Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Process Matters

Hooray! Peter and Andrea reached their goal of recycling enough cans to finance their $3,800 wedding. What an amazing way to start their marriage.

In so many ways, planning a wedding is not just about the one-day event. It's about figuring out how to collaborate with your partner, how to compromise, how to listen. It's about navigating the rocky territory of balancing community needs and wants with personal preferences. It's about finding creative solutions to difficult problems. It's about coping with stress and constraints.

And the process matters. How we plan our weddings sets precedents that will impact our lives beyond our weddings. I don't mean to say that in a Doom & Gloom way. If planning your wedding sucks, it doesn't mean your life is going to suck. It just means that we should plan our weddings with intention. We should make conscious choices. We should be aware of how the process is just as important as the product.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"The Newlywed 9"

Those of you who are currently planning your weddings may or may not realize that the Wedding Industrial Complex doesn't stop knocking on your door once you tie the knot. It just changes its name from "The Knot" to "The Nest" and it becomes the Newlywed Industrial Complex (and then it's "The Bump" and it becomes the Baby Industrial Complex).


For some reason, I still haven't unsubscribed to their newsletter (perhaps so I can have fodder for rants like this one?).

I recently learned about "The Newlywed 9," which are apparently the nine pounds you quickly put on post-wedding when you are no longer consciously eating and exercising in preparation for your "Big Day."

The tendency in Western culture to look at weight loss as a goal that can be achieved and then forgotten makes me so, so angry. I'll be the first to admit that I fall into the same trap. It can be hard to maintain my motivation for health and wellness, so I'll latch on to impending events for inspiration (a reunion is coming up and I want to look good! a vacation is coming up and I want to wear a bikini!).

But achieving a healthy weight isn't something we can do and then stop doing, if we expect to maintain that healthy weight.

I wish we would eradicate the word "diet" from our lexicon altogether and instead use the phrase "lifestyle change." Our lifestyles contribute to our current levels of health and wellness. When I'm stressed or bored or feeling generally unfulfilled in my life, I turn to food (and lots of it) to feed my emotional and psychological hunger.

If I truly want to be healthy (not just to look good on one day of my life), then I have to get to the root of my issues. I have to consciously examine my habits and make adjustments as necessary.

It's definitely easier said than done! When I'm in a bad mood, I seek comfort in unhealthy food. But then that unhealthy food ends up making me feel worse. Or, if I'm in a funk, I'll lose my motivation for exercise, even though I know that exercise is one of the things that helps get me out of a funk.

I've also been trying to shift the types of food I gravitate towards. For example, I love this Chickpeas and Spinach recipe for dinner, but instead of eating it with naan (my favorite!), I now eat it with brown rice. I'm trying to move away from white breads, rices, and pastas as much as possible.

It's a work in progress, for sure, but it's totally worth it!

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Tip #21: Ideas for Building Successful Relationships

Continue to nurture friendships outside of our marriages.

When you find your Partner-in-Awesomeness, it can be so tempting to just wrap yourselves up in the cocoon of togetherness (at least it's tempting for me to do that). I am perfectly content going out to eat with Matt, coming home, watching a movie, and falling asleep. I love going running with him and then having a picnic brunch at our favorite park. I am a home-body to begin with, and it's even worse now that I have a roommate who I want to be around all the time!

Needless to say, I have to make a concerted effort to maintain my friendships outside of my marriage. My best friend, Andy, and I do a good job of talking on the phone frequently, but we don't spend enough quality time together in person because he lives in Florida and I live in Texas.

We decided to rectify the situation by traveling to a yoga retreat in the hills of Massachusetts. We timed our arrival times just right, and our planes landed within an hour or so of each other. Then we rented a car to travel from Hartford, CT to Lenox, MA.

The retreat was amazing! The location is stunning. Stunning! We signed up for the "Rest and Relaxation" retreat, which meant that we didn't have any obligations. Each day, we simply looked over the list of class offerings and chose what we wanted to do that day. We went hiking and kayaking, did yoga and yoga dance, attended personal development workshops about meditation and nutrition, ate three amazing meals a day, and spent lots of time reading, resting, and chatting. It was the perfect way to get away from it all and reconnect with my best friend. The total cost for four days and three nights (in a double room with a hall bathroom) was $537.

Even when Matt and I have a baby and our lives get busier (and that cocoon of awesomeness is even more tempting!), I hope I always remember to cultivate my self and my friendships beyond that cocoon....

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Crayons at a Wedding

I stole this picture from one of my friend's wall posts on Facebook.

Hooray for crayons at a wedding! (It turns out my friend had to steal them off the kids' table, but I love this idea.)

How fun would it be to cover the tables in butcher paper (or recycled craft paper), set up cups of crayons and let everyone express themselves all over the tables? Plus, later you could cut out memorable pieces and frame them as keepsakes.

I'm going to add this idea to my List of Ways to Have Fun at a Wedding.

Good times!

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cupcake Recipe

I know I've shared this recipe before (when I was talking about making your own wedding cake), but I just used the same recipe to make cupcakes, and I figured it was time to share it again. Pure deliciousness!

This recipe, from Alice Water's book, The Art of Simple Food, is the most thorough one I've ever read. It talks about the temperature of the ingredients, the importance of accurate measurements, the specific order for combining the milk and the flour into the batter--it's exactly what I needed! (If you click on each image, they should enlarge and be legible.)

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Anniversary Planning

Our second anniversary is coming up. We established a tradition for ourselves last year: one partner writes the other partner a letter reminiscing about the past year together, and the other partner plans something fun for us to do.

Last year was Matt's turn to write the letter, and he did a quirky newsletter thing, which was very endearing. I planned the "fun thing," which was a boat ride in the bayou + picnic.

So this year we're swapping. I write the letter and Matt plans the fun thing.

Please allow me to collect and develop a few ideas here. I have to go back to my calendar to remember what happened!
  • We went on our honeymoon to Paris and Greece.
  • I started working as a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teacher at a public Montessori school in Houston.
  • We traveled to the KIPP School Summit in Orlando.
  • We went to pre-marital counseling (post-marriage!).
  • We went on the bayou boat tour.
  • I took a stamp-making class and make a Hoss stamp.
  • We went to Galveston for a weekend getaway.
  • We traveled to rural Texas for a friend's wedding.
  • We hosted a neighborhood "Night Out."
  • We went to a birthing fair.
  • We went to a Dia de los Muertos community celebration.
  • We had our worst Halloween ever (unrelated to our costumes: Matt was a Tetris piece, and I was a melting polar icecap).
  • Matt had an awesome birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's.
  • We got chickens! They lived in our house for a week and a half. We started with four but we had to give the rooster away, and Little Jo got eaten by the neighbor's dog.
  • We went our separate ways for Thanksgiving; my best friend came to Houston and Matt went to visit his family.
  • I went on a hayride through our neighborhood to look at holiday lights. We rode our bikes through Lights in the Heights and then went to the KIPP karaoke party.
  • I stressed myself out with multiple consulting projects (unit planning and workshop planning).
  • We drove to Florida for winter vacation and had to have a "Car Christmas" because Matt's grandfather was sick and he had to fly back to Indiana. I gave him a scrapbook of our life together. He gave me vintage postcards from many of the places we've been, a book about growing plants in the shade, and two professional massage coupons.
  • We went to Beth's house for a New Year's party.
  • I had my worst birthday ever.
  • Matt's uncle died and we traveled to Indiana for the funeral.
  • We took an amazing spring break road trip to Big Bend.
  • We traveled to Austin for several weekend trips and stayed with our friend, Steven.
  • We traveled to South Louisiana to celebrate my 10-year Teach For America reunion.
  • We hosted lots of monthly potlucks and went to lots of silent films.
  • We had an awesome potluck + movie at the Arboretum.
  • We traveled to Indiana to run in a race, celebrate Mother's Day, and celebrate my brother-in-law's graduation.
  • We started trying to have a baby.
  • Matt started a blog.
  • We bought a fancy used camera and a fancy used lens.
  • We're traveling to L.A. --> Big Sur --> San Francisco --> Redwood National Forest --> Portland --> Seattle --> Vancouver --> and into the wild of British Columbia.
  • We started playing Snatch It.
  • We had a fence built all the way around our yard.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Making Space in Your Life

As Matt and I continue to prepare for pregnancy, one of the things I keep thinking about is how to make space in our life for pregnancy and the birth of a new baby.

When I took the Mondo Beyondo class about dreaming big, Andrea talked a lot about Making a Clearing. She says, "I am creating space in my life for more richness and more joy. I am creating space to create a home, to nurture myself, my marriage and my family. I am creating space to connect more with my spirit. I am tired of being a doing machine."

"A doing machine." Yes, that pretty much sums up my entire existence.

When Matt and I were planning our wedding, I was also teaching full-time, running a consulting company, looking for a new job, finding a new city to live in, and learning about how to buy a house.

Yes, a doing machine. I made no attempt to make a clearing in my life whatsoever. In fact, I kept adding more and more stuff into our life.

As we prepare for pregnancy, I am truly trying to apply the concept of making a clearing. I am honoring the fact that carrying a baby for nine months and then nurturing an infant takes time and energy and space, and so does planning a wedding.

Planning a wedding can take an enormous amount of time, energy, and space for so many reasons. There are relationship issues to work through, there are difficult conversations to be had, there are conflicts to resolve, there are changes to adjust to, and there's a party to plan.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, I'm wondering if there are ways you could go about making more space in your life to process everything.
  • Is there a commitment you could drop?
  • Is there a new commitment coming your way that you can say no too?
  • Is there a draining relationship that you can devote less time to?
  • Are there small ways to reclaim more time, energy, space? (e.g., by not spending so much time chatting with a chatty colleague, by saying, "I'm sorry, but I can't do it this time" to a favor request?)

What other ideas do you have for making space in our lives?

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Edition of Offbeat Bride

I forgot to share my cameo appearance in Ariel's newest edition of Offbeat Bride.

For those of you who already have copies, it starts on page 76.

It reads:
Sara Cotner, a Colorado bride who runs a site called 2000dollarwedding.com, made it clear that working within a tight budget can be about much more than saving money--it can actually become a statement about your relationship. "We wanted our wedding to be about sincerity, authenticity, connection, and a celebration and proclamation of love and commitment. We didn't want it to be about monogrammed napkins and excessive amounts of fondant. In all honesty, we didn't want to let our wedding overshadow our relationship."

You can also use your budget limitations as a way to celebrate your community. Sara asked her friends and family to donate their old gold to an environmentally friendly jeweler "so that we could incorporate a piece of their history in ours. The company melted the donated gold, credited our account, and created new rings. Our invoice came to $157."

I truly felt honored to contribute to Ariel's book. I meant what I said about Ariel being the "pioneer in the movement to reclaim our weddings from the Wedding Industrial Complex."

Thanks, Ariel!

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Centralized "To Bring" List

The ongoing "To Bring" list is my savior. Seriously. Pretty shortly after Matt and I started planning our wedding, we started a tab in our wedding planning Excel document called "To Bring." By the time our wedding rolled around seven months later, we had a comprehensive list ready (I think I only forgot my bathing suit).

The trick, however, was to keep the list in a centralized location and to add to it whenever we thought of something.

So, in that spirit, I'm going to create a centralized "To Bring" list for our Annual Adventure (affectionately referred to as Honeymoon #4). In July, we'll be flying from Houston to L.A. and then renting a car to drive from L.A. to Big Sur, San Francisco, Red Woods National Forest, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and into the wild of British Columbia. We'll be gone for two weeks. I can't wait!

It's going to be tricky to bring everything we need on the plane with us, especially since we'll be hiking a lot. Hmmm.....

Let's see:
  1. Running shoes: These can serve dual duty for exercise and hiking. They have pretty good traction, and they are more comfortable than my bona fide hiking shoes.
  2. Sports bra
  3. Running clothes
  4. Pony-tail holder and bobby pin for running
  5. Sunglasses
  6. Sunscreen
  7. A blanket for picnics
  8. A tent
  9. Sleeping bags
  10. Pads to sleep on
  11. Lantern
  12. Books
  13. Computer + charger
  14. iPhone + charger
  15. Clothes + underwear + one pair of shoes + socks + pajamas
  16. Toiletries (shampoo/conditioner + soap + face wash + comb + toothbrush + toothpaste + floss)
  17. Writer's Notebook
  18. Travel guides
  19. Camera bag (with camera, charger, and cloth)
  20. Car charger for electronics
  21. Water bottle
  22. Passports
  23. Scrabble

Shopping List (when we arrive in L.A.)
  1. Almonds
  2. Fruit
  3. Stuff to make trail mix (healthy cereal, chocolate chips, raisins, and peanuts)
  4. Dried fruit
  5. Water

I'll inevitably think of more stuff before we depart, so I will continue to update this list!

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Turning "The List" on Its Head (or Upside Down, Inside Out, or Whatever Else Works for You)

A couple weeks ago, I finally got around to watching Marley and Me. (As a side note, it caused a lot of existential angst, which you can read on my personal blog.)

But it also got me thinking about the concept of The List. In the movie, Jennifer Aniston's character has a life list: engagement, wedding, husband, house, baby--CHECK.

The idea of the list bothered me. I wasn't entirely sure why (especially because everything on this list is something I want in my own life).

Then I was reading some really reflective and introspective stuff about lesbian conception over at Hullo! Bonjour! Her post about why she wants to have children helped clarify why I hate The List.

She quoted this passage from New Essential:
Queer families started from scratch are intentional families. That means our children are wanted children, children brought into this world from the great love we have to share with them. Anytime you are confronted with internal doubt or external questioning about whether or not you have the right to parent, remember that your child is a much planned, deeply loved and wanted child. That is the greatest gift that anyone can give to their child.

It's the word "intentional" that got me. I am a fan of the intentional. On the one hand, it is my greatest weakness (think less spontaneous, more controlling, generally more worried), but on the other hand, it is my greatest strength.

I believe that if we just follow society's script (engagement, wedding, husband*, house, baby) we miss out on the amazing opportunity to be authentic, to find what fits right for us.

If we just follow the script to plan society's wedding, for example, we run the risk of turning into plastic versions of ourselves with plastered, fake smiles, all while screaming "I just want to go on my honeymoon!" inside the private confines of our heads.

As a new script emerges from the Pretty DIY Wedding Industry, we run the risk of running ourselves ragged as we try to create the most photo-worthy invitations and favors and guest book and table cards and the list goes on and on.

It's the not The List that is the problem; the problem is when we blindly follow the list. I think the trick is to separate each item out and analyze it. We have to decide for ourselves whether we want to Follow It, Modify It, or Reject It. The choice is ours. It really is. And I believe that authenticity and living your happiest life resides in that choice.

* I apologize for resorting to a heterosexist term. I feel like the concept of "The List" is inherently heterosexist, which is why some LGBT individuals struggle to fully to embrace or express their authentic selves.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Finding Authentic Creative Outlets

Different people have different reactions to planning hand-crafted weddings. Some people get to end of the process and think, "I'm never picking up a piece of ribbon again!" Other people completely reconnect with their creativity and their passion for creating and think, "I need to start a business doing this every day."

Meg wrote a fascinating post about this concept a while back, but I can't find the link (Meg, will you point us in the right direction?). It was about how those of us who get really into the crafting and creating part of weddings need an outlet for those energies.

For Matt and me, our wedding DIY-ness wasn't the birth of our creativity. It was more like an extension of it. We had already spent years making costumes, planning scavenger hunts, hosting themed dinner parties, etc.

However, looking at all the prettiness on wedding blogs really started to affect my sense of what made a "good party." For example, for the first post-wedding birthday party I threw, I obsessed with the pretty details. I made handmade invitations (where did my evite sensibilities go?). I made signs with layers of paper and glue. I spent hours searching for and working on a pretty, pretty dress.

After a few months of trying to live up to the crafty and pretty blog standards, I realized that worrying about pretty is not for me and my creativity. That's definitely not a judgment against those of you who do like pretty and who need more creative outlets for dwelling in pretty. To each his/her own!

The important point is that if we pay close attention to our wedding planning processes, we can get clues about what we kind of creative outlets we need more of in our lives.

For me, I liked the project planning aspect of the process. I liked coming up with goals and then backwards planning the smaller steps aligned with the desired end. I also liked playing a variety of roles in the process, from dealing with the vision to the budget to the Excel sheets. I like dreaming it and then doing it. I realized that I like working on self-directed and self-contained projects. So after our wedding, I continued working on such projects, like starting a neighborhood time bank or my most recent endeavor, creating an online course about purposeful conception.

Our wedding planning processes inevitably come to an end (thank god?), but the parts of the process that resonate with us and help us express our unique talents and interests more authentically can continue on. And on and on and on!

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Distinguishing Between Wants Versus Needs

As you may have read in previous posts, Matt and I are trying to save money. It's complicated by the fact that there are so many things I want to buy (reminds me of our wedding)!

First, there's the DSLR camera I want, so I can start taking prettier pictures. We want to buy this body with this lens. It's way pricey.

Then there's the backyard furniture we want in order to transform our yard into an oasis.

Plus, I would really, really love a Vitamix to make green smoothies and eventually baby food.

Oh, I forgot that I want to trade in our lumpy, saggy queen-size bed for a king-size organic mattress. Don't even ask me how much that costs (we would also need to get a new bed frame).

And, speaking of home improvement stuff, I really want a leather couch, so we could more easily cope with our bloodhound's excessive hair and drool.

So, here's the plan:
  1. Prioritize the list: I'm going to sit down with Matt and put the items in order from most important to least important. That's the thing with money; it usually runs out before I've had a chance to get everything I want.
  2. Cross things off the list: I'm going to try and be honest with myself about what's a need versus a want (well, none of these things are needs, per se, but some of them are more want-ful than others). For example, I bet I could get by for a while using my blender and food processor, rather than a fancy Vitamix.
  3. Look for the best deals: I'm going to scour the internet for the best prices on this stuff. My first stop is going to be craigslist. Getting used stuff is better on the budget and the environment. Score!
  4. Start saving: I don't like to spend money that I don't have and then pay back more than I originally owed in the form of credit card interest. I can even set up a separate savings account with an automatic transfer each month (since we use an electronic bank, this process is super easy and free).

It can be hard having a consumer appetite bigger than my budget, but I always feel better when I consciously process the items on my list.

What about you? What items on your Wedding Wants list did you cross off? What other strategies do you have for dealing with a list of wants that overshadows your budget?

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

How to Lead Your Own Wedding Rehearsal

I came across this picture and thought I would talk a little about leading your own dress rehearsal.

Since Matt and I opted to have our dear friend, Andy, officiate the ceremony, it made sense for us to lead the dress rehearsal. We could have asked Andy to do it, but we had written the entire ceremony and knew exactly how we wanted to implement it.

Things We Did Right:
  • We wrote out a very detailed script that included stage directions. In other words, we had a clear picture of where we wanted each of us to be and what we wanted to be doing. We printed a copy for each person to look over at the rehearsal. We didn't waste anyone's time trying to figure out specific logistics on the day of.

Things We Should Have Done Differently:
  • I think I was kind of nervous about really taking charge and leading the rehearsal. I probably didn't want to seem bossy in front of Matt's closet friends (many of whom I was getting to know better--my friends already know I'm bossy). So instead of really rehearsing, I just sort of talked through everything. At the end of it, I said, "Okay, that's it!" My best friend said, "Um, Sara, can we actually practice it step by step?" Oops. That would make sense. So, lesson to be learned: A rehearsal should actually include rehearsing. It doesn't have to include the actual vows or entire readings, but if it's a multi-step ceremony with multiple participants, there should be some real practice and where to go and what to do.

Any other tips for running an effective wedding rehearsal?

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On Getting Skinny for Your Wedding Day

I know a lot of brides become obsessed with losing weight, toning, and sculpting their bodies for "The Biggest Day" of their lives. The problem with so many of these discussions is that losing weight is not the same thing as being healthy. For example, if I only ate 10 snack packs a day, I would lose weight. But obviously, that would not be healthy.

Plus, attaining a healthy weight is not something that can be achieved using healthy eating and exercise and then maintained by abandoning said healthy eating and exercise. It's not a goal that can be achieved and then abandoned. It's a process, not a product. It's about changing our lifestyles, not dieting. In other words, it's not about the wedding; it's about being healthy for a lifetime of marriage.

So, this post is for brides (and grooms and all the already-married people who read this blog and the folks who are not yet even engaged) who care about being healthy because they want to live their best life, not because they want to squeeze into a clearance wedding dress that is six sizes too small.

I wanted to share two strategies that I've been trying to implement in order to live a more healthful life:
  1. Drinking Green Smoothies: I know this concept has been around for a while, but this stuff is new to me. Apparently, you can put greens (like spinach, Swiss Chard, etc.) in the blender with fruit, water, etc. and it turns into a really healthy drink. So cool! I posted some recipes on my personal blog if you're interested.
  2. Eliminating Refined Sugars and Flours: This one is so, so hard for me. If given a choice, I could eat just sugar and flour (mixed with melted butter). However, these things can wreak havoc on our hormones and our bodies, so I've been working to at least reduce them. As a vegetarian, it's particularly difficult because many of our meals consist of pasta. Instead of pasta, I'm trying to use quinoa instead (using the same recipes). It's so easy to cook quinoa! The first picture above is garlic sauteed in olive oil with farmers' market tomatoes, roasted red pepper flakes, and salt added and stewed for a while in a pan with a top on it. At the end, I stir in chickpeas and top with basil and Parmesan. It worked well with the quinoa!

What other tips do you have for health-ifying our lifestyles for our weddings (and the many, many years of marriage that proceed the wedding)?

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Managing Money in a Marriage

Meg started an awesome discussion about Marriage & Money over at A Practical Wedding the other day. Hooray! Money is one of the top stressors on marriages. There are lots of ways to configure money structures within our marriages and relationships, so the more we talk about it, the more ideas we can get on the table.

Neither Matt nor I had any debt as we entered our marriage. However, I had amassed about $20,000 worth of savings, while Matt had about $5,000. The discrepancy made it a little difficult for me to merge our finances. In the end, I got over the discrepancy by fully embracing the idea of partnership. Besides, we were going to close on a house two days after our wedding, so all of our money was going to go straight to the bank, anyway. (As a side note, during our first year of marriage, Matt made approximately $20,000 more than I did, so it evened out rather quickly!)

I think one of the things that helped make the merger smooth was that Matt and I are both savers. Our financial goals and habits are very aligned. In general:
  1. We save before we spend. In other words, we do not like to carry any balances on credit cards. We use a Discover Card for the cashback rewards, but we pay it off in full each month.
  2. We would rather prioritize long-term, bigger goals (like a house, lots of land, a DSLR camera, etc.), than short-term treats (like lots of new clothing, shoes, etc.).
  3. We try to balance saving for the long-term with enjoying life. We have special savings accounts for vacation and home improvement. We don't want to be so obsessed with saving that we don't appreciate the present.
  4. We are okay spending more money to eat healthier/organic/local food, to support local businesses, and to buy less toxic products.

Here's how we manage money in our marriage:
  1. We made a list of all our expenses in Excel. You can see all of our categories here. We give ourselves personal allowances every month that each of us can spend however we want. We don't have to ask for the other person's permission to spend the money. For any spending outside of our personal allowances, we consult each other first.
  2. We created a formula in Excel that would add all of our expenditures. We played with our expenditures (including all of our savings accounts) until our expenditures matched our income.
  3. We have all of our paychecks directly deposited into a centralized, online checking account through ING Direct.
  4. We set up automatic transfers from that centralized account (called "Homebase") into separate savings accounts: Retirement, Home Improvement, Vacation, Property Taxes, Baby, The Dream--based on how much we determined we could afford to save in the Excel document.
  5. If anything is a "Joint Expense," like groceries, meals out, entertainment, etc., we pay for it with our credit card, and I record it on an index card in my wallet, so we can try to stay under budget. If Matt buys something using his personal allowance, he uses a separate credit card. If I buy something using my personal allowance, I use our Discover Card, but I record my purchase on the back of the index card.

Our system works for us in a lot of ways:
  • The automatic transfers into our savings accounts help us save more money than we otherwise would.
  • The personal allowance system gives us freedom to spend our money on whatever we want, without over-spending.
  • The monthly budget helps us prioritize our spending. For example, if a new expense comes up (like Matt's running coach), we can rework the numbers to make our income match our expenditures.

It's definitely not always smooth financial sailing in our household. Sometimes, we get in fights when we ask each other for permission to spend more than our personal allowance on something (mainly, I get mad when Matt wants to spend money to fly across the country to run in races; Matt is much more patient and understanding when I want to sign up for e-courses).

Matt still makes a little more income than I do, but we basically work the same amount (it's just that I spend a lot of time "working" on things that I don't use to generate income, like this blog!). Just because society values our work differently (in the form of higher pay for his job, and less for my teaching job), doesn't mean that we value our work differently in our household. For example, Matt doesn't get a larger personal allowance, just because he makes more money.

Also, we figure that we will flip flop back and forth over the years in terms of who is earning more than whom.

What kind of systems work for you?

Other posts I've written about Money & Marriage:
  1. Savers versus senders
  2. Monthly budgeting
  3. Why I'm glad we didn't go into debt planning our wedding
  4. Wants versus needs

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Monday, June 7, 2010

DIY: Free Wedding Invitation Kit

I continue to be astounded by the generosity of folks on the internet. Seriously.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about free downloadable invitations, and now I'm here to share another amazing resource, this time from Eleanor, a kindred spirit.

Eleanor is American and her husband is German. They live in Munich and had a civil ceremony there last fall. This August, they will have a wedding ceremony in her parents' backyard in California. Divine!

She's developed awesome paper goods that she's sharing with all of us. She says:
It’s a vintage black and white, download and print wedding kit. The kit includes templates for a wedding invitation, save the date, response card, table numbers, menus, programs, place cards, a seating list and a thank you card. It’s everything one would need for a wedding, and looks great even if printed from an ancient black and white printer on office-depot white card stock. All the templates are in Adobe PDF format with editable text fields. All one needs to do is open the file, overwrite the text with their personal information, print and cut.
You can download everything here and you can read some directions here.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Eleanor!

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Improving Our Relationships

I love reading about concrete ways to strengthen relationships. I believe that relationship are like gardens. They need to be tended to. Sure, you can leave them alone to fend for themselves, but they will do a heck of a lot better if you provide as much nourishment and nurturing as possible. What is the sun in a relationship? The water? The organic compost? How do we feed the soil instead of the plants?

This article over at Mind, Body, Green summarizes the key points of the book For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage by Tara Parker-Pope. I totally agree with the ten points delineated in the article. I'll go e-mail it to Matt right now!

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Power of Two (Continued)

Photo courtesy of Krista

Remember awhile back when I wrote a post about talking about your dreams with your partner and making them happen (with a specific discussion of Krista and Steve who were going to take months off from their normal lives to travel around the U.S. and Canada in a VW bus)?

Well, guess what? Matt and I had the sincere pleasure of meeting them in the flesh. Yes, sirree. They came all the way down to Houston and stopped by for an overnight visit. You can read all about their visit on their awesome blog (anyone for a little vicarious traveling?), but I will say that I am super-thankful to have a partner whose values align with mine in a lot of significant ways (not in every way, of course).

For example, when I got an e-mail from Krista a few days before her estimated arrival in Houston, I asked Matt if we could have a pair of complete strangers show up at our house and stay for the evening. He said, "Sure. Why not?" I'm so glad he's up for adventure and connection.

And I'm so thankful that this blogging thing has put me into contact with so many awesome people. I feel fortunate to be connected to all of you!

Happy Thursday, Everyone...


P.S. We didn't make them sit with Hoss in the backseat. I was trying to keep him in the front seat with me, but he jumped back there and they insisted they didn't mind.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Organizing Wedding Planning

Yesterday, over at Feeding the Soil, I wrote about my goals for the month of June, and Kelsey asked: "Can you share how you keep track of these? Do you have a "method" of journaling or a place you keep ideas?"

I figured 2000dollarwedding was the perfect place to share my response, since planning a wedding can require a lot of organization and a centralized way to track everything.

Enter the Life Binder.

When I taught 6th grade at the original KIPP school in Houston, our students had a mega binder that held everything for all their classes, which we called their "Life Binders". I started calling my personal organization system my Life Binder to show them that organizing your stuff in a centralized location is not just something that nit-picky adults impose upon children; it's actually an organizational strategy that they might choose for themselves when they are older.

Before I share my system for keeping myself organized, I have to include this obvious caveat: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to organization. In fact, my own system changes depending upon my job. My current system reflects the fact that I am not often in front of my computer, and therefore need a tangible and portable system.

So, here's a little tour of my Life Binder, in case it provides some inspiration for reflecting upon or revamping your own system:

Part I: My Vision for the Year
  • Every New Year's, my friends and I make collages to represent the kind of year we want to create for ourselves. On the back, I usually list out my goals for the year, as well as a monthly breakdown of what I need to do each month in order to accomplish the yearly goals. I also usually have a list of roles that I play in my life (teacher, grade level team member, blogger, wife/friend/sister/daughter, time bank coordinator, etc.) I didn't do it this year.
Part II: My Weekly Action Plan
  • Every Sunday night, I sit down to create my plan for the week. I look at my calendar and transfer all my obligations. I also backwards-plan particular things. For example, if I have a Montessori team meeting on Thursday, I might finish creating the observation form on Tuesday, and print the agenda on Thursday morning. If I notice that it's someone's birthday, I add "Write a card" onto the appropriate day. I also schedule exercise, dates, fun things with friends, etc. I also take a look at my monthly goals and see what smaller steps I can tackle this week, in order to accomplish my goals for the month. I also scan my list of life roles to see if there's anything I'm neglecting.
Part III: Notes
  • I keep things like meeting agendas, nutrition trackers, etc. in this section, so I always have what I need handy.
Part IV: People
  • All my colleagues have a box assigned to them. On a sticky note, I record what I need to talk to them about. That way, when we have a meeting, I can talk about everything I've been saving up (instead of sending a gazillion e-mail messages or peppering them with comments/questions all the time). I use sticky notes, so I can change them out whenever they get full (some people fill up much faster than others).
Part V: Lists
  • I do the same thing with sticky notes, but I record things that I need to buy at the grocery store, read, posts I want to write on my blogs, etc.

Part VI: Upcoming
  • I store things that I'm going to need in the immediate future, like directions to meetings, confirmations for hotels, etc.
Part VII: Monthly Calendars
  • I keep my monthly calendar in my binder (purchased from Office Max) to record obligations, dates, events, birthdays, etc.

So there you have it! If you're interested in using any of the templates, you can download them here.

Any other words of wisdom for keeping oneself organized? What works for you?

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Excuses, Excuses

Dear Kindred Spirits,

Unfortunately, there is no new post today because Matt swept me off my feet and surprised me with a spontaneous overnight visit to Galveston. I wasn't able to get ahead on any posts last week because it was our final week of school (I teach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade at a public Montessori school), and I was busy, busy, busy--blah, blah, blah.

However, there is a new post over at my personal blog, Feeding the Soil, if that's any consolation.

I promise I will be back with new content tomorrow!

Happy Tuesday,


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