I will not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

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Shape-Up Your Finances

Ellie Kay

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Sixty-Minute Money Workout for Couples
by Ellie Kay

When Bob and I were first married we didn't like to say we argued about money. Since he was a born spender and I was a born saver it was natural that learning to manage money as a couple would require a certain amount of give and take -- but the word "argue" sounded negative for newlyweds like ourselves. So we called it "intense fellowship" instead! We learned there was a right way to approach this dreaded topic and very much a wrong way.

The right way is to set up boundaries so there will be no condescension, no negativity, no name calling and no food throwing. We also developed a one-hour money workout because we thought if our discussion had a start and a finish it would be a lot less painful. We knew we wouldn't get all our problems solved in just one hour, but we also knew that if we kept at it, we'd make progress.

I've shared the following workout with thousands of couples who have gone from fighting to financial freedom in a few months. Like any physical workout, the key is consistency and intensity. You have to do this regularly (at least once a week) and you have to abide by the boundaries.

So let's get started. Get a timer and set it for one hour.

  1. Make Up Your Mind Warm-Up (five minutes)
    When you read about people who have lost weight and kept it off, most of their stories begin with a watershed moment when they decided they were sick and tired of being out of shape. The same is true with your finances. You need to decide you are finished with debt and make that commitment to get back into good financial shape.

    Bob and I had $40,000 in consumer debt when we got married. We also knew the number-one reason cited in most divorces was "money problems," and we didn't want to become another statistic! We were like so many others who didn't realize the price to be paid for instant gratification.

    We made a decision to get out of debt and made immediate changes in our lifestyle to accomplish this. We also decided to live on a budget in order to accomplish this. We ended up living on less than 25 percent of one income in order to accomplish these goals, and within two and a half years we were debt free! We made up our minds, looked for resources to help, and found the strength we needed to make that decision to become debt free. We haven't looked back since.

    During this time, make up your mind about today's money workout topic and what you want to accomplish.

  2. Couple Meeting Strength Training (10 minutes)
    It usually takes both partners to get a couple into serious debt. Even if one person does most of the spending, the other partner usually tolerates the destructive behavior in some way.
    This meeting is a time to write down goals on paper so you will have a tangible and objective standard to work toward. For example your goals might include the following:
    1. How to stop spending more than you make

    2. How to pay the interest on the debt you have accumulated

    3. How to retire the debt.

  3. Budget Burn (20 minutes)
    Finalize and agree to your new budget. While this may not seem like a lot of time for this topic, realize you may not get it set during the first workout. The key is to keep the discussion moving and work on what you missed the next time around. If you want to see an online budget tool, go to www.elliekay.com.

  4. Taking Your Heart Rate (20 minutes)
    This is the point where you get the facts on your credit and debt information so you can decide if you need to go to a professional financial counselor. Check your credit report and order a copy from any of the major credit bureaus: Equifax (1.800.685.1111), Experian (1.888.297.3742), or Trans Union (1.800.888.4213). Or, get your free copy at www.AnnualCreditReport.com as everyone is entitled to one free report annually.

  5. Congratulations Cool Down (5 minutes)
    Sit back and grab something cool to drink and reflect on all you've accomplished in just one hour! Take this time to tell your partner one thing you appreciate about them in order to end this on a positive note. Keep in mind that just as you don't get physically buff in one workout, your finances aren't going to get in shape after your first try either. But after you and your partner have exercised with this money workout a half a dozen times, you'll find yourself stronger, smarter and more fiscally fit.

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