9 Months Old

Sunday is a big day in our house. Our little guy is turning 9 months old. Nine Months…

Where has the time gone?!

Every day he is learning something new and showing more of his personality. He’s stubborn like his Mom, loves laughing at Dad’s weird noises, hates waking up too early like Mom and is a heavy sleeper like his Dad.

He still looks incredibly like J, but every once in awhile I can see a little bit of me sticking out. But then it fades away and he goes back to look just like his Daddy.

9 months, baby boy, 9 month baby 9 months, baby boy, 9 month baby

He’s inquisitive and mischievous. Always into something and never wanting to sit still.

He’s been crawling everywhere and pulling himself up whenever one of us is near (darn slick floors… he’s fallen a few times and has quickly learned to have one of us around). He constantly says “Daddy” and every once in awhile he sneaks a “Momma” in to melt my heart.

He loves most foods, except peas and meats. Which we are still working on. He thinks it’s fun to drink out of his sippy cup and prefers to feed himself the bottle, but ends up playing with it more than eating.

He’s my everything.

My 2017 New Year’s Resolutions

Can you believe 2017 is here? I seriously feel like I just rang in 2016 and now here we are a year later. I never understood when my parents or other adults said that time just seemed to speed by. “In a blink of an eye.”

In school time just felt like it was dragging on. I couldn’t wait to be graduated, working a job, having my own home, etc. I just couldn’t wait to be an adult. Now here I am. 30 years old and time is flying.

It’s hard to imagine our little guy turning ONE in just 4 short months. It’s crazy to think we will be living in my hometown for 3 years this summer or how J and I will be celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary this fall.

Life does really fly by. I don’t know what’s changed since school. Maybe I’m busier, maybe I have more commitments then I used to. Or maybe… just maybe I can’t keep up like I did when I was 20.

I am so thankful that I didn’t have a ton of responsibilities at such a young age because I just don’t think I was mature enough. But I can tell you having a baby at 30 isn’t easy. It’s so much harder to pull an up-all-nighter or to go with very little sleep.

Well.. that’s enough about getting older and time just passing quickly. This post is all about the New Year. So alright, we’re starting 2017 off right. I’ve jotted down my top resolutions for this next year.

I’ve never been crazy about using the word “resolutions.” It just seems negative.  Something about saying my 2017 new year’s resolutions just seems like I’m in trouble.

Like I resolve to stop this bad habit.

I want to be more positive. I’ve never really liked calling them resolutions.  Even last year I called them my goals.  

I’m continuing with that and I am making my 2017 list all about goals. I want to continue striving and working towards something that will benefit me and my family.

So here it is… my 2017 Goals:

new year resolutions, new year goals, 2017 resolutions, 2017 goals, family goals, family resolutions

I started looking back at my goals since I started sharing them on here.  It’s crazy to see what’s changed and how I’ve grown over the years.  One thing is certain – my new year goals are getting simpler.  No more crazy lists, crazy achievements that I know will be difficult to attain.  I’m pushing myself, but only in the areas that are most important.  I’m keeping my goals broad so I know when I’ve achieved it in my heart and not on paper.  

Here are my previous goals:

2014 goals

2015 goals

2016 goals

No matter if you call them your 2017 New Year’s resolutions or your new year goals, either way it’s time to kick butt.  

52 Week Savings Challenge

52 week savings challenge

Can you believe 2016 is over? I mean, seriously that year flew by! So many changes happened in our household that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Of course, I remember the big one – you know, having a baby. That was probably the most important part of 2016 for our family.

However, we had a lot going on. We had to remodel the house a bit to make room for the baby. I kept working towards my CFP designation and am one step closer to being a Certified Financial Planner (yay!) and I survived another #taxseason without killing anyone.

We traveled a lot and just had an amazing year. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us. With all of the surprises and planned expenses last year, we decided to kick off the new year with a bang! We’re setting an additional savings goal on top of our budgeted one.

What?!

Yep, that’s right!

We plan on starting a 52 Week Savings Challenge on top of what we’re already putting aside each month.

We looked at our budget and decided with all of the highs and lows of last year, it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra $1,300 in savings for those unexpected needs. So instead of increasing our savings goal, we chose to go a fun-route.

Yes, savings can be fun!

We created an easy-to-follow 52 Week Savings Challenge. It’s easy to follow and you can really tackle it any way you want.

Here’s the gist of the savings challenge:

Start off with saving $1 the first week, then add $1 every week to you new goal. Here’s what it looks like for the whole year:

week 1 – $1, total of $1
week 2 – $2, total of $3
week 3 – $3, total of $6


week 52 – $52, total of $1,378

52 week savings challenge image

I created an easy PDF for you to download to keep track. You can download this free printable here.

Here’s another way to tackle this new 52 week savings challenge:

You can start with week 52 and work your way backwards. That way you’re starting with savings $52, $51, $50 and so on now then when it’s closer to the holidays your savings would be less than $10 a week. It’s up to you.

Just decide which way is best for your family to follow and then get started. The biggest thing is to start now and keep going with it.

Don’t give up!

You can have an extra $1,378 saved by the end of this year. That’s quite a bit for only a few dollars each month. We plan on finding the extra money by cutting out our eating out. We’ve been watching what we’ve been spending for awhile now. By following our easier cash envelope system, we will be able to easily find the extra dollars each week to add up.

What are you going to do with this extra savings at the end of the year? It’s going to be good to use towards Christmas gifts or you can add it to your emergency fund or even debt! Whatever you want to do with it, it’s up to you!

Just think, $1,378 can be yours by saving a few dollars each month for the next 12 months. So easy!

Giving Thanks

I wanted to do a post all about giving thanks this year.  

Let’s be honest… this year I have so much to be thankful for.  It’s hard to even think of every great thing that has happened in 2016! I wanted to take time to give thanks to those that have made this year truly special.  First up…

 

My Son

thankful for

baby in hat, giving thanks

I also have this little guy to be eternally grateful for.  I seriously can’t imagine my life without him and have no idea how I survived for so long before him.  He makes every day happier.  I am always on my toes trying to figure out what to do.  Am I doing enough? Is he happy? 

Husband

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Then there is J, my rock.  He is the best husband and dad I could of pictured.  Maybe even better then my wildest dreams!  Watching him with our son makes me fall in love with him more each day.  One of the biggest reasons I fell in love with him many years ago is that he wouldn’t let me walk all over him (I know sounds crazy, but it’s true.  Ready about it here.).  And I’m happy to say that even today, he will still .d.fd.fafdakjfkad

Family

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My family means the world to me.  When I was struggling with be a first-time mom, recovering from major surgery and balance my career on top of it all I had a realization of just how lucky I am.  My family and J’s family are there for me no matter what.  It was so great to have people that care about me, J and our son.  They took time off work, they make time for us and it’s amazing.  I am so happy to have these people not only in my life, but in my son’s too.

Career

I have found a career that I am truly passionate about.  I have this desire to learn and help others, this career path I’m on gives me the opportunity to do that every single day.  I work with incredible people that foster an environment to reach the same goals I have.  I’m continuing to pursue my Certified Financial Planner designation and once I have earned that certificate then I will continue on to earn the Certified Public Accountant designation.  It’s going to be a long, hard process, but I am excited.  I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for me.  

You

I have to thank every single one of you! You have helped me reach new goals with this blog of mine.  It’s grown and grown over the past year.  I know it’s because you have found something of value and decided to share my posts with others.  Thank you!

 

Friends

Last, but certainly not least I have to mention my friends.  As I get older I have learned that my Mom was right many years ago.  She said you will have different friends for different phases in your life.  And if you’re lucky, a few of them will float with you through every phase.  I have a handful of amazing people that I have kept in contact with since high school and college.  To me these (mostly) women have helped shape me into who I am.  They call me out on my B.S., they are there for me anytime I need them and I am there for them.  They are my anchors.  

Stocking Stuffers That Won’t Break the Bank

Stocking Stuffers that won't break the bank

It’s that time of year again. It seems to come so fast and without warning. I mean, you think Thanksgiving would be a fair warning, but it never is. Last year I did so good shopping for Christmas presents for our family and friends on a budget. I decided this year to do it again. I’m going to stick to last year’s plan, which you can read about here. I was really able to come in golden on our holiday spending. All it took was a little planning and a little Black Friday shopping.

This year with it being the baby’s first Christmas and all, we’re going to break out the stockings. Nothing too crazy because the baby isn’t even a year old yet. I’m not that mom… yet!

Every other year we switch holidays with my family and J’s family. This year is time for Christmas with my family. My Mom always goes above and beyond on stocking stuffers every year. Most of the time the items are too big to fit in the actual stocking, so we each just get a spot on the couch and out stocking is laid on top of everything.

When it’s our turn to be with my family I usually like to help my Dad out by getting stocking stuffers for my Mom. Let’s be honest, he’s not the best at what to get her and never knows if he has enough or too little. So my sister and I usually tag team it and take care of it for him.

This year, I wanted to get some awesome stocking stuffers that won’t the bank. So I’m doing what I do best… coming up with a plan!

The best plan is to be thinking ahead all year long. Whenever you’re out and spot something for a good deal (like a really, really good deal) then go ahead and buy it. But for me that’s hard. If I buy too early then I have to find a place to store the items and actually remember where they are before Christmas. That doesn’t happen too well in my house.

So I like to hit up a few key stores to get some good deals on stocking stuffers.

Dollar Stores

You can get some really great pieces for only $1. You can be creative and think outside the box at these type of stores.

For little ones look for toys and games – chalk, bubbles, little figurines. Let’s face it kids are rough on toys and there are probably some really great items under the tree so stocking stuffers don’t have to be anything too expensive.

For adults you can find some items that are sure to catch your eye. For women I usually go to the nail care aisle. I can grab some nail files and little mani/pedi kit. They also have some cute coffee mugs that make great stuffers. For the men in your life most dollar stores sell car cleaning pieces. They aren’t the highest quality, but the rags and sponges work just fine.

Big Lots

In our small(ish) town Big Lots is the place. You can find just about anything at Big Lots. I like to grab favorite candy and throw that in the stockings. Sometimes you can get lucky and find name brand items that are really discounted. So again, be creative and you can find some great stuffers.

Target $1 Bins

This is another favorite. Those bins are magical! You never know what they are going to have and some of those pieces are really neat. You can find great stuffers for any age.

I’m a huge fan of notepads. I know my Mom likes them to make lists on them and most people can always find a need for a notepad and pen set. You can sometimes find some great kitchen utensils too that are colorful. Those make great stocking stuffers!

Amazon Add-Ons

I use Amazon a lot for our dogs. Yes, I buy stocking stuffers for our dogs because I’m that lady. I’m okay with it too! I like to shop on Amazon for some of our household items. Amazon has really inexpensive add-on items. I like to go through their dog toy sections to find some good quality, inexpensive toys.

I also use the Amazon add-on feature for smaller gifts for friends, co-workers and even my family’s pets.

Christmas Clearance

If you are someone that can buy in advance and then not lose your stocking stuffers, I would recommend stocking up during Christmas Clearance. You can find some great deals at some really great prices. You just have to remember where you store everything before next Christmas!

You can find some great quality pieces at Wal-Mart, Target and even department stores like DIllard’s and Macy’s. You just have to keep your eyes peeled.

Words of Advice: Just because something is inexpensive doesn’t mean it would make a great stocking stuffer. Really think about whether or not you want to gift the item. I like to think about each person I’m buying for – what they like, their hobbies, etc and then try to find stocking stuffers that fit them. I’m also a stickler for quality. Just because something is only $1 doesn’t mean it’s worth $1.

Handmade Items

If you’re feeling crafty then you could always make stocking stuffers.  I did a small gift exchange with my cousins a few years back where each gift had to be under $3.  So I crafted a DIY ornament.  They turned out great.

So what are your go-to stocking stuffers that won’t break the bank?

DIY Wreath {The Perfect Christmas Present}

DIY Wreath, DIY Christmas present, how to make a wreath

Last year I DIY’d this cute wreath for my sister.  I wanted to share about how I made it and was able to stay within our Christmas budget, but I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.  So I tucked this away to share this Christmas.  This gift is seriously the cutest and easiest to put together.  You can really customize it to fit the personality of who is receiving it.  My sister lives in this cute house in this sweet neighborhood.  You know the type of neighborhood where everyone waves to each other, you can easily borrow your neighbors leaf blower and you attend each others’ birthday parties.  I wanted to make her the perfect wreath that would fit her and her house.  

I headed to my local Hobby Lobby to pick everything up.  I started with just a basic wreath, it was brown and pretty boring.  Then I picked up the greenery to add some color.   

Here’s what you need for the easiest DIY wreath:

wreath base
greenery
floral wire
hot glue gun
wooden letter
spray paint
ribbon (optional)
flowers (optional)

Pretty much every piece of this wreath is optional.  You can really mix it up.  

DIY wreath

The first thing you want to do is lay the greenery over the wreath.  Then once it’s in the perfect position you can grab your wire to attach it to the wreath.  Just wrap it through the brown pieces to secure it.  I also used my hot glue gun to fill any missing spaces and to ensure the greenery would cover what I wanted to cover.  

DIY green wreath  

I wasn’t the best at taking pictures last year since I was trying to get like 5 other DIY projects done that day.  But I had a wooden B for her last name.  I took it outside and spray painted it with a color I had on hand.  It was a glossy maroon color.  Super pretty.  It took about 3 coats to get it to my liking.  Then after it was dried I glued it to the wreath.  At this point you can add more colors with any flowers or a nice big ribbon.  I used the ribbon to make it easier to hang on the door.  

DIY twig and greenery wreath

I was able to use a 40% off one item coupon so it made the whole project very affordable.  The wreath was on sale for 50% off and so was the wooden letter. The only item that was full price was the greenery.  So I purchased one using a 40% off coupon then returned later in the week to get the second piece of greenery using another 40% off coupon.  I already had the ribbon, spray paint and hot glue so that was pretty handy.  I really think this wreath made a statement and it was great to give something handcrafted to my sister.  

A DIY wreath doesn’t have to be that difficult! 

 

I’m Back

im-back

Whew! How did you like my disappearing act? I had not intent to just fall off, but life happens. We have been so busy between our son, work, traveling to see family and trying to get things done around the house. This little blog of mine has taken the back seat.

But I’m happy to say I’m back. I’ve got a few posts in the works and am going to try harder to stay on top of everything.

denton-playing

Let’s be honest though when it’s 10 at night and I’m exhausted from being up since 4am with our little guy and he just laid down for the night… I’m going to bed. That’s just how it’s going to be.

I think every Mom (or most Moms) would feel the same way. It’s hard to accomplish everything. It’s hard to always be ‘on’. I had to take something off my plate and this blog was it.

Now that life has calmed down a bit, or at least for now, I’m ready to jump back in. So thank you for sticking around and not giving up on me!
christmas-tree

We decorated for Christmas the other day.  I decided to take a less is more thought process this year.  We put up our tree then J decorated outside, but kept it minimal.  No stockings (mainly because I need to order our personalized ones), no other decorations around the house.  Just one tree and a little boy who loves crashing his walker into it.  

Tips for Hosting Family This Holiday Season

tips for hosting family during the holidays

I sent these tips on hosting family to my VIP list a few weeks ago, but I thought they were just too good not to share with everyone. So if you’re on my VIP list then you are lucky because you received these way ahead of any holiday gathering prep.

The Holidays are almost here.  The hustle and bustle of holiday dinners and get-togethers is upon us.  With a little bit of planning you can have a stress-free dinner party that is filled with making memories.

J and I split our time between his family and my family during the holiday season. One year we spend with my family on Thanksgiving and then his family during Christmas. Then we switch the next year. That way we aren’t driving all over trying to make both families’ dinners. We did that one year and we ended up leaving at 1am to make it back home before the snow hit. It was miserable!

Now we get to spend uninterrupted time with each of our families. We aren’t rushed and it makes time together so much better.

Holidays can be a time for stress, but with a little prep you can really stop any anxiety to enjoy the time when hosting family and friends. As we approach Thanksgiving dinner and the Christmas Holiday there are a few things you can do to ease the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Prepare some space

More than likely it will be chilly. People will be wearing coats and winter scarves, so by having a designated coat area in a back room or a hall closet can help decrease clutter. I don’t know about you, but when my main living room is full of stuff it makes me stress out a little. I instantly feel like my whole house is a pit and I can’t focus until it’s cleaned. So by having a space specifically for coats, then you can keep them nice and neat, and out of eye sight.

Childproof Your Home

Even if you don’t have little ones, you should take a few minutes to childproof your home.  Take a look around and figure out what needs to be changed or picked up to make it a little more kid-friendly.  I recommend picking up an knick-knacks you don’t want to be played with. Also, make sure cabinets are closed and outlets are covered. A few simple steps can really help your guest feel comfortable and ensure little hands aren’t getting into something they shouldn’t.

Smell is Everything

Give off a warm environment by using scented candles or room sprays. I like to make sure I have a scented candle burning in the bathroom as well as the family room. Typically, I pick the same candle so there aren’t conflicting scents through out the whole house. If you’re preparing dinner then I like to put any candles away from the kitchen so I’m not mixing too many smells. A smell overload can make the whole house a bit unappetizing.

Easy Finger Foods

Having a few easy finger foods on hand will help guests feel more at home. Sure you can prepare mini quiches or wraps, but I like to have a few that don’t need any cook time. That way if any of your guests have small children they can be appeased by a few chips or crackers and cheese until dinner is ready. My favorite go to is a veggie and fruit tray. That way you can snack on a few things without ruining dinner.

Keep it Simple

Remember the most important detail is spending time together. Try not to overwhelm yourself with these grand ideas of what Thanksgiving dinner should be like. Sure you see these amazing tables and dinners on TV, but that’s TV. Keep dinner easy to prepare, ask for help, and try not to over plan too much. Just remember everything will be okay and you need to enjoy your time as well.

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How To Quickly Boost Your Savings

quickly boost your savings

If you’re like me then you just love seeing your savings account and retirement accounts grow.  It is such a great feeling to watch it increase month after month.  I love the peace of mind a happy savings account gives me.  After our little one was born he was put into the NICU for a few days since he was losing too much weight.  Then afterwards we had to do physical therapy every week for 3 months.  I wasn’t that nervous to see our insurance bills come in.  We have insurance, but we knew we still had to pay any deductibles and co-pays.  Now, it was still a lot of money to payout.  But it could have been a lot worse if we didn’t have our savings built up.  

I’m not going to lie, it took some time to get the account back to where it needed to be, but I’m happy to say we’re there.  J and I buckled down to boost our savings.  There’s a few reasons you want to build your savings:

Prepare for the unexpected.

Peace of mind.

Tool to help cut your spending.

I’m sharing a few ways to quickly boost your savings account balance.

When you think about starting a savings account or working on getting to a certain threshold (I recommend starting with $1,000) then it can get overwhelming.  I find that when people get overwhelmed they tend to shut down. If you shut down then you will probably procrastinate and never actually start saving. I like to break bigger goals down into smaller, more manageable ones.

I’ve come up with some quick ways to start building your savings account.

They don’t take but a few minutes to set up and can really make a different in your money goals.

Establish an automatic transfer.

Okay, this seems like an easy answer, but so many people don’t utilize it.  Most banks (like almost all of them) allow you to setup an automatic, recurring transfer between accounts.  So, go in and set one up.  Create it to happen on your actual payday so as soon as money goes in, it goes right back out.  I recommend the minimum amount to be 10% of your take home pay; however, you should really push yourself to do more until you reach that $1,000 balance.  

See if your employer can split your paycheck.

If you would prefer to never have the money hit your account, then see what your employer can do.  A lot of employers are opting for automatic deposits on payday.  Which makes it so much easier for you!  The last few employers I had allowed me to split my paycheck between two accounts.  I could specify either a dollar amount or percentage split between the two accounts.  This way that money will never, ever hit your checking account.  

Put back 10% of each paycheck.

A great way to save more money is budget for at least 10% of each paycheck goes into your savings account.  Even if you don’t have a way to do automatic transfer, you should still be putting back 10%.  Now if you want an extra boost to your savings account, then increase that amount.

Treat it like an expense.

Putting money away for a rainy day should be treated like an expense on your budget.  I’ve talked about this before, but you should pay yourself first.   That means to put money back in your savings.  Treat savings as an expense that must be taken care of ASAP each and every month.

Break it up into weekly payments.

To make it seem less like a burden, you should break your monthly savings amount into weekly chunks.  It helps take the pressure of a large transfer and makes the amounts much more manageable. 

If you have any other quick ways to boost your savings, please feel free to share them below. I’m always looking for handy money tips.

Quick Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress

tips to avoid holiday stress

It’s hard to imagine how it’s already the middle of October.  I feel like it was just yesterday I was putting away my jackets and pulling out my shorts for summer weather.  Now here I am pulling them back out.

Funny story about yours truly.  I had misplaced my house key months ago.  I had tore apart my house, looked through purses, cleaned out drawers, even searched my in-laws home thinking I had left it during a visit.  I seriously could not find it anywhere.  Which wasn’t a huge deal because our house has an electronic keypad through our garage so I didn’t really need it.  But it was driving me crazy because I never lose anything.  Sure, I may misplace something for a short time, but I never actually lose anything.

Fast forward to last weekend and it was a bit chilly in the morning.  I pulled out my jacket and tossed it on.  About an hour later I reached my hand in the pocket and you know what I found? Yep! My house key!  I couldn’t believe it.  After months of searching I had found it.  It never occurred to me to look in my jacket pocket.

I placed my jacket up about the time our little guy was born so I guess between the commotion of having a newborn I forgot.  I hate to lose things and feeling stressed about things, that’s why I am such a planner.  

I love saving time, which also means saving money.  Because if you can plan way ahead then you’re sure to find good deals and save up the money you need.

It might seem pretty early to start thinking about the holidays, the reality is that most of us are too busy and it will be here before we know it.

Now, I’m not the local hobby store and I’m not recommending pulling out those decorations just yet.  But I have created a few quick tips on how to avoid holiday stress.  If you do these now then it will really save you later on when the holiday season is in full swing.  These tips will only take an hour or two at most and it will be well worth it!

Prioritize Your Yes

Sit down with your spouse and get on the same page about holidays.  If you plan now and know what’s important to you and your family then you will avoid holiday burnout.  Now is the time to know what Thanksgiving or Christmas will look like, who’s house are you going to be at, etc.  That way when invitations start rolling in then you and your spouse will know if it’s a “yes” or a “sorry we can’t.”

Establish Your Budget

Sit down and write out every event, gift, and upcoming expense you’re going to have that is out of the ordinary.  I create a spreadsheet in Google Sheets to help narrow down who, what, and how much.  That way I can keep an eye out for sales.  Plus, having a budget really helps keep you accountable.  You can check out my process on how I do Christmas on budget.

Make Your Gift List

This goes with the budget section up above.  By creating your gift list now then you can have more time to buy what you need.  I created my list last week and it has been a life saver.  J and I sat down decided a good idea of what we wanted to get everyone then I created my budget from my list.  

Plan Your Holiday Menu

I’m not saying it’s time to make the pie or Christmas cookies, yet.  Most grocery stores will advertise items at ridiculously low prices to get you to come in. So if you have an idea of what you need to get for November and December then you can add it to your normal grocery shopping.  By breaking down your holiday grocery shopping way in advance then you’ll be able to save money and not have a huge bill later down the road.

What do you think?  What else would you add to avoid holiday stress?