My Kind of Christmas: Gifts for Dental Hygienists

wpid-img_20130830_100750.jpgI’ve been a little occupied lately (as of writing this post, still awaiting baby 2.0…) but as evident by the busyness in the stores, Christmas is in full force. I accidentally went to the store last Friday and couldn’t figure out why it was so busy, not remembering it was Black Friday. I was actually embarrassed to find myself a part of it. I was ignorant though and truly had forgotten (though should have figured it out when I realized something we had been looking for was on a super sale). I’m happy that this pregnancy has forced one thing, to be prepared for Christmas early this year. It’s nice to sit here in the beginning of December and know I’m totally done outside of wrapping, and a few food items that have to wait for obvious reasons.

Since my husband and I bought our house, we haven’t done a lot for each other in terms of Christmas and now that we have kids, it’s definitely more about them (proper thing) but we still do something small. Every year it’s a struggle because I’m an uber practical person and like my gifts the same way yet he doesn’t think buying me a new broom is a fun gift. Being a dental hygienist though opens up a whole plethora of gift ideas for him to get. If you’re fortunate enough to have one in your life and are looking for a gifts for dental hygienists, I can help!

Dental Themed Jewelry

Ok, I know it’s cheesy but there’s something kind of cute about little teeth earrings or a tooth fairy necklace. Dental themed jewelry is great gifts for dental hygienists. I traditionally don’t wear much beyond my wedding rings and simple earrings but every now and then I do break out my sterling silver ‘teeth earrings’ and have fun with it. If you’re looking for a gift for dental hygienists, and unsure what to get, it’s probably a safe bet. We all secretly kind of love anything dental related, jewelry included.

Massage

Working in dentistry is HARD. It doesn’t matter if it’s the dentist, the assistant or the dental hygienist, it is physically demanding work. Years of awkward positioning and bending to accommodate patients makes one sore and if you really want to wow the dental hygienists in your life, a massage would make an amazing gift for a dental hygienist.

Dental Themed Christmas Ornaments

Our family Christmas tree is an eclectic collection of ornaments from trips and memories made. I love it. My tree wouldn’t be complete without at least one dental themed ornament though. I have two and love them both. Check out local craft fairs or a site like Etsy.com if you’re looking for a perfect Christmas tree ornament as a gift for a dental hygienist, they’re guaranteed to love it.

Whether you have a dental hygienist in your life or are simply looking for a gift for dental hygienists in general (I know I’ve personally been given a few great gifts from patients over the years), these are a few good starting points. The only other idea I can suggest as a gift for dental hygienists would be chocolate, we always love and appreciate chocolate, we just brush really well afterwards!

Financial Literacy Month: Games to Teach Kids How to Count Money

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Financial literacy awareness is so important. Like most things, I believe the earlier you start, the better your chances of success are, especially in terms of education. My daughter may only be four but we’ve already been active in trying to educate her on financial matters. To make it fun though, there are things, like games to teach kids how to count money, which make it more fun and entertaining. She thinks we’re just playing but we’re actually teaching her useful, everyday financial tools.

November, being financial literacy month, is the perfect time for me to talk about various games we’ve used to teach kids how to count money, ones that we’ve had success with. I really do believe that playing these silly games is making a difference in my daughter’s life now and more importantly, in the future, when she’s independent and away from the financial protection of her parents. I want her to avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made and learn from our past.

Games to Teach Kids How to Count Money

There are three different things we do or games we play that help teach our kids how to count money. The first is simple, piggy banks. We currently have two piggy banks on the go. One to save and one to spend (adding a third ‘’to give’’ is also a good idea). My daughter understands that when they get full, she will either be able to spend or save (ie deposit into a bank account) its contents. We give her coins, usually just a few cents at once in various coinage and allow her to decide what goes where. Though she doesn’t quite understand the value of a quarter, she is old enough to understand when we tell her it is worth more than, say, a dime. Once we go through the explanation of denominations, she counts her different coins, dividing them between her piggy banks. How she divides the money really depends on her mood. Sometimes she’s all for saving and other times she has something in mind and decides to put almost all of it in spending. We let her decide.

Another useful game to teach kids how to count money is actually quite fun. For it we use monopoly money and allow her to ‘’buy’’ things. We don’t need to use monopoly money, real cash would work too, but we really are making a game out of it. We’ll give her 10 $1 bills and allow her to buy objects of different values. I will go to the dollar store and pick out a few decent toys/stickers/treats and apply values to them. They will be valued in such a way that she could never afford to buy everything at once teaching her not only to count the bills when ‘’paying’’ but that you can’t necessarily have it all. We’re at the point now though, at 4.5 years we can start to give her real cash and actually buy something from the store itself. I’ll give her $2.00-$3.00 and go into the store explaining what she can and can’t buy with her counting her coins.

One of the best games to teach kids how to count money, in my opinion, is to buy a toy cash register. One was given to us when my daughter was about two and she still loves playing with it. There are toy coins that go into various slots and she’s at the point now of counting the denominations on the coins (1,2 or 3) and adding them in her register. She will usually sell us things, and we have to buy them from her fake store. Most of the time it’s food that she sells, like the grocery store, but the main point is that she is counting the money to give to us and helping us decide if we have enough money to buy what the object is.

There are a ton of games to teach kids how to count money out there. Pinterest has a mecca of ideas but these are a few we keep going back to and seem to be working for us.

How did you come up with creative ways or games to teach kids how to count money? Either your own kids or others close to you?

Christmas on a Budget: Easy Homemade Christmas Gifts

pepermint foot soakSince my daughter was born I’ve been doing what I can to keep Christmas costs down. This is even truer now that I’m on maternity leave again with baby #2 on his way. I’ve always felt that Christmas gift exchange should be more for children than adults, and now that we have a child I really wanted the focus to be on her and not among the adults in the family. Having said this, I love giving people gifts so I’m my own worst enemy. This is where easy homemade Christmas gifts come into play. I can keep costs down and still satisfy that gift-giving itch.

There are a ton of easy homemade Christmas gifts that you can make. The options really are limitless. I will say though, in the past I have made the mistake of trying to make an easy homemade Christmas gift only to have it cost way more than this actually buying something so do your research first!

This year my daughter and I have made a list of things we plan on making and a detailed list of what we need to get in terms of supplies. If you’re looking for a few easy homemade Christmas gift ideas, feel free to steal our plans!

Ornaments

I don’t want to give out specific details of what we plan on making just in case one of our recipients happens to read this, but we have three different ornaments in the works this year. I love handmade ornaments and they happen to be a very easy homemade Christmas gift that anyone can attempt because there are simply so many options. One of our ornaments will be 100% toddler made (we’ll see how it turns out) while the other two are legitimate, pretty ornaments that if they turn out, people will look forward to hanging on their tree. To make the three types of ornaments I estimate we’ll spend a total of less than $15 in supplies. Not bad for five different gifts!

Baked Goods

This can be an easy homemade Christmas gift only if done right. Baking can be extremely expensive and it’s easy to get carried away. That said, baking is still often cheaper than buying something but definitely do your homework on this one before committing to something. My sister and I bake every year, a whole day of whipping up our favorite creations. This will be the first year that we haven’t done it since we were teenagers. Having a marathon baking session while either 9 months pregnant or just recovering from having a baby isn’t my idea of a good time though. Every year we spend about $60 in ingredients ($30 each) and about another $10 in gift packaging. We divvy up our goods between about 12 people/families in total with a final cost of less than $6 each.

Spice Jar Creations

I haven’t decided if I’m doing this again this year or not, but have done it in the past. If you have access to a bulk spice store (or bulk section in grocery store) you can make a really great, easy homemade Christmas gift and you probably don’t even know it. Last week I was in my grocery store looking for a single spice and was shocked to see a small bottle of steak seasoning was almost $7. You can make a lifetime supply for $7 if you’re inclined to and you should because it is so easy. What I love about this easy homemade Christmas gift is that there are so many options and you get a good reaction out of people. They’re genuinely excited to try what you’ve come up with. You can dress the gift up in a few ways too with packaging choice and make a very inexpensive gift look quite fancy. If you haven’t done this before it really is one of my favorite easy homemade Christmas gift ideas because there are a ton of combinations out there. A simple Google search of homemade spice combinations or borrowing a library book will give you limitless options for what you want to create in your little spice jars so give it a try.

There are so many easy homemade Christmas gift ideas out there it’s worth a look into. Too often do we get carried away and spend a ton of money on store bought gifts but with a little effort (and I do mean very little effort in some cases) you can make a beautiful and easy homemade Christmas gift that will be appreciated much more than anything bought at a store.

Encouraging Toddler Independent Play Without Breaking the Bank

I’ve officially been on maternity leave for two weeks; although I think I’ve been busier in the last two weeks than had I been working full-time. My mommy sense is that I will go into labour early and I want to try to get as much done as possible before that happens. This includes prepping for baby as well everything Christmas related. It’s been fun! We originally pulled Maria out of daycare to save on costs while I was off work. She was now stuck at home with mom, running errands and totally reliant on independent play.

I really didn’t think this would be an issue. She’s always been great at independent play but something has been different. She’s growing tired of being home with just mommy (and soon to be baby boy) and looking for more stimulation. Thankfully she’s old enough to understand that mommy isn’t trying to ignore or brush her off, but that I have a lot going on physically (there will be no playground chasing like her friends would be doing) and that mommy and daddy really need to get everything prepared. We’ve been balancing her independent play time with some quality family and friend time too which seems to be keeping her happy. Having said this, if I’m to expect her to primarily be relying on independent play (again, nine months pregnant, busy and soon to have a newborn) I have to supply her with some supplies and preparation. Here are a few ways I’ve been encouraging her independent play time (with or without other toddler friends) and not spend a ton of money.

Plan Play Dates

Most all of my friends with children are working full time. I have one other friend currently on maternity leave so we will be capitalizing on our overlapping time off together to get our two toddlers together and play. They’re both four and have at least three years between them and next sibling so are quite used to independent play time. My friend and I have planned cheap dates for the girls which allow them to play independently (though, together in this position) while we do what we need to do. In our current situation, I capitalize on the time usually resting a bit with kiddo being preoccupied, and my friend feeding/taking care of her new baby or just having a break from being her toddlers only entertainment.

These play dates don’t have to be anything special. The beautiful thing about toddlers is that they can be pretty easy to entertain. We’ve done totally free independent play dates such as playground meet-ups which usually involves meeting (with coffee for momma) and letting kids run around for an hour or so together, or something like going to each other’s house for the kids to make crafts or just play.

Free Community Events

Now that I’m off, I have some time to see what’s going on in our community for my daughter to participate in. In the last two weeks we’ve already gone to the library where she had some independent play time in a different atmosphere (same toys as home for the most part but suddenly they’re more fun when they’re not actually yours?) and looked into free events such as introduction to flamenco dancing for toddlers. With Christmas approaching there will be quite a few things for us to do with free toddler craft classes and things like Christmas book readings. Getting out of the house will be nice.

Dollar Store

I won’t lie, I love the dollar store and frequent it more than I care to admit. The dollar store is what allows me to get things done while my daughter is having independent play and craft time at home. At least once per week we head to the local dollar store to gather new craft supplies. Usually simple things like stickers, craft paper or coloring pages. For just a few dollars she has hours of independent play time. We’ll spend a few minutes together each week looking up fun things to do on toddler craft websites and kiddo has tons of fun executing what she finds, she’s become very competent with using scissors in the last few weeks!

It would be easy for me to pay upwards of $50 per day trying to keep my daughter entertained outside of the house but we simply can’t afford to do that while I’m on maternity leave. Encouraging independent play for my daughter is what is keeping us both sane and my budget intact!

Breaking My Money Wasting Habits

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Humans are creatures of habit. We create, or inadvertently fall into, our routines and have a hard time straying away from them. I personally like being a creature of habit. I like routine and the predictability that comes with it all. September to June are definitely more zen for me than July and August. Some of my daily routine is the same in the summer but we have more disruptions as a whole, and while things like family vacations are always welcome and usually needed, I eagerly await that return to normalcy. Most daily routine habits are harmless but I think we have all fallen victim to at least one money wasting habit in our lives.

For me, one of them was my daily walk at lunch. When I’m given enough time I try to get outside for a quick walk around my workplace to break up my day. What started as a just a daily walk, turned into a near daily stop at the drugstore for whatever object (usually a bottle of water or something even more stupid like nailpolish) and finishing with a coffee.




I don’t even remember how it happened. I would walk, on the way back go into the drugstore and then finishing with a coffee before returning to work. Once in a while, not a big deal but I was starting to do this 3-5 times per week and I was starting to notice specifically that I didn’t like it. I was uncomfortable with this new routine. The waste of money- I didn’t really need anything at the drugstore nor did I need that second coffee for the day so I had to do something about it.

The first step in breaking my money wasting habit was recognizing exactly what I was doing. This is often the hardest part for people. For me, the clue was, one day I went for a walk per normal only realized I didn’t have my wallet on me. For a second I felt panicky then recognized exactly what was going on. I was going for a walk, why did I need access to cash? It was then that it dawned on me what I had been doing. While small in comparison to some people’s money wasting habits, me wasting that $20 per week wasn’t going unnoticed and I knew it had to stop.

Once I realized what this new habit was doing to me (wasting upwards of $80 per month on stuff I didn’t need) I came up with a plan to stop, immediately.

My routine used to be going for a simple walk. What had changed? For me it started by buying more water for the rest of my shift (I’m not opposed to tap water but that tap water at one of my workplaces  just doesn’t taste good). I was bringing water with me (I’m rarely seen without my refillable water bottle on me, anywhere) but my bottle was empty by lunch and I’d want more. Rather than go to the store to buy more, even if it was less than $1, I simply started filling up two bottles in the morning and carrying both with me to work. Problem one fixed.

The second part of my money wasting habit was buying a second coffee in the day. I’m not going to get into the whole ‘’latte factor’’ argument because quite honestly I think it’s stupid, spend your money how you want within reason and without compromising your other goals. It wasn’t about buying the coffee because for me, most days I was already buying one coffee in the morning and was fine with it. Once you start doubling that though, it was too much-for me.

This habit started when I began volunteering to pick something up for one of our receptionists while I was going out. Most of the time she’d say no but every now and then she’d ask me to bring her back a coffee and this opened the passage for me to get one for myself at the same time. She stopped working at our office but I continued to go for that coffee anyway. This was an easier habit to break but I did it. I would leave my wallet at work and not allow myself to stop. I won’t lie, I missed that second coffee but after about three days I didn’t think about it again and started to enjoy just walking.

A new habit isn’t necessarily a bad (or money wasting) one but when you notice it starting to affect the rest of your finances in a negative manner, action needs to be taken. Here is a another good resource for how to help break bad habits you may have.

What habit do you have/did you have that you consider to be a money wasting habit? How did you solve the problem?

How I Will Manage My Time on Maternity Leave Using Online Shopping

Student Loan RefinanceHappy Halloween!

Now that I’m officially unemployed for at least a year, I’ve been getting many comments (most in jest) about how they wish they could get a year off too. I know most people realize I won’t exactly be sitting poolside for a year drinking mojitos but unless you’ve actually taken extended time off to raise a newborn you really have no way of appreciating just how hard it will be. Me working full-time (in my career), is, without a doubt, easier than staying home with one, let alone two, kids. These next 12-13 months are going to be a challenge but I plan on utilizing online shopping to help me manage what will be my new chaos.

First, I will note that online shopping in Canada is still completely archaic compared to what is available in the states. It aggravates me with our lack of selection of stores and extreme shipping, handling and duty costs. It is slowly improving but not there quite yet, in saying this, I still plan on utilizing what I can to help me manage my time (and sanity). I’m not exactly looking forward to doing too much venturing out with a newborn and four year old, in the winter, all while in what will likely be a complete sleep deprived state.




Groceries

I’m actually very excited about this one. Friends of mine have been doing this for a while but I’ve yet to start. I will be able to but all our non-perishables via Walmart Canada and shipping is free. Though there was a time I enjoyed grocery shopping, I actually hate it now. I don’t mind going to our local market(s) for our fruits/veggies and meat but hate the large grocery store. I feel like I waste time trying to go through my list and itemize everything. It’s even harder when you have a toddler (can I still call her that at 4?) who’s trying to be helpful but coloring over your list or grabbing/asking for other non-list items. When both husband and I are both available to either kid-watch or take in the agony together, it’s usually later in the day, we’re hungry, not interested in going, or on the weekend- you know, when the entire world wants to get it done.

I’m hopeful that using online shopping to get some of our groceries will help keep our budget under control (we almost never go over budget at the small market where we get produce and meat), and save time.

Christmas Shopping

Given that I’m already 8.5 months pregnant and can’t easily walk more than 15 minutes before I start having contractions, Christmas shopping isn’t exactly at the top of my list of things I want to do. We’re not doing much for Christmas this year, we’ve scaled back significantly (even from our already fairly modest Christmases in the past), but there are still a few things we want to get our daughter (newborns don’t need anything do they?). Rather than trying to be sneaky about going out to do things (four year olds ask a lot of questions), or asking friends or family to pick things up, I figure buying online and having them shipped right to me will make things easier.

Baby Needs

Since I plan on breastfeeding again, I hope my only regular baby need will be diapers and wipes. Item that when you need them, you need them. Especially with a winter baby, and not wanting to venture out (with, or without kids), I love the idea of these showing up on my doorstep just when required.

Truthfully I’ve never been a big shopper. Though I do see myself in a mall more in the next six months than I likely have been in the last six years (mall walking in the winter to get out of the house and get some exercise) but I don’t plan on spending any more money. I’m glad things like online shopping exist to allow me to take care of my family’s needs while enjoy our new addition.

Do you use online shopping? What for primarily?

Why I’m Selling my Daughter’s Stuff (and what I plan to do with the money).

And who will clean up this mess?One thing I quickly learned with having my daughter four years ago was how much stuff kids acquire. Some of it is actually quite useful in their own way but let me tell you, there is so much you simply don’t need (some of this you don’t realize until after first kid). It didn’t take us long to become very vocal with some gift-giving guidelines in attempt to control the accumulation, some of which were listened to, but some clearly ignored. I understand giving to a child is out of the goodness of the gift-givers heart but it can be so painfully unnecessary (like the new Barbie just because it’s Tuesday and the sun is shining).

Gift Giving Rules for our Kids

When we realized (very early on) how much people liked to give to our daughter, in attempt to reign in the stuff, we vocalised that should the person feel so inclined to buy something for her (especially while she was so young she didn’t even realize a gift was being given), that they may consider giving us the money instead (even for that $5 toy she probably doesn’t need). We would put the money into her post-secondary education savings (in our case, an RESP). I’d much rather have $5 invested at three years old for another 15 years to be used for her future, than a toy she might play with for a few days, max.

Books are always welcome. I have no problem with having a house full of books for my children and will always find space for them, if you can’t come up with a gift idea and don’t want to give cash, get a good book. Books are probably the only item that doesn’t drive me crazy when it’s laying around somewhere.

Consider buying or contributing to something she needs. Clothes come to mind. Kids grow very fast and even with my frugal shopping for her wardrobe, chances are we’ll always need clothes (or coats, or shoes). Even if it’s a snowsuit that might not fit her for a whole year, it’s a gift much appreciated come the time. She also partakes in both dance and soccer both if which have their own gear and would benefit from either financial contribution for dues or buying new gear (again- growth is an issue and we won’t get more than one season out of most items).

The Over and Above

Obviously these aren’t the only things that are given to her and I don’t want to come across as being a scrooge of a mother but my GOD there’s a lot of stuff. Now that we know baby 2.0 is a boy we’re starting to purge some of her stuff out of the house.

I’m a big proponent of donating to those in need so we have given a huge portion of her gently used clothes to various charities. These aren’t the kinds of items I want to benefit from financially, I’d rather give to someone who truly needs it but the items that we can sell for a small profit, we will. Most of it are baby items of hers (very girly baby toys or things like past Halloween costumes) and some of it is my maternity clothes (pregnancies in opposite seasons). We’ve only sold a few items so far at about $10 each but we still have quite a bit of stuff to go through and post as well.

Most of the stuff we’re selling are items we bought so I don’t feel guilty about selling but there will be items that were given to her by others. Obviously people don’t expect us to hang on to everything given to her, but especially if someone else paid for it, the money from all the item sales will go back to the kids. As tempting as it is to sell this stuff off for a small profit and keep it to do as we please (mommy and daddy want a date night…or pay down debt…), the money will be going right back to them.

Maybe the money will be used to help offset her ballet tuition in the new year, or some clothes for the impending little man, either way the money will only be used for them in some way for some need and this way I feel everyone benefits.

What do you do with your kids outgrown/out used stuff?

Mommy Realization: My Kids Don’t Care if Their Room is Coordinated

crib-890565_640When I was pregnant with my daughter, the room in our house that would become her bedroom was the only untouched room in our house. We had painted and renovated almost every other room in our house but that was the final one. It had become a bit of a storage room for all our random stuff. I found it difficult to not obsess over how we were going to prep this room for her. It was going to be her space, created at first, by us.

We picked paint colors, crib, curtains, and pictures for the wall. I wanted a fancy rocking chair, change tables and shelves full of stuff for when she came home. I’d spent hours days scouring websites like Pinterest trying to perfect her room. Our only restriction in the end, was money. We didn’t have anywhere near the money to prepare the kind of nursery I thought she deserved and needed and it took me a while to accept it. We were gifted a beautiful new crib, we found some pictures on clearance and bought her curtains off a sale rack. The chair I nursed her in was an antique that we borrowed, there would be no fancy change table and shelves were never hung displaying her baby stuff.

Over four years later, I can honestly say, none of it mattered. The paint needed to be done since the room pre-paint looked like someone chugged a bottle of Pepto Bismol and threw up everywhere but other than that none of it mattered. She didn’t notice the pictures, the matching curtains or lack of stuff. We never bought a rug to put on her floor and we changed her wherever we needed to, since there was no dedicated change table. Four years later, she’s a pretty happy kid and the lack of perfectly coordinated nursery-turned-toddler room hasn’t mattered once.

She now sleeps on my husband’s childhood bed and loves it. Her walls are covered in wall decals that she’s picked out and placed herself (you can imagine how that looks). She does have shelves, which I made and painted myself and holds a fraction of her massive book collection. She loves them.

As we prepare to welcome baby 2.0 in the next few weeks (scary that I’m talking in weeks now!) I realize so much of what we think is important for our children isn’t. I’m a member of a few mommy boards and creep on some websites and blogs and it’s so easy to tell first time moms from experienced moms. The rooms are no longer coordinated, they’re not dropping hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on perceived needs for their baby. One feed on an app has 576 current photos of moms sharing their nursery pictures. In my creeping and estimation I’d value the average room at a minimum of $2,000 (and according to at least one source, that’s a low estimate).  I’m not judging though, really, it’s a process I think most first time parents will go through and it’s so hard to resist.

We were stopped only because our bank account wouldn’t allow it and know what? I’m glad. I don’t miss anything we didn’t have. Not once do I wish I had a dedicated change table or wipe warmer. With this pregnancy, the room will be slightly made over once again as the kids will be sharing a room until we move and we won’t be spending much money. This time it’s not necessarily because we don’t have the money, I could have definitely saved a chunk of change since finding out I was pregnant, but because I know what’s important and what’s not.

We’ll be painting our daughters purple bedroom in the next few weeks to something a little more gender neutral. She will be still be sleeping in her daddy-turned-big girl bed with pink and purple ballerina’s all over it, while little man will eventually sleep in his crib across the room with whatever bedding we have laying around from the first time. I value my money and respect that my children understand that having a coordinated bedroom simply isn’t a priority in our lives. The fact that they’re in a safe room which they can call their own and have fun making memories together is all they need. The money that we do or don’t spend on coordination simply won’t matter to them, and now, to me.

How We’re More Financially Prepared for This Maternity Leave

kids being expensiveIt’s hard to believe but we’re three weeks away from me going on maternity leave. Though I’m not due until December 16th, I’ve run the numbers and it actually makes more sense for me to go off work early than continue to work for another month. I have to pay an annual license fee for work which is a substantial amount of money, as well keeping Maria in daycare full time, means we actually lose money versus me claiming unemployment a few weeks early.  I was put off work early during my pregnancy with Maria due to wicked carpal tunnel pains and it’s starting to rear its ugly head again so it’s all good that I’m planning to be off early anyway.

The difference between this pregnancy and the last, is that we’re actually prepared. With my first pregnancy, we didn’t have a great handle on our money and quite honestly I had no idea how we were going to make it all work. It was during this pregnancy that we really got our finances in gear so it ended up being a bit of a blessing, but my memories were full of stress.

We Have an Emergency Fund

This is one of the biggest difference between the two maternity leaves. We had absolutely zero savings when I was off with my first leave. If something were to have happened, we would have had to borrow money from somewhere or someone. Thankfully nothing major happened and we were ok but it was a stress I never want to experience again. Having an emergency fund is one thing, having, needing, an emergency fund while your income is significantly decreased is another. While on maternity leave I have no other income outside of my federally funded pay which is menial compared to my employment income. With no other way to bring in income for the 12 months, we need to have some extra cash on hand.

We Actually Understand Our Money

It wasn’t until I was about 70% through my first maternity leave that we figured out a budget that worked for us. Though it has evolved many times, I have a confidence in our money management skills and know what we need to do to make our decreased income work for us. This alone is a huge stress relief.

We’re Earning More Money

Though I will be claiming maternity leave for the time I’m off (upwards of 67 weeks in my case, 15 weeks of sick leave if needed, 52 maternity) at a loss of about 60% my net income pre-leave, it will still be a bit more than the last time I took leave four years ago. My husband is also earning more, these two things alone, assuming everything else is the same, will help.

We’ve Paid off A LOT of Debt

We’re not debt free, not even close (and I totally understand couples who choose to wait, so it’s an argument I don’t want to get into), but we’re much better off than we were four years ago. I have to be honest I don’t have the numbers memorized, or in front of me (bad PF blogger, I know) but I estimate we’ve paid off close to, if not more than $70,000 worth of non-mortgage debt since my last maternity leave started. A huge help.

Waiting even another year to have another child could have obviously made another substantial difference on our finances for many reasons (more savings, more debt pay off) but in the end we’re comfortable with where we’re at. It’s not for everyone, again, I get that, but it will work for us. There will never be a ‘’best time’’ for us to add to  our family but the fact that we have a good financial understanding of where we are enables us to make decisions like having more kids and that’s enough for me.

3 Ways to Save on Halloween

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DIY costume circa 2014

Ummm how is it October?!

I have to admit that I haven’t always been a Halloween lover. Even as a kid, though I had fun trick-or-treating with friends, putting together a costume and getting ready for the day was a chore. As I got older I found myself kind of dreading the day and the expectation of partaking in the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, there are components I like, cute decorations and candy are fun, but for the most part it just wasn’t for me.

Then I had a kid. Who doesn’t love a little person dressed up and who is super excited? It’s fun and even the biggest Halloween scrooge will smile. My daughter seems to be taking after her aunt in her love of all things Halloween too. On a recent trip to the local dollar store she would have left me broke given her way and purchased every single Halloween decoration in the store. Thankfully I managed to get away with only purchasing a cute Halloween magnet craft kit for her, coming in at $1.25 (this was a huge victory).

So, especially with a kid who loves Halloween, and as someone who is admittedly getting more into it, how do we save on Halloween? By following a few key rules.

Avoid the Store Costumes

When my daughter told me she wanted to be a (pretty) witch this year, I was super happy as I knew it would be easy and cheap to make. Then she ended up in the mall with her dad and saw a fancy mermaid costume that caught her eye, she then spent the next three days begging us to buy it (justified by wearing one costume to her party and the other trick-or-treating). At almost $40 alone for the costume it wasn’t happening.

If you want to save serious money on Halloween, especially if kids are involved, skip the store costumes. Though it takes more time and some creativity, making your own is so much cheaper. If I can manage to make a costume for my daughter, anyone can. Websites like Pinterest, though can sometimes lead to frustrations, can actually be very helpful in this area in terms of both ideas and execution. I’m happy to report that my daughter’s ‘’pretty witch’’ costume is going to end up costing a total of $10 thanks to searching out sales, a little effort and creativity.

Limit the Decorations

I get it, they’re cute (or spooky, or gory, whatever you’re going for) but they’re also not necessary. Limit your decorations to ones that you can reuse year-to-year rather than the one-time use decorations that are out there. This time last year, at another dollar store excursion with child in tow, I didn’t make it out so well and ended up buying about $15 in decorations which we put out and then tore down when it was over, totally wasting money. A paper ghost that couldn’t be saved, a plastic witch that ripped everywhere we tapped and a few hanging things that didn’t even make it to Halloween. Instead we’ll limit our decorations (current and future) only to ones that we can reuse.

Buy at End of Season

When Halloween is over, consider stocking up for the next year. Though she may change her mind, I’m willing to bet we’ll be able to buy that mermaid costume for upwards of 75% off when the season is done. This is what we did two years ago, we bought two princess costumes on serious clearance and last year our daughter opted to wear one for Halloween. Even if she hadn’t they were used all year playing dress-up.

Halloween can be fun, but with so many expectations to partake in it, it can also be hard to know where to draw the line.

How do you manage to have fun without busting the bank?

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My Kind of Christmas: Gifts for Dental Hygienists

wpid-img_20130830_100750.jpgI’ve been a little occupied lately (as of writing this post, still awaiting baby 2.0…) but as evident by the busyness in the stores, Christmas is in full force. I accidentally went to the store last Friday and couldn’t figure out why it was so busy, not remembering it was Black Friday. I was actually embarrassed to find myself a part of it. I was ignorant though and truly had forgotten (though should have figured it out when I realized something we had been looking for was on a super sale). I’m happy that this pregnancy has forced one thing, to be prepared for Christmas early this year. It’s nice to sit here in the beginning of December and know I’m totally done outside of wrapping, and a few food items that have to wait for obvious reasons.

Since my husband and I bought our house, we haven’t done a lot for each other in terms of Christmas and now that we have kids, it’s definitely more about them (proper thing) but we still do something small. Every year it’s a struggle because I’m an uber practical person and like my gifts the same way yet he doesn’t think buying me a new broom is a fun gift. Being a dental hygienist though opens up a whole plethora of gift ideas for him to get. If you’re fortunate enough to have one in your life and are looking for a gifts for dental hygienists, I can help!

Dental Themed Jewelry

Ok, I know it’s cheesy but there’s something kind of cute about little teeth earrings or a tooth fairy necklace. Dental themed jewelry is great gifts for dental hygienists. I traditionally don’t wear much beyond my wedding rings and simple earrings but every now and then I do break out my sterling silver ‘teeth earrings’ and have fun with it. If you’re looking for a gift for dental hygienists, and unsure what to get, it’s probably a safe bet. We all secretly kind of love anything dental related, jewelry included.

Massage

Working in dentistry is HARD. It doesn’t matter if it’s the dentist, the assistant or the dental hygienist, it is physically demanding work. Years of awkward positioning and bending to accommodate patients makes one sore and if you really want to wow the dental hygienists in your life, a massage would make an amazing gift for a dental hygienist.

Dental Themed Christmas Ornaments

Our family Christmas tree is an eclectic collection of ornaments from trips and memories made. I love it. My tree wouldn’t be complete without at least one dental themed ornament though. I have two and love them both. Check out local craft fairs or a site like Etsy.com if you’re looking for a perfect Christmas tree ornament as a gift for a dental hygienist, they’re guaranteed to love it.

Whether you have a dental hygienist in your life or are simply looking for a gift for dental hygienists in general (I know I’ve personally been given a few great gifts from patients over the years), these are a few good starting points. The only other idea I can suggest as a gift for dental hygienists would be chocolate, we always love and appreciate chocolate, we just brush really well afterwards!

Financial Literacy Month: Games to Teach Kids How to Count Money

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Financial literacy awareness is so important. Like most things, I believe the earlier you start, the better your chances of success are, especially in terms of education. My daughter may only be four but we’ve already been active in trying to educate her on financial matters. To make it fun though, there are things, like games to teach kids how to count money, which make it more fun and entertaining. She thinks we’re just playing but we’re actually teaching her useful, everyday financial tools.

November, being financial literacy month, is the perfect time for me to talk about various games we’ve used to teach kids how to count money, ones that we’ve had success with. I really do believe that playing these silly games is making a difference in my daughter’s life now and more importantly, in the future, when she’s independent and away from the financial protection of her parents. I want her to avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made and learn from our past.

Games to Teach Kids How to Count Money

There are three different things we do or games we play that help teach our kids how to count money. The first is simple, piggy banks. We currently have two piggy banks on the go. One to save and one to spend (adding a third ‘’to give’’ is also a good idea). My daughter understands that when they get full, she will either be able to spend or save (ie deposit into a bank account) its contents. We give her coins, usually just a few cents at once in various coinage and allow her to decide what goes where. Though she doesn’t quite understand the value of a quarter, she is old enough to understand when we tell her it is worth more than, say, a dime. Once we go through the explanation of denominations, she counts her different coins, dividing them between her piggy banks. How she divides the money really depends on her mood. Sometimes she’s all for saving and other times she has something in mind and decides to put almost all of it in spending. We let her decide.

Another useful game to teach kids how to count money is actually quite fun. For it we use monopoly money and allow her to ‘’buy’’ things. We don’t need to use monopoly money, real cash would work too, but we really are making a game out of it. We’ll give her 10 $1 bills and allow her to buy objects of different values. I will go to the dollar store and pick out a few decent toys/stickers/treats and apply values to them. They will be valued in such a way that she could never afford to buy everything at once teaching her not only to count the bills when ‘’paying’’ but that you can’t necessarily have it all. We’re at the point now though, at 4.5 years we can start to give her real cash and actually buy something from the store itself. I’ll give her $2.00-$3.00 and go into the store explaining what she can and can’t buy with her counting her coins.

One of the best games to teach kids how to count money, in my opinion, is to buy a toy cash register. One was given to us when my daughter was about two and she still loves playing with it. There are toy coins that go into various slots and she’s at the point now of counting the denominations on the coins (1,2 or 3) and adding them in her register. She will usually sell us things, and we have to buy them from her fake store. Most of the time it’s food that she sells, like the grocery store, but the main point is that she is counting the money to give to us and helping us decide if we have enough money to buy what the object is.

There are a ton of games to teach kids how to count money out there. Pinterest has a mecca of ideas but these are a few we keep going back to and seem to be working for us.

How did you come up with creative ways or games to teach kids how to count money? Either your own kids or others close to you?

Christmas on a Budget: Easy Homemade Christmas Gifts

pepermint foot soakSince my daughter was born I’ve been doing what I can to keep Christmas costs down. This is even truer now that I’m on maternity leave again with baby #2 on his way. I’ve always felt that Christmas gift exchange should be more for children than adults, and now that we have a child I really wanted the focus to be on her and not among the adults in the family. Having said this, I love giving people gifts so I’m my own worst enemy. This is where easy homemade Christmas gifts come into play. I can keep costs down and still satisfy that gift-giving itch.

There are a ton of easy homemade Christmas gifts that you can make. The options really are limitless. I will say though, in the past I have made the mistake of trying to make an easy homemade Christmas gift only to have it cost way more than this actually buying something so do your research first!

This year my daughter and I have made a list of things we plan on making and a detailed list of what we need to get in terms of supplies. If you’re looking for a few easy homemade Christmas gift ideas, feel free to steal our plans!

Ornaments

I don’t want to give out specific details of what we plan on making just in case one of our recipients happens to read this, but we have three different ornaments in the works this year. I love handmade ornaments and they happen to be a very easy homemade Christmas gift that anyone can attempt because there are simply so many options. One of our ornaments will be 100% toddler made (we’ll see how it turns out) while the other two are legitimate, pretty ornaments that if they turn out, people will look forward to hanging on their tree. To make the three types of ornaments I estimate we’ll spend a total of less than $15 in supplies. Not bad for five different gifts!

Baked Goods

This can be an easy homemade Christmas gift only if done right. Baking can be extremely expensive and it’s easy to get carried away. That said, baking is still often cheaper than buying something but definitely do your homework on this one before committing to something. My sister and I bake every year, a whole day of whipping up our favorite creations. This will be the first year that we haven’t done it since we were teenagers. Having a marathon baking session while either 9 months pregnant or just recovering from having a baby isn’t my idea of a good time though. Every year we spend about $60 in ingredients ($30 each) and about another $10 in gift packaging. We divvy up our goods between about 12 people/families in total with a final cost of less than $6 each.

Spice Jar Creations

I haven’t decided if I’m doing this again this year or not, but have done it in the past. If you have access to a bulk spice store (or bulk section in grocery store) you can make a really great, easy homemade Christmas gift and you probably don’t even know it. Last week I was in my grocery store looking for a single spice and was shocked to see a small bottle of steak seasoning was almost $7. You can make a lifetime supply for $7 if you’re inclined to and you should because it is so easy. What I love about this easy homemade Christmas gift is that there are so many options and you get a good reaction out of people. They’re genuinely excited to try what you’ve come up with. You can dress the gift up in a few ways too with packaging choice and make a very inexpensive gift look quite fancy. If you haven’t done this before it really is one of my favorite easy homemade Christmas gift ideas because there are a ton of combinations out there. A simple Google search of homemade spice combinations or borrowing a library book will give you limitless options for what you want to create in your little spice jars so give it a try.

There are so many easy homemade Christmas gift ideas out there it’s worth a look into. Too often do we get carried away and spend a ton of money on store bought gifts but with a little effort (and I do mean very little effort in some cases) you can make a beautiful and easy homemade Christmas gift that will be appreciated much more than anything bought at a store.

Encouraging Toddler Independent Play Without Breaking the Bank

I’ve officially been on maternity leave for two weeks; although I think I’ve been busier in the last two weeks than had I been working full-time. My mommy sense is that I will go into labour early and I want to try to get as much done as possible before that happens. This includes prepping for baby as well everything Christmas related. It’s been fun! We originally pulled Maria out of daycare to save on costs while I was off work. She was now stuck at home with mom, running errands and totally reliant on independent play.

I really didn’t think this would be an issue. She’s always been great at independent play but something has been different. She’s growing tired of being home with just mommy (and soon to be baby boy) and looking for more stimulation. Thankfully she’s old enough to understand that mommy isn’t trying to ignore or brush her off, but that I have a lot going on physically (there will be no playground chasing like her friends would be doing) and that mommy and daddy really need to get everything prepared. We’ve been balancing her independent play time with some quality family and friend time too which seems to be keeping her happy. Having said this, if I’m to expect her to primarily be relying on independent play (again, nine months pregnant, busy and soon to have a newborn) I have to supply her with some supplies and preparation. Here are a few ways I’ve been encouraging her independent play time (with or without other toddler friends) and not spend a ton of money.

Plan Play Dates

Most all of my friends with children are working full time. I have one other friend currently on maternity leave so we will be capitalizing on our overlapping time off together to get our two toddlers together and play. They’re both four and have at least three years between them and next sibling so are quite used to independent play time. My friend and I have planned cheap dates for the girls which allow them to play independently (though, together in this position) while we do what we need to do. In our current situation, I capitalize on the time usually resting a bit with kiddo being preoccupied, and my friend feeding/taking care of her new baby or just having a break from being her toddlers only entertainment.

These play dates don’t have to be anything special. The beautiful thing about toddlers is that they can be pretty easy to entertain. We’ve done totally free independent play dates such as playground meet-ups which usually involves meeting (with coffee for momma) and letting kids run around for an hour or so together, or something like going to each other’s house for the kids to make crafts or just play.

Free Community Events

Now that I’m off, I have some time to see what’s going on in our community for my daughter to participate in. In the last two weeks we’ve already gone to the library where she had some independent play time in a different atmosphere (same toys as home for the most part but suddenly they’re more fun when they’re not actually yours?) and looked into free events such as introduction to flamenco dancing for toddlers. With Christmas approaching there will be quite a few things for us to do with free toddler craft classes and things like Christmas book readings. Getting out of the house will be nice.

Dollar Store

I won’t lie, I love the dollar store and frequent it more than I care to admit. The dollar store is what allows me to get things done while my daughter is having independent play and craft time at home. At least once per week we head to the local dollar store to gather new craft supplies. Usually simple things like stickers, craft paper or coloring pages. For just a few dollars she has hours of independent play time. We’ll spend a few minutes together each week looking up fun things to do on toddler craft websites and kiddo has tons of fun executing what she finds, she’s become very competent with using scissors in the last few weeks!

It would be easy for me to pay upwards of $50 per day trying to keep my daughter entertained outside of the house but we simply can’t afford to do that while I’m on maternity leave. Encouraging independent play for my daughter is what is keeping us both sane and my budget intact!

Breaking My Money Wasting Habits

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Humans are creatures of habit. We create, or inadvertently fall into, our routines and have a hard time straying away from them. I personally like being a creature of habit. I like routine and the predictability that comes with it all. September to June are definitely more zen for me than July and August. Some of my daily routine is the same in the summer but we have more disruptions as a whole, and while things like family vacations are always welcome and usually needed, I eagerly await that return to normalcy. Most daily routine habits are harmless but I think we have all fallen victim to at least one money wasting habit in our lives.

For me, one of them was my daily walk at lunch. When I’m given enough time I try to get outside for a quick walk around my workplace to break up my day. What started as a just a daily walk, turned into a near daily stop at the drugstore for whatever object (usually a bottle of water or something even more stupid like nailpolish) and finishing with a coffee.




I don’t even remember how it happened. I would walk, on the way back go into the drugstore and then finishing with a coffee before returning to work. Once in a while, not a big deal but I was starting to do this 3-5 times per week and I was starting to notice specifically that I didn’t like it. I was uncomfortable with this new routine. The waste of money- I didn’t really need anything at the drugstore nor did I need that second coffee for the day so I had to do something about it.

The first step in breaking my money wasting habit was recognizing exactly what I was doing. This is often the hardest part for people. For me, the clue was, one day I went for a walk per normal only realized I didn’t have my wallet on me. For a second I felt panicky then recognized exactly what was going on. I was going for a walk, why did I need access to cash? It was then that it dawned on me what I had been doing. While small in comparison to some people’s money wasting habits, me wasting that $20 per week wasn’t going unnoticed and I knew it had to stop.

Once I realized what this new habit was doing to me (wasting upwards of $80 per month on stuff I didn’t need) I came up with a plan to stop, immediately.

My routine used to be going for a simple walk. What had changed? For me it started by buying more water for the rest of my shift (I’m not opposed to tap water but that tap water at one of my workplaces  just doesn’t taste good). I was bringing water with me (I’m rarely seen without my refillable water bottle on me, anywhere) but my bottle was empty by lunch and I’d want more. Rather than go to the store to buy more, even if it was less than $1, I simply started filling up two bottles in the morning and carrying both with me to work. Problem one fixed.

The second part of my money wasting habit was buying a second coffee in the day. I’m not going to get into the whole ‘’latte factor’’ argument because quite honestly I think it’s stupid, spend your money how you want within reason and without compromising your other goals. It wasn’t about buying the coffee because for me, most days I was already buying one coffee in the morning and was fine with it. Once you start doubling that though, it was too much-for me.

This habit started when I began volunteering to pick something up for one of our receptionists while I was going out. Most of the time she’d say no but every now and then she’d ask me to bring her back a coffee and this opened the passage for me to get one for myself at the same time. She stopped working at our office but I continued to go for that coffee anyway. This was an easier habit to break but I did it. I would leave my wallet at work and not allow myself to stop. I won’t lie, I missed that second coffee but after about three days I didn’t think about it again and started to enjoy just walking.

A new habit isn’t necessarily a bad (or money wasting) one but when you notice it starting to affect the rest of your finances in a negative manner, action needs to be taken. Here is a another good resource for how to help break bad habits you may have.

What habit do you have/did you have that you consider to be a money wasting habit? How did you solve the problem?

How I Will Manage My Time on Maternity Leave Using Online Shopping

Student Loan RefinanceHappy Halloween!

Now that I’m officially unemployed for at least a year, I’ve been getting many comments (most in jest) about how they wish they could get a year off too. I know most people realize I won’t exactly be sitting poolside for a year drinking mojitos but unless you’ve actually taken extended time off to raise a newborn you really have no way of appreciating just how hard it will be. Me working full-time (in my career), is, without a doubt, easier than staying home with one, let alone two, kids. These next 12-13 months are going to be a challenge but I plan on utilizing online shopping to help me manage what will be my new chaos.

First, I will note that online shopping in Canada is still completely archaic compared to what is available in the states. It aggravates me with our lack of selection of stores and extreme shipping, handling and duty costs. It is slowly improving but not there quite yet, in saying this, I still plan on utilizing what I can to help me manage my time (and sanity). I’m not exactly looking forward to doing too much venturing out with a newborn and four year old, in the winter, all while in what will likely be a complete sleep deprived state.




Groceries

I’m actually very excited about this one. Friends of mine have been doing this for a while but I’ve yet to start. I will be able to but all our non-perishables via Walmart Canada and shipping is free. Though there was a time I enjoyed grocery shopping, I actually hate it now. I don’t mind going to our local market(s) for our fruits/veggies and meat but hate the large grocery store. I feel like I waste time trying to go through my list and itemize everything. It’s even harder when you have a toddler (can I still call her that at 4?) who’s trying to be helpful but coloring over your list or grabbing/asking for other non-list items. When both husband and I are both available to either kid-watch or take in the agony together, it’s usually later in the day, we’re hungry, not interested in going, or on the weekend- you know, when the entire world wants to get it done.

I’m hopeful that using online shopping to get some of our groceries will help keep our budget under control (we almost never go over budget at the small market where we get produce and meat), and save time.

Christmas Shopping

Given that I’m already 8.5 months pregnant and can’t easily walk more than 15 minutes before I start having contractions, Christmas shopping isn’t exactly at the top of my list of things I want to do. We’re not doing much for Christmas this year, we’ve scaled back significantly (even from our already fairly modest Christmases in the past), but there are still a few things we want to get our daughter (newborns don’t need anything do they?). Rather than trying to be sneaky about going out to do things (four year olds ask a lot of questions), or asking friends or family to pick things up, I figure buying online and having them shipped right to me will make things easier.

Baby Needs

Since I plan on breastfeeding again, I hope my only regular baby need will be diapers and wipes. Item that when you need them, you need them. Especially with a winter baby, and not wanting to venture out (with, or without kids), I love the idea of these showing up on my doorstep just when required.

Truthfully I’ve never been a big shopper. Though I do see myself in a mall more in the next six months than I likely have been in the last six years (mall walking in the winter to get out of the house and get some exercise) but I don’t plan on spending any more money. I’m glad things like online shopping exist to allow me to take care of my family’s needs while enjoy our new addition.

Do you use online shopping? What for primarily?

Why I’m Selling my Daughter’s Stuff (and what I plan to do with the money).

And who will clean up this mess?One thing I quickly learned with having my daughter four years ago was how much stuff kids acquire. Some of it is actually quite useful in their own way but let me tell you, there is so much you simply don’t need (some of this you don’t realize until after first kid). It didn’t take us long to become very vocal with some gift-giving guidelines in attempt to control the accumulation, some of which were listened to, but some clearly ignored. I understand giving to a child is out of the goodness of the gift-givers heart but it can be so painfully unnecessary (like the new Barbie just because it’s Tuesday and the sun is shining).

Gift Giving Rules for our Kids

When we realized (very early on) how much people liked to give to our daughter, in attempt to reign in the stuff, we vocalised that should the person feel so inclined to buy something for her (especially while she was so young she didn’t even realize a gift was being given), that they may consider giving us the money instead (even for that $5 toy she probably doesn’t need). We would put the money into her post-secondary education savings (in our case, an RESP). I’d much rather have $5 invested at three years old for another 15 years to be used for her future, than a toy she might play with for a few days, max.

Books are always welcome. I have no problem with having a house full of books for my children and will always find space for them, if you can’t come up with a gift idea and don’t want to give cash, get a good book. Books are probably the only item that doesn’t drive me crazy when it’s laying around somewhere.

Consider buying or contributing to something she needs. Clothes come to mind. Kids grow very fast and even with my frugal shopping for her wardrobe, chances are we’ll always need clothes (or coats, or shoes). Even if it’s a snowsuit that might not fit her for a whole year, it’s a gift much appreciated come the time. She also partakes in both dance and soccer both if which have their own gear and would benefit from either financial contribution for dues or buying new gear (again- growth is an issue and we won’t get more than one season out of most items).

The Over and Above

Obviously these aren’t the only things that are given to her and I don’t want to come across as being a scrooge of a mother but my GOD there’s a lot of stuff. Now that we know baby 2.0 is a boy we’re starting to purge some of her stuff out of the house.

I’m a big proponent of donating to those in need so we have given a huge portion of her gently used clothes to various charities. These aren’t the kinds of items I want to benefit from financially, I’d rather give to someone who truly needs it but the items that we can sell for a small profit, we will. Most of it are baby items of hers (very girly baby toys or things like past Halloween costumes) and some of it is my maternity clothes (pregnancies in opposite seasons). We’ve only sold a few items so far at about $10 each but we still have quite a bit of stuff to go through and post as well.

Most of the stuff we’re selling are items we bought so I don’t feel guilty about selling but there will be items that were given to her by others. Obviously people don’t expect us to hang on to everything given to her, but especially if someone else paid for it, the money from all the item sales will go back to the kids. As tempting as it is to sell this stuff off for a small profit and keep it to do as we please (mommy and daddy want a date night…or pay down debt…), the money will be going right back to them.

Maybe the money will be used to help offset her ballet tuition in the new year, or some clothes for the impending little man, either way the money will only be used for them in some way for some need and this way I feel everyone benefits.

What do you do with your kids outgrown/out used stuff?

Mommy Realization: My Kids Don’t Care if Their Room is Coordinated

crib-890565_640When I was pregnant with my daughter, the room in our house that would become her bedroom was the only untouched room in our house. We had painted and renovated almost every other room in our house but that was the final one. It had become a bit of a storage room for all our random stuff. I found it difficult to not obsess over how we were going to prep this room for her. It was going to be her space, created at first, by us.

We picked paint colors, crib, curtains, and pictures for the wall. I wanted a fancy rocking chair, change tables and shelves full of stuff for when she came home. I’d spent hours days scouring websites like Pinterest trying to perfect her room. Our only restriction in the end, was money. We didn’t have anywhere near the money to prepare the kind of nursery I thought she deserved and needed and it took me a while to accept it. We were gifted a beautiful new crib, we found some pictures on clearance and bought her curtains off a sale rack. The chair I nursed her in was an antique that we borrowed, there would be no fancy change table and shelves were never hung displaying her baby stuff.

Over four years later, I can honestly say, none of it mattered. The paint needed to be done since the room pre-paint looked like someone chugged a bottle of Pepto Bismol and threw up everywhere but other than that none of it mattered. She didn’t notice the pictures, the matching curtains or lack of stuff. We never bought a rug to put on her floor and we changed her wherever we needed to, since there was no dedicated change table. Four years later, she’s a pretty happy kid and the lack of perfectly coordinated nursery-turned-toddler room hasn’t mattered once.

She now sleeps on my husband’s childhood bed and loves it. Her walls are covered in wall decals that she’s picked out and placed herself (you can imagine how that looks). She does have shelves, which I made and painted myself and holds a fraction of her massive book collection. She loves them.

As we prepare to welcome baby 2.0 in the next few weeks (scary that I’m talking in weeks now!) I realize so much of what we think is important for our children isn’t. I’m a member of a few mommy boards and creep on some websites and blogs and it’s so easy to tell first time moms from experienced moms. The rooms are no longer coordinated, they’re not dropping hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on perceived needs for their baby. One feed on an app has 576 current photos of moms sharing their nursery pictures. In my creeping and estimation I’d value the average room at a minimum of $2,000 (and according to at least one source, that’s a low estimate).  I’m not judging though, really, it’s a process I think most first time parents will go through and it’s so hard to resist.

We were stopped only because our bank account wouldn’t allow it and know what? I’m glad. I don’t miss anything we didn’t have. Not once do I wish I had a dedicated change table or wipe warmer. With this pregnancy, the room will be slightly made over once again as the kids will be sharing a room until we move and we won’t be spending much money. This time it’s not necessarily because we don’t have the money, I could have definitely saved a chunk of change since finding out I was pregnant, but because I know what’s important and what’s not.

We’ll be painting our daughters purple bedroom in the next few weeks to something a little more gender neutral. She will be still be sleeping in her daddy-turned-big girl bed with pink and purple ballerina’s all over it, while little man will eventually sleep in his crib across the room with whatever bedding we have laying around from the first time. I value my money and respect that my children understand that having a coordinated bedroom simply isn’t a priority in our lives. The fact that they’re in a safe room which they can call their own and have fun making memories together is all they need. The money that we do or don’t spend on coordination simply won’t matter to them, and now, to me.

How We’re More Financially Prepared for This Maternity Leave

kids being expensiveIt’s hard to believe but we’re three weeks away from me going on maternity leave. Though I’m not due until December 16th, I’ve run the numbers and it actually makes more sense for me to go off work early than continue to work for another month. I have to pay an annual license fee for work which is a substantial amount of money, as well keeping Maria in daycare full time, means we actually lose money versus me claiming unemployment a few weeks early.  I was put off work early during my pregnancy with Maria due to wicked carpal tunnel pains and it’s starting to rear its ugly head again so it’s all good that I’m planning to be off early anyway.

The difference between this pregnancy and the last, is that we’re actually prepared. With my first pregnancy, we didn’t have a great handle on our money and quite honestly I had no idea how we were going to make it all work. It was during this pregnancy that we really got our finances in gear so it ended up being a bit of a blessing, but my memories were full of stress.

We Have an Emergency Fund

This is one of the biggest difference between the two maternity leaves. We had absolutely zero savings when I was off with my first leave. If something were to have happened, we would have had to borrow money from somewhere or someone. Thankfully nothing major happened and we were ok but it was a stress I never want to experience again. Having an emergency fund is one thing, having, needing, an emergency fund while your income is significantly decreased is another. While on maternity leave I have no other income outside of my federally funded pay which is menial compared to my employment income. With no other way to bring in income for the 12 months, we need to have some extra cash on hand.

We Actually Understand Our Money

It wasn’t until I was about 70% through my first maternity leave that we figured out a budget that worked for us. Though it has evolved many times, I have a confidence in our money management skills and know what we need to do to make our decreased income work for us. This alone is a huge stress relief.

We’re Earning More Money

Though I will be claiming maternity leave for the time I’m off (upwards of 67 weeks in my case, 15 weeks of sick leave if needed, 52 maternity) at a loss of about 60% my net income pre-leave, it will still be a bit more than the last time I took leave four years ago. My husband is also earning more, these two things alone, assuming everything else is the same, will help.

We’ve Paid off A LOT of Debt

We’re not debt free, not even close (and I totally understand couples who choose to wait, so it’s an argument I don’t want to get into), but we’re much better off than we were four years ago. I have to be honest I don’t have the numbers memorized, or in front of me (bad PF blogger, I know) but I estimate we’ve paid off close to, if not more than $70,000 worth of non-mortgage debt since my last maternity leave started. A huge help.

Waiting even another year to have another child could have obviously made another substantial difference on our finances for many reasons (more savings, more debt pay off) but in the end we’re comfortable with where we’re at. It’s not for everyone, again, I get that, but it will work for us. There will never be a ‘’best time’’ for us to add to  our family but the fact that we have a good financial understanding of where we are enables us to make decisions like having more kids and that’s enough for me.

3 Ways to Save on Halloween

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DIY costume circa 2014

Ummm how is it October?!

I have to admit that I haven’t always been a Halloween lover. Even as a kid, though I had fun trick-or-treating with friends, putting together a costume and getting ready for the day was a chore. As I got older I found myself kind of dreading the day and the expectation of partaking in the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, there are components I like, cute decorations and candy are fun, but for the most part it just wasn’t for me.

Then I had a kid. Who doesn’t love a little person dressed up and who is super excited? It’s fun and even the biggest Halloween scrooge will smile. My daughter seems to be taking after her aunt in her love of all things Halloween too. On a recent trip to the local dollar store she would have left me broke given her way and purchased every single Halloween decoration in the store. Thankfully I managed to get away with only purchasing a cute Halloween magnet craft kit for her, coming in at $1.25 (this was a huge victory).

So, especially with a kid who loves Halloween, and as someone who is admittedly getting more into it, how do we save on Halloween? By following a few key rules.

Avoid the Store Costumes

When my daughter told me she wanted to be a (pretty) witch this year, I was super happy as I knew it would be easy and cheap to make. Then she ended up in the mall with her dad and saw a fancy mermaid costume that caught her eye, she then spent the next three days begging us to buy it (justified by wearing one costume to her party and the other trick-or-treating). At almost $40 alone for the costume it wasn’t happening.

If you want to save serious money on Halloween, especially if kids are involved, skip the store costumes. Though it takes more time and some creativity, making your own is so much cheaper. If I can manage to make a costume for my daughter, anyone can. Websites like Pinterest, though can sometimes lead to frustrations, can actually be very helpful in this area in terms of both ideas and execution. I’m happy to report that my daughter’s ‘’pretty witch’’ costume is going to end up costing a total of $10 thanks to searching out sales, a little effort and creativity.

Limit the Decorations

I get it, they’re cute (or spooky, or gory, whatever you’re going for) but they’re also not necessary. Limit your decorations to ones that you can reuse year-to-year rather than the one-time use decorations that are out there. This time last year, at another dollar store excursion with child in tow, I didn’t make it out so well and ended up buying about $15 in decorations which we put out and then tore down when it was over, totally wasting money. A paper ghost that couldn’t be saved, a plastic witch that ripped everywhere we tapped and a few hanging things that didn’t even make it to Halloween. Instead we’ll limit our decorations (current and future) only to ones that we can reuse.

Buy at End of Season

When Halloween is over, consider stocking up for the next year. Though she may change her mind, I’m willing to bet we’ll be able to buy that mermaid costume for upwards of 75% off when the season is done. This is what we did two years ago, we bought two princess costumes on serious clearance and last year our daughter opted to wear one for Halloween. Even if she hadn’t they were used all year playing dress-up.

Halloween can be fun, but with so many expectations to partake in it, it can also be hard to know where to draw the line.

How do you manage to have fun without busting the bank?