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Money and Marriage

Last Wednesday, an article in The New York Times reported that many successful marriages work because both partners are on the same page when it comes to finances.  The author, Tara Siegel Bernard, points out that marriage throughout the centuries has typically been a financial arrangement.  It’s only in the past couple of centuries that the notion of love was wedded to marriage.  Now though, we seem to have come full circle.  Instead of marrying for money, it’s best to marry your fiscal soul mate.



credit: foundphotoslj


The article got me thinking, especially when Bernard asserted: “So much of what we want — or don’t want — out of life boils down to dollars and cents, whether it’s how hard we choose to work, how much we consume or how much we save.”  One of the things that makes writing about personal finance fun is that you’re really writing about your core values and the choices you make in life.  Beneath all the discussion about retirement, debt, savings, and frugality, we’re really analyzing what we want in life.  Do we want the big house, the big car, or the big bank account?  If we’re lucky enough to have a little money left over after the necessities are taken care of, how will we use it?

This article sparked some discussion between my husband and me about what our next financial goal should be.  Now that we’ve knocked out my debt, where to go next?  Bernard emphasizes the importance of long-term planning.  It makes a lot of sense because day-to-day temptations can overwhelm us if we let them.  There’s always a new toy to have or a little treat to buy.  However, with clear long-term plans and a budget, we’ll be able to resist the money drains a little bit better.

For us, the big long-term plan is to bring about a better work/life balance.  Now, we’ve got to figure out the steps that will get us there.  I’m going to start reviewing our income from the last five years to build a household budget and see how much we can realistically save.  All this falls in line with the article’s next piece of advice: run your home like a business.  By tracking income, expenses, and a budget, we’ll do a better job managing our resources for what we really want: time to enjoy life, resources to travel, and the security of having a financial cushion.

Fortunately, we are pretty much on the same page when it comes to finances and what we want out of life.  Now, I just need to get serious about creating the plan to get us there!  How about you?  How do you and your partner manage money?


Carpool Your Way to Hapiness

Ok, maybe “happiness” is a little strong.  However, my new carpool certainly makes my budget a little happier!  My commute is 40-45 minutes each way, and that 1 1/2 hours a day at $4-a-gallon gas prices added up to $10 a trip and $200 a month.  Fortunately, another colleague lives in my little town, so now we carpool.  I thought I might not like carpooling because I had used that down time in the car to catch up on NPR, but after a month, I’m thoroughly pleased

Our Arrangement

One of the great perks of being a professor is that you can set your own schedule.  I’ve decided to work from home Friday mornings, so my friend and I only carpool Monday — Thursday.  We each drive twice and then drive ourselves on Fridays.  All in all, I only have to drive 12 times a month rather than 20, so that saves me $80 a month in gas!

The Perks

  • See above. . .the biggest perk is that $80 a month.
  • Not having to drive every day.
  • One less car on the road four days a week.
  • Getting to know an interesting colleague in a completely different discipline.
  • Small-town gossip.
  • Cutting down the mileage on my high-mileage vehicle.
  • Having a carpool keeps me more accountable to get out of bed on time.
  • Working regular hours on campus is good for my career.

The Drawbacks

  • I can’t just decide to stay late or leave early.
  • I don’t have that “alone time” in the car.

As you can see, the perks certainly outweigh the drawbacks, including some unexpected ones!  I seem to be less inclined to hit the “snooze” button on the alarm when I know that someone else is depending on me getting to work on time.  I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know my colleague and her perspective on things.  Since she’s an accounting professor, I hear about issues that my fellow literature profs never raise.

by Mike Licht

by Mike Licht

If you have the chance to carpool, I’d highly recommend it.  Of course, we’re out in rural Ohio, so there’s no HOV lane.  However, if you’re in a major city, that’s another great reason to carpool.  Carpooling is a nice frugal move in these high-price times!  Anyone else starting to carpool?

Back to Basics: Renew Your Intentions

This is the final post in a series on the three R’s of debt reduction. Read the introduction here. Learn how reflection can help here.  Read about replacing bad habits here.  Today, I examine how success stems from a constant process of renewal.

Renew Your Enthusiasim

Unlike running up charges on your credit cards, paying down your debt is a lot longer process and can be a lot less fun.  There are no wild shoppping sprees, no extravagent feelings of glee at buying something “forbidden.”  Instead, day after day, you have to tell yourself, “I won’t go into debt.”  “I will stick to my budget.”  “I will make do with less.” 

by Petteri Sulonen

by Petteri Sulonen

All that resolve can make for some tough going. So many times in the past, I’d set a goal and make a plan to pay off my cards.  Then something would come up; I’d give in to the impulse to charge, and I’d be back at square one.  When I moved from DC to Ohio, I totally planned to pay off my cards and start my new job free of credit-card debt.  However, I spent a couple of lonely weeks trying to make my new apartment feel cozy.  That involved almost-daily trips to Target for a shower curtain, or a new rug, or a new lamp.  Still, I thought I could make a few charges and still keep things under control.  Then, I discoverd that we wouldn’t get paid for another month due to how the university constructed our contracts.  Suddenly, the savings that I planned to use to pay off my debt had to go toward living expenses, and I had all these silly charges racked up as well.  So much for that plan!

by Joe Shlabotnik

by Joe Shlabotnik

In March, I started a new plan, and this time, I WAS able to stick to my plan, and even paid off my debt six months earlier than I had planned.  Partly, this was because I moved in with my fiance and was able to put a lot more money toward my debt.  Partly, it was because I made paying down my cards a public act, so I was too embarassed to make too many dumb charges.


Mostly, renewing my enthusiasm for my new goal helped me along.  Every day, I reminded myself about that debt.  Every month, I had to account for my success or failure.  Often, I’d wake up in the night, calculating payments and “snowflakes.”  The process of paying off my debt really was that: a process.  Setting a goal once and then moving on is not enough.  I discovered that I had to renew my commitment to that goal every day!  Some days it was really fun, like when I could send a big payment to my card.  Other days, it was no fun at all.  However, following my other “R’s” of debt-reduction: reflecting on my emotional habits and replacing bad habits with good, new ones helped me along.  Here’s hoping it helps you as well!

Weekly Roundup

This week, I participated in three top-notch carnivals.  Here are the highlights from the week:

Carnival of Money Stories

This week, Funny About Money did a fun Labor Day roundup of money stories.  I liked Free From Broke‘s reminder to always call the police in an auto accident.  Fortunately, no one was hurt in his recent accident!  Mighty Bargain Hunter reflects on the best time to save.  I know that I wish I had done the same thing.  I was reminded of my recent day of ironing while reading The Personal Financier’s post on outsourcing chores.  I contributed my thoughts on how to be patient while reducing your debt.

Festival of Frugality

As always, I love the wide array of frugal tips at the Festival of Frugality (not to mention the alliteration!).  This week, Almost Frugal helped us brush up on our French verbs while hosting the carnival.  I always like a reflective post on frugal fashion, like the one Frugal Fu contributed.  Another post chock full of frugal fashion tips came from The Art of Frugality.  The most surprising frugal tip came from Miss Thrifty regarding travel agents.  Looks like they still may be worthwhile after all!  For this carnival, I submitted my yummy minestrone.

Carnival of Debt Reduction

Mighty Bargain Hunter pulled together another holiday carnival and gave my debt-reduction reflection a nice shout out.  Thanks!  Destroy Debt has some good tips for constructing a holiday budget.  I can’t believe it, but that’s just around the corner.  My Journey to Millions puts the tax code into plain English regarding student loan interest.  Yikes!  I had no idea the deductions were being phased out for “high” income earners.  The Digerati Life presents some good tips on saving money on a wedding cake, complete with fun illustrations.  At our wedding, my dear, dear friend made the cake.  We just enjoyed some of the leftovers last weekend.  I can not emphasize enough how great that cake was!

One is the Loneliest Carnival

I participated in two carnivals this week. The first was the Festival of Frugality at Out of Debt Again. This one was a great read; I found some good tips myself. Be sure to look over CVS Extra Care Bucks at To Be Debt Free. I think I’m finally ready to start raking in the ECBs myself.

I was also in the Carnival of Snowflaking at Paying Off My Future this week. Alas, I was the only entry!! This carnival is going to a monthly format for the summer, so be sure to participate next month. I know lots more people have great snowflaking ideas. . . look how huge the blogroll is over at the Snowflake Revolution!

Daily Accounting: Week 3

Earned: $20 Spent: $407 Saved: $0
Snowflaked: $103.33

Yikes! Where did the week go? Between spending time with the kids and working, suddenly another week in June flew by! We had great fun, fishing, going to the zoo, even getting lots of chores done around the house. I earned $20 at the garage sale and spent it paying the kids for extra chores. It was so nice to have a clean house, especially because I had to work the next day. At work, I’m trying a new approach where I don’t check my e-mail until noon. It really does boost productivity. I’m comfortably on-track for our first target Monday.

I certainly spent a lot this week! Because I’ve been at work, I’ve been eating out more. I also did the “grocery game” all on my own. It was much more satisfying because I found better bargains for my family and didn’t waste time looking for coupons that were mistakes on the list. My best buys were spaghetti sauce for $1 a jar and Advil for $2.50 (regularly $6.69). The biggest purchase happened at Hobby Lobby. Last week, all wedding stuff, ribbon, and silk flowers were on sale 50% off. So, I loaded up two carts full of great stuff. I spent $200, but everything I bought was half-off. I plan to resell the wedding arch, vases, and a few small things on craigslist. The rest, we’ll actually use again. It was a very fun trip and now I feel in great shape for the wedding.

Finally, I got a reimbursement check for my trip to San Francisco. I STILL haven’t gotten the other check from March! Crazy!! When I finally do, you’ll be the first to know. The check I did receive was for $103 more than I budgeted (I was planning on the safe side), so I sent $503 off to the credit cards. Now, I’m under $5,000!!! Hooray!!!

Daily Accounting: Week 2 of June

Earned: $102.54   Spent: $185   Saved: $0

To the credit cards: $97.54

Wow, this week has zipped by!  As part of my June goals, I’m trying to focus more on gathering extra income and less on spending.  I was happy to rack up almost $100 this week from our garage sale, spare change, and survey checks, so I promptly sent that off to the credit card.  You’ll notice that the debt tab is inching toward that $5,000 milestone.  Yay!

Another of my June goals was to get out and socialize.  To that end, I had lunch with one friend and drinks with another.  That ate into my “fun” budget for June, so it looks like I won’t save anything there.  However, spending time with friends is important to me, so I call it money well spent!  The grocery shopping went really well this week.  I spent $130, but came out with a full cart and some needed staples.  I hope to spend less over the next two weeks, when we don’t have the kids.

The farm market had some interesting finds this week.  For $20, I got peas, kohlrabi, aspargus, mizuna, and swiss cheese.  I had no idea what mizuna was, but I figured I could find a way to cook it.  I did some research and found out that it is closely related to kale, so we ate some in a salad the first night, along with a grilled chicken and grilled asparagus. The next night, I stir-fried the rest of the mizuna with leftover chicken.   It was all smoky and delicious.  I pureed the kohlrabi with potatoes the next night; we ate that with steamed mint and peas and grilled shrimp.  Then, we finished up the produce last night with a cream of asparagus and pea soup and homemade bread.  Tonight is pizza night, and tomorrow our town’s farmers’ market opens.  I can’t wait to see what all of the different farms have!  I’m hoping for some organic beef, good cheese, and more vegetables.

Finally, this week, I was in another carnival, the very creativeCarnival of Snowflaking at Finance Gets Personal.  This is another of my favorite blogs, so be sure to read around.  I really like their plans for a “staycation” this year!