The Number One Trait of Successful Marriages

wedding 1I think everyone who has ever been married would agree: when they first got married, they believed their marriage would be successful. They believed they would be together forever.

But if we all go into marriage thinking this, what goes wrong? What makes some marriages more successful than others? What is the secret to a happy marriage?

If you’ve ever wondered this, you’re in luck, because I have the answer! Last year, our church had the priviledge of hosting guest speaker Shaunti Feldhahn, best-selling author of books such as For Women Only and For Men Only, speaker, wife, and mother.

Shaunti recently released the book The Surprising Secrets of  Highly Happy Marriages, which is a book detailing the results of a nation-wide survey of married couples. When she spoke at our church, she shared some of the great insights she found when doing this survey.

There was one overwhelmingly common trait among the happiest married couples: choosing to believe their significant other had the best intentions, even when we’re hurt.

wedding 2In marriage and relationships, things are bound to go wrong. Your spouse will let you down. Your spouse will make mistakes. But in those moments, do you automatically assume the worst of your mate, or do you choose to believe that they had good intentions?

Your spouse said something that hurt your feelings. You can either choose to believe (a) they wanted to hurt you or (b) they didn’t know their words would come off the way they did.

Your husband is running late from work. You can either choose to believe (a) he cares more about work than you or (b) he tried his absolute hardest to get out of work to come home and be with family but some unexpected issues came up.

Your wife forgot to pick up that item you needed from the store. You can either choose to believe (a) the things I say don’t matter to her or (b) she had a lot on her mind and accidentally forgot.

I know this is something that I personally struggle with. I’m more of a glass-half-empty type of person. It’s not necessarily that I think the worst of others…it’s that I believe that others are thinking the worst of me! But in the end, that way of thinking comes off as negative as if I were assuming the worst of others.

This plays out in my relationship with Kevin. He will say something to me and I’ll automatically think he is putting me down. That is certainly not assuming the best in him!

wedding 3If we want to have more successful marriages, let’s choose today to change our thought-patterns.

That’s a nice principle, but how do you actually do that? Admit to yourself now that your spouse will inevitably make a mistake…we’re all human. Then, decide right now what you want to choose to believe whe that situation arises:

“I know he genuinely loves me and cares about me. I know that he would not choose to hurt me and that he has the best intentions. While what he did has upset me and frustrated me, I know that he did not intend to, so there must have been some other reason why he did it.”

Say that out loud several times. Even write it down. Really ingrain it in your mind.

It’s important to decide ahead-of-time what kind of attitude you will choose to have when problems arise. In the heat of the moment your emotions will take over. Your gut reaction will not be to believe the best. But if you have chosen ahead-of-time the attitude you want to have, it will be easier for you to think past the emotions.

Of course, choosing to believe your spouse had the best intentions doesn’t mean you should just shrug off the issue. Communicate openly with your spouse about what they did that hurt you and how they can avoid that in the future. Additionally, if your spouse is abusive, the time to “think the best” is passed. Do not stand for being abused.

wedding 4Now I don’t know about you, but I certainly want my marriage to stand the test of time. We can make that happen today in the tiny choices we make to choose to believe the best of our mate.

Is this something you struggle with too? Are you more of a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type of person? I’d love to hear in the comments! (No spouse-bashing, please)

You can listen to Shaunti’s full message, “There Is Hope For Your Marriage,” here!

Two Dares From Money Making Mom

You may have seen on my Facebook that I was chosen to be a part the Launch Team for Crystal Paine’s new book, Money Making Mom: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference.

mmmimageWhat you may not know is that I have been following Crystal’s blog for about six years now. And, yes, when you do the math that means I was already into couponing, money-saving, and frugal living even when I was in high school! (Talk about nerd!)

Over the years, I have learned so much about being frugal and gained so much encouragement and wisdom from her blog, MoneySavingMom.com. I am ever inspired by Crystal Paine. Which is why I was ecstatic when I was one of the people chosen to be on her Launch Team and read her book before it was released to the public!

After reading Money Making Mom, I am yet again inspired by Crystal Paine! There are so many great quotes in this book! And I believe this book is relevant for so many women. Who is looking for financial freedom? Who wishes they could help others more? Who wishes they could be work-at-home mom so they could to spend more time with their kids? Who wishes they didn’t have to work a 9-5 job the rest of their life?

If you ever catch yourself asking those questions, Crystal’s book has two dares for you (and me):

1. Dare to dream big.

dreaming bigSo many times when I start dreaming about the possibilities – Could I do something greater than I am now? Could I have my own business? Could I make income using one of my skills or hobbies? – it’s like I “catch” myself. My insecurities pop in my head and say things like, “Who would want to buy something you made? Who would want to listen to what you have to say? Do you really think that has potential to be successful?”

Crystal’s book Money Making Mom tells us to silence the nagging of our insecurities and to dare to dream big.

So, just dream for a moment…dream big…

What does “financial freedom” mean to you?

How would you like to use your skills and talents to help others?

How would you help others and make the world a better place if you only had more resources?

What do you want to be remembered for?

And now…what’s stopping you?

Money Making Mom reminds us that the world needs what you have to offer: “You are the only you in existence. The world needs your story. The world needs your gifts. The world needs you. May your life be a force that channels change in this world.”

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Crystal’s book gives me the encouragement not only to dream, but to believe I could do something greater and make a difference in the world.

From reading this book, the wheels have been spinning; I’ve been brainstorming about what gifts, talents, and passions I have that I could use to make an income. I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I would like to give more to others if I had the means. I’ve been considering how I could influence the world. Most of all, I’ve pushed away the insecurities nagging at me and I’ve started to believe in the possibilities.

I dare you to, too. Because as Crystal writes, “Friend, I say this with every bit of conviction: you were made for more than just surviving the day, making a decent income, living for the weekend, or making your car payment on time. you were created to make a difference.”

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2. Dare to fail.

I think all the nagging insecurites we face ultimately come down to one thing: we are afraid to fail. We are afraid to ever carry out those big dreams because we are afraid it will all end up being a complete failure.

Crystal shares in her book that she had to face many failures before she became a successful blogger. And she affirms, “I’ve learned much more through failure than I have through success.”

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We think of failure as such a scary thing, but through failure we can learn more about what works and what doesn’t, what improvements we could make, or even what our true purpose or calling is. When we are trying something new, we are bound to fail, but every failure is just another stepping stone to success.

jumpingSo that’s why I dare you (and me) to fail. Take one step towards your goal. And then take one more. Step outside of your comfort zone. It’s ok if you fail. Learn from it and keep pressing on. Your dreams are worth it.

If you need some motivation, listen to this quote that Crystal shares in Money Making Mom: “In her book Love, Skip, Jump: Start Living the Adventure of Yes, author Shelene Bryan wrote, ‘I’m not concerned that you’ll fail at something. I’m concerned that you’ll succeed at something that doesn’t matter.'”

How are you going to dream big today?


mmmbookIf you are interested in starting your own business or making extra income from home, I recommend the book Money Making Mom: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference!

This book will:

  • Expand your thinking to consider multiple money-making ideas
  • Dream big and set long-term financial goals
  • Forge an intentional path with clear priorities
  • Nurture your unique skills, talents, passions, and knowledge
  • Conquer the saboteurs of insecurity, fear, lack of time, and naysayers
  • Shift your perspective to live more generously for others
  • And more!

Money Making Mom is available on Amazon, ChristianBook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and BooksaMillion.com.

You can learn more and even read the first chapter on the Money Making Mom Website.

7 Date-Night Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

A successful marriage takes work. It takes a lot of intentionality: setting aside times to communicate openly, reconnect with each other, and of course, share life and laughs together.

That’s why it’s important to never stop “dating” your spouse. The fun and romance doesn’t end the moment you say “I do!” It is important to create time in your busy schedules to spend together, just the two of you. Designating one night a week or every other week as “date night” is a way to keep your relationship with your spouse a priority.

But of course, date night doesn’t have to mean a fancy dinner at an expensive restaurant. Here are a few date ideas that won’t break the bank!

1. Take a scenic drive to see fall colors

With it being fall and all, this is a fun and essentially free date idea (besides gas for your car). Ask around and find out if there are any especially scenic areas around you. Or be adventurous and take a drive down some random back roads (bring a fall leavesGPS with you in case you get lost!).

Bring your camera. Take pictures of the beautiful scenery and some pictures of you two together. Take some time to stop and soak in the nature around you.

This awesome web page from SmokyMountains.com shows you the estimated peak times to see fall leaves across the country this year. Check it out so you don’t miss the peak week!

2. “Chopped” dinner date

One of Kevin and my favorite shows is “Chopped” on the Food Network. If you haven’t seen it, the basic premise is a competition between four chefs who have to create tasty and attractive appetizers, entrees, and desserts incorporating four very strange and often unappealing ingredients.

chopped basketYou can do this at home for a fun and interesting date night. You and your spouse each pick two different strange ingredients. Shop your own pantry and fridge. Then work together to combine those four ingredients to create a meal.

It’s fun to work together and use a little bit of creativity. This is also a good way to use up items in your fridge that are about to expire, or those things in your pantry that have sat there for months and never been used.

Of course, be warned, you might experience some unusual flavors. It may be good to have a frozen pizza on hand, just in case your masterpiece isn’t all you had hoped! But focus on enjoying your time together and being able to laugh at yourselves.

3. Pumpkin carving

Another fall-inspired date. Pumpkins are usually priced for $5 at Walmart and a set of pumpkin carving tools is $1. Shop the grocery ads and you may be able to get them at a cheaper price.

pumpkin carvingLet your inner pumpkin-Picasso come out! Laugh at each other’s faces as you pull out the gross pumpkin guts. And while you’re carving, roast the pumpkin seeds and eat them as a yummy snack afterwards!

(And side note: look at how young Kevin and I were! This picture was taken 5 years ago.)

4. Game night

Pull out some of your old board games and have a game night together. Yahtzee and Scattergories are some of my favorite board games that can be played with only two people.

5. Go to your local dollar theater

movie popcornDo some research online to find out if you have a dollar movie theater in your area. Often these theaters only play movies once they are already gone from regular theaters. While you will have to wait a while to see that movie you are excited for, not spending $13-16 dollars per movie ticket is always a win in my book.

6. Attend a workshop or event at your local library

An often-overlooked resource in our community is the local library. Many libraries host free events like classes, workshops, game nights, book signings, and more. Attend one of these free events with your spouse and learn something new together!

7. Play with puppies at a local pet store

puppyAs long as you won’t feel obligated to take a puppy home, this is a totally free date! Pet stores often have rooms where you can play with one of the puppies. It’s a win-win situation: the puppy gets love and attention and you and your spouse get to play with an adorable little bundle of joy!

Just Say “NO”

Sometimes do you just feel like a wreck? I know I do…I am a people-pleaser with a fear of failure. Eek! Talk about issues!

walking on eggshellsAs you can probably imagine, that means that I always feel like I have to walk on eggshells, accomodating everyone. It’s very hard for me to say “no”, or anything I know will disappoint you.

Today I got completely fed-up with it. Why do I feel like I have to please everyone?

I’m tired of not speaking up for myself. I’m tired of getting annoyed by people “walking all over me,” simply because I LET THEM! And I’m mostly tired of seeking my worth in what others think.

As I was lamenting this today, I got great advice from some older, wiser women:

1. If you don’t think you or your time is valuable, no one else will.

It’s up to you to choose where you will find your worth, and to truly believe you and your time is valuable. If you don’t, who will? You have to be the one to set boundaries.

2. Assertiveness is a muscle that has to be strengthened.

Of course, there are some people who just naturally have dominant, assertive 37CB0NNMNCpersonalities. But for people like me, confidence is not natural, AT ALL!

But that’s okay…I can’t expect assertiveness to simply be there. Just like I can’t expect a 6-pack of abs to just be there on my stomach (unfortunately). It takes practice and work. Every small step I make, every tiny encounter in which I choose to be assertive, will build that muscle.

3. Just Say No!

So basically, I just have to do it. I have to just say no. This is now my homework for the week! I will say no to one person.

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All you fellow people-pleasers, try it with me this week! Let’s dare to disappoint.

Saving Money With Rebate Sites: 101

Who wants to save more money on groceries? I’m pretty sure everyone is raising their hand!

money calculatorI think all of us want to save a little bit of money on their groceries, but not all of us have the time or desire to clip coupons. I totally get that: it does take time to clip or print/cut out coupons, plus time researching to match coupons with current grocery deals (for those who are over-achievers!).

Your time is precious. That is why I recommend rebate websites. If you’re looking for a way to save money without clipping coupons, rebate websites are a great resource.

What are rebate websites?

A rebate is when you receive money back for a purchase. So rebate websites are sites that offer you rebates on select purchases.

groceries bananasThese websites will list which specific items are eligible for rebates. Sometimes they have to be brand-name items, others can be any brand. Eligible purchases may be groceries, baby items, household goods, or even online or in-store retail purchases!

Once you purchase the select item, you will submit a request for a rebate. This may be done in a number of ways, it just depends on the specific website:

  • snapping a picture of the receipt
  • scanning the barcode using the camera on your device
  • or some sites actually sync up with grocery store loyalty cards and can track your purchases as long as you scan your card at check-out

Depending on the product, you could earn rebates from 20 cents up to several dollars. Yes, that’s small, but over time these small amounts add up to become extra money in your pocket.

So, what’s the catch?

Does it sound “too good to be true”? Seriously, it’s not!

However, I do advise you to pay close attention to the requirements for each rebate. Be sure to note things like

  • Size or quantity. Ex: The rebate may only be for the 16oz bottle of salad dressing, not a 10 oz, bottle.
  • Store. Is there a certain store you must purchase the item from?
  • Dates of purchase. As in, what is the timeframe that you have to purchase the product?
  • Deadline to submit purchase. By what date do you have to upload the receipt?

One Caveat

The one caveat I offer is this: you actually aren’t “saving” money up-front on your purchases by utilizing these rebate websites. However, you are earning money back for purchases you were going to make anyway!

The money that you earn back through these rebates could be some extra money you can use for Christmas gifts or even some fun money to use to treat yourself after all your hard work being thrifty. 🙂

saleI also advise you to remember: it’s better to not spend any money at all than purchase something you don’t actually need or want just because it’s “on sale.” Just because there is a rebate offered for a certain product, doesn’t mean it’s a wise purchase. If you see a comparable product at a better price, I would buy that one instead. Remember to use your head and don’t get suckered in to “discount fever.”

Are you excited to get started earning rebates?! Here is my list of the rebate sites I use, ranking them by how useful I find them.

ibotta

1. Ibotta

Ibotta is where it’s at! Ibotta is by far my FAVORITE rebate website. They offer a long list of rebates every week and a bunch of “generic” rebates that can be any brand.

Ibotta also has a “teamwork” function that makes earning rebates actually…fun! You can team up with your Facebook friends to complete various earning goals each month, which unlocks additional rebates!

How to get the rebate: You have to “unlock” each item, often by watching a short commercial video. Once you unlock all the rebates you want to claim, you will scan the barcode for the products and upload a picture of your receipt. Or, for some stores, the purchase is tracked through your store loyalty card.

Time-frame for purchases: Ibotta runs Sunday-Saturday. So you must purchase the select product and claim your rebate within that time frame.

Cashing-out: You can cash out once you accumuluate $10 in your account. You redeem your money in the form of a gift card or transfer money directly to a PayPal or venmo account. There are various gift cards available to choose from.

You can sign up for Ibotta here!

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2. MobiSave

I’m pretty new to MobiSave, but it comes in as my second favorite because all rebates are immediately deposited into your PayPal account…no minimum cash-out requirements! Also, the little swimming whale is pretty adorable.

One note: after signing up for MobiSave, it took several weeks before I was admitted. It seems as if they limit how many new accounts they take on at one time…probably because it is such a new site, they want to make sure they have enough supply to meet demand.

How to get the rebate: You must select which items you will purchase before you check-out in the store. Select them and put them in your “cart.” After making the purchase, you simply upload a picture of your receipt and select those rebates from your “cart”. And, done!

Time-frame for purchases: MobiSave runs Monday-Sunday. New deals appear Mondays at 12:00am. You must purchase the items and submit your receipt within this time-frame.

Cashing-out: Like I said above, there is no minimum requirement before you can cash-out. You connect your PayPal account to your MobiSave account and all earnings are immediately deposited into your PayPal account. Pretty cool!

Here’s the link to sign up for MobiSave.

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3. Checkout-51

In my opinon, Checkout-51 is just okay. I really liked it when I started using it a few years ago, but then they made some negative changes that really limited the rebates you can earn. Now it is starting to get better again. So I still have hope for it.

One con to Checkout-51 is that you can’t cash-out until you reach $20. I also don’t like that you can choose only one of the fruits and veggies they offer each week for a rebate.

However, recently they have brought in some new brand-name products eligible for rebates, including Kellogg’s products. I’m a big fan of Kellogg’s, so this is a definite win in my eyes. I’m hoping that Checkout-51 will continue to make improvements such as that!

How to get the rebate: Upload a picture of your receipt and select which rebates you are claiming. That’s all!

Time-frame for purchases: Checkout-51 runs from Thursday-Wednesday. New offers go live on Thursdays at 12:00am and expire Wednesday at 11:59pm. So you must purchase the items and submit your receipt within that time-frame.

Cashing-out: You can cash out once you have $20 in your account. They send you a check in the mail.

You can sign up for Checkout-51 here!

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4. Snap by Groupon

Snap definitely comes in last for me. Most of their rebates are for products I do not purchase. Lately they have had “generic” product offers, but it seems as if once you claim one, you can never claim a rebate for that product again?! If you are looking to get started doing rebates, this is the last site I’d recommend.

How to get the rebate: Upload a picture of your receipt, select which offers you are claiming, and submit it.

Time-frame for purchases: Offers do not expire until the maximum number of redemptions have been reached or the product program has concluded. There are no set dates or deadlines. You must simply purchase the product while the deal is available.

Cashing-out: Once you reach $20 in your account, you can request a check.

Even though this isn’t my favorite site, you are still definitely welcome to sign up here!

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5. SavingStar

I put SavingStar as number five not because I think it is the worst, but because to be honest, I’ve never really used it before! I recently created an account to check it out, so I haven’t formed an opinion of it yet.

From my first impression, I see some products that I do purchase and others that I’ve never bought before. I like the fact that you can cash out once you reach $5, so you’re not waiting forever to see your money back. Overall, I think it has potential. If I become a huge SavingStar fan, I’ll let you know!

How to get the rebate: Select the products you would like to purchase before you go shopping. Then either scan your loyalty card at check-out or submit a picture of your receipt. You can also get rebates on online purchases by going through the SavingStar website.

Time-frame for purchases: Each product has its own specific expiration date. Purchase the product and submit your receipt before this expiration date.

Cashing-out: You can cash out once you have $5 in your account. Money is deposited into a bank account or your PayPal account, or you can also choose to donate the money to charity.

Click here to join Saving Star.

So, which one are you going to try today?

Understanding the Mind of God

This past week I was inspired by a quote from Timothy Keller:

“If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives.”

Is that a little hard to believe? You might be thinking, “Um, no, God I would never ask for XYZ to happen in my life!”

I don’t pretend to know the depth of the struggles you are facing right now. I think deep down, nearly everyone is facing something tough or battling insecurities. Many face hardship on a daily basis that I will never know.

Nevertheless, I know two things that make it easy for me to believe what Tim Keller said: God is good and he is great.

God is a loving father. God is the “God of all comfort”. Every person, every life matters to him. YOU matter to him.

vast expanseUnfortunately in this world that has been overrun by sin and evil, we will face tragedy and heartbreak. We will experience pain. We will be hurt.

Yet God is so great that he can redeem anything! God himself came to redeem this dark world through Jesus. While we may not see it right away, he can bring good from even the worst of circumstances.

And even when it might feel like our world is spinning out of control, God is still IN CONTROL. And that very same God who is in control of the whole universe cares about you and me!

Have you ever heard of the man Job from the Bible? God allowed him to lose everything. He lost his family, his livestock (so, his source of income), his servants, and his health.

He doesn’t curse God, yet he questions him. “Why has this happened to me? What did I do to deserve this? Have I done something wrong that you are punishing me?”

Finally, at the end of the book of Job, God answers him:

earth“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?”

“Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all of this.”

skies“Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?”

God asks Job many more questions, and finally concludes with, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

WOW. If I were Job, I’d be shaking in my shoes!

The moral of this story isn’t that we should be afraid to ask God why. What we learn from Job’s story is that no matter what hardship God allows us to go through, he is still God and he is still in control.

He is so much bigger and greater than us. And unfortunately that means that there are just some things in this world that we don’t understand and can’t understand…because we’re not God!

Yet that God who is so great cares about us. He has a good plan for the world, we just have to trust him, even in the midst of the storms in our own little worlds. He asks us to admit that we don’t “have it under control all on our own” and to place our faith and hope in Jesus Christ.

“What you’re saying requires a lot of faith,” you might be saying. If so, I challenge you today to ask God to increase your faith!

lakeBecause, as Tim Keller said, if we only knew what God knew, we’d understand that we can trust him, no matter what. And we’d ask for his plan. every. single. time.