Money Management for the Happy Couple

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Money – the cause of, and solution, to all of the world’s problems. For the long-term relationships, where the couple has moved in together and is sharing expenses, money then becomes a major point of contention.

Melissa and I try as hard as we can for equality in our marriage, especially when it comes to chores and money. Don’t get me wrong, we still argue from time to time about these things, especially our finances. That is why it is so important to talk about money with each other so you have the same expectations as each other.

Here are just a few tips that help Melissa and I keep money from ruining our lives and our marriage:

  1. Non-essential expenses are evenly split between us. Melissa likes new clothes, I like seeing concerts. These expenses essentially off-set each other. On pay day, I don’t immediately go to the casino and drop $200. And all major purchases and investments are made by committee.
  2. Learn the lessons from Dave Ramsey. For $79, you can gain access to the online version of his course; they send you a bunch of supplemental material, too. Make an hour appointment each week to go through an entire lesson. It’s 14 lessons long, I think. One of the basic tenants he teaches is that you have to do a budget every single month. And you should allocate every single dollar before you spend it. It may be tough to stick to it the first few months, but you should eventually get the hang of it and hopefully you’ll soon get to start saving and/or paying down your debt.
  3. This is kind of a meld between #1 and #2 – both of you should know how to pay every bill. That includes keeping track of website log-ins, knowing where the checkbook is, and how to pay the rent or mortgage. From a functional standpoint, what happens if the usual bill payer needs emergency surgery and is in the hospital for a month? But there are other reasons, too. When one person is always responsible for paying the bills, not only does it get stressful when there isn’t enough money from month to month, it’s too easy for the other person to blame the bill payer for any money problems. The budget for each month must be created and then approved by both parties. It can typically be made by one person, but then the other person needs to review it and make at least one change – otherwise they can still blame the bill payer when the budget doesn’t work out. (This is another tip from Ramsey’s program.)

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All in all, it pays to stay ahead of any money problems that will develop. Ramsey, among others, advocates having an emergency fund – $500 to $1000 for those in significant debt, and then saving up to 3 to 6 months of living expenses as you can afford it. This does two things. First it helps you cover unexpected expenses that pop up from time to time that you can’t afford in your monthly budget. And secondly, it helps take away some of the worrying and stress about money. Struggling to pay the bills from month to month is one of the most stressful things any of us will have to go through. Having even a little emergency fund goes a long way to help relieving that worry.

Bottom line – Hopeful Romantics make healthy money decisions together so money doesn’t cause any unnecessary stress or arguments.

Photos  by Flickr user Tax Credits and Images_of_Money

 

Movie Review – Sabrina (1954)

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For the next Hopeful Romantic movie review, I reach back to the 1954 version of Sabrina. It stars Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina, and Humphrey Bogart and William Holden as the well-to-do brothers Linus and David Larrabee. I certainly hope everyone has seen this movie, but if not, please stop reading and go out and rent or buy it immediately, as I will include many spoilers in my review.

Sabrina is the daughter of Linus’s chauffeur and grew up around the Larrabees, falling in love with David along the way. David is somewhat of a playboy, falling in and out of love with every girl that comes along – and has had three failed marriages to boot! Sabrina witnesses David from afar, and fantasizes about being one of those girls that David falls for. In this respect, Sabrina is very much a hopeless romantic  – she has fallen in love with David in a completely one-sided affair.

After realizing that David won’t give her any romantic attention, Sabrina runs off to culinary school in Paris. During her exile, she learns a bit about herself and high society, changing her looks and demeanor to someone that can gain the attention of David. She returns, but there is only one problem – David is engaged to someone else.

Not even recognizing Sabrina at first, David picks Sabrina up from the train station to drive her home… his home, in fact. Well, he soon figures out this is the same girl that he grew up around, but how has she changed! So much, in fact, that he now wants to call off his pre-arranged engagement to run off with the chauffeur’s daughter.

Linus, the brains behind the Larrabee empire, is about to see his multi-million dollar deal go out the window if David runs off with Sabrina. So he intervenes, trying to “keep it all in the family”. He entertains Sabrina after he incapacitates his brother, trying to get her to fall in love with him instead. He feigns wanting to get away from the boardroom and to run off to Paris to experience the city. And he convinces Sabrina that he wants her to come with him. And the hopeless romantic that Sabrina is, she falls for him. And just when Linus almost has her convinced of their budding love (and has her booked on a one way ticket back to Paris), Linus drops the truth of his whole charade.

linus and sabrina

For the Hopeful Romantics out there, this seems like an awful lot of deceit, with an extra dose of falling in love too soon. And indeed it is. But there are some shining points in this story.

  1. Sabrina figures out how to gain David’s attention. Simply fawning over him and expressing her one-sided crush isn’t enough. She had to go to Paris and become a whole new person – new clothes, new attitude, new haircut, etc. The lesson here is that if you are attracted to someone (or a certain type of someone), you’ve got to look the part. And Sabrina does that transformation exceptionally well.
  2. A funny thing happened to Sabrina and Linus both. While they were out on the town while David was holed up, they connected. Perhaps a little too quickly for Hopeful Romantics like us, but nonetheless they connected. Sabrina was eager to go to Paris with him and show him around, and Linus was honest enough to admit to his deception. Excitement and honesty are two solid ways to start a relationship.
  3. At the end, David realizes his foolishness and tries to set things right. He doesn’t know if his brother was really faking it with Sabrina, or if Linus fell for her too. So he eggs Linus on, essentially calling Sabrina a gold digger. Boom! Linus punches David right in the kisser. At that point, Linus realizes how much he likes (loves?) Sabrina and runs off to catch her on the boat to Paris.
    Sometimes, even Hopeful Romantics need friends and family to help us realize how we truly feel about someone or what we should do in a given situation. And it is our responsibility as Hopeful Romantics to help out our friends and family when they need a little encouragement to head down the right path with (or without) someone.

So the moral of the story is, don’t fall in love too soon. And if you do, at least have the good fortune of it being Humphrey Bogart’s character.

Meaningful Quote – Khalil Gibran

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Khalil Gibran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following is an excerpt from Khalil Gibran’s The Broken Wings.

Real beauty lies in the spiritual accord that is called love which can exist between a man and a woman.

Did my spirit and Selma’s reach out to each other that day when we met, and did that yearning make me see her as the most beautiful woman under the sun? Or was I intoxicated with the wine of youth which made me fancy that which never existed?

Did my youth blind my natural eyes and make me imagine the brightness of her eyes, the sweetness of her mouth, and the grace of her figure? Or was it that her brightness, sweetness, and grace opened my eyes and showed me the happiness and sorrow of love?

It is hard to answer these questions, but I say truly that in that hour I felt an emotion that I had never felt before, a new affection resting calmly in my heart, like the spirit hovering over the waters at the creation of the world, and from that affection was born my happiness and my sorrow. Thus ended the hour of my first meeting with Selma, and thus the will of Heaven freed me from the bondage of youth and solitude and let me walk in the procession of love.

The quote I wanted to share is in bold, but I thought I’d extend it into a little excerpt to give it a little more context. This quote (and book) touches on an important theme when searching for love at a younger age, something that I mention in The Hopeful Romantic‘s Introduction, and then again in Chapter 6 – Growing in Love. And that is – we have to be careful about falling in love too quickly, as it can be completely one-sided.

Yes, the first time we fall in love can be great and wondrous. But it is far better to fall in love with someone. The Hopeful Romantic is patient with their quest, and falls in love precisely when they mean to.

Book Review – Dealbreaker

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This post restarts my series of book reviews from a Hopeful Romantic perspective. Some of the books are kinda new, some of the books are a bit older – either way, the books offer something (at least partially) for those looking to improve their approach to love and relationships.

Now, most books about relationships fall into three categories.

  1. From a clinical psychologist with a Phd that has done countless studies and therapy sessions. These aren’t much fun to read as they are laden with examples of people that should have known better.
  2. There has been a wave of guys writing a sort of “tell all” book geared towards women to enlighten them on the wayward ways of men. (I’ll get to reviewing those books in time.)
  3. The humorous memoir written by a chronically single woman. It’s great to be entertained and all, but I’m not sure why so many women keep buying these types of books from someone who ultimately hasn’t been successful in finding a lifelong romantic relationship yet.

The book I’m reviewing today, Dealbreaker, seems like it would fall into that last category. Besides having a chronically single woman as a writer, Marisa Pinson, she is joined by a male writer Dave Horwitz. They both perform together at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles and have started writing television episodes together, too. Their authors’ bio on the last page mentions that they started writing Dealbreaker (first as a blog, then into a book) so “they could vent their frustrations about their ill-fated dating lives”.  Alright, so this book will break the mold a little bit and will not just be written by a single lady writing about her relationship woes in a comic fashion, but will be written by a guy, too.

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First, this book is hilarious. It is especially hilarious to those with a varied dating past, as we can likely relate to almost every single Dealbreaker. But here is the thing – while they list and explain these funny dealbreakers (something that makes you not want to date someone), they are all true. Here’s one from a page I just randomly opened:

You Won’t Stop Talking About Your Ex
Wait, I think you’ve told me this story before. It ends with your ex saving a baby from a burning building. No? Oh, it’s the one about how he took you to a private island owned by his billionaire father? Or maybe it’s about how the only reason you two broke up was because he had to go on a humanitarian mission in Africa! You know what, if you like him so much, why don’t you go live with him in his sweaty, mosquito-infested tent? Oh, I get it. That’s how this story ends.

If I hadn’t already made enough incorrect assumptions about this book, I also thought that Dealbreaker would line up with the content from Chapter 5 Differences. But Marisa and Dave span dealbreakers across the gamut of a doomed relationship, listing each dealbreaker when they are most likely to be discovered. Here’s the chapter list (since the book itself doesn’t have one):

  1. The First Impression
  2. The First Date
  3. The Morning After
  4. Three Months Later
  5. Three Months Later (Again)
  6. The Breakup and Beyond

From a Hopeful Romantic perspective, some of the dealbreakers are visible external traits – what they look like, what they wear, and types of things that they like. (You drive a Hummer. Your funny tattoo.) They also list internal traits that you (should) figure out after a few dates/conversations. (You’re a Scientologist. You Don’t Believe In Evolution.) And then the other dealbreakers seem to be caused by a lack of relationship skills or common sense. (You live with your parents. You flirt with other people.)

All in all, for those looking to learn something while they are entertained, this book not only lists some common issues to watch out for, it also reads as a list of things to not do yourself. In relation to The Hopeful Romantic, you will see some of the same themes and topics mentioned in Chapter 2 – Knowing What You Want, Chapter 5 – Differences, Chapter 6 – Growing In Love, and Chapter 7 – Dead End Relationship. Please, stay tuned. In the meantime, buy Dealbreaker and get a jump start on getting out of your next doomed relationship.

Music: The Hopeful Romantic Mixtape

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A few years ago for Valentine’s Day, I compiled a Hopeful Romantic Mixtape – songs from my favorite artists that correspond with each chapter. Well, with the advent of this new website and the streaming availability of Spotify, I thought it was worthwhile to repost. Here’s a link to the Spotify playlist, as well as a chapter and track listing:

Chapter 1 – Being Happy
Heartless Bastards – Be So Happy

Chapter 2 – Knowing What You Want
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Oregon Girl

Chapter 3 – First Contact
Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Loves – Am I Wasting My Time

Chapter 4 – First Date, First Kiss
Flight of the Concords – A Kiss Is Not A Contract

Chapter 5 – Differences
Wilco – Pick Up The Change

Chapter 6 – Growing In Love, Then Falling In Love
Ben Kweller – Falling

Chapter 7 – Dead End Relationships
Feist – Inside And Out

Chapter 8 – The Art of the Breakup
Loretta Lynn – Mrs. Leroy Brown

Chapter 9 – Recovery
Limbeck – Honk + Wave

Chapter 10 – Is This Person the One?
Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position

Chapter 11 – Appreciation + Compromise
Golden Shoulders – Patience Darling, Patience

Chapter 12 – Being Happy Together
Jens Lekman – Someone to Share My Life With

That last song was Melissa and I’s first dance at our wedding!

I’ll try to update this playlist every Valentine’s Day. So look for a new one next February!

Photo via Flickr user le vent le cri

Movie Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding

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The recent post about the sad state of affairs for romantic comedies got me thinking. A common plot point in some of these movies is when one (or both) of the main characters has a big secret when they start dating. Now, there are good examples of this – 10 Things I Hate About You and Never Been Kissed both come to mind. And there are many more that fall short of expectations.

Then I tried to think of a movie that had the opposite plot device, where the lead characters were completely honest with each other up front, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding immediately came to mind. In fact, this movie showcases many good, Hopeful Romantic type traits…

The lead female character Toula (played by Nia Vardalos) begins the movie as a hostess working in her family’s Greek restaurant. She is severely relationship-challenged as her family expects her to marry a nice Greek boy. One day, a teacher named Ian Miller (played by John Corbit) is eating with his friend at Toula’s restaurant, and Toula immediately falls for him. But how can a shy, somewhat depressed hostess ever hope to attract someone like Ian?

Well, Toula devises a plan with her mother and aunt to advance her career by going to college, taking some computer classes, and then work in the family-run travel agency. With her life finally starting to improve, who might randomly walk into the store? Ian Miller, of course! They start dating, and Ian wants to take Toula to this great Greek restaurant he’s been to. Rather than lie because she’s too embarrassed, she immediately admits that it is her family’s restaurant and that she used to work there. And guess what… it’s not a big deal. Being honest, especially at the beginning of a relationship, can save plenty of headaches later on.

Their dating progresses quickly, with a little backlash from her father since Ian isn’t a Greek Orthodox Christian, but eventually Ian comes to propose to Toula. And not just propose; because he’s met her family and knows how deeply they are involved in the Greek Orthodox Church, Ian agrees to become baptized so that he and Toula can be married in her Church. What a guy!

All in all, a great flick for the Hopeful Romantic. She realized she wasn’t happy with her life, changed her career path, was able to attract and start dating a great guy, they were honest with each other from the start, and he knew she was the one so much that he got baptized in order to marry her with her family’s blessing.

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Guys, would you do this in order to marry the person you loved?

I’m Back! With a Vengeance

The cover for my working Hopeful Romantic binder.

The cover for my working Hopeful Romantic binder.

After several brainstorming sessions the past few days, I’ve realized I want to give this book the best chance to succeed. Rather than rush things through for a July 4th, 2013, publication date, I have pushed back publication to early 2014. I plan on finishing the book way before then, but the marketing of the book will be in December to lead up to a media blitz right before Valentine’s Day.

I’m hoping to start a week-long book / art / music tour starting in Kansas City for First Friday on 2/7/14. There are a few music artists I have in mind, and will be reaching out to them shortly. I had also previously broached the idea of asking my favorite local bands to contribute songs to a compilation CD to be released with the book. We’ll see if that can come to pass as well.

In the meantime, I’m in a mad rush to complete the rough draft. When you’ve got a 40+ page typed outline, the chapters almost write themselves! But I’ve still got to put the time in to get the last six chapters onto paper and to my editors.

And then there’s the companion book / mobile app that I have in mind. I’ve got to write the content and develop that once the main book gets finished. All in all, I may have pushed the desired publication date back several months, but I still feel like that may not be enough time.

Oh, and I plan on blogging here more frequently. Please send me interesting articles on love and relationships, as I love to include relevant items either on here or Twitter.

Thanks for all of your support, and continue sharing this site with your friends!
Matt Peterworth
thehopefulromantic.net@gmail.com