Branding Our Life

Month: March 2017

The Three Pieces of Advice that Transformed My Marriage

Marriage Heart

When I first got married, nothing was the way I expected to be. Ironically, since I am a wedding coordinator, I felt I had very realistic expectations of life after marriage. I’d seen so many people assume life would be all moonlight and roses only to wake up to the hard realization that marriage was a lot of work. I’m sad to say, I’ve seen more than one of my couples get divorced over the past nine years.

Anyway, like I said, since I had seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of weddings and married life, I felt I had a good grip on the whole “marriage” thing. I couldn’t have been more wrong. New town, new job, new marriage, financial concerns, a run down fixer-upper in dire need of fixing up. All the change and stress crashed over me; I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water. The result? I was cold and nasty. Who did I take it out on? My husband.

I can only imagine how my husband must have felt. There he was expecting to start a beautiful new journey with the woman he loved, and he got bitterness, resentment, and criticism instead.

It’s hard to admit, but if it weren’t for a few sound pieces of advice, my marriage would have ended before it had a chance to start.

Practice Love

Once upon a time, before I was married, I had to take a marriage class in school. I honestly don’t recall anything from the course. However, as I was unpacking some boxes, I came across my school notebook. In it I found a note that said,

Practice Love. Loving well is a skill. And like any other skill, the more you practice it, the better you get at it.

In that moment, I realized I wasn’t very good at loving my husband. I certainly hadn’t “practiced” it. It struck me that we train for marathons, practice athletics, art, music, and so many other things to become better at them. Why not give loving well a try?

What “practicing love” looked like for me was encouraging my husband rather than criticizing him. Communicating with him in a way he related to. Having fun with him. Showing an interest in the things he’s passionate about.

The more I did it, the easier it got. I started to enjoy my marriage for the first time.

Look for the Positive

One day as I was thinking about my marriage, a scene from the movie Pollyanna came to mind. For those who have seen it, it’s the part where Pollyanna happens upon the local minister practicing his preaching for Sunday. It was a real hell fire type of sermon. Pollyanna engaged the minister in a conversation about why he was so hard on the congregation. She shared this quote with him,

If you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.

As I pondered that quote, I realized I had only focused on the bad things about my new life. I’d never considered what I had to be thankful for. From then on I started taking time out of every day to list the things I loved about my husband, our life, our little fixer-upper, etc. I married the kindest, funniest, most generous person I’ve ever met. How had I not stopped to think about that?

The more I accentuated the positive, the more I loved our life together. I only wish I had done it sooner.

We’re Teammates, Not Enemies

The last bit of marriage-altering advice actually came from my husband. One night I was being particularly harsh. My husband sat there taking my barrage of nastiness. When I finally stopped, he said this,

I wish you saw us as teammates rather than enemies. That’s why I married you. So we could do life together.

Tears flowed down my cheeks. He was right. The person who loved me more than anything in this world was sitting right in front of me. We promised to be on each other’s team until death do us part. It was time I started acting like it.

As I started acting on those bits of advice, things got better. And it still gets better every day. I continue to practice love, meditate on what I have to be thankful for, and approach life as my husband’s teammate. It didn’t just transform my marriage, it transformed me. For that, I am truly grateful.

6 Easy Ways to Start Saving Money

Save MoneyJust shy of a year ago, I left my day job to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams full time. This meant our income was literally slashed in half. We had to cut our expenses. Fast. That’s when we really focused on creating a budget for our new circumstances.

Surprisingly, the transition went pretty smoothly. There were a few bumps along the way, but it was much easier than I thought to “trim the fat” from our budget and start saving. Here are my top six tips from our first year on a budget.

Use Cash for Weekly Expenses

I’m sure you’ve heard about the “envelope method” by now, but for those who haven’t, here’s an article explaining it. We pay our bills online, but for our groceries, fuel, and eating out, we use cash. I get a specific amount from the bank each week and once it’s gone, it’s gone. This method quickly helped me prioritize my purchases.

Meal Plan

Before our budget, our grocery expenses were out of control. To make matters worse, we would end up eating out several days a week, so all that food I spent so much money on went to waste. At the height of my spending, I think I was somewhere near $200 to $300 a week for just my husband and I. Obviously, that had to change.

To make my new (much smaller) budget stretch farther, I found meal planning to be indispensable. By plotting out my meals for the week, I can come up with several dishes that utilize the same ingredients. I make a grocery list and buy only what I need. This method means I buy less than half of what I used to, and nothing goes to waste. Now, I’m able to feed my husband and I on just $50 a week. I’m saving anywhere from $150 to $250 off what I used to spend!

Pack Lunches

When I was working full time, sometimes I would pack our lunches, sometimes I wouldn’t. Which means in addition to all of the dinners we ate out, we also ate out at lunch time. This would cost anywhere from $50 to $75 a week. In addition to meal planning for our dinners, I also buy all the lunch necessities for my husband’s lunch within my $50 a week grocery budget.

My biggest tip for this is to invest in some quality containers for packing your lunch. I bought a variety of sizes to pack sandwiches, soup, veggies, fruit, nuts, etc. It makes packing a breeze!

Skip the Latte

Go for the small cup of coffee instead! Unlike most budget-savvy folks, I won’t tell you to give up coffee altogether. I enjoy meeting with my girlfriends for coffee too much for that… So, I would be a total hypocrite to ask anyone else to do so. However, I’ve switched from that high-dollar latte to a humble cup of coffee with cream. And you know what? I enjoy it just as much! On average, I save about $20 a week this way. I still get girl’s night, but at less than half the price.

Try finding a less-expensive drink option you enjoy. Your budget will thank you.

Group Your Errands

Once my fuel budget was slashed, I realized how many unnecessary trips I would make to town. By planning and grouping my errands, I can get everything done in a more efficient manner in terms of both time and fuel. This has saved me about $20 a week.

Potluck Parties

Bear with me on this one. My husband is the most social person I know. To ask him not to eat out with our friends is like asking him not to breathe. The problem? All that eating out was costing us $150 or more a week.

We found a compromise. I can hostess a party for our friends once a month for about $100. By making food from scratch, I can save a lot of money compared to eating out. Our friends have special dishes they bring; I provide the rest. It works out beautifully. My husband gets to socialize, and we get to save money.


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