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Finding Balance When Automating Your Money

The Pros and Cons of automating your finances

Based on several posts I’ve written about how helpful automating our finances has been, you may feel like it’s the perfect solution for a busy couple. While I believe it’s a fantastic way to simplify family finances, I think it’s smart to weigh the costs and benefits before signing up.

Being Careful with Automating

With technology rapidly changing, companies are offering more ways to automate finances. It can be tempting to sign up for a service, especially one that offers to help you save money. But you have to remember you are giving over some control or access to your money to a another party. You may find your finances under control of a disreputable company if you’re not careful.

To prevent that, your best course of action is to go ahead and thoroughly research any company or service you plan on working with before you handing over sensitive and important information.

Please look for those companies handling your finances at least offer bank level security. With some services like Mint you can allow them only read only access.

If you’re unsure or want more information, resources like Consumer Reports can be extremely helpful.

You’re In Charge of Your Money

No one will care about your money like you do. Automating your bills doesn’t change that. While it has significantly cut down on time spent with payments, my husband and I still check our bills regularly.

We’ve had times where certain bills like cable had slowly crept up. If we hadn’t reviewed our budget, we would’ve have missed it and been behind on payments.

And that’s what people have to understand – automation is not the end all solution. It’s a helpful tool that can make managing your more easier.

Thoughts on Automation

I’d love to hear how you handle your family’s finances. How many of you automate your money? How many prefer a more manual approach?

This post was based on a recent episode of the Couple Money Podcast discussing the pros and cons of automating your finances. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes, Stitcher, or copy this link to use with a podcatcher of your choice.

Moneystepper’s 2015 Savings Challenge Update #2

couple money moneystepper savings challenge

I’ve signed up for MoneyStepper’s 2015 Savings Challenge as a way to build up our net worth and savings.  The two main goals of the challenge are:

  • Grow Your Net Worth
  • Save % of Your Net Income

For 2015 our family will do our best to increase our net worth by 25% and have a 15% savings rate. With March here, it’s time to reflect and look at how we did last month.

February Net Worth and Savings Results

While February was a quiet month work wise for me, we had plenty to do when it came to finances. We had two big bills that had some numbers that didn’t add up.

Hospital Bill Confusion

Since having our baby girl, we have been receiving plenty of paperwork from both the hospital and our insurance company. As I mentioned last month, we had a very general list of charges from the hospital for about $9,500.

We’ve now received what was paid from our insurance company and some of it doesn’t match what the hospital sent in. Specifically an approximately $4,000 charge from a doctor neither of us remember and who wasn’t listed earlier. According to the insurance we’re responsible for a nice chunk of that money.

I called the billing department the other week to get more information, but the snow storm  delayed things. I called again and requested an itemized bill. We have no problem paying our portion, but I want to be sure it’s correct.

Up and Down Mortgage Payments

Every year we get a statement from our mortgage provider about the payments for the upcoming year. When our statement came in, I looked over it and discovered a problem – they included mortgage insurance with escrow calculations. We had received notice from FHA that we no longer had to pay it anymore so I called them up to get that fixed. Our monthly mortgage payments will now be about $50 less.

Once that was cleared up, my husband and I chatted about what to do with that extra money. We decided we’ll send in the same amount as this past year, but that small amount will be directed toward paying down the principle. I know it’s not much, but we feel better directing it toward finishing our mortgage just a tad sooner.

Saving Bit By Bit with Digit

Just as they promised, Digit has automatically saved me a little bit of cash as I went about my routine, sort of. Ironically knowing that Digit will shift some money away, I’ve been spending less. That’s a good thing for sure, but since Digit is based on your spending habits, the transfers have be in small amounts.

The Numbers Please…..

So with all of that out of the way here are our numbers for February:

  • YTD Net Worth Improvement: 4.99%
  • YTD Savings Rate: 10%

We’re chugging long right now, but I hope things will pick up starting next month with work so we can really amp up.

Thoughts on Our MoneyStepper Progress

I’d like to hear about you and your family about your goals and progress so far. Have things been going well? Have you had to deal with any set backs?

The Best Kept Secrets to Planning a Wedding on a Budget

Have your dream wedding while sticking to your budget

Our 2 year anniversary is coming up on March 16, which means 2 years ago from today, I was freaking out.

I’m talking about a first class, total meltdown.

My meltdown was not a case of cold feet or pre-wedding jitters, but a sudden and harsh realization that weddings are expensive.

Everyone knows this, but until you plan one for yourself, it doesn’t sink in all the way.

So after it did, I let myself hyperventilate. If this is where you’re at, go ahead. Scream into a pillow. You’ll feel better.

Afterward, you’ll realize there is good news. You can have your Pinterest-worthy wedding, without going over budget. The secret to a thrifty and gorgeous wedding lies in the details.

5 Secrets to Planning a Wedding on a Budget:

1. Say yes to the (right) dress:

Wedding dresses are outrageously expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay hundreds of dollars for your gown.  If you don’t mind wearing a pre-worn dress and making alterations, thrift stores, Craigslist, Amazon, and eBay can be great for gently used wedding gowns. If you have a mom, aunt, or grandma with great style, you can go for a vintage vibe without breaking your budget.

For new dresses, shop the clearance rack at boutiques and trunk shows in your area. Sometimes the clearance rack is a total jackpot. Amazon, eBay, and trusted wedding dress vendors like David’s Bridal also have great low-cost, high-class, brand-new dresses.

While you’re shopping for your perfect gown, remember: never try on a dress that is out of your price range. The sheer fact that you can’t afford it will make you want it even more. Sales people can be pushy, so to avoid getting shown dresses you can’t afford, tell the salesperson your top dollar is 75% of your actual budget. They almost always go over the price limit you set, so this will keep your wedding dress shopping on target.

2. Creative Venue Options:

The day of the week your wedding is on is vital when deciding what venue fits inside your budget. Venues are notorious for up-charging on popular days like Friday night or Saturday, and then dropping venue prices by 40-50% on less popular days, like Sunday or a weeknight. If you have your heart set on a pricey venue, ask about their rates from Sunday through Thursday.

For a lower cost venue, consider renting a local park for the day. You can rent and set up a small tent for shade and coverage and let nature set the scene for your day. Also, if you have a loved one with a nice house or great backyard, ask if you could have your wedding at their home. Backyard weddings can be quaint and perfect for a small crowd.

3. KISS (keep it super simple) at your reception:

Your reception is where your family and friends can make a difference in the cost of your event. Keep things simple by asking that they make pies, cakes, and cookies as their wedding gift to you. If they don’t bake, ask that they help make decorations like table decor or goodie bags. If there is a task a loved one can do instead of hiring a professional, let them do it. This infuses more meaning into your special day as well as saves you a bundle.

4. The secret (of the) garden:

Before settling on the flowers you want, ask your florist what flowers are in season, what colors they are naturally (dying flowers costs extra), and what flowers are the cheapest. Write down what your florist says, then go to Pinterest and find pretty arrangements using those flowers.

A great place to look for a florist is your local grocery store. They are often less expensive than boutique florists and do professional grade work. Another option for flowers is growing and arranging them yourself. This can be a lot of work, but has the benefit of being exactly what you want at a much lower cost.

5. The photographer:

I have a total soft spot for photographers. They work hard, mostly behind the scenes, and do incredible work. Personally, photography is one area of wedding planning I wouldn’t penny pinch. However, there are times of the year when photographers have empty wedding weekends, usually in winter months, that they want to fill. In order to entice customers to book them for these winter weekends, they offer discounts. By planning your wedding during the off-season, you can take advantage of lower rates and get quality photography for less.

Now that you know the inside secrets to planning a wedding on a budget, you’re ready to get out there and rock the garter off your frugal wedding, and no one will be the wiser.

Author bio: Vanessa is co-founder of Cash Cow Couple, a site dedicated to helping people increase their net worth and live abundantly on a modest salary.

Digit: Save Money without Stressing Over It

digit savings review

Being a personal finance blogger can be a huge perk as you get to hear about different products and services that can improve and optimize how you handle your money. Since I signed up with the MoneyStepper’s 2015 Savings Challenge, I’ve been looking for ways to stop money leaks and build some savings.

I mentioned with my first monthly review that I was trying out Digit. J Money from BudgetsAreSexy as the easiest way to save. With a toddler and a newborn, I was eager to try out them out. If you’re looking for an automated way to save, Digit can be your solution.

Keeping Your Money Safe

The first question you may have (and rightly so!) is how safe your money is with this new company. With Digit you money is FDIC insured up to a balance of $250,000.

Right now Digit supports 25,000 banks and credit unions in the United States. (If and when they go international, I’ll update you.)

Digit is Freedigit automated savings review

Digit is completely free to use. You connect your current checking account with them and they monitor your spending patterns. Based on your activity, it transfers small increments of money into your Digit account.

The smart bonus is that Digit will only withdraw that money if you have it. That means you don’t have to worry about getting over-drafted. The company even offers a guarantee if that ever happens to your account.

Digit updates you by texts so you know your balance and have complete control over your money. You can withdraw your savings 24/7 and there are no limits to how many times you can transfer back your money into checking.

The Downside

As awesome as Digit is there is one downside that I have to mention – right now there is no interest earned on your savings. While rates are exactly high, I’m not crazy with tucking away your money without getting something in return. Hopefully this will change in the near future.

I will say that if it’s a choice between saving with no interest and not saving, I’d obviously support saving. Last time I check Digit has

Thoughts on Using Digit for Saving

If you’re someone who wants to save and who wants to keep their current checking account, then Digit can be a wonderful option. Set up is a breeze and your savings is all automated. You still have complete control over your money and the service is free.

Want More Info? Visit and explore their FAQs or sign-up to open an account today!

Photo Credit: Hello Digit, Inc.

Get Out of Debt, Manage Your Money, and Create Financial Security

money chat book couples

One reason couples avoid doing something about their finances is because they’re not comfortable talking about money with one another. If that sounds like you, MoneyChat: The Book from Dorethia Conner Kelly may be the book to get you started.

In case you’re not familiar with her, Dorethia Conner Kelly, MBA is the president of Conner Financial Coaching, LLC, providing results-oriented personal finance and business coaching services. Her financial expertise has been featured in various media including Black Enterprise, U.S. News and Nerd Wallet.

She was a recent guest on the Couple Money Podcast, sharing her practical advice on the sticky situation of loaning money to family. I loved having her on the show and found her book to have that same grounded wisdom about handling money.

What’s Money Chat All About?

She’s based her book on what she had seen with many of the families she’s helped as a money coach. She’s all about changing what people say about money so their behavior follows.

The book is divided into three sections:money chat book review  Dorethia Conner

  • Getting Out of the Hole: The opening section deals with making sure you’re out of the financial fire by offering tips and advice on getting rid of debt, handling taxes, and avoiding short term fixes like payday loans.
  • Getting on Solid Ground: With high interest and risky debt no longer an issue, the next few chapters handles how you can build up a proper financial cushion for your particular situation and budgets.
  • Growing Your Money: Finally the last portion of Money Chat delves into other financial milestones and goals like investing, preparing for retirement, and saving up for your children’s college expenses.

Dorethia does a fantastic job of taking you through the process step by step. It’s a wonderfully helpful book that can help the two of you get on the same page with your finances.

If you like to hear more from her, please check her out at The Money Chat or follow her on twitter so you can join in her next conversation. I’ve always enjoyed these chats as there are some wonderful topics and people giving their two cents.