Marvelous Money: Managing Money Together

24 April 2018

As I wrote the How We Do It series, there were many topics – big and small – that I knew I would want to revisit at some point in posts of their own. When I got a few questions about how we jointly manage our finances in this post, I knew it was a great one to start with!

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Many of the questions centered around why John and I have separate checking accounts. The short answer is that there’s no good reason – ha! Here’s the longer answer:

John and I have separate checking and savings accounts because we opened them before we were married, and there didn’t seem to be any good reason to open a new joint one after saying “I do.” After all, our accounts are at the same bank (and linked, so that we can access each other’s through our own dashboards!), and we of course have each other’s passwords. All accounts opened since our wedding day have been joint ones.

I know many people have strong opinions on joint versus separate accounts. I think many of the opinions, though, stop short of what’s truly important: the state of your heads and hearts trumps the practicalities of how your accounts are set up any day. All of the joint accounts in the world can still lead you to a dead end if you’re not pulling in the same direction.

There is no “his money” and “her money” in our marriage. We have never valued each other or set individual spending levels based on what either of us make at our jobs. The idea of spouses effectively living at different income levels within a marriage is shocking and sad to me, as described in this recent Atlantic article:

They’ll help each other out?? Marriage means joining your financial future just as surely as it means joining your lives. I supported both of us while John searched for a job, and he put money toward my student loans for years without a peep of complaint. Were one of us to lose our job, we would not receive a “handout” from the other person – we would both adjust and bear the burden together.

On a practical note, the main reason there is no “his” or “her” money is that ALL money is fed into our family budget. At that point, we simply have one lump sum of money that we need to decide what to do with, together – it literally no longer matters who brought in how much. Because we’ve set the budget together, if it says we have a certain amount to spend, then that’s how much we have to spend. A budget is a great equalizer in this way, and if you need yet another reason to get on the budget bandwagon, there you go! :)

But back to the Atlantic article:

To that I would say, I don’t believe the money I bring home does or should “fully belong to me” — it’s shared with my husband, just as his money is shared with me.

Unsurprisingly, the arguments in the Atlantic article for why a couple wouldn’t merge their finances aren’t that compelling to me. There is one argument that I think does have validity, at least at the outset, but I don’t think it’s a situation that’s tenable longterm for a healthy marriage. If the two of you don’t have aligned beliefs on money, and aren’t consulting each other on where you’re hoping to go in life, then merging your finances absolutely will be a mess and will lead to arguments. The solution, though, is not to keep things separate — it’s to do the work to get on the same page.

John and I have a bit of an advantage here because we formed our thoughts on money alongside each other, but we also work actively to make sure we stay on the same page. (Hence our regular conversations and bimonthly net worth meetings!). Our friends Nancy and Will found themselves in the opposite situation: they came into marriage with VERY different ideas about how money should be managed. Financial Peace University helped them reach common ground, and they are some of the most inspiring financial stewards we know!

A final note, should you need more convincing: a joint budget not only determines your day to day spending on groceries, clothing, lawn care, and more, but it sets and guides your financial big picture, like how much you’re saving for retirement, how soon you’ll be able to get out of debt, when you’ll squirrel away the amount for a down payment goal, or how much you can give away each year.

And those big picture things? You want to work on them together, because then you will succeed together (and a lot more quickly than if you were working on your own!). There are few things more unifying in a marriage than reaching a major goal together, and if you’re not merging your finances, you’ll miss out on them.

Whew! Clearly this is a topic I’m passionate about, and that Atlantic article brought it all bubbling to the surface! To finish up, I’d love to hear: what goal are you working toward in your finances right now?

A weekend away in North Georgia

19 April 2018

Hello, friends! It always takes me longer than I think it will to get back into the swing of things after a weekend away, especially because so many of our weekly routines — grocery shopping, vacuuming, laundry — happen on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But here I am, and I thought it would be fun to tell you about our adventure in North Georgia!

I am not sure how useful of a post this is, because unlike some of our other destinations, I don’t know how likely it is that any of you will ever travel here, ha! Were it not for a dear friend’s wedding, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have. If I happen to have any Atlanta readers, though, pay attention: this would make for a fun weekend getaway!

Our destination was about five and a half hours away from our home, and thanks to a serendipitous Google reroute due to traffic, we were able to have dinner at White Duck Taco in Asheville (!!!). I’m sure you remember that White Duck is one of our absolute favorite spots anywhere, so this was a major unexpected bonus. We also stretched our legs on the greenway behind White Duck and New Belgium Brewery in gorgeous 75 degree weather, so it was a great rest stop all around.

White Duck Taco

Thursday and Friday night we stayed at an Airbnb in Tallulah Falls, a short drive away from the wedding venue. To say we fell in love with it is a serious understatement — it was probably the highlight of our trip!

lake view

The listing lays it all out, but it was the most serene, peaceful spot you could imagine, meticulously maintained with a rustic vibe. It was set directly adjacent to an emerald green lake — the deck literally extended over the water — and the nearest neighbor was half a mile away in any direction.

North Georgia

Edgewater Escape

June said her favorite part was watching the ducks, John couldn’t get over the lake views from every window including the shower, I loved reading on the porch swing, and we all loved eating breakfast on the deck every morning. Highly, highly, highly recommended, even if you have no other reason to be in this area!

Airbnb cabin

On Friday morning we hiked Tallulah Gorge, including 600+ steps down to cross a suspension bridge.

Tallulah Gorge

picnic lunch

We packed subs for a picnic lunch post-ascent, and turkey, cheese, and Gatorade have never tasted so good. The rest of our day was spent relaxing, rehearsing (I was the day-of coordinator), and attending the rehearsal dinner.

June on the deck

Despite a minor hiccup on Saturday morning (when we locked ourselves out of the Airbnb clad in pajamas with no phones and no car keys) the day quickly got back on track thanks to our kind host. We had a quick lunch in nearby Clayton at Fortify Pi, but there were seemingly lots of yummy places to choose from. I was dying to pop into Wander North Georgia for a browsing session, but we just didn’t have time.

Glen Ella

Once at the venue, Glen-Ella Springs, June had the BEST time helping EVERYONE prepare for the ceremony and reception — racing back and forth from the florist prepping the arbor to the waitstaff setting out flatware — and I got the pleasure of working with my friend Davy to move the timeline along and make sure every i was dotted and t was crossed. We were all worried about rain, but ended up with lots of sun and perfect temps – such a blessing! After a glow stick jam session on the dance floor and sparkler exit, we put June to bed and got to sit around outside chatting with friends for an hour or so before turning in ourselves.

glow sticks

Glen-Ella itself was a delight, from the comfy beds to the delicious included breakfast and the nicest innkeepers. Our friends actually chose it as their venue after spending a winter weekend getaway there, and I can see why – I’d love to go back to have dinner by the cozy fireplace in the dining room!

Though we were only gone three nights, this extended weekend trip truly felt like a week away. I think it was probably a combination of the peaceful location and the fact that everything was new to us — a good reminder to these loyalists to inject novelty in travel wherever possible :)

Now we’re looking forward to a fun weekend at home, possibly including a visit to the Museum of Life & Science, strawberry picking, and the Azalea Gardens! Spring weather is here!!

How to organize your own childhood memorabilia

12 April 2018

Today I want to chat about a topic I don’t think I’ve ever seen covered on a blog: how to organize and simplify your own childhood memorabilia. There are plenty of resources out there for streamlining your kids’ stuff, but how about those of us still drowning in our own memories even while trying to organize memories for our kiddos? I’ve got some thoughts and a few things that have worked for me, and thought I’d share them today!

how to organize childhood memorabilia

When I moved to North Carolina almost ten years ago (!), I had no idea how long I’d be here, or how long I’d be in my new apartment. I packed my UHaul with my clothes, furniture, some books, and some decor from my parents’ house, but left the vast majority of everything I didn’t use on a daily basis in my room at home. (Thank you, parents, for being okay with that!!)

Over the next few years, whenever I went home to visit, I would make a point to spend a little time sorting through what was left in my room: clothes, binders and notebooks from school, old toys, decor. Little by little, I got rid of what no longer had meaning to me and was better able to take inventory of what was left.

Likewise, every time my parents drove to North Carolina, they would bring a load of my stuff. With each new delivery, I’d sit down and sort through the pile, again keeping only what had meaning to me.

How did I decide what had meaning to me? I know a lot of people keep things because they think their kids might want to look at them someday, but that is not the driving force for me. Sure, there are some things I would love to share with my kiddos down the line if they express interest. For me, though, the reason I keep things is to remind myself of my story. “Finding a career” advice often encourages us to think back to our childhood passions, as they’re supposed to point us in the direction of our life’s purpose.

That is definitely true for me. One of the greatest passions of my life is writing, and I LOVE being reminded of how early this passion started for me and all the ways it grew throughout the years. Accordingly, one thing I’ll never give up is the picture book I wrote in second grade. The story was basically a rewrite of my favorite chapter book at the time (ha), but it was the first time I remember someone taking a special interest in this part of my identity: my teacher had the book laminated and bound, and she even sent it to the principal to read (who wrote a note in the back!).

As you all know, I am not very sentimental, but am HUGE on the power of stories. At their best, any mementos I keep remind me of who I am, what I’ve overcome, and where I’ve triumphed. They aren’t clutter; they bring me joy.

To summarize, here are my best tips if you’re staring down your own pile of stuff:

1. If possible, start early (before you have kids!). I’m so thankful I started early, because I had a LOT more free time on my hometown visits before June arrived, and a lot more time to sort through piles once back home!
2. If you aren’t sure, keep it. This might be controversial advice, and if you’re having a hard time letting go of anything at all, please disregard. But, if you’re making good progress and are just hung up on a few items, I would suggest you keep them. Purging can be a gradual process, and there’s usually no need to torture yourself to let something go if you’re not ready, even if you don’t think anyone would understand why you’re keeping the thing. You can always get rid of it in a few years if it’s no longer meaningful to you :)
3. Have a reason for what you keep. This is the necessary follow-up to tip number two! If you’re putting something in the “save” pile, try to articulate why you’re keeping it. It could be as simple as the thing brings you joy, but it shouldn’t be because you feel like you need to keep it or people would judge you if you let it go.
4. Don’t be afraid to purge gradually. For me, sorting through memorabilia isn’t a one-and-done thing. Whenever I have the itch to streamline or want to clear out a little more space, I go back through my things and cull a bit more. It usually ends up being every 2-4 years for a major look-through, with little trims off the edges here and there. For example, my Irish step dancing trophies hung on through several early rounds of purging. I kept all but the most significant trophies for a few more years, and then last year, I decided I was at peace about letting those go, too.
5. Take ownership. Out of sight, out of mind, right? If you’re lucky enough to have parents who have stored your stuff over the years, it’s so easy to just avoid the situation altogether. But that’s not fair to your parents, and it’s not fair to you, either! Get it into your own house so you’re forced to deal with it.

Once I slimmed down my entire collection to just the things I loved, I made a simple storage system. Currently, I have three big boxes and three little boxes in our guest room closet.

Big boxes:
— Middle school and younger: report cards, “books” I wrote, school pictures, newspaper clippings, dance memorabilia, a story journal my Dad and I used to pass back and forth, diaries…
— College: my acceptance letter, favorites papers I wrote, event programs, graduation cards, volumes of the literary journal I was published in…
— Random: this box could probably stand to be culled but includes a bunch of the mixed CDs John made me in our early years of dating, my four high school yearbooks, a scrapbook of our first year of dating, and the DVD of my final Irish dancing show, among other things

Little boxes:
— High school: commencement program, newspaper clippings, AP exam results (ha), my diploma, programs from events…
— Our wedding: one of each piece in our paper suite, my bouquet ribbon, particularly meaningful cards we were sent, our wedding film DVD, our wedding photo CD, our newspaper announcement…
— Our life together: LOTS of notes we’ve written each other over the years, notes from friends, souvenirs from our honeymoon, a small painting of our cats, a copy of each of our Christmas cards, my baby shower invitation…

You might want to keep more or less than I have – and that’s totally fine, as long as it aligns with what you value and you have the space for it! :)

Friends, I would love to hear: is this something you struggle with? Where are you in the process of getting your own childhood things in order? What system have you landed on?

Easter Weekend

9 April 2018

Is it too late to talk about Easter? No? Good :) As I mentioned, our Easter weekend was full and very fun!

On Saturday morning, we gathered with friends for our neighborhood’s egg hunt. The report: it was over in about two minutes flat, and June was much more interested in opening and closing the eggs than anything that was inside them :)

egg hunt

It was not the world’s most challenging egg hunt, let the record show.

Easter egg hunt

We had a bit of time before our next engagement even with a playground pit stop, so a detour for beignets down the road from our house – a favorite weekend indulgence – was in order. Then it was on to our next destination – a classmate’s third birthday party! This was really our first experience with a birthday party geared toward kids, and June enjoyed herself IMMENSELY.

farm chores

The party was held at a local farm, and June got to pull weeds for chickens, feed the weeds to the chickens, pet and hold baby chicks and rabbits, collect eggs, and ride a pony! The pony ride was undoubtedly the highlight of the day. Even though June kept saying she wanted to ride after we introduced the idea to her, we weren’t sure she’d follow through — but she did, and grinned like a maniac the whole time! As someone who grew up infatuated by horses on my aunt’s horse farm, this was obviously delightful to me :)

pony ride

My family has quite the farm legacy (my aunt’s farm, the one my Dad grew up on, is the oldest continually-working family-owned farm in Connecticut), and though it’s detached from my everyday life, it looms large in my personal narrative and identity. Not to get too philosophical, but this felt like the tiniest beginning of including June in that legacy, too!

Easter basket

After dinner and games with neighborhood friends (the luxury of walking to our friends’ houses has not worn off!!), I packed up June’s Easter basket before turning in for the night. It was really fun to put together, and I think she was even more excited by it than she was by Christmas morning!

We ended up including a Melissa & Doug wooden school bus (which I got at a consignment sale for $1!), a new bathing suit, lemon pajamas, a sheet of stickers, a pair of sandals, two stuffed bunnies already in her tribe, and the biggest hit of the day: an elephant watering can! (We bought ours from a local nursery, but it’s similar to this.)

cinnamon rolls

We ate Pillsbury cinnamon rolls before church, which we attended at Duke Chapel. The music was incredible, the cherry trees were blooming, and the day delighted us by turning sunny and warm. It felt like the right weather to celebrate the risen Lord!

Easter morning

Cannot. Handle. John says this is her high school portrait sixteen years too early.

Easter family

Easter morning Duke Chapel

When your parents have the nerve to ask a stranger to take your picture :)

lettuce garden

While June napped in the afternoon, John and I planted our back bed – various lettuces, some herbs, and tomatoes. I can’t remember if I mentioned this already, but we had to replace our bed this year, and went with this thick cedar one from Etsy. Two thumbs up! We then had an early potluck dinner at our street block party, which left us plenty of time for a walk down to the creek before bedtime. That photo on the right pretty much sums up my hopes and dreams for childhood – endless hours of poking a stick in the water :)

neighborhood walk

I think we checked off about four things on our spring fun list last weekend alone! Hope y’all have been able to get outside in the warmer weather, too!

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