Dustin, Author at Engaged Marriage

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About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

A Creative Date Idea for Parents: Ask the Kids

By Dustin | Romance

Creative Date Idea for Parents - Ask the Kids

When you’re a parent with young kids, it can be difficult to carve out time to spend with your partner.  You might be so exhausted that the idea of coming up with a creative date idea for parents seems like climbing an impossibly high mountain.

What if you didn’t have to do the creative thinking?

One of my favorite ways of coming up with creative ideas for date night is to outsource the thinking to my children.

Kids are naturally creative – and there are some real benefits to getting them involved in planning your next date night.

Creative Date Ideas for Parents…from Kids

It might seem odd at first to include your kids in the planning of your next date night, but your kids will love the idea of being involved.

And, you can bet that they’ll come up with some fun and interesting ideas for you and your husband or wife.

You never know what experience awaits you when you let your kids plan your date.

If your kids are too young to come up with ideas, you can ask nieces or nephews – or if your kids have flown the next, try asking your grandchildren!

Give the children at least a week’s notice and ask them to design a fun date night that you can experience together.

If you want to keep it a surprise, you can wait until the day of your date to have them reveal their ideas.

Or, if you prefer, you can ask them a few days ahead of time, so you can make plans.

From the Mouths of Babes

You may be pleasantly surprised by the creative ideas that your kids have.

They’re likely to include some things that you may not consider traditional date night activities, such as:

Your job is to do your very best to live out their ultimate date night.

We recommend taking photographs as proof that you used their ideas. Photos will also show your kids that you appreciate and value their input.

The Benefits of Having Your Kids Plan Your Date Night

Having your kids plan your next date night can be fun, but that’s not the only reason to do it.

The truth is that every time you interact with your spouse, you’re showing your kids what a happy and healthy marriage looks like.

When your kids come up with a date idea for their parents, they’re learning these things:

  1. Parents are people too, and they need time to spend with one another away from the kids. Spending time as a couple doesn’t mean that you don’t love them and value them. It just means that your relationship is important.
  2. All of you are a family unit and even when you spend time apart from them, they are an important part of your life. Having their input is a way of showing them that you care about what they think and how they feel.
  3. It teaches kids to respect your couple time and value it as something that’s necessary and beneficial to the whole family. When you have time alone, it makes your family time all the more precious.
  4. It encourages your kids to think creatively and teaches them compassion as they work to come up with date ideas that will appeal to you and your spouse.

When your kids grow older and begin their search for partners, they’ll remember that you and your partner made time for one another while still respecting your kids.

That’s a lesson that will increase the chances of them having happy and healthy relationships of their own.

Get Out of Your Date Night Rut

It’s easy to fall into a rut with date night. A lot of couples end up doing the same thing every time they go out rather than trying to find a creative date idea for parents.

A kid-planned date night is by definition going to be different from anything you might come up with on your own. Your kids are less likely to fall back on the tried and true.

They might come up with ideas that truly surprise (or even shock) you – but that’s all the more reason to stay open to what they suggest and make a sincere effort to do it.

Keeping the spark in your marriage requires dedication and effort!

If you close yourself off to the idea of having fun with your spouse, you may end up losing sight of what you love about them.

Getting your kids to come up with a creative date idea for their parents is a great way to keep things fresh, exciting, and new.

The next time you plan to go out with your spouse, have your kids plan a creative date idea instead of doing the same old thing. It will bring you close to your partner and your kids.

Oh, and by the way…if you’d like a PDF summary of this article, please click here now to get yours (on me, no opt-in required).

Managing Finances in Marriage: The Happy Couple’s Guide to Success

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Managing Finances in Marriage

Arguing about money is such a common problem in marriage that it’s almost a cliché. While couples certainly fight about other issues, managing finances in marriage properly is something that can stop a lot of arguments before they start.

The key to managing finances in marriage is communication. If you don’t talk about money when you’re both in a calm state of mind, you’re certainly not going to be able to discuss it when you’re having a problem that’s related to money.

Fortunately, we’re here to help. There are some things you can do now that will set you up for financial stability in the future.

Identify Financial Areas of Concern

Sometimes, couples make the mistake of overlooking certain aspects of financial planning. They might focus on household expenses but forget to talk about insurance.

Here are the crucial aspects of finance that should be part of your conversations as husband and wife.

  1. Budgeting
  2. Investment planning
  3. Tax planning
  4. Retirement planning
  5. Insurance planning
  6. Estate planning
  7. College planning (if you have kids)

The goal should be to take as comprehensive a look at your finances as possible. That way, you can plan everything and reduce the likelihood of being caught by surprise.

Long-Term Financial Goals

Once you’ve identified all the areas of your finances to discuss, you can start by opening up a conversation about your long-term financial goals. Where do you want to be in:

  • One year?
  • Three to five years?
  • Ten years or more?

Looking at the big picture first is necessary because it can help you set the right kind of goals – what we like to call SMART goals. That means that your goals must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

In other words, this isn’t the time for nebulous, poorly-defined goals.

Managing Finances in Marriage with a Budget That Works

With your goals in hand, the next step is creating a budget to help you control your spending and save money to meet your goals.

We recommend using the three bucket system for budgeting. The buckets work like this:

  1. Bucket #1 is the Static Bucket. It’s for your fixed expenses, the things that stay the same each month, including your rent or mortgage, utility bills, cell phone bills, and insurance premiums. It should account for no more than 50% of your income.
  2. Bucket #2 is the Control Bucket. This bucket is for your regular but variable expenses, including things like groceries, gas, eating out, and entertainment. It should account for no more than 30% of your income.
  3. Bucket #3 is the Dynamic Bucket. This bucket is for things that aren’t regular expenses, and may include extra debt payments, savings, or even a vacation or holiday fund. It should account for at least 20% of your income.

Be sure to check out our full guide to budgeting for married couples. Your budget will help you with the next step.

Automate Your Finances

One of the keys to good financial management for married couples is automation. We all get busy and distracted at times, but you don’t want your credit rating or finances to suffer as a result.

Automation works in two ways. For the things in your Static Bucket, the best way to automate is to set up an account for those budget items, transfer money into it when you get paid, and sign up for automatic bill payments whenever possible.

The items in the other two buckets can’t be automated in this way. However, you can set up separate accounts and transfer 30% and 20% of your paycheck respectively into each of the two accounts.

You may want to make the 20% transfer for your Dynamic Bucket into an interest-bearing savings account. From there, you can always transfer some to an IRA or to a checking account so you can make extra debt payments.

Pay Down Your Debt

If you’re carrying any credit card debt, use some of the money in your Dynamic Bucket to pay it down as soon as possible. You might not think it makes much of a difference, but let’s look at an example.

Imagine you have $3,500 of debt on a credit card with a 14% interest rate. If you make the minimum monthly payment of $75.83 per month, it will take you 19 years to be debt-free and you’ll have paid $3,583.18 in interest.

Add an additional $10 over the minimum payment each month, and your payment time is reduced to 4 years and 8 months. $20 over the minimum brings it down to four years, and $50 over the minimum would mean that you’d be able to pay off the debt in 2 years and 10 months.

How Much Interest are You Really Paying?

Not only is the timing more favorable, but you’ll end up paying significantly less in interest, too. You already know you’d be paying more than $3,500 in interest on the 19-year plan. Here’s how the extra payments help:

  • $10 a month extra reduces your interest total to $1,278.74
  • $20 a month extra reduces your interest total to $1,087.92
  • $50 a month extra reduces your interest total to $756.11

If you can budget $50 a month toward debt reduction, you can save almost $3,000 in interest. That money could go toward a down-payment on a new home or car, or it could pay for a family vacation.

Two Approaches to Paying Down Debt for Managing Finances in Marriage

You can choose between two methods if you have debt to pay down. The first is the snowball method, which pays off the lowest balance first before moving onto the next balance.

The second is the avalanche method, which pays off the balance with the highest interest rate first. You should choose the one that works best for you.

We recommend being as aggressive as you can afford to be while paying down debt. The benefits and savings are clear, and this is a critical first step to successfully managing finances in marriage.

Maximize Your Retirement Savings

Once your debt reduction plan is in place, you can turn your attention to saving for retirement. You can and should take advantage of:

  • Work-related retirement plans like 401(k), 403(b) and pension plans
  • Individual retirement savings accounts like IRAs and Roth IRAs
  • Social Security

Make sure to take advantage of employer matching funds, which many companies offer to employees who enroll in a 401(k) or 403(b) plan.

You should also Vanguard’s retirement calculator, which you can find here, or the Flexible Retirement Planner, which you can find here.

Finally, you may want to consider making some investments outside of your retirement plans. Some to consider, from most to least risky, include:

  • Art/Collectibles
  • Stocks
  • Real Estate
  • Corporate Bonds
  • Government Bonds
  • CDs and Money Market Accounts

You should diversify your investments to minimize your risk. It’s never a good idea to put all of your financial eggs in one basket.

Make Managing Finances a Shared Goal

Perhaps the most important financial goal you can have in your marriage is to talk about money regularly.

After all, your finances affect both of you, and your kids if you have them. Talking to your honey about money will minimize conflict and maximize your chances for success.

If you’d like to dig deeper on the topic of managing finances in marriage, be sure to check out our full step-by-step workshop with our favorite financial planner.

Try a Cooking Class Date with Your Spouse

By Dustin | Romance

Cooking Class DateIn a recent post, I shared a way to reconnect with your spouse while staying home on date night. This time, you’re going to go outside of the house on a cooking class date.

I’m not talking about a restaurant, though.

How engaging is to go out to eat? You come in, you sit down, and you’re served.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dining with my wife. It’s nice to get away from it all and be treated from time to time.

But imagine having all that, PLUS an innovative and fun learning experience. There’s an added engagement from doing or making something together in addition to just talking that really stands out.

Consider a Cooking Class Date

Part of a long-lasting relationship is growing together and trying new things. It means having new experiences, new adventures, and new challenges…together.

I’m going to suggest you try skipping the typical evening out at the same old restaurant and enjoy an intimate and educational session on a cooking class date instead.

After that, you’ll have a follow-up session at home later on to keep the good times going!

Find Cooking Classes

To prepare, one of you will search for local cooking classes. There are several ways to find out what classes are offered in your area, including:

  • You can ask friends for referrals, which increases your odds of picking a good place.
  • Google “date night cooking class near [your hometown]” and you’ll find plenty of options.
  • Many classes are offered inside of higher-end grocery or retail stores like Whole Foods and Sur La Table, and the prices are comparable to dinner out at a decent restaurant.
  • Local cooking schools sometimes offer classes to the general public.
  • You probably get catalogs full of community classes in the mail from time to time, showing adult education classes offered to the public for a modest price.
  • Next time you’re in a coffee shop, check out the corkboard as there are often flyers for local cooking classes posted there along with other community events.
  • Checking Groupon.com is a great way to see who is offering classes at a discount. If you can save a few bucks in the process, why not!
  • You can even hire expert cooks and chefs in your area using Thumbtack.com to give you a personalized cooking class date, as low as $40/person in some areas.

Picking the Right One for You

So many choices! No worries, you’re sure to find the ideal place for this memorable date night. The next step is choosing the right one.

Pro Tip: Make it as interactive as you can.

You’ll find options for classes where a chef does all of the cooking and you simply watch, enjoy a cocktail, and then eat when they’re finished.

However, for your cooking class date night, look for an interactive class instead where someone leads the way but the two of you actually get your hands dirty and prepare your own meal.

You’ll learn a lot about the foods you’re creating and have plenty of time (and reason) to laugh along the way as you learn new skills.

The type of food is also a consideration and a chance to show your thoughtfulness.

  • What kind of foods does your spouse like?
  • Is there something maybe they’ve always wanted to try?
  • A favorite country’s cuisine?
  • What about you?

Here’s your chance to kill two birds with one stone and learn something that will benefit both of your lives while also improving your relationship.

Whatever your options are, can you see yourself cooking it more often at home? Think how great it would be to add a new dish to your regular home meal lineup.

Once you’ve thought it through, pick a cooking class, register for it, and have fun when the night comes!

The Follow-up Session

Here’s a twist to make this extra special. Pick another date night to cook the same meal together again sometime within the next month, and compare it to the original.

The spouse who didn’t register for the cooking class will schedule a follow-up session at home and pick up the ingredients at the grocery store that day.

Don’t worry – the chef from your class will send you home with a detailed recipe for the dinner you prepared.

All you’ll have to do is follow along together…and bring back the laughs and good memories.

Later on, whenever you want to bring back memories of the fun time you had on your cooking class date, you can always cook the meal on an ordinary night. “Surprise! It’s our special dinner.”

This is just one of many fun but simple activities you can plan with your spouse to make date night special.

Doing so will add variety to your life, keep your relationship continually positive and healthy, and help you both to learn and grow as individuals.

Do You Want to Take This Date With You?  Want More?

If you enjoyed this post, we want to make it easy to put it into action.  You can click here and download a beautiful PDF summary of this date night!

And you’d like more of these creative dates and other romance-boosting goodies, you’ve got to check out our Date Night Magic bundle:

  • 15 Unique Date Nights (beautiful date night plans that make it easy – regularly priced at $39.00 by itself)
  • Creative Romance Workshop (regularly priced at $29.00  by itself)
  • How to Bring Back the Romance Workshop (regularly priced at $29.00 by itself)
  • 7 Simple Ways to Reconnect When Life Gets Crazy (regularly priced guide at $2.99 by itself)
  • 5 Romantic Ideas for Each of the 5 Love Languages (regularly priced guide at $2.99 by itself)
  • 74 Simple Things to Brighten Your Spouse’s Day (regularly priced guide at $2.99 by itself)

SPECIAL: Get the entire bundle for $25 (limited time only)!

You can the link above to pick up Date Night Magic and get instant access to all of this – have fun!

A Unique Gift Idea for Your Spouse: Gold-Dipped Roses

By Dustin | Romance

Roses have different meanings, depending on their number and color. A single, gold-dipped rose conveys any sentiment, though.

Whether you wish to express love, friendship, confidence, trust, comfort, or appreciation, the sentiment will last forever with a real, single, 24-karat gold-dipped rose like those offered by our friends at Love Picker.

The Perfect Gift for Any Occasion

An authentic, gold-dipped rose makes the perfect gift for any occasion, or for no occasion at all. Ideal for work or wedding anniversaries, wedding gifts, sympathy or encouragement gifts, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or Mother’s Day, the Love Picker Rose is sure to delight.

Gold dipped roses satisfy even the most selective customers, making them the perfect gift for the man or woman who has everything. Or, show yourself appreciation and care by adding a gold-dipped rose to your own home décor or art collection.

Thoughtfully, Masterfully Crafted

A real, 7” rose, dipped in 24 karat gold, the Love Picker Rose retains all the natural beauty of a single rose. Additionally, each rose comes its own certificate of authenticity, so you can be assured your gold-dipped rose is of the finest quality.

Created by master jewelers, each real rose is picked at its peak, trimmed to perfection, preserved, and dipped in genuine 24 karat gold. The delicate look of each rose petal and leaf is retained, though the product is strong and sturdy. Through the gold, the smell of the rose underneath still lingers.

Display

Every gold rose is delivered in a luxurious black leather box, adorned with gold hinges and clasp and a custom-engraved gold plate.

Exceptional for both presentation and display, the classic black leather display case is the perfect accompaniment for such a thoughtfully crafted, unique piece of art.

Strikingly brilliant in any light, the 24-karat gold-dipped rose is especially stunning under LED lights or under mini accent spotlights. Your rose can be displayed in its case, on a stand, or alone on a shelf, dresser, or piano.

These roses are especially dazzling mounted, alone or in multiples, as art on a wall or in a wall vase.

Delivery

These gold-dipped roses can be shipped worldwide. Orders to be delivered in the United States typically take 3 – 5 business days for shipping. Canadian orders arrive in 5 – 10 business days. Deliveries to any other country arrive in as little as 7 – 15 business days.

A Gift That Lasts a Lifetime

Real flowers, beautiful as they are, wither and fade. A gold-dipped rose ensures your gift and sentiment last forever.

These roses can even be passed on as family heirlooms. Both a jewel and a piece of art, gold-dipped roses last a lifetime, even for generations to come.

5 Ways to Stop Arguing with Your Spouse

By Dustin | Communication

5 Ways to Stop Arguing with Your SpouseStop arguing with your spouse…if only it were so simple!

Let’s face it…communication is very complex.

It’s not like something like money, which is very quantifiable and systematic, as in “Do X, Y, Z, and you’ll be successful.”

Communication between one person and another is so much more personalized and dynamic, especially with your spouse.

“You Are Here”

You’ve probably been wandering around the mall before, certain the store you’re looking for is just up ahead…and then wondering where the heck it went.

Communicating with your spouse seems so straightforward, in theory.

Before you know it, you’ve gotten off track and are so caught up in it that you don’t know where you are or how you even got there.

It’s times like this I wish we had a map to reference, with a “You Are Here” sticker, just like at the mall.

Now, I don’t know if this happens in your house (it sure does in mine), but I’ll get in a conversation with my wife Bethany, and we’ll start disagreeing about something.

What we’re talking about five minutes into the conversation is not what we started talking about.

I literally forget what started it!

We’ll be talking about budgeting and asking, “Where is this receipt?” Then all of a sudden we’re talking about stuff that has nothing to do with budgeting.

By then it has moved on to more personal things. Someone says, “I can’t believe you did that.”

And then you realize, “Wait a minute. How did we get to this?”

How to Stop Arguing with Your Spouse

Whenever you get into a tense moment with your husband or wife, it’s very likely one or both of you started to recognize that you’ve starting to gradually get off course.

You’ve probably felt things getting too tense as the conversation gets heated.

The good news is, it’s not too late to get things back on track again, de-escalate and stop arguing with your spouse.

First, notice what’s going on. Then, attempt to repair things…to break the tension, to soften the situation a bit.

This could just be a glance. It could be something you say. It could be interjecting some humor, or even a change of scenery.

Whatever it is, it’s your chance to disrupt the current cycle and get things back on task.

That “something” is called a repair attempt. Repair attempts are ways to break the tension and realize the current conversation doesn’t have to erupt into something emotionally charged.

Repair attempts are nothing more than subtle things with an amazing ability to break the pattern of arguing.

I’m going to share the top five with you so you can put them to good use to stop arguing with your spouse.

Repair Attempt #1: Using Humor

Imagine that you’re arguing with your husband or wife about something yet again and suddenly they stick their tongue out, just like a four-year old.

Would that break the mood? You bet it would.

It’s kind of silly but it works! You’re in a tense conversation and all of a sudden you recognize, “Wait a minute…I don’t want to be like this.”

So you stick out her tongue out and before you know it, they’re doing the same and you’re both laughing. After a good chuckle, you both take a short break and come back to what you were talking about.

You can also say something funny to break the mood. Just be careful!

Sometimes that’s pushing the wrong button, and you especially don’t want to come across as making light of something or making fun of her. Try making fun of the situation instead.

Repair Attempt #2: Switch Rooms

This time, let’s say that you and your wife are in your living room having a conversation that is turning into an argument.

She recognizes that you’re talking about something important that deserves to be discussed, but that things are started to get heated and she doesn’t want that.

So she asks, “Hey, can we carry on this conversation in the kitchen?”

You reply, almost without thinking, “Sure…Okay.”

Before you know it, you’re in a different room and it feels different. This is a great chance to start over again, and approach the conversation from a more conscious mindset.

And this feeling of a “reset” can be one of the best ways to stop arguing with your spouse, even if the effect is a bit subconscious.

Repair Attempt #3: Go for a Walk Together

Another way to break the tension is to go for a walk together. This works really well with emotionally-charged situations.

Not only does it involve “switching rooms” by going outside, but when you’re walking side-by-side it feels more like you’re easing into your difficult conversation.

You’re approaching it head-on without all the pressure of being face-to-face, which can feel like a confrontation.

For my wife and I, the greatest conversations happen when we’re driving because I have to keep looking forward.

I’m not saying you should avoid eye contact, but consider it taking a break from staring at each other’s frustrated faces.

Repair Attempt #4: Using Touch

Another tip along these lines is to hold hands. It just warms the heart and serves as a reminder that you’re both coming from a loving place.

Even if you’re really angry, it’s pretty hard to hold their hand and look into their eyes without feeling soothed enough to get back on track about whatever the conversation is supposed to be about.

Be the first to reach out and gently hold your partner’s hand, and you’ll see the difference it makes.

Repair Attempt #5: Sit Beside Each Other

Like I was saying before, no one ever said you have to sit face-to-face across the table from each other and talk things out. It can feel kind of confrontational.

Maybe neither of you feel like doing that this time. One of you might be comfortable with eye contact, and the other is not.

Instead, try sitting beside each other, because then you can concentrate on the topic at hand without getting caught up in body language – which may or may not be tied to what’s really going on.

Now, of course you want to be tuned into their mood. But you also don’t want unhelpful distractions.

If, for example, my face gets some sort of weird look all of a sudden and my wife sees that, she’s going to respond to it.

Maybe I just have gas, though!

I might be uncomfortable, but it’s not about what we’re talking about. It’s something else. In the heat of the moment, however, it’s easy to misunderstand.

Setting the Habit

Obviously, as you understand each other and connect better over time, the fewer misunderstandings you’ll have.

But body language will always influence us in ways we’re not even aware of, so try sitting beside each other and see how it feels.

Human nature is what it is, despite our best intentions. So until the day comes that tempers never start to escalate, you have these five repair attempts.

Try each of them and see how they go for you. You might even come up with your own and personalize things for your own relationship and experiences.

The main thing is to 1) be conscious when tension is occurring, and 2) use your communication skills to break the pattern and get back on track again.

You’ll find it helps repair your conversations and does preventative maintenance on your relationship as well.

And those are two keys to stop arguing with your spouse.

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