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This past weekend, we celebrated our 3-year anniversary in the most unlikely place for two old souls (and one of us is prego!) – Las Vegas, NV! Although Vegas is known for its shows, casinos, and buffets… we wanted to keep it casual and relaxed. So we decided to explore Vegas off-the-beaten path.
We booked our two-night stay at Elements Hotel about 20-minutes off the strip. This was a seriously fab hotel – free wifi, free parking, free breakfast, a mini kitchenette, and President Obama stayed here the last time he was in town! You can find my review here. My husband loved it so much he wants to stay here every time we’re in Vegas! It’s so family-friendly too… we’re definitely coming back with our babies next time.
Saturday: We arrived in the afternoon around 4 pm. After settling in and taking a short nap, we headed out to a James Beard award-winning Thai restaurant called Lotus of Siam. It’s often touted as THE best Thai restaurant in the United States. We made the mistake of NOT making reservations, so even though we came only 10-min after they opened, we still had to wait an hour. It was worth the wait though, and we can’t wait to come back with friends so we can try more of their dishes!
Located in an obscure strip mall, with elegantly presented food.
Sunday: we slept in, ate breakfast at the hotel, then headed out to Red Rock Canyon to do some hiking. We both love to hike! S isn’t a big workout/exercise person, but he loves the outdoors and I’m so happy we both find joy in this hobby. There’s something so alluring about being out and about in nature. I can’t help but fall in love with God all over again when I look upon His creations, admiring His artwork, and soaking in the fresh air.
What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us. - Henry David Thoreau
After hiking, we got our grub on at an AYCE sushi place. Yes yes, I’m pregnant and I’ve been eating sushi, and doing a lot of other things I probably shouldn’t be doing. After stuffing our faces, we went back to the hotel, watched some HGTV, and took a big fat nap. When we recovered from our food coma, we finally made our way to The Strip. We ate at the most delicious sandwich place – Earl of Sandwich – have you been? SO GOOD. Afterwards, we decided to play our hand at the tables. Lady luck wasn’t on our side that night and we each lost $100 at Pai Gow. This is why I never gamble.
Monday: slept in again. Sleep, glorious sleep! Then got our stuff ready to go so we could make the 4-hour drive home. On our way, we popped into the Primm Outlets and scored a few great deals at Gap and Old Navy. Our shopping always ends up being for Noelle these days. We were dying to get home to her, and missed her like crazy all weekend. It’s nice to get away sometimes, but our hearts yearned for her. We called home every day and hearing her voice over the phone just wasn’t enough. When we walked through the door, she RAN to us with the BIGGEST grin, and gave each of us a tight bear hug and delicious kiss. We were tired, but could not wait to spend time with our baby girl. We took her to the park where she played to her heart’s delight. I looked on, thinking only good thoughts about my husband, my girl, my life. It was the perfect end to a great anniversary weekend.
My two (soon-to-be-three) joys.
3 years, 2 kids, 1 unbelievable life. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
Knowing that money is the #1 reason for divorce… When my husband and I got engaged, we talked a lot about our finances and spending habits. It was then that we made two key decisions as a couple:
- To have a joint checking and savings account. No separate accounts.
- Apply for a joint credit card and use that one credit card for everything. This would be our AMEX SPG (which we love!)
Having joint accounts for everything tremendously helped us streamline our budgeting. We both have high visibility into our household spend, and not a dollar goes unaccounted for.
Three years into marriage, and it still takes a lot of dedication and discipline on our part to maintain our budget. We played around with Mint.com for a bit, but while it was neat to see all of our financial statements all in one place, it just didn’t work for us as a budgeting tool. They would automatically categorize our expenses in ways that I wouldn’t have categorized them, and I spent more time trying to re-categorize things than was worth my time. The category thing is very important to me because having an accurate understanding of what categories we spent most in helps us to adjust our spending accordingly.
In the end, the easiest thing for me was to create our own customized budget using good old Excel! As you can see, I have a Master Tab that logs everything in one place… then several sub-tabs where we keep track of our different spending categories such as fixed expenses, groceries, retail shopping, etc. I even created a pie chart to visually show where all our money is going to for that month. If the majority is going towards retail shopping then we have a big problem!!
Note: numbers are mocked up for privacy reasons
This master sheet is separated into 3 sections – Fixed Expenses, Other (Variable) Expenses, and Monthly Income. The Other (Variable) Expenses section is where we have the most flexibility to readjust our spending if needed.
The budgeted amount column is predetermined by us, and we fill it out according to what we think our budget for that item should be. For example, we have $300 for groceries because we don’t intend to spend more than $300/month for groceries. The actual spend column does not get touched in the master sheet. I used a formula to automatically populate that column from one of the sub-tabs.
I’m sure all this is starting to sound really confusing… so to sum it up… this is how we budget:
- My husband and I sit down twice a month (15th and 30th) to populate the excel sheet (we save it as a new document each month).
- We sit with our laptops side by side. He pulls up our credit card statement and our checking account info and reads them to me while I start logging in the numbers in one of the sub-tabs according to category. It takes about an hour for us to do this.
- We review the numbers and see where we can adjust. We pay careful attention to the “Difference” column – if it’s showing red it means we overspent in that category!
- It helps us to do it twice a month so when we see ourselves spending too much the first half of the month, we are able to reel back our spending if necessary.
Some months we get busy or lazy and fail to do this, and I notice that those are the months we’re most “loose” with our spending. It’s so easy to buy little things here and there, but it all adds up! The months that I’m diligently tracking our spending, I’m always thinking twice before I purchase.
Finally, we pay almost everything by credit card if we can. I know this is completely counter-intuitive to Dave Ramsey’s philosophy, but we feel comfortable with this because we pay off our credit cards in full each month and rack up tons of rewards. It is also easier for us to keep track of our spending on credit card statements than to dig through receipts.
Despite our use of credit cards, we have been following Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps as closely as possible to pay off most of our consumer debt. The 7 baby steps are meant to be followed in order – you’re not supposed to go onto the next step until you finish the one before. The reason the building wealth and giving is last is because Ramsey believes you shouldn’t give money that you don’t have. If you have credit card debt, it doesn’t make sense to give until you get to $0.
Here are Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps:
- Start a $1000 Emergency Fund – this should never be touched except for true emergencies.
- Pay off all debt using the debt snowball
- The debt snowball is this: List your debts, excluding the house, in order. The smallest balance should be your number one priority. Don’t worry about interest rates unless two debts have similar payoffs. If that’s the case, then list the higher interest rate debt first.
- Save 3-6 months of expenses in savings
- Invest 15% of household income in Roth IRA’s and pre-tax retirement
- College funding for children
- Focus on paying off your mortgage
- Build wealth and give!
Do you have a budgeting system that works for you?
This is my husband
He grew up with a SAHM, who diligently woke up at the crack of dawn every day his entire life to prepare him a healthy, gourmet breakfast.
This is me
I was raised by wolves. Just kidding. More like I was raised by grandparents, aunts, and a whole slew of nannies (all of Hispanic origin). I can’t remember a day (ever!) when my mom woke up before me. I almost always ate cold cereal for breakfast, that I prepared myself. And it wasn’t the healthy kind either.
Breakfast is just a glimpse into the contrasting ways in which my husband and I were raised. From our economic backgrounds to our parents’ child-rearing philosophies – it all couldn’t have been more different…
Even though we both grew up in areas with great public schools, his dad insisted that all his kids go to private Christian schools from preschool through high school. His mom supported every decision his dad made without question. I, on the other hand, went to public schools all my life (with the exception of preschool). And my mom was a strong-minded career-woman who never even changed her maiden name. She was also the primary breadwinner of the family (though my dad worked too). He grew up in a deeply religious, Christian home. I grew up in a non-religious home and my parents did not actively practice any faith.
His parents are both extremely introverted and tend to keep to themselves. My mom is the biggest social butterfly you will ever meet (though I am not). My dad was a little more balanced, an introvert with extroverted tendencies. His parents attended every sporting event and award ceremony. Mine were too busy with work, but I was thrown into every activity possible from girl scouts to swimming lessons, gymnastics lessons, horseback riding lessons, and more. I was certainly provided for in that way. However, what his parents gave in time, they lacked in words. In contrast – mine were always incredibly verbally expressive and affectionate. Even though I often dreamed for more of their time, I never doubted their love for me because I was told every day how proud they were of me and how I was so so loved, even when I felt I didn’t deserve their praise.
His mom was very cautious and protective of her kids. From what my husband tells me, she constantly worried about them. The moment they got sick, she’d have a whole batch of made-from-scratch chicken noodle soup ready the next day. I’ve been able to reap the benefits of this type of nurture. My mom was not very nurturing – at least not in that way. When I got sick, she would scold me, saying “I told you so!”. Usually it’s, “I told you not to sleep with your hair wet”, or “I told you to always wear socks”. On the one hand, I was never babied and learned independence at a very young age; I quickly became self-sufficient. But on the other hand, it became ingrained in me not to rely too much on people and not to expect too much from them.
I grew up pretty spoiled when it came to money. He did not. My parents never gave me reason to worry about money, and I was raised believing that paying for convenience is just as valuable as finding a good deal (essentially, I was taught that time is money). In my previous life, if you asked me how much I spent on a particular item, I wouldn’t be able to tell you because I never thought twice before purchasing something (this has since changed!!). My husband’s family lived on a one-income painter’s salary. Granted, his dad did pretty well during the real estate boom days… but when the economy went to hell, they really struggled to make ends meet. My husband started working in high school, and also worked his way through college in order to pay his tuition and daily living expenses.
Despite the extremely different households we grew up in, my husband and I are actually more along the lines of “birds of a feather flock together” rather than “differences attract”. Our likes/dislikes, habits, and perspectives are similar more often than not, but I believe the one factor that really binds us together is our faith. In a future post, I will share how our childhoods have helped shape our parenting tendencies and philosophies.
Were you and your spouse raised like night and day, or do you guys have a pretty similar background?
Sam and I are reading a new book titled How We Love with a few other married couples at our church. We’ll be meeting up with them about once a month to engage about life and marriage. This book delves deeply into what the authors call “attachment theory”. The authors have identified five different attachment styles, each stemming from one’s childhood. The way we were shown (or not shown) love have a direct impact on how we relate to our spouses and others. Not exactly a new theory, but the book presents some interesting thoughts.
Sam and I have very different attachment styles, and there’s even a whole chapter on us called “The Avoider Marries the Pleaser”.
I have strong Avoider tendencies, but The Pleaser fits Sam like a glove! Do any of those two sound like you? If not, perhaps these other 3 will strike a chord – The Vacillator, The Controller, or The Victim.
People can also be one style with friends and a different one with their spouse.
In the chapter written for us (not really, haha) – “The Avoider Marries the Pleaser” – it explains why we were drawn to each other in the first place.
Initially, avoiders see pleasers as sweet, caring, and attentive. The pleasers’ considerate, thoughtful acts make avoiders feel noticed and special. This feels great because they didn’t get a lot of personal attention growing up. Also, since avoiders are used to taking care of themselves, the pleasers’ acts of kindness are pleasant and enjoyable.
Pleasers like the consistency, strength, confidence, and even temperament of avoiders. Furthermore, avoiders are easy to please because they don’t expect much out of a relationship. So pleasers feel successful…
Already pretty interesting! I’m looking forward to digging deeper into this book with other couples. It’ll be good for us to see how others fight and how they work through their issues as well as for us to have a place to share too. It’s even more crucial now that we have a baby on the way.