5 Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Be Romantic

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Remember when you first started dating your one and only? You couldn’t stop thinking about them. You were seemingly always looking for ways to make thoughtful, romantic gestures toward them. Those were some pretty special moments, right?

Well, who says you can’t have those moments right now?! I know Valentine’s Day is less than a month away, but you can be romantic any and really, EVERY, day of the year. It just takes a little thought.

One of my favorite guests to have on my radio show used to be Gregory Godek, who is famous for the book “1001 Ways to Be Romantic”. He is a romantic’s romantic. This book is PACKED with all kinds of wonderful ways to bring out the romance in your relationship. I have used a few of his suggestions, and still do by the way. One of my favorites is to write “I love you” or “Happy Anniversary” with a bar of soap on our bathroom mirror. That one is free, and it still works. My wife, Leanne still feels special every time I do it. That’s the point. Just do something that will make your significant other feel special. Like they are the only one in the world for you. And they are, right?

Here are some quick and fairly easy ways to bring out the romance in your relationship:

1/Offer to give them a back, neck, or foot massage, or all three.

2/Send them a romantic text, or even better, a card or a letter explaining some of the reasons why they are so special to you.

3/Go to the store and get a small arrangement of flowers or better yet, if you have some flowers in your yard, pick those, and give them a fresh arrangement in a nice vase.

4/Do something around the house he or she has been asking you to do: Clean out that over-stuffed closet, straighten up that junk drawer, wash the windows or the car. You get the idea. Do it, with a big smile on your face, when it’s done and you show them,  yell “Surprise!”

5/Cook a romantic dinner and eat by candlelight: Cook whatever you can find in the kitchen, but dress it up! Make it look fancy. Put the food on your special occasions-only china, for instance. Maybe you’re not the best cook, but many stores have fully prepared meals that are tasty. Do it up right, and be sure to do the dishes too.

These are just a few ideas, and hopefully they sparked a few more of your own. As Greg Godek says: “Life is too short not to be romantic”, so get to it!

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How to Take an Inexpensive Romantic Fly Away for Valentine’s Day

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So, do you have any big plans for Valentine’s Day yet? Well men, you can skip the last minute trip to the grocery store for flowers and candy and surprise your sweetie with an incredible, romantic flyaway! Yes, right now, airlines like United are offering some pretty sweet deals to some pretty romantic European getaways.

How’d you like to spend the week of Valentine’s Day in one of the most romantic cities on earth, Paris? You can make that happen for $421 round trip! As someone who’s been there, I can attest that some there’s something pretty magical about the Eiffel Tower at sunset. Or if you prefer, you can jet off to Rome ($381), Ibiza ($424) or the Greek capital of Athens ($471). Get all the details RIGHT HERE. 

So, go ahead and book that trip and surprise your spouse with one of the most unforgettable trips you may ever take, and an early “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

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9 Things Happy Couples Do For Each Other

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As you probably know by now, my wife and I lead a marriage enrichment class every Sunday morning at our church. We believe that the marriage relationship is the most important relationship, and it’s an essentially foundational relationship in our culture. As such, it’s something we should strive to work on all the time. Like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it.

I came across a cool little article from The Huffington Post titled “9 Things The Happiest Couples Do For Each Other Without Being Asked”. The article asks some relationship experts for some things that happy couples do for each other without being asked. Some are simple things like they check in on each other, or give each other a card “just because”. One that caught my eye that I really believe all couples should do is that they speak openly about their thoughts and feelings. The expert quoted, Samantha Rodman, says that when couples feel like it’s “pulling teeth to get each other to divulge any thoughts or feelings, a relationship can feel very lonely”. So true.

A marriage relationship has to be THE “safe place” to share our innermost thoughts and feelings without being judged or criticized. We have to allow each other that freedom to share. Who is the first person you call or talk to when something great happens? How ’bout when something awful happens? I really believe your spouse should be that someone you should talk to first. You want to share things immediately with your best friend, right? Well, your spouse should be your best friend.

Jimmy and Karen Evans lead a marriage ministry called “Marriage Today”. We use many of their teachings in our class. This a couple who’ve been married for decades and they’ve been through good and the bad. Jimmy defines “emotional intimacy” as the “ability to openly and safely express our emotions in an atmosphere of sensitivity, care, and emotional support. ”

All couples fight. It’s natural. Bottom line is that each half of the couple needs to know that the other half cares. Life is so much better knowing that your spouse cares. That is only accomplished when you are able to build an atmosphere where it’s safe to share ANY feeling and to know it’s valued and supported, and not judged or criticized. I hope you can create that atmosphere for your spouse.

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5 Ways to Beat the Post Holiday Blues

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Seems like no matter where you live, you are probably complaining about the cold. Whether you’ve been hit hard by snow and ice, or you are just experiencing unseasonably cold conditions, you might have a tendency to get a little depressed. Add to that, the post holiday season let down, and I get it. It’s completely understandable, but also completely avoidable.

I came across a cool article from REALSIMPLE listing some scientifically proven ways to beat the winter blues. We’ve heard many of these common sense tips before. Things like exercising, eating healthy, turning on upbeat music, and yes, even getting outside. There are a few, though, that you may have not thought of, and a couple more I wanted to give you as part of my 5 Ways to Beat the Holiday Blues.

1/Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan. Everyday after your morning of “coffee and contemplation”, write down or type in your phone your daily “to do list”. Make it a must to include things like 30 minutes of exercise, some fun music, and even getting outside for a few minutes. Plan that work, and work that plan.

2/Plan Your Next Vacation.  Remember,  the keys to happiness: Someone to love, something to do, and something to LOOK FORWARD TO. What better to do on a cold, dreary day than to plan a trip to a place that sounds SO much better than your current locale. Chances are you can find some pretty good deals this time of year like THESE from Money Magazine, or THESE DEALS ON CRUISES, and yes, JANUARY is the BEST MONTH to book cheap flights!

3/Help Others. Chances are lots of folks are just like you and need a little of that human touch, that spark that only being with others can bring. Check on people that you know that live alone. Volunteer to help at your local rescue mission, or better yet, start a campaign like THIS MAN, and collect blankets or coats for the homeless. Maybe take a nice pot of hot chocolate with you when you make the rounds. If you just want to make a difference in your local community, contact your local United Way and they can put you in touch with local organizations that could use your help.

4/Take a road trip. One of the real keys to beating the winter blues is interrupting that routine. So, venture outside of your city, but don’t plan where you’re going—just hit the road Friday after work and explore some little towns on the outskirts of where you live. Bonus points for doing no research and finding the quirkiest restaurants and watering holes. Adventuring with spouse and your family—especially when it’s spontaneous—can lead to some excellent anecdotes and memories!

5/Plan a weekly game night. Take a vote from your family on what are their favorite board games, or even their favorite video games.  Get a group of your friends together and plan a weekly (or bi-weekly) game night to help break up the week. Tuesdays getting you down? Not when you can look forward to some good friendly competition and camaraderie with your family and/or your friends. Pit one family against another, or kids vs. adults. Switch it up from time to time and make some of your game nights just a one-on-one date night or even double date night. Try focusing on a new game every time, especially if they’re games you’re not familiar with so that you have the extra bonus of learning something new!

I guarantee if you start regularly applying even 3 of these tips, those winter blues will be a thing of the past. Get going and have some fun!

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3 Ways to Save Cash This Year!

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We all want to save money, but the fact remains that many Americans are one or two paychecks away from serious financial ruin. What if you lost your job? What if you or someone in your immediate family had a prolonged hospital stay? These two and many other scenarios could wreck your financial picture. We don’t want to think about these kinds of eventualities, but isn’t it better to be able to be ready for them?

Living in America, we all have the tendency to want to “keep up with the Jones'”, right? At Christmas time, we spend like no other time of the year. Many of us, myself included, tend to be pretty irresponsible in our spending habits. Fact is, we can’t take it with us when we leave this earth, so what are we leaving behind? Stuff. Stuff for our family to fight over. Stuff that will disposed of at an estate sale. Stuff that will be thrown away. Fact is, many times when we spend our money, we are just postponing the inevitable, because we are just throwing our money away.

So, what do you do about it? Save! Save, save, and save some more. A penny saved is a penny earned, right? Don’t we feel better when we SAVE money than when we spend it? The security of saving lasts a lot longer than the initial thrill of buying that thing that we just “had to have.”

Luckily, resources are boundless when it comes to HOW to save money. How do rich people get rich, and more importantly, STAY rich? By saving. By being frugal. I came across a cool little article from CNBC quoting Mark Cuban on 3 Ways to Save More Money in 2018. These are some great common sense tips, like pay OFF your credit cards and DON’T use them unless you can pay off the balance each month. Or, watch your spending. Clip coupons. Stock up big time when stores have deals on things you use everyday. That kind of thing.

To those, I’ll add 3 MORE Ways To Save This Year:

1/Save and Stash Every Day. Set aside $1 a day, working your way up throughout the week—so on Sunday, you save $1, $2 on Monday, $3 on Tuesday, and continue on until Saturday, when you put aside $7. Then, every Sunday, start over at the $1 mark. That’s a total of $28 per week, or $112 per month. If you do it for the full 52 weeks, you’ll have $1,456 saved up by the end of the year!

2/Keep a Cash Jar. This may sound silly and old fashioned, but it works.
Some people feel more productive, savings-wise, if they use cash. If that’s you, and you’d prefer to physically put a dollar (or however many you’re supposed to put aside depending on which day of the week it is) aside every day, try keeping a money jar in a place you’ll remember to drop cash into every day, like on top of your dresser—you’ll see it when you’re getting ready, so you won’t forget. At the end of the week (or month, if you prefer), just deposit the cash into your savings account.

3/Use a Money App.If you’d rather keep things digital (or, if like me, you rarely carry cash on you) a money app like Qapital—or Acorns, if you want to invest your money-can be your best friend. Qapital lets you set up automatic transfers in the same dollar amount every day, every week, or every month, and has the traditional 52 Week Challenge transfer rule.

If you don’t mind remembering to put aside money every day, you can simply transfer the dollar amount for that day into your account with your preferred app—think of it like a digital cash jar, no deposits required. Or, if you’d rather set it and forget it, you can simply set up a recurring automatic weekly transfer of $28, and let your money basically save itself. That’s well over $1,500 a year saved with minimal effort.

However, you do it, you should at a MINIMUM, have a $1,000 emergency fund (in case of emergencies) that won’t charge you interest like a credit card. After that, you should try to save enough for 6 months wages, so you are set if financial disaster strikes.

BONUS: Once you’ve cleared those savings hurdles, strive like there’s no tomorrow to accomplish Dave Ramsey’s “7 Baby Steps to Financial Peace”….two of which I just listed. Once you accomplish those, then you can have some serious financial security!

You Can Do It!!

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5 Ways to Be Selfless This Year

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Take a minute to think.

Think about all the problems in the world.

Now, think about all the problems in your life.

Chances are, what causes most if not all of those problems?

Selfishness.

All the quarrels, all the fighting, all the discord, all the conflict in the world can usually be traced back to one thing.

Selfishness.

Now, flip the script.

Think about how different the world would be if we all starting putting others first. Wouldn’t we start seeing FEWER quarrels, fewer fights and less discord?

So, how do we starting putting others first? How do become truly “selfless” in this selfish world? Here are five ways:

1/Practice gratitude. When you learn to truly appreciate all that you have and all that you have been given, you unleash a powerful ability…the ability to bless others. Really taking the time to count your blessings can fill your heart so much that you can’t help but put others first.

2/Learn to forgive and forget. To err is human right? Aren’t we all human? Haven’t you hurt others? Then why not forgive? The selfless person sees the situation from the other person’s perspective. Everyone has a reason for why they do what they do, right? When you can start to try to understand where that person is coming from, you can start to forgive them. Besides, God sent His only Son to die a painful death on the cross so that you could be forgiven. If He did that for you, shouldn’t you try to forgive others too?

3/Widen your horizons. Being selfless starts with seeing beyond your personal concerns. If you’re constantly consumed by your own problems and situation, you won’t have the time or energy to act selflessly. Having a greater awareness of the world is the first step to becoming more selfless. Listen when other people are talking. Yes – really listen! Don’t let your mind wander when someone is confiding in you about his or her troubles, or telling you an exciting story. Watch what’s going on around the world in the news. Sympathize with those who are suffering.
4/Consider other people’s feelings. If you understand how someone else feels, you’ll be more likely to feel empathy for that person. Try to put yourself in the other person’s situation. If you were the one experiencing the problem, how would you feel? How would you want to be treated?

5/Really Invest Yourself in Others. Again, take the time each day to really sit down and listen to at least 2 or 3 people. Ask them what’s going on in their life. Get them to open up to you. Be there with a listening ear, an attentive heart, and make them feel like they are the most important person in the world.

It really doesn’t take alot to be more selfless. We just have to be willing to put ourselves, our situation, and our concerns aside, and focus on others. That’s what makes life worth living. What’s the old saying? “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

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7 Ways to Improve Your Marriage in 2018

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If there’s ONE resolution we married couples should strive to make and complete in 2018, it’s to make our marriages stronger. As you may know, my wife and I lead a marriage class at our church. We firmly believe that a strong marriage creates a strong family and that in turn has ripple effects on extended family, friends, and our communities. The very foundation of society at large is the marriage relationship because it all flows from there. Not to mention, it was God’s design, and God’s ways are always the best.

Most of the content for today’s blog comes from Dave Willis at www.patheos.com. Dave and his wife Ashley have a very successful marriage ministry that reaches thousands upon thousands of marriages. I use their resources in my class at church. I highly recommend signing up for their e-mails and following them social media.

Dave put together a great list of 7 Ways to Make 2018 The Best Year of Marriage Yet. Much of these tips are common sense and some are things you may not of heard of, but let me share a few of my favorites:

Create some shared goals.

The New Year is usually marked by individual goals, but it’s rewarding to work towards shared goals in partnership with your spouse. The shared encouragement and accountability can also make success more likely than when we do it on our own. Sit down together and create some BIG goals for 2018!

Plan some celebrations.

Once you’ve made your shared goals, plan ahead what you’ll do to celebrate once the goal is reached. This will give you something new to look forward to. For instance, “We’re going to eliminate $1000 in debt, and when we do, we’re getting a babysitter and going out to dinner at our favorite place (and paying cash instead of charging it).”
This requires some logistical planning, but it’s SO worth it…

Plan at least one getaway together without kids (out of town).
The year is wide open so get the calendar out and mark a getaway for you and your spouse with no kids. You can figure out the logistics later. Make it happen. It will give you something to look forward to and it will create some great new memories together. The out of town trip could be a “celebration” to make the achievement of one of your shared goals.

Turn the electronics OFF and spend more real “Face Time” together. 
Create more time together without digital distractions, smart phones and TV’s competing for your attention. Talking with your spouse is always more beneficial than staring at a screen. Block off certain time(s) that will be “unplugged” this year. It will make a huge difference. It might be the simplest goal on this list, but it could also prove to be the most helpful!

Like Dave says, if both you and your spouse COMMIT to these steps and make them a real part of your life, you will be surprised at the results! God bless you and your spouse and here’s to the BEST year yet for your marriage!

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How To Make That Dream Trip a Reality This Year

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Seems like everyone has a bucket list of places they’ve always wanted to visit. For my wife and I, it’s the romance of Italy. Before we were married, I promised her I would take her on that romantic trip to Italy. That was nearly twenty years ago.

What keeps us from taking that “dream trip”? Money is a big factor, and then it’s timing. It never seems like the right time, does it? You don’t have anywhere to leave the kids. Or maybe you are putting the kids through college. Maybe you’re in the middle of a family crisis or a home renovation project. Whatever the reason, that “perfect” time never comes, does it?

Well, nobody said you have to take that dream trip right now, but as we prepare to turn the calendar to 2018, we can start PLANNING that dream right now. I came across a cool article on 8 Ways to Make Your Dream Trip a Reality. Bottom line, you’ve got to plan your work, and then work your plan. As the article says, start employing practical tips like writing down your plan, tell other people, and work out some easy ways to save for it. Maybe you want to start a vacation savings jar, or maybe you can set an automatic transfer for a set amount to come out every two weeks or every month to go to a dedicated “dream trip account.”

There are lots of credit cards that give you things like frequent flier miles or help you defray the cost of lodging by staying in one of their hotels for your dream trip. One we have used to earn miles for past travel is the American Express Delta Skymiles card. If you’ve never had this card, you can receive large sign-up bonus miles when you are approved and spend a certain amount of money on the card (as of 12.29.2017 bonus is 50,000 miles after spending $2000 in the first 3 months plus 10,000 more after spending $1000 more in 6 months. Offer subject to change at any time.) A good way to earn miles if you are a responsible credit card user (i.e. pay off your balance every month). Most major airlines have similar offers for other cards. For lodging, there are loyalty programs where you can earn free nights and they also have partner credit cards with large sign-up bonuses.

Don’t want to sign up for credit cards? There are other ways to earn loyalty points and frequent flier miles such as Delta’s Skymiles Shopping or Dining, For more on earning points without flying, staying or opening a credit card, check out https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/life/earn-frequent-flyer-miles/.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

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Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

You can earn:
50,000
Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 or more in purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within the first 3 months. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you make an additional $1,000 in purchases within their first 6 months.*Terms Apply

Special Offer Expires: 01/31/2018

Bottom line: Start planning now, and make 2018 the year you FINALLY take that dream trip. Bon Voyage!

**This blog includes affiliate links. All opinions and reviews are my own. I may receive a referral for links.