Marriage Hack: Budgeting

Marriage Hack: Budgeting

The Hunk and I meet with couples before they get married often–especially when he’s officiating their wedding or doing pre-marital mentoring.  I love doing this!  Throughout the meetings, in addition to contributing to skills related to conflict resolution and other key marriage issues, I drop in a little marriage hack we’ve used to make the practical elements of marriage go more smoothly–causing fewer unnecessary friction.  And I want to share a marriage hack or two here and there for you to employ in your own marriage.  I’ve already shared a marriage hack for your schedules and if you missed it, you’ll want to check it out, for sure!  Be on the lookout for future marriage hacks to help you simplify and/or make your marriage run more smoothly.

Marriage Hack: Budgeting

This marriage hack is perhaps the most challenging hack The Hunk and I do.  Mostly because we’re lazy.  But, on the real, this hack has helped is prevent countless frustrations and arguments and negative Nancy thoughts.  I can’t think of many people who love talking money.  I absolutely love talking about it.  Budgets, plans, maximizing… I love talking about money plans.

The Hunk? No.  He’s not a fan.  He hadn’t had much experience with budgets before we got married but I was so house poor that I had to budget.  Also, I had taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Course so I had some really awesome methods developed in my single years.  I brought that skill set to our marriage.

Remember that scheduling hack I told you about last time?  One standing appointment we have every month is a budget meeting.  We used to schedule ours on the first Tuesday of the month, but then our small group situation changed so we now try to have them on the first Thursday of every month.  Now, I say “try.”  Yes, this is where we fall short.  Sometimes, we forget.  Sometimes, we are just slackers.  Sometimes, one of us is sick.  We have skipped months from time to time.  I don’t recommend it.  I aim for perfection, for sure, but I fall short so often that I can’t let it get me down.

Anyway, during our monthly budget meetings we look at the month prior and plan for the month to come.

There are, however, some key background facts to this marriage hack. For instance, I always recommend one central bank account from which all basic spending is taken.  One account for the electric bill, the rent/mortgage, grocery, allowance, and all joint expenses.  This is one element of oneness that I really believe helps two people become one in their heart.  Because, as my Hunk says, our heart follows our money.  This hack is set up for a married couple who has one central account for the joint expenses of life.

That said, The Hunk and I have set up autonomy within our budget so we can still spend some without discussion; we were 26 and 30 when we married; we have allowance.  Don’t worry, that’s the next hack I’m discussing with you.  Until then:

Marriage Hack: How to

You will need two computers: one for logging into your bank account and another for having your spreadsheet open.  Our first step is to divvy up the jobs.  One person needs to be the spreadsheet guru and the other needs to be the bank account filter.

Here’s a free spreadsheet based on what we use to have our meeting.  If you have Google, feel free to make a copy (by clicking “File,” and then “Make a copy…”) and host this on Google for your budget meetings.  If you don’t have Google or don’t want to host this on Google, feel free to export it as an Excel spreadsheet (by clicking “Download as…” and then “Microsoft Excel (.xlsx)”) and use locally.  If you’re interested in more spreadsheets for tracking debt tracking and all that, let me know!  I can totally share what I use to motivate me to pay off more debt!

Job descriptions for this Marriage Hack:

Spreadsheet guru: Places all the numbers in the lines appropriate.  Inputs income as provided by the bank account filter.

Bank account filter: Interprets the expenses in income lines in the bank account online and speaks them to the spreadsheet guru for spreadsheet input.

So, here’s how our basic budget meetings go; you may start with this and find another similar method.  But start somewhere.  Don’t just spend without talking about it for years on end.

  1. I (the spreadsheet guru) open a Google Spreadsheet where we keep our yearly budget records.
  2. The Hunk (Bank account filter) opens our online bank statement for the month we’re meeting about.
  3. As The Hunk goes from the beginning of the month to the end of the month, I put in the amounts appropriate in the spreadsheet.
  4. We repeat this until every item from our month is put into the spreadsheet.  I use this formula to add multiple items for categories such as “car fuel” or “grocery,” etc.: =##+## Each “##” is the amount called out.  For those categories, I always type in the beginning of the sum in at the beginning of the meeting.  Then, I just click in the white space at the top of the spreadsheet when that category comes up again and type, “+##” to add it to the line item.
  5. We discuss the overall success of our financial month.
  6. We plan ways to make our finances more successful in the next month–maybe eating out less, spending less on groceries, putting more in savings, cutting back on frivolous things, etc.

The learning key here is that the line items will become familiar to the two of you.  For instance, we used to have a difficult time distinguishing between “care fuel” and “house gas” in our meetings.  This was unnecessarily frustrating (a real debbie-downer) during the meetings and the Bank Account Filter took a few months to remember to distinguish between the two when calling out the types of expenses.  The bank account filter must have the patience to learn what to really call out and be okay with interpreting the expenses more quickly as you practice each month.

Because I’m a major nerd, I’ve set up a quick video that describes how I interact with the spreadsheet during our budget meeting.  I’d love it if you let me know if you have more questions!


The marriage hack why?

Why is this marriage hack so important?  Well, as we’ve heard endlessly, finances can be the biggest of contributors to marriage frustrations.  Having a set time each month were the two of you discuss how the spending is going will help the two of you open up your discussions about money, spending, and saving.  You’ll have plenty of opportunities to look at cold, hard numbers to see where you’re winning and where you can improve.  The facts are not always fun, but in the long run, this gets easier overall.

Marriage Hack: Scheduling

Marriage Hack: Google Calendar
The Hunk and I meet with couples before they get married often–especially when he’s officiating their wedding or doing pre-marital mentoring.  I love doing this!  Throughout the meetings, in addition to contributing to skills related to conflict resolution and other key marriage issues, I drop in a little marriage hack we’ve used to make the practical elements of marriage go more smoothly–causing fewer unnecessary friction.  And I want to share a marriage hack or two here and there for you to employ in your own marriage.  Be on the lookout for future marriage hacks to help you simplify and/or make your marriage run more smoothly.

Marriage Hack #1: Scheduling

The best thing The Hunk and I Have done, practically speaking, is to use Google Calendars to manage our schedules.

Firstly, we both had a Google account.  You probably have one already, right?  We just used what we had already to get started.  The Hunk was a little reluctant because he love-love-loves paper schedules.  Reluctantly, he joined in, realizing the practical element this brought to his new marriage.

We shared our calendars with one another so we could see them on our own calendars–but not edit them.  He began scheduling his classes, his study hours, his meetings with students, and his church leader meetings on the calendar.  I began scheduling… well, nothing, because I had no life outside of work at the time.  Occasionally, I had trips to Kentucky, but this eventually grew to where I could put in my extra curricular items, like chaperoning dances and working after school on yearbook pages.  Parent/teacher night was important to add.  I even eventually made friends and had dinners with them–Hey, Kelly!  Then, when my wedding photography business launched, I added sessions to it.  When The Hunk was still in school, he could see my activities and try to plan his study schedule around it–which he did wonderfully!

The key here is that we could see one another’s calendar.  So, when The Hunk scheduled a long study session, I could schedule a Gilmore Girls marathon.  If someone asked us over for dinner and he was no where to be found, I could look at his schedule on my phone and see that he had no plans and go ahead and schedule it if I knew he’d be interested.

Often, we have events that we both need to attend.  When this happens, we can invite the other to our events.  This most often happens when we have haircuts scheduled, or joint gym trips hoped for, or, sometimes, we even have to schedule in… well, other things.

We keep this method going to this day, although it’s more complicated because The Hunk likes keeping his phone, which we affectionately call a dumb phone.  He has a tablet and wireless almost everywhere he goes, so he can still access his calendar.  We have one expectation when it comes to scheduling: Put it on the calendar.  If we have conflicts or issues related to schedules, it’s probably because one of us **cough**me**cough** forgot to put something on the calendar.

To sum it up, here are the benefits of using this to hack your marriage:

  • Each person can see the other person’s schedule
  • Each person can invite the other person to join in on events
  • In the absence of one spouse, the other spouse can schedule events with both schedules in mind

Just keep in mind the golden rule: Everyone puts everything on the calendar!

Marriage Hack: How to

If you’ve used Google much in your life, you know that they do regularly change things. As of this posting (February 15, 2016), these are the directions for sharing calendars.  If Google changes this and I don’t, you can easily search for “how to share a calendar in Google” and follow those directions.  Maybe you use a different calendar–just search for those directions.

  • Log into your Google account
  • Go to
  • Click on the gear icon, then settings.
  • Click “Calendars” at the top of the page
  • Unless you’ve used Calendar a lot, you have just one calendar.  You should find your calendar listed; all the way to the right on that row, click the link under “Sharing”
  • Under “person,” type in the gmail address of your spouse.
  • Under “Permissions” select “See All Event Details” and then click “Add Person.”

Marriage Hack: What about you?

What marriage hacks have you found help you to simplify the flow of your life together?  Drop me a line below!

An Open Letter to a Newlywed

An Open Letter to a Newlywed

Hey, Newlywed!  Oh. My. Goodness. You’re married!  If you are like me, you felt like this would never happen.  But it did!

First things first: I’m writing to you from the perspective of a woman–but feel free to read this if you’re a man.


photo by Bethany Moore, Breakthrough Images

I’m writing with the idea that you just married the man of your prayers with whom you did not cohabitate before you tied that special knot.  I have no other experience but this, so I don’t have expertise in newlywededness that doesn’t fit this category.

I’m writing from the perspective of being married for just over four years.  Our wedding day was am amazing day and I treasure the memories from the day.

I guess this post sort of means that maybe, just maybe, I’m not a newlywed anymore.  When did this happen?  When did I become not newlywed anymore?  That’s kind of like asking when your puppy grew up.  It just happened.  Every day.  And then it just was.  Non-newlywedness sneaked in and became a thing without your permission.

For the record, I don’t think I am an oldlywed.  I just have a little under my belt, now.  I’ll claim newlywededness with or without your permission. Thankyouverymuch.

So, let’s talk a bit about being a newlywed, shall we?



Let’s go.

My first piece of advice is to get rid of a word.  The d-word.  Divorce should NOT be an option.  You promised to be committed to this guy and this relationship whether things are going splendidly or terribly.  Leaving is not an option.  A break from this commitment cannot–CANNOT–be an option for either of you.

If you didn’t decide, going into this adventure, that divorce shouldn’t be an option, decide now.  It’s not too late.  If divorce is an option, one or both of you will jump ship and you both will fail at being married.


Honeymoon pic on a beach in Greece

So, if you just got home from your honeymoon, you should expect to get to work.  Maybe you’ve heard people say that marriage takes “work.”  You’re probably thinking about all of the work you did as an engaged couple–planning a wedding–or when you were dating–as you got to know each other or went through all that junk.

That previous work definitely counts.  Prepare for things to change, though.

I remember–just a month or so after I moved and The Hunk and I began to live together in marriage–turning to Seth and crying a little bit.  I felt like I was grasping to hold tight to the giddy honeymoon excitement that I’d experienced.  I remember saying to my sparkling new husband, “I feel like our love is already changing!”  He felt it, too.

And it did.  The change wasn’t a bad change, but it was unexpected.  I imagine the change is different for every couple, since people are always different and one couple is never identical to another.  And I imagine you can expect this change to happen–although I can’t promise it will occur as quickly as ours did, as I moved from a long distance and experienced more changes in my life than I could ever have imagined.

This love change was a sign that our love was deepening and strengthening.  Our roots were digging into the soil.  We were just starting to do life together and this was a necessary and natural change.

I hope you’ve also heard that money is usually the cause of the d-word-we’re-no-longer-using.  Well, that’s only half true.  Terrible teamwork during money crisis can be the beginning of the end if a husband and wife do not work together to solve the problem.  Work together to be proactive about your spending.  There will likely be a spending surge after you say “I do,” as you settle into life together.  Set up your budget–and while you’re at it, be sure to follow Dave Ramsey’s model for telling your money where it goes so that your money doesn’t tell you where you can’t go.  As he says, live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later!

If you didn’t get premarital counseling (we did), get newlywed counseling.  Before there’s a problem, be sure you have the tools to fix inevitable pot holes that appear along the way in your marriage.  I help The Hunk when he provides pre-marital counseling; we tend to spend a lot of time helping equip these lovebirds with skills to work through their problems.  I am unbelievably honored to be a part of this process because, as we grow up, we often don’t learn these methods.  I know I didn’t.  But, seriously, it’s not too late to get these tools and you’ll thank yourself later.  Pot holes are inevitable.

Okay.  I know this is hard to believe.  Well, probably hard to believe.  But you’re probably not going to feel like loving this splendid guy sometime.  At least once.  At least a thousand times.  I mean, unless he’s actually Jesus the Christ, he’s imperfect.  I have a few of my own favorite lines that I try to keep at the front of my mind when The Hunk moves my cheese or leaves coffee grinds all over the counter.

  • You’re on the same team.  I hope Seth knows that I’m not out to get him.  So, in return, I have to–just have to–remember that he doesn’t ever mean to come against me or hurt me.  If we disagree about how to go about taking care of the car I totaled on the way to work, we both have to problem-solve with this idea at the center of our process.  My husband has a similar line that he uses: Fight together–not against one another.  He fights with me–not against me.  Because we’re on the same team.
  • Outdo one another in love.  Love isn’t a competition, of course, but I keep this in mind when I realize that I’m keeping track or adding up “points” in my head.  It doesn’t matter if Seth has done less than me when it comes to making dinner or cleaning up afterwards.  Always. Always. Always, I am aiming to love him more than he loves me.  And goshdangit if he isn’t awesome at loving me!?
  • It’s not personal.  When Seth comes home and is super quiet while I go off about an awful day at work or a super important-to-me issue, I can sometimes feel ignored.  And my job is basically to be ignored all day, so I can get pretty peeved if my man isn’t joining me in a pretend tirade against Johnny Cuss-me-out or Sally Alpha-female.  But, if I remember this line, I realize that I need to stop my self-absorbed rant and see what’s going on with him.  Without fail, I realize that I’ve literally just dumped my problems on him; his job is basically to be dumped on all day.  So, it’s not personal.
  • Give the same grace you would like.  This is actually one I stole from Seth.  When I think about the amount of grace Jesus gives me daily and, well, hourly and … second-ly, I realize that I am really no one to stand on a high horse and expect perfection in any area of life since I cannot ever get life perfect.  This is one reason Jesus created marriage–for us to realize the extent to which we are forgiven and to practice that same difficult forgiveness allthegoshdarntime.  Seriously.
  • Love each other, even if you don’t feel like it.  This adage is my mother-in-law’s.  Other than experience, I don’t know where she heard it.  But I didn’t understand it for a while.  And, if you’re fresh off the reception dance floor, you may not get this for a while.  But just get real tired and see how much energy you feel like expending on this worky worky love.  You won’t feel like running that errand he requests or responding to his obvious and suggestive touch.  You just won’t.  And every tired tissue of your body will encourage you to close your eyes and heart off from your man.  When you do this, it’s the same as him plugging in headphones and blasting music in his ears after you ask for help carrying in the groceries or when you need to be heard.

Alright, you newlywed, you.  I love talking about marriage and could continue for a long freakin’ time.  So, I’ll leave you with a list of awesome resources that I’m pretty sure have saved me a bunch of grey hairs and prevented all possible ulcers.

  1. By far, the most valued resource from which I’ve gleaned so far is Love and Respect.  This book breaks down the foundational relationship issues between men and women and helped me understand what respect REALLY means to me–not the chauvinistic definition I thought was truth before.  Check out their sister ministry Love and Respect NOW.  Joy seriously cracks me up.  I want to be her bff.
  2. Seth and I use the book and accompanying workbooks for Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts.  If you go through the workbooks and read the book, you are forced to talk about the difficult things–before they startle you when they pop up suddenly and without warning.  We went through these on our own before we got married–well, we didn’t quite finish before we got married.

There are tons of resources out there, but none of these resources are any good if you don’t know Jesus as your personal savior.  I can’t help but be frank when I say this.  Without Jesus, marriages fall apart since marriage is supposed to represent Jesus’ love for the Church: unconditional and eternal.

So, please, enjoy marriage.  Always try to get better at being married–loving your husband and working with him to serve Jesus.  It really can be splendid despite the hard times–like when your boss unfairly and unrelentingly reams you out or you have your very first real car wreck or when money just doesn’t seem to be stretching or when your wisdom teeth have to be cut out or when you need someone to help you grade papers or shoot a wedding.  In short, it’s a roller coaster, for sure.

Christian Wedding Photographer

We Made Breadsticks

I love being a DINK.  I’m sure it won’t last forever, but having no children to influence our schedules make spontaneity a possibility.  Not that we are all that spontaneous.  We do like to plan.

However, yesterday, The Husband suggested that we make some sort of bread.

I pulled out my Mixer Bible and went through the bread recipes.  I stumbled across a breadstick recipe that looked rather delicious.  We decided we had everything we needed and started the 3+ hour process.

After the first hour, we realized that our yeast was dead.  Dead dead.  Like, for real.

So, amidst the crazy snow, Seth unburied the car and then was interrupted by our neighbor.

They had yeast.  And boy am I glad that I didn’t have to go all the way to the store to get some!

So, at about 6:30 at night, we started the recipe over.

This means that we finished our delicious breadsticks at about 10pm.

That’s what DINKs can do.

Our delicious results:

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Blogtember: Where mah single girls at?

Dear Single Girls,

I love you.  And I know you won’t believe me when I say that I totally feel you.  I completely know how you feel.

But I was hopelessly single.  Really.  I had dates.  But no real relationships.  I had crushes.  But I felt so completely romantically unwanted by men.

And well-meaning friends tried to make me feel better about this–some of them were mentors and others were peers.  And then there were those creepy old men who would say, “If I were 50 years younger…”


You’ve heard the one-liners:

  • You have so much to offer!
  • Just keep waiting.  A man will come along for you.
  • Everything happens in God’s time.
  • You’ve just gotta get out there and date people!
  • I know a guy…
  • Why don’t you meet Jack?

And you’ve heard so much more.

The truth is this: Love can happen in a multitude of different ways.  As I was waiting for my hunk to come along, I read a billion love stories; I researched romance in the Bible: how did the couples in the Bible come together? Not all of them were prearranged.  Some wives were brought to men by others and the guys just went for it.  Other times, women put themselves in the way of men before the respectable men found them desirable.

I also read Christian women’s stories from current times.  Thanks to the internet, I came across multitudes of blogs about singleness, finding a mate, waiting, searching, etc.  You may have come across these; maybe this post is one of them.  I heard all of the stories.  Authentic, messy, gorgeous, lovely, sticky, and silly love stories. I heard all of the suggestions (including the dreaded: “Enjoy your singleness!” comments).

But that wasn’t working.

God primes us for the right moment.  I firmly believe that; but that is another one of those one-liners you hear, right?

But it happened to me. I read a blog post that discussed the fact that, as long as we are dating Christian men, we are dating brothers in Christ.  Before my now-husband rang the doorbell for our first date, I prayed that God would help me to love him as a brother in Christ, even if we are not meant to be husband and wife. #primed.  Seriously. My heart was in the perfect place to let someone in and to serve.

I can’t promise this formula will work for you.  But I can’t promise it won’t. However, I do have my own personal advice to throw your way.

  • Implement and stick to the flag system.  A red flag, for example, is an issue worth ending a relationship over: he pressures you to have sex before marriage, he doesn’t love Jesus, he disrespects women, he’s not committed to anything in life (i.e.: can’t hold a job or focus on a dream), he never says he’s sorry.  A yellow flag, for example, requires investigation: He has a rough relationship with his parents, he dates for a long time without putting a ring on it, he is apathetic toward developing your spiritual relationships together, he has poor personal hygiene.  A green flag, though, is a go.  For instance: He initiates prayer with you, he maintains proper physical boundaries, he is friends with your father (if your father is in your life), he insists on opening the door for you, he protects you.  I live by the flag system.
  • Don’t date someone who makes it clear that he only wants physical fulfillment.  Everyone will have their heart broken.
  • If your good friends and family don’t like him, run.  To be clear: If they like him, but wish he wouldn’t make you move two hours away, that’s not the same.
  • Pray.  Share your pain with Jesus.  As far as we know, Jesus was single; He probably has insight to share with your heart.

I have more advice, but you’ll just have to keep coming back to me.

But, seriously, I love you.  I wish you the best in your quest for romance.

I hope that, in the mean time, you’ll make the best of your single life in the event that the dashing man of your prayers never shows up.  Enjoy making your own decisions that will only impact you: where you’ll eat for dinner, who you’ll hang out with on Friday night, which activity you’ll get involved in at church, etc.  Do all the things you want to do; it may not be about you forever.

Until then,

Online Browsing

Recently, I read this article.

I love reading Joy’s posts and am a big fan of her ministry and her parents’ ministry.  If you are single and hope to one day be married, dig into these ministries and let their information change you.  If you are married and you have a good marriage, you can STILL benefit from these resources.  But if you are married and you are having trouble in your marriage, you and your spouse should most definitely sit down and get their resources regularly.

Our marriage would not be the same without this and our ministry would not be the same without having read the book Love & Respect.