3 Ways to Be Financially Responsible In Your Marriage

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? – Luke 16:11

Financially_Responsible
Photo by Derek Couts Photography

Before the vows are said and the rings are exchanged, many couples like to prepare for the transition from dating to married life by discussing a variety of topics.

Where do we want to live? How many kids do we want to have? What church will we attend? What lifelong goals do we want to achieve?

Financial goals and expectations are topics that need to be discussed as well! Money is a large component of marriage, whether we like it or not, that has the ability to help or harm it. I’m not saying that money is everything, but when we steward our finances with intentionality and consistency, we add a level of comfort and convenience to our marriages that makes them more fun and enjoyable for both you and your spouse!

Here are a few things to help you do just that:

1. Keep a budget
I’ve hit on this topic before in a previous post, but it’s so important and I think bringing it up again is worthwhile. Setting a budget and sticking to it is how you and your spouse are going to reach your financial goals later on down the road. It might not be very fun when you first get into it, but you will thank yourself later for paying off debts and not overspending.

Being financially responsible by keeping a budget is just a better way to live. You will be able to do more things, go more places, and when unexpected events come your way, like an emergency room visit, you won’t be sent into a panic wondering whether or not you can foot the bill.

2. Make financial decisions together
Daniel and I have only lived in our apartment for a few months and we are just starting out. There are a few things that we’d like to have for our home, but we know that it’s not in our best financial interest to purchase these things just yet. However, there are several big ticket items I’ve had my eye on for a while now that I just know would make our little abode more homey and inviting. How easy would it be for me to hop on Wayfair and buy all the fancy rugs I’ve been ogling for months or go to Home Goods and buy everything in the store? Super easy!! But I have a feeling that my husband wouldn’t be very pleased with me if he were to check our bank account at the end of the day and discover that I had spent hundreds of dollars without consulting him first. So, we make our financial decisions together, no matter how big or small they are.

It might seem a bit trivial, but even when I plan on buying something small for our apartment, like a lamp or a pillow, or go searching for a new work outfit, I always let Daniel know what I intend to buy and how much I expect it to cost so that it doesn’t come as a surprise to him when he checks our account.

Communicating your purchases to your spouse can prevent a lot of arguments and ensures that you are both aware of your current financial status.

3. Have a joint bank account
I know this can be a wishy washy subject for some couples, but hear me out on this. When we commit to spending the rest of our lives with someone, why would we exclude our finances from that commitment? That’s like saying, “I promise to spend the rest of my life with you, through sickness and in health, till death do us apart … buuuuut I’m gonna need to keep my bank account separate from yours, ok?” It doesn’t work that way!

Having separate bank accounts can potentially lead to bad spending habits and a point of contention between you and your spouse.

Having separate bank accounts can potentially lead to bad spending habits and a point of contention between you and your spouse.

Let me clear this up a bit: If you and your spouse share a bank account, your husband or wife has the ability to check the account whenever they wish. They can see every penny coming in and going out of the account. This holds each of you accountable. This is good!

On the flip side, if you and your spouse have separate accounts, you can spend as much money as you want without having to disclose that information to anyone other than yourself. So when you know you’ve spent more money than you should have and you don’t want your spouse to know, you might find yourself lying about how much you’ve actually spent. When lies and deceit begin to enter our marriages, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem at first, we are setting ourselves up for a long and bumpy road that can easily be avoided.

When lies and deceit begin to enter our marriages, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem at first, we are setting ourselves up for a long and bumpy road that can easily been avoided.

By keeping a budget, making financial decisions together and having a joint bank account, you and your spouse will set yourselves up for financial and marital success, and be able to fully enjoy the fruits of your labor “as long as you both shall live”!

Being Hospitable Even When Your Home Is A Mess

Hospitality_Graphic_2

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve just moved into your first home. Or maybe you’ve been in your home for a while, but there are so many projects that need to take place before it even begins to mirror the vision in your head.

And the last thing you want to do is invite people over when you feel like your place of rest is a mess.

You’re afraid of what they might think or that your home won’t feel inviting. Maybe you’ll call them up when you have some new furniture or when the yard has been cut or when all the boxes have been unpacked. But not right now because your home just isn’t ready yet.

I’ve been there before. In fact, I’m still there! Many times throughout the day I think of all the things I wish we had in our apartment to make it more cozy, more decorative, more put together. I see what it looks like now and compare it to how I want it to look, and that makes it really difficult to be content with what we already have.

I’d tell myself, “When we have everything set up and it looks how I want it to look, then we’ll have people over”. But that’s just not what we’re called to do.

1 Peter 4:8-10 tells us, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 

Did you get that? Use whatever gift you have received to serve others. It doesn’t say, “Wait until your home looks perfect before you open it to others”. It doesn’t say, “Wait until all the shelves have been dusted and every room has been vacuumed before you open it to others”. It says whatever gift you have received is all that you need to serve others.

I began to realize that if I waited until our home looked exactly how I wanted it to look, it would be a long time before we’d have anyone over.

God doesn’t say “Come find me when you have your life together, and then we’ll talk”. Instead, he meets us where we are, unpacked boxes and all.

We can do the same thing when opening our homes to others. We don’t have to have it all together. We don’t have to have new furniture or a freshly cut yard to be hospitable.

We do what we can with what we have and God will take care of the rest.

8 Pearls Of Wedding Wisdom For The Next Bride In Line

*All photos by Derek Couts Photography

Daniel and I loved and cherished every second of our wedding day and nearly five months later, we still talk about how much fun we had celebrating our marriage with our favorite people in the world. There were several things we did on our wedding day that I know will make your own wedding experience so much more enjoyable!

1. Pray a special verse over your wedding and marriage
As a bride, you think of all the things that can go “wrong” on your wedding day. It’s just what we girls do. What if it downpours at your outdoor wedding? Or red wine accidentally gets spilled on your dress? What if nobody dances during the reception? Or an unwanted guest shows up as a plus-one?

Early on in the wedding planning process, my mom told me of a verse that she had been praying over our wedding and marriage; Ephesians 3:20. This verse says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” She prayed this prayer often and told me not to stress about the things that were out of our hands. All we could do was plan and prepare the best we could and leave the rest up to Him. This verse brought me so much peace during the time of my wedding.

When we accept that we cannot control every obstacle that will come our way on our wedding day, but trust in God’s ability to do abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine, we allow ourselves to be fully present on our wedding day, enjoying each moment rather than being rattled with fear and worry of everything that could go wrong. HR_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-2042. Sit down and eat dinner with your husband
Before our wedding, I wanted to know what past brides wished they had or had not done on their wedding day. Something that I kept hearing over and over was that the bride wished she would have sat down and eaten dinner with her new husband. So, I made a point to do just that. At our reception, we had our own little table set aside for us by the fireplace where we got to enjoy 15 minutes of just being together and taking in all that was happening around us. We got to eat our delicious dinner and talked about how seamlessly everything came together. It is one of my most favorite memories of our wedding.SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-293SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-2943. Cut a rug
When your guests see you having a good time, it makes them want to join in on the fun! We came up with a first dance that we had practiced for months before our wedding and when our DJ announced us during our grand entrance, we went right into it. We had the best time showing off our silly moves and I felt like it set a fun atmosphere for the rest of the evening.SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-295.jpgSM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-297SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-303SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-3094. Don’t go crazy with the decorations. Create an inviting atmosphere instead.
You might have the most beautiful decorations, but if the atmosphere is stiff and nobody is on the dance floor, that’s probably what people are going to remember about your wedding when they think back on it years down the road. However, if you create a welcoming and fun atmosphere, your guests are going to stick around until your send off.

I wanted our wedding to feel warm, cozy and inviting for our guests, and I think we accomplished that without going overboard on the decorations. We had a fire lit during our ceremony and reception (instant coziness), and lots of candles strewn about. You can buy candles in bulk for pretty cheap. We also had good music playing the whole night, thanks to our awesome DJ, which set the tone for the evening and had people on the dance floor the entire night.

So when you’re obsessing over the nitty gritty details of your decorations, remember that your guests would probably much rather have a fun time dancing the night away at your wedding than have pretty centerpieces to stare at for a few hours. SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-361SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-372SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-365SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-387SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-403SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-404SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-452SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-412SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-410SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-4205. Make it personal
Most of the decorations at our wedding were things we already had at home, like my typewriter, door wreaths, and things for our UT pom pom send off. Or they were things that people had made for us, like the wooden cross that sat on top of the mantle that my best friend handmade for me, and an antique door that my mom had made for us that served as the backdrop for our family dessert table. SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-125SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-122SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-128SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-192SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-1296. Involve your family and friends 
My mom made our wedding cake from scratch and used my grandma and grandpa’s cake topper. She also did the majority of the decorations by herself, helped me address wedding invitations, and so much more. Women on both sides of our family made desserts for our family dessert table, Daniel’s uncle married us, my aunt cross stitched our ring bearer pillow, my second cousins were our flower girls and Daniel’s were our ring bearers. One of my bridesmaids sang a song and played guitar while we took communion and lit our unity candle, and ALL of my bridesmaids were such a huge help with getting our trail mix bags stuffed and setting up the day before. Your wedding will be much more special when you involve the ones you love the most. SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-248SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-251SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-3SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-4SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-130SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-131SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-210SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-216HR_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-105SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-107SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-203SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-252SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-1337. Get most of your photos out of the way before the ceremony 
We had a wonderful photographer, Derek Couts, who is also our close friend! He did an amazing job taking our family photos and bride and groom photos before the ceremony so we could eat dinner, visit with our guests, and dance for the rest of the night! After all, we had been planning this day for over a year, so why not enjoy it?! He was also fantastic at taking natural photos of us throughout the night and not pulling us away from the fun to get forced, posed shots. SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-114SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-121SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-100

 

SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-289SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-291SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-2928. Visit with your guests, but don’t feel bad if you can’t make it to everyone 
Yes, you should and need to visit with your wedding guests. They took time our of their schedule to come celebrate with you, so you should thank them for that! However, don’t feel bad if you can’t (and chances are, you won’t have the time to) visit with every single person there. They know that you have a lot going on and they want you to enjoy your own wedding! But be sure to thank them for coming after the wedding, whether that’s by writing them a thank you note or making a phone call. SM_Jill_and_Daniel_Wedding-312

16 Free and Cheap Couples Activities in Knoxville

Like many newlywed couples just starting out, Daniel and are on a budget. Although we are only four months into our marriage, we have established some financial goals that we want to achieve within the year that won’t be possible without a little sacrifice.

In addition to our monthly bills, we have another financial obligation that currently requires a healthy bit of attention from our bank account. As a result, we are left with a limited budget to spend on “the fun stuff”. However, this has made us better at making do with what we have when it comes to date nights and weekend outings.

Some of our favorite free or cheap activities are too good to keep to ourselves, so I want to share them with you in hopes that you and your significant other will give them a try! Not only are all of these activities extremely forgiving on your budget, but they will make you feel like you still have a social life.

1. Hiking
One of our favorite recreational activities since we are only a 45 minute drive from the Smoky Mountains. Pack your lunch with food from home rather than eating out along the way. You’ll have lunch with a view once you reach the top! Mountain views are priceless, literally.

20050479_10155632625631600_1916382662_o

20132533_10155632659821600_560802928_o

2. Buy cheap floats at the Dollar Store and have a lazy day floating on the quarry, lake, or down a river
We bought these floats at the beginning of the summer for $3 and I’d say we’ve gotten our money’s worth out of them! Floating at Mead’s Quarry a few miles down the road from our apartment is our favorite spot.

20117297_10155634167326600_48231658_n

3. Go to a minor league baseball game
Tickets to the Smokies game cost us around $20 and we were pleasantly surprised by how much fun we had! The fireworks at the end of the game were an added bonus.

19239867_10155632642446600_1714340120_n

 4. Keep an eye out for festivals and events in your city
Our city has a biweekly Farmer’s Market during the warmer months and a festival for just about anything you can think of. This year, Knoxville hosted the USA Cycling Pro Road and Time Trial Championships in June. We spent the whole day walking around the city and stopping at different spots to watch the group of cyclists race past us.

20067642_10155632625671600_2035659798_n

5. Take a walk or trail run at Ijams or ride your bike along the greenway
We live a few miles away from Ijams Nature Center where we like to go for evening runs. Every time we go, we always find a new trail or feature that we’ve never stumbled upon before. This year, we got to run alongside fields full of bright yellow sunflowers that popped up in July at Forks of the River!

20134654_10155632625831600_1499541379_n20107844_10155632625646600_800772913_o

6. Free or cheap concerts at your local honky tonk or bar
Music is just better live, don’t ya think? Songs are brought to life when you see a band or artist perform them in person. Cotton Eyed Joe brings in new artists each month, often for free or usually less than $20 per ticket. This month we saw Midland, and tickets to see Joe Nichols in August are only $10!

19875858_10155632625666600_775120751_o

7. Happy Hour
If you are the kind of person who would rather sip on an adult beverage at a bar with your friends than at home by yourself, happy hour is for you. Our favorite downtown bar, Scruffy City Hall, has $2.50 beers during happy hour, and that makes us, well, happy.

8. Line dancing lessons
When I was in college, a couple friends and I would go to Cotton Eyed Joe to learn how to line dance. We go on ‘college night’, so we’d get in for free and attempt to learn the complicated steps to songs. More often than not, we’d fumble through the steps, but we still had a blast every time!

20120989_10155632659886600_1887081229_n9. Hang out at your apartment or neighborhood pool
Relaxing, close to home and free! I’ve never met anyone who’s said “no” to a day at the pool.

10. ENO at a park
Bring a book to read while you swing from the trees at Sequoyah Hills.

20158185_10155632659901600_102988705_n

11. Get a library card
This may seem super old fashioned to some people, but library cards are free if you live in the county that the library is located. You can rent an endless supply of books and return them when you’re finished instead of holding onto books you probably won’t read again and take up space on your shelves.

12. Bowling
Strike & Spare bowling alleys always have specials during the weekdays for $1.10 games, and they do cosmic bowling on Friday and Saturday after 10 p.m. which is sUpEr FuN.

13. $2.50 theater
Knoxville has an old school theater that sells movie tickets for $2.50, and there’s a Big Lots next door that you can stop in for a quick candy run if you forgot your snacks at home.

14. Camping
In my experience, you can rent most tent campsites for less than $30. Besides, eating dinner by candlelight is way more magical than at the kitchen table.

20134425_10155632625851600_2129677584_n

20136637_10155634245436600_851433993_n

15. Have friends over for dinner
Eating out gets really expensive and if you don’t monitor how much you’re forking out at restaurants (or forking into your mouth), you’ll start to see those dollars dwindle pretty quickly. This was, and still is, our biggest recreational expense. It’s especially hard during the summer months when all you want to do is get ice cream after dinner, but even that can add up if you make it a weekly habit. We’ve started eating in a lot more lately and although it’s sometimes a pain to come home after work and cook every night, it’s worth the money that we saved by not eating out, and healthier too!

20120831_10155634245506600_1755342795_n

16. Go sight-seeing in your own city 
You’ll never know how much your city has to offer unless you get out an explore it for yourself!

20050459_10155632659851600_1130692450_o20107268_10155632625846600_140384677_o

What are your favorite free or cheap things to do with your significant other? Have any suggestions for us that you’d like to share? E-mail us at hello.ataleoftwothompsons@gmail.com!

Finding Joy in the Marital Routine

Have you ever heard someone say, “I love my job because no two days are the same.”?

They enjoy going to work because each day brings new and different challenges, and they never know what to expect when they walk through door.

I admire people like that because that is so not me.

I live for routine. I’m a creature of habit and I can turn into a pretty crabby creature if something interferes with my routine. I’m not lying when I tell you that I wake up at the same time every morning, eat the same breakfast (oatmeal with a lil’ cinnamon and honey), leave for work at 7:35 a.m. on the dot, park in the same parking spot every day, and the list goes on. Many people would grow bored with this routine, but I thrive on it and that’s something I learned at a young age.

My parents often tell of the time I was involved in several school sports during my middle and high school days. On the days I had practice, I was much more productive because I knew I had to wake up at a certain time, get a meal in me, and prepare my workout bag so that I had the right uniform and equipment when I got to the school gym. On the other hand, when my coach gave us a day or two off, I would stay up late, sleep in until noon or later (one time I woke up at 1 in the afternoon and was so mad that I had wasted half the day), and lay on the couch watching MTV reality shows (Parental Control or Room Raiders, anyone?). These behaviors are still true to this day. If I’m not careful, I can blow a whole evening on our couch watching The Office while eating boxed mac’ n cheese out of the pot. Which is exactly what happened last night.

Anyway, we’re getting off topic here!

Although I flourish on a routine and like to have plans in place, I realize there are many of you who consider yourself to be more spontaneous and like to take it one day at a time. There are times when I wish I was more like that. More flexible, easy-going, not so structured and rigid. But that’s why I married my husband who is the most easy going person in the world 🙂

But I don’t think routine is a bad thing. And over time, I’ve come to realize that there is comfort in the routine and I think that can be true for anyone. During these past couple months of being married, Daniel and I have established some of our own routines that have helped us tremendously and that I think any married couple can adopt. For us, they serve as checkpoints throughout the week and times we can simply enjoy being together.

We encourage you and your spouse to start your own marriage routines. Here are a few of ours to help you get some ideas flowing:

  • Navigator’s Council

If you’ve ever watched TLC, you might know of a show called Little People, Big World. One of the twins on the show recently got married and he and his wife started a marriage blog called Beating 50 Percent. The blog inspires couples to have a better than average marriage by giving more than 50 percent to their spouse. They also created a marriage journal called the Navigator’s Council, which is a weekly journal where you ask your spouse the same six questions every week and record the answers. There is a short devotional and a weekly calendar that you fill out too, so that you and your spouse are on the same page for the coming week.

I’d been eyeing this journal for a few months when Hannah (Daniel’s brother’s girlfriend) got it for us as a wedding gift! Although we very much enjoy and get plenty of use out of our new dishes and beautiful home decor from everyone who was so generous to think of us during our engagement, this journal was the best wedding gift we’d received. We sit down every Sunday (we’ve missed a couple Sundays due to varying work schedules) and read the devotional, fill out our weekly calendar, catch up on things to come in the next week, and ask each other those six questions. Some are easy and some are hard to answer. They get us thinking about the direction our marriage is headed and open up the floor for conversations that might not have taken place if we hadn’t taken the time to sit down and really listen to each other.

I can’t say enough good things about this journal and how much our marriage has benefited from it in just two short months. We highly encourage you to consider this resource for your own marriage. Thank you, Hannah, for gifting this journal to us!

18871098_10155468555461600_290262328_n

  • Grocery shopping

This may seem like a chore to some, but Daniel and I get excited to go grocery shopping. Mostly because we just really enjoy food, eating and cooking, but also because we get to spend time together and plan out our meals for the week. We’ve recently discovered that we’re big fans of meal prepping for the whole week, rather than cooking a large meal every night after work (we’re big lazy babies).

My mom told me that she and my dad enjoyed grocery shopping together when they were first married too, and I hope it’s a routine that we don’t grow out of.

18835042_10155469074506600_839369789_n

  • Keeping up with the budget 

You probably aren’t surprised to know that finances is one of the biggest marital stresses (if not THE biggest). Many couples have gone their separate ways due to money stress. So if something like this is the cause of such stress and could potentially lead to the demise of your marriage, don’t you think we ought to be paying even MORE attention to it? *Enter the Handy Dandy Budget Book*

I can’t take much credit here, since Daniel is the one who stays on top of our budget every week, but we do work together by writing down every penny we spend, categorizing it (rent, groceries, insurance, etc.), and tracking our progress, or lack thereof, from the previous month.

It’s easy to think you’re doing OK on your budget until you start keeping track of each expense and those numbers begin to stare back at you judgmentally. It’s as if they’re saying, “Wow, did you really need that pineapple print welcome mat you found at Target when you already have two others??”

However, by keeping track of where your money is going, you will start to see trends form. For example, you might notice that a big chunk of your paycheck is going toward eating out at your favorite pizza place or getting one too many brownie sundaes at that cute, old-timey pharmacy downtown. Now that you’ve identified you’re spending tendencies, and realize that you can live without that brownie sundae, no matter how much it kills you inside, you can create a plan to be more intentional with your spending. Daniel and I have some work to do ourselves in this area, but we might not have known that if we hadn’t started keeping track.

We record our spendings in a cheap notebook from the Dollar Store and I am sometimes hesitant to buy things because I know that when I get home, I’ll have to write it down in that pesky little blue spiral notebook. How’s that for a money saver?

IMG_5678

Your routine can be something as simple as going on an evening walk together once a week, going to the gym after work, or even watching a couple episodes of your favorite show (as long as you don’t waste the entire evening and eat the whole pot of mac’ n cheese). Setting aside specific times throughout the week allows you and your spouse to get on the same page for the upcoming week, simply be in each other’s presence and reflect on the progress you’ve made so far.

What are you favorite routines or little moments throughout the day that you get to spend with your spouse?