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Never Underestimate the Value of a Father’s Loving Hand

Never Underestimate the Value of a Father’s Loving Hand

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

I vividly recall my father’s long fingers and open hands as he spoke and welcomed others into his presence. I wisely knew not to interrupt him when I saw his face buried in his hands as he was deep in thought. I appreciated his big hands when he carried me to the emergency room a few times for accidents I had while playing imaginatively. And I tried to follow his teaching on how to appropriately grasp a baseball for a fast ball or a curve ball. Four years since his passing and what I mostly cherish were his embracing hands that would drain out my worries of the world.

There are many unique features about hands. You probably know that fingers carry unique fingerprints. Did you know that the hands carry more sensory receptors than any other part of the body? So, in a way, we carry our feelings in our hands. We also can pick up on how people feel just by observing their hands. I was fortunate enough to enjoy the privilege of being raised by a father who emoted love through his hands. He was welcoming, kind, loving, and also protective – never overstepping his boundaries. Instead of being a father who is remembered by angry hands that hurt and can’t be trusted, be a father who through his hands welcomes, guides, and loves.

  • Welcoming hands: Assume an attitude and a posture that invites your children to come to you with questions about the world, about the relationships in their life, and about life in general. When they approach you, go down to their eye level; hold their hands; look into their eyes. Take them in and be as present as possible. By giving them the gift of your presence, you are telling them that they are welcomed, that they are valued, and that they matter. This will forge in their lives a strong sense of identity that will help them be confident adults.
  • Guiding hands: Take the time to teach your children. Invite them to join you while you work on the car, while you fix a door handle, or while replacing a light bulb. Not only are you giving him/her the opportunity to learn practical day-to-day skills needed in the real world, but, in so doing, you will connect and bond. As you work on projects together, teach your kids about your values, hopes, and wishes.
  • Loving hands: Embrace your children. Carry them; tickle them; play with their toys; smooth over their hair. Create memories that remind them that you love them. Ensure the memories you create are not filled with closed fits or painful stings. Ensure that your hands are not ones to be avoided but ones to be cherished. Teach them through your example what is appropriate and not appropriate and how to establish appropriate boundaries.

Family Bridges’ vision is strong families for purpose driven children. For more resources on parenting and fatherhood, be sure to download our Podcast, The Struggle Is Real.

This panel-style podcast is led by three hosts and a special weekly guest where the discussion is based on professionally executed skits that show parenting techniques that work.

What impact has your father had in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

My Dad, My Inspiration

My Dad, My Inspiration

Contributed by
Veronica Vasquez

If you ask me, who I admire the most in this world I’d tell you over and over again, Israel Vasquez. No, he is not a celebrity; his neighbors barely know his name. He is not a professional, he cleans the floors of a company. He is not a scholar, he stopped showing up to school by the second grade because his father thought education wasn’t necessary for success. Who is this man you may ask? This man is my father.

At his 62 years of age he’s still up and running around like if he were a teenager. He really doesn’t have a stop button, especially on the weekends. I look at him and only wish I could have that same energy he does. Not only is he full of energy but you should see this man’s faith and how much God has blessed him. He has been an inspiration not only to me but to others who get to know him and let me tell you why.

My father was born and raised in Cuetzala, Guerrero, Mexico. He is the fifth child out of 11. His family was kicked out of town because people believed his father was part of the mafia and he was “dangerous” to the people. My grandpa and his family left town and moved to a mountain where there was no electricity. My father became the man of the house at the age of eight, when his father was murdered. He had no choice but to work in the fields from sunrise to sunset to give his siblings the education they deserved.

My father was so illiterate that he was clueless when his birthday was or how old he was. It wasn’t until he was 16 that he asked his mother if he could fatten the sow for his birthday. My grandmother said to him “for what? Your birthday was three months ago, there is no point”. My father saw the need to better himself but lacked the money to do so. He attempted to cross the border not once, but twice in 1977. So yes, you are correct if you’re thinking he’s an immigrant.

His destination was Chicago and by the second day of his arrival and without him knowing the language, a simple word like “excuse me” got him a job. He was a dishwasher of a restaurant located in the city with a view of what used to be the John Hancock tower. Over the next 10 years, he had met my mother, had two children (my siblings) and had just bought his first house in Wheeling, IL.

Two years later in 1990, his biggest headache arrived; me, his youngest daughter Veronica. As a child, I remember my mother telling me she was going to get married to my dad. I used to hang from the kitchen’s doorknob and cry hysterically because I didn’t want her to marry the little short man who I called dad. Up to this day, he teases me about what I said but honestly, I’m glad my mother did not take up on my advice and married him.

It was not until my adolescent years that I finally understood why my father did not know how to read and write well. I understood his past and began to see the great effort he had been putting in throughout these years only to give us the best.

The little reading and writing that he knew was because he had picked up a book, The Bible. He’d write Bible verses over and over again, only to tell me that by the start of my school year all my notebooks had disappeared because he had used them up. I felt the obligation not only as his daughter but as someone who got inspired by his story to keep helping him grow, and so we read the bible together as a family. Our favorite verse is Deuteronomy 6:

Love the Lord Your God. These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 

To this day, his writing is not perfect, but he has improved. His reading is slow, but he loves to read and he is not ashamed of it and neither am I. Nine years ago, in 2009, he passed the U.S Citizen test. Not only did he accomplish that but he passed the test in the English version. And just four years ago, his first house became officially his.

 The past few years he’s been battling Pulmonary Fibrosis which has no cure. He was recently diagnosed with a rare skin disease and squamous skin cancer on his right ear. But despite all of that, his faith and trust in the Lord continues to grow and that is what has gotten him this far. There is not a day this man doesn’t get down on his knees and gives thanks to the Lord for his family. Now that, to me, is worth more than him having a Masters degree or a PhD title. Our relationship is not the best, I run after him, watching his every move, as if he were my child, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Thank you, dad, for all that you do for your children, your wife, and now your granddaughter.We love you. Happy Father’s Day!

What impact has your father had in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

Budgeting for a Baby

Budgeting for a Baby

Contributed by
Freddie Beckley

Congratulations – you’re having a baby! Now get to work! … Just kidding. You may only have a few short months to get ready for that bundle of joy, but this time should be fun, pleasant and downright enjoyable. Not just for you and your spouse, but for the baby too. Studies have shown that newborns are heavily affected by their parents’ stress levels. Even when they’re in the womb, a baby can hear what’s happening around them, and you don’t want them to hear you arguing or stressing. So, with the emotional wellbeing of your child in mind, below is a list of easy things you can do to alleviate one of the most stressful parts of being a parent – finances.

1. Wait before Buying in Bulk

When my wife and I were preparing our home for baby, we wanted to have enough of everything. We didn’t want to be without baby Tylenol or a thermometer or a diaper in the middle of the night when we needed it most. As a result, we bought a lot of things up front, and we had to donate or get rid of some of it. A great example of this is the pacifier. We bought about a dozen and were gifted another dozen more. The only problem is, our baby doesn’t use a pacifier. Oh well, at least we have little baby shower gifts for our friends over the next few years…

Bottom line: there are certain staples that will never expire and you can never have enough of, for instance baby wipes or formula, but a lot of items are time sensitive. Diapers and clothes, for example, won’t always fit. Be wary of overbuying every little item just because you want to feel prepared. Buy enough for the first month, and then once you have a better sense of your needs, continue to shop.

 

2.  Bottle it Up

We were concerned that our baby wouldn’t take a bottle unless it was the exact right shape and size, so we bought about 9 different types. This wasn’t a bad idea, but it was a little overkill. We’ve come to find that our daughter doesn’t care what kind of bottle she drinks from, and we actually prefer the cheapest one on the market because it fits with my wife’s breast pump.
Bottom line: grab a few different kinds of bottles to be safe, but wait to see what your child prefers before buying more.

 

3. Learn to Share

I was SO excited to become a dad that I started stocking up on my gear immediately. I bought my own diaper bag and filled it with blankets, a changing pad, baby shampoo, ointments, etc. My wife did the same, and now we have 2 fully-stocked diaper bags. This sounds good in theory but, since we don’t have twins, we only ever take 1 diaper bag out at a time. The other one sits at home.
Bottom line – communicate with your partner to share the essentials. You don’t need 2 of everything.

 

4. Shop Early and Shop Often

My wife is brilliant. Let me tell you why. She started shopping for clothes as soon as we got pregnant, up to 12 months. When our daughter was born, she had all the shirts, pants, onesies, mittens, hats, jackets, sweaters, socks, and swimsuits she would need until her first birthday. Because we spaced it out over 9 months, we only shopped in the clearance sections of baby stores. Did you know winter outfits are 60-90% off in the Spring? Now you do.

Bottom line – Go ahead and buy the clearance clothes 6-12 months early and not only will they be much cheaper, but chances are your baby will be the only one with that cute Christmas outfit since they stopped making it. #win

P.S. Look online for items too. We buy formula and baby wipes in bulk online and end up saving a pretty penny.

 

5. Find the Free

I looked it up, and the number one financial regret of newborn parents is wasting money on toys and presents the baby can’t appreciate. Avoid the same mistake! If you want to give your baby a 6-month birthday present, give them a box. If you want your baby to have an awesome experience, don’t take them to Disneyland. Take them to the park. It’s free.

Bottom line – find all the free things you can and live it up with baby. Many libraries and bookstores have story time. A place in our neighborhood offers a free music class for babies. As your children grow up, they may want more and more expensive things. Enjoy this sweet time when they have no idea what’s going on.

 

6. Baby Swap

Not that you don’t love your baby, but there will come a night when you and your spouse need a night out. When that time comes, don’t waste money on a babysitter. Find a friend or family member you trust to watch your child for a few hours. It’s even better if they have a baby themselves. That’s why I like to set up Baby Swaps. Take turns with other parent couples watching each others’ babies. When you and your spouse are watching your friends’ baby, your baby will get to work on their social skills. When you and your spouse want to go on a date, you’ll be more comfortable leaving your baby with a trusted friend than a hired hand.

Bottom line: babies always seem to come in waves. In the last year, 8 of my close friends have become pregnant. Find those friends with a child about the same age as yours and ask if they want to trade off with you.

What’s been your experience when budgeting for a new baby? Share your experience in the comments section!

For more tips on finances and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

The Credit Card Debt Payoff for Beginners

The Credit Card Debt Payoff for Beginners

Contributed by
Melanie Lockert from brightpeak financial

Want to pay off your credit card debt? Learn more about the six steps you need to take to become financially free.
It might have started off innocently enough: charge a little here, charge a little there — and suddenly you find yourself deep in credit card debt. What seemed small and manageable has become an overwhelming burden. If you’re feeling stuck in credit card debt, you’re not alone. In fact, U.S. citizens owe a total of $747 billion in credit card debt according to a recent Federal Reserve report. 

Luckily, there is a way out. Here’s the credit card payoff plan for beginners.

 Step 1: Know what you owe

Denial is a powerful factor when it comes to debt, but to get out of debt, you have to face the numbers, no matter how gruesome they are. Log into all of your credit card accounts and tally up the total. Write down the final balance on a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet. Post it on your bathroom mirror. Facing the facts can be tough, but you need to see the numbers to create a plan.

Step 2: Check your interest rates

Interest is what makes paying back debt a pain. It’s the extra fee charged for the convenience of borrowing money. Credit card interest rates may vary, but typically they can be fairly high. If you have multiple credit card balances, write down your interest rates next to your total balance for each loan. It’ll come in handy with the next step.

Step 3: Choose a debt repayment strategy

After tallying your total balance and knowing the interest rates on your credit cards, it’s time to choose a debt repayment strategy. There are two tested methods that can help.

The debt avalanche method focuses on paying off the highest interest debt first. During this time, you pay the minimum on your other credit card balances. This strategy saves money on interest, but it may take longer to chip away at the balance.

The debt snowball method pays off your smallest balance first, while paying the minimum on the rest. This method is effective as it offers quick wins and doses of motivation at the start. The downside is you could pay more in interest.

Step 4: Calculate how much you can really put toward debt

The minimum payment on your credit card can be a trap. After all, it’s just the minimum, which makes it hard to climb out of debt. If you’re serious about tackling credit card debt, look at your income and expenses to see if there is any wiggle room to cut back. For example, consider reducing some of the “wants” in your budgets like going out for lunch or overpriced movie dates. If you prioritize paying off credit card debt over everything else, how much can you realistically put toward debt each month, while still paying your bills? You want to create a plan that helps you get out of debt faster, while also managing your day-to-day expenses.

Step 5: Earn more money

Cutting back on your expenses is a great initial strategy, but to overhaul your progress, you also want to focus on earning more money. This can help you become debt-free sooner. Consider getting a job on nights and weekends. Using the sharing economy, there are many ways to quickly earn more money. Let your friends and family know you are willing to help out and that you’re looking for gigs. Ask for a raise at work. Adjust your tax withholding if you typically get a tax refund. There are many ways to earn more — the key is to get started.

Step 6: Put the credit cards away

The solution to your problem isn’t the thing that created the problem. In other words, you don’t want to use credit cards while you are trying to pay off credit card debt. It’s too easy to get back into bad habits rather than focus on paying off balances. Put the credit cards away and start using cash and a debit card. This can help you spend what you have and detox off of credit.

You can do it

Using these six steps, you can eliminate credit card debt. It’s not an easy task, and one with a lot of ups and downs, but it’s totally doable. Once you’re debt-free, your money will be yours and your hard work will pay dividends. Ready to get started? Download our Illuminate app to rock your budget and pay down debt.

This post is originally from brightpeak financial, an organization that helps couples and families get on track financially.  You can read the original post here.

Reasons to Refinance

Reasons to Refinance

Contributed by
Ashley Reed

What kind of debt do you have? Car loans, student loans, mortgage? If you have any of the above, chances are that you can shorten your loan period and decrease your total payment to your lender by refinancing!


Refinancing helps you out by reducing your interest rate and the total amount that you pay towards your loan.


An example: Let’s say that you buy a car for $15,000 with a 7% interest rate, with a loan term of five years. If you don’t refinance, you will end up paying a total of $17,821 towards the vehicle, which is over two thousand dollars more than what you originally paid for it! Let’s say that after one year paying 7% interest, you have put $3,564 towards the principal and interest of your auto loan. You still have $11,436 due, and want to lower the amount that you pay towards interest. So you refinance your  loan and secure a 2% interest rate. With this new interest rate, you will end up paying a total of $11,909 towards your remaining loan.


Let me break it down visually:


Original Loan

7% Interest Rate

$15,000 Loan

5 Year Term


If you stick to the same loan term and interest rate, you will pay $17,281 for your car over the course of five years.


Let’s say that you stick with the loan for one year, paying $3,564 towards the balance and interest. You then decide to refinance the remaining $11,436 that you owe on your car.


Refinanced Loan

2% Interest Rate

$11,436 Refinanced Loan

4 Year Term


If you add what you paid towards your car during the first year to the refinanced loan balance and interest paid over the course of four years, you will have paid a total of $15,473 towards your car! If you didn’t refinance, you would have paid almost two thousand dollars more for your car; that is enough extra cash to take a nice weekend vacation!


If you aren’t sure how your interest adds to your balance over it, check out Credit Karma’s loan calculator.


Have you ever refinanced a loan before? Share your experience in the comments section!

For more tips on finances and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

How Values-Based Budgeting Changed our Relationship

How Values-Based Budgeting Changed our Relationship

Contributed by
Diana Kerr from brightpeak financial

Do you have a hard time agreeing on spending priorities, or getting on the same page? For some couples, values-based budgeting can help. Here’s one story.

Brian and Nicole Crangle, both 29, have big goals for their finances. Together, the Orlando pair have focused on values-based budgeting to help achieve those goals.Values-based budgeting is the idea that how you spend reflects your values. Those values could include starting a family, traveling, tithing, going debt-free — there’s a host of values to focus on. Instead of, say, relying solely on the advice of a single financial advisor, the goal for couples on value-based budgeting is to assess what values are important to them, and then budget accordingly.

The early years

Brian and Nicole are working on growing their own business Victory Development, a mentorship and leadership development program. Brian also works in admissions for a flight school, while Nicole works in leasing for an apartment community.

They married in 2013, and settled into financial habits without much thought. They owned their home and splurged on conveniences such as a home delivery dry cleaning service. Nicole had student loan debt, but they kept up with the monthly payments and didn’t worry about it paying it off faster.

A couple years into their marriage, some friends introduced them to values-based budgeting. Brian and Nicole admired the intentional life their friends had built and decided to give it a shot. The couple started by identifying their values and goals: Leave their jobs to work on their business, have a family, make an impact, and pursue freedom in time and finances.

What they changed

With their values in mind, the Crangles decided to spend less in many areas and more in a few strategic areas.

Brian cancelled his dry-cleaning service, and Nicole traded expensive salon visits for $20 haircuts and at-home manicures with $2 nail polish. Nicole asks for clothes for her birthday and avoids the mall unless she needs something specific.

It’s not always comfortable or convenient, they say. However, they’re able to allocate more money for giving, savings, debt repayment, and expenses they value.

Opportunities to grow themselves and their business are a top priority for them. For example, they recently attended a leadership conference, opting to spend the money they used to spend on groceries on the conference instead. Nicole’s also investing in a personal trainer because she values her health.

The couple’s budget changes as their life changes. They record each purchase and check in weekly to see how they’re doing or make adjustments.

How their relationship changed

Brian and Nicole are enthusiastic about values-based budgeting because they say it’s changed nearly every aspect of their lives.

They say they now get excited about money and fight less because they agree on how they want to prioritize their spending. They’ve learned how to work together, communicate well, and navigate tough conversations about how to reach their long-term and short-term goals.

And, Nicole is leaving her full-time job soon to focus on their business, thanks to their budgeting.

Start the values conversation today in your own marriage today. For help, check out the tools from TogetherTM, brightpeak’s financial platform designed just for couples.

This post is originally from brightpeak financial, an organization that helps couples and families get on track financially.  You can read the original post here.

My Husband as a Father

My Husband as a Father

Contributed by
Eva Fleming

I don’t know about you but sometimes I observe and reflect about what kind of father my husband is to my children and a sly grin of satisfaction passes through my lips. He is not the fun, energetic dad that tosses his children up in the air or spends time with them in the basketball court. Yet, as I see my children growing and maturing, becoming independent and embracing life, I have to admit this reserved man has done something right. Why else are my children so adaptable, hardworking, responsible, respectful and focused? Is it perhaps, because they have the steady hand of a dad that takes them to karate practice every week, trusts them with big jobs, sets high expectations, and provides the resources for them to succeed? I believe it is.

My husband has been providing for our family physically and financially for almost three decades. But best of all he provides a stable home where love and trust can flourish. I have made the following observations about the type of fathering that goes on under my roof:

  1. My husband’s fatherhood is an expression of masculinity. True masculinity models healthy compassionate relationship behavior. This is good for my boys because they are learning to find their role and place in society by the power of modeling. And it is great for my daughter because the primary way she has learned how men should behave in a healthy relationship has been by watching her father. Most divorce and domestic violence happens to men and women who grew up without a father modeling compassionate relationship behavior (Steve Stosney, Ph.D)
  2. My husband’s role is integral to the wellbeing of our family. I know what the fatherhood research says about fatherhood and the list is long. Check out David Blankenhorn book Fatherless America. He says that, “fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation.” But our family has benefitted from emotionally stable children who exceed in school, don’t exhibit behavioral disorders, and don’t engage in aggressive behaviors all because, I’m sure, there is solid fatherhood happening in our home.
  3. Fatherhood has been good for my husband. The biochemistry and neural activity that kicked into his brain after he became a dad has literally kept him alive and focused. Loving a child and sacrificing personal comfort for their success and well-being has indeed turned my husband from a typical selfish bachelor to a complete selfless human. Perhaps he pushes it to the limit since he still drives a 15-year-old car to make financial sacrifices to benefit his children.

If you ask my kids about their dad, this is the first thing they will tell you: “When I ask dad about something, he goes more in depth than I thought possible. He looks at thing from all the angles, he is really thorough. Which lets me know that he really cares and wants me to make the best decision I can make. He truly has my success in mind.”

In my house my husband is honored for his character which, come to think of it, is the reason my sisters and I honored my own father. He was passionate, principled, forgiving, and compassionate. My husband is honest, responsible, trustworthy, and detailed. What about you or the special father in your house? What character trait are you passing down to your children? Whether you are an active, adventurous, affectionate dad or a reserved, steady, determined dad, society needs you, and so does your family.

While Hollywood’s portrayal of fathers in roles like those of Homer Simpson with his crude, short-tempered, neglectful, clumsy, lazy, heavy drinking, ignorant and idiotic personality may be comical, it’s definitely incomplete and thankfully does not represent the many awesome dads that I know are out there. These days’ fatherhood is on the rise and boy, am I thankful for that!

For more blogs, tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.

Create a Vision Statement and Stick to It

Create a Vision Statement and Stick to It

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

If you have seen the Disney movie Tangled, you’ll recall when the lively and curious Rapunzel and the charming rascal Flynn Rider are at a near death experience after being chased by villains. They find themselves cornered into a cave which is quickly filling up with water from a broken damn, and their effort at to break free seems futile as they are unable to see underwater since the cavern is pitch black.  After what seems like a few eternal seconds of despair, hope breaks through as Rapunzel remembers that her golden hair illuminates when she sings.  Right before the water engulfs her, Rapunzel saves the day as she gets enough chords in for her hair to light the way, allowing them to find a small opening that led to their freedom.

Bill Hybels defines a vision as a picture of the future that produces passion.  In the scene just described, Rapunzel and Flynn almost give in to despair as they anticipate the ill fate they see unfolding before them.  Seeing the tiny shimmer of light from Rapunzel’s hair seems to infuse them with the needed energy to struggle even while under water.  The light helped them break through. The light in the cavern is like having a clear vision; It gave them the energy they needed to figure out how to survive, and it ultimately led them to freedom.

A clear vision gives us the power we need to stay on course, to stay motivated even when we may feel as if underwater.   Organizations that are highly successful over time have clearly defined vision statements. It allows everyone to know why the operations are the way they are and serves as a north star where employees can chart strategic plans without getting hijacked by other ideas that are irrelevant or the work. Think about some organizations you have heard about and their vision statement. For example, Habitat for Humanity’s vision statement is, “A world where everyone has a decent place to live,” and Family Bridges vision statement is, “Strong families with purpose driven children, leaders of their generation, committed to their communities.” These two examples show how a vision statements are inspiring and serve as propellers that move everyone forward.

Just as organizations have successfully adapted vision statements for the lives, families and couples can do the same. A couple of years ago, my husband and I did this same thing for our family. We knew we would have many challenges and even differences in our parenting styles but if we would agree on a vision for our family, that would help us chart a pathway forward whenever friction occurred.

How do you create a vision statement for your family?

  1. Gather everyone for a family meeting. Get some yummy munchies and explain to everyone what the purpose of the meeting is – to create a vision statement.  Explain what a vision statement is so everyone understands what it is and why everyone is taking the time to develop one.
  2. Get a legal pad or newsprint paper and let everyone chime in with ideas. First ask everyone to come up with words that they feel currently define the family. Then have everyone come up with words or phrases that paint a picture of they would like to be in the future. Ask the question, where do we want to be 10, 20 years from now?
  3. Sculpt and Define. Delegate to the word smith in your family or work together on taking the words and sculpting them into a sentence that captures the essence of where you want to be 10-15-20-30+ years down the line.
  4. Frame it. Once we had our vision statement we included it in the family album we created that year. Find a creative way to feature it something you cherish and that can serve as a reminder of it for you and yours. Vision leaks so it is important to go back to it frequently. See it, read it, internalize it so when you are under water you can have an anchor to help you swim back to the surface.

For more tips and ideas about marriage and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

A Groom’s Journey to the Altar

A Groom’s Journey to the Altar

Contributed by
Eddie Morales

They say that when girls are little they dream about their wedding as one of the biggest days of their life. Little boys, on the other hand, don’t even want to be around girls when they are little because girls have cooties! I guess as little boys turn into young men, they start to think more about marriage, family and their future lives. I won’t say that I have had an obsession to get married, but I knew that I definitely wanted to get married and have a family one day. I knew that I wanted to do things a bit differently than what I had seen from my parents. Having experienced divorce within our family, and myself, having gone through a hard breakup after a long-term relationship came to an end, I drew the line in the sand. I made sure that if I was to consider marriage, I wanted to do everything in my power to prepare and learn so that I could be the best possible husband and father I could be. Five years ago, I made that commitment to myself and my future wife (even before I knew her!) Maybe by this point you’re thinking, well you’re not like every other guy. While that may be true, I didn’t want to end up as another statistic, adding to the increasing number of broken families and marriages that exist within our country. I wanted to be different and this would require me to think and do things different from the norm.  So here I am ladies and gentlemen, in the midst of preparing for my wedding. As you will see, I am really involved in the process, because it’s not just my future wife’s day, it’s our day. We are celebrating our marriage and our lives coming together. I want to be involved because while a wedding may last a day, or really a few hours, a marriage will last a lifetime!

On November 4th we got engaged. We are roughly 3 months into the engagement and 9 months away from the wedding date. The process so far has been relatively smooth. Since our engagement we have already booked a venue, caterer, photographer, picked out our color scheme, and nailed down a primary guest list. Maybe you are thinking, hey you’re moving quick on this. I think we are moving very intentionally because our situation is a bit unique. For starters, my fiancée and I live in different states. So we have to be really intentional about doing as much as we can when we have the time. But as we started the first two things on my mind were, we need to develop the budget and we need to figure out where we were going for our honey-moon. Just kidding, it was figuring out a budget and how long did I have to wait until we went on our honeymoon. : )

I have developed a healthy understanding for finances and during my single days I was able to eliminate all of my debt. I wanted to make sure that as we entered into marriage we took a healthy approach to finances. So before we had a date set, we locked down a budget. When you know the end line, you can work your way backwards. My fiancée and I talked about it and what our non-negotiables were. Again, we are planning for a day, an awesome celebration of unity, holy matrimony, I wanted to make sure that we would be able to celebrate this moment for years to come and not be strapped down financially just for a few hours. Things add up quick! It helps to have some essential things in place. In other words, I want to stay within our means and not go into debt from this event.

It’s funny, I don’t think that I have been on Pinterest or Etsy more in my life than now. Looking at rings, rustic wedding ideas, seeing what things I can attempt to make. We have been looking at as many resources as we can to help us with the planning; asking friends, reading blogs and books. So far, one of our biggest challenges we are facing is the guest list. What’s the proper etiquette? Kids or no kids? Co-workers, close friends, just family, second cousin once removed, who makes the cut? This has been really difficult in light of the budget. It’s helpful that we both have smaller families. Again, with our unique situation, for my side of the family this will be like a destination wedding. (Remember we live in different states.) For her, all of her friends and relatives already live in Florida. This has yet to be solidified, but we are doing our best to keep it as intimate as possible, but it is really hard. There’s a lot of people who have been a part of our lives, especially at different stages, that we would like to have them there to celebrate with us.  The process continues.

And in the midst of all of this, I’m doing my best to enjoy this time. This will be the only time that I get to enjoy this engagement season. I’m also doing my best to get ripped, or wedding fit! I’m being just being honest here. I know that I have a wedding coming up. I want to look good for my wife. Remember my two biggest concerns are budget and honeymoon! Until next time…

To follow my journey or to read more blogs about the different stages of marriage visit familybridgesusa.com and follow us on social media @familybridges with #whymarriage.

The Sky is the Limit!

The Sky is the Limit!

Contributed by
Omaira Gonzalez

Bills, bills, and more bills kept coming with no money to pay them. My husband was barely making minimum wage and hardly spoke any English. I was pregnant with my first child and was not working at the time. We lived in a tiny studio apartment and our kitchen was the size of a closet. Many times I didn’t know whether we would have enough money to buy groceries or even some milk. Those were some real tough times.

Things eventually started to look up for us, I found a good job and my husband was doing great at his job. Both of us were making good money. However, our family kept growing and so did their needs. To keep up with the growing demands, we used credit cards.  We would use one credit card, then pay it off with another credit card that offered 0% interest for a period of time. It became a vicious cycle and instead of having any financial freedom we were over our heads in debt.  We were working two to three jobs just to make ends meet and help put our kids through college.  This burden of debt caused sleepless nights, worry, anxiety, stress, fear, and health issues.

One day we made a decision to finally get our finances in order. I admit it was hard and required a lot of discipline. We made a plan, created a budget and started to tell our money where to go. We began to get a grip on our finances until little by little we finally became debt free.

It took some time to get out of the mess we had gotten ourselves into. Yet we were determined to climb out of the hole we had dug ourselves into. This process required both my husband and I to work together.  We started being more careful about how we spent money and what we spent it on. Any purchases we made had to align to our budget and financial goals. We only made purchases with cash and we saved for vacations and major expenses. We didn’t spend what we didn’t have.  We are now in a situation where we have financial stability and get to do things we have always wanted to do. The best part is that we have been able to increase our contributions to others and to organizations that make a difference. My husband and I are more connected today than we have been before, and know that we can make our dreams become reality when we work together.

What did I learn from this experience? It started with a simple decision…I wanted to be debt free. Then together with my husband we began a budget and a plan.

Don’t get discouraged during the tough first months, trust me it does get better. Do not give up when you get frustrated because changing old habits and behaviors takes time. Allow some room for growth and do not expect things to change overnight.

Here are a few financial tips I have learned.

  1. Create a budget (include all your expenses)
  2. Balance your checkbook
  3. Stop using credit cards… cut them up. Save for big purchases and pay in cash
  4. Have an emergency savings fund… this will help with those unexpected expenses that normally we would go to a credit card for. If you have the money saved you don’t need the credit card.

Of course there are many more tips but this is a good start.  Remember a little hard work and discipline will get you where you want to be – Financially free!!!!

For more tips and ideas on how to take control of your finances, or other articles about relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges!

For more blogs, tips and articles on kindness or relationships, follow us on social media as @familybridges.