2 for 2

We’re officially clocking in on our second year of marriage today, and I’d give this whole married thing a solid two thumbs up.  So far, we’re 2 for 2 as far as amazing years of marriage go.

After birthdays and Christmas and Valentine’s Day, we both felt like our gift-giving abilities were limited so we’ve made it a tradition (2 years in a row counts as a tradition, right?) to go in on a gift together for our anniversary and pick out something that is edifying to our marriage or brings us closer.

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This year’s gift.  Can you guess what it is? 🙂

I’ll be sharing about the gift we chose this year next week on the blog (some related exciting news coming soon–stay tuned!) but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned from last year’s anniversary gift.

His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage

We thought we had read all the marriage books before we got married, but we were wrong.  This one is my favorite because the author isn’t afraid to deal with the reality of a married relationship.

Central to the book is the concept of a “Love Account” that we each have with everyone else in our lives. When we feel loved, a deposit is made in the account. When we feel hurt, a withdrawal is taken out.  For two budget nerds, this double-entry accounting method of describing a relationship had a great appeal but I understand that it sounds a little too mathematical to some.

These Love Accounts explain why you can be in love with our spouse/significant other but still have an affair with someone else.  You can have two love accounts with lots of deposits each with two different people.  As you can tell by the title, the book then describes how to keep withdrawals to a minimum with your spouse and how to avoid making the wrong kind of deposits in someone’s love account who isn’t.  What I really appreciated about this perspective is that it explains why

(A) trust and love can be eroded but recovered

(B) it’s easy to get stuck in a non-stellar relationship (romantic or otherwise) but not be able to let go if the love deposits are just marginally greater than the love withdrawals.

One of the ways we can make deposits in the right love accounts is by enjoying recreational time together. During the chapter on this need for joint leisure, the author frankly states that if you don’t share any favorite activities, you’ll need to do some brainstorming to find mutually enjoyable hobbies and then ditch your favorites to make time.

We hear about sacrifices in marriages in vague terms, but I loved the bluntness of this author’s approach.  Being married might mean giving up your favorite activities.  And that’s okay.

All this to say, read the book.  Whether you’re married, engaged, dating, or not interested, it’s an insightful look at how we love.  It’s encouraged me to not always insist on my way. It’s also inspired me to be more intentional about finding ways to make those deposits into Luke’s love account.

For a $12 book, I’d say that’s a pretty good ROI.

Capsule Closet Part Three | Seven Months Later

 

I started my journey towards a capsule closet 7 months ago. I’m far from the finish line, but here’s what I’ve experienced so far.

1. It’s slowed down my decision making process

Our clothing budget is $10/month.  For both Luke and I.  Luckily for me, Luke refuses to buy clothing until he literally has one grey t-shirt left with a minimally acceptable amount of holes in it so I get more than my fair share of the budget.  But still, you can do some simple math and realize that I’m not buying a whole new wardrobe at one time.

The result?  I’m very strategic about what clothing I buy.  As in, I made an entire inventory list of what I already own, wrote out a list of my “ideal capsule closet” and then created that closet on Pinterest (55 items total, excluding pajamas and t-shirts for working out), marked “Tried” on the items I already own and then added the items I’d still like to an Amazon wish list and Google shortlist.

The unintended consequence was that I also became more thoughtful about other non-clothes related buying decisions.  I’m typing this blog post out on a brand-new laptop, which took me 4 months to narrow down the options and purchase.  I went to Target to go on a mini-shopping spree and couldn’t bring myself to buy anything that I wasn’t already planning on buying.  This might sounds like a tortured existence for those who love to shop, but I’ve found it so freeing.  I’m completely in control of the purchased items that I bring into my life as well as the money going out, which feels great.

2. Easier to get ready/pack

Less clothes = less options = way easier to get ready in the morning.  Couple this with the fact that literally everything goes together (no more fashion missteps!) and I’ve gotten my morning routine down to a speedy 6 minutes.  Plus, creating a capsule closet has killed my habit to “contingency pack” where I bring 5 more outfits than necessary on a trip “just in case.”  When all of my items go together and layer perfectly, I can actually bring just what I need.

3. I love thinking about fashion

I was never into fashion growing up.  We mostly thrifted for clothes, which can be awesome, but typically just meant searching through racks to find something that looked passable in society.  I never thought much about  what styles fit me best or what colors to put together.  Now that I’ve become hyper-strategic about my closet, I’ve found myself really enjoying the process.  Instead of picking the least ugly option from a predetermined set at Goodwill, I’m dreaming up what kinds of clothes I’d love to wear and then trying to find them.

4. I’m happier in the clothes I wear

I’ve eliminated all the items that I don’t love to wear which means every shirt in my closet is my favorite shirt. Plus, since I’ve been thinking more about body types and how clothing fits, I’m narrowed my closet down to items that really fit me well, which is always a good boost for the body image self-esteem.

5. Cascading decision effect

Luke recently coined the term “cascading decisions” in our household to refer to the domino effect that some decisions can create.  In this case, my decision to create a capsule closet has led me to decide to be slower to buy  anything which means less knickknacks around the house and less coffee impulse buys on the way to work.  It means easier getting dressed decisions in the morning which means leaving earlier for work and a quicker commute to the office (also aided by less coffee stops).

I’m far from a full-blown minimalist but the benefits I’ve experienced just from minimizing my closet makes me excited for other cascading decisions to come!

401K vs. Faith

I’m writing this in my favorite corner of our love seat as I will myself to stay awake. I’m exhausted in the worse way, when sleep that brings dreams seems more tiring than simply sitting here staring into space.

It’s in these quiet mental moments that the thoughts from the back of my head finally get to percolate. So now I’m staring into a full mug of brain coffee and I’m trying to see if it’s any good. Here goes!

One of my passions in life is financial literacy. Right after God, my husband, and breakfast baked goods. I’ve been balancing my accounts since age 11 and budgeting since age 5. As I’ve learned more about economics and stewarding money well (and I have a loooong way to go), I’ve also run into a few roadblocks.

From friends, to articles, to the incredible auto-biography of George Muller, I’m constantly reminded of the importance of trusting God with one’s finances. We’ve all heard the stories of the mysterious checks that appear in people’s mailboxes just in the nick of time. These stories humble us and remind us of our ultimate dependence on God. And I believe all of this is very good.

But I also believe God has called us to be wise with our talents and treasure and that means saving for hard times, investing for the future, and living within one’s means.

Friends, I need your help. Have you ever felt like you had to choose between a 401(k) and your faith?What helped you balance complete dependence on God with wise planning?

Goodnight,
Chloe

P.S. Exciting new blog & business updates coming soon! Stay tuned.

Marriage | The First Year

As of today, we’ve got 365 days of married bliss under our belts and while that doesn’t quite make us marriage experts, it does give me the authority to comment on the dreaded “First Year of Marriage.” Cue the dark lights and sad faces.

Real confession time: the first year of marriage was great.

I’m 100% speaking only out of my own experience so if you’re first year of marriage was the worst or just so-so, I’m truly sorry & hope things got better. But since I have so many friends that are getting married this summer (as evidenced by the growing number of bridesmaids dresses in my closet), I wanted to share this ray of hope.

The first year of marriage does not have to be horrible. Contrary to what every well-meaning marriage book and article will tell you, the first year of marriage does not HAVE to entail:

  • Fights over money
  • Time battles over friendships
  • Arguments over where you spend the holidays
  • General despair
  • No more fun
  • Battling over how you squeeze the toothpaste tube (does anyone actually fight over that? Buy separate toothpaste tubes people. Problem solved)

Those are the common issues that a quick Google search will show you. Or just read the first chapter of any marriage book. Most of the ones we read started with: “You thought marriage would be great. But it’s actually super difficult and painful. Say goodbye to happiness now.”

That might be a bit of an exaggeration and while I completely appreciate the effort to set realistic expectations, but I fear that going into marriage with this deluge of fear-mongering propaganda about how much you’ll fight, the dark secrets you’ll discover, and just how generally miserable marriage can be won’t exactly set you on the path to success.Thankfully, Luke and I were blessed with great premarital counseling, wise older friends, and an innate love of budgeting. I’d highly encourage you to read those marriage books because they have a lot to offer after the first chapter. Here’s my summary of the advice from books, the Bible, and mentors that helped us have an awesome first year of marriage:

  • Discuss as many unspoken rules as you can find before marriage.
  • Embrace the money talk. Budgeting can sound scary, but it also can be super fun to set saving goals and get creative with a food budget.
  • Over-communicate. Girls, we love to get offended when guys can’t read our minds. “But shouldn’t they know exactly what I want to eat for dinner without me telling them?” Or worse: “He should know that xyz would make me upset! By doing it anyway, he clearly doesn’t care for my feelings.” Actually, it’s pretty uncaring to get mad at someone for not being able to read your mind or your hints.
  • Don’t keep score. I learned this one the hard way, which you can read about here.
  • Know which battles to fight. If I wanted to, I could probably get annoyed with Luke about pretty much anything. But I don’t have to. I can choose to take a page out of Queen Elsa’s songbook and simply let. it. go. It’s beautiful. And my out-of-tune warbling rendition of this overplayed mantra always lightens the mood 🙂

I’m beyond excited to witness the many marriages that are forming this summer and have loved learning from the other newlyweds and not-so-newlyweds in my life. As I reflect over this past year and sentimentally sob my way through the many wedding cards, notes, and kind advice given to Luke and I, I mostly want to say: Thank You. Thanks to the family and friends that made our wedding day so special. Thanks to the new friends that helped us move across the country and settle down in the foreign land of California. Thanks to the old friends who have stayed in touch and encouraged us every step of the way.

Hands Free Dinner (3/3)

For my last installment on how to make dinner as easily as possible, without going unhealthy or expensive, here are my final tips:

1. It’s OKAY if you don’t have all the ingredients.
Substituting white potatoes for golden ones is totally fine. You don’t even have to tell anyone.

2. Invest in appliances
Our favorites? Rice cooker, crockpot, and bread machine. Delay timer is our new best friend.

3. PLAN AHEAD
I’ve found that the most expensive or unhealthy meals are the unplanned ones. You don’t have much time, so you grab something on the road or on the way home and it’s guaranteed to be more expensive than if you made it yourself. So plan your meals, and check your meal calendar before going to bed so you can de-frost any pre-made foods (crockpot meals, meats, spaghetti sauce, etc…)

4. Identify your meal staples

Planning out 2 weeks of food is so much easier when some days are on auto-fill. For example, Wednesdays are leftover days and Thursdays are for spaghetti. Of course, it’s great to add variety into your menu so I wouldn’t recommend having the same thing every day, but adding at least 3 days of consistency makes planning meals and making them stress-free.

Thanks for joining me on our hands-free food foray! Any tips of your own to add? Comment below!

Until dinner,
Chloe

Hands Free Dinner (2/3)

I promised you all an update on my grand hands-free dinner experiment and I’m glad to report: So far, super easy, super successful. We have a few favorite recipes and not-so-favorite ones but all the meals have been yummy, edible, and best of all–so efficient! There is really not much better than coming home from work with dinner already made. We also invested in a small rice cooker with a delay timer so there is literally nothing else to do but serve yourself some delicious pre-cooked grub.

I also promised some of my more general tips on how to eat good, healthy food on a budget. While making this list, I realized I had too many for just one post so stay tuned! More culinary craftiness to come.

Tip #1: Buy in Bulk. Always.

Whether you’re single, married, or have 10 kids, bulk just makes sense. For those of us in 1455221148.pngthe 2 and under households, this doesn’t mean buying all your fresh produce in bulk. Here are the staples that we’ve found save money and trips to the grocery store –>

The first time you do this, the bill will be upwards of $250. DON’T PANIC. You will only have to replace these items every few months, so the overall bill is significantly less.

Tip #2: Switch convenience for cheapness

What is easier? Opening a can of beans, ready to throw into a soup or soaking them overnight for 10+ hours and then cooking them for another 2-4? Convenience sells which is why I am convinced grocery stores make most of their profit off of individual-serving and pre-made foods. Don’t spend an extra $5 on adorable individual servings. Buy a box of 150 Ziplock sandwich bags, and make your own.

Tip # 3: Say goodbye to snacks and sandwiches

For the BLT lovers out there, this one is hard (I feel your pain). What is lunch without a sandwich? The reality is, deli meat and sliced cheese is costly. And snacks can be pretty pricey simply because they are easy to grab off the shelf in the store and your pantry (see Tip #2). By doubling the size of your dinners to make enough leftovers for the next day, you can have delicious and healthy lunches all week long. The additional cost to make more of a meal you’re already prepping is far less than buying sandwich supplies and snacks.

More to come!

Until then,
Chloe

Hands Free Dinner (1/3)

I love maximizing efficiency. I also love cooking and budgeting so finding a cheap way to create frozen crock pot meals by buying bulk items and making 10+ meals in an afternoon? ALL OVER IT.

Luke and I started on My Great Hands-Free Culinary Adventure by hitting up our favorite weekly hot spots: Costco and Walmart. We’ve been trading convenience for cost savings and quality food since we got married over 7 months ago. Costco’s got the staples of our existence: flour, brown rice, beans (uncooked), sugar, yogurt, and eggs. Walmart fills in the gaps, since buying milk and tomatoes in bulk isn’t as practical. With lots of pre-planning, re-packaging, and re-purposing, we’ve gotten our meals down to about $1.50 per meal per person.

 

All that back story to say, our grocery bill for My Great Hands-Free Culinary Adventure was only $50 higher than usual, less than I was expecting since we bought the ingredients to make enough meals for 5 weeks using 2 frozen crock-pot meals a week (no way I’m giving up Spaghetti Wednesdays!)

3478I used this fabulous frozen crockpot meal recipe/instructions/grocery list as a guide and supplemented with ingredients I already had in the pantry. Plus took out all the green beans and spinach. Perks of being in charge of the food!

The whole process took me about 3 hours start-to-finish. Post-shopping trip, Luke was struck with food poisoning (thanks Olive Garden) and was out of commission for the day. If we had been working on it together, we probably could have whipped up the 10 meals in 90 minutes. Several tears were shed but the 5 quarts of diced onions were worth it. Overall, it’s a 3 minute and $1.50 a serving investment. No huge cost savings, but I’m so excited to come home from work to dinner ready to go!

If you’re curious how we make the rest of the weeks’ meals work for $1.50/healthy serving, comment below! Economics + cooking + planning + efficiency = my kind of heaven. I’d love to share our tips if anyone’s interested.

Red Tape

When I was 4 years old, too young to be left unsupervised ( I was the child who had to learn not to touch burners the hard way ), my mom would take me downstairs with her to the laundry room.  One of my favorite activities during these monotonous times of sort, wash, and folding was button sorting.

We had a delightful jar of mismatched buttons collected through the years.  I’d grab an old tin pan, dump all the buttons out and then sort to my heart’s delight.  Red, maroon, circular, star-shaped, old, new, thread-less, blue, green.  Each button had a pile to call its home.  Then, I’d throw them back into the jar and start all over again.

My dad is a handyman. I’ve never encountered a problem he couldn’t fix.  Sometimes, though, his solutions required multiple trips to the local hardware store.  I loved accompanying him on these voyages.  While he searched for the perfect gauge of wire, I was magically drawn to the screw and nail aisle.  Beautiful blue bins with nice, clean labels on the front, telling the astute observer what contents were within.  Yet, more often then not, a quick glance inside  revealed that the screws and nails were all mixed up!  I made it my personal responsibility to right this great wrong.

I created my first spreadsheet at age 10.   I used it to schedule out my day, broken into 15 minute increments.  Each time slot had an activity or category.  If just a category was listed, an additional spreadsheet was utilized that listed out possible options under said category.  I haven’t the slightest idea what first possessed me to budget my time so meticulously but if you know me now, it was the beginning of a life-long love affair with Excel.

Sometimes, however, I wonder if I’m stuck in a toxic relationship with my plethora of time-management tools.  I make sticky notes to create to-do lists to draft a spreadsheet with a Master Task List.  Every step and breath I take is color-coded and duly recorded.  It is a wonderfully predictable existence, but a dangerous one.  What if Outlook malfunctions? Or I accidentally delete a sticky note?  Am I left wandering aimlessly, incapable of eating or sleeping without being told to do so through a preprogrammed project management system?

Not yet.  But one day, I’m afraid I will wake up to find myself thoroughly entangled in red tape of my own design.