How no turned into yes in three days

Today’s Wednesday guest post is written by Liz Neunsinger. Liz and I share a passion for education and getting our financial houses in order. I’m so happy that Liz is sharing her story about how she and her husband both got on the same page when it came to their finances, even if it took him a bit longer to jump on the bandwagon. Her story shows that we can all change our ways. We just need a place to start.

tugging at money

The most important thing I learned about my marriage came when we decided to get out of debt.

My husband and I married in 2010. At first, we didn’t combine our finances. Neither of us had a clue about how much debt the other brought to the marriage or how much the other made. We paid bills willy-nilly and were getting by. Savings or investments? Forget it! We were all over the place with no path and no goals.

About 8 months after the wedding, I had the opportunity to attend Financial Peace University (FPU) through my work. This was the 13 week FPU course offered in 2 days of intense study. My husband couldn’t attend with me. The first day I listened hard. Wide eyes and dreams floating in my head, this was what we were going to do!

I went home that night and spoke at 100 miles a minute for 3 hours about how great this course was and how it was going to change our lives! We needed to combine our debt, combine our finances, and get on a plan. Finally, when I took a breath, I asked what he thought. “No.” he said so matter-of-factly. My heart sank. We were not on the same page. He didn’t want to combine finances because he didn’t want me to pay for his debt. He didn’t like the budget restricting his purchase power. Bottom line, without his willingness, this plan was going to fail.

I went to the next day of FPU with a sad heart. I listened and dreamed, but it wasn’t the same as day 1. The next day went by. On the 3rd day after we talked about a budget, my husband said, “OK, let’s do it.” Immediately, I realized what happened. He needed a few days to think about and research this new plan. He needed time to ponder. I, on the other hand, was impulsive and excitable. I was ready with little thought. This nugget of information has been the pinnacle of communication in our marriage ever since on EVERYTHING! When I want something, I tell him what I want and he researches it for days. When he wants something, by the time he tells me about it he has already researched it and chosen what he wants. I’m very amenable to his request because I know it’s calculated. Then we budget for it and purchase it.

The best thing that could have happened to us is to decide to get out of debt. Not only has the budget been a monthly map to staying debt free, but the lesson I learned about how to communicate with my husband has kept us strong for 4 years. By the time we talk in depth, we’re both in a mindset to have the discussion, which leads to the best outcome.

When you talk to your spouse, how can you use your personality styles to get you both on the same page? How can you help your partner understand your side before passing judgment? What can you share with your spouse about your communication tendencies that will help them talk with you?

To follow Liz and her adventures in education and finances, check out her blog Study Paycheck.

10 books that influenced my life

If you are on Facebook, you might have seen people posting about the 10 books that influenced their lives. I was tagged by a friend of mine to do mine. I thought it might be interesting to post the list here with some brief explanations to inspire you to read more. An article in the Wall Street Journal this week discussed the positive effects that reading can have on your stress levels. Reading for just 30 minutes a day can really help to improve your well being. I hope some of these books encourage you to read more.

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters

This book is probably one of the two most influential books I have ever read. I have attempted to read a lot of motivational books. Attempted is the appropriate term because a lot of them I never finish. Jon’s book  hooked me in right away. His writing style is witty and fun, while making you really think about what you want to accomplish in life. Start was the inspiration for my other website, Accounting In Focus, which I launched a few months ago (I’ve been working on it since January). It also inspired me to start writing here again on a regular basis. I love the progress I’ve made and I don’t think I would be here if it weren’t for Jon’s inspiration. The book is full of practical steps to get yourself started on the path to awesome.  He has another book coming out next year called Do Over and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

The Total Money Makeover

This is the other book that I would consider most influential. Back in 2008 after cancer and lots of debt, Jeff and I knew we needed a plan to get back on track. We were both scared and thought we were doomed. Dave Ramsey helped set us on a path to get our financial house in order. We started using Dave’s baby steps and a budget. While we haven’t been perfect over the years, we’ve paid off over $120,000 in debt so far and are still budgeting each month. I’m not sure where we would be if it weren’t for this book. It really did change our lives.


After two nonfiction books, we need to add a bit of fiction into the mix. I read this book my freshman year in college. At first, I didn’t want to read it because mythology was not really my thing. It was because of this book that I came to love mythology and become interested in ancient history. The story was fascinating, yet not overbearing like the Odyssey. A few months after reading this book, I met my future husband who would have not been nearly as interesting had I not read this book. I honestly believe that this book helped to open the door to my relationship with my husband. It gave us something in common early in our relationship upon which a 13 year marriage has blossomed.

Charlotte’s Web

This is one of my favorite children’s books. It also has an excellent message: you don’t need to be big or important to change someone’s world. This message still resonates with me today. Even little things like holding the door open for someone or smiling when you pass her on the street can make a difference in someone’s life. I think it’s part of the reason I try to be nice to people. You never know when you might be able to brighten someone’s day with a little kindness. It’s a simple message but an important one.

Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No

This is the book that taught me how to say no. Before reading this book, I was stretched too thin. I just had too many commitments. If I didn’t have a lot of commitments, I thought there was something wrong with me. After reading this book, I started to make priorities. I was able to set boundaries with other people for the first time in my life. I just wish I had found this book earlier. NOTE: There are a lot of biblical references in the book but the message was still excellent. I am not a religious person but I still got a lot out of it.

The Millionaire Next Door

I actually read this book before I read The Total Money Makeover. This book put me in the proper mindset to accept the direction in The Total Money Makeover. The Millionaire Next Door discusses the money habits of the average American with a new worth of $1 million or more. The average millionaire does not drive a new car or wear fancy clothes. A lot of the folks that do that are not actually wealthy at all because they are spending all their money to look wealthy! It made me realize that if we wanted to accumulate wealth, we couldn’t do it if we spent all of our money on stuff.

Pride and Prejudice

I love this book. I have actually read it four or five times in the last few years and I own the BBC version on DVD which I watch at least four times a year. It is a story that endures the test of time: family strife, embarrassing family members, trying to find your place in the world and misjudging others. It is a story to which most people can still relate.

Julius Caesar

This was the first Shakespeare work that I really enjoyed and the one that gave me an appreciation for his work. Although I had difficulty with the language at first, I didn’t give up when we were assigned this play in my sophomore English class. One of our assignments was to pick a speech from one of the many Shakespeare works we had read and deliver it in front of class. I picked Mark Anthony’s address to the country after the death of Caesar. It begins “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”. I was a bit nervous as this one of the first speaking assignments I had ever done. I decided that if I was going to go, I would go big. I wore my leather sandals that day, which my friends and I called my “Jesus sandals.” When it was my turn, I jumped on a chair and then on a desk and delivered the speech. It was the first time I punched fear in the face and that experience broke down the door for future leadership and speaking opportunities. To this day, I channel my inner performer each time I teach a class.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I know this one is going to sound a bit cliche as I have seen this on a lot of lists, but this book reminded me that literature can be a wonderful escape. I remember reading the first book and couldn’t wait to get the second. I started reading them right before the last book was published so I was able to read them all in a very short amount of time. It rekindled my love of reading after finishing college, which was filled with years of reading books because I had to not because I wanted to. Harry Potter reminded me to read because I wanted to.

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

Just as Harry Potter brought me back to reading after college, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey brought me back to fiction after a long dry spell. My husband saw this book when he was purchasing Christmas gifts for me last year. He knew I was a huge fan of Downton Abbey and picked it up for me. At first, I was not that excited about it, but once I started to read, I instantly fell in love with this book. The story revolves around a group of people living in an apartment building who come together watching the show. While many of them have insane lives, they find common ground once a week. It’s one of those books that you are sad to come to the end of because you want to keep enjoying the characters. It is an entertaining novel and spurred me to read other books by Wendy Wax and explore other authors. It got me reading fiction again.

What books have made an impact on your life? What should I read next? 

Making your wife happy without breaking the bank

This week’s Wednesday guest post is by none other than my husband, Jeffery W. Ingram. Yes, this is how he refers to himself. Even when he signs a birthday card, he signs “Jeffery W. Ingram.” It’s just one of the many things I love about him. When he approached me a few weeks ago about writing a guest post, I was a little afraid at first. Previous guest posts have been creative takes on shopping with coupons and recipes for guys. This post is a bit more serious (just a bit). I’ve written a few pieces on communication over the years but this is the first time I’ve gotten his perspective. It was very interesting when I read his perspective and led to a good discussion. It helped to open my eyes and made me thing about how I communicate with him. I hope it helps you as well.

I have a great marriage.  My wife is my lover, my think-tank partner, my muse, and my best friend. However, after reading Nick’s article here and his article at the Good Men Project, it got me thinking (a dangerous past time its true).  I was forced to start asking myself some important questions.

Do I really listen?

By listen I mean hear the words and understand what she mean by them.  I know I think I do or else I would ask questions and try to fix her problems.  I love fixing her problems.

I know I am not alone when I say that I might hear my wife.  However, I do not always listen.

Here is recent example of what I heard.

Kristin: “Jeffery so glad you are home.  I know you had a hard long day at work.  While you were doing that, I did the laundry, saved us a billion dollars, cleaned the kitchen, got us some dinner, and saved many children from a burning house.  So I had a hard day as well.”

Jeffery: “Wow, you also did a lot.  We both had a long stressful day darling.  How about we take a break and have some fun, just you and me.  You are the light of my life, you give me hope.”

This would have been the conversion if I listened.

Kristin: “Jeffery, I know you are doing a lot of work.  We both are.  I am sorry to tell you there is a lot of stuff that needs to happen around the house.  I need your help getting it done.”

Jeffery: “I love you. Let me start helping more.”

What my imagination tells me she heard


Jeffery: “No”

What I really said, “Wow you did a lot today”


Now, I do try to listen.  However, she is a woman and I am a man.  We are always going to place effort into our communications. However, the main burden is on me.  My instincts lead me through life with a confidence; it helps me make quick and usually good decisions.  However, I need to remember to temper it with reviewing my decisions and seeing how to make better decisions going forward.

I can love my wife without breaking the bank

Since you are on my wife’s blog you know that she is frugal.  Well, I am cheap unless it involves my wife.  I would buy her the Crown Jewels to show her my love. I would take her for dinner and an opera in Rome every night.  It would be easy to spend lots of money on her, unless I listen.  She might be okay with me splurging on her at times.  However, if I go over the top (and I love going over the top), I could go bankrupt pampering her.

Since I started listening to Kristin, I know that my over-the-top pampering would drive her into a stress coma.  I needed a more cost effective way to show my love to her.  My first act was simple. I threw in a load of laundry before I went into work.  It wasn’t much.  However, she told me how happy it made her.

The cost to me was 1 minute in my morning routine; the benefit to her was that the first thing she would not see after waking up was a load of laundry.  If she did, her day would start off thinking about the entire task that needed to happen today and she would have to do it since I was already at work.  It helped free up her mind so she could dream a little more that day, a much better outcome then if I brought her the Crown Jewels. She would have just passed out, losing her mind to the fear of the massive debt I created to buy them.

Let’s add in a little old school

In the past, I wrote numerous love notes to my wife: To K from J, to my angel, or to my perfection were the three models I used.  I had forgotten about them.  I did them when we first met and slowly over the years the frequency declined until I had basically forgotten about it.

I loved doing it.  They were as much for me as they were for her.  I have a hopeless romantic trapped in me.  I still tried to be romantic.  However, my approach changed.  However thanks to a story from my hustle friend, Tricia, I was reminded about the notes.  So, I now randomly place my wife notes in the morning.  Little love notes, to let her know I am thinking about her and to let her know how much she helps me.

So What?

These things might seem little and they are little.  You might be thinking, “Jeepers Jeffery, you spend a freaking two whole minutes a morning starting laundry and write a little note . . . whoopdeefreekingdingdong.”  You would be right; it only takes two whole minutes, maybe three.  However, I feel better and work better.  She feels better and works better and only for the cost of two minutes.  Once it a blue moon you might be able to pull a big wow factor.  Ultimately, the little things are what makes or breaks a marriage.

I hoped you enjoyed.  Want to help me get to three minutes a day being nice to my wife, please comment below and let me know what is the little thing you wish someone would do for you?  And what are the little things you do for your better half.  Heck, if we are lucky I might get up to 5 minutes today.  After you comment, go do a little something for the person you love!

If it happens three times, it must be true

There are times in my life when it seems as though the world knows just what I need to keep pressing along. It’s been a rough week in my house. I was sick, one of the cats was very sick, and we spent a lot of money at the vet. We have also gotten behind on the renovations we are doing around the house. I became discouraged. My husband and I are both working on so much right now. I was starting to doubt if I could get my new site launched by the time the semester started. I was starting to doubt if I was going in the right direction at all.

It was at that moment that I started to question myself and everything that I was doing, that my friend Kevin at Living Out My Journey wrote a post about discovering his life purpose. In the post, he discusses a conversation he had with Isabel Hundt that really made him change the way he thought about his purpose. I know Isabel as well and she is an amazing coach who really helps you see your journey in a new and exciting light. She has a gift for helping people reframe their mindset.

When asked about their purpose in life, most people including me, would have given an answer involving other people. Helping others. Caring for others. Teaching others. As I started reading the post, my mind instantly went to my own purpose: teaching others and showing them they can succeed and grow. Kevin’s purpose was also about helping others to achieve their dreams and encouraging others to make the most of their lives (it’s one of the reasons I love Kevin’s blog so much).

My mind was continuing to think about my purpose when I hit a wall. Kevin then wrote,

Then she asked the question that stopped me in my tracks.

What if no one needed you anymore?

(Insert record scratch here!)  I think I was silent for about 30 seconds, which doesn’t happen often.  That had never crossed my mind before.  No one had ever presented that question to me.

I have to say that it stopped me in my tracks as well. My purpose was about teaching others. This just about shattered by already poor mentality. Why was I doing all of this? Luckily, I did not close the browser and walk away. Kevin found his purpose and it helped me think about mine.

I thought about it as I drove to the University for my human resources orientation. As I pulled into the parking lot, I realized that part of the reason I love teaching others is because I love to learn. My job, my business and my websites ensure that I am constantly researching and learning new things. My purpose became clear.

Continuous learning.

Always striving to learn new things is what keeps me going. It can be anything really. Learning home improvement techniques, ways to manage money more efficiently, or ways to become a better teacher/blogger/wife. Feeding my brain new information keeps me going.

As I walked to my meeting with HR yesterday, I saw this.

2014-08-20 09.51.59

I walked into my meeting with a renewed sense of purpose. Life had smacked me twice and it was only 10:00 am.

The third smack came this morning. I was already thinking of this post when I opened my email this morning. The first email I saw was from Sal Khan of Khan Academy, which is a free online tutoring site which I used when I was talking calculus classes last summer. The website has a new tagline, “You Can Learn Anything.” In the email was this video:

If that didn’t just reinforce my purpose, I’m not sure what would have. I’ve decided to show the video to my students on the first day of classes.

Sometimes the world knows when you need a bit of encouragement. I got a lot of it over the past 24 hours.

I also wanted to mention that you can get Isabel’s new e-book, Identity Crisis in the World of Entrepreneurs, free on her website. It is a wonderful book for anyone who has a business or wants to start one.

Have you defined your purpose? Has life smacked you recently to push you in a certain direction? 


2 Money Habits That Hurt My Marriage

Today’s post is written by Nick Pavlidis. Nick was recently featured on The Good Men Project, asking the one question to tell if you’re a terrible husband.

Nick and I are doing a blog swap today. You can find my post at his site, Step Away from the Mall.

shareasimage (18)

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in May 2008 my wife and I had a Big Fat Greek Wedding surrounded by 250 of our closest friends and relatives and 4 wedding crashers.

The Sunday thing was my idea to save a few bucks on vendors who would still have Saturday to sell. While I thought that was pretty brilliant at the time, it resulted in several people not making it to our celebration. In hindsight, the wedding was amazing and everyone there had a great time (open bar helped…) but several people had Memorial Day commitments and were missed. (It’s also possible that I’m just unlikable…).

We have made several big and little decisions with money in the years since that day. And since I’m more of the “money guy” in the relationship, I tend to get a little excited about making these decisions. Yet even with a healthy opinion on money and tireless commitment to planning well with money for our future, I still battle two big money habits that have bitten my marriage in the backside more times t
han I’d like to admit.

The bad news is that I allowed these habits to continue. My bum is sore and my marriage has a few scars as well.

But the good news is that overcoming these habits provides incredible opportunities to strengthen our money and marriage over time.

Ok, enough about my tushie. Here are the habits:

1. Not asking for my wife’s opinion

This has come up more than I care to admit. My instinct is to take things off her plate and protect her from some of the stress that’s inherent in making tough money decisions.

That leads me to make decisions without consulting her.

And not only does that make her feel undervalued or unloved, I have no doubt that most of our money mistakes have come from solo decisions.

Her input is fresh and from the perspective of someone who isn’t as much of a “numbers person” as me.

And most of the time that reveals the real-world consequences that some of my “ideas” would have.

Undesired and unintended consequences. Yes, if we put 25% of our take home pay into retirement, another 10% into a college fund for our son, and another 10% into a college fund for our daughter we will be all set in 20 years!

But we will also be pretty skinny because it would not leave much for “food,” after paying our home, car, and other expenses. 🙂

And while I could probably stand to shed a few lbs these days, agreeing to the intensity level with which we work, spend, save, and give, is powerful for our relationship.

She feels more loved and valued. I have an extra opportunity to connect with her. And we often get better results on a plan we both agree to.

Win, win, win.

2. Not trying on my wife’s shoes

I’ve been known to accidentally wear my wife’s socks to work. That’s what happens when you blindly grab a pair of black socks from the clothes basket in the morning on the way out the door.

But when making money decisions I often make them based upon “my logic,” or I agree, but say something stupid about a potential purchase without first taking her size sevens for a spin around the block.

“$25 for a mani-pedi? Isn’t that just paint on nails? Don’t they sell whole jugs of paint with a free brush at the grocery store for $1? I don’t get it, but I’m not going to stop you.”

It turns out I don’t have to get it. But now I do. Because I asked.

My ignorant assessment of the “value” of a mani-pedi fails to take into account the “me time,” “experience,” and “hand or foot massage” that comes with the mani-pedi.

And those are totally “worth” way more than the $25 Wednesday special mani-pedi hits our wallet.

The heartache these could have saved.

I battle these habits every day. I’m a “doer,” which means I like to get just enough information to make an informed decision and move on.

If it’s the right decision, great. If it’s the wrong decision, I’ll make another one.

But marriage and money are about way more than just the “decision.”

The process counts just as much or even more than the result.

And that’s why in school giving the right answer to a math problem only gets you partial credit.

You only get full credit when you “show your work” and get to the answer the right way.

Just like marriage. Getting to decisions the right way will only enhance your relationship, and results.

What’s one money habit that you struggle with that interfere with you connecting with your spouse? And better yet, what can you do today that helps you connect better with your wife about love and money?

Nick Pavlidis is a husband, father, lawyer, and business and life coach whose upcoming book, Confessions of a Terrible Husband: Lessons Learned from a Lumpy Couch, exposes how he became a terrible husband, discovered that he was a terrible husband, took inventory, and committed to becoming better and better each day. He is a proud marriage “nonexpert” who is working tirelessly to improve his marriage in the open so he can insprire, encourage, and equip others to improve theirs. You can get the latest news and Nick’s real-time updates on becoming a better husband at the Confessions of a Terrible Husband blog.