Thrifty Tells

10 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Alex on February 14, 2014


It’s the month, and in fact the day of LOVE that we are sharing this article with you.  We are thrifty, but we are a married couple and so we often get asked what holds us together, what held us together during our few years of financial crisis.  Before we share these practical tips, it is by the Grace of God and the strength that He gave and continues to give us.  He is our foundation.

But there are some very simple practical tips that we have found that we feel has made our marriage stronger over the years.  We are not perfect, we have quarrels and even arguments, but there is no argument that we are each other’s best friends and each others leg to stand on, rely on and continue to grow on.

We will tell you, the financial troubles we were having many years ago were certainly relationship and strength building. As a short summary, you may or may not know that we use to be in over $100K of consumer debt.  You can read our story as shared so far HERE, but it took us 3.5 years to pay off $15K and we struggled, argued, worked, weren’t on the same thought process and more.  We then made some big changes, including a very good and deep communication.  The second 3.5 years, we paid of $85K and communication was one big key.  This also led us into a better relationship and today, people accuse us of communicating too much.  So there were many positive points from us working out of our debts together.

After 14 years of marriage, here’s our personal advice to strengthen your marriage.

This article is written by both of us as we express on this day our personal thoughts!

1. Hold Hands 

It’s so very basic and yet so very intimate.  Holding hands creates an unspoken bond, trust, love and a touch that is very hard to achieve with other forms of affection.  This is such a sweet one. Nothing needs to be said, hold hands in public, in front of your kids, in front of others, whenever you can!

2. Turn in 30 minutes early together

We have kids….. 5 of them in fact and all little.  Talking during dinner – impossible, talking in the mini van – impossible, talking on the phone during the day – impossible, chatting online - a little closer but not quite.  You get the point.  Well, one thing that we have found was to go up to our room 30 minutes before our bedtime.  This is a very important time in our marriage. It is a quite time where we get to snuggle and talk about our cares, worries, hopes and dreams and share in a time of prayer.

And no, guys, this is not code for “make love every night,” if it happens, it happens, but it is us telling you how important this time has been for our marriage.  Our most important conversations have taken place during this time, our most important snuggle without words time has occurred during this time – it is a special time.  Don’t let television, or other things interfere.

We started doing this when our first was a baby.  So before kids prevented us from having normal, uninterrupted talks during the day.  The bedroom is a special place without the distractions of the world, whatever that may be.  And don’t bring those distractions to bed during that time (tablets, smart phones, etc.). Set those things down and take the time.

We also find that we like to read and will actually go to our room an hour before bed to accomplish both!

3. Never talk bad about them to anyone else

This is advice passed down from previous generations.  Our parent’s never talked bad about each other to anyone.  Even if they were going through hard times, they did not “gossip” about their problems or about their “lazy” husband or “nagging” wife, etc.  This will create more problems.  This will solidify those thoughts you are expressing to your co-workers, your friends, your neighbors, etc. into your own mind.

Now we know that marriages have problems that need to be talked about and worked out by talking with others. Just talk about them to the appropriate people that are there to help as a profession, not as a “husband or wife” bashing session amongst friends.

Defend your marriage in both word and deed.

4. Ask questions

This might sound like an odd one.  And in fact many spouses get very offended when their spouse asks them “personal” questions.  But read what we are saying below carefully.

It is a very good thing to do and you should both ask and allow to be asked questions about anything!  We are human beings, we are not perfect, we need to be held accountable.

Think about it – when we are kids or teens, a good parent asks their child questions like:

  • “How was your day?”
  • “Did anything go wrong?”
  • “Where did you go today?”
  • “What sites are you visiting online?”
  • “What were you talking to your friend about?”
  • “What texts are you sending and to who?”

We are not comparing a marriage relationship like a parent/child nor are we saying you would ask the same questions to your spouse as you would a teen, just using an example of how we require others to be accountable.

As adults and in our jobs, we are often asked similar questions and have to give an account of what we did, where we went, for how long and some even have to give annual or even quarterly personal performance evaluations.

Marriage is not an exception, nor should it be.  We should feel comfortable with both asking and answering questions, being held accountable for the marriage relationship.

It would be foolish to assume that any one relationship is an exception to the potential affair scenario physically, but even emotionally. Even by religious men and women and even those in a good marriage.  It is the basis and plot for thousands of television shows, movies, books, plays, etc.  It is not a plot because it isn’t popular.  And so we should do what we can as loving, committed spouses to hold each other accountable.

We are not talking about asking a direct question on the topic everyday, but asking questions everyday so knowing each other is a normal thing.  Like “how was your day today?”

So if I ask Alex, “How was your day today?” And he says “it was good and we have a new employee.”  I would probably then ask more questions, male or female?  How closely do you work together? Is he/she married? Etc. You need to know what your spouse faces everyday!

When we were first married, I worked as a paralegal in a downtown office. The attorney that I worked for was married to a gal that previously had my position.  It was a product of a paralegal working closely with an attorney and an affair ensued between them, resulting in the end to a 20+ year marriage between the attorney and his wife.  He was a well respected and very religious man.  Well, fast forward a year later and I was now the paralegal and she was the wife at home with a new baby.  Nothing of any sort was ever on my mind, happened, said or slightly considered, but Alex would ask me questions about my day.  I appreciated that! It meant he cared, he loved me and didn’t want anything to ruin our marriage. And that was the start of 14 years of keeping each other accountable. We have heard numerous testimonies of spouses involved in affairs and how this one step could have helped – affairs start by people asking questions to get to know each other, but they are prevented by spouses caring about their mates day too!

The point is, know each other so well by asking questions that can help to keep each other accountable!  Your life together is not a closed book.

5. Easily admit and easily forgive

When you get married, you hang yourself on a shelf.  Marriage isn’t about you.  Being stubborn, competitive, haughty, bull-headed, arrogant, rude, bossy, demanding and always right is not right. If you want a strong marriage, be the first to admit fault.

And be the first to forgive. We are not perfect.  You are not married to a perfect someone and they are not married to a perfect someone either! Don’t harbor bitterness and easily forgive.

6. Compliment the big things, but especially the small

Yes, your spouse loves to get your approval on the big things, but especially the small things.  Pay attention to what your spouse is doing or has done and compliment it.  Whether it is big or small.  Make a habit to compliment a couple of things a day!

7. Be a safe place

If your spouse “needs to talk” or needs comfort, needs to make a confession, needs a shoulder to lean on, be that someone.

One of the best examples I have seen recently was actually on T.V. in the show Downton Abbey (Please note: this is a spoiler alert, so skip ahead if you don’t want to hear the bad news!).  It was the first episode of Season 3.  Lord Grantham had discovered that he made a bad railroad investment and that he had lost almost all of Lady Grantham’s money.  He was very upset and worried to tell her. I was so shocked and encouraged by the way she handled herself. It was with much grace, beauty and mercy.  She showed no anger or bitterness towards her husband. She listened and embraced him comforting him and encouraging him.  He had horrible news that directly affected her and was about her and she handled it graciously.  She was a safe place for him.

Your spouse will not want to talk to you if you are not a safe place to come.  It is the same concept for children, they will most likely talk to someone else first or in total. But you want to be the safe place for all of them.

8. Be trustworthy 

You gain trustworthiness in many ways and different ways for each marriage relationship.  But some things that have developed trustworthiness in our relationship have been from many things, but including utilizing points #3,#4, #5 and #7 above.  It actually takes time to build it as you have to develop a relationship to gain it, but you need to develop and keep it!

9. Have a 30 second hug once you see each other at the end of the day

This one is actually similar to #1.  When you both see each other after a work day, just embrace and hug for 30 seconds.  It’s 30 second investment that makes mounds of relationship building.  You don’t even have to say anything.  This is one of my (Cassie) favorite parts of the day!

10. Pray with and for one another

Finally, pray with and for one another on a daily basis.  We pray for each other many times throughout the day.  We also pray together at a few times during the day.  And when you are doing the steps above, you will also know what to pray for!

 Linked up on Thrifty Thursday

Alex & Cassie

Bountiful Baskets Produce Co-Op Open For This Week: We Also Got Blackberries and Organic Tomatoes

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on February 3, 2014


This is a sample from our $15 conventional basket a couple of weeks ago!

We just placed our produce order for pick-up on Saturday from our Bountiful Baskets produce co-op.

We skipped last week for Penniless Week, but we were so excited to see two additional offerings this week that are right up our alley!

We grabbed our basket of 50% fruit and 50% veggies, but also these two additional items:

  • 10 lb. box of Heirloom Organic Tomatoes (I will be canning and or freezing many for future use) for $12.74. This is $1.28 each lb., which is hard to get even regular tomatoes for this price in our area.
  • 12 6oz. clam shell packs of Blackberries for $14.25.  This is $1.19 each package, which is a great price.  They are $2.99 – $3.99 for regular blackberries in our local grocery stores. I plan to freeze these as well!

Our total was a bit more than normal, but stocking up on Blackberries and Organic Heirloom Tomatoes for a great price is awesome!


We will be picking this order up on Saturday!

Have you gotten any of these before?

If you want to see if they are available in your area too, then…

Head to Bountiful Baskets HERE and choose your state and then a pick-up location closest to you from the drop-down menu.

If Bountiful Baskets is not in your state yet, either contact them to see what they need to start one or keep watching for them to open up in your state too! They are rapidly growing and rapidly opening other states.  We have been fortunate to have been the first state and so we have been able to do this for quite some time!

*Please note, you only have until tomorrow night (Tuesday, February 4th) at 10pm PST to order your produce for this week for pick-up on Saturday at a local location!

Also, to fully understand what we are talking about, you do need to read this article HERE.

For more fun and informative frugal reads, don’t miss this page regarding all things produce:

Alex & Cassie

Sharing Our Personal Weekly Plan and No Waste Food Menu for 1/20/14 Week – Get Your Free Downloads Too

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on January 23, 2014


Time to share our plan and our menu for this week 1/20 –  - 1/26/14.  We actually haven’t shared our personal plan for a few months, so we thought it would be a good time to share again and encourage you to plan for the week and get your free downloads too! Part of the reason for sharing this with you this week is because both of these downloads, but especially the “No Food Waste Menu” will help you to have a smooth penniless week next week (as we know hundreds of you are joining us for penniless week next week to jumpstart financial goals – read about that HERE).

I am going to share two downloads that I complete each week: our THRIFTY Plan and our No Food Waste Menu.

You can also check out these links to help you!


Here’s my plan this week:

T – stands for Thrifty – what are my thrifty goals for the week?

  • Make mouthwash
  • Make Baby Wipes
  • Make Homemade Bulk Taco Seasoning

H – stands for Home – what are some things I/we need to do around and for our home?

  • Clean out Central Closet
  • Amazon S&S
  • Re-Organize School Room

R – stands for Relationships – a place where I write down who I need to call, send a note to or remember a birthday/event.

  • Make mom’s birthday cards
  • Finalize Al’s parents upcoming visit details
  • Confirm playdate with Amy and kids for Friday

I – stands for Involvement – this is the part of my planner that allows me and my family to be involved in our community and church in small ways each week.

  • Collect items for fundraising auction
  • Prepare for overnight guests from our hospitality network

F – stands for Finances – What financial tasks do we need to complete this week: (also as we continue to find our 2% cuts each month!)

  • Re-evaluate 2014 budget
  • Submit for HSA Reimbursement

T – stands for To-Do’s- misc. things I need to do this week!

  • Make eye Dr. appointments
  • Have car tires checked
  • Return un-used spray paint to Hobby Lobby
  • Alex call client “L”

Y – stands for You – what are some things that I can do for myself to de-stress and relax for all of the hard work!

  • Dr. appt. Thursday at 4pm
  • Organize baby stuff for baby scrapbooks
  • Get baby pics for scrapbooks developed
  • Attend women’s retreat on Saturday at 9am

Plus I have my developing shopping list and other tasks list on the right for those extras.

If you would like to print your own THRIFTY weekly planner, you can do so below. Alex designed it to where it requires very little ink and in fact you can print it in fast draft/grayscale to use even less ink.  But either one uses miniscule amount of ink! I would recommend printing or copy several as I often write plans a couple of weeks ahead too!

Please note, if you are reading this email in our rss feed or our email newsletter, you may have to click to the post HERE to print this download. 

<== Download your printable Weekly Thrifty Planner HERE


Here’s our planned dinner menu for the week!

This is the “No Waste Food Menu Planner” and you can get all of the information on it in our previous post HERE. 


Before I make the menu, I first fill-in the right hand side of the page in the box that says “food to use this week.”  This allows me to incorporate all of the foods that will be expiring soon into my menu this week!

I also shared a really cool tool on Google to help you find recipes to use all of those odds and ends.

But in order to fully understand what this menu is about, you need to see the full tutorial HERE.

Here’s the foods I need to use – remember, my menu is not limited to these items, I just need to include them somewhere so I don’t have to throw them out later !

Fridge foods: fresh Mozzarella chunk, cucumber, avocado, red cabbage, kale, broccoli, Romaine lettuce, apples, pears, Artisan rolls, red pepper, onion, baby carrots, cottage cheese, sour cream.

Pantry foods: Bread, tortillas, volcano rice, 9-grain cereal, rice chips, pineapple, hot dog buns, bananas

Freezer foods: ham lunchmeat (nitrate free), beef short ribs, chicken, peas, breakfast hot pockets

So with these foods and other foods in my house right now, here’s the menu we have this week!

Snacks for the week: cottage cheese, apples, crackers, rice chips, pears, veggie chips, oranges


Breakfast - Savory Rice, Lunch – nitrate-free uncured beef hotdogs and cucumber salad, Dinner – Sandwiches, green salad, fresh cut pears

Tuesday: (We spend much of the day with our homeschool co-op called Classical Conversations)

Breakfast – quick breakfast hot pockets, Lunch – pizza party at co-op (took sliced oranges, carrots and hummus and rice chips for sides), Dinner – Chicken Marsala, Volcano Rice, Roasted Broccoli


Breakfast – 9-grain Cereal, Lunch- Quesadillas, Dinner – Pan fried chicken with rice, kale chips and artisan rolls


Breakfast – Banana Muffins made with our Muffin Mix and “browning” bananas that no one wants to eat :), scrambled eggs and sliced apples (we also had guests that ate with us that stayed overnight from our hospitality network), Lunch - Pasta and cottage cheese, Dinner – Crockpot short ribs, green and fruit salad, crockpot baby carrots, 60-minute wheat dinner rolls


Breakfast – Toast and scrambled eggs, Lunch – Nachos, Dinner – Pizza Party with extended family of mom’s birthday (I’m making the cake!)


Breakfast – Breakfast Casserole, Lunch – kids out with daddy while I am at my retreat, Dinner – Chef salads


Breakfast – Apple Cinnamon muffins (from homemade mix), Lunch – Tacos, Dinner – Hawaiian Haystacks

In my notes section, I usually make notes on when to get the meats out of the freezer to prepare for the next day, etc.!

And… no matter whether you make a menu or not, don’t forget about “dinner by 10.”

We use the “No-Food Waste” Menu Planner that you can get for free as an email subscriber to our site!

Just click on the header above and you can get yours for free too!


Please share in the comments below what your menu and plan is for the week!


Also, like we mentioned above, these are tools we use every week to keep us on budget and on track, but these will both be especially helpful for next week’s “Penniless Week,” so everyone be sure to get your downloads to prepare!


Alex & Cassie

Be Intentional Baby Step 3: Feel Amazing with Daily 5 Minute Stretching (includes Free Downloads and Tutorials)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on January 17, 2014


It is time to introduce baby step #3 of our Be Intentional Challenges! We LOVE this one! It is only 5-minutes but makes for a huge positive difference in our day and our physical well-being.  I would probably say this is my (Cassie) favorite Baby Step!

As a reminder, the 30 challenges this month are designed to get you on the right foot, the right track and give you energy, efficiency and organization which will propel you into a life that is able to develop an overall financially smart, happy and frugal home.

We encourage couples and families to do these challenges together so the whole house can function well!

As the 30 days go along, we will be focusing on 5 areas for the Be Intentional Month:

  • Self
  • Home
  • Budget
  • Schedule
  • Frugality

And so we are on Self still today! Here’s the first 2 Baby Steps in case you missed them and want to get your life on the right track:

  1.  Set and Be Strict About Bedtime
  2. Work Towards Waking Up At The Same Time Everyday

We are starting with the things that take care of yourself first and towards the top of the baby steps as it is important to take care of yourself, especially since we are doing the challenges this month for you to be at the top of your game.  We encourage you to read the introduction to this month’s challenges to understand what we are doing this month.

Baby Step #3 

Do A 5 Minute Stretching and Breathing Exercise Daily

I LOVE this one!! Stretching and deep breathing help all of us in our home tremendously! We do it first thing when we wake up, or after a workout on the days we do an intense at home workout.

First, stretching is important for flexibility, improved circulation, stress relief and general health. For further reading on the topic of stretching, check out these articles from reputable health and medical sites.

We just do basic stretching for 5 minutes in the morning.  We don’t have a specific way of doing it, just what feels good.  But we would recommend following some simple stretching routines to get the hang of it.  We also sometimes stretch for about 5 minutes before we go to bed as it seems to help us sleep better – mostly because I (Cassie) have nerve damage in the right side of my body as well as a herniated disc in my back and sleeping can be difficult.  Stretching tends to help loosen the nerves to help me sleep better.  In general, stretching feels so amazing for our bodies!

Plus if you workout first thing in the morning, you got yourself loosened up and multi-task :)

Here’s some different 5 minute stretching exercises that we found online.  Hopefully one of these will fit you!

Or feel free to use the ones from this video:

Also, I use to work at Curves and their stretching chart is quite helpful.  If you want to print something off to follow, you can download and print the Curves Flexibility chart below!

<== Download your printable Stretching Chart HERE.


So the second thing to do is a breathing exercise too! After researching, reading and watching health shows, they all mention how important deep breathing is for energy, getting oxygen to all parts of the body, and general health. So we multi-task again and combine our stretching with deep breathing! We also try to take deep breaths whenever stress is hitting us throughout the day.  We even start our daily homeschool with prayer first and then a stretching and deep breathing for the kids so that they are on top of their game too!

WebMD talks about deep breathing for general health.  This is what they say:

“Have you ever noticed how you breathe when you feel relaxed? The next time you are relaxed, take a moment to notice how your body feels. Or think about how you breathe when you first wake up in the morning or just before you fall asleep. Breathing exercises can help you relax, because they make your body feel like it does when you are already relaxed.

 Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.

Key points

 The way you breathe affects your whole body. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress.

Breathing exercises are easy to learn. You can do them whenever you want, and you don’t need any special tools or equipment to do them.

You can do different exercises to see which work best for you.”

With that, here are some breathing exercises that we found online:

  • Deep Breathing for General Health and Proper Breathing Steps from Discovery Health
  • Three Breathing Exercises from Dr. Weil (he was actually one of the main ones that convinced us to the importance of deep breathing.  We don’t do meditative breathing like Dr. Weil,, just deep breathing for health using the suggestions he has.  Our day always starts with prayer first, that does not come with our exercise ;) In fact, Deep Breathing is at the very top of Dr. Weil’s tips for living healthy. Check out this statement: “deep breathing raises levels of blood oxygen, promoting health in many ways — from stimulating the digestive process to improving fitness and mental performance. Even alternative health icon Dr. Andrew Weil says: ‘If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.‘”

So now, here’s how we combine the two with our stretching exercises to maximize time and to get oxygen to those “newly stretched” areas too!

  1. Immediately after starting the next stretch, we take a deep breath in through our noses and pull in as much air as we can, even trying one more breath in after we think we have reached our intake limit.
  2. We then hold this breath in for a count of 3-5 seconds while still holding the stretch.
  3. We then let the air out through our mouths and push as much air out as possible.
  4. We repeat the above three steps during each stretch (so each stretch is held for a count of two breathing exercises)
  5. Then we move on to the next stretch while deep breathing exercise
So…since this is one of our favorite personal challenges and will be no sweat for us, we want to hear from you!?!? Will this challenge be easy for you or a challenge? Leave us a comment to let us know!

For encouragement, discussions and reminders on our Be Intentional Baby Steps, head to the Be Intentional with The Thrifty Couple Facebook Page HERE and ask to join us there! You can also invite friends and spouses too!

Alex & Cassie

Our Bountiful Basket Pictures From Last Week’s Basket and What We Are Ordering for $34.50 This Week

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on January 13, 2014


This is a sample from our $15 conventional basket last week!

As promised, we said we would share pictures of our produce co-op baskets and remind you to grab yours too! Well, it’s Monday and so that means that Bountiful Baskets is open for orders for fresh fruits and veggies at an affordable price.  They open mid-morning on Monday’s and are open until Tuesday night or until they sell out.  It is for orders that you pick up on Saturday mornings.

We wanted to share pics of what we got in our basket last week for $15.  You can see it all in the full picture above.

  • Pears
  • Mangoes
  • Red Peppers
  • Grapes
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Yellow Squash
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Broccoli
  • 3 lb. bag of apples

We also opted for the juicing pack that was $8.50 last week (and they are offering this again this week).


The $8.50 juicing pack included:

  • Ginger
  • Lemons
  • Parsley
  • Kale
  • Cucumber
  • Pineapple
  • Celery
  • Apples
  • Carrots

Last week, the two above pictures cost us $26.50 plus $2.50 for the handling fee.  Not a bad deal for that much fresh produce!

So this week, we usually budget $35 for our Bountiful Baskets produce each week.  They had 2 separate specialty baskets we wanted this week – the Italian Pack (we have gotten this many times and it is a GREAT pack!) and another juicing pack.  So we went for the $15 conventional basket instead of the $25 organic basket to make room in our budget for the yummy extras!


We will be picking this order up on Saturday!

Have you gotten any of these before?

If you want to see if they are available in your area too, then…

Head to Bountiful Baskets HERE and choose your state and then a pick-up location closest to you from the drop-down menu.

If Bountiful Baskets is not in your state yet, either contact them to see what they need to start one or keep watching for them to open up in your state too! They are rapidly growing and rapidly opening other states.  We have been fortunate to have been the first state and so we have been able to do this for quite some time!

*Please note, you only have until tomorrow night (Tuesday, November 19th) at 10pm PST to order your produce for this week for pick-up on Saturday at a local location!

Also, to fully understand what we are talking about, you do need to read this article HERE.

For more fun and informative frugal reads, don’t miss this page regarding all things produce:

Alex & Cassie