than their husbands, forever altering the traditional family dynamic.

Wives Earn More Than Their Husbands

Thirty-three percent of all married couples in 2006 saw the wife earn more than her husband. Furthermore, women are working in and studying degrees (such as online MBA programs) traditionally saved for men.

This relatively new development has brought to light the difficulties in defining fairness when discussing perceived contributions to the family. Equitably comparing different aspects of family life, while difficult, has surely entered a new phase in human history.

The present construction of the modern family unit, where both men and women have had far more control over what role they will fill, has provided a far greater understanding concerning all aspects of family life.

Census Bureau statistics show the percentage of families with children under eighteen where women are the sole provider to be increasing. Gender roles have largely abolished themselves, relying more on the individual talents of couples to sort out what roles they need to fill.

Finding the Right Balance at Home

The simple fact of the matter is that there is a known quantity of work to be done to properly maintain a family.

Listing out work duties and chores succinctly, and the time it takes to complete them, is a crucial step to settling disputes that are ultimately about one member feeling treated unfairly.

In the case of two-income households, the amount of money brought in should really be a non-factor, since arbitrarily assigning worth equivalent to marketplace value is pointless. Time becomes the commodity used to define fairness because it is measured equally for both people.

In the end, arguments and differences of opinion are natural, regardless of how close a married couple think themselves.

Making sure fairness is achieved in contributions to the family relies on a combination of honesty and empathy. With the help of shifting gender roles in the modern family, this has never been more achievable.

As with any team, success depends on cultivating a sense of equality, and finding a common measurement for contributions, such as time, is the logical first step.

How about you – do you have traditional or non-traditional gender roles in your household?

Marina Salsbury planned on becoming a teacher since high school, but found her way instead into online writing after college. She currently writes on a variety of topics, but always seems to veer back to education-related articles.