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How To Love Your Cop
How To Love Your Cop

Chp 9: Silver Bullets: Money & Your Marriage-Tips on reducing costs

Bonus!
Once our oldest daughter was born, I quit work and stayed home with our children. It was reducing to one income that forced us to pinch pennies. We had mouths to feed and only so much money to buy that food. I’ve listed some ways that we have implemented to bring down our costs.

  • Get out of debt; interest should be the first expense to go.
  • Pay your bills on time; late fees should not be a budget item.
  • Have your paycheck direct deposited; many times banks will waive a monthly service charge if you do this.
  • Raise your insurance deductibles as high as you can comfortably go; this will bring down your premiums. Then make sure you have the deductible in savings.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave the room, unplug appliances after use, and turn off computers at night. Use extra freezers or refrigerators only when entertaining.
  • Shop at discount stores and warehouses. Split large quantities with friends.
  • Go without meat a couple of nights a week for dinner. Have pasta with marinara or salads or soups. Rice and beans are a great supper with complete protein and no expensive cuts of meat.
  • Buy juice from a can and mix in your own water. You can save as much as 150 percent on the cost.
  • You would be surprised at the beautiful clothes you can find at thrift shops. I have several friends who dress beautifully from thrift shop deals. You’d never know.
  • If you’re an avid reader, borrow fiction from the library or friends or buy used books. Only buy books new that you will refer to again (like this book).
  • Cut back on newspapers and magazine subscriptions. Renew only those you read regularly. Listen to news on the radio; you can multitask, and it’s free!
  • Make your own coffee. Buy the good stuff: it’s still cheaper to make.
  • Make your own lunch. Buy the good deli meat: it’s still cheaper to make.
  • Make sure you don’t buy extra roadside assistance if your auto insurance already offers this. You’d be surprised how many people do this!
  • Grow a garden. Nowadays gardens can even be grown in pots on the patio.
  • Do indoor dates with homemade popcorn, a video, and a glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed. You’ll save a small fortune and won’t drink and drive.
  • Use coupons for restaurants!
  • Rather than eat in, take it to go. You save on drinks and tip. Have the kids share entrees to cut down on waste.
  • Do your shopping on the Internet; there are always better prices. Watch for waived shipping costs and sales to get the best possible deal. Brent pays a yearly fee for two-day shipping through Amazon.com, and they don’t charge tax. Saves us plenty.
  • Look for bundle packages on media. Cell phone service, cable, and landline service companies will sometimes work together to reduce your monthly bills.
  • If you have teenagers, pay the monthly flat rate for texting. It’ll save you money, guaranteed. And it’ll save on your minutes.
  • Always ask your husband if he knows coworkers with side businesses. Cops will many times give cops a good deal. It’s kind of a co-op thing.
  • Inquire whether your union has concierge services. You can save money on vacations and amusement parks among other things.

These are some of the savings I have found when trying to balance the budget. They are tried and true.

Money is a huge issue for marriages, and the financial times we are currently enduring have taken their toll on many families. But we can take control of this area of our marriages and make it what it needs to be. When we make the choice to keep spending under control, everyone benefits, including our children.

September 30th, 2013

Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder

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Chp 9: Silver Bullets-Money & Your Marriage-Ideas and Hope

Keep Your Money Life Intact

  • Spend less than you earn. This should be a no-brainer, but most people just don’t adhere to this idea. When I was a newlywed, my boss told me, “You should live on Brent’s salary and save yours.” I thought he was nuts. But I will tell you it was the best advice we never followed. Had we taken his advice, we would’ve been in much better shape early on.
  • Debt is a four-letter word. When we don’t save and pay cash for items other than a mortgage, we will pay much more for what we buy. Sales prices will quickly be added to in a hurry. Why do you think we get discounts for using credit at department stores? The odds are in their favor that we won’t be able to pay it off before we incur interest.
  •  Budget, budget, budget! This is the only way we can live within our means. We have found that the best way to do this is through a software program. There are many programs from which to choose. Do a Google search and you’ll have more information than you ever dreamed. We have successfully used Quicken for years, but there are other programs that may offer options that are better suited to your situation. We can pay bills, budget, keep track of what we spend, and even download our spending into TurboTax, making tax time just a little easier.
  • The 10-10-80 spending plan. Ten percent goes to savings. Ten percent goes toward giving to charity. Budget and spend the rest. My daughter is excellent at this plan. When she started babysitting at twelve years of age, she put together a spreadsheet on the computer that charted her progress. She’s been faithful to it ever since. She gave 10 percent to our church and other needy causes, then put 60 percent into her savings, and spent 30 percent on fun stuff. She was able to do this because we were taking care of her needs. Once she became an adult and is now taking on more financial responsibility, she has new percentages that include her car and school expenses, but even now she still gives 10 percent to charity and 20 percent to savings.
  • Don’t spend; invest. Typically we look at money as something we spend rather than a tool used to invest in our futures. When we have this slightly different perspective, we tend to be more proactive in proceeding wisely with our money. When we have goals and dreams for our futures and then view our money as the means to meet them, we are much less likely to let our money slip through our fingers.

 

It Can Be Better

Are we destined to always struggle with our money? How much is enough? Will there ever be enough? Like Ted, does your husband feel the pressure of providing for the family yet feel as if the debt gets bigger as the hopes grow smaller to ever reach your goals? If so you’re not alone. Unlike most relational things, there actually is a formula to solve our financial woes.

I recently heard two cop wives talking about their finances. They were both on the same money plan and were comparing notes.

“Where are you in the process?” asked Barbara.

“We are now debt-free, except for the mortgage,” Eve said with a smile.

“Wow! That was quick!”

“We had a lot of things to sell,” explained Eve, “Then we took the money and paid off debt. We found a renter for our big house, and now we have a down payment on a smaller home in a better community. It’s all been working out very well. We don’t have to count on Ben’s overtime anymore. How about you?”

“We have about a year and a half, and we’ll be debt free. We’ve whittled our expenses down to the point that we have extra money each month that goes toward paying off our credit cards. It is so freeing!”

The plan that Barbara and Eve were speaking of is Dave Ramsay’s “Total Money Makeover.” His book of the same name shares a simple yet smart plan to get out of debt as soon as possible and then use your money to build wealth in smart ways. Brent and I took a money class shortly after we were married. The class was called Master Your Money, by Ron Blue. We learned some great principles for managing our finances. More recently we read Ramsay’s book together. His ideas and principles were very timely.

Whether you choose Dave Ramsay, Ron Blue, or something else, the point is to have an agreed upon plan. If you are currently in a difficult place financially, there is hope. Get creative. It’s amazing to watch your money make the shift from burden to delight as you get spending under control and see it grow. It’ll be one more thing under control in your law enforcement life. And that makes a huge difference!

September 23rd, 2013

Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder

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Chp 9: Silver Bullets-Money & Your Marriage-How to talk

Money Talks

Ted and Sarah have difficulty talking about money, as it is a constant source of conflict. Ted gets frustrated that he works hard to bring in the money and they never seem to get ahead. Sarah naturally avoids conflict, so she inadvertently sabotages their efforts by not communicating with Ted about upcoming bills. This of course angers Ted and adds late charges to an already tight budget.

Even though money seems like it should be handled without emotion, it isn’t. So much of who we are is wrapped up in our money! For men the traditional role as provider says a lot about who they are as a man. The expectations have been built up into status. If you make a lot of money, you are a success. If you don’t, not so much!

For women, we tend to view money as security. If we have money, we don’t have to worry about where to live, what we wear, and what we eat. If we are short on money, we tend to worry.

Rich and Anna didn’t have a large income, but they made it work. However, Rich felt that because he worked hard he deserved a nice truck. He spent a lot of money on his trucks while Anna scrimped and saved and did odd jobs to feed and clothe the kids. Over the years Anna and Rich had many arguments, and eventually Anna took over the management of the money. She didn’t give Rich much to spend, so when Rich got an overtime check, he’d cash it and spend it without telling her.

How you handle money can build trust or be a source of mistrust. Typically, every couple has a spender and a saver. And unless the two have agreed upon goals and budgets, the constant push and pull of the money can be destructive to a marriage. The solution lies in acknowledging our shortcomings and for both to be involved in money management. We need to ask ourselves the hard questions and then answer honestly:
• Are we both committed to improving this area?
• Who is the saver, who is the spender?
• What are our individual responsibilities?
• What do we both want from our money?
• Where can we cut our spending to invest in our future?
• When do we waver in our control of spending?
• How did we get ourselves into the debt we have? How will we get out?
• Are we a slave to our home, striving to make the payments?
• Is our money working for us, or against us?
• How deep are we willing to cut luxuries to ease financial stress?

Have a regular business meeting with your husband to get on top of things. When we are proactive about communicating, especially when it comes to money, it will have an accumulating effect much like the emotional bank account. For the one who does most of the money business, it’ll really help him/you feel a lighter burden.

To keep our money life intact, we need some guiding principles. Then we need a plan based on those principles. I’ve included some financial guidelines that Brent and I have learned and tried to practice over the years.

September 16th, 2013

Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder

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Heroism: A Learned Response

9:11 helpEvery September I do the same thing – I watch shows that tell the stories of 9/11. I’m well versed in Flight 93 – I’ve watched just about everything I can get my hands on, read books, and know many of the names of those who became heroes that day. I’ve heard the stories of Pentagon rescues and the last moments of those who were in the Twin Towers. I envision the terror in the hallways as hundreds of people are descending the stairways, and imagine looking into the eyes of the firemen who were going the opposite direction. I’ve seen and heard the grief in the survivors’ eyes via television, and feel their pain many miles away. Every year I learn something more, and every year I am amazed at the character that was revealed in America’s day of doom.

I’ve many thoughts, but one stands out this morning.

Crises unveil true character.

Of all the stories of those who put themselves aside and acted unselfishly, there is something in common. Those who knew the heroes weren’t surprised by their final moments. They talked of how their loved ones lived beforehand – giving of themselves in the small moments, in the day to day.

Thinking of others was their mindset. Loving was their lifestyle. And fighting a primal urge to save themselves amidst chaos and mayhem, they let a greater motivation determine their actions, and loved to the end. And we, the world, watched. We were amazed. And grateful.

Our nation’s police officers, firemen, rescue workers, and military are trained to run to the chaos. They feel fear just as I do, but their inner character dares death and steps in and up to the task at hand – to protect and serve in the ways in which they are trained.

I think back to my husband’s training. At first, the Academy personnel knocked the wind out of them. They stripped the men and women of the faulty foundations they had come in with.

Pride. False sense of ability. Selfishness.

They put them in impossible situations, and demanded they perform anyway. But there was a purpose: to make them teachable.

Then, the instructors began to rebuild them. To give them tools and training to survive, take charge of chaos, and to respond appropriately in confidence. They did this over and over and over again.

By the end of his training, my husband was rebuilt. He was a trained observer. He knew what to do in crisis. He was confident.

As we look back at 9/11, we remember that ordinary people did extraordinary things. And we say a silent prayer of thankfulness for them.

But crises happen throughout life. What will drive our reactions?

The way we practice our lives now determines how we will respond to crisis.

Heroes are made in the quietness of soul resolve, in the mundane episodes of repetition, and in the decisions made day to day. Then, when chaos calls, the choice is made to respond, simply yet readily.

September 11th, 2013

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Chp 9: Silver Bullets: Money and Your Marriage

 

“Don’t even consider keeping up with the Joneses. THEY’RE BROKE!”

“The number one cause of divorce in North America is stress due to money problems.” Dave Ramsey, financial advisor

It’s no secret. Across the country and beyond, we’re vulnerable to economic trends. Why? Because, for most of us, we are dependent upon other people’s money. We have become increasingly dependent on Wall Street, banks, and the government. We work hard, and then everyone takes a cut. Then we get to choose how to spend the leftovers. If we decide that the leftovers aren’t enough, we borrow. Pretty soon our choices are made for us; we no longer have enough left over from the leftovers to live. It’s a vicious cycle, and we’ve seen the consequences of this in the last few years. People are losing their homes, jobs, and more. Cop families are no different.

Carl and Tina declared bankruptcy and lost their gorgeous house because they bought whatever they wanted on credit and then couldn’t pay the mortgage.

Quinn and Saul both work just to make ends meet because half of Saul’s salary goes to alimony payments.

Brian and Marcy depended on his overtime to make their house payment. It severely cut back Brian’s opportunities to expand professionally, and he was hardly home with his family.

Carrie and Andy bought an expensive house on the outreaches of what they could afford. Then the police department implemented a pay cut. She ended up having to teach school when she desperately wanted to be home with her little girls.

All of these families are law enforcement. Good careers. Excellent benefits. Decent salaries. But no matter how much money is made, failure to plan is a plan for failure.

The Role of Hypervigilance

There are law enforcement-related issues that affect our money. Hypervigilance and critical incident stress have their effects. Dr. Gilmartin says,

The behavioral and marketing researchers on Madison Avenue have… clearly established that certain individuals, when feeling mildly depressed or unfocused, can find themselves feeling more energetic if they purchase something. This form of “retail therapy” does have distinct gender differences. Women tend to make small ticket purchases… Males do not appear to like to go shopping, but they do enjoy “buying stuff”… big-ticket items like boats, cars, pickup trucks, motor homes, campers, and maybe some power tools.

What happens is that retail therapy can turn into debt. And debt becomes a huge burden that results in extra jobs and overtime. The catch phrase he who has the most toys wins turns into he who has the most toys whines.

This spending pattern affects our marriages. More and more debt is added to our limited resources and can rob us of financial security. We are constantly behind, working harder and harder to catch up. Dr. Gilmartin adds,

This cycle robs the officer of any sense of financial security across the span of the occupational career. Many officers, without having a sense of proactive control of their finances, experience significant distress economically, in spite of enjoying an occupational career that is generally free of lay-offs and downsizing, with excellent retirement and medical benefits.

One of the benefits of police work is the financial security it brings to the family. Most sworn police officers are in it for the long haul; a twenty-to-thirty year career in law enforcement is the goal. There are exceptions, but depending on what your department offers in pay and benefits, chances are good that you’ll belong to the middle class. Also, law enforcement is a reasonably secure profession. There will always be crime; therefore, we will always need police officers.

But if we allow ourselves to get into debt to the point that we are strapped financially, that feeling of security begins to wane. When our officers are working day in and day out but money is constantly coming up short, a sense of frustration can develop. These feelings will heap on top of regular pressures of the job, and can lead to a feeling of desperation. At this point, talking about money will become very difficult.

September 8th, 2013

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Warriors at Home

warrior_mom_sadWe are the warriors behind those who go to war.

While our officers battle on the streets, we battle from within our homes. We are the strong, back up forces that support, equip, and empower our police officers out on the street.

We stand.

We know who our officers are and who they are not, yet we stand with them through the darkest of hours and the brightest of victories.

We are proud.

We love the uniform and all it represents. We know the need, we see the sacrifice, and know what our officer did to earn his uniform, his badge, his gun, and his pride in who he is.

We support.

We know what they go through, we know the cost. And we let them lean on us for what they need so that they can do what they need to do out there, coming home at the end of the shift.

We defend.

We battle the questions. There are those who are against our officers, who hate their authority, who take away their freedoms to wreak havoc on our communities and families. It’s hard to hear the criticism, even from those we are close to. But we stand up for our officers anyway, sometimes silently.

We battle.

We battle moods. We battle our own reactions to those moods. We battle the long term apathy that comes with such moods.

We make do.

We explain to our little ones why their daddies or mommies aren’t there. We’ve already wrestled with this in our minds and hearts. It’s not how we’d like it to be. But it is reality, and the first thing a cop spouse must do is to accept things as they are, and then make do.

We go alone.

We get in the car and go to birthday parties, school plays, and church services. We get dressed and put on makeup and smile and do this out of survival. We would prefer to go with our officer – but instead we just go.

We are loyal.

We care about our officers, and we are in their camp. We love them fiercely and defend them to those who would dare speak or act against them.

We persevere.

At times it is tiresome. There are times when we are lonely, and we are exhausted, and we are done, and yet we wake up every morning and do it again. And again. And again.

We love fiercely.

Why do we do what we do? Why do we battle and persevere and explain? Because we love and are in love, and will love. Fiercely.

We change plans.

We’ve had to live our lives with flexibility, because we are determined to make life with our officers a good one. We are willing to work, and maneuver, and change to make this happen.

We cry.

Tears are not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Because we acknowledge that sometimes life sucks, and we are not made of stone. But we are still strong – strong enough to let ourselves be soft when we need to be.

We cope.

When things go sideways and catastrophes happen, we learn to roll with it. We cope. We make things happen. We thrive when others only survive. And we do what we must.

We trust.

We believe in the training and abilities that our officers have. We trust them to be safe, and to be vigilant. We trust their partners to watch their back, and their leaders to do the same. We choose to trust in the face of fear.

We face hard moments alone.

We take our kids to the doctor, and take the phone call of bad news. We walk on egg shells when our officers are bothered by something and wait patiently for them to spill the reason. We face hard moments knowing that our officers will be there, eventually.

We work hard.

We clean and cook and plan and flex and work because we believe that what we do matters to our officers. We work hard to make a safe place for them to come home to, day in, day out, year in, year out.

We do without.

We are lonely, we are underestimated, we are thought of as weak. But it takes an amazing person to do without and creatively thrive anyway.

We mourn.

We put on black and we tuck a handkerchief in our pockets and we stand with our officers and mourn those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We hurt with our husbands, and feel their pain, and let the tears flow when they’re not around. We feel the pain, too.

We fear.

There are many unknowns that we face. Will he come home? Will he be faithful? Will he be safe? We have no guarantees. We endure close calls, hospitals, the what ifs.

We fight.

But we fight anyway. We fight for our marriages. We fight for our families. We fight for our rights. We fight our own emotions and we fight with our officers. There is no place for us on the sidelines.

We are warriors.

We are strong.

September 5th, 2013

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