Tag Archives: Relationships

5 Reasons Why You Need Small-Group Community

Don’t underestimate the power of small-group community.

It’s incredibly saddening to me how the divorce statistics are roughly the same among Christians as they are among non-believers.

Yet when you look at the church in America, it’s not difficult to see why. Many churches do not have any type of small group environment. Those that do often struggle to get people involved in small groups. This lack of authentic community leads to a feeling of isolation as couples try to work through their challenges alone apart from the body of believers.

Without a small group community, you’re missing out on these powerful benefits: […]

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Our Secret to Intentional Growth in our Marriage

I’ve heard it said that “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

There’s such a temptation with marriage to just check out and go through the motions. If we’re not proactively investing in our marriages they die.

Predictability replaces passion. Boredom takes the place of beauty.

In this post I want to share an easy way that Beth & I intentionally pursue growth in our marriage. It takes less than 30 minutes a week, always gives us something to talk about, and guarantees that we’re focusing on growing our marriage. It’s so simple I’m almost embarrassed to say what it is. […]

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The Five Rules of Date Night

 “I have a date!”

Remember the rush of emotion when you and your spouse began dating? Remember how “in-love” it felt at the beginning? It turns out that was mostly just a release of chemicals in the brain which inevitably fade. Sadly after several years of marriage most couples just feel bored.

Bring Back That Loving Feeling

I have good news for you.

It is possible to be married for years and still be romantically in love with your spouse. There’s nothing more powerful in achieving this than a consistent date night with your spouse. But you have to follow these five rules. […]

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The Best Marriage Advice I Ever Received

I’m not always good at taking advice. But I did this time, and it changed my life.

In our last post, we made the connection between the American Dream and the high divorce rate. Too often we’re not marrying the person; we’re marrying the idea that this person will make us happy or meet certain needs in our life. And when we discover that our spouse is unable to meet our needs or keep us happy, we split.

But if the primary purpose of marriage isn’t happiness, then what is it?

You don’t get very far in the bible before finding marriage. In just the second chapter of Genesis, we find God saying about Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” God found Adam lacking and he created a helper for him.

“Helping” implies “serving.” I cannot help you without serving you.

Do not think that this was condescending to Eve. The Hebrew word for Helper is “Ezer” and it was often used to refer to God himself. Think about it…if you need my help, then obviously I am coming to you out of a place of strength, not out of weakness.

Fast forward about ten thousand years. 

I’m an idealist, a romantic. I had all these false ideas of what love should feel like. So when Beth and I were dating, one of my mentors had his hands full trying to teach me what God really had to say about love and marriage. Using Ephesians 5:25 as his rationale, he would say over and over “Marriage is all about serving, so find someone who is easy to serve.”

If you read Ephesians 5:25, which explains how husbands are supposed to love their wives, you’ll find that it is completely about the husband following Jesus’ example, by serving his wife and laying down his life for her. Nowhere does it say that the husband should demand that the wife meet his needs or make him happy.

Well, I took my mentor’s advice. I married a woman who is incredibly easy to serve. She’s my best friend and I couldn’t imagine life without her.

So if you’re single, focus on finding someone who is easy to serve, because that’s the core of marriage. If you’re already married, then change your focus from “happiness” to “serving.” And strive to become someone who is good at serving and also easy to serve. Not demanding, overbearing, critical, complaining, etc.

A good marriage isn’t rocket science. It’s simply having your focus in the right place.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

Comments: What do you think of this advice that marriage is all about serving?

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Is the American Dream Causing Divorce?

There’s a hundred different reasons why people divorce, but in a recent business leader’s breakfast the speaker boiled it down to just one: The Pursuit of Happiness.

 

Our Declaration of Independence declares that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The right to pursue happiness is in the DNA of every American.

But we live in a different world than the men did who first wrote this declaration. To them, happiness was defined as freedom from tyranny, and freedom to be self-governed. Happiness was NOT defined as an emotion.

How does this relate to divorce?

When the purpose of your life is to pursue happiness, you base all of your decisions on “will this make me happy?” And if we’re honest, we all walked down the aisle thinking that marriage would make us happy, at least to some degree. But marriage also brings its share of pain.

Divorce is inevitable when your core purpose is to pursue happiness and your marriage is causing you pain.

I’m at that age (mid-thirties) where I’m seeing my peers divorce. People I never would have thought would divorce are splitting up, and it breaks my heart. It’s been said that divorce is more painful than death, because with death, you at least get closure. 

It’s interesting to note that the divorce rate increases with each marriage. First marriages have a 50% chance of divorce, second marriages 67%, and third marriages 74%. In other words, the marriage you are in right now has the highest chance of success than any marriage you could ever have.

We have to learn that the purpose of marriage goes way beyond happiness. And for that matter, the purpose of your life goes way beyond happiness. Happiness is a byproduct of living life right.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

P.S. How have you bought into the belief that life is about pursuing happiness?

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How To Kill Your Debt Without Killing Your Spouse

Debt will take a toll on your marriage long before it ever affects your credit. Finance is a numbers game, but we tend to forget there are lives and emotions attached to those numbers.

When your blood pressure starts to rise over issues of money, you should stop and ask yourself, “what’s more important, my budget or my bride? My security or my spouse?”

Money can be an incredibly deep issue, because it is married to your emotions, often showing up in issues of control, security, identity, and desire. So when life is difficult financially, it can really start to weigh on your relationship.

We wrongly place our hope in money, trusting that it will bring us security, and provide for our needs. I personally believe that your level of financial freedom is proportionate to the level of disconnect between your emotions and your money (that’s a powerful thought…don’t miss it!). True financial freedom comes when you can separate your finances from your feelings.

Imagine how free your life would be if the lack of money did not produce fear, and wealth was not connected with feelings of peace and security. What if your level of joy did not rise and fall with your income? What if we could simply trust him to be who he said he is, our Provider? Paul said “My God shall supply all your needs…” Do we believe that?

If you argue about money with your spouse, then it’s time for a divorce. But not with your spouse…rather, with your trust in money instead of in God.

James (don’t forget…this was Jesus’ brother) said “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

It’s time for some soul-searching. Do your arguments with your spouse stem from your own desires, whether that be for control, security, or simply more stuff (because your identity is tied to your possessions)? If so, you need to confess this to your spouse and ask your spouse for forgiveness.

To achieve financial wholeness in a marriage requires teamwork. But sometimes you need a reminder that you and your spouse are on the same team, fighting for each other instead of against each other. Finances are never “his” problem or “her” issue….it’s OUR problem and regardless of who caused it we’re going to work together to overcome it.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley & Beth

P.S. It’s Friday, which means we’re sending out our newsletter today. We always include a short “Date Night” section in the newsletter including tips and questions for you and your spouse to help keep the passion alive in your marriage. Not a member of the DTL community? Sign-up now!

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Four Qualities of a Bulletproof Budget (Part Two)

Welcome back to our “Bulletproof Budget” series! We truly hope you are having an excellent week so far!

As promised, today’s post is about the final two qualities of a bulletproof budget. In Part One, we mentioned the first two qualities, which are 1) Keeping your budget simple and, 2) Making sure you and your spouse agree on the budget.

Without further delay, here are the final two qualities of a bulletproof budget.

A Bulletproof Budget Is…

3. Comprehensive

There is no such thing as “unexpected” when it comes to a truly comprehensive budget. Notice…I didn’t say “complex.” It is possible to have a budget that is thorough and accounts for everything yet is still simple and easy to understand. If you create a budget, yet still find “unexpected” expenses popping up throughout the month, then your budget is not comprehensive.

I’m writing this about two weeks after a team of Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden. Speaking about the planning for the raid, one commentator stated that they had contingency plans for every possible scenario, and then they had contingency plans for their contingency plans. Likewise, your budget is literally your spending plan. No budget = no plan. Inadequate budget = inadequate plan.

Studies show that the most common cause of major debt is unexpected emergencies. Obviously, you can never fully expect a car accident, or a sudden job loss. But you can prepare financially for the unexpected by allocating funds in your budget for these items.

Most “emergencies” are really smaller issues which should already be included in the budget as a line item, such as vehicle maintenance. The real emergencies are typically weathered by having an emergency fund, which starts around $1,000 and should eventually be built up enough to cover 3-6 months of living expenses.

4. Personal

Your budget is your budget. We highly suggest customizing any online template or form you may find so that it fits your needs and even your style.

Even though I’ve looked through dozens of different forms and templates, the budget Beth & I use was created by us from a blank Excel document. Why? Because it gives us the flexibility to make changes. I even change the colors and layout every so often just to give it a sense of newness. Sometimes I’ll add a scripture or quote to the budget. The point is, your budget needs to fit YOU. The more “U” that’s in your budget, the more you will enjoy it and take ownership of it.

That’s it. Simple, Agreed-upon, Comprehensive, and Personal. If these four qualities exemplify your budget, then you have something solid, err…bulletproof, that you can work with.

Comments

Please post a comment or question! Which of these four qualities does your budget need the most? We respond to 100% of our comments.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

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Four Qualities of a Bulletproof Budget (Part One)

Hello & welcome back to Debt To Life! This week we’re excited to jump into the process of creating a bulletproof budget.

Today and Wednesday is all big-picture stuff (defining a bulletproof budget, parts one & two). On Friday, we’re going to help you create a bulletproof budget, step by step. Let’s jump right in by defining exactly what we mean by bulletproof!

A Bulletproof Budget is…

1. Simple

If you’ve never created a budget before, simplicity is the name of the game. Less is more. You can find hundreds of downloadable budget forms and spreadsheets online, however, most offer way too many features which often serve to overwhelm more than they help.

If you’re just starting out, you don’t need line items in your budget for retirement, investments, children’s college fund, etc. What you need is a simple budget that tracks your monthly income & expenses.

You can always add these items into your budget down the road, after you have established a track record of following your budget for a few months. What is important now is to create a habit of following your budget, and this will be difficult if your budget is complex and hard to understand.

Here are some tips to keep it simple:

  • Limit it to one page. If you’re using Excel, try to keep it where you can see 100% of your budget on one screen without having to scroll.
  • Omit items that don’t immediately apply. This is especially true if you’re trying to pay off debt. It’s pointless to save for your toddler’s college fund while carrying credit card debt. Pay off the high interest debt, then start saving for the college fund.

2. Agreed Upon

This is commonsense, so I won’t belabor this point. If your spouse doesn’t agree to the budget, it is far from bulletproof.

This also should go without saying, but a budget can’t be agreed upon when there are hidden expenses. You should never have income or expenses which are hidden from your spouse. No hidden credit cards, tax bills, subscriptions, expenses, etc. You get the picture. The only exception would be a surprise, such as saving for a surprise gift or trip. But even then I would err on the side of transparency.

What’s the easiest way to agree upon the budget? Simple. Create it together. We’re going to start talking about the process of creating a budget step by step in Friday’s post. But since we’re in the middle of the month, now is the perfect time to start planning and budgeting for next month.

If this is your first time to create a budget with your spouse, I would suggest that you schedule a couple of kid-free hours together in the next week or so (before the beginning of next month) where you have access to all of your financial information and a computer and can hash out a budget together.

More to come!

Stay tuned for the final two qualities of a bulletproof budget on Wednesday! As always, please post a comment or question below; we’d love to know if there’s any way we can better serve your specific needs! We respond to 100% of our comments.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

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Mythbusters: Busting the Top Five Budget Myths That Keep You Broke (Part Two)

Happy Friday everyone! Today, we’re wrapping up our Mythbuster series, and we’re débuting our new weekly installment called “Date Night.” Now for the final two budget myths (if you missed Part One, click here)!

Myth #4: A Budget Will Constrain Me

Truth: A Budget Will Set You Free

In essence, a budget is the natural outcome of you taking control of your spending, rather than letting circumstances or emotions control your spending. When you set a budget, you are literally assigning a name (such as food, gas, fun, etc) to every dollar you spend. A budget puts YOU back in the driver’s seat. Contrary to popular belief, a budget gives you control. It is the exact opposite of losing control.

The reason people relate a loss of control with having a budget is because a budget brings transparency to their spending. No longer can you just go out and spend blindly. But again, this isn’t losing control…this is gaining control…control over the crazy part of you that thinks buying things will satisfy emotions (shopping therapy anyone?).

Myth #5: My Spouse Won’t Agree to Follow a Budget

Truth: You’re spouse probably doesn’t understand the budget.

When a spouse doesn’t agree to a budget, it typically means that he or she doesn’t understand the budget. This is often the case when one spouse gets on a financial fitness kick and creates the budget with little or no input from the other spouse, then is hurt and confused when their spouse resists the “new budget.”

The key to this, as in almost every area of marriage, is good communication.

To be cheesy, budgeting is a team sport. To be fully sober, it will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to achieve financial success inside a marriage where there is not a sense of “oneness” in the way you and your spouse handle the finances.

We highly recommend that you and your spouse create the budget together. If one spouse is more “financially inclined” (or like me, loves creating spreadsheets), then it is acceptable if one person carries more of the load when creating the budget. However, it is absolutely necessary that both of you fully agree upon the final budget. You’ll know pretty quickly if this isn’t the case, as you’ll end up with resistance, arguments, and overspending.

To recap, here are the top five budget myths that keep you broke:

Myth #1: I Don’t Need A Budget. Truth: If I want financial freedom, a budget is essential.

Myth #2: Budgeting is Hard. Truth: The first 2-3 months are hard; after that it’s basically auto-pilot.

Myth #3: A Budget Won’t Work For Me. Truth: A budget will benefit any income level or financial situation you may find yourself in.

Myth #4: A Budget Will Constrain Me. Truth: A Budget Will Set You Free

Myth #5: My Spouse Won’t Agree to Follow a Budget. Truth: You’re spouse probably doesn’t understand the budget.

Date Night!

As promised, here is our first installment of what we’re calling “Date Night.” At the end of every post on Friday, we’re going to include a few discussion questions that focus on that week’s topic which you can print out and take with you on your weekly date with your spouse.

If you don’t have a date night every week, we HIGHLY recommend it! You don’t have to break the bank every week, but it is vital for the health of your marriage to get some one-on-one time with your spouse away from the kids where you can reconnect (and may even rekindle some of those sparks you used to have when the only time you could see each other was on date night!).

Since this week’s topic is about budgeting, here are a few questions to discuss with your spouse:

If you don’t have a budget:

What are our hesitations or fears to creating a budget?

How would a budget benefit our finances? (5 ways)

How would a budget benefit our marriage? (5 ways)

When would be a good time each month to have a budget meeting?

If you have a budget:

Do you feel that our budget is working? Why or why not?

How could we improve our budget?

If you could make one change to the budget, what would it be?

Upcoming Posts

If you don’t have a budget, you’re in luck. Next week, we’re going to discuss the ins & outs of creating a budget! Be blessed and have a great weekend!

Comments: We respond to every comment! How have you bought into these  budgeting myths?

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

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3 Ways a Budget Eliminates Stress & Creates Freedom in your Marriage (Part Three)

Eighty-Four.

That’s about how many budget meetings Beth & I have had since being married…twice a month for 3½ years. For us, we brought most of our debt to the wedding, and then topped it off with a few dumb mistakes in our first few months of marriage (new furniture? sure!). Most of our marriage has been characterized by responsible financial decisions. And above every other financial arena, the one thing we’ve done very well since day one was create and maintain a monthly budget.

It’s sad to me that “budget” is such a four-letter word to so many people. They avoid budgeting as a way of avoiding problems, conflict, and stress. Yet the irony is this: the very issues they try to avoid are in fact created by not having a budget!

The first two posts in this series primarily discuss the emotional benefits of having a budget: Eliminating Judgment, and Eliminating the Fear of the Unknown.  In this post, we want to share possibly the biggest benefit of a budget: Eliminating the #1 cause of divorce – Disagreements about Money.

Financial Disagreements & Divorce

A study from Utah State University followed 2800 couples for a period of five years, and found that disputes about money were the best predictors for divorce. While this is not new information by any means, one facet of their study proves very interesting.

They found that a couple who has financial disagreements “almost every day” has over a 100% increase in the risk of divorce than the couple who disagrees about money “less than once a month.”

What does this have to do with budgeting?

By having a monthly budget, you deliberately take yourself out of the “almost every day” category and put yourself in the “once a month” category, drastically reducing your risk of relational issues. Here’s how this works.

When you sit down to create a budget with your spouse, the primary goal is for you both to agree on a spending plan…you’re assigning a task to every dollar (this dollar is for food, this dollar is for gas, etc). A budget meeting is the one time a month where you allow yourselves to “disagree” about money. However, you work through those disagreements until you have a spending plan for the month that you both agree on.

If you find something in the middle of the month that you want to buy, instead of arguing with your spouse about it, simply consult your budget. If it’s been agreed upon within the boundaries of your budget, buy it. If it’s a purchase you haven’t agreed about with your spouse, simply wait until the next budget meeting to bring it up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a song on iTunes or an SUV, for you to spend money on it, it needs to fit somewhere inside the budget you have agreed on with your spouse.

Do you see the power in this? If you don’t have a budget, what happens? Every single purchase becomes a potential argument, because you and your spouse haven’t agreed beforehand that it is an acceptable purchase. It creates unbelievable control issues within a marriage, and results in husbands & wives trying to hide their purchases from each other.

Is a Peaceful Marriage worth 12 hours a Year?

Beth & I have a “monthly budget,” however, since we get paid twice a month, we also meet in the middle of the month to update our budget, make sure all of the bills get paid, etc. All in all we spend about an hour a month discussing our budget and paying bills. If you’re just starting out, expect to spend a little longer, but after just a few months it will become pretty routine and you’ll begin to reap the benefits of a significantly greater level of peace in your marriage.

Please leave us a comment, we respond to every one! How would a budget help eliminate arguments in your marriage?

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

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