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Written by Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, the Marriage in a Box blog shares insights into common relationship struggles, gives ideas for moving beyond the roadblocks, and helps you find your path to happiness – both individually and within your relationship.

Hobbies for Kids That Won’t Wreck Your Budget

You know hobbies can help you relieve stress, but did you know hobbies can be beneficial for your kids as well? In addition to calming anxiety, hobbies can teach children important lessons when it comes to communication, creativity, and self-esteem. They can even spark an interest in a future career. However, fitting hobbies into the family budget isn’t always easy. Keep reading for some hobbies that have the most benefits for your children and ideas on getting started without wiping out all of your savings in the process.

Craft Some Science Experiments        

The future of the world depends on science, technology, engineering, and math. This means your child’s career future may well depend on them developing an interest in one of these STEM subjects. Children who choose a STEM career may develop the next medical breakthrough or even be part of the first manned mission to reach Mars. Begin the interest in STEM at home by encouraging your children to practice some educational experiments in their spare time, such as making magic milk. To further encourage your little Einsteins, check online retailers to score STEM gear, like microscopes and building supplies, and save money. You can get cash back for shopping online with retailers like Walmart, to get everything for your kids’ experiments.

Create Works of Arts   

Art can be another majorly beneficial hobby for kids to get into. Creating art aids in the development of problem-solving and social skills for young children. Just be sure to allow your little artists to express themselves freely. Painting and drawing can get fairly messy, so think about setting up a dedicated art room for your little ones. If you need to pick up art supplies, look online for starter kits filled with everything you need to get your kids started with painting or sculpting. Buying everything separately can add up, and these kits can cut costs. Amazon is a great place to find art kits to add to your hobby room. Look for cashback opportunities for Amazon or online coupons for stores like Michaels when you shop for art supplies.

Learn a Musical Instrument        

For kids who are developing language and reading skills, learning an instrument can have some pretty major benefits. Studies show that picking up a new instrument impacts the brain’s ability to recall information and helps develop communication skills, among other mental and physical health benefits. Music can even help students develop better skills with math and boost their concentration in school. If you want your kids to give music a shot, it’s important to find an instrument they will love to play. Try out a few different options at local music stores before you settle on a final choice. For younger children, you can pick up inexpensive kid guitars, drums and keyboards to get them started. Once your child is older, you can rent instruments to use in lessons and school bands, as opposed to spending a lot of money to purchase one.

Pick Up Some Cooking Skills

When you think of hobbies for kids, you may not think of cooking. But baking and cooking are essential skills for children to learn, and there are many reasons to teach them how. Aside from learning how to properly prepare healthy meals, following recipes teaches kids reading skills, comprehension, and even math. Baking is based in science, with exact measurements and reactions between ingredients, while exploring different cuisines helps children learn about other cultures. If you decide to let your kids take up cooking as a hobby, be sure to teach them all about kitchen and food safety. Try searching online retailers for the supplies you need to keep your little chefs safe and having fun. Target has a ton of inexpensive kitchen supplies to fit your needs, and you can use rebates and coupons to save yourself some money.

Helping your kids benefit from productive hobbies doesn’t have to break the bank. You can find budget-friendly supplies by shopping with your favorite retailers online, and stock up on serious savings in the process. Let your kids explore their passions without sacrificing your budget!

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Posted 9/30/2018

You Can Manage A Household And Still Keep The Romance Alive

You Can Manage A Household And Still Keep The Romance Alive

It doesn’t take long for any married couple with a family to realize that career, children, personal commitments, managing the finances, household chores and responsibilities, can overshadow any alone time you may have as a couple. However, it is important that both of you work together to manage the household and still make time for yourselves as a couple in order to avoid conflicts in your marriage and keep the romance alive. Here are 3 key tips to help you do just that.

Work together to create a money Management System & Plan

Married couples use many methods to manage their money. Some keep their income separate and divvy up the bills as they would with a roommate. Others place all income into a shared account from which all expenses are paid. Meanwhile, a hybrid method involves using a joint account for household bills and setting up individual accounts for personal spending for each spouse. The important thing is to discuss and agree on a money management system, create a budget and stick to it.

Planning your financial future as a couple means taking bills, family, emergencies, and luxury purchases into consideration when making a budget. Just because you have created a marriage budget doesn’t mean it will stay the same forever. As your lives change and your family grows, be sure to revisit your financial situation to see if any adjustments need to be made.

Determine a Healthy Division of Household Task Responsibilities

There’s no right or wrong way to figure out who does what. The important thing is for you and your spouse to have a mutual understanding of one another’s roles as you work through the responsibilities of your household together. At a time when you’re both relaxed and comfortable, discuss what a healthy balance of responsibilities would be in your home. Decide what each of you can do to support your marriage. And discuss the proper running of your household. Work together to divide the load as best you can.

If both of you are employed, you’ll have to work harder to find a healthy balance between you. Consider each other’s time and workload expended outside the home. Look for solutions to make your life together less stressful. If possible, pay someone else to do a chore, so that your time and energy can go into activities that you need to do yourself.

Make Time for One Another

First, you need to schedule time together. But besides dates, plan brief "meetings," where you can bring up household and child-care issues such as an upcoming doctor's appointment, children’s activities, or children’s items you need to buy. This way your dates won't be overtaken by talk about the kids and you can share the stuff you both are interested in.

Intimacy is also a critical component of romantic relationships. Some busy couples find it helpful to schedule sex by putting it on the calendar. It may not be spontaneous to have it written in red ink, but setting aside time for an intimate encounter helps ensure that your physical and emotional needs are met. 

The easiest way to manage your household and keep the romance fresh is to discuss ways to make your lives easier, make decisions together, and carve out time to be alone together.

Posted 5/30/2018

Don’t Let Monster-In-Laws Dictate Your Parenting Style

Don’t Let Monster-In-Laws Dictate Your Parenting Style

In-laws usually want to be helpful to their children when parenting their own children. While many times their advice is valuable, often times well meaning mother-in-laws can put a lot of stress on a marriage with their advice or scrutiny about your parenting style.

You know it is not good to let the baby have a pacifier too often.

 “He really needs to start eating table food about now.

We never gave our children choices. We told them what they needed to do and they did it.

While you want to have a good relationship with your mother-in-law, you and your husband also want the freedom to bring up and discipline your children according to your beliefs and values, not your mother-in-laws.

Here are a few strategies to gracefully deal with in-laws when they interfere in your parenting style.

  1. Don’t take it personally. As hard as this may be, remember that her constant advice giving says more about her than it does about you. What’s fueling her behavior is a strong need to give advice, which has nothing at all to do with whether or not you actually need it! 
  2. Change the subject. When your mother-in-law brings something up, just laugh and then change the subject.
  3. Turn the tables. Ask her if the advice she just shared is what she did with your husband when he was a child. Draw her into a discussion about what she did as a parent. This shifts the focus away from you and your parenting. Then, when you’ve finished discussing her parenting stories, just change the subject. She’ll feel great because she will feel heard and you’ll feel great because you won’t have to listen to any more of her advice!
  4. Go silent. When your mother-in-law makes a comment, stop what you’re doing and then look at her without saying anything. Let the silence linger for a few minutes, and then change the subject.
  5. Stand together. You and your husband can approach his mother together and let her know that although you appreciate her insights and suggestions, the two of you have determined what parenting style works best for the both of you.

You need to talk to your spouse about your feelings first. They are the reason that you have a relationship with your in-laws and strategizing and discussing ways of coping with that relationship can prove to be useful in two ways. Firstly, it will provide some insight into the best ways to handle your in-laws. Secondly, and most importantly, it will help in separating your own relationship with your spouse from the one you have with your in laws.

It's important that you and your spouse are in agreement about how you parent your kids. You both need to let your in-laws know that you appreciate their care and concern, but you might have a different way of doing things and the decisions regarding parenting your children are yours to make.

Posted 5/25/2018

Create A Culture Of Appreciation In Your Marriage & Family

No matter how long you have been married, it can be easy to take your spouse and family for granted. The busyness of life-work, children, school, social obligations etc. – can cause you to overlook the little kindnesses and efforts that your spouse and children make and result in them feeling unappreciated by you and taken for granted.

Most happy marriages and family relationships are built on a foundation of mutual appreciation. Building a culture of appreciation involves using the things you know about your partner and your children to show that you care about them and want them to be happy.  Here are 3 great ways to show your appreciation.

Connect regularly with your spouse and family.

Many marriages and families fall apart because couples drift away from each other and become absorbed in their own interests. They don’t make an effort to connect with and do things together. Making an effort to be interested in what your spouse and your children are interested in is a way of showing your appreciation for them. Perhaps one spouse likes to exercise and stay in shape. Rather than go to the gym by themselves, they may want to invite their spouse to go to the gym too or take the family out for a family walk or outdoor game of softball at a nearby park. This inclusiveness is a way of saying “You are important to me and I appreciate you enough to want to spend time with you.”

Express affection openly and frequently.

Couples can easily drift apart when they neglect to express their affection for each other. Showing your affection openly does not require large lavish gifts or vacations. Simple exchanges of affection and appreciation go a long way toward reminding your spouse that you love them. Bring your wife a cup of coffee when she wakes up. When your spouse has had a stressful day, take their hand or hug them and tell them how proud you are of what they do. Simple little gestures and words can make your spouse feel appreciated and loved. The same is true for the rest of the family. Celebrating a special accomplishment with a favorite dessert or giving affectionate hugs periodically lets your children know how important they are to you.

Look for positives even in when your expectations aren’t met.

Rather than criticizing and complaining when your partner goofs up and does not do something according to your expectations, thank them for their effort and time. Maybe your spouse forgets to get an item from a long list at the store or does not do the best job with a home repair project. Thank them for the time they put into it and the effort they made. The same is true for your children. Provide them gentle guidance on how to complete the task but don’t criticize if it does not get done perfectly. It is important for them to know that your love is not conditional of their performance; so let them know that you appreciate their time and efforts.

When you build appreciation into your marriage and family relationship, other people notice it because your relationship is happy. It has a beneficial effect on the rest of the family as well. It is important for your children to see you take time to tell your partner how much you appreciate what they do and mean to you. It models a healthy, loving relationship behavior. 

Posted 5/17/2018

Healthy Ways To Handle Parenting Disagreements

When kids come along, there are more issues to fight about and more day-to-day stress to complicate them. That can put a strain on even the healthiest of marriages. It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. If disagreements are frequent and they escalate regularly, it can harm our marriage and ultimately your children. It's the intensity of the disagreement and how you deal with it that matters. Here are some healthy ways to handle parenting disagreements.

Don’t Criticize Your Spouse’s Parenting Methods

In many families, a majority of the parenting responsibilities fall to the mothers. Mothers must make a conscious effort to include their mates more in the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting and try to resist the impulse to criticize the way they do things. There is more than one way to go about getting a child to eat at the table or pick up their toys etc. You can make gentle suggestions on how to handle things to your spouse if they look like they need help but resist the urge to criticize their efforts. It takes both parents involvement to raise healthy children.

Take Time Out to Cool Off

Parents aren't always going to see things the same way. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. If you are having a heated argument about a parenting issue, you may have to stop and agree that you aren’t coming to any resolution on the issue and agree to take a time out to cool off and continue the conversation at a later time. Letting the argument escalate while the kids are watching and listening is not healthy for you or the children. Don’t just leave the issue unresolved however. Plan a time when you both can sit down out of earshot of the kids to discuss the issue.

Always Apologize

Try as you might to remain calm, some parenting issues such as discipline can trigger some hot buttons and one or both of you will end up saying things that are hurtful or escalating the argument into a yelling match. When you do have an argument that gets out of control in front of the kids, make sure you apologize to each other. You both need to reconcile your argument so the anger does not fester and the children need to see that arguments can end happily if you apologize for your behavior.

Parenting is one of the greatest joys in a marriage and can create deep, intimate bonds, but it can also be stressful. Employing healthy methods to handle parenting disagreements will bring harmony to your marriage and family. 

Posted 5/1/2018

How To Get Out Of Debt Together

Most couples fight about money, it’s kind of unavoidable. You both have different spending habits and attitudes toward money. One partner may be frugal while the other could be more of a spender. At times, one or both partners may be reckless when it comes to spending and, before you know it, a sizeable amount of debt has been accumulated. Debt affects your financial well-being and your ability to reach goals in your life together. Unless you can get a handle on it, debt can ruin a marriage. Here are tips on getting out of debt as a couple.

Talk It Out Together

When it comes to talks about your financial situation, you need to be 100 percent upfront and honest. You may even have trouble being honest with yourself. But you can’t start moving toward a better future together until you know exactly where you stand, so tackle it together.

As hard as it may sound, you’ll need to lay everything out on the table. Each person should share information about all their debt—whether it’s from credit cards, student loans, medical expenses, or loans from family. This includes what debt you have, the amounts and interest rates, and the repayment plan. It’s also important to express any concerns you have.

Order your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can order one for free at You’ll emerge with a clearer understanding of what the true state of your finances are and can plot a path forward.

Develop A Plan to Pay It Off Together

If you do decide to tackle the debt together, will you be paying it off jointly, or will each partner be responsible for paying half? Develop a course of action, and figure out a timeline as to when you want to achieve this by. Just make sure that your plan is realistic financially and that you are both on the same page with the plan. You don’t want one partner feeling like they’re the one making all the concessions and compromises on behalf of the other. It’s a joint venture with a shared goal and a mutually beneficial outcome.

Your partner’s debt doesn’t mean you have to turn and run in the other direction. Although talking about money can be a tricky thing to navigate, it’s essential to a healthy long-term relationship. Openly communicating and coming up with a plan to tackle the debt can help you and your partner be more confident about tackling the debt and ultimately building a better life together.


Posted 4/24/2018

5 Ways a Budget Can Improve Your Marriage

5 Ways a Budget Can Improve Your Marriage

A marriage is a joining of two lives and most couples welcome the merging of their households, dreams and lives---except when it comes to finances. Shared finances can be a scary endeavor for many couples because it reveals a lot about who you are and can be an emotional subject. If you and your spouse are going to be able to build a life together though, you need to do what it takes to merge your finances so you can take care of your day-to-day needs and plan for your future together. One of the best ways to do this is with a shared budget.

A budget isn’t just a joint bank account ledger or worksheet. It provides a springboard for getting to know each other better, planning your future together and can actually improve your relationship. Here are 5 ways a budget can improve your marriage.

A Budget...

Is a communication tool to strengthen your marriage. A budget is more than just numbers – it allows each of you to understand why you have the habits, feelings, and thoughts you have about money and get a handle on it together. If you have different money goals or ideas of how to create a budget plan, keep talking about it. It will get easier to talk about and come to agreement on if you have open, honest, and frequent conversations about your finances. 

Allows both of you to figure out what it takes to run your household and live within your means.  A budget necessitates that you put down all of the expenditures you make-even the small ones that you are most likely to forget. Once you know what you are spending, it is easy to talk about what are essential expenditures that need to be made each month and what frivolous expenditures you can cut back on. This way there are no surprises and thus, fewer fights about money.

Gets those money skeletons out of the closet. It’s not easy to admit having student loan or credit card debt, or not having a savings account. However, these are just temporary circumstances. Opening your finances up as budget items to discuss provides an opportunity for you to collaborate together on a plan to deal with those skeletons. Two heads are better than one.

Frees up spare cash so you can spend it on things you really want. Once a budget has been established and you have been working the budget for a while, you should both be able to see an improvement in your financial health. More than likely you will see more cash that you can now delegate for things you both really want like that special vacation or a remodeling project etc.

Lets you focus on common saving and investment goals. Every couple needs to put away money for the their future together. What that future will look like depends a lot of your discussion and agreement about what you really want from life and how much it will take to get there. It takes years for a couple to save up monies for big purchases like a home or car, put away monies for children’s education and retirement. Budgeting can help build in regular amounts for savings and investments for your future.

Posted 4/17/2018

3 Ways to Get on the Same Financial Page as Your Spouse

Most couples avoid talking about finances because those conversations often end in big arguments. Keeping the peace often overrules financial decisions so most husbands and wives are not on the same page when it comes to their views on spending, saving, investing etc.

When you get married you lose your right to run off and do your own thing. You’re not independent anymore. No where is that reality reflected more than in how you spend your money. Most financial differences are due to a failure to effectively communicate our needs, fears, and complaints and instead let them accumulate over time. You need to learn to talk openly and calmly about your money issues. It is not very likely that your financial situation will change or that you and your spouse will get on the same financial page without some type of agreement or compromise.

  • Set a budget together

Many people just pay their bills each month and make purchases, as they see fit never really knowing where all the money goes. When a coupe agrees to sit down and make a budget together it can shed a lot of light on where each of you actually spends your money (your priorities) and how much is actually left over to put aside toward your goals (your hopes and dreams). By setting a budget together you are taking responsibility for your spending and deciding together what your common priorities and goals as a couple are. That builds a strong bond in the marriage.

  • Practice the art of compromise

Often times, it is not the actual amount that one spouse spends on an item but rather what the item was. Our spending and saving habits are influenced by the way we were raised and our past experiences. Many women are raised to invest in clothing and beauty products to enhance their attractiveness, while males are often raised to spend their extra money on sporting activities or cars.

A wife’s purchase of a $120 designer outfit may appear outrageous to her spouse, while $200 for center court basketball tickets could appear foolish to his spouse. What is usually missing is communicating in advance about our purchase desires and learning to compromise. 

Some couples implement a purchase threshold where purchases beyond a certain dollar amount require discussion and agreement of both spouses before the purchase is made. That way each spouse gets to weigh in on whether the purchase is in the budget or not and if it will only benefit one spouse, the other spouse should receive something else in return.

  • Discuss your financial goals

Every couple should pend time talking about your dreams and goals for the future. Don’t just talk about what you would love to have or do for yourself, but also what you would love to have or do together. Perhaps you want to save up a down payment for a house or a car, put money aside for your child to go to college and don’t forget about retirement. Once you do discuss your financial goals, you’ll realize that those dreams aren’t going to happen unless a change is made in your spending habits. That change has to be made together.

Working together on your finances is never easy but it can be rewarding and keep you from making some serious financial missteps If you work on it together.

Posted 4/10/2018

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