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Chores For Toddlers {How To Know What Jobs To Give and Ways To Introduce Them}

chores for your toddler, 21 month old chores, tasks for toddlers, jobs around the house for toddler, things toddlers can help with, meredithrines, merelynne

Does your little one help around the house? We have a few ‘chores’ around the house that our little guy helps with. Recently I sat down to answer your questions about what chores specifically he does. 

You can watch the video of Chores For Toddlers online or down below:

Here’s the chores our little guy does to help out:

Laundry

He helps with taking the wet clothes from the washer and puts them in the dryer. Sometimes he misses and we end up picking we clothes up off the floor or from hanging half-way out. There are even times where he’ll take wet socks into the family room to show Daddy what he’s doing. But he tries and that’s all that matters.

Feeding the Dogs

We also have him help with feeding our dogs.  J usually helps fill the measuring cup and then Dent puts the food in each dog’s bowl.  Some nights it’s a struggle to get him to stop.  He loves filling the bowls up and wants to keep doing it after the dogs already have the right amounts.

Putting the Dogs Away

With three dogs we have found it’s best to put the bigger one (he’s also the youngest one) in a kennel before we leave.  The other two get a treat as we’re walking out the door.  Dent’s job is to take a treat and put Bud in his kennel. Then as I latch the door he gives a treat to the other two dogs.  They’re patient with him because sometimes he wants to give it to them in the kitchen other times he wants them to be in the family room.

Putting Away Toys Before Bed

With a little guidance our son can help put away his toys. He’s not perfect at it and sometimes he just gets them near the container, but he’s trying.

Sweeping and Swiffering the Floors

The broom and swiffer are his favorite toys in the whole house. So it’s no surprise that he loves to push the broom around. We prefer if he pushes the Swiffer because at least he can get some dog hair picked up.

How to introduce new chores

This part is always a little tricky for me.  It really has two parts and they both have to deal with you as the parent, not the child.  

First – be patient

Second – don’t expect perfection

Our little boy surprises me daily with the things he helps with, picks up and brings to us.  He really does love helping others, it’s so apparent.  So for us, it’s all about being patient to teach him what we want and the outcome.  Then it’s about being okay with mistakes.  

Do I like having dog food spilled on our kitchen floor?  Of course not.  But he’s learning.  Some days are better than others, but with each spill we teach him patience to make sure the job gets done right.  

When we think he’s ready for a new “chore” we contemplate how to break it down.  For instance, with feeding the dogs.  The first step we did was fill the measuring cup and take it over to the right bowl.  As we were over the bowl then we handed the cup to our son to fill, but our hands stayed on it.  As he got more stubborn and able to figure it out, we handed the cup to him to fill the bowl once we brought it over.  Now, he’s able to take the bowl from the container and fill the bowls (or mostly fill) them all on his own.  

It’s all about progression, not perfection.

So if you have something you want your toddler to help with or learn then figure out how to break it down into steps.  Start with the easiest step first then work your way backwards.  If they make mistakes, then take a deep breath and know it will be okay.  Like I said in the video – if the mess is big enough then we’ll sweep or mop afterwards.  But for the most part we just let it happen.

What chores does your little one do? Leave a comment letting me know! I would love to add a few more to his list.

How to Rock Your Job Like a Boss

how to rock your job like a boss

With over 10 years of experience, I’ve learned how to rock your job and help you stick around for the long haul.

Between high school, college and now I’ve had a number of jobs.  Now, don’t start thinking that I’ve job hopped over the years.  That’s not true.  I typically stick at a job for well over a year, but I sometimes add 1 or 2 jobs on top of my main one.  You see, I don’t like to sit still and I like to make money.  So I’m willing to bust my butt to reach my goals, which I have to say, are mighty big!  

Over the years I’ve seen co-workers come and go.  I’ve seen bosses get agitated with some characteristics of my fellow co-workers. I’ve created a list and I want to share it below with you.  There are certain things that we all know we shouldn’t do on our job – steal, lie to our boss, procrastinate, etc.  But do we know what we should be doing?  What qualities do we need to possess to be a standout employee?  Well, I’m here to help.

I’ve always tried to put my work first.  Now, don’t get me wrong – if my family or friends really need me then I’ll be there in a heartbeat.  But I like to think that my strong work ethic at the office has helped my bosses to be more understanding when I do need to take off.  I also try to not make a habit of it.

A few years ago I was working in a small attorney’s office.  At the time, it was just the attorney and me.  Now, years later, the attorney has expanded well beyond the two-man operation from when I first started.  That has nothing to do with me, other than the fact that I was willing to help out and was honest when I couldn’t take on more.  Anyways… back to my story…

A few years ago, one of my closest friends lost someone very important to them.  Now they never asked me to attend the funeral.  They knew I was working and had school, they also knew the 6 hour round-trip car ride wasn’t going to be easy with everything else going on.  But I knew in my heart that I needed to be there.  This girl meant the world to me and she still does. So I asked my boss if I could have 1 ½ days off.  He asked why and I could tell he was thinking – this isn’t even a family member why should I give it to you.  But I said one thing that really helped – I understand this is short notice, I will work late the next few days to get caught up and I do not expect to be paid for vacation time.  He looked at me and said if it’s that important then you need to be there.  I can manage for a day without you, but be prepared to work when you get back.  So I left.  I drove 3 hours home, went to the funeral, sat by my best friend and was just present.  

At the end of the day, I drove back and showed up to work on time the next day.  I worked my tail off getting caught up and none of my work slacked in the least.  I proved that I was worth having.  But what I never admitted and was hoping that I wouldn’t have to is that I knew in that moment how valuable I was.  I knew that I was replaceable, but I also knew my friend wasn’t.  So I was willing to take that risk, but by being granted a little freedom and understanding, I was willing to prove him that I was worth keeping.  That’s what you have to do.  You have to be willing to give more than you take.

Let’s face it – employers are looking for key characteristics of a good employee.  

If you have a few qualities that’s good, majority then that’s great, but if you have all of them then you are going to be in a golden position to work your way up.  

Here’s what I’ve noticed over the past ten years as the qualities employers are craving for in their employees:

clock

SHOW UP EARLY – I understand rare mornings happen and your alarm doesn’t go off or the baby was sick and you just couldn’t get there on time, but the majority of your mornings you need to show up early.  I’m not talking an hour early, but a few minutes or so.  I know when I get to the office, I have to turn my computer on, get some water and set my purse down.  By getting there a few minutes early, I can take care of all of that without rushing around.  That way when 8:00 am hits you’re already at your desk ready to work.

STAY LATE – If the work isn’t done then be willing to stay a few minutes late.  It won’t happen every day and it will really show your employer you’re committed.  

I had a job once I loved.  It was hard and challenging, but I loved it.  My boss was great, my co-workers were wonderful and I went to work everyday loving what I was doing.  So on the rare occasion a client’s documents weren’t completed or a client needed a late appointment, I was willing to stick around.  I didn’t do it because I was hourly and liked the extra 30 minutes of pay – that wouldn’t be worth it.  I did it because I thoroughly enjoyed what I did and liked helping.  That’s how it should be.  

BE POSITIVE – No one likes Negative Nancy.  Don’t be a naysayer.  There is nothing worse than someone who complains all. the. time.  Stay upbeat and you will notice how easy it is to hit your goals or how much more willing your co-workers will be to help you out.  You never know – you’re day may actually go by faster, too!

Ask for more work – Once you’ve completed your daily, weekly or monthly tasks don’t just sit around on Facebook.  Reach out to get more.  Try to learn as much as you can because you never know when it’ll come in handy.  Plus, if you’re willing to take on more work to help out then that might cut back the nights you have to stay late.  Just a thought…

TAKE THE INITIATIVE – This quality goes with the one above it – asking for more work.  If you see something that needs to be done then do it, even if it’s not your assigned task.  It’ll keep you busy, help the office and you might just prove yourself a bit, too.  Plus, taking the initiative means not putting something off until the last minute.  There is nothing more frustrating than watching a co-worker be assigned a task to complete by the end of the month.  Here we are on the last day of the month and they are just starting the task.  Then you find out that they can’t complete their assignment because they don’t have all the pieces.  If they would have started 3 weeks ago when it was first assigned, then they would have noticed what all they needed and it could have been ordered.  

Here’s another example of taking the initiative.  I had a job once where the receptionist was suppose to clean while she had free time.  If we were extra busy one week then the cleaning would slack because she would have less free time.  So if I went to the bathroom, I would just grab the cleaner and wipe everything down when I was done.  It took less than 2 minutes and the bathroom was clean for the next person.  Plus, it really helped out the girl at the front desk who was swamped with calls and appointments.  She was instantly my best friend because I was willing to help her.  

man-person-hands-coffee-large

GO ABOVE AND BEYOND – again, show them you’re worth it.  I am a huge believer in NOT doing the bare minimum.  If I want my job to last and I want to prove that I’m irreplaceable then I am willing to take on more work, work harder than anyone else and commit to the company.  

In one job I had worked my way up to be the office manager, which meant I was writing everyone’s paycheck, balancing books, paying our payroll taxes, ordering supplies, managing and training the staff.  However, the office needed more.  The staff was behind and we needed help with drafting documents.  So instead of saying, “sorry, that’s not my job anymore.”  I figured out a way to help.  I took the smaller cases aways from the paralegals so they could spend more time on the bigger, more complicated ones.  It was hard and I was stressed some days, but being able to help out was so much more important to me.

BE WILLING TO LEARN – The first thing you have to realize in any job that you take on is that you don’t know everything.  With that in mind, you have to be open.  You have to be willing to try new ways of getting the job done and finding better solutions.

BE WILLING TO TAKE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM – I used to be the first one to become defensive when I just felt like I was going to be criticized.  It’s a hard pill to swallow to find out that the work you did isn’t good enough or right.  It’s rough.  But to grow as a person you have to be willing to take criticism.  Now, I am NOT talking about destructive, down-right mean criticism.  I’m talking about listening and learning from someone that is willing to help you grow.  

One really standout way to take constructive criticism is by taking notes.  In the moment, I may not be thinking clear because I’m trying to still defend why I completed those actions.  So by taking notes then I can process everything on my terms.  Plus, it’ll help me the next the situation comes up because I can refer back to what was suggested to me.  It shows the boss (wo)man that you’re really invested in getting better and are willing to learn.

BE OKAY WITH GRUNT WORK – Let’s go back to the time I cleaned the bathroom to help out.  Now, it wasn’t the only time I helped clean that office nor was it the only job I had that I cleaned at.  I remember working at Office Depot my first few years in college.  I liked it for the most part, but my least favorite task was cleaning the bathrooms.  Disgusting.  But it was a task that rotated between staff members so when it was my turn, I would roll up my sleeves and do the best job I could.  

I knew that job and that task wasn’t forever.  And I also knew that I wasn’t too good to scrub a toilet.  I was not raised to think that something was beneath me, so I gave it my all.  You have to be will to scrub a few toilets (figuratively or literally speaking) to get ahead.  What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.

Startup Stock Photos

BE A TEAM PLAYER – you have to be willing to put the company’s well-being above your own.  Now I’m not suggesting you lie, cheat or steal to help the company, but what I am saying is pitching in to help out.  At my current career (I say career and not job here, because this is what I will be doing for the rest of my life) we have quotas to hit. So, as a team we help each other reach our individual quota. If I’ve hit mine then I ask who needs help and vice versa.  That’s they way it’s suppose to be.  If we each hit our quota then we win individually (a nice little bonus!), but if we help the office reach the overall goal then the office does better, which we will see a benefit from in the long-run.

Like I said earlier, you have to have some of these qualities to be successful at any job.  I used a lot of office-type jobs in my example, but I’ve done most types of jobs.  The only one I haven’t done is food.  Well, I worked at an ice cream shop and snow cone stand one summer, but that’s the closest I’ve come to food.  I’ve worked at several different types of retail stores and office jobs, but they all have one thing in common to be successful.

You can check out my other career tips here

You have to be willing to work hard, show up and get the job done.  This is how your rock your job like a boss!

Talking To Your Boss About Leaving Your Job :: My Experience

leaving your jobIf you read my last post about knowing when it was time to leave a job then you know what decision I made.  I have been with this company for over 5 years and have worked my way up from a part-time receptionist to full-time office manager and bookkeeper and then came full circle to a full-time paralegal.  I had signs that showed me this job wasn’t the one for me, but when I realized that then I also knew it was time to talk to my boss.

It’s hard to sit down with someone that you’ve gotten to know over the past few years to have a hard discussion with.  Luckily for me, I can have a pretty open conversation with my boss and walk away feeling that it was productive.  Here’s how I went about talking to my boss about wanting to leave:

1) start the dialogue and letting him know that you want to talk.
2) be honest with how you are currently feeling.  Some may say that the workplace is not the place for feelings, but when you know someone for over 5 years and he’s seen a lot from you then it’s okay.
3) do not back down from what you want.
4) tell him the issues you are having – some may be personal and some may be the office procedures.
5) be flexible about leaving.

For me, there were some cases that we needed to finish up.  Yes, I could have left him without any help, but that wouldn’t have been very nice.  Plus, he’s been there for me in the past and the least I could do was be there.  I sat down and had this conversation about a month before wanting to leave.  That way we both had a specific date in mind and the chance to wind up some cases.

It’s never easy to start a new chapter in your life, but sometimes it’s a necessity.  Do not let being miserable at your job make you an unhappy person.  Life is too short to be angry and sad.  Only you have the ability to make change happen.

If you dream of having a different life or a different career then realize that you might be standing in our own way.  I had so many supportive people around me telling me it was okay to make a switch, but I had to finally believe it to make it happen.

Signs It’s Time For A New Job :: My Experience

signs it's time for a new jobThe end of the year has come and I can finally make a big announcement that I’ve been keeping from you.  The title probably gave it away, but I have decided that I want to change jobs.  It’s been a long time coming and a pretty hard decision.  I don’t love my job, but I am absolutely crazy about the people I work with.  It makes it so hard when you dread going into the office each morning, but know that you are making a difference with the people you work for.
signs it's time for a new jobWhat happens when you think you are ready for a career change?  There has to be some signs that lead you along your way, right?  Well, I had a few signs it’s time for a new job:

1) I dreaded going into the office.  I am never one to dread talking to people and helping people.  So when I started to hate it, I knew I was in the wrong field.

2) It’s not where I saw myself in 5 years or even 1 one year from now.

3) I want to own a business some day and there was no potential for me to own a part this one.

4) I was tired of complaining.

A few simple and direct signs is all it took, well that and about 3 months.  The next step was talking to my boss.  I’ll go more into that in another post.

Image via behappy

Our Evening Routine For A 21 Month Old

Our Evening Routine For A 21 Month Old, bedtime routine, make bedtime easy, sleep training your baby, sleep training your toddler, meredith rines, merelynne

What does your typical evening routine for a 21 month old (or around that age) look like? 

I’m lucky because both me and my husband are home most nights so we handle our son’s bedtime routine together.  We usually trade off jobs for our little guy – one gives the bath while the other one gets his room picked up and pajamas laid out.  Then the next night we switch.  I’ll admit though… Dent prefers J to give him his bath because he plays a lot harder and splashes a lot more water.

We found by sticking to a similar routine each night, it makes things a lot easier on our little guy (and us). The nights we have to switch things up or are running behind are the nights we tend to pay for it… plus it may take Dent a night or two to get back on track, too.  Here’s are average evening routine for a 21 month old:

5:00-6:00

Pick up the little one from the sitter and come home to help with dinner.  We usually have dinner by 5:30 or so and typically J will have it started by the time we get home.  So it’s just a few finishing touches then we sit down together at the kitchen table.  After we eat it’s clean up time.  We usually clean the kitchen together – one of us putting away dirty dishes while the other one wipes down the table and entertains Dent.

6:00 – 7:00

Playtime.  We don’t work on any other chores around the house and focus on playing with Dent.  If the weather is nice, which it’s the middle of winter in Southeast Missouri so the weather is never nice, we will go outside to play on the swing set.  If we’re inside then we play, work on colors and shapes together and just spend time as a family.

7:00 – 7:30

We start our bedtime routine.  Dent gets a bath, we read for a few minutes and then it’s off to bed.  He’s usually sound asleep by 7:30 on most nights – some nights are better than others, but he’s pretty good about falling asleep quickly.

7:30 – 8:00

We work on any laundry that needs to get done and then we focus on chores around the house. We try to tackle a different house chore each night so by the weekend we aren’t spending all day cleaning or catching up on laundry.

Monday – dishes and clean kitchen
Tuesday – laundry and sweep
Wednesday – dust, clean kitchen and clean bathrooms
Thursday – laundry, sweep and mop

On the weekends we try to keep the house picked up and the kitchen straightened so it’s not hard to get back on track the next week.

8:00 – 9:30

After the house and chores all are done, then it’s time to relax.  J and I usually pile on the couch with our dogs, blankets and I grab the laptop.  We watch a show on Netflix and I work on editing a video or finishing up a blog post. 

Here’s a few tips to make nighttime a bit easier:

Divide and conquer – if able too.  If not, then just try to plan as much as possible.  On the nights I’m home alone or J is we make sure to get any pajamas laid out before bath time so we aren’t scrambling around. 

Get ready for the next morning – I like to make his milk with any medicine (that he gets with breakfast) and his sippy cup for the sitter’s house the night before.  I get all the cups, snacks, and diaper bag ready to walk out the door before we go to bed.  That way if we’re running behind or he sleeps in then I don’t have to worry about it. 

Buy easy to prepare breakfast foods – this goes along with getting things ready (and not much on the evening routine, but it helps!).  I like to have breakfast foods that are easy to heat up and serve.  So if that means scrambling some eggs before going to bed so I just have to heat them up the next morning then so be it.

Teach your little one to pick up toys – I love that Dent helps pick up toys before going to bed.  Now I’ll admit he isn’t perfect, but he does help! 

Use a white noise machine (here’s the one we use) to help them sleep through the night. We love our machine, it helps drown out any outside noises, the dogs, and us in the morning while we’re getting ready.

Be consistent – it’s important to be consistent with your evening routine.  I know it’s hard to be perfect 100% of the time, but sticking to a schedule really does help your little one to go to bed easier without fighting.

When he was a lot younger we followed a simple routine to help sleep train him.  It saved our sanity so much! So, what do you incorporate in your evening routine for a 21 month old? Leave a comment below!

Our Debt Story – How We Got Here and How Far We’ve Come

our debt story, paying off debt, debt free journey, meredith rines, merelynne

Today’s post is a little different than most you’ll see on the blog.  Instead of sharing tips and money help, I’m going to tell you a little story.  A story about how our family got into over $70,000 worth of debt without realizing it.  You see, it’s so easy to spend money.  To open a new credit card.  To qualify for that new car loan.  Before long you have a car that has more debt than it’s worth and a credit card that’s charging you monthly interest more than your minimum payment.  

You don’t see a way out.  It’s a vicious cycle that keeps repeating itself.  

Well one day, we weren’t able to get everything we needed at the grocery store because we didn’t have enough in our bank account and our credit card would work.  It was heartbreaking and a huge light bulb moment for us.  

We needed more money.

But how?

We had decent jobs, were making good money and we thought we were living below our means.  But we were so WRONG.

You can watch our debt story online or down below.  Keep reading for more.

We sat down and created a budget.  I remember I grabbed an old clipboard and a piece of copy paper, we sat down on my great grandmother’s flowered couch we were given and got to work.  

We listed out our income – I vividly remember having to log in to our bank statement to see how much we were making.  We had no clue.  Our checks were directly deposited each week, so we never bothered to actually look at the stubs.  We knew a good guess, but it wasn’t exact and we guessed higher than it actually was.

We jotted down our expenses – again having to look at our online banking to know.  We added up our grocery trips, which we made a lot back in those days.  Need bread for dinner? Stop after work.  Ran out of soda?  That’s okay, we can grab some while we’re out.

When we started adding up our eating out totals, that’s when reality set in.  That’s where our money was going.  We were wasting it and on what? 

It was shameful. 

After we created our first list of income and expenses, we just stared at it.  There we were – 20 something year olds and we were in shock.  We had no clue what we made, what we spent and where our money went.  But here it was in black and white.

We then sat down the next night, because the first night was a doozy to create a new budget.  We talked out every expense – how much should we be spending on groceries each month, what about eating out, why is our cell phone bill so high?  All of these questions we had to answer and we had to do it ourselves.  

That next week I spent the better part of a day calling companies to see about lowering bills, turning features off and researching lower cost options.  We switched car insurance providers, removed some fancy features from our cable lineup and set hard budgets for eating out and groceries.  We also decided to start using cash instead of our debit card and credit card.  It was a hard transition at first and we used our debit card a few times as a safety net.  

But after a few months we started to see progress.  We were actually able to get everything we needed at the store.  We cherished our date nights out or dinner with friends because we didn’t do it all the time anymore.  

The first time we were able to send MORE than the minimum payment to the credit card company was a great feeling.  We knew we found something that worked.  

Each week we would sit down together, on that old couch, and update our budget.  We made sure we weren’t going over and we checked to see what else still needed to be paid.  We stopped paying bills late because we created a bill tracker to help us.  We kept it on the clipboard we used that first night. It became the budget clipboard.  Our budget was printed out each month and placed on the clipboard that sat next to our fridge.  We also kept our tracker, our debt payoff letters, and debt thermometer on there, too.

The first time we received a letter stating a debt was paid in full, was amazing.  We were so excited.  I wanted to frame it and actually looked around our house for a frame, but couldn’t find one – I knew going to the store to buy one would be defeating the purpose.  So I put it on the fridge.  Then another one came and another one.  Finally we started keeping them with our budget spreadsheets so we could see them every time we sat down to update it.

It’s been over four years since we started tackling our debt.  We aren’t done yet, but we are close.  We have two school loans left and my car.  Our plan is to have my car paid off when J gets out of school next spring. Then we will be focusing on our school loans and saving for our dream home. 

Each month I share a recap of our budget from the previous month.  You can check out last month’s here and see our current debt payoff totals.

 

Having a budget has helped us more than just paying off debt.  It’s given us financial confidence.  J has been able to go back to school full-time, which means we’re down to just my income.  And it’s okay.  We’re doing great.  We’re still able to live the lifestyle we were living before he quit.  Sure we aren’t able to put as much into savings or put towards our school loans, but we’re still making progress.  Before he left his job and started school, we did a few things:

We built our emergency fund

We saved enough for our insurance deductibles

We paid off all other debts except for my car and our school loan

We sold J’s truck and bought a small car to save on gas (he drives close to 3 hours a day, 5 days a week to get to class)

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

Top Budget Busters and How To Beat Them

top budget busters, budget busters, how to beat budget busters, budget help, meredith rines, merelynne

You’ve tried, Lord knows how hard you’ve tried to keep your budget under control. But out of nowhere an unexpected purchase just throws you off. Now you’re annoyed and want to give up. 

Sound familiar? Well it should because that’s most of us (maybe even all of us).  As Moms, we work hard all day to keep our home organized, our lives and family members in order, we have to manage our time, kids’ time while getting to work every day to provide for our families.  It’s hard.  The last thing we need is something to through our perfect plan into a tailspin. 

Maybe you forgot to stock up on something you typically buy in bulk, you’ve run out and didn’t save room in the budget this month.  It happens.  

Perhaps you have an unexpected work event or something comes up and you need to hire a babysitter last minute.  

For my family, it’s always something with the cars. One needs new brakes, the other needs new tires and they both need an oil change. With my husband driving a lot more lately, we go through a lot more gas, oil changes and tires than we used to. I try to budget for them using a simple method we use for any big expense, but it gets tiring.  This year I vowed to do a better job scheduling these “unexpected” expenses.  

The bottom line is we know their coming, at some point.  We don’t know when, but we know it’s going to happen.  So what we’ve started doing (and I talked more about it in my December budget check-in) is budgeting a flat amount each month to put aside.  That way then something comes up, we can transfer money from a savings account to help cover it.  It might look a little strange in that particular month’s budget spreadsheet, but at least we know we have the money set aside and we won’t be pulling from our emergency fund or taking away from another category.

Here are the top budget busters and how you can beat them.  You can watch online or down below:

Groceries – You’ve planned your meals, looked through your pantry and freezer before going to the store.  You took inventory of everything else that you might need for the next few weeks, too.  You do your grocery shopping, you make sure to stick right to your budget.  You get home and a few days later you realized you forgot something – something more than a few dollars.  You have to have it, so you head back to the store.  I recommend having bigger items that you need on a regular basis on auto-ship.  We use amazon and we may make a quarterly trip to Sam’s Club for anything else.  But we typically get the same items each trip and we get enough to last us until our next visit.  Amazon Subscribe and Save is a great feature – I know other stores have this ability too.  We have our baby wipes, toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. on this.  

Not planning easy dinners – You finish your meal plan and are super proud.  You have a week’s worth – or two – of delicious and healthy meals.  Flash forward three or four days and you’ve had a heck of a day.  You’re tired, your spouse is tired, your kid is tired and you do not want to even think about cooking dinner.  That’s why you need easy dinners.  Something you can throw in your crock pot that morning (we use ours a few times a week during busy times – like holidays and tax season).  Something you can bulk up to have leftovers one night during the week.  If you have a lazy Sunday then make a few freezer meals to have ready on those nights.

Traveling and Eating Out – Traveling can be a real budget drain. You may book your tickets at a good price, get a good deal on your hotel or be staying with family and friends, but when it comes to eating – that’s where you loose most of your money.  Try to be prepared.  If you’re driving then pack a bag and cooler full of snacks, easy lunches and drinks.  That way you don’t have to stop at a fast food place to get lunch on your way.  You can pack your kiddos’ snacks so you don’t have to buy something when you get there or stop at a thousand different places when you’re kid gets hungry – and they’re always hungry.  Look around for local deals like groupon, coupons or sign up for their reward programs a few days before you leave to get any coupons or special deals.

Car maintenance – Take a look at how much you spent last year on car maintenance.  Then get a monthly average.  You should be setting aside that amount each month into a savings account.  That way when an expense comes up, you have the money set aside.  Also, take a good look at your vehicles and see if they will need to be any repairs this year.  Will you need new tires?  How are your brakes? When was the last time you replaced the battery? I know not everything you can be prepared for, sometimes a car just breaks down but having some money put aside will make the sting a little less painful.  We took our annual spending for anything car related, divided by 12 to get a monthly average.  Then we added 10 dollars to it just to be on the safe side.  If you can’t afford your monthly average, then do what you can.  Put back whatever amount you can or set aside any bonuses you have for maintenance.

For more information and budgeting help, check out these posts:

How To Afford Anything You Want

How To Tracking Your Spending

Our Favorite Budget Template

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

2018 Goals for the New Year

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I’ll be the first to admit I will probably date a few documents with 2017 for the next few weeks until I can get the hang of it. No matter how many times I repeat to myself “2018, 2018, 2018” I still end up dating with the wrong year. This will go on for most of January, which it does every year. At this point, I’ve just accepted it. 

This time of year J and I sit down for our quarterly planning meeting to plan the next few months in advance. Planning the next three months out is one of the biggest YES things we’ve ever done. We don’t plan out each day in detail, but we make sure to plan out any out of town trips we need to make to visit family, birthday gifts we need to buy, any bigger purchases that are coming up (like car maintenance, home repairs, etc.).  This planning helps us make sure our budget is right and makes sure that we’re on the same page. 

So before you get too much further into 2018 (I know, today is only day one), make sure to sit down with your significant other and have a calendar in front of you. We use our Google calendar to organize our entire lives. We each have our own calendar and then we have a joint one that we can both see. Whenever I have an out of town conference or he has a late class then we can put it on our joint calendar so we both know about it. I don’t necessarily put my doctor appointments and client appointments on our joint calendar because they don’t affect him. 

This planning also works great for when we’re out with family and friends. If we want to schedule a dinner out or a weekend visit, then we just look at the joint calendar. If that day or time is open then go ahead and schedule. It’s an unwritten rule in our house that when it comes to family and friends, we like to do whatever we can to be there. So if there isn’t anything scheduled, then mark it down. Whatever is on the calendar is something we’ve committed to and that means a lot to us.

After we have our planning meeting, we also like to talk about goals for the new year.  What do you like most about a new year? I love the idea of new beginnings, which means new goals and new successes. For me, I love creating action steps to help reach our goals. Now J has his goals, I have my goals and then we have family goals.  We like to think of our family goals as the driving force behind our decisions. 

This year our word is simplicity. What can we do in our day-to-day lives that can help simplify everything? For us, it means saying no to more and saying yes to what we actually want to do.  It also means making sure our budget tracking is easy to maintain and encourages us to stay on top of it.  That’s why we created the easiest budget template because we wanted something easy.  We wanted something that didn’t take hours to fill out each month and something that told us exactly how we were doing with our money.

I won’t share J’s goals with you because he didn’t sign up to be a blogger like I did.  But I will show you my personal goals and some of our family goals.  It’s funny that some of mine and J’s goals and our family’s goals are pretty much the same.  I think that’s the price you pay when you become a parent – you’re sole focus is the family.

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As you can see most of my ‘personal’ goals involve my family. The ones that are left involve my blog or my day job as a financial specialist.  To me – building those goals will help me reach our family goals because we will be able to provide more for our son.

What are your goals for the upcoming year? Try to keep them short, sweet and to the point. Don’t put too many details in your annual goals because then it makes it harder to achieve.  What we like to do is take our bigger goals and then break them down into smaller ones.  That way we can focus on one thing at a time and measure our success.  If you’re curious, you can check out last year’s here.

 

  

Our Favorite Time of Year

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Christmas is my favorite time of year. Something about the cold air, the bright lights on the Christmas tree, time with our family, and watching our son’s face light up on Christmas morning.

We love being with a family, eating good food and making new memories with our little guy. Last year, Dent was still so young that he passed out half-way through opening gifts and after an hour nap we could continue (ha!).  This year, he loved it. He was showered with way too many gifts, but he loved every second of opening them. J and I stuck to our Christmas budget and was able to buy Dent a few smaller gifts just from us, which meant a lot to us. 

This year I wanted to make a conscious effort to be more present. Sometimes I get so caught up in wanting to take pictures and video so that we never forget this moment, that I don’t actually enjoy myself. So this year was different. Of course I took some pictures, but I wanted to make sure I was right there with him when he opened some of his gifts.  I even asked J to snap a few so I could be in them this year.

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As Moms we get distracted by trying to be perfect – the perfect wrapping job, the perfect gift to be given, the perfect picture, the perfect everything.  And it’s to just be the organizer of everything and let Dad be the one in the pictures and the one helping your child open each present.  

But not this year!

This year, I wanted to be right along side him. Of course I still took a few pictures and J was nice enough to take a few of me with our son. I think there is a fine balance between having the pictures to remember those important memories and then making sure you’re apart of those memories, too.

My Secret Grocery Hack Weapon | The Mommy Hook

Affiliate Disclosure: Please note when you click links and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. 

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Here I am pulling into the garage after what feels like the longest day. I’m tired. More like beyond tired. But of course we need groceries.  We like to go to the store once every two weeks and we had waited way too long this time around. We had no food, no snacks and very little milk and with a toddler that can’t happen.  I barely had pulled into the garage, put the car in parked and turned it off when our son decided to start screaming.  He was tired and hungry. I had a back full of groceries, a kid begging to get out of his car seat and three dogs barking to greet their boy on the other side of the door.  Usually we go grocery shopping as a family, but it still seems like we need an extra set of hands. J helps carry in the heavy stuff – water, sods, dog food and then he takes the dogs outside so they don’t run over Dent when he walks in.  

I try to grab as many bags as I could while wrestling our son to get him out of the seat.  And of course he’s taken off his shoes and socks so walking barefoot across the cold garage floor was out of the question. It took everything I had to not drop him or drop the bags or fall walking up those steps to get inside. 

Then after unloading I had to go back out for another load.  This time the crying kid and barking dogs were on the same side of the closed door and I just wanted the day to be done. 

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What’s one thing as a Mom you wish you could have?  For me, it’s an extra hand to help me carry all the grocery bags, diaper bags, work bags, and every other type of bag that you can think of.  

A few weeks ago while I was traveling for work, I was sent an email from the makers of The Mommy Hook.  They wanted to send me one to try out.  So I did a little research and quickly typed back – yes, please! I need one of these in my life.  Here’s the low down on The Mommy Hook – it’s a clip you can use to carry grocery bags, diaper bags, and store bags all with one hand. Plus, it can even clip on your stroller to help carry all of those shopping bags. Our stroller doesn’t have a big under area for storage. I can’t even fit our new diaper bag under there.

On one of our recent grocery trips I put The Mommy Hook to the test. Because of course I went close to nap time when our little guy was already tired, it was close to lunch and we were both getting hungry. So after stopping at Walmart for a few household items and then going to Aldi for the rest of our meal planning stuff it was time to haul everything inside.

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J was there to help, so he carried some bags in and then went back to get Dent.  Here I was trying to carry in the rest of the bags (because Moms like to make only one trip to get the job done) and here comes Dent. He wants me to pick him up since he’s just so tired.  I pulled out the Mommy Hook and grabbed the rest of the bags, the diaper bag and then picked him up. It was a breeze getting everything inside.

I think it’s safe to say that I am a fan! This might be my new favorite grocery hack!

You can get The Mommy Hook on Amazon and they come in different colors, too.  They are under $8.00 so they make the perfect gift for any Mom (or Dad)!

 

I did receive The Mommy  Hook at no cost, but have not been paid otherwise for this review. All the opinions are my own.
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