Life after debt

Today’s post is written by my friend, Camilla Kragius, author of the new book How To Get Out Of Debt Living Paycheck to Paycheck: 9 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom. Camilla is a challenger of the status quo who wants you to leave your comfort zone and start living! She loves to travel, go on adventure and inspire others to work on their goals and dreams. She writes about life, productivity, finances and ways to get off the traditional path. She lives in Utah where she spends her time playing in the outdoors. You can find her at No More Hamster Wheel and The Traveling after debt

Do you work?

That’s a question I get surprisingly often. To a lot of people my life must look like one long string of play and fun. And for the most part it is. But it wasn’t always that way. For a long time it was a long string of stress, sleepless nights and regrets thanks to debt. A lot of it.

At first it was manageable. I mean, everyone has debt, right? That was the lie I told myself. I didn’t grow up being told debt was normal so I tried to find an excuse.

Then as time went along the debt increased, decreased and increased. Many of you recognize the yojo-ing when it comes to debt. You get smart and start paying things down. Then you get tired because you don’t see much change so you give up because you feel as if you are just spinning the wheel going nowhere.

So you head back to the mindset that minimum payments are part of life and one day something miraculously will happen like a mega bonus at work or even better a mega win on the lottery. Because after all, something that drastic might be the only way out. I used the excuse that if I only made more money I would be able to pay off my debt. Well, I didn’t have an income problem. I had a spending problem.

Without a change in mindset sooner or later you hit rock bottom and you are down to three choices. Declare bankruptcy, go homeless or find a way to pay it off. The first two didn’t sound like fun so I choose the latter. It wasn’t particularly fun either.  I think having the stomach flu for a month would be compare.

But I’m here to tell you it’s worth it. Every single day I’m so grateful that I made the decision to get out of debt. Today I have freedom. I can travel, spend time with friends, go places, enjoy life. Can I do everything I want? Of course not but when people wonder if I work it’s a great testament to that I’m living a life that looks like I’m not working because the financial freedom I now have allows me to play a lot.

So on days when you feel as if you are stuck spinning the wheel going nowhere tally up how much money you will be able to put into your savings account once you are done paying off your debt. Then visualize yourself getting off the wheel. Because once you are off a whole new world opens up. A world where people will ask you “Do you work?”

Note from Kristin: I am so excited to get where Camilla is right now. Do you want to get there too? Check out Camilla’s book How To Get Out Of Debt Living Paycheck to Paycheck: 9 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom.

What is holding you back?

In April of 2008, I was sitting on the couch after tax season ending trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself for the rest of the year. I was finally feeling like myself after going through cancer treatment and I wanted to find a job that I could work around my business. I had always wanted to teach but I was afraid to put myself out there.

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I had always wanted to teach. I also knew that we needed to kick start our income if we were ever going to get out of debt. It all seemed so overwhelming. I had no idea where to start.

I thought back to the last time I was in this predicament.

It was 2001 and I had just gotten married. I was also scheduled to graduate in six months and had not done an internship. I sent resumes to every firm within 30 miles of my house. I was able to get an internship which later turned into a full-time job.

I had done this before. Could random resumes work again? I didn’t have anything to lose. So I sent my resume to every college and university within 30 miles of my house. That is actually a lot of resumes.

I had no idea when colleges did their hiring so I waited.

And waited. And waited some more.

As the middle of August came and went, I was pretty sure I was not going to get a call. I had given up by the end of August. I was defeated. I had lost hope. I had sent my resume to more than 25 institutions and not a single phone call. I would never teach.

And then the phone rang. There was a last minute opening at a local university and the department chair wanted to know if I would be interested in teaching two sections of an introductory course. Classes would start in a week.

A week. Seven days. Did I mention I had never done this before? The courses covered material that I had not seen since I took the course almost ten years prior. Everything within me said “no”. Actually, it didn’t say no. It screamed “NO!!!! Um, hell no.”

As my mind said “no”, my mouth said “yes”. I had committed to teaching two courses with a week of preparation. A few days later, I had a syllabus and a textbook.

On the first day of class, my key card was not working and had to wait until for one of the maintenance guys to open the door for me. I overheard one of the students ask if anyone knew anything about the professor. Another student replied, “I believe it is an old guy.”

I was doomed. So doomed. I saw scenes from every movie and TV show I had ever watched where the students ate the new teacher for lunch. I was going to be that teacher.

Once the door was opened, I let all the students enter the room before I walked in. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and walked to the front of the room. The students were a bit shocked that I was not an “old guy”.

I can’t say I commanded that first class, but I made it through without being eaten for lunch. As the semester went on, I became more confident. Students appreciated my style and the way that I taught. I was asked to teach in the spring and the following year. In 2010, I got my first full-time teaching job. I have been fortunate enough to teach full-time each academic year since. I love my job and I love my students. It is amazing to see all they have accomplished. It is awesome to know I have made a difference in the lives of so many.

None of that would have been possible if I had said no. I overcame my fear. I put myself out there when it was not comfortable.

What is stopping you from accomplishing your goals? From searching for a better job or asking for a raise? From asking for help to improve yourself? How can you overcome your fears?

Don’t let your lifestyle creep up on your income

When I started my blog a little over six years ago, my husband and I made about $70,000 per year. To many people, that seems like a lot of money. After taxes, the mortgage payment, and our debt payments we were barely getting by. Now, we make more than twice that. You wouldn’t know it looking at us because our lifestyle hasn’t changed much. We haven’t allowed our lifestyle to creep up to our income.


It is so tempting to increase lifestyle when income rises. When we first started working, we did allow our lifestyle to creep. We bought new cars and nice things. We lived the way we thought we were meant to based on the income we made. If we could afford the payments, we could afford what we wanted.

After I was diagnosed with cancer and beat it, we realized that stuff did not make us happy. Security and weathering future storms made us happy. Having each other makes us happy.

We still live in the same house. My husband still drives one of those new cars we purchased in 2002. We don’t have a car payment. I do the majority of my grocery shopping at Aldi and PriceRite. We didn’t have cable TV for years and the only reason we have it now is because the cable company offered it free for one year. When that year is up, we will go back to our rabbit ears. We don’t buy expensive clothing, although we each have a few pairs of decent shoes. We actually rarely buy clothes at all.

Our monthly expenses are very similar to what they were six years ago, except for items that have increased in cost significantly like food and gasoline. We have actually cut back on a number of things and because of the debt we have paid off, we have fewer required monthly payments than we did six years ago. If our income dropped back to 2008 levels, we would actually be much better off than we were back then.

Even though we have an excellent income, we still live like we are broke. As far as we are concerned, we are still broke. We still have debt. We have a slightly positive net worth, mostly because of our retirement savings and the debt we have paid down. We still have a lot of work to do.

When our debt is paid off, we will increase our lifestyle a bit. My husband would like to eat more steak. We would like to travel. We will save up some money to buy my husband a (slightly) better car. We would also like to save more and give more. We would like to have more time to pursue our dreams.

We have purposely lived well below our means to achieve our goals. We do not feel deprived. We are happy with our progress and happy with our lives. We have everything we need right now and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

10 tips for getting dinner on the table faster

You’ve had a long day and the last thing you want to do is spend time in the kitchen making dinner. I love to cook and even I have those nights. It’s tempting to pick up the phone and order something, but you don’t want to blow your budget either. Here are my 10 tips for getting dinner on the table faster.2014-10-05 19.39.46

1. Start with a clean kitchen

There is nothing worse than coming home to a messy, disorganized kitchen except trying to make dinner in one. Each night after dinner we run the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen a bit. Before going to bed, we try to empty the dishwasher so it’s ready to go for the next day. Keeping the counters clear of clutter gives me space to lay out ingredients and do my prep work. If things start to build up, take 20 minutes on Saturday or Sunday to clean off all your surfaces to start the new week fresh.

2. Have a plan

You don’t want to come home after a long day and have to figure out what to make for dinner. I don’t do a formal meal plan but I do have a white board on the fridge with options for the week. I list out a number of things I have all the ingredients for so I can come home and pick something from the list based on how much time I have and how tired I am. Having that list keeps me from wandering around the kitchen, opening the fridge, freezer and cabinets looking for ideas. Always make sure you have some quick items on the list like spaghetti, grilled cheese and tomato soup or tacos.

3. Use convenience foods wisely

Two convenience foods that I love are frozen meatballs and breaded chicken cutlets. I get both of these items at Costco. Frozen meatballs can be thrown in the crockpot or a pan with some sauce and you have a number of options for a quick dinner. You can make spaghetti or meatball sandwiches. You can also make sweet and sour meatballs or Swedish.  I use the breaded chicken to make sandwiches, chicken parmesan or as a topping for salads. I also buy minced garlic since we use a lot of garlic in our house and I hate chopping it. Using these items saves me a lot of time in the kitchen.

4. Turn on the oven or preheat your pan

If you are using the oven, preheat it before you start anything else. I also do this for the pans I am using. Start pasta water and preheat your pans. This will save you time once you start cooking. There is nothing worse than being ready to go and realizing that you have to wait for pans to heat up. Starting with hot pans will also make cooking faster which will save you additional time.

5. Pull all of your ingredients together before you start

Get together everything you will need before you start cooking. Having a clean kitchen will give you the space to do this. Put out your knife and cutting board, the can opener if you need one, and all the food you will need. You don’t want to go hunting for things later.

6. Chop once

I do all my prep work at the same time. I cut all my produce and place it in bowls, then I prepare any meat that needs to be cut. Having everything all lined up and ready t go into the pan reduces the chance that something is going to burn while I’m cutting other things and saves me time.

7. Put the trash can next to you

One of the biggest time wasters is moving around the kitchen, especially to throw things away. Bring the trash can to you or use a garbage bowl on your work surface to save yourself steps.

8. Precook and freeze

Whenever I buy ground beef at Costco, I cook the entire batch at once and freeze it in one pound packages. When I need ground beef for chili, spaghetti, sloppy joes, or tacos, it’s already cooked. This saves me so much time on busy weeknights. You can also freeze other meats as well that will be added to recipes. This is a lifesaver when I want to make something in the crockpot that requires cooking the meat before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.

9. Make a double batch for another night

Yesterday, I made a double batch of chili. It didn’t take me any longer to make a huge batch than it would have taken to make a single batch. Not only did we have chili last night but I now have chili in the freezer for another night when I don’t feel like cooking!

10. Prep more than you need

If you have time on the weekend, I highly recommend doing some prep work for the week. If you know you are going to need three onions and two peppers, chop them over the weekend. This can save you valuable time during the week. If you can’t find time on the weekend, cut an extra onion during the week if you know you need one the next day or a few days from now. If you only need half an onion or pepper for a recipe, chop up the other half to use in another recipe. You are much more likely to use up the leftover amount if it is already chopped and ready to go which helps reduce food waste.

Bonus tip – Clean as you go

Okay so I couldn’t stop at 10. When I’m cooking, I always clean as I go. When things start simmering, I dump my garbage bowl and clean my knives. I put everything I can in the dishwasher. I start to wipe the counters. Using that time means that there won’t be much left to do after dinner. My goal is to get everything back into the condition it was in before I started making dinner (or better!) as quickly as possible so I can unwind for the evening.

What tips to do you have to get dinner on the table fast? Have any of my tips worked for you? Are there any tips that you plan to try?


4 reasons to not use credit cards

Today’s guest post was written by blogger, Jana Lynch. Jana and I are both living a very counter-culture lifestyle and loving every minute of it.

Photo by Daniel Oines

Photo by Daniel Oines CC


Confession: I don’t use credit cards. Neither does my husband. We survive fine, too.

We stopped using them about seven years ago when we decided to pay off all our credit card debt. We realized how out of control we were when we used them, and we realized we couldn’t be trusted with them in our wallets. It was how we got into debt in the first place.

At first it was difficult; we had become accustomed to charging any and everything and using cash or our debit cards seemed…weird. But we knew what we stood to gain if we refrained from using them so we stood firm in our resolve. It worked, too, because we paid off our credit card debt and have managed to remain that way for 3 years. And, seven years after our initial commitment, I’ve realized that, in addition to the debt, there are a few things I don’t miss about credit cards.

For instance:

  1. Having a bulky wallet. Carrying all those cards around bogged down my wallet and made my purse heavier than it needed to be. I’m pretty much resigned to having a ridiculously large mom purse, but I can slim down my wallet. Now I can find all the important cards (like my insurance or library card) when I need them and my purse is lighter.
  2. All those bills to pay and fees for late payments. I am not the most organize person and, even with having a list of bills written down, I sometimes manage to forget one. When I had credit card debt, it was more bills to remember to pay and not paying those had serious consequences. Plus, I’m fairly lazy and want to spend as little time as possible paying bills. Without the credit cards, that happens.
  3. One less worry about ID theft. Last year, my alma mater’s system was breached and identities dating back to when I was in school (mid-late 90s/early 00s) were compromised. Then there were all those breaches at Target and other stores I can’t think of right now. Not having credit cards, and not having to remember which card I used at which store, gives my paranoid brain a little peace of mind. It’s one card to keep track of, and it’s a debit, so I know instantly if there’s a problem. No waiting for a statement to figure that out.
  4. Less bills to pay. I’ll admit that I am not great at remembering to pay bills on time. I have the majority of our bills set up for an autodeduction and the ones that aren’t (utility bills) get paid once a month, on one particular payday. When there are credit card bills due, it’s one more thing to remember to pay, it’s more money going to someone else than staying in my account, and it’s one more chance to make a mistake that might, quite literally, cost us. Without them, it’s easier to pay the bills and I’m more efficient. Plus, the extra money helps out with other expenses.

This is not to say that credit cards are evil. If you can use them properly, then have it. I just know, and have a proven track record attesting to it, that I can’t. So I stay away.

Getting out of debt, and getting credit cards out of my life, was one of the smartest choices I made. And while it’s not easy, refraining from credit card use, I do it. I would love to walk into a store and buy all the things and not worry about how I’m going to pay for them that day. But I also know the stress it’ll cause isn’t worth it.

So I keep the credit cards at home, locked away.

Everyone is better off.

How about you? Do you use credit cards? Why or why not?

Jana Lynch is a blogger at Jana Says, where she talks about everything from parenting to pop culture to mental health issues, and runs the blogger mentoring program Bloggers Helping Bloggers. You can stop by and say hi on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


My #next5 financial goals

When we are slogging our way through paying down debt, we often forget to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We just see debt starring us down and it seems like we will be in this stage of life forever. I’ve been feeling that way for the last few weeks. Today, I am intentionally taking a few minutes to search for that light with a little help from some friends of mine.

Sometimes fate kicks me in the butt when I really need it. Today, my friend Camilla at No More Hamster Wheel wrote a post about looking ahead five years.  She asked “If Nothing Changed in the Next 5 Years Would You Be OK with That?” It got me thinking about what I want my next five years to look like financially. It also inspired me to rewatch Kevin Buchanan’s video about your #next5 years.

So what do my next five years look like financially?

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1. Pay off our non-mortgage debt in 18 months.

When I look at it that way, the road doesn’t seem that much longer. We’ve been at this for a long time and seeing that we are 18 months away from that goal is huge for my motivation!

2. Build up a nice, beefy emergency fund.

After we finish paying off the debt, I can’t wait to have more cash in the bank. This will allow us to weather most storms that come our way.

3. Pay cash for a nice trip for our 15th wedding anniversary.

Our 15th anniversary is May 18, 2016. We should be able to pay off the rest of our debt, build an emergency fund and save up for our trip. I’m not sure if we are going to go back to Las Vegas, where we got married, or go back to Italy. Either way, it’ll be awesome and paid for with cash.

4. Move to a lower cost of living location.

Connecticut is a very expensive place to live and with that high cost of living comes restrictions on what we can do with our dreams. Moving to a lower cost of living location would allow both of us to spend more time, if not full-time on our dreams.

5. Be completely debt free.

I currently have a five year plan to be completely debt free if we were to stay in Connecticut. If we do end up moving, we will do so in a way that I can still be completely debt free by 40. Hitting this goal would give us an incredible amount of freedom going forward. I can’t wait to have a payment free life!

Of course, we have a lot of other financial goals, like saving more for retirement and purchasing a newer car for my husband, but these are the five that keep me going. These are the five that get me through those months when I’m tired of living on such a tight budget.

What are your #next5 financial goals? How can I help you get there?

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.

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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.

Because sometimes you just need a coffee

This morning I woke up later than usual. I was up late last night reading, doing laundry and dishes. I wanted to write a blog post and do a few things for my other site but housework was tugging at me. I packed up my Chromebook and am currently writing this post at Starbucks.

I have three hours to be creative before I must go to work. I could have stayed home and been distracted by counters that need to be wiped down, laundry that needs to be done and odd job phone calls that need to be made. Instead, I am enjoying my skinny soy caramel macchiato and writing this post.

Why you need blow money in your budget

This is why everyone needs a little blow money.

Whatever you want to call it (blow money, mad money, fun money), every budget needs a bit of it. This isn’t lunch money if you eat out everyday. This isn’t entertainment money. This is “I want an occasional coffee while I’m writing” money. This is “I want to meet a friend for lunch” money.

Jeff and I each get $50 per month to spend on whatever we wish. I usually spend mine on coffee, Costco frozen yogurt (wow that stuff is good), the occasional lunch, and books. Fifty dollars might not sounds like a lot but most months, we don’t even spend it all. That $50 saves my sanity, too.

Before we allowed ourselves some blow money in the budget, we would have a few good months and then fall off the budgeting bandwagon. A DVD would turn into other purchases and snowball out of control. We felt like we were deprived because there was no room to purchase a pack of gum. That deprivation led to rebellion and later regret. We would retighten our belts only to fall again.

Blow money made all the difference. We each had a little bit of money to play with, to do whatever we wanted with. Since we started allocating blow money, we have not fallen off the wagon. That doesn’t mean we haven’t had months with emergencies, but we haven’t broken our budget with wants. We no longer feel deprived.

If you are having trouble staying on budget, try adding some blow money to your budget. It just might bring you peace and get you back on track.

Do you work blow money into your budget? How has it helped you stay on budget?

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!