Tag Archives: financial empowerment

The Realty of Financial Stress in Relationships

Not only can financial stress affect your health, it can affect your relationships. Financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce and strain among many family relationships. Financial problems may lead to other problems such as domestic violence, poverty, and homelessness. Many people think, “it won’t happen to me.”

I’m writing this post as a witness of how financial problems can cause great stress in relationships, especially in marriage. It’s important to talk about finances and expectations before you get married. I know, we often get caught up in the feelings and excitement of our new-found love. However, it’s important to be open and honest with one another.

I’ve come up with some questions/suggestions, mostly related to finances, that should be discussed before marriage. Some of these questions should be discussed continuously, even after marriage, because people grow and change.

Get to Know One Another
Seems simple enough, right? For some people it is, for others it’s difficult. Ask a variety of questions, sit down and talk over a cup of coffee. Ask simple questions about what they wanted to do when they were a child or about previous pets. Get to know where they’ve been and what made them who they are now.

I’ve found that one great way to learn more about your significant other is to play board games with them. See how they react and treat the other players (especially if the other players are children.) It’ll show their true character and they won’t be filtered.

Why Are You Getting Married?
It may feel strange but ask your significant other why he/she wants to get married. If there’s a hesitation, maybe it’s time to dig deeper. Ask them if they feel lonely, and if they think that they are financially secure.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you’re planning on spending the rest of your life with this person, why should you be afraid?

What do you want out of life as a couple?
Do you want to grow together spiritually? Do you want a traveling companion? Or as you grow older, someone who can be your best friend? Ask one another. Each of us is looking for different characteristics in someone… but it’s important that this person meets your expectations and that you’re not settling.

What are your plans in the next 5 years? 10 years? 30 years?
Maybe one of you wants to travel abroad, or go back to school. It’s important to know what your significant other’s goals and expectations are and how you fit into those goals. It’s important for you to know that they’ve thought about how you fit in. For example, if they go back to school, what about children? Are you going to be the primary source of income? Although we don’t have all the answers, it’s important to know that the person has thought about it.

What are your personal values?
Do you value giving money to charity? Do you value volunteering?

Make sure that your significant other knows what you value and respects it. They don’t necessarily have to value the same things as you, but they need to be comfortable with what you value.

Are you a saver or a spender?
Neither is a bad thing, unless it is excess. Talk about it. Are you frugal? Do you enjoy clipping coupons? Do you get a thrill out of investing? Or is your thrill from buying a new pair of shoes or going to a broadway show?

Talk about what you do to reward yourself or what you’d do with the money from a bonus check. Some people want to invest that money or put it into savings. Others want to buy a new car or enjoy a “night on the town.” Each one of us constitutes “taking care of ourselves” as something different. Again, as long as it’s not in excess, it’s okay… it’s important that you take care of yourself.

Do you have a budget in place?
Have you each developed a budget while still being single? What do the budgets look like? Have you compared? We each budget and prioritize our needs differently. Comparing budgets is a great way to get to know one another and to discuss priorities. For example, some want a larger house if it means having an older car. Others want a newer car if it means getting a smaller house.

If you don’t have a budget in place, it’s time to make one. If not separately, then together. Not only does it show that you are responsible with your  money, it also shows that you love the other person. Why? You care enough to take the time out to plan your lives together. It makes things more personal and I guarantee it will be a great bonding experience.

It’s important for a couple to compare and prioritize. It’s also important that you two talk about income and expenses. One may still be paying off student loans. How will that fit into both of your budgets? What if there is credit card debt? How will that be payed off?

Currently, where is your money going? Where will it go when you get married?

Who is going to be responsible for paying the bills on time?
It’s important to talk about who is going to be the bookkeeper in the relationship. This person should be responsible for paying the bills and keeping up with the funds. Sometimes, couples work well as a team. They are each able to budget effectively and pay bills on time. It’s something that needs to be discussed because it can help prevent fights about “did you pay the bill?”

Should you have a joint checking account or separate accounts or both?
It’s important to discuss how you want to keep your money. Again, it’s important to be open and honest with one another. Some prefer to have a join account and have all expenses taken out of it. Some people prefer 2 private accounts and a joint account for expenses. It’s up to you as a couple. There is no right or wrong way of doing it, as long as you’re honest.

It wouldn’t be fun to find out about a “secret” account the other person has had open for years, would it?

How much do we owe in debts?
Sit down and talk about your debts with one another. It may be that you’re already paying a mortgage on a house, or you have some student loans. Discuss how you plan on paying for them.

What are our financial goals?
Discuss retirement and when you play to retire. Discuss debts and how you plan to pay them off. Maybe one of your goals is getting an education. How will you fund these goals? Are they short-term, or long-term? Are both of you going to fund these goals?

What are future plans for a home?
Talk about whether or not you want to own a home. Think about what is required with owning a home such as how you’re going to come up with the down payment for the house and how to pay for the mortgage.

If you want to rent, talk about prices and what you can and cannot afford.

Do we both know where our important financial documents are located?
It’s extremely important to keep everything in order before you sign the documents to get married.

Do you want to have children? Do we want to have children?
Talk about whether or not you want to have children. If you do, how many do you want to have? It’s really important for couples to talk about this. If one of you wants children and the other does not want any at all, this could potentially cause a lot of problems later.

Of course, our opinions change. Sometimes we don’t want children, then we do. This is where open-mindedness becomes important.

Talking about children is also vital to planning for your future successfully. Children are expensive… and there may be other topics that come up as a result such as college planning or something such as what school district you want to live in for the best academic education.

How will we make decisions together?
What will be the process for making decisions together? Will you set aside “family time” once a week or will you flip a coin? Each couple makes decisions differently, but it’s important that both of you agree on how to do it.

Can we both forgive?
We make mistakes, we’re human. But can both of you forgive mistakes?

Marriage is not a fantasy. Financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce in the US. Marriage is difficult and it takes a lot of communication and willing to grow closer together. Don’t let something like finances get in the way of a successful marriage.

Are there any suggestions that you’d like to add? How do you and your significant other handle sticky financial situations?

Inexpensive Ways to Have Fun for the Movie Lover

Drive-in Movies
I’m a huge fan of drive-in movies. Not only are they historical (in my opinion) they are a lot of fun. Often times, the drive-in will show a double feature (two movies), for one price. The prices are inexpensive. Children may even get in free! Click here to search for drive-in movie theatres in your area.

Some drive-ins even give discounts to people who drive classic cars. In addition, for those of you that are old movie fans like me, some drive-ins have nights where they play the classics. Unfortunately, none that I know of in North Carolina.

It’s a great place for a date and for a night with the family. They’ve usually got inexpensive food, an outdoor area to play, and a great atmosphere. I’d recommend bringing the bug spray though, especially if you live in an area with a lot of mosquitoes.

Theatre in the Park
Another idea to explore is a theatre in the park concept. Many museums and outdoor amphitheaters offer this option in the summer. Here in Raleigh/Cary, the NC Museum of Art and Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheater offer some movies. Last summer I had the opportunity to watch some suspenseful thrillers. What a great way to spend your night!

Make Your Own Drive-In Movie Theater
I’ll break this into two categories. The first, using your backyard or your house for making a movie theatre. Popular Mechanics wrote an article on it as well as several other websites. You have the flexibility of making it however you’d like.

The second category, websites like mobmov.org (mobile movie), offer a way for people to get together and do a mobile drive-in movie theatre. You can sign up for mobmovian in your area, or you can follow the tutorial to make your own. The directions on the website are very detailed and require that the projective is located inside and powered by a car. There is even an option for filmmakers to release their films through MobMov.

Guerilla Drive-In offers something very similar. Santa Cruz has their own, but the website offers a do-it-yourself feature.

Of course, it’s important to follow state and federal laws. You may need a permit or other types of permission.

Movie Exchange
An idea that I had with my friends was to exchange DVDs. We had a little “party”, exchanged DVDs that we both wanted to watch, then return them back when we’re finished. In addition to watching a lot of movies, it gives us something to talk about and give feedback on.

Movie-Themed Parties
I always love it when my friends and I create a movie marathon. My movie marathons probably aren’t as exciting as most, but my friends and I stay up all night and watch movies. For example, we had an Audrey Hepburn marathon, where we had popcorn and sweets, dressed up like Audrey and each brought our favorite Audrey movie to the party. It was a simple, in-expensive way to have fun.

Redbox
I feel like I am falling into the trend here, but I love Redbox. I’ve signed up to receive free one-night rentals. If you sign up for redbox, they send you credits in your email. The rentals are $1.00 plus tax for each day and they’re perfect for a date night, if you return within a day. I’ve gotten to see new releases the day they come out onto DVD.

One problem I’ve had is that I wanted a widescreen version of a movie, but did not have the option to choose and received a fullscreen. Even after adjusting my settings on the DVD player and such, I was still disappointed that it wasn’t widescreen.

Netflix
I am a movie lover, so I’ve signed up for netflix. Typically I use this to get copies of older movies and not new releases. I also hooked up my Nintendo Wii to my netflix account to enjoy movies whenever. My movie recommendations and instant que come up and I just press play. It’s really nice, but not worth the monthly payment if you don’t want movies often. For the movies I cannot get on instant play, I receive them through the mail. There are several other devices available to instantly stream netflix, and they are listed on netflix’s website.

I don’t watch television much, but I do babysit. The benefit of streaming through the wii (or any device through netflix) is the availability of TV shows and children’s movies. I’ve seen nearly every Thomas the Train episode/movie available on Netflix.

Online Streaming
Websites such as hulu.com offer online streaming of some movies along with TV shows.

Used DVDs
Buy used. Simple enough :) There are a lot of great vendors that allow you to buy DVDs for cheap. BlockBuster and other stores often sell used DVDs for cheap… and have a bargain bin. Bargain bins are AWESOME! I saw My Cousin Vinny in one a few weeks ago… what a steal ;)

Discount Movie Theatres

I’ve been to several locations that offer a “discounted” movie price. You can search on websites like moviefone for theatres near you, and in the top right of every theater listed, there should be a price listed. However, as far as I know, there is no easy way to search by price.

Independent Movie Theatres
There are some movie theatres that play independent or cult classic films and are relatively inexpensive. They’re usually around college campuses but are a lot of fun. Typically they’re cash-only (probably how they can keep the ticket prices low) and offer some great incentives.

Movie Festivals
I would recommend doing a search on this one, but there are always movie festivals going on in my area. They have independent movie festivals, horror fest movie festivals, and other types.

Movie Theatres: Free and cheap family movies
I was doing a search for free and cheap movies in my area, and this website came up. So I wondered, what about other states?

As I searched “free movies in (insert state)”, several states came up with links for options to free film festivals or free outdoor movies. It may take a little bit of searching or an effort, but there are a lot of great resources for free movies in your state, especially now, during the summertime.

Working At the Movie Theatre
I also know several people that love movies so much, they’ve picked up a part-time job working at one. They get a certain amount of free or discounted passes a month to watch movies.

How do you avoid paying high ticket prices at movie theatres? Any ideas on how to save money?

Inexpensive Ways to Have Fun for the Music Lover

Inexpensive Ways to Have Fun in for the Music Lover (especially while you’re still in college)

1. Get a job at the college radio station / Intern at the Local Radio Station

If your college has a radio station, it may be fun to  volunteer there (or if you can get paid, even better!) There can be several perks to working at a college radio station: you may get free movie passes, free concert passes, and you get to meet bands! Not to mention exposure to a lot of music and culture.

It’s also possible to complete an internship at a local radio station. Even if your major may be finance or social work, there are ways to tie in your skill set. If you’re a social work major, think of current news events or do a public affairs show. You can even tie in journalism.

2.Work at a music venue

This may be more difficult if your college is in a remote area, but music venues need both bartenders, merch people, and bouncers. They also need people to help clean up the venue. The money may not be great (or it may!) but it sure is an experience of a lifetime. You’ll get to meet bands, other music lovers and have stories to tell for years to come.

3.  DJ

I’ve met a lot of people that taught themselves how to be a DJ at events. They’ve had the opportunity to make money playing the music that they love. Remember, each DJ has their own music preference and style and I promise there is an audience that loves yours. I’ve even met DJ’s that only play old tunes such as Elvis and Buddy Holly. Some only play R&B and soul… and classic rock! It’s a great way to meet people and may be a good way to make money.

4. Be a Promoter

Some bands need promotional people. This may include hanging up posters, working the merch table or writing editorial pieces. Although this may be a volunteer job, bands usually put promoters on their guests lists to their shows and sometimes will even allow the promoters to tour with them.

Some music venues and bars also need people to do promotions

5. Scope Out the Flyers Around Campus

There are usually a ton of bands on a college campus that play free shows. Check out flyers and web postings often. I guarantee that they’ll at least be a show every week that you can go to if you do this.

6. Volunteer

There are several nonprofit organizations that help out local musicians or retired musicians. Volunteering for these organizations is a great way to be exposed to music and help out those in need. For example, there is a nonprofit in Asheville, NC http://www.mountainhomemusic.com/ that promotes Appalachian Culture, which includes music and art. This not only will be fun, but it will be great to put on your resume.

7. Write Music Reviews

You can either write for your school paper, create your own blog, or write for a larger organization but a lot of people will pay for your ticket to go to a show if you write a review. If you gain popularity, bands may even request that you be at their show to give them a good review. It’s a great way to network and practice your writing skills. It’s also something great to put on your resume!

8.Work at Music Store

Although I do not know about college campuses world-wide, I do know that on my college campus there were several music stores, both for new and used music. Usually they were more of an “underground scene” but they encouraged their employees to listen to new music and review it for the customers. Some may even have perks such as doing band promotions. It’s a great way to network and meet new people as well as musicians. Besides, it’s a job, right?

Please leave any comments or suggestions.. or inexpensive ways you’ve thought of to have fun.

Developing a Budget in College

After reading my financial aid posts, someone asked, well, how exactly do I budget while in college?

Determine Fixed and Variable Costs
For some students, it’s easier to keep a small notepad or journal to write down how they spend their money. The student may write down their expenses such as a cup of coffee, a meal, or a night out with his or her friends. This notepad is a great to carry around with you with your laptop or purse.

However, before the next academic year starts, sit down and develop a list of all of your fixed and variable costs. A fixed cost may include your tuition, rent or room and board, car payments, car insurance, parking fees, and health insurance that may not change month to month. Variable costs mean costs that vary every month. These may include entertainment, gasoline, food, utilities, hygiene, clothes, car maintenance, books, phone, and any dues.

Remember to be honest with yourself. If you buy a cup of coffee every day, or a pack of gum every week, it’s important to list them.

Determine Sources of Income
Income may include anything from a part-time job to allowances from home, grants, scholarships, or loans. When developing a budget, it’s important to develop an increment of time. For example, you may get paid monthly. Divide up your sources of income monthly to make it easier to budget. If you receive financial aid at the beginning of the semester, pay off your tuition/rent/room and board for that semester, and divide the rest of the money up into months.

Drafting a Budget
Draft a budget to see if it balances. Now ask yourself, do my expenses exceed my income? If your expenses exceed your income, it’s time to cut back or get a job. If you have money left over, think about investing or saving it in your emergency fund.

Remember to monitor your budget every month and to adjust the budget accordingly. Some budgets are not going to be the same month to month. For example, you may have to budget for a holiday or birthday one month, but in another month.

Also remember that your first budget may not be perfect. It’s important to use trial and error and get to a point where the budget works for you.

It’s important when developing a budget to include savings. It’s important to save at least 10% of your income.

Emergency Fund
As always, it’s important to have an emergency fund because you never know what’s going to happen. Your car may break down, or you need to take an emergency trip to a doctor’s appointment. These “emergencies” should NOT be put on a credit card. They should be apart of your budget.

Priorities
It’s always important to evaluate your priorities. Think about what’s important to you. Is it more important to have money saved up to start paying your student loans? Is it important to you to have money while you search for a job?

You can waste a lot of money in college and develop some serious credit card debt if you’re not careful.

Ask yourself, do I really want to be paying my student loans into my late 30s, my 40s or my 50s?

Think about how you spend your money. Do you buy coffee every day? Some places charge $4 for a drink. That will cost you about $120 a month if you buy it every day. Movies are also expensive. The average movie ticket is close to $10 now. When creating a budget, these should be rewards, not something that occurs on a regular basis. If they occur on a regular basis, how can they make you feel good? They become a standard.

Stay Motivated

It’s not easy to stick to a budget. It’s important to budget “fun.” It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but maybe a concert a month or a nice, sit down dinner a month. It’s your way of rewarding yourself for sticking to your budget. It’s just as important to have fun as it is to safe money.