This year, Dean and I celebrated 20 years of marriage. I have to pause when I type this because that is a really long time. Twenty is a big number. Two decades. It deserves respect. Respect. That’s a big word too… a really important word in marriage. I wish I could say that I’ve always treated Dean with respect. That would be a really big lie. The truth is, life gets busy and stressful and overwhelming and sometimes I snap. I hate that I do this. My husband deserves respect all of the time. He’s a really good man. But, I am flawed. We all are. So, how do we live together and stay together without killing each other for 20 years? In honor of our 20 year anniversary, I will make a list of 20 tips for a healthy marriage.
- Respect – Men love to be respected. Wives should make this a priority. We are perpetually in mom mode and I think we sometimes forget who we are talking to.
- Love – Obviously we love our spouses. But, do our actions reflect this? We should look for small ways throughout the day to love and appreciate each other. It doesn’t have to be an over the top gesture. And it doesn’t have to cost anything. Simple ideas will work great if they are done on a regular basis.
- Communicate – Now this is a really big word!! Listen when your spouse is talking. You may think you do this. But, try repeating back what you think you heard. You may not be hearing them at all. Look at him/her when they are talking. Don’t stare at the TV, newspaper or computer. Let your spouse know that what they are saying is important to you.
- Don’t nag – Ladies, this one is usually on us. We do not have to pick everything to death. Just let it go. There are enough big things to deal with. You don’t have to harp on all of the little ones. Choose peace instead.
- Trust – If you tell little white lies, stop!!! This will break down the trust in your relationship. Be a trustworthy person. Your marriage deserves it.
- Leave room for error – We are not perfect people. Give your spouse grace to make mistakes without ridicule. Forgive them often.
- Be a team – Life is tough. Everything is easier when you have someone standing by your side.
- Don’t be stubborn – Fighting to win should never be the plan. Fight to resolve issues. That might mean you have to lay down your pride, your attitude, even your will. It will be worth it in the end.
- Don’t fight in public – I don’t think this one needs an explanation.
- Sex – Don’t forget about sex. Flirt with each other. And don’t be afraid to talk about sex. Good open communication about what you like and don’t like leads to a really great sex life. Just be careful how you express your dislikes. You don’t want to hurt your spouse.
- Give each other freedom to be an individual – While it is true that two halves make a whole, that isn’t so true in marriage. You need two whole individuals to make a healthy marriage.
- Think before you speak – This is not only true when you are angry. It is just true. Period.
- Don’t take each other for granted – No one likes to feel like they are being used or abused. A kind word of appreciation goes a long way.
- Learn to say “I’m sorry” – Again, lay down your pride. Consider the possibility that you are wrong. If you haven’t apologized in a while, you might have an issue in this area.
- Have fun! – If you haven’t had fun recently, plan some. Go laugh together. Enjoy each other’s company.
- Help out – Find something you don’t normally do and help with it every once in a while. We could all use a little help every now and then.
- Don’t be defensive – Your spouse loves you. They aren’t trying to attack you. Listen to what they are communicating and don’t be defensive about it. You always have room to improve.
- Kiss!! – I covered sex. But, I feel like kissing needs its own number. Women love to be kissed. Real, passionate kisses. Look in her eyes first and tell her what you love about her. WOW!! Do this often!
- Don’t let the in-laws come between you – Mom and Dad are great. But, they don’t need to know about your grievances with your spouse. And, if Mom or Dad try to speak ill of your spouse, it is your job to make sure that doesn’t happen.
- Pray!! – Pray for your spouse. Pray with your spouse. And do it every day. This one stands alone. I would say it is more important than all of the others combined.
I think I’ll refer back to these 20 tips often. Maybe I can help make the next 20 years better than the first!
For me, relief is spelled P.E.A.C.E. I don’t mean the kind with no noise. I don’t even mean having no responsibilities. I just need mental peace. Life has a tendency to rob me of this peace that I so desperately need. Without peace, I feel suffocated. I start shutting down and shutting people out. I don’t function well without it at all. So, I took some time to determine what peace looks like in my life. This is a huge subject and I’ll be talking about different aspects of it in blogs to come. But for now, I want to give you some tips that really help me keep my peace.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a terrible memory. For this reason, I get anxious when I don’t have things written down. Anxiety is the opposite of peace. So, to avoid this, I created some tools and rules that I find very useful for “remembering” my responsibilities. I need to add a disclaimer here. The things you are about to read are my goals. I don’t measure up every single day.
I Budget My Time
The first thing I did was acknowledge to myself that there are only 24 hours in a day, only 7 days in a week, and only 52 weeks in a year. That is true for everyone. So, what if I tried to budget my time the way I budget my money?
I started by brainstorming my recurring responsibilities. I found that some things need to be on a daily list, some on a weekly list, etc. From there, I began to create my lists. I keep them in a location that is easy to find and access because I refer to them often. Here are a few examples of what my lists look like.
My daily lists are broken into two categories, things I do in the mornings and things I do in the evenings. My morning routine isn’t easy. But, it sets my day up for success. Breakfast, coffee, exercise, time with God, get dressed, get the kids out the door, clean breakfast dishes, make my bed, make sure I have a plan for dinner, and prioritize my day and to-do list. If I can check all of these things off, I’m feeling pretty excited about my day. I actually have a timed schedule to help move me from one area to the next. I try to get up as early as I need to make this a reality. Although, I must admit that I’m not much of a morning person. So, I’m not always successful.
My evening routine usually starts when my kids come home from school. I want to hear about their days (that is always on my list). I know what time I need to start dinner based on whatever the evening holds because I planned this out beforehand. And before I go to bed, I pick up the house and do the dishes (or assign them to a child who lives here rent free). 🙂
So, for me to have peace on a weekly basis, I need my house to stay clean, (or at the very least, picked up). I need to have groceries and a weekly menu plan. I need my bills to be paid on time and my checkbook register to be balanced. And I need my laundry to be done and put away. I need to feel like I spent quality time with my family, even if it was only a little bit. This sounds like a simple list. But, because of the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and only 7 days in a week, it is sometimes a challenge. I make each of these areas priorities in my daily life by adding them to my to-do list. I’m generally looking for small pockets of time to do a little here or there. If I can check one thing off the list, I’m closer to completing the list for the week. I like that feeling!
I know it sounds funny, but I actually do have monthly, quarterly and annual lists too. At the beginning of each month, I look at these lists and add them to my weekly lists. Many of these things get done on the weekends with the hubby. Most of these things include things like auto, yard and household maintenance.
My annual lists help me to remember to plan. For example, my annual list reminds me to think about holidays, family birthdays, school clothes and supplies, vacation planning, annual doctor appointments, etc. I don’t list Christmas in December, I list it a few months earlier, same with birthdays, etc. Remember, this list is to help you plan for the events before they occur. So, get your pencil and paper out and go make some lists!! Come back next week to hear more ideas I use to keep peace in my life.
My husband and I struggled most of our younger years together trying to find a way to manage our money. The problem we experienced was that we always ran out of it. And at the end of every year, we were seriously confused about where it all went. We created budget after budget and were determined to live our life according to this plan we had in front of us. However, it just never worked.
Did we lack discipline? Did we lack intelligence? Were we just destined to live in debt for the rest of our lives? This was not an option. So, we continued to try and fail until one day we tried using a business strategy called a Cash Flow Plan. This was the key that unlocked the mystery of the budget.
A budget is a list of monthly expenses. The problems with our budget were that a) there wasn’t a plan of execution and b) we didn’t have an effective way of tracking any of the categories. So, during the month, we never knew how we were doing in any of the categories. And, when we would get paid, we would have no idea which of the bills to pay because we didn’t have a plan. The cash flow plan actually put legs on our budget and made it walk for the first time ever. We made a lot of mistakes in the beginning months. But, we eventually got the hang of it and it changed our lives, not to mention our future.
I have taught this system to hundreds of people. I have found that the system works for those who work it. I suppose the opposite could be said as well. Without a well executed plan, your dream is only a fantasy.
It is important to know that your budget and cash flow plan will not be like anyone else’s. Just as no two people are alike, no two budgets are alike. I’m going to unfold this system in bite sized pieces. It would be slightly overwhelming to complete it all at one time. This is why I have broken this blog into two parts. I’ll reveal part two next week. So, let’s take a look at how to create a budget and cash flow plan.
Step 1 – Identify your income
- Take a look at your paycheck. Everything is automated these days. You work, and then your money magically appears in your account via something we call “Direct Deposit.” Therefore, most people don’t pay attention to the actual paycheck. There are many categories of income and deductions. Take a look at yours. Make sure you understand it. If you have questions about it, go to your boss or your Human Resources Department. It would be a good idea to understand how it is structured.
- How many times do you get paid next month? If you are paid on the 1st and 15th, you will only get two paychecks. If you are paid every other Friday, you usually receive two paychecks a month. However, twice a year, there are two magic months where you receive three paychecks. We need to plan for this money or it will just vanish away in our account.
- If you are married, do this same exercise with your spouse’s paycheck. Understand it, and know how many checks you will receive next month.
- Do you have other income streams? Child support? Multiple jobs? Cash from watching kids in your home? Garage sale money? Right now, you are only trying to identify the money available to you next month. We aren’t trying to create a budget we can use every month of the year. Each month is different. We are only creating a budget for next month.
- What if your income varies from paycheck to paycheck? Budget low. Choose a number you know you will hit each month. This will mean that you will have to scale back on your monthly expenses. But, you can budget in a way that makes allowances for the excess. I’ll cover this in Step 2.
Step 2 – Identify your expenses
|Auto: Pmt 1|
|Auto: Pmt 2|
|Ins: Life & Disability|
|Ins: Medical & Dental|
|Credit Card 1|
|Credit Card 2|
|Fuel & Travel Costs|
|Hair & Personal Care|
- Many people really don’t know what they spend in each category. That was okay for the past. But, you are moving into a better future. So, grab your pencil and get started. Note due dates of bills as you go along. You’ll need them for your Cash Flow Plan.
- Give yourself plenty of grocery and gas money. These are two areas you don’t want to run out of money.
- Unless you are on a balanced bill, utilities fluctuate. So, plan high.
- Consider adding a little bit for Miscellaneous expenses, especially if this is your first time to budget. You may not be thinking of everything. And even if you are, things happen that you can’t plan for.
- Give yourself a little bit of pocket cash each pay period. This helps absorb some of those small unplanned expenses.
- If you are behind on some bills, you may have to plan to pay two months of those categories to catch up.
- If your bank account is overdrawn, you need to plan that amount in this month’s budget to pay back.
- If you are working on a variable income, remember to have a plan for the excess. Here’s an idea. Plan your monthly expenses around an income you know you will receive. Then, plan your variable expenses around the excess. For instance, if you only hit the low number, you don’t purchase additional clothing that month. If you get more, you can tuck some money away for a trip to your favorite store or a lunch date with a special friend. Or, if you are in debt, you could plan to send in a larger payment.
Getting all of your expenses together is usually more difficult than it sounds. This is especially the case if you have never tracked them before. Look over your expenses in your bank account for the last few months. You probably spend money that you aren’t even aware of. Keep your budget handy throughout this week. Try to stay conscious of the various different areas every time you pull out your debit or credit card. Maybe even keep a list of what you spend money on. Give yourself one week to document your income and expenses. Then next week, we will talk about creating a cash flow plan.
I’m so excited to start this blog and hope you enjoy reading it as much as I know I’m going to enjoy writing it. When I decided I wanted to blog, it wasn’t difficult to determine what my blog would be about. I love helping people find ways to improve the systems in their lives to maximize the resources that are available to them so they can have more time and money to enjoy life. Although everyone’s lives are different, I believe we all deal with some common areas that must be managed. I want to help you by providing you with ideas through articles, links, guest bloggers, videos, downloadable tools and worksheets to give you the tools you need for success.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what your weaknesses are is a strength. Implementing a system in the area of your weakness will help firm up that weakness and will make it a strength. For example: I have a terrible memory. This is a weakness in my life. Since I know this, I am crazy about writing everything down. I have a calendar and to-do lists that keep me and my family on track in everything. I know that if I don’t write things down, I won’t do them or show up to events. I know where I keep important and dated information. I have systems in place for all of these things. And because of this, I am successful about “not forgetting” things. Now, let me be clear, I still make mistakes. However, when I do, it is usually because I didn’t follow the system I created.
Life is overwhelming! Keeping up with kids, friends, family, hobbies, school, domestic chores and whatever else you have packed into your life (or have allowed others to pack into your life) can squeeze out the time you need for sanity. We all have chaos in our lives every single day. We have to find a way to curb that chaos and force it to flow into the boundaries we set for it, just like a river inside its banks. Life should be fun! If yours isn’t fun, would you consider the possibility that there is a better way to live it?
I want to invite you to take a journey with me. Invite your friends on the journey too. Journeys are much more fun when friends come along too. Let’s take a journey to organize our lives. Choose your pace and get started. But, before you begin, I need you to make a commitment to yourself. As your new systems start to work, they are going to free up small amounts of time in every part of your life. You may not notice at first. But, the small amounts of time are going to add up to larger blocks of time. Since most of us are accustomed to living a fast paced, out of control lifestyle, you are going to be tempted to add more events and take on more responsibilities because that is what you are used to. Please do not do this!! Make a commitment to use this time to spend quality time with people you love. Plan some fun in your life! This is the “better way” I was referring to earlier.
Now, where do you start? You cannot possibly organize everything at once. And, where are you going to get the time to add “organizing” to your list of things to do? Everyone’s answer is going to be different. But, these are the kinds of questions I want to help you answer by reading this blog. So, take a deep breath and let’s get started!!