Category: Marriage

Helpful marriage advice for those couples just starting out as newly weds. Let me walk you through what I have learned in the early years of being married. From ways to fight fair, how to keep things fresh, make tough decisions, and so much more. Join me on this journey, learn from my mistakes and get ideas from my successes. Then let me share with you my belief that love is a choice, not just a feeling, and how to continue to make that choice every day with your significant other. I am always looking for new ways to make my marriage creative, fun, and my favorite part of life. Finally, I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you!

How to Deal With Sibling Rivalry in Your Marriage

Another holiday has come and gone. With it, another disastrous holiday get together. As the years go by, this is becoming the new norm for us. You see, we have an in-law problems. Particularly, we have sibling in-law problems. But we have gotten very good at dealing with it. Today I would like to share with you how we deal with sibling rivalry in our marriage.

sibling rivalry

Understand its an attention thing.

Just like when you were kids, every sibling wants to look better in mom and dad’s eyes. I grew up the middle child of seven, now thats some sibling competition. But my husband grew up as the older of two. Turns out his sibling situation is worse.

Everything was great the first four years my husband and I dated. We got along with his younger brother great. Any mild sibling rivalry stayed between the boys and didn’t extend into our relationship or our relationship with his parents (speaking of, I adore my mother and father in-law).

When his brother started dating a new girlfriend our fourth year together, we welcomed her like any past girlfriend he had. We weren’t particularly close with them, but we weren’t distant either. But everything quickly changed. Overnight there seemed to be an unannounced couple’s competition. They were engaged within 6 months, married less than a year later, and expecting their first child right after their first anniversary. We were happy for them. But at the same time we were at a completely different stage of our lives.

My husband’s parents have always been partial to both couples, staying neutral at all get togethers. But soon every time we all got together it was an announcement of what his bother and sister in-law were doing better than the rest of us. It became clear early on that attention was what they desired.

Sometimes you have to live your own life.

I LOVE family. Coming from a large one, I enjoy spending time with my siblings, parents, cousins, and so forth. BUT, I also enjoy my hobbies, my career, and my friends. It was great to find a husband just like me. We both enjoy time with our families when we can get it. However, we are at that stage of our lives where we fit in family time where we can.

My siblings and siblings in-law seem to understand where we are in our lives. Maybe its because I come from a bigger family, but it makes it easy. With my husband’s brother, it wasn’t as easy. It was clear that their expectations of what they wanted us to be and our expectations of what we were going to be were at opposite ends of the spectrum. We didn’t have time to be the doting aunt and uncle who spoiled the niece and nephew every weekend.

Our sister in-law was very outspoken and aggressive about what she saw as our “lack of interest” in her family. It made family get togethers uncomfortable and full of conflict. It only got worse when they added another child. Doors were slammed, comments were made, dinners were walked out on. The whole time we would sit there like quiet church mice, neither defending ourselves or giving in.

We knew this couldn’t go on. We shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for living our own lives. So we decided we wouldn’t be. We started handling things differently. Here is how we turned around our sibling situation and moved on.

siblings

Dealing with the sibling rivalry in our marriage:

  • Its ok to be at a different place in your life. Just because your brother or sister is getting married and starting a family doesn’t mean that you have to be there too. Don’t apologize for this. Try explaining to your sibling or siblings “We are just at a different place in our lives that you are. Someday we will get there, but for now we will have to disagree”.
  • Discuss without blaming. Try having a discussion couple to couple. Do not use blame words. Instead, use “I” or “we” words. This is how “we” feel when we get together with you. Or this is how “we” feel when you say “x”. Keep the conversation civil. If the other side starts to blame, end the conversation by agreeing to disagree.
  • Don’t poke the bear! There were many times that I would have liked to have said not so nice things to my sister in-law. Like when she decided her husband would not be participating in our wedding. Or when she slammed the door because we didn’t personally say “hi” to her individually at a family dinner. I could have said lots of things. But this is what she wanted, the attention, so I ignored her instead.
  • Fake it till you make it, when you must. Family get togethers are not the place for drama. The two worst things you could do would be make a scene or not show up at all. Attend the events that you have to and do what you must to keep things civil. We attend the event, make social niceties, and then deliver our attention to our parents and the kids. This seems to keep everyone happy.
  • Do NOT take it out on the kids. We LOVE our nieces and nephews. I enjoy the little time that I get to play with them. The kids did not cause this, it is not their fault if their parents can’t get along with their aunts, uncles, and/or cousins. Make the memories with the kids, you won’t ever regret it.
  • Don’t pull others in. It is so easy to engage our parents or other relatives into the rivalry that seems to exist. Resist the urge. Discuss it with your husband but that is it. You will only make matters worse or add more fuel to the fire if you bring others in.
  • Know that it is ok to go your separate ways. Family is important in life. But it shouldn’t disrupt your life or add a significant amount of negativity to it. There may come a time when you choose instead to retain a certain degree of separation from certain relatives. This is ok. We eventually decided to go our separate ways with our siblings in-law. We see my husband’s brother’s family at the required Christmas and Easter dinners. But we do not go out of our way to create a relationship with them.

Moving on.

It took us a few years to get where we are now. Ending in-law rivalry doesn’t happen over night. But we are much happier with our marriage and our relationship with both sets of parents now than before. I encourage you to evaluate your relationship with your siblings. Try to discuss with them how you feel, and then move on if necessary. Your relationship with your husband is what matters the most. Someday you may be on the same page again and there may be a chance to repair the relationship. Until then, feel free to live your own life.

Have you dealt with sibling rivalry in your marriage? Leave a comment below with your best tips for getting through rivalry with your in-laws.

 

Top Ten Must Haves From Our Wedding Registry

I remember the day we put our wedding registry together. My husband had way too much fun with the registry gun. I had fun removing all the silly stuff through the online registry later that night. I would like to think we did our best to pick useful items for our home. Now one year later I can look back and see what could have been left off and what should have been added. Here are our top ten wedding registry must haves AND our top ten items we should have left off.

 

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wedding registry

Top 10 Must Haves:

  1. A good set of non-stick cookware. I know everyone has a preference, but I am going to recommend non-stick simply for ease of cleaning. Get yourself a set that includes at least one 8qt pot, 3qt saucepan, 3qt saucepan, and a frying pan.
  2. A set of cookie sheets. These will come in handy for baking dessert and meals. A little tip when cooking meats and non-dessert dishes, cover your pan with non-stick aluminum foil for easy cleaning.
  3. A cooling rack set that is oven safe. We find we use ours a lot.
  4. A high end crock pot! My favorite registry item to date. Do you know how much time you will save with a crock pot? No? Well then I challenge you to find out. My only regret is that ours is not programmable.
  5. A great knife set. This is an absolute must have. Cheap knives will dull fast (as we found out the hard way). A good set of knives will last for years.
  6. A coffee maker you can schedule. If you read my post on becoming a morning person, then you know how much I LOVE my coffee.
  7. A higher end set of everyday dishes. We were torn on this one. Get two sets (cheap and fancy) or get one middle of the road set. We chose the middle of the road set and haven’t looked back. They are classy enough for guests and normal enough for daily use.
  8. A good mixer. You can choose your preference between a stand mixer, like a kitchenaid, or a hand mixer. Mixers are useful for baking needs, sauces, and even shredding chicken!
  9. A high quality vacuum cleaner. You want one of these bad boys that is going to last for years. Since these can be pricey, try to get one as part of your registry.
  10. A great set of bed sheets. Two in fact! Good sheets can be pricey. Trying to wash and dry your sheets in one day can be stressful if you are like us and super busy. Register for 2 sets so you always have a back-up!

cooking

Top Ten Things We Didn’t Need to Register For:

  1. Throw Blankets. You seem to get these naturally by some unknown force of nature. Don’t waste your time registering for one unless you have a specific style in mind. Last count we were up to about twelve of these around the house.
  2. A pyrex box set. It sounds great in theory, but we never use even half of these. I cook all the time and enjoy baking even more. If I don’t need them, then you can trust me that you won’t either.
  3. A food processor or fancy blender. Unless you know you will be cooking like Rachel Ray, you will find that these items sit in a cabinet or on a shelf more than they get used. There are other ways to get similar results with less expensive equipment that won’t sit around.
  4. Anything His and Hers. Oh it was all so cute at first. Now it just sits. People will buy them for you because of the cuteness factor. Let them buy you stuff you actually need instead.
  5. A cheese board. Unless you have friends over every weekend for wine and cheese, use a regular cutting board instead. Specialty items often sit aside and take up space. Margharita makers, panini makers, and fondue pots also fit into this category.
  6. Fancy stemware. No one is really going to look that closely at what they are drinking out of at your house. Buy some middle of the road glassware. The kind that won’t make you cry if they accidentally get broken by your cousin’s out of control two year old.
  7. A mandolin. Seriously, just don’t. We have one from our registry. It has sat in a box for an entire year plus. Not one single time have I even thought of bringing it out. And I cook a lot.
  8. Photo albums. These fall into the same category as throw blankets, you will get plenty of them. People will find cute wedding themed frames and albums to pick up as gifting “extras”.
  9. A bar set. Unless you have a home bar or really like to entertain, this just isn’t worth it. We entertain once or twice a month and we have never had a need for it. We even make mixed drinks all the time, but have found the full bar set useless.
  10. Fancy napkins and matching rings. Even when entertaining, it is much easier to set-up and clean-up without worrying about washable items. Besides, you can get cute holiday disposable napkins now that are much easier to use.

mixer

There you have it. Our best recommendations for things you will and won’t need on your registry. Have fun putting together your registry!

Do you have items to add to this list? Let us know yours in the comments!

How to Practice Self-Care When Your Married

self-care

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Congratulations! You walked down that isle and brought yourself home a husband. Now you have a built-in partner in crime. Someone you can talk to, spend time with, bounce ideas off of, and more. This is an excitedly wonderful time in your life. There will be lots of learning together and growing together and maybe even creating together. Your life will become a whirlwind of couple time, family time, and maybe eventually even time growing your own family. In all this time there is one thing you MUST do, make sure you take time for YOU! Here is how to make sure you practice self-care when your married.

Create Your Own Space

Sharing a living space can be fun. My husband and I had a great time decorating and organizing our space to suit our style. We didn’t agree on everything, but still had a great time figuring it all out. One thing we knew was important to us, was creating our own spaces that were only ours. Everyone’s space is different, so you will have to create your space with what you have. We have a small house, but I was able to set-up a home office/craft area/yoga studio in a spare bedroom. My husband made himself a man-cave in a small area of the basement. Most importantly, we generally stay out of each other’s area. It isn’t that we can’t share the space, its that we know how important it is for each of us to be able to spend a few minutes away.

Your space may be different than ours. It might be a chair on the deck, a desk in the corner of room, or even the bathroom (all my make-up junkies out there). It doesn’t matter where your space, its that you have one. Remember though, your space isn’t an escape. Its an area for you to utilize for self-care and then return to sharing space with your significant other. Be careful not to take it too far and use your space as a complete get-a-way. Shared time is just as important as self-care time!

Mental Self-Care

self-care

Your mental health is so important and often overlooked in our marriages. We often concentrate on making our significant other’s feel mentally secure, but we put our own metal health on the back burner. Don’t be one of those people! Practicing mental self-care is so important.

When you picture mental self-care, do you picture yourself sitting quietly, meditating in a dim room? Meditation is a great way to practice mental self-care, but don’t get caught up thinking it is the only way. There are multiple ways to practice mental self-care that might appeal to you. Check out these to find what might be right for you:

  1. Meditate (if its your thing). When left to my own devices, I fail at this. A guided meditation from an app like Headspace, Pacifica, or CureStress work wonders for me. Take 5-10 minutes out of your day and take your mental break.
  2. Journal. Keeping a diary or journal is a tradition as old as time, and there is a good reason for it. Journaling allows us to express ourselves in a way where we feel safe and protected. You can start in a blank journal of your choosing or try a guided journal. Some people also like to incorporate journaling into their planners (if you like this idea, try the Happy Planner, my favorite!).
  3. Find you “Why”. Not to get all Simon Sinek on you, but it IS important that your life has a purpose. What is your own personal mission statement? Your reason for living? Put it into words, study it, and love by it. Need help getting started?  Check our Simon’s book Start With Why. It focuses on the why in leadership, but also has some great advice for why in your personal life.
  4. Get some extra shut eye! It can be easy to get caught up in our husband’s sleep schedules, even if ours don’t naturally match. Marriage experts generally agree that going to bed together is the best for couples. However, if it interferes or distracts from your own sleep schedule, it can leave you feeling exhausted. Get creative with your scheduling and get yourself a solid eight hours a night.
  5. Read a book. There is nothing that gives me a mental refresh like a good novel. Although spending ALL day on the couch reading is generally no longer an option, stealing an hour every day during the week is completely possible. I tend to read when hubby is camped in the man cave. Excellent “alone” time for both of us. The best part is that you can download a lot of great novels for FREE through iBooks and Kindle.
  6. Watch the sunrise (or set). I have this daily habit where I plan my entire morning routine around eating breakfast at the exact time everyday. I take my morning coffee, bowl of cereal, and cell phone to my bay window overlooking the sunrise where I eat, drink, and then meditate all while watching the most beautiful display of nature.
  7. Develop your self. Self development is not only a great use of your time, it is great for your mental well being. Books, Webinars, and Ted talks are a great way to start. Try reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to start! It will be most helpful in making the changes needed for self-care.

Emotional Self-Care

Some people classify emotional self-care in the same bucket as mental self-care. I however like to put them in two separate categories. Emotions can be changed from day to day and moment to moment. When we talk emotional self-care, our directive should be to strive for what makes us happy, content, and positive. Think of the things that make your feel this way and make a list. First, cross your husband off, we already know about him. Now how much time do you devote to these other items daily? Weekly? Monthly? If your answer is less than daily, then you are not taking care of your own emotional needs. Take a look at these idea for some inspiration:

  1. Spend time on your hobbies. My hobby makes me more than happy. It brings me great joy and gives me something to look forward to. Although everyone has different hobbies, the joy your hobby brings you will help take care of your emotional needs.
  2. Enjoy some comedy. Laughter is good for the soul! And for your emotional well being. You can find some great comedy on TV or Netflix. Even YouTube has some worthwhile comedy. Find some you like and take the time to get a good laugh in. If you have a smart phone or tablet device, you can even take your comedy around with you while you do house chores.
  3. Spend time with family and friends. A huge key to many people’s emotional health is time to work on relationships with family and close friends. Your husband is one of these people, but there are likely many others in your life. Take time to enjoy these people, and not just in group settings. Make a quick call to your grandmother, FaceTime with your best friend, meet a co-worker for Sunday morning coffee. You will be surprised how you feel after each of these events.
  4. Enjoy things you consider beautiful. This may sound silly but there is scientific evidence that simply looking at beautiful things can change your emotions in a positive way. Take a walk in nature on a sunny day, visit a gallery or museum, watch videos of puppies! Whatever you consider beautiful, find it, take a few minutes to enjoy it, and soak up that emotional positivity.
  5. Volunteer for a great cause. This is one of my favorite activities for my emotional well being. There are a lot of great organizations that will allow you to volunteer on a part time basis. Knowing that your are helping people or animals will boost your soul!
  6. Listen to your favorite music. Music, also good for the soul (ya know, after laughter). Make yourself a playlist of all the music that brings thoughts of happiness and joy. Play it whenever you need an emotional pick me up!

Physical Self-Care

yoga

In addition to your mental and emotional self-care, physical self-care completes the trifecta. Most people think diet and exercise when they think of physical self-care. While these are two big aspects of it, there are so many more! And we all know that staying physically healthy will help us in our marriages (in more ways than one, right ladies?). Here are some of my favorite ways to practice physical self-care:

  1. Eat Healthy. This goes for both eating with the hubby and without him. Dieting is a thing of the past. Diets fail. Instead, plan healthy meals and snacks based on what your body needs. Plan your meals ahead of time, a week or two in advance. Not only will this help with your grocery shopping and budget, but you will be less likely to make last minute unhealthy meals. Need some help with dinner? Try Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or similar meal service. They deliver the ingredients you need to make complete meals for two. We enjoy using Blue Apron time to time when ideas for meals are running low and getting boring. Sign-up and get your first 3 meals for free.
  2. Drink your H2O. You would be amazed at the changes your body will have when you go from dehydrated to plenty hydrated. I gave up my daily soda intake (a ridiculous three 24oz bottles a day) and traded it for water. More energy, better sleep, and glowing skin all greeted me. I felt great! You will too. Need some help, try this app to help motivate your water drinking.
  3. Get your sweat on. You don’t need a gym membership to burn some serious calories. Try some at home workouts where all you need is a tv, tablet, or smartphone. I lost 35 pounds working out at home. Try some of my favorites: Beachbody on Demand, Barre3 Online, and my all time favorite (and best every yoga app) Downdog Yoga App.
  4. Get some sun. But get it safely in small amounts. Sun is good for the body and soul. So get out there and help convert yourself some Vitamin D.
  5. Take care of your skin. Ok maybe this is just a really good excuse to give yourself a facial and purchase a quality moisturizer, but hey its worth it. You want your skin to look good. Make sure you are using spf when going outside. Moisturize twice a day. Keep it clean and rejuvenated. I love giving myself at home facials. First I cleanse with a Clarisonic Brush, then follow with a good quality retinol scrub. Finally, massage in some moisturizer and voila!
  6. Dance. And dance. Dance some more. And who cares if you can’t dance because no one will be watching you. Dancing releases an amazing amount of endorphins. So put on your favorite tunes, some comfy clothing, and move your body. You will feel incredible after.
  7. Consider your health. We get busy in our daily lives, who has time for the doctor. However routine check-ups, dental cleanings, and eye exams are all important for your health.

Make the Time

Some of the items listed above might seem trivial, or only for spare time. Don’t let them be. Taking care of these areas in your life will make you feel more fulfilled as a person and lead to an even better relationship with your spouse. Give him some extra time in the mancave and get your self-care on girl. You deserve it! Still having trouble finding the time? Check out my post on creating a morning routine for some tips and tricks on making your mornings productive.

What is your favorite self-care habit?

 

 

 

How to Share Expenses Once Your Married

Expenses

For some couples, splitting expenses after getting married or moving in together comes easy. Other couples struggle to find a system that works for them. Research your options. Talk to friends to see what worked for them. Read some blogs about it. There are so many ways to share expenses once your married and you will want to find the right one for your marriage. My husband and I tried a few of the following before we found what worked for us.

Combine Everything

First, my husband and I tried combining everything. We opened a joint checking account and put both our paychecks into that account. All the bills were deducted from the joint account as well. It worked okay for awhile. The problem was that both my husband and I have hobbies that can be pretty costly. Each hobby has different needs at different times. In order for us to not overdraw our account, or leave it lacking to pay bills, we had to have extraordinary communication. Now my husband and I do communicate well, but this took it to a new level. Too many of our conversations became about money.

This method make work for your marriage even if it didn’t work for hours. If you are both great at budgeting, no one really spends money outside of average expenses, and you have great expense communication, then this method should work fine. It would also benefit you to have only one person doing the main bill paying for easy tracking of the account.

Keep Accounts and Expenses Seperate

My husband and I kept everything seperate when we first moved in together. This was also the style that worked for us the longest. We each kept our own checking accounts that we had from when we were living seperate. Our living expenses were added up and split among the two of us. Individually we were responsible for paying the bills we had assigned to us and balancing our accounts. If we ran into unexpectedly high bills one month we could transfer money between the accounts to even things up.

With this method you can either split the bills equally or do a percentage split. For example, I brought a high number of student loans and a car payment with me. My paycheck is higher than my husbands, but the money left is very small. Where as he didn’t have any loan balances coming into our new home. We chose to split the bills based on what percentage each of us could afford to pay.

This is an easy way to be able to pay what needs to be paid without worrying too much about where your significant other is spending their money. Since my husband and I had been independent for so long, it was also the more comfortable method for both of us. Eventually though we ran into some complications when it came to paying for home improvement projects and other “shareable” expenses. Going out to eat even became a pain. We would always end up debating who was paying. It began to feel like we were still dating.

Have Multiple Accounts for Expenses

This method can be a little trickier to get set-up, but generally it seems to work well for some couples. My husband and I have one checking account that we pay our household bills from. Then, we each have our own seperate checking accounts for personal spending. The majority of our paychecks go to the combined account for bills, groceries, house improvement projects, dinners out, etc. We then use our personal spending accounts for our hobbies and any other personal spending we might want (like my occasional Sephora binge).

To get this method set-up well, I suggest first starting with a budget. Figure out where both of your money is gonna go every month, then assign it to the correct account. Extra money over your budget can go in either the joint account, your personal account, or in some form of joint savings. In our case, we budget a certain amount of the excess to “home improvements” and place it in the combined account, “our future savings” is a set amount that goes to a joint savings, and then we each have a small dollar of extra we put in our personal accounts for “fun”.

Find What Works for You

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to sharing expenses in marriage. The trick is to find what you and your husband are the most comfortable with and that is going to keep you both on track. Don’t forget, the method you use might change over time. Re-evaluate when you need to and keep a running budget. You will be sure to find success! We did.

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100+ Cheap Date Ideas When Your on a Tight Budget

Cheap Date

Cheap Date

Living on a tight budget shouldn’t be a reason to cancel date night. Instead, it should be used as a reason to get creative. There are tons of cheap date ideas that require very little to no money and are still loads of fun! Depending on your interests, the list below has something for everyone. My husband and I are working our way through these 100 cheap date ideas!

100+ Cheap Date Ideas

  1. Volunteer or Fundraise with a group or organization.
  2. Bake a cake together. Try it from scratch. You can ice the cake and then each other for fun.
  3. Cook dinner together. It can be tons of fun to try out new recipes.
  4. Have a movie day. Rewatch all your old favorites. Create an at home theater complete with popcorn and snowcaps.
  5. Have a board game night. Chutes and Ladders gets a lot more fun as an adult.
  6. Go on a picnic. Even if the only place you go is your backyard.
  7. Teach each other a new sport or hobby.
  8. Go to a park and feed the ducks.
  9. Check out your local flea market. See if there’s is anything cheap you can upgrade for your own home version of “Flea Market Flip”.
  10. Take a hike or go site seeing.
  11. Find free activities in your local neighborhood. A lot of communities now have websites or Facebook pages that list the local events.
  12. Have a yard sale! You may even make more money for your next date night.
  13. Camp out…at home. Put a tent in your backyard.
  14. Have an ice cream sundae night. Whipcream is mandatory.
  15. Look up free museums and zoos.
  16. Go to a local hangout with a pool table and do a husband vs wife tournament.
  17. Each of you make a “Dream Big” list then compare them.
  18. Play strip poker, strip chess, strip anything really.
  19. Have a home spa day and pamper each other.
  20. Make a fire pit in your backyard (check local ordinances first). Toast marshmallows and make s’mores.
  21. Find free exercise classes at local gyms. Most host them a few times a year.
  22. Go to a karaoke night at a bar or restaurant. Even if you don’t get up and sing you will still have plenty of entertainment.
  23. Find a trivia night.
  24. Go sledding when there is snow.
  25. Watch a local high school sporting event. Research who has sports teams that are doing really well.
  26. Tour open houses. You might even get ideas for your own home.
  27. Read to a local youth group.
  28. Attend local free concerts.
  29. Browse your way through local car dealerships.
  30. Go to a “you pick it” farm. Apple picking season is our favorite.
  31. Fly kites.
  32. Make your own pizza. Find my favorite pizza dough recipe here.
  33. Do a word puzzle together. Sudoku also works.
  34. Put together a cheap art project.
  35. Attend a poetry reading or book reading.
  36. Color. See who still hasn’t learned to stay in the lines.
  37. Research a topic.
  38. Check your couch cushions and then go to the arcade with the spare change you find.
  39. Make a couples bucket list.
  40. Your a local winery or brewery. Bonus, most give your free samples to taste.
  41. Write down your dream vacation.
  42. Take a bike ride.
  43. Go fishing or crabbing together.
  44. Get a cheap puzzle and put it together. The more pieces, the better!
  45. Paint together. Channel your inner Picasso.
  46. Have an at home photo shoot. Just remember to delete any nude ones.
  47. Play video games.
  48. Find a local airport and watch the planes.
  49. Bring out your inner bartender and make cocktails.
  50. Play the penny game. Flip a penny at each stop sign or red light. Heads is right tails is left. See where you end up!
  51. Have a nerf war at home.
  52. Attend an Amatuer Comedy Night.
  53. Star gaze. Try to name all the constellation. Or just make up your own.
  54. Go to a local beach or lake.
  55. Make chocolate fondue at home. Ps, it can double as body paint.
  56. Cook indoor s’mores.
  57. Play twenty questions. You can always find out new things about each other.
  58. If it’s winter, build a snowman.
  59. Look on sites like Groupon for free introductory offers. Often you can find good ones like free rock climbing or massages.
  60. Bring back old memories, look through old yearbooks.
  61. Have car wash day. Bonus feature, help each other out of the wet clothes after.
  62. House clean for FUN. Feather dusters anyone?
  63. Play frisbee.
  64. Create a game of follow the clues.
  65. Make the ultimate playlist of your favorite music that you both enjoy.
  66. Pull an all nighter just because.
  67. Get dressed up fancy, then just stay home.
  68. Take a walk, don’t worrying about where you are going.
  69. Plant a garden. Seeds are fairly cheap and you might save on veggies.
  70. Find a good restaurant deal.
  71. Build a blanket for the in your living room. Sleep in it for the night.
  72. Create a time capsule and bury it in your yard.
  73. Attend a free DIY class at a local store. Lowes and Home Depot host them regularly.
  74. Paint each other’s nails.
  75. Find a cheap local mini golf course. Loser does the dishes.
  76. Go on a ghost tour.
  77. Try geocaching. There are dozens of websites dedicated to it.
  78. Do you have a Wii or Kinect? Challenge each other to a game.
  79. Play a game of twister.
  80. Make homemade pretzels. You can also try making beer cheese dip.
  81. Create a family tree for your future children.
  82. Do a small home improvement project.
  83. Have a sunset dinner or sunrise breakfast.
  84. Volunteer to dog walk at your local animal shelter.
  85. Create a photo collage.
  86. Go Go-Carting.
  87. Play horse shoes. Make interesting bets for even more fun.
  88. Give each other fake tattoos. We drew on each other with markers. Take note, not all washable markers wash off skin easily.
  89. Download a free yoga app and have a couple’s yoga session.
  90. Make saving money a challenge. See who can come up with the best deals on this week’s groceries. Winner gets to buy their favorite candy or treat.
  91. Look up couple’s workout moves and try them together.
  92. Search “how to” videos on youtube. Look for ones that interest you and are cheap.
  93. Build the ultimate domino rally around your house.
  94. Try a craft class. Michael’s sometimes hosts two dollar craft classes.
  95. Let your husband do your makeup. Make it even more fun my having it video taped tutorial style.
  96. Find local firework displays to watch.
  97. Locate historic buildings in your neighborhood. Go look at the building and then research its history.
  98. Check out your local railroad.
  99. Go to Walmart and “people watch”. You can even make an “I spy” list ahead of time
  100. Make a home movie. No not that kind! Make a fun one that you can show your children when they get older.
  101. Have a water balloon or snowball fight. Build your own forts in your backyard and see who can hit who the most.

There are just so many choices when it comes to cheap date ideas, you don’t have to do any of them twice! Or at least not for a long time. So get out there and have some fun. No couch surfing here!

The Truth About the Marriage Muffin Top

Marriage

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We have all heard of the freshmen fifteen. Those nasty fifteen or so pounds of weight that sneak up on you the first year of college. I prepared well to face those and survived. Ok, so I only gained ten of the fifteen, but I still did something about it and came out generally unscathed. However, no one told me about the other sneaky weight gain that is even more damaging. Let me introduce you to what I like to lovingly call the Marriage Muffin Top.

The Marriage Muffin top comes into your life under the cover of darkness. It sneaks in undetected like the masked bandit in the night. Its intent is to make you fluffy, cause your clothes not to fit, and make you miserable. I mean after all, you haven’t changed a whole lot in your life so why should you be gaining weight? This was my thought as I watched the scale climb 10, 20, and then 30 pounds!

At first I was in denial. I thought there must be something wrong with me. Maybe I had a thyroid problem. Or maybe I was bloated from some underlying condition. Nope. There was no easy blame game here. It took over a year, but I finally fought back against the marriage muffin top. I still have a long road ahead, but I feel confident that I can win this war. You can too, with a little work and research.

Face the Reality and Set Reasonable Expectations

The age at which you get married or settle in with a significant other is going to affect how much you gain. If you are in your early 20s, you may only notice small weight gains. But if you are closer to or in your 30s the number of pounds will likely go up. This is because your body tends to change in your early 30s anyway, your metabolism naturally slows and you are more likely to put on the pounds.

Your genetics play a large role in your Marriage Muffin top. How are your parents and grandparents built? My mom is teeny tiny. She might wear a size three jeans on a “fluffy” day. Dad however, is built closer to a linebacker than a runner and both my grandmothers are bottom heavy. Its no surprise that I am pear shaped and have enough booty to rival J-Lo. I can not change my genetics, but I can make realistic expectations based on them. Make sure you do the same.

Look at the Small Changes You Made After Marriage

I didn’t feel like I made enormous amounts of changes when we moved in together. Looking back, I can see that it was really just a small amount that added up over time. These changes I was making were all hidden under the “happy marriage” category. They were things I did for or with my husband that I wouldn’t have normally done for myself.

I cooked meals. Notice I didn’t say breakfast, lunch, or dinner. New wives are often super excited to show hubby that we can cook! So there I was cooking full recipe meals, complete with sides and homemade dinner rolls. Of course, we then ate as much as we could. Why let good food go to waste? But prior to getting married I would only eat small meals, with lunch usually being my largest. Those extra calories add up.

As husband and wife we tend to catch up in the evenings over dinner and tv. My husband loves discovery channel shows. We are either watching someone build Alaska, buy Alaska, dig for gold, fish for gold, etc and so forth. I love “our time”, but I never watched that much tv before marriage.

House chores started to over shadow working out. Prior to owning a house, I would spend 45 minutes to 2 hours doing full body workouts. Once home ownership came into play there were so many things to do. Whether it was regular housework or home improvement projects, working out hit the back burner.

Beating the Marriage Muffin Top

Start by planning meals that are healthy, with smaller portions. It is ok to try new recipes. Pinterest is full of healthy, low carb recipes just waiting for you to try your culinary skills on. Just make smaller portions. Or freeze some of your meal to have on another day. Oh and skip all the sides and the dinner rolls, save them for the nights you have guests. I lost four pounds within two weeks of changing our diet and my husband lost seven.

Drink lots of water. In fact, don’t even buy a lot of other drinks. Funny thing happens when you stop buying soda and other sugary drinks, you stop drinking them. Don’t even give yourself a choice. I fought drinking water for a very long time. Finally, I bought myself two water bottles from Motivational Bottle with hour increments and it worked! You can get one like mine here. I am now an avid water drinking. I gained an enormous amount of energy just by adding water and quitting soda.

Plan morning workouts. Not only do you burn more calories in the morning, but you are more likely to not skip morning workouts. In addition, getting your workout in the AM means house chores won’t interfere with workout time. If your afraid that time will still be tight, do what I did and try a condensed workout program. I did pretty well with T-25, even following the modified workout at first. If your struggling with getting up early, try tips from my post on becoming a morning person.

Workout

Keep TV time minimal. Avoid the pitfalls of dinner or after dinner television. It tends to suck you in. Instead, eat dinner without tv and enjoy conversation with hubby. Then clean the kitchen after dinner and do any other house chores. Plan a specific time that you are going to spend tv time with hubby. Besides, all the good tv shows start around 8 or 9 anyway.

Plan date nights that involve being active. It can be as simple as going for a walk in the park, you will still be burning calories. Even if you are on a budget there are plenty of cheap or free date night ideas that you can try. Our favorite is to use Groupon to find introductory offers. We recently tried rock climbing this way and broke a crazy sweat!

Don’t Give Up

Whether you are trying to prevent the extra weight or you are trying to lose what you have gained,make a plan and stick to it. Pick healthy habits that you and your husband can practice together. Habit change is hard! You may fail a time or two before you reach success. Just don’t give up.

I’m Married, a Wife, and I’m Lost

Lost

It was so exciting, the whole marriage process. First, we had the engagement and both our family and friends gushing over our future together and all the things to come. Next we bought a house, and whoa what a whirlwind that was. From the searching to the buying, picking out furniture and paint colors, having friends over for the first time, all little milestones that kept us on cloud nine. Of course then there was the year of planning the wedding, picking our attendants, the colors and decorations, and of course the joyous night we said “I do”. Now here I was, happily married, a wife to my husband, and absolutely no clue who I was any longer.

As a child a particular picture always came to mind when I heard someone mention the word “wife”. Perhaps it was due to the idea of the American Dream, but I always pictured a forty something woman cooking dinner for her husband and three kids before running around to soccer practice and cleaning the house. The truth is, I hated everything about that vision. Being very independent from a young age, the thought of being a house wife was diminishing to my natural personality. So when I suddenly found myself with the title of wife I felt a momentary sense of panic. Who am I now? Is it my job to become nothing more than maid, cook, and baby maker? Is this what my husband would expect now that the marriage certificate was signed? My identity was in crisis and I felt trapped. With all the “new” exciting things wearing off, what was I left with? Suddenly marriage felt like a burden.

The thoughts floating in my head were enough to keep me up at night. I found myself burried in work and distancing myself from the man that I married. If I wanted my marriage to work at all I needed to find myself and quickly. I started having lengthy discussions with many newlywed wives and determined that my panic was natural. I am not the first wife to feel this way and I am sure that I will not be the last. Ladies it is okay to admit that being a “wife” is not what you had hoped to become, even if getting married to the man you love was everything that you did want. I have learned that they are not one in the same when looking at it from a traditional point of view. It took hours of soul searching and many tears before I finally made peace with who I now was.

My husband married me for who I was, not who he expected me to become. This was perhaps one of the most important things pointed out to me in the many discussions I had on the topic. It was up to us to determine how we wanted our marriage to be, not some set of ideals set forth in the mid 1900s. Wife was a title, not a description. The definition was ours to determine and we could rewrite it as often as we felt necessary. Communication was the key. What did he expect of me and what did I expect of him? Were we on the same page with the path we were currently on or were there areas we needed to compromise on? Truthfully, we had answered all these questions pre-marriage but somewhere in my maze of panic it had slipped away as if the rings changed it.

I’m married, I’m not old and I’m not imprisoned. My friends did not suddenly disappear, my hobbies did not die, and fun was still allowed. In truth, having our own friends and hobbies has made our marriage stronger. For me, I love spending time with my horse while for him its playing competitive volleyball. We both enjoy our time apart, doing what we love. Neither of us is left home, bored or resentful of the other enjoying the other things in life that we love. Our friends are still our friends. We go out separate, we go out together, he has his over, I have girls night in. We know that our relationship isn’t the only important one in our life. I needed to remember this as I was searching for me, I could still have a life as wife.

My journey is not over. Yes, as a wife the natural tendency is to journey into motherhood and family life. However, this isn’t the journey I was thinking of. My personal growth was not stunted. I could still grow and discover while being married if that’s what I chose to do. Did I want to go back to school? Change careers? Visit someplace exotic? There was no reason that having the title of “wife” needed to be a dead end to wherever I wanted my life to go. If anything, it made it more exciting. I now had a built in support system in my husband. The dreams were still mine to chase.

There are going to be good days. Days where I say “I’ve got this” and I feel confident in my decision to marry. There are also going to be bad days where that little bit of panic sets it and I need to find myself again. I know now that it’s ok. Being a wife will not define me, I will define being a wife.

 

Top Ten Newly Wed Money Mistakes We Made

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It All Began…

I wasn’t always bad with money, neither was my husband. In fact, during the 6 years post college I had developed an excellent credit score above 800 and the only debt I was carrying was my student loans and a loan on my car. I kept a budget, paid all my bills on time, and even managed to afford my very expensive hobby (and addiction) to showing horses. I wasn’t rich by by any means, but my full time job as a veterinary hospital manager kept me comfortable and just above living paycheck to paycheck. My husband, or boyfriend at the time, wasn’t too far behind me. We had this!

And Then We Didn’t…

After 6 years together, he finally asked me to marry him. Since we spent all six years together dealing with a two hour separation, we were going to have to make some major life changes before we were ready to be husband and wife. In early October 2014 I left my job and moved the two hours to start in a new veterinary hospital. A few weeks later, we settled on our first house, a small 1400 square foot cape cod with four bedrooms that we picked up for just $107,000. The house was in great shape and only needed some interior updating to bring it out of the 1970s. We settled on a plan to split the bills and moved in the weekend after settlement.

We did well for the first few months in the new house. We took our time, used a lot of the furniture and kitchen stuff that I still had from my apartment, and purchased what we didnt have from second hand stores. Our families also gave us some things, like a lawn mower, that helped us not have to make any major purchases for the first few months we were there.

First mistake that I made was to not update my budget after taking on more responsibility. I mean, how much could electric, water, and TV/internet possibly put a dent in my monthly income? Apparently, a LOT. Mistake number two, we jumped into an unbudgeted home improvement project. Our master bedroom is upstairs in our house and for now we were (and still are at this point) living in a spare bedroom on our first floor. We had decided that we would renovate the master with a goal of moving into it for the first time on our wedding night. My husband is handy so we were going to do most of the work ourselves to save money. While we briefly discussed about how much we thought it would cost, we never factored in the tools and equipment we would have to purchase (and or rent) to get the job done. Here come the credit cards to the rescue.

Here Comes the Wedding Expenses…

Weddings are expensive, even weddings done on a budget, which is what I thought I was doing. We knew that neither of us had families that could help with expenses for this special day and that we would have to pay for it ourselves. We came up with a plan to find a cheap venue and decorate ourselves. We would put the entire cost of the wedding on one credit card and then pay it off from any gifts we received. It seemed like a sound plan at the time. We did find a super affordable venue, and I ( with some help from my then fiancé) did do all the decorations, flowers, favors, etc on my own. What we didn’t do was factor in other details besides just the venue, we didn’t adjust plans along the way, and we ended up spending almost triple of what we received in gifts. I can do a more detailed post on wedding budget mistakes later, I have quite the list.

Getting Back On Track…

While most newly married couples are still in wedding bliss the week after their weddings, I found myself in tears as I realized just how much trouble we were in. Worse, I couldn’t find a budget that worked while still allowing us to pay our bills on time. For the first time in my life I was panicking and my poor new husband couldn’t do much more than give me a hug and tell me that we would figure it out.

Two hours after my major mental breakdown I was researching various ways to get us back on track. Lists were made, websites bookmarked, and this blog was born to track my efforts. My goal is to try every avenue available to get out of debt and on our way to being able to start a family. First, I needed to make sure I knew the mistakes made. Hence I give you the top ten mistakes we made when starting our life together:

  1. We didn’t make a formal budget. Even if we were separating expenses, we each should of had an individual budget that we could stick to.
  2. We took on too many projects at once. As exciting as it was to own a house and start planning a wedding, it would have been much smarter to handle one at a time.
  3. We didn’t plan our renovation appropriately. It was great that we could do it ourselves, but we never factored in purchasing equipment in addition to supplies.
  4. We developed a habit of thinking we could pay back the credit cards after we settled in. Like many people, we let our balances get higher than we could reasonably pay back quickly. Again, this is where a formal budget would have helped us.
  5. We paid full price for everything. In this day and age where bargains and coupons are the norm, we should have taken advantage.
  6. We took our utilities at face value. Had we researched our oil bill a little better, we may have been able to fix the heat pump problem and saved over $800 during our first winter in the house.
  7. We fell into the tv and Internet “deals”. Sure, free DVR and premium channels for a year sounds great, as does super high speed internet. However, those companies count on folks like us not making changes when the price magically jumps after the first year. Our mistake was thinking we couldn’t do anything about it if we wanted to keep our service.
  8. We broke our wedding budget. This can be so easy to do, even after reading all the blogs that preached not to let this happen. It was a beautiful wedding and I don’t regret a thing, other than the price tag.
  9. We over anticipated gifts and pay. Between what we “thought” we would get in wedding gifts, what I “thought” my work bonus was going to be, and the jobs that my husband “thought” he might be getting, we did an awful lot of guessing. Instead, we should have based our anticipation on what we knew.
  10. We tried to live just like we did before we moved into together. While there are some things that shouldn’t change, your finances are not one of them.

 

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