Monthly Archives: February 2016

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Our Gender Reveal Party

gender reveal party invite

Not too long ago, I shared some bits from our gender reveal party with all of our family. I started going through all of the pictures from that day once we were able to catch our breaths from all the excitement.

We had ordered a bunch of black balloons and had them filled with the right color confetti.  Then I gathered all of our favorite people – our family and friends to share with us when we found out.  I really wanted it to be a family event.  Deep down I knew it would be perfect if we all found out together.  After all – it takes a village and I want our village to be involved as much as they want with our kid.

So we gathered around, each couple with their own balloon and push pin.  Then at the count of three, we popped.  After waiting for all of the swirling confetti to settle, we were able to see the blue covering the ground.  It was priceless!  Just what I wanted.  But I also wanted to capture it on video to share with the rest of the family that couldn’t be there that day.

I ended up really upset because the video my sister recorded was nowhere to be found. I searched my camera, my memory card on my Mac and on a PC, but still no video. I was devastated. The one thing I wanted from the day was to capture the moment we found out and everyone’s reactions.

I didn’t have it.

Now months later, I was downloading other pictures and guess what appeared on my memory card?

THE GENDER REVEAL VIDEO!

What?! I couldn’t believe it. I immediately copied it to several places on my laptop. Then I edited it so I could add in some pictures and music.

Here’s the long-lost video from one of our favorite days.

To watch the full video, head to YouTube.

I think I’m Nesting

I keep hearing from all these women that I meet how I’m going to start nesting.  I mean, literally from the first 5 weeks of pregnancy I just kept hearing about it.  I know they are probably speaking from experience, but isn’t nesting just getting ready for the baby?

According to American Pregnancy, “Nesting during pregnancy is the overwhelming desire to get your home ready for your new baby.”

friends, monica, nesting

I think that’s fair.  I’m not trying to go above and beyond.  I haven’t turned into Monica Gellar and want to clean everything in sight.  I am not overdoing it (at least not yet, I guess) on nesting.  I’m doing what I have to get ready to bring a baby home from the hospital, or at least what I know needs to be done before baby.  I know with this being our first, I am going to miss a lot.

You see, the nursery was once a guest bedroom.  So the bed and dresser had to go.  Well the dresser had to go because J bought this oversized set before we were serious so I didn’t go with him to pick it out.  The dresser is as tall as me… 5’3”.  No joke.  The room is small, so we needed our dresser to be our changing table as well.  A dresser where I have to stand on my tipp-toes with my arms over my head will not work.  At all.

But J didn’t want to get rid of the dresser, because it’s very nice and it had a matching bed (that’s in our other guest bedroom, but don’t worry the dresser won’t fit in there either) and a night stand (that’s in our master bedroom as a tv stand).  So we had to move it into the garage for storage.  

Well if we were moving furniture into the garage then we need to make space for it.  We cleaned out the garage, removed a workbench and added shelving.  That was easy – one day and we were done.

Now the dresser fits in the garage and we can move the old dresser from the guest room into the baby’s room.  Easy.  My Christmas present was a new dresser so that new one will go into the guest bedroom because the drawers are bigger and I need more storage then the baby at this point… at least that’s what I’m assuming.

Once we got the dresser and the bed out of the way then we needed to work on the closets.

J and I switched closets since I was using the nursery one and guest bedroom one.  I took over the bigger master bedroom closet and gave him the smaller guest room one.  

Now with closets and furniture out of the way, it’s time to paint.  

That’s it… well at least for the back-end of the house.  I also went through our glasses to get ready of over half so that I can move my baking cabinet to one that was used for glasses.  Now I have an empty kitchen cabinet for all things baby.  

Makes sense right?

I don’t think I’ve gone crazy on the nesting yet.  Once the nursery is done and I can start putting the little guys’ belongings and clothes away then it might be a serious case of nesting.

DIY Dryer Balls – How to Save Money on Laundry

DIY Dryer Foil Balls, diy dryer balls

To go along with our Focus on Finances this month, I’m sharing a tip on saving money with your laundry.  This one little tip can really add up the savings!  These are the easiest DIY dryer balls you will ever see! Hands down!

This past weekend I decided to really catch up on all of our laundry.  When I say really catch-up that means run close to 6 loads in one day.  For two people that’s a lot.  Now if you have several children and they all play sports or are just kids then you may feel 6 loads is an average.  But around our house, 6 is a lot.  

DIY Foil dryer balls, save money on laundry, diy laundry balls

What can 2 people dirty up in one week that requires 6 loads of laundry?  Well… let me tell you…

I did our clothes, J’s work uniforms, sheets and towels, blankets from our bed, blankets from the couch, and rugs.  I probably could have broken up our clothes into at least 2 loads, but our new washer is the best.  We just purchased a brand new washer from Sears.  It is the first new washer I’ve ever owned.  I’ve always had hand me downs, which was great!  They were free and did the job just fine.  But now that I’ve had the taste of what a new washer is like… boy! I can’t wait to get a new dryer to match!  This new washer really holds a lot, especially compared to the little guy I had beforehand that got me all the way through college.

By the end of the day, our clothes were full of static.  It didn’t help that I had been going non-stop and the fact it was barely 30 degrees outside all day.  Whenever the temperatures drop, the static goes up in our house.  I have been researching like crazy on a way to handle all of our static electricity without adding too much to our laundry costs each month…

how to save money on laundry

Let’s be honest, when it’s 30 degrees or even when it’s 90 degrees, I am not going to hang our clothes on a line to draw.  During the summer months, we have too many mosquitoes and the last thing I want is to give them a landing ground that will end up inside.  Plus, I’ve never hung clothes on a line.  Sure, we hang our nice clothes up to dry, but not t-shirts and towels.

I think I found it… I found the solution…

Foil dryer balls.

DIY Dryer Foil Balls

I’ve seen the wool, felt balls all over Pinterest and they look great.  But let’s be honest for a minute, I am not going to take the time to make them.  It’s just going to happen.  I need a quick-fix.  Plus, I don’t have the yarn I would need to make these amazing dryer balls and I’m frugal… so I like using what I have on hand.

Enter in…

Foil dryer balls.

What?!!?

You read that right!  I am now using foil dryer balls in my dryer.  They work great!  I did some research to make sure I wouldn’t be starting a fire by putting foil in my dryer.  After reading about it, I realized that it would be safe.*  The dryer hose is foil, right?  I gave it a try and I’m in love.  

Here’s what you need for foil dryer balls:

a few sheets of foil

tennis ball (optional – see below why you may want one)

make your own dryer foil balls

If you want to just use foil, then wad one piece of foil into a ball and then wrap the other sheets over it to make it a bit bigger.  The foil dryer ball will last quite awhile so there isn’t a need to replace after every cycle.  These will really, really help with static cling.  Especially right now with the weather getting colder and the air getting dryer, I’ve noticed most of our loads of laundry are full of static electricity.  

dryer balls

Ever since I started using the foil dryer balls, our static issues have vanished.  

Why is a tennis ball optional?  Well let me tell you…

A benefit of the felt dryer balls is the weight.  The weight of the balls causes them to bounce around while the dryer is going, which helps make your clothes softer and fluffier.  So, that’s where the tennis ball comes into play.  

You can wrap a tennis boil with the foil.  Do several layers of foil.  They will hold up in the dryer and provide the weight you need to get your clothes and towels extra fluffy.

Soft and fluffy cloths aren’t really a necessity in our house.  I hang-dry most of our nice clothes and I don’t really care if our bath towels are extra fluffy or not.  But it is a great option that’s still inexpensive.

I bet you will notice a difference when you start using foil dryer balls in your dryer.  I did!
*please do your own research to make sure.  Just because it worked for me, I don’t want anyone blaming me for any mistakes.

How to have a Productive Week

how to have a productive week

Ever have a case of the Mondays?

Nothing is going your way. You just can’t seem to catch up and the thought of getting ahead is probably not going to happen until Friday. Let’s be real – this is not our week.

Well that was me most Monday mornings. I was struggling bad. I would always have these great hopes of kicking the week off with a bang, but then it wouldn’t happen.

Until I changed one thing… one simple thing.

I plan on Sunday nights.  

That’s how to have a productive week.

That’s it. Simple huh?

I take a look at my calendar on Sunday evening while J and I are relaxing in front of the TV. I keep J and I’s calendar on Google – one for my personal events and one for the family and/or J’s events.

I like to take a quick glance at the week ahead to know what I’ll be up against. If it’s a quiet week then I don’t need to do much planning, but if it’s going to be a hectic one then I typically start laying out how it’s all going to go.

Especially with it being tax season, I’m working 6 days a week and it’s really easy to get behind on stuff around the house. I like to plan out when we’re going to go to the grocery store, work on the nursery, meal planning, and what appointments I have at the office.

Meal planning has been such a huge help for J and I lately. I wrote about how we meal plan awhile back (I even have a freebie planner to download), and it’s such a great tool to have. Especially on the nights I have to work late. I can typically plan something easy to make that night and J will have it ready for when I get home.

It’s awesome!

What do you do to get ready for a busy week? I swear by planning ahead on Sunday nights and would recommend it to anyone and everyone!  This is how to plan for a productive week.

My Baby Boy

Dear My Baby Boy,

I can’t wait to meet you, but take your time.  I may be in a rush to see your face, hold you and count your toes; but I don’t want you in a rush to come any time soon.  You still have awhile to grow and develop, so take your time.  

I haven’t even met you yet, but you are my greatest accomplishment.

a letter to my baby boy

It’s no lie that pregnancy hasn’t been my thing.  I was sick, very sick for a long time.  I might be tired a lot and I may not always do the ‘perfect’ thing, but please make no mistake – you are the best thing that will ever happen to me.  You are worth every uncomfortable adventure I’ve faced these past few months.  

Your dad and I can’t wait to show you the world.  To teach you and to learn from you.  You may not realize what all you will teach us over the next period of our lives.  We may not do everything right or by the book, but you have to realize that we are learning and doing the best we can.

We promise to protect you, but give you wings to fly.  We will support you, but also keep you grounded.  You will be the apple of our eye, but you will not come between the love we have for one another.  Your dad and I are best friends, we chose each other out of everyone else in this world and we have promised to love one another and support one another for the rest of our lives – and we plan on doing this.  But please understand – we would do anything for you.  We would go without so you can have plenty.  

As your parents it’s our job to make sure you know just how special you are, but also how hard you have to work to get anywhere.  We plan on showing you the ropes, but allowing you to learn and make mistakes along the way.  We will guide you through the hard times, but we’ll give you the space you need to learn right from wrong.  

We know, because we’ve been there, that you can do anything you set your mind to.  We want you to feel accomplished in your life – not by the amount of money you make, but the happiness you feel in your heart.  

We will cherish every moment we can with you and promise that you’ll be our little boy for the rest of our days – even though you will hate being our baby at some point in the future.  When that day comes, we will respect the man you’re becoming but just know that it will be hard to not see you as our baby.  The one we prayed for, stayed up late holding, and answered thousands of ‘why’ questions for.  

I know you’re still inside me, growing and kicking (a lot), but I can’t wait for our life as a family of three (with three dogs, of course!) to begin.  Take your time, just because I’m anxious to meet you doesn’t mean you’re ready to come into this world just yet.  I will be patient.  I have a feeling you will be testing my patience a lot for the next portion of my life.  I’m okay with that.  I just want to be the mom that I know you deserve.  

The Easier Cash Envelope System

To go along with our Finance Focus February theme, I’m sharing a cash envelope system technique that is way easier then carrying cash.

The other day while doing our budget, which I update almost daily (I share why below), I took a close look at how we were doing using Dave Ramsey’s envelope system.  I shared how we got started on it and how we set it all up.

We so enjoyed carrying cash with us and that it was always super easy to have at our finger-tips.  I even loved going to the bank twice a month to pull a wad of cash out – I need so many $20s, so many $10s, so many $5s, etc.  It was awesome!

Dave Ramsey envelope system

NOT!

It got old, real fast!  So I came up with something else… a technique that works best for us.  I call it…

The Easier Cash Envelope System.

The Easier Cash Envelope System, Dave Ramsey

I know, I know.  I’m super creative with my names.  You don’t have to tell me how I should win an award for coming up with the best name ever!

I was at the bank one day, waiting in line to withdrawal our cash and I was just annoyed.  Don’t get me wrong, I love our bank.  The people are nice and they are so easy to work with, but it was getting old.  On this particular day I decided to go inside.  It was always easier to go inside to do a mix-match of cash withdrawal.  Plus, it was raining so I thought it would just be easier.  I guess everyone had the same thought as me because the line was long.

As I’m standing there I kept thinking that there had to be an easier way to do this.  There just had to be!  

I came up with an idea and ended up talking with one of the personal bankers.  I would open up two more checking accounts.  One for me and one for J.  I would connect them to our main account and then every two weeks I would just transfer the money over.  Genius!

Our bank is great!  There is no limit to the number of checking accounts you can have and no minimum balance requirement.  That way if J or I ended up spending every last dime then we would not be penalized.  I even set up overdraft protection (at no cost, unless we used it) that our main checking account would cover.  We never plan to overdraft, but it doesn’t hurt to have the protection.

This easier cash envelope system was working perfectly!  I had my debit card, J had his and we were in happy-happy land.  J was never crazy about the  idea of a debit card.  He likes cold hard cash.  That way he knows at any given moment how much he has left.  I like the debit card because I don’t spend it as fast.  He has weekly bowling that he has to pay for and it’s either check or cash.  So the debit card wasn’t the easiest tool for him.

So we compromised!  Marriage is all about compromise, right?!

I took his debit card and made it my grocery account.  He goes to the bank and withdrawals his own miscellaneous money.  

Now every two weeks I transfer my miscellaneous funds to my account and I transfer our grocery budget to our other checking account, then J goes to the bank and withdrawals his cash.  Which means no more waiting in lines for me!  No more post-it notes with how many bills I need and feeling like I’m slipping the teller this awful “hand it all over” note.

cash envelope, merelynne

So easy!

Here’s how our banking situation looks like:

Joint Checking – all of our incomes comes in and our bills come out of this one.

My Checking – whatever I want to spend the money on – hair, clothes, books, etc.

Grocery Checking – we spend this at the grocery store (#duh)

Emergency Fund – we keep at least our insurance deductible amounts in here, plus a little extra

Tax Fund – we transfer money into this account each month so that by the end of the year we have enough to cover our personal and real property tax.  Plus, we have our home insurance that is paid from here in the summer.  

I could probably add a vacation savings, but until we’re debt free that’s not a huge priority.  If we have a trip plan then I just transfer bonus money into our emergency fund and keep up with it on our budget spreadsheet.  I’ve shared how I use Google Sheets as our check register, well I use it for our budget too.  That way we can access it from anywhere.

I’m telling you, if your bank will let you open up multiply checking accounts that are connected AND it doesn’t cost you a monthly fee… do it!  This is the easier cash envelope system that makes it much more likely for you to stick with it.  

No more having to remember to run to the bank, no more carrying a bunch of cash and a massive wallet with you.  This is what works!

To read more focus on finance tips and posts, check out here.

Valentine’s Day Recap

habits to better your life

Are you a big fan of Valentine’s Day?

I’m not. Sure it’s nice to be remembered, but I would rather spending time through out the year telling J how much I appreciate him. I don’t need one day to do it. Plus, it’s a lot of pressure for J to plan this perfect day.

I usually try to skip it. Last year, Valentine’s Day fell on Saturday and I was working (#taxseason) so J did something super sweet and had flowers, balloons and cupcakes delivered to my office. It was so sweet! And totally unexpected.

But this year we’re focused on our finances and planning for our little boy to arrive. We agreed to take it easy this year. We decided to have a nice dinner out, just the two of us. We made it special. We went to a restaurant that we normally wouldn’t go to very often.

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You know what? It wasn’t what we planned because of the snowy/icy weather that hit our area, but the whole day was great!

I loved every minute of it. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be this over-the-top day with flowers and lavish gifts. It can be just about the two of you – spending time together, reconnecting.

J hit up the local Dollar Tree and purchased a sweet, sweet card and small box of chocolates.  Some of you might be gasping, but $2 Valentine’s Day was perfect.  The thought of watching our money meant more to me than anything.  Then with the weather messing up our plans, we stayed in town.  We went to a seafood restaurant that we had been hearing about.  It was so good. I of course went all out with a fried shrimp Po’Boy because those are my favorite.

My friends and I went to New Orleans for my Bachelorette Party and the whole time I ate only shrimp po’boys. For real! I could eat them at almost every meal.

I did have a side salad to start with so I wasn’t too crazy with only fried foods, plus it was way too big and I could only eat half.

valentine's day recap

In my true typical style, I didn’t take any pictures of the two of us, but I did get on of my food. #priorities

After dinner we came home and just relaxed.  No laundry, no dishes and we didn’t even work in the nursery.  It was wonderful!

It was probably one of our favorite Valentine’s since we’ve been together – minus our first one because we had just gotten engaged and it was such a magical time.

I really love that man!

Establish a Savings Goal – Focus on Finances

Establish a Savings Goal

Alright, it’s time to get serious.  We’re about half-way through the month of February and we’ve been financially focused all month.  It’s been great.  We’ve been keeping an eye on our spending, watching every penny.  It’s paying off too.

By looking at our budget, we’re on track to really accomplish some great goals this month.  However, there is one goal I want to add to our list.

Why add something that could mess us up?

Well folks, I like to live on the edge.  I want to push our boundaries.  Why?  Because I can and I know we can rise to the challenge.

Our newest goal is to establish a savings goal.  We are going to save $300 by the end of the month.  That’s right, 300 big ones in less than 20 days (17 days to be exact).  It’s going to be a lot of work and take a lot of sacrifice, but it can be done.  Why $300?  Well we’ve had a few necessities come up in the past few weeks (darn hot water heater going out!) and an extra $300 in savings would really help us get over the hurdle.

Think about it! In less than 20 days you could have an extra $300 saved.

That’s huge!

Your goal doesn’t have to be the same as mine.  Talk it over with your spouse to set a realistic goal for your family.  Get your whole family on-board with this one!  We’re going to skip going out to eat these next two weeks which will easily save us close to $100.  Boom!  Now we only have $200 left.  We’re going to stay in town, which means quite a bit of savings in gas and having to spend money on food.  We’re also going to only buy the necessities at the grocery store and use up the extra meat we have in our freezer.

Here’s how to hit your new savings goal:

Start using your cash envelope system – today!  Not sure what a cash envelope system is or how to get started.  Read this post.  It will help.  I also answered a few questions about getting started with the cash envelope system – you can read that one here.  It’s super simple to use and really makes you aware of your spending.

Cut additional spending.  Take a look at your budget and wipe out everything that you don’t need to live on – eating out, shopping, etc.  No more going to the local coffee joint for your morning jolt.  Make a list of what you’re spending money on every week and see what can be cut out.  If you’re keeping up with your budget, then this is an easy step.  You should already be tracking what your spending.  I recommend using Google Sheets to track your spending.  We use it as a check register so it can be accessed anywhere!

Start your creative juices.  Start thinking of things you can do with your spouse, your family and with friends that doesn’t cost money.  I like hosting pot lucks with friends.  That way everyone brings a dish and you can sit around visiting.  J and I like doing movie nights together.   We’re cuddle up on the couch with our pups and have a nice date night at home.  We watch a movie we have on hand or see what’s on TV.

Plan your meals.  By planning ahead on what you’ll be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner then you can really save some money.  We like to meal plan on Sunday nights then we make a list of the items we need to make it all happen.  Make sure you’re checking your fridge, freezer and cabinets for anything you might need that week.  You could start by seeing what you have on hand and planning around those items.  That way you can save even more!

Don’t spend money you don’t have.  This is an easy concept, but some many people fail at it.  You tell yourself that you’re using your credit card for the reward points, but don’t actually pay it fully off.  You send in about $1,000 a month, but are spending close to $2,000 or more.  That’s how your debt can spiral out of control!  Use cash or debit cards for purchases.  To hit our goal of saving $300 in 17 days we will only be using cash or our debit cards.  Our credit card, though it offers nice reward points, will be sitting at home.

What are you going to do to save that extra money this month?  Make it a big goal that you can really see yourself achieving.  It’ll be a nice accomplishment in 17 days to see all the money you saved. Let’s get started!

Financially Preparing For Baby

How to financially prepare for your new baby.

The other day J and I were having our usual discussion of going out for dinner or staying in.  I know I’ve said this a hundred times…once I’m home then I hate getting back out, but I hate cooking even more!  

After some serious thought and way too much time, we decided to stay in.  Really the thought process went like this…

J: What’s for dinner?
Me: I don’t know.  What do you want?
Me: I don’t want to cook and clean, that’s for sure!
J: Well we could go out.
M: Yeah, but I want to eat for cheap – like less than $20.
J. Well I don’t want fast food.  So what do we have here?

There you go… I’m stuck on how much we spend and J doesn’t want crap food.  So we stayed in and cooked.  We cooked dinner together and then worked on the dishes together.  It was a win-win-win.  Win because we didn’t spend any money since we used what we had.  Win because he had a healthy dinner.  And win because I didn’t do it alone.  

These small thought processes have overtaken us lately.  As we’re preparing for the baby to arrive, we’ve been thinking more and more about money and teamwork.  We’ve been taking a few steps here and there to prepare.

As you probably can tell, the theme for February is Focus on Finances.  So today, we’re focused on financially being prepared for our soon-to-be baby boy.

I want to share how we’re financially preparing for baby with a small budget.  

I mentioned a few weeks ago how we were making small budget changes since the beginning of the year, but I wanted to dig deeper into a few areas that are going to make a huge difference.

habits for a better life,

When we put together our master budget back in January, we talked about how our lives were going to change with a little one around.  We knew that we would have late nights, long days and be overwhelmed at the beginning.  We really have no idea what to expect.  The one thing we did agree on is…

…we do not want to be thrown a financial curve ball when we’re lacking sleep.

So to overcome this fear, we started budgeting as if the baby was already here.  We had two reasons for this:

  1. we didn’t want to face a financial hardship from our lack of planning.
  2. we wanted a financial plan for our money since we are going to have another person to care for and provide for.

Here’s what our budget looked like back in January – I have changed some of the numbers because, well, that’s private.

You will see two categories that may not make sense for a couple who doesn’t have a baby yet.  Those are Groceries & Diapers and Daycare.  Both of us will be working full-time so it’s important we find a daycare for our little guy.  

We estimated the monthly increase to our grocery budget to cover diapers, wet wipes, and such.  That way we could have a more accurate budget to go off of.  Then after researching we discovered a daycare we liked and found out how much their weekly charge is.  We figured by adding these expenses in now then we can start to learn what are spending will look like.  

Honestly, I didn’t want to wake up one more out of diapers and not have the money in our account to go by them.  That was a huge fear for me.  

As a team, we decided to add these estimated expenses to our budget so we could be prepared.

Here’s what you need to do to add in your future expenses:

  1. Take an educated estimate of what the expense will be.  Call around to get an idea of what it’s going to cost you.  You may have to think outside of the box for any expenses you have coming up.  For us it was daycare and a dog sitter.  We knew when we traveled to visit family we probably wouldn’t be able to bring our 3 dogs with us the first few trips.  So we factored in the increase cost of boarding into our budget.   
  2. Figure this estimated cost into your monthly or weekly budget at least 6 months before the expense will start.  This way you can get a feel for how it’s going to effect your budget.  Now if you find out the cost is too much for what your income and other living expenses are then you can make any changes, find a less expensive option or see if it’s really worth doing.  At this point you can also weigh other expenses you’re paying for to make sure they are still worth it.  For instance, you’re budgeting for your newborn baby’s formula costs and learn it’s going to be a little too tight for comfort around the end of each month.  Well maybe at that point you decide to lower your cable package to free up some cash at the end of the month.  Small changes will make a huge difference.  In the end it’s all about educating yourself before the stress of a newborn comes. 
  3. A great tip is to physically transfer the money from your checking account into a separate savings account.  This way your checking account will be accurate with your anticipated new expenses and you won’t feel tempted to spend money earmarked for a future bill.  We transfer ours into our emergency fund because we know the account is off limits except when there is a legitimate reason.  By placing the money into your savings account you will quickly build an emergency fund for those unexpected needs after your baby arrives.  

I also recommend building your emergency fund to $1,000 plus what your insurance deductible is going to cost.  A few weeks after your baby arrives you will start to receive your hospital bills.  Luckily insurance will cover majority of the cost, but you could still be liable for a hefty deductible.  Most deductibles range from $500 – $1,000 per person in your family (ours is $1,000 per person with a $5,000 family deductible).  You will feel a huge relief by having an emergency fund of $1,000 (for those unexpected emergencies) and with an extra $1,000 to cover your insurance deductible.  

After we added in the necessities into our budget, we started to look at items that we knew we would need versus the items we just simply wanted.

Needs vs. Wants

  1. Crib – to me a crib is a need.  Sure you can make due with a less expensive bassinet, but for us a crib makes more sense.  We know we want our little guy to be in his own bed starting at a young age.  Plus our bedroom is small and there will not be room for a bassinet or a pack-and-play next to it.  We have seen talk about a Dockatot and are curious about those.  It might be something to invest in (or ask for as a gift), but we will cross that bridge later.  So we plan on investing in a crib that will eventually change into his toddler bed.  We have done research and our deciding on a crib from Walmart.  We asked for one from my parents and they are amazing, so we are getting one.  We chose from Walmart because it will be easy to exchange if something is missing from the box (since we live in a smaller town), plus they have the best price.
  2. Car Seat – again, this is a no brainer.  We must have a car seat and I want one that is rated high.  We found this car seat from Chicco and fell in love.  It is rated very high on Consumer Reports for crash protection, which was vital to us.  It’s important to research safety items for crash protection, ease of use and just overall satisfaction.  That way you know you’re getting a quality piece that will last for a long time.  
  3. Breast Pump – I do plan on breastfeeding so I know a breast pump will come in very handy for when I go back to work.  By doing some research I discovered how to get my breast pump for free and I highly encourage you to do the same.
  4. Swing – I go back and forth on whether this is a need or want.  Deep down I know it’s a want, but I realize just how much easier a swing will make things around the house.  So I plan on asking for a swing for one of my baby showers and hopefully we will get one.
  5. Changing Table – We have a dresser in his room that is packed full of all his goodies.  So in my mind I will be using this dresser as his changing table.  I do not see the value of investing in another piece of furniture as a changing table.  Sure they may have compartments and drawers specifically for diapers, wipes, and creams; however, this is one area that we can cut our costs.
  6. Special Bottles – Unless our little guy has bad gas, I don’t plan on purchasing expensive bottles.  I have heard good things about Dr. Brown’s and their price is comparable to other bottles I found at the store.  I think these can be good transition bottles from a newborn to older since they have interchangeable nipples for older babies.

Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding

We plan to breastfeeding and am hoping that it works out for us (my take on breastfeeding vs. formula feeeding).  I think breastfeeding will be a huge money saver.  Not only is breast milk like liquid gold, but it’s also free.  If you have a small budget then breastfeeding is the way to go!  However, if you decide not to breastfeed or can’t then DO NOT feel bad about it.  The end goal is to have a healthy baby, so either way you get nutrients into their system is fine.  If you decide not to breastfeed or find out you can’t, you just need to take the steps from above to add the expense into your budget.  

Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers

For us we understand the added expense of disposable diapers, but this is the route we are still going to take.  If you want to keep your budget with a little room then cloth diapers may be the way to go.  However, we feel like we can make it work with disposable diapers.  A lot of moms feel that cloth diapering is great and they love how it saves money, but that’s a personal preference.  I like the ease of disposable and that draws me to them.  My mother-in-law did tell me how when her twin boys (my brother-in-laws) were younger she received a subscription for a cloth diapering service.  I think it was for the first year.  This service would take away old diapers and bring new ones each week or so.  I can imagine a service like that being invaluable and it might be worth it to add to your budget if it’s an interest.  

Baby Clothes

One of the easiest ways to save money is on baby clothes.  If this is your first baby then chances are you will be receiving lots of clothes from your baby showers.  It seems clothes are one of the most gifted items to expectant mothers.  If you need to fill in any gaps then buy USED.  Consignment stores and yard sales are a great place to buy quality pieces at a huge discount.  You may even be able to negotiate a lower price at a yard sales, which means even more savings.  

Also, another way to save on clothes is if you have any good friends or family members who have recently had a little one.  You can borrow the clothes their baby has outgrown.  Hopefully the seasons will line out so it makes it easier on you, but even then you can probably make most of the outfits work even if the season is wrong.  Because I don’t think it matters if you’re little one is wearing a Valentine shirt in March.  If it fits then don’t worry about it. 

Finally, you will want to reevaluate your budget once your baby has come.  This is a great tool to get your new budget categories added, but reality could be much different.  I created a recap of how this preparation really helped us after our little guy was here.  We did a lot of things really well, but we didn’t fully capture everything we should have.

 



 

 

Just remember this technique can work for just about any big life change you have.

That’s what’s so great about it!

Getting ready to move?  Take a look at what changes in income, if any, you’ll be facing.  Have you looked at what the living expenses are going to be?  There is so much to consider when planning a move…

rent increase (or mortgage)
insurance increase
grocery increase
gas for your (will you be driving further to get to work?)
and many, many more

Maybe you’ll be lucky and there won’t be any increases.  Maybe the clouds will open up and you will actually have a decrease…

What about thinking of quitting your job to become self-employed.  You need to really think about what your realistic income will be and try to start living off of it.  There are some great articles out there on preparing to become self-employed.  I really liked the one “How Much to Save Before Quitting My Job” by GoGirlFinance.  

The biggest thing you have to do is plan it out, think it through and then commit.

Thrift Store and Flea Market Shopping Tips

Thrift Store and Flea Market Shopping Tips

Before moving to our current town, I would scour the local antique malls, flea markets and thrift stores for some really great deals.  Typically, I would buy pieces that I could re-purpose – clothes that I could sew or re-create, furniture that needed a little TLC, etc.  I loved it!  There was nothing better than waking up on a Saturday morning grabbing a big cup of coffee to go and wandering through great finds.

Now that we’re here, there isn’t as many stores that I can get lost in.  There are a few around town and now that we’re expecting our first little one, I’ve decided to kick up my hunting skills.  I’ve developed a few top tips when heading out to a thrift store or flea market.  You need to make sure you’re getting a good deal and not buying something that you will never use.  So…

Thrift Store and Flea Market Shopping Tips

Here are my thrift store and flea market shopping tips to follow:

Make a plan: In college I would wander aimlessly through the stores without a real plan or thought in mind.  I could get away with this for two reasons – I didn’t have a lot of space in my tiny apartment so that would stop me from over buying and second, I didn’t have much money.  Nowadays, I have a bit more room, but I don’t like spending my hard-earned money so I have to create a plan.

I want to know what I’m looking for.  Am I trying to find a piece that will fit above the guest bed?  Am I trying to complete a gallery wall in our family room?  Whatever my goal is that’s what I look for.  I try not to get distracted by items I don’t need.

Don’t buy what you don’t need:  It’s easier said then done.  That really cool purse is only $5 and you can think of 20 different outfits it would go with, but there’s a kicker.  You don’t need another purse that will end up in the bottom of your closet.  You have to be tough when it comes to spending money at the thrift store.  Love a dresser, but have absolutely no where to put it?  Then don’t buy it.

Keep it balanced:  I try to replace items that are falling apart or I get rid of something.  If I’m buying something that’s new-to-me then I like to donate or sell something I don’t use anymore.  That way I don’t become a hoarder and can keep my house clutter free!

Time your trips:  It’s no lie that Spring is the best time to hit up your local flea markets and thrift stores.  You know of a little thing called, Spring Cleaning, right?  Well that’s when people go through and clean out items they no longer need or want.  So it’s a perfect time to do a little shopping.  However, you can always find good deals when you have a careful eye.  I recommend talking to employees at the local stores to find out when they put out new items.

Don’t believe every price you see:  Just because it’s used doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good deal.  You have to make sure you’ve done your homework.  Sure, you can probably look at a pair of shoes that are in good condition to decide if it’s worth the price, but look around before you buy any big-ticket items like furniture.  I like to look at craigslist to see what others are selling a similar piece for or look online to get a good idea.  If it’s not a good deal then pass it up!

What are some of your thrift store and flea market shopping tips?  I’d love to know!

Looking for more budget tips?  Check out here.