3 Household Items You Can Probably Cut Out (or Easily Substitute)

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

Running a house is certainly expensive and there are many products out there trying to prove their necessity for you running your home efficiently but the reality is that you probably don’t need them.

Disposable Paper Products

When I’m shopping at Costco and see carts full of paper towel and napkins I have to wonder what family could possibly need that much disposable paper product. I admit that I used to use paper towel for everything, and growing up, our house always had napkins on the table but when I started buying my own household goods I realized not only how expensive it was, but also how wasteful. I think it started more out of necessity (trying to save money) than being conservative, but after a few weeks of not buying paper towels with our grocery order I realized how unnecessary they were.

I dedicated a few old kitchen towels to use while cleaning and we started using reusable napkins while eating. I noticed that there were very few times I missed using disposable paper. I keep a roll of paper towel on hand mostly for cat messes, when my cat has an accident or vomits, I prefer to use paper towel to clean up and throw in garbage rather than rinsing out and washing a reusable cloth. As well, if we have a large function (like my sister-in-law’s upcoming wedding) we’ll buy disposable products but for day-to-day usage it’s an easy item to swap out.

Disposable Diapers

Obviously this only applies to homes with young infants but needs to be mentioned. This is also something I admit to being guilty for (using disposable) but am in complete favor of cloth diapering. Though the initial cost can be quite high, in the end cloth diapers are significantly cheaper and hold a decent resale value (look around for used first, if considering). With our daughter we received enough disposable diapers as gifts though that I didn’t buy a pack of diapers for a full 12 months, it was kind of glorious. The other reason we opted not to cloth diaper was that when calling around to various daycare places before we had her placed somewhere, a lot of places preferred to not use the cloth and asked if while the child was there, they could be sent with disposables so it didn’t make sense for us however I still think cloth diapering trumps disposable in both cost and, certainly, waste.

Household Cleaners

Though my husband hates when I clean with vinegar (a smell he cannot stand) it’s too cheap and effective not to use. There are very few areas in my house that I can’t clean with some combination of vinegar, water, basic dishsoap or baking soda (here’s a good list of DIY cleaners). I do admit that I usually do have Windex on hand as well for windows and glass tables (the vinegar and water just won’t get streak-free to my satisfaction with greasy toddler fingerprints) but a regular sized bottle of such will last me seemingly forever.

Given that there are entire sections in grocery stores dedicated to nothing but cleaning products you don’t need basically any of it. When we first bought our house I remember going out and spending close to $10 for a cleaner that was dedicated to nothing but cleaning the top of our glass stove. I used it once, realized it was nothing but an abrasive scrub (food loves to stick to glass stoves) and that a water and baking soda paste worked just as good. Though I’m not a super health nut or anything, using a bunch of chemicals around surfaces my family lives and eats (especially things like highchairs) simply doesn’t appeal to me, nor does paying premium prices for pre-made, pre-packed, chemical free goods from the stores.

What a family will need varies between each house, but I do think in general we’re too quick to do the easiest thing possible- like buy special cleaner for your table to point, spray and wipe with paper towel, rather than wiping it off with a disposable cloth with warm soap and water which then may mean an extra laundry item- but honesty it takes no extra effort, and can make a huge difference in both finances and overall waste, so try it!

What household items do you commonly save on?

Times When You Shouldn’t Make Any Financial Decisions

Last Friday was an honest-to-God awful day for me. It started with a totally unnecessarily long wait at the local women’s hospital for one of my pregnancy bloodwork tests which caused me to be late for work, annoying enough when your day is scheduled with booked patients. Me being 30 minutes late doesn’t affect just me, it can affect my entire patient load for the day so it’s a huge annoyance. I did manage to park in the parkade by work for free though (normally a cost of $18 for the day) thanks to a pass given by another employee. Just as my day was turning around, it went even worse. As I was pulling into the underground parkade, another dumb driver wasn’t paying attention and almost went ‘’out’’ the ‘’in’’ causing me to swerve (my car is basically in park that’s how slow I was moving) but I was forced to move the wheels enough that my mirror hit the card pass meter and break off the whole back-end of my mirror. To make matters worse, before I even realized what happened, he had left the parkade.

My day just kept going like that. Patients not showing up. One who did show up had to be cut short because she was clearly under the influence of something, construction not allowing me to leave after work…you get my drift. Bad. Day.

I’m pretty good at not letting things get to me. I’m good at finding positives and moving on but I couldn’t concentrate at work and quite honestly for the first time in a long time wanted to leave work and get away from basically all of humanity. I was in a serious funk.

On my drive home I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time. The feeling of not caring. Not giving a crap and acting on my impulses. This leads me to my first point of when you should never make a financial decision.

During an Emotional High or Low

As I was driving home I was thinking about my sister-in-law’s upcoming wedding and things that need to be done. The night before I had done a quick search about finding maternity pantyhose for my dress. I wasn’t surprised to find out the cheapest I could buy locally were $17 plus tax, per pair. A cost I couldn’t justify when I’ll wear them literally one day and normal pantyhose can be purchased at basically any drug store for like $5.00. I was annoyed at the cost but accepted no one would care if my pale bare legs were on display.

However on my drive home I had a ‘’screw it’’ moment. I actually changed lanes and almost drove to the mall to spend the cash on the pantyhose. Not because I now wanted them or had changed my mind but because part of me wanted to satisfy that ‘’I don’t care anymore’’ feeling. I had one full red light to realize I was just being irrational and opted to buy a $2.00 ice cream instead, still an emotional purchase but less damaging.

When you’re going through an emotional high or low, anything from a simple bad day to an exciting new marriage, do not make any immediate financial decisions. Some decisions may be permanent and much more damaging than an ice cream. Take time to sort through all emotion before deciding anything.

When Money Is New

Some of you will be fortunate enough to come into a sum of money. Gifts, inheritances, whatever. If you do, even if you have thought and dreamt about what you’d do with it- wait. Give yourself some time to really think about things and get advice. Talk to trustworthy friends, family and ideally professionals about how to best execute your plan. If we came into money my quick response would be ‘pay off debt’ but upon talking to someone else they may point out reasons why investing might be a better option. Get good advice, then decide.

When You’re Distracted

There are many, many distractions in life. Everything from technology, to our jobs, to family, if you don’t have time set aside time to think about your financial decision, wait until you do. It’s only fair to you and your money that you make all decisions with a clear mind and away from all other noise.

Money can be a stressful thought, even a good kind of stress, and I think some people are quick to make decisions so they no longer have to think about it but there are definitely times when taking a pause is always a good idea.

Have you ever experienced a regret in a financial decision because of one of these reasons?

Building An Affordable Maternity Wardrobe

maternity shirtWhat to know what’s criminal? The cost of maternity clothes. Stick the word ‘’baby’’, ‘’maternity’’, ‘’breastfeeding/nursing’’ or ‘’pregnancy’’ in front of any regular item of clothing and suddenly the price is increased significantly. Most pregnant women will need some form of maternity wear throughout their almost 10 month gestational period so, unfortunately a lot of these maternity specialty stores have a monopoly on the niche population (though there are many tricks out there to getting the most out of your pre-pregnancy wardrobe). Add in the fact that some people, like me, live in an area with very slim pickings in terms of where to shop for such items and suddenly I’m looking at a pair of pants with a price tag of $80.00 and I’ll wear for less than five months.

My first pregnancy was over four years ago and was in opposite season. I was biggest/really only needed maternity clothes in the late spring/early summer with my first, where this time I’m not only showing much earlier, I will be my biggest in the late summer all the way into winter. I also didn’t buy much of anything during my first pregnancy that I could keep for this one. In total I carried over two shirts (one quite dressy), two scrub tops and a pair of smaller jeans. I was determined to squeeze myself into ‘’regular’’ clothes as long as I could because, as mentioned maternity clothes as so, so expensive.

Target doesn’t exist in Canada, my local Walmart doesn’t carry maternity wear and neither does my local Old Navy (nor does online have an option)…the top three affordable choices for moms around North American don’t exist for me so I had to look into alternative options since I was quickly popping out of all regular clothes.

Here are a few ways to build a maternity wardrobe without breaking the bank:

Second Hand Stores

I have checked out my local thrift stores but I haven’t had any luck. I am convinced our local women share their maternity wear among friends or sell privately but I had to include it because it’s always worth looking into. Like most young children’s clothes, maternity wear is often only used for less than six months so if you do have luck you can buy almost new clothing for much cheaper.

Classifieds

I don’t live in a huge city and, as mentioned there are really only two options for clothes locally- two popular chain stores and a few upscale maternity boutiques. This means you can expect clothes from these expensive stores to pop-up online. Though I haven’t bought anything via online classifieds I have looked and there are good deals. Just last week a lady was selling a dress from a local boutique which she paid over $140, wore for three months and was selling for $40. Not bad.

Online Shopping

I have little option in terms of online shopping but there is one website that I have had success with called Zuliliy (not an affiliate link). The risk is that there aren’t any returns but I haven’t had any trouble with their products. I found a two pack of maternity tank tops for $12, a dressy t-shirt for $10 and a dress to wear to a wedding at seven months pregnant for $30 (from $90) all of which I have been very happy with and all of which I can re-sell via online classifieds when I’m done.

Cut Coupons

I hate signing up for most email signups but when it comes to baby, my experience is that it is often worth it. Over my two pregnancies I have had opportunities to save some big bucks on items including maternity wears. One of the emails I get every few weeks includes a coupon for 40% off at one of these fancy maternity wear stores so when I found myself approaching the cooler months and a few events to attend with literally one pair of pants I can squeeze into, I decided to buy a second pair. The pants retailed for $79.98 (simple pair of skinny jeans), were on sale for $64.99 and I was able to use one of these coupons putting the $80 pants at $39. Outside of my work scrubs I will wear these two pairs of pants plus a pair of leggings throughout the next three months and into the first few post-natal months.

In total I have spent about $100 on maternity clothes for my pregnancy and I’m happy with that. After baby is born I will need a few nursing bras which will probably run about $30 each but I plan on working those into my November birthday gift (adulting is fun). I won’t lie, when I’m at home or lounging I’ve been mostly wearing my husband’s old t-shirts since I draw the line at buying fancy maternity PJ’s and lounge wear. I have been taking care of the items I have purchased and hope to recover some of the cost by re-selling as well.

How did you manage your maternity wardrobe? Any other tips?

Our Experiment in Using Credit Cards

-1For most of my adult life I haven’t used credit cards. If you’ll remember, I had access to a decent chunk of credit back in university (in the days when they’d increase your limit without you asking), and so during my second degree I maxed out my cards for tuition. With maxed out credit cards and no desire to take on more debt, we were forced to live on cash/debit.

This wasn’t a bad thing necessarily. It’s not exactly easy to accumulate more debt when you can only live on what what’s in your bank account. We didn’t even have overdraft which we may be tempted to dip into. Though we were living on cash, as I have talked about many times before, we weren’t managing our finances well. Bills were getting paid but we weren’t making any headway on our debt repayment which wasn’t doing favors for anyone.

In the last few years we’ve come a long way, we’ve learned how to manage our money, pay off debt and live our life. One thing we’ve never really done though is learn how to properly use a credit card. I really don’t think a credit card is a necessity to live, there are plenty of people who get along fine without them, but for us it was something I wanted to master.

The biggest reason I wanted to master proper credit card usage was because one of our biggest annoyances with our budget is that we’re paid bi-weekly but almost every bill we have is set up to be a monthly paid bill but when it comes to our discretionary spending on things like groceries, gas, or even cat needs things can get kind of confusing about exactly how much to allocate and when to use the cash. I wanted the flexibility to spend, say $200 in one grocery run but only spend $75 the next time and not spend the difference in cash but by the end of the month stay within what we budgeted. I don’t like allocating the exact same amount every two weeks. I wanted to experiment with using a credit card for a few months to see if we could stay within what I had established as a ‘’monthly’’ allotment for these discretionary categories allowing us to manage the cash side of things a bit easier and here’s what I learned:

It’s incredibly easy to get lazy with tracking when it goes on a credit card. When you pay cash/debit for everything, you’re forced to keep an eagle eye on your bank account daily, if not multiple times per day. Though this is a habit that should have transcended with the credit card, it did not for us.

It’s too easy to overspend. We knew the money was there so we just kept spending. I’d go to the grocery store, grab some things and Mike would follow getting more, leading to unnecessary spending, multiple times per month.

It can be uncomfortable. Seeing the balance grow throughout the month is not a feeling I like, so much so that we’ve learned very quickly, two months into this experiment, we need to change how we use and pay off frequency.

We definitely made some mistakes in these first two months of usage but thankfully we have our financial knowhow to be able to recognize what we need to do to fix our errors. One thing we did do is make sure the credit we had available to us was manageable, especially with me preparing to go on maternity leave. The last thing we want is to end up in unnecessary credit card debt. Our limit is set that we should be able to have it paid off (if ever maxed out) within two months.

Even though we’ve made some mistakes, we’ve also taken the time to realize what we need to do to make it work and are going to give it another try…with the obvious being much more careful monitoring.

Do you like using credit cards for daily spending? Any secret tips?

3 Honest Reasons Why You Should Wait to Have Kids

Source: Free Digital Photos

Source: Free Digital Photos

Having kids is a life alerting thing, likely one of the biggest life changes any couple will make. Some couples choose not to have children and I personally have zero issue with this. While I can’t imagine my life without my daughter and impending baby 2.0, I 100% understand this is not the life for everyone (I apologize on behalf of the childbearing society which attempts to pressure you and make you feel bad). If, however you are considering having a child, there are some very real things to consider in terms of timing. While medical professionals will remind you that waiting may not be the best fertility practice, there are many other benefits to holding off on having your first child.

You Have More Time to Get Your Finances in Order

While this theoretically should have been true for us, given that we had three full years of career-level income before having our daughter, we did not put this into practice. Knowing what I know now, I want to kick myself, hard. For us, it took getting pregnant and having another human to care for to get us in gear BUT if you’re lucky enough to have the financial ability to deal with any and all financial issues (paying down debt, beefing up savings, getting housing in order) before baby comes- do it. You will NEVER have the same financial opportunities once baby comes. Holding off on pregnancy means more time to get financial affairs in order and you must capitalize on this.

You’ll Likely Score Free Stuff From Friends

If I’m being honest, one of the biggest perks with not being the first of my friends to have kids is scoring on the baby stuff they want to give away. I have one friend who has a daughter three months older than Maria, three months is about the max time you’ll get out of an outfit in a growing infant which meant as she was growing out of cute baby clothes, we were handed them. This saved us a ton during the first year. Between her hand-me-downs and what I received as shower gifts, I didn’t buy a single item of clothing in year one. I visited the same friend today who gave me bags full of baby clothes. They didn’t know with either pregnancy if it was a boy or girl so they handed over all the baby boy stuff to us to have for our impending son, a lot of it brand new.

Within my circle of friends we’ve shared many things between us which has saved all of us a decent chunk of money. Toys, bouncy chairs, breast pumps (easy to come apart and sterilize), clothes (who wants to spend $30+ on an infant dress to wear to a wedding when you can borrow?). Being able to accept hand-me-downs and borrow items is a huge plus.

Your Bucket List Will Be Smaller

Though you may be in your peak fertility years, I simply cannot imagine planning a child in my late teens/early 20’s. By the time you’ve finished your post-secondary, and had a few years to live your life, I just don’t see how you can be prepared to have a child without regret any earlier. Not that a child isn’t a blessing, by waiting a few years you’ll have more opportunity to accomplish things that might not be so easy once a baby comes into your life.

I have people in my life who had kids very young (some planned, some not) and people who deliberately waited. The ones who waited are often much, much better off starting out. They have the financial knowhow to manage a maternity leave, to understand the importance of a stable living situation and truly appreciate the life they’ve set up for the child. So though society may judge you for not considering children until beyond your 30’s, or even 40’s you really do get the last laugh.

If You Want Change, Don’t Expect All to Remain the Same.

Source: Free Digital Photos

Source: Free Digital Photos

In the last few months I’ve had a few frustrating moments with our budget. I’ve added a few changes, like a second car, a pregnancy, or even an air conditioner yet, I haven’t taken the time to address these changes within our budget per se. For example, we did pay cash for the car, and have adjusted our monthly insurance premium but I haven’t yet taken time to change things like how much extra gas money we’d need every month so you can imagine, our spending has changed (some categories more, some less) yet I’m surprised that our numbers aren’t working out at the end of the month.

I do this to us every few years. We get a budget/money monitoring system/whatever going well, I throw in a change and just expect the numbers to work themselves out and act surprised when they don’t. All of these changes are things we wanted, for us, all good change, and if it’s change we’re after I can’t expect it all to remain the same.

I feel like a lot of budgets fail because people aren’t honest with themselves and this is exactly what I’ve done to us. I kind of assumed that we’d get the second car and the decrease in gas consumption with overusing vehicle #1 would offset #2 when that hasn’t been true. We’re still getting one full tank per month with vehicle #2, and we are using less in vehicle #1, but I still need to add something more in terms of gas. I also think I’ve been a bit over eager in terms of what we won’t need to buy with baby #2. While yes, we do have a lot more starting out than we did with our first, there are still some things that we’ll need and I can’t deny it anymore.  We need to set up a list and budget soon or we’ll be caught with me off work, on my cut back maternity income, and a list of unmet needs.

I remember watching an episode of Till Debt do Us Part with Gail Vaz Oxlade once and the couple was whining about not making progress fast enough and Gail simply pointed out that their unwillingness to do anything beyond what they were currently doing (in terms of earned income from 9-5 jobs), was holding them back. They weren’t willing to earn more, give up anything more or sell anything so how could they possibly move any faster than they were? Once this was pointed out, they were able to see the light, pick up extra shifts and start selling off some insane designer purse collection or something to help pay down their debt.

I feel like sometimes people are eager for change, they want to get out of debt, retire early, or reach some personal savings goal yet do nothing different with their finances to reach those goals. Unfortunately as I have learned, unless you are willing to get uncomfortable and take time to implement these changes, all will remain the same.

Sometimes You Just Need to Spend a Little Money

13895564_10100858377507339_8185050889799056385_nIn the personal finance community, I find one of the less discussed topics is about actually spending money. We’re all too proud to talk about our savings goals or to a larger extreme, things like shopping bans, and by all accounts these things should be congratulated. Saving money, and though I have never done one, something like a shopping ban, isn’t easy. Arguably one of the hardest things one could do with their money but at the same time, we’re all human and we all enjoy different experiences. Sometimes those experiences cost money.

Given that we experience very few hot summer days here (though this year has been stellar in terms of weather!), when they’re around we want to soak up everything they offer. This past weekend I woke up early (not optional with an early rising four year old), and decided we’d head into the city for the day with my sister and sister-in-law. I had heard some rumors of a new playground and thought it might be fun to let Maria run around for a bit while we all got a nice walk in.

We took the ferry over early in the morning (for free since it’s a holiday weekend perk) before it got too busy and walked most of the length of our beautiful waterfront before making a quick stop at our farmers market and eventually, the playground. Maria had a ton of fun and we got a little exercise in. On our walk back, the waterfront was getting very buys as it’s a long summer weekend and the international Busker festival is in town. With the festival brings all kinds of vendors.

Maria had her face painted (professionally) for Halloween last year and has been talking about it since. When she spotted a face painter on our walk yesterday she asked if we could do it. At $10 for a 5 min procedure it wasn’t cheap but you better believe we did it anyway. She was the happiest kid all day until we washed up at bedtime that night. We also spent money on a completely unnecessary lunch and a huge bag of cotton candy. None of which was necessary but per my main point, it’s OK to spend money sometimes and enjoy yourself. To some, the paint was literally setting a $10 bill on fire. It was on her face, and washed off a few hours later but know what? I don’t care. She was so happy and couldn’t wait to show everyone her beautiful sparkly unicorn. We enjoyed sitting on the waterfront eating our lunch together and cotton candy was a treat that we all enjoyed and rarely get.

I have had a lot of frugal fun and to be honest most of my favorite activities cost little to no money but sometimes even the most frugal people want to spend a little money on an experience, and that’s ok. I could get into the whole ‘’balance’’ argument but honestly I think it’s a crock. If I tried to balance my spending and saving all the time, I’d never make headway with anything so really, be smart about your financial goals but know that it’s ok to enjoy our money from time-to-time as well. I find, especially in the personal finance community, can make you feel bad about spending money on whatever it is you may enjoy but since I’m just an ‘’expert’’ as the other person in this community I give you full permission to spend money guilt free!

When was the last time you enjoyed your money?

Preparing for Baby 2.0

Source: Free Digital Photos

Source: Free Digital Photos

It’s hard to believe that we’re halfway through growing this little baby and that in a few short months our lives will change significantly. It was about this time with my first pregnancy that I was freaking out about, well, just about everything. Having a baby, the money, having a baby, the money…you get my point. We had no idea what to expect. Part of my anxiety stemmed from that fact that with pregnancy #1 we were not in a great spot financially. I mean, our bills were getting paid but we paid very little attention to the ins and outs of our finances. We didn’t have a budget, let alone any emergency fund and I really had no idea what to expect when I started claiming my maternity benefits (and losing over 60% of my income…).

Thankfully a few months into my maternity leave I discovered an online niche I came to know as ‘’personal finance’’ and my life changed for the better. Not only were my eyes opened to so many things (like the beloved ER fund), it changed my relationship with money and allowed me to take control. In the last four years I’ve learned a lot, and it’s through these lessons I can blissfully take a second maternity leave, stress free. Here’s how we’re prepping financially for baby #2.

Use What We’ve Got and Fill in the Blanks

We were in a weird spot for a long time about if we would have more kids, but because of our uncertainly we held onto quite a few things. Given the lack of storage at our house, a lot of smaller/cheaper items like infant and children’s clothes we donated (keeping maybe the equivalent of two totes only) but we did hold onto all larger items like the crib, pack and play, tub, swing. Pretty much everything outside of clothes if very gender neutral which helps too since we don’t yet know what we’re having. The only things we really need this time are a car seat since our infant seat had expired (we scored one already for almost 60% off!), a diaper bag (I used my first one religiously until Maria was out of diapers/not changing her outfit four times per day due to mess, and it fell apart behind repair. Again already purchased online for $36.00 down from $215.00), and a new monitor since ours was always terrible and we just never got around to replacing (still need to buy).

The fact that we have so much starting out is a huge help. I did need to buy a few maternity clothing pieces since we’re in opposite pregnancy seasons and despite my effort looking second-hand, I eventually gave up when it was forecasting 30 degrees (Celsius) and I had no shorts that fit my ever-growing belly. I didn’t pay full price though and may have made three trips with the same discount coupon to save me the 50% on the outrageously expensive maternity clothing items.

Budget Better

As I said we’re in a much better spot financially, not only have we paid off tens of thousands of dollars in debt in the last four years and have a decent ER fund set aside, in general we manage our money better. We’re in the process now of looking into how things will change when I go off and what we need to prepare. We’re fortunate that our daycare situation is so flexible and willing to do whatever works for us too, a huge help since as it looks now, due to my professional licensing requirements for work I’ll be off five weeks earlier than I’d like and will probably pull her out of daycare for two full months then resume in the new year part time (I can’t justify paying a whole years’ worth of fees to work for 5 weeks, financially it makes zero sense).

Shifting Debt for Savings

Until I go off work and we have an idea of our finances, we’re going to temporarily suspend our extra debt payments and stash everything in savings instead. Once my maternity leave money starts coming in and we have an idea of how much we can budget, we’ll then throw it all on debt but in case something happens I want to know we have a cushion to fall back on (though having gone through the process once I don’t foresee anything major happening).

I’m genuinely looking forward to the next half of this pregnancy and meeting our new baby, just as a pregnancy should be. I’ll be honest, getting pregnant when we did certainly derailed a few of our financial goals temporarily but honestly, such is life. I know some people would be torn apart about it, but something I’ve definitely learned in the last four years is that defining your relationship with money is important, and for me, I never want to allow my relationship with money to take away from actually living my life, babies included.

How did you/will you prepare for kids?

Having Fun When You’re Broke.

TTRI admit that a lot of the things I enjoy doing for ‘’fun’’ involve spending money. I love eating out, I love going out for coffee with friends, I love farmers markets, I enjoy going to the gym, I love going on road trips, I enjoy concerts and theater…all of these things cost money. There was a time (multiple, if I’m being honest since the inception of my money-earning days) that I was broke but was still looking to have a good time.

I actually love(d) these days though. I mean don’t get me wrong, people don’t enjoy the feeling of being strapped for cash or not having an emergency fund in place, but given the opportunity you can learn a lot about yourself and really understanding your wants and needs when money becomes an issue. It was during these days that I learned how to have a good time without spending much, if any money at all. Even though money isn’t an issue anymore, these are things I still love and regularly practice today.

Board games

Growing up, cards was something I always enjoyed but I’ll be honest, playing board games wasn’t a big part of my childhood. As an adult though, when I was trying to plan an evening in (because going out was not an option!), I decided to ask friends to bring some games that that had, with them. I wanted something to do that wasn’t watching a movie or sitting around doing nothing. I loved them. It was that year that my husband and I really got into games. My husband’s family had always played games so he already owned a few, we just hadn’t done much together or with friends. Over the years we have acquired quite the board game collection. A few we’ve bought new, some in great shape at second hand stores and a few as gifts. We have our favorites (Catan and Ticket to Ride top the list) but we’re always looking to expand.

Having a game-night in is not only uber cheap, it’s incredibly fun. I can honestly say I would rather spend an evening in with friends playing games than out at a restaurant eating and drinking our bank account dry.

Walks and Hiking

Most of my life I’ve had access to a rec center membership. I really enjoyed going to the gym but a time came when we had to give the membership up, it just didn’t fit in our budget anymore. I relied mostly on walks and hikes to get my exercise in and guess what…I really honestly enjoyed it. I would usually go with my sister or a friend, we’d meet up and go for a decent 4-5km walk a few times per week. When I was on maternity leave, my daily walks were the key to me losing weight. I love finding new places to explore and enjoy getting caught up with friends or being with my own thoughts for a little while. Best of all, it’s free to walk, and it satisfied that ‘’I want to be in a coffee shop drinking coffee with you’’ itch.

Cooking

I have a funny relationship with cooking. I actually don’t enjoy cooking for just two adults, but love preparing a meal for a crowd. When going out to restaurants regularly wasn’t an option, not just for us but many friends too (babies, wedding and new homes do that to you), I started offering to cook in much more. I have become pretty good at feeding a crowd on a budget and really enjoy it. Combine with a few board games and you can have a pretty decent time for minimal cash spent. You can easily turn it into a potluck style meal as well to save even more.

There was a time where I really thought I needed to spend money to enjoy myself. I’m appreciative of the times when spending money wasn’t an option though, as I’ve really learned what it was I wanted out of those situations and can easily replicate for little to no actual money being spent.

What’s your favorite way to have fun without breaking the bank?

How Much ‘’Extra’’ Money Did You Need When Buying a House?

Buying a house is likely one of the biggest purchases you will ever make. After a conversation with friends over the weekend as we visited them in their new purchase, we started to discuss just how expensive those first few weeks post-move actually are.

When we bought our house, we were somewhat prepared for additional costs but like our friends, were totally unprepared for how much the bottom line actually ended up being.

Things we Remembered to Consider

Outside of costs associated with the actual house buying process, we were also prepared to buy the following:

  • Paint for rooms
  • New locks
  • Various furniture
  • Lawn mower/rake/shovel
  • Garbage can
  • Some home linens (more towels, hand towels for bathroom, sheets for new bed etc)

I say prepared but in all honesty we hadn’t done near enough homework on what exactly these things were going to cost us, just that we needed them. We set aside some money and hoped for the best. We were more than a little shocked when we went to buy new locks for the house and came to find out even cheap exterior door knobs could be close to $100 and paint quality and price is hugely variant. It was a big wake-up call to go to our first store, spend close to $700 and still not have everything we needed.

In the first few weeks there were many other things that crept up and we ended up buying, putting us well over the budgeted amount we set aside. Things we needed which didn’t factor in were:

  • Vacuum (not sure how this got through the cracks)
  • New broom/mop
  • Window treatments (the previous owners left some (which were hideous) but not all rooms were equipped)
  • Light fixtures and CFL bulbs
  • Paint supplies (over and above what we previously considered)
  • Our first Costco visit….we may have been a little overzealous with this one.

It was so long ago now that I honestly forget just how much more everything was but I know we spent way more than anticipated and this past weekend our friends were explaining their same experience.

Preventing it From Happening Again

If all goes well, we will be moving in the next two to three years. We were initially aiming to place our house on the market for late 2017/early 2018, but with baby 2.0 on the way it will likely delay us until end of 2018/early 2019 as I will be spending a year on maternity leave, but we haven’t yet figured the numbers out yet so we’ll see.

When we move, not only will we be much, much, more financially savvy, we will do way more homework to prevent another huge budget buster from happening again. It will also help that we will be moving from one house to another house with most things a house would need, where in move number one we moved from a small apartment to a house and were hugely unprepared.

When we look to buy our next house, we will have much more knowledge which will help. I plan on spending a few hours walking through the house before we even put an offer in, itemizing everything that we will want or need. I will do this with every house we consider since initial money needed may be the deciding factor.

Houses are expensive and sometimes I wish we didn’t have one but at the end of the day I really do love having a home of my own where my family can put permanent roots down and create some great memories.

Were you unprepared for your first home purchase?

ps_menu_class_0

3 Household Items You Can Probably Cut Out (or Easily Substitute)

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

Running a house is certainly expensive and there are many products out there trying to prove their necessity for you running your home efficiently but the reality is that you probably don’t need them.

Disposable Paper Products

When I’m shopping at Costco and see carts full of paper towel and napkins I have to wonder what family could possibly need that much disposable paper product. I admit that I used to use paper towel for everything, and growing up, our house always had napkins on the table but when I started buying my own household goods I realized not only how expensive it was, but also how wasteful. I think it started more out of necessity (trying to save money) than being conservative, but after a few weeks of not buying paper towels with our grocery order I realized how unnecessary they were.

I dedicated a few old kitchen towels to use while cleaning and we started using reusable napkins while eating. I noticed that there were very few times I missed using disposable paper. I keep a roll of paper towel on hand mostly for cat messes, when my cat has an accident or vomits, I prefer to use paper towel to clean up and throw in garbage rather than rinsing out and washing a reusable cloth. As well, if we have a large function (like my sister-in-law’s upcoming wedding) we’ll buy disposable products but for day-to-day usage it’s an easy item to swap out.

Disposable Diapers

Obviously this only applies to homes with young infants but needs to be mentioned. This is also something I admit to being guilty for (using disposable) but am in complete favor of cloth diapering. Though the initial cost can be quite high, in the end cloth diapers are significantly cheaper and hold a decent resale value (look around for used first, if considering). With our daughter we received enough disposable diapers as gifts though that I didn’t buy a pack of diapers for a full 12 months, it was kind of glorious. The other reason we opted not to cloth diaper was that when calling around to various daycare places before we had her placed somewhere, a lot of places preferred to not use the cloth and asked if while the child was there, they could be sent with disposables so it didn’t make sense for us however I still think cloth diapering trumps disposable in both cost and, certainly, waste.

Household Cleaners

Though my husband hates when I clean with vinegar (a smell he cannot stand) it’s too cheap and effective not to use. There are very few areas in my house that I can’t clean with some combination of vinegar, water, basic dishsoap or baking soda (here’s a good list of DIY cleaners). I do admit that I usually do have Windex on hand as well for windows and glass tables (the vinegar and water just won’t get streak-free to my satisfaction with greasy toddler fingerprints) but a regular sized bottle of such will last me seemingly forever.

Given that there are entire sections in grocery stores dedicated to nothing but cleaning products you don’t need basically any of it. When we first bought our house I remember going out and spending close to $10 for a cleaner that was dedicated to nothing but cleaning the top of our glass stove. I used it once, realized it was nothing but an abrasive scrub (food loves to stick to glass stoves) and that a water and baking soda paste worked just as good. Though I’m not a super health nut or anything, using a bunch of chemicals around surfaces my family lives and eats (especially things like highchairs) simply doesn’t appeal to me, nor does paying premium prices for pre-made, pre-packed, chemical free goods from the stores.

What a family will need varies between each house, but I do think in general we’re too quick to do the easiest thing possible- like buy special cleaner for your table to point, spray and wipe with paper towel, rather than wiping it off with a disposable cloth with warm soap and water which then may mean an extra laundry item- but honesty it takes no extra effort, and can make a huge difference in both finances and overall waste, so try it!

What household items do you commonly save on?

Times When You Shouldn’t Make Any Financial Decisions

Last Friday was an honest-to-God awful day for me. It started with a totally unnecessarily long wait at the local women’s hospital for one of my pregnancy bloodwork tests which caused me to be late for work, annoying enough when your day is scheduled with booked patients. Me being 30 minutes late doesn’t affect just me, it can affect my entire patient load for the day so it’s a huge annoyance. I did manage to park in the parkade by work for free though (normally a cost of $18 for the day) thanks to a pass given by another employee. Just as my day was turning around, it went even worse. As I was pulling into the underground parkade, another dumb driver wasn’t paying attention and almost went ‘’out’’ the ‘’in’’ causing me to swerve (my car is basically in park that’s how slow I was moving) but I was forced to move the wheels enough that my mirror hit the card pass meter and break off the whole back-end of my mirror. To make matters worse, before I even realized what happened, he had left the parkade.

My day just kept going like that. Patients not showing up. One who did show up had to be cut short because she was clearly under the influence of something, construction not allowing me to leave after work…you get my drift. Bad. Day.

I’m pretty good at not letting things get to me. I’m good at finding positives and moving on but I couldn’t concentrate at work and quite honestly for the first time in a long time wanted to leave work and get away from basically all of humanity. I was in a serious funk.

On my drive home I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time. The feeling of not caring. Not giving a crap and acting on my impulses. This leads me to my first point of when you should never make a financial decision.

During an Emotional High or Low

As I was driving home I was thinking about my sister-in-law’s upcoming wedding and things that need to be done. The night before I had done a quick search about finding maternity pantyhose for my dress. I wasn’t surprised to find out the cheapest I could buy locally were $17 plus tax, per pair. A cost I couldn’t justify when I’ll wear them literally one day and normal pantyhose can be purchased at basically any drug store for like $5.00. I was annoyed at the cost but accepted no one would care if my pale bare legs were on display.

However on my drive home I had a ‘’screw it’’ moment. I actually changed lanes and almost drove to the mall to spend the cash on the pantyhose. Not because I now wanted them or had changed my mind but because part of me wanted to satisfy that ‘’I don’t care anymore’’ feeling. I had one full red light to realize I was just being irrational and opted to buy a $2.00 ice cream instead, still an emotional purchase but less damaging.

When you’re going through an emotional high or low, anything from a simple bad day to an exciting new marriage, do not make any immediate financial decisions. Some decisions may be permanent and much more damaging than an ice cream. Take time to sort through all emotion before deciding anything.

When Money Is New

Some of you will be fortunate enough to come into a sum of money. Gifts, inheritances, whatever. If you do, even if you have thought and dreamt about what you’d do with it- wait. Give yourself some time to really think about things and get advice. Talk to trustworthy friends, family and ideally professionals about how to best execute your plan. If we came into money my quick response would be ‘pay off debt’ but upon talking to someone else they may point out reasons why investing might be a better option. Get good advice, then decide.

When You’re Distracted

There are many, many distractions in life. Everything from technology, to our jobs, to family, if you don’t have time set aside time to think about your financial decision, wait until you do. It’s only fair to you and your money that you make all decisions with a clear mind and away from all other noise.

Money can be a stressful thought, even a good kind of stress, and I think some people are quick to make decisions so they no longer have to think about it but there are definitely times when taking a pause is always a good idea.

Have you ever experienced a regret in a financial decision because of one of these reasons?

Building An Affordable Maternity Wardrobe

maternity shirtWhat to know what’s criminal? The cost of maternity clothes. Stick the word ‘’baby’’, ‘’maternity’’, ‘’breastfeeding/nursing’’ or ‘’pregnancy’’ in front of any regular item of clothing and suddenly the price is increased significantly. Most pregnant women will need some form of maternity wear throughout their almost 10 month gestational period so, unfortunately a lot of these maternity specialty stores have a monopoly on the niche population (though there are many tricks out there to getting the most out of your pre-pregnancy wardrobe). Add in the fact that some people, like me, live in an area with very slim pickings in terms of where to shop for such items and suddenly I’m looking at a pair of pants with a price tag of $80.00 and I’ll wear for less than five months.

My first pregnancy was over four years ago and was in opposite season. I was biggest/really only needed maternity clothes in the late spring/early summer with my first, where this time I’m not only showing much earlier, I will be my biggest in the late summer all the way into winter. I also didn’t buy much of anything during my first pregnancy that I could keep for this one. In total I carried over two shirts (one quite dressy), two scrub tops and a pair of smaller jeans. I was determined to squeeze myself into ‘’regular’’ clothes as long as I could because, as mentioned maternity clothes as so, so expensive.

Target doesn’t exist in Canada, my local Walmart doesn’t carry maternity wear and neither does my local Old Navy (nor does online have an option)…the top three affordable choices for moms around North American don’t exist for me so I had to look into alternative options since I was quickly popping out of all regular clothes.

Here are a few ways to build a maternity wardrobe without breaking the bank:

Second Hand Stores

I have checked out my local thrift stores but I haven’t had any luck. I am convinced our local women share their maternity wear among friends or sell privately but I had to include it because it’s always worth looking into. Like most young children’s clothes, maternity wear is often only used for less than six months so if you do have luck you can buy almost new clothing for much cheaper.

Classifieds

I don’t live in a huge city and, as mentioned there are really only two options for clothes locally- two popular chain stores and a few upscale maternity boutiques. This means you can expect clothes from these expensive stores to pop-up online. Though I haven’t bought anything via online classifieds I have looked and there are good deals. Just last week a lady was selling a dress from a local boutique which she paid over $140, wore for three months and was selling for $40. Not bad.

Online Shopping

I have little option in terms of online shopping but there is one website that I have had success with called Zuliliy (not an affiliate link). The risk is that there aren’t any returns but I haven’t had any trouble with their products. I found a two pack of maternity tank tops for $12, a dressy t-shirt for $10 and a dress to wear to a wedding at seven months pregnant for $30 (from $90) all of which I have been very happy with and all of which I can re-sell via online classifieds when I’m done.

Cut Coupons

I hate signing up for most email signups but when it comes to baby, my experience is that it is often worth it. Over my two pregnancies I have had opportunities to save some big bucks on items including maternity wears. One of the emails I get every few weeks includes a coupon for 40% off at one of these fancy maternity wear stores so when I found myself approaching the cooler months and a few events to attend with literally one pair of pants I can squeeze into, I decided to buy a second pair. The pants retailed for $79.98 (simple pair of skinny jeans), were on sale for $64.99 and I was able to use one of these coupons putting the $80 pants at $39. Outside of my work scrubs I will wear these two pairs of pants plus a pair of leggings throughout the next three months and into the first few post-natal months.

In total I have spent about $100 on maternity clothes for my pregnancy and I’m happy with that. After baby is born I will need a few nursing bras which will probably run about $30 each but I plan on working those into my November birthday gift (adulting is fun). I won’t lie, when I’m at home or lounging I’ve been mostly wearing my husband’s old t-shirts since I draw the line at buying fancy maternity PJ’s and lounge wear. I have been taking care of the items I have purchased and hope to recover some of the cost by re-selling as well.

How did you manage your maternity wardrobe? Any other tips?

Our Experiment in Using Credit Cards

-1For most of my adult life I haven’t used credit cards. If you’ll remember, I had access to a decent chunk of credit back in university (in the days when they’d increase your limit without you asking), and so during my second degree I maxed out my cards for tuition. With maxed out credit cards and no desire to take on more debt, we were forced to live on cash/debit.

This wasn’t a bad thing necessarily. It’s not exactly easy to accumulate more debt when you can only live on what what’s in your bank account. We didn’t even have overdraft which we may be tempted to dip into. Though we were living on cash, as I have talked about many times before, we weren’t managing our finances well. Bills were getting paid but we weren’t making any headway on our debt repayment which wasn’t doing favors for anyone.

In the last few years we’ve come a long way, we’ve learned how to manage our money, pay off debt and live our life. One thing we’ve never really done though is learn how to properly use a credit card. I really don’t think a credit card is a necessity to live, there are plenty of people who get along fine without them, but for us it was something I wanted to master.

The biggest reason I wanted to master proper credit card usage was because one of our biggest annoyances with our budget is that we’re paid bi-weekly but almost every bill we have is set up to be a monthly paid bill but when it comes to our discretionary spending on things like groceries, gas, or even cat needs things can get kind of confusing about exactly how much to allocate and when to use the cash. I wanted the flexibility to spend, say $200 in one grocery run but only spend $75 the next time and not spend the difference in cash but by the end of the month stay within what we budgeted. I don’t like allocating the exact same amount every two weeks. I wanted to experiment with using a credit card for a few months to see if we could stay within what I had established as a ‘’monthly’’ allotment for these discretionary categories allowing us to manage the cash side of things a bit easier and here’s what I learned:

It’s incredibly easy to get lazy with tracking when it goes on a credit card. When you pay cash/debit for everything, you’re forced to keep an eagle eye on your bank account daily, if not multiple times per day. Though this is a habit that should have transcended with the credit card, it did not for us.

It’s too easy to overspend. We knew the money was there so we just kept spending. I’d go to the grocery store, grab some things and Mike would follow getting more, leading to unnecessary spending, multiple times per month.

It can be uncomfortable. Seeing the balance grow throughout the month is not a feeling I like, so much so that we’ve learned very quickly, two months into this experiment, we need to change how we use and pay off frequency.

We definitely made some mistakes in these first two months of usage but thankfully we have our financial knowhow to be able to recognize what we need to do to fix our errors. One thing we did do is make sure the credit we had available to us was manageable, especially with me preparing to go on maternity leave. The last thing we want is to end up in unnecessary credit card debt. Our limit is set that we should be able to have it paid off (if ever maxed out) within two months.

Even though we’ve made some mistakes, we’ve also taken the time to realize what we need to do to make it work and are going to give it another try…with the obvious being much more careful monitoring.

Do you like using credit cards for daily spending? Any secret tips?

3 Honest Reasons Why You Should Wait to Have Kids

Source: Free Digital Photos

Source: Free Digital Photos

Having kids is a life alerting thing, likely one of the biggest life changes any couple will make. Some couples choose not to have children and I personally have zero issue with this. While I can’t imagine my life without my daughter and impending baby 2.0, I 100% understand this is not the life for everyone (I apologize on behalf of the childbearing society which attempts to pressure you and make you feel bad). If, however you are considering having a child, there are some very real things to consider in terms of timing. While medical professionals will remind you that waiting may not be the best fertility practice, there are many other benefits to holding off on having your first child.

You Have More Time to Get Your Finances in Order

While this theoretically should have been true for us, given that we had three full years of career-level income before having our daughter, we did not put this into practice. Knowing what I know now, I want to kick myself, hard. For us, it took getting pregnant and having another human to care for to get us in gear BUT if you’re lucky enough to have the financial ability to deal with any and all financial issues (paying down debt, beefing up savings, getting housing in order) before baby comes- do it. You will NEVER have the same financial opportunities once baby comes. Holding off on pregnancy means more time to get financial affairs in order and you must capitalize on this.

You’ll Likely Score Free Stuff From Friends

If I’m being honest, one of the biggest perks with not being the first of my friends to have kids is scoring on the baby stuff they want to give away. I have one friend who has a daughter three months older than Maria, three months is about the max time you’ll get out of an outfit in a growing infant which meant as she was growing out of cute baby clothes, we were handed them. This saved us a ton during the first year. Between her hand-me-downs and what I received as shower gifts, I didn’t buy a single item of clothing in year one. I visited the same friend today who gave me bags full of baby clothes. They didn’t know with either pregnancy if it was a boy or girl so they handed over all the baby boy stuff to us to have for our impending son, a lot of it brand new.

Within my circle of friends we’ve shared many things between us which has saved all of us a decent chunk of money. Toys, bouncy chairs, breast pumps (easy to come apart and sterilize), clothes (who wants to spend $30+ on an infant dress to wear to a wedding when you can borrow?). Being able to accept hand-me-downs and borrow items is a huge plus.

Your Bucket List Will Be Smaller

Though you may be in your peak fertility years, I simply cannot imagine planning a child in my late teens/early 20’s. By the time you’ve finished your post-secondary, and had a few years to live your life, I just don’t see how you can be prepared to have a child without regret any earlier. Not that a child isn’t a blessing, by waiting a few years you’ll have more opportunity to accomplish things that might not be so easy once a baby comes into your life.

I have people in my life who had kids very young (some planned, some not) and people who deliberately waited. The ones who waited are often much, much better off starting out. They have the financial knowhow to manage a maternity leave, to understand the importance of a stable living situation and truly appreciate the life they’ve set up for the child. So though society may judge you for not considering children until beyond your 30’s, or even 40’s you really do get the last laugh.

If You Want Change, Don’t Expect All to Remain the Same.

Source: Free Digital Photos

Source: Free Digital Photos

In the last few months I’ve had a few frustrating moments with our budget. I’ve added a few changes, like a second car, a pregnancy, or even an air conditioner yet, I haven’t taken the time to address these changes within our budget per se. For example, we did pay cash for the car, and have adjusted our monthly insurance premium but I haven’t yet taken time to change things like how much extra gas money we’d need every month so you can imagine, our spending has changed (some categories more, some less) yet I’m surprised that our numbers aren’t working out at the end of the month.

I do this to us every few years. We get a budget/money monitoring system/whatever going well, I throw in a change and just expect the numbers to work themselves out and act surprised when they don’t. All of these changes are things we wanted, for us, all good change, and if it’s change we’re after I can’t expect it all to remain the same.

I feel like a lot of budgets fail because people aren’t honest with themselves and this is exactly what I’ve done to us. I kind of assumed that we’d get the second car and the decrease in gas consumption with overusing vehicle #1 would offset #2 when that hasn’t been true. We’re still getting one full tank per month with vehicle #2, and we are using less in vehicle #1, but I still need to add something more in terms of gas. I also think I’ve been a bit over eager in terms of what we won’t need to buy with baby #2. While yes, we do have a lot more starting out than we did with our first, there are still some things that we’ll need and I can’t deny it anymore.  We need to set up a list and budget soon or we’ll be caught with me off work, on my cut back maternity income, and a list of unmet needs.

I remember watching an episode of Till Debt do Us Part with Gail Vaz Oxlade once and the couple was whining about not making progress fast enough and Gail simply pointed out that their unwillingness to do anything beyond what they were currently doing (in terms of earned income from 9-5 jobs), was holding them back. They weren’t willing to earn more, give up anything more or sell anything so how could they possibly move any faster than they were? Once this was pointed out, they were able to see the light, pick up extra shifts and start selling off some insane designer purse collection or something to help pay down their debt.

I feel like sometimes people are eager for change, they want to get out of debt, retire early, or reach some personal savings goal yet do nothing different with their finances to reach those goals. Unfortunately as I have learned, unless you are willing to get uncomfortable and take time to implement these changes, all will remain the same.

Sometimes You Just Need to Spend a Little Money

13895564_10100858377507339_8185050889799056385_nIn the personal finance community, I find one of the less discussed topics is about actually spending money. We’re all too proud to talk about our savings goals or to a larger extreme, things like shopping bans, and by all accounts these things should be congratulated. Saving money, and though I have never done one, something like a shopping ban, isn’t easy. Arguably one of the hardest things one could do with their money but at the same time, we’re all human and we all enjoy different experiences. Sometimes those experiences cost money.

Given that we experience very few hot summer days here (though this year has been stellar in terms of weather!), when they’re around we want to soak up everything they offer. This past weekend I woke up early (not optional with an early rising four year old), and decided we’d head into the city for the day with my sister and sister-in-law. I had heard some rumors of a new playground and thought it might be fun to let Maria run around for a bit while we all got a nice walk in.

We took the ferry over early in the morning (for free since it’s a holiday weekend perk) before it got too busy and walked most of the length of our beautiful waterfront before making a quick stop at our farmers market and eventually, the playground. Maria had a ton of fun and we got a little exercise in. On our walk back, the waterfront was getting very buys as it’s a long summer weekend and the international Busker festival is in town. With the festival brings all kinds of vendors.

Maria had her face painted (professionally) for Halloween last year and has been talking about it since. When she spotted a face painter on our walk yesterday she asked if we could do it. At $10 for a 5 min procedure it wasn’t cheap but you better believe we did it anyway. She was the happiest kid all day until we washed up at bedtime that night. We also spent money on a completely unnecessary lunch and a huge bag of cotton candy. None of which was necessary but per my main point, it’s OK to spend money sometimes and enjoy yourself. To some, the paint was literally setting a $10 bill on fire. It was on her face, and washed off a few hours later but know what? I don’t care. She was so happy and couldn’t wait to show everyone her beautiful sparkly unicorn. We enjoyed sitting on the waterfront eating our lunch together and cotton candy was a treat that we all enjoyed and rarely get.

I have had a lot of frugal fun and to be honest most of my favorite activities cost little to no money but sometimes even the most frugal people want to spend a little money on an experience, and that’s ok. I could get into the whole ‘’balance’’ argument but honestly I think it’s a crock. If I tried to balance my spending and saving all the time, I’d never make headway with anything so really, be smart about your financial goals but know that it’s ok to enjoy our money from time-to-time as well. I find, especially in the personal finance community, can make you feel bad about spending money on whatever it is you may enjoy but since I’m just an ‘’expert’’ as the other person in this community I give you full permission to spend money guilt free!

When was the last time you enjoyed your money?

Preparing for Baby 2.0

Source: Free Digital Photos

Source: Free Digital Photos

It’s hard to believe that we’re halfway through growing this little baby and that in a few short months our lives will change significantly. It was about this time with my first pregnancy that I was freaking out about, well, just about everything. Having a baby, the money, having a baby, the money…you get my point. We had no idea what to expect. Part of my anxiety stemmed from that fact that with pregnancy #1 we were not in a great spot financially. I mean, our bills were getting paid but we paid very little attention to the ins and outs of our finances. We didn’t have a budget, let alone any emergency fund and I really had no idea what to expect when I started claiming my maternity benefits (and losing over 60% of my income…).

Thankfully a few months into my maternity leave I discovered an online niche I came to know as ‘’personal finance’’ and my life changed for the better. Not only were my eyes opened to so many things (like the beloved ER fund), it changed my relationship with money and allowed me to take control. In the last four years I’ve learned a lot, and it’s through these lessons I can blissfully take a second maternity leave, stress free. Here’s how we’re prepping financially for baby #2.

Use What We’ve Got and Fill in the Blanks

We were in a weird spot for a long time about if we would have more kids, but because of our uncertainly we held onto quite a few things. Given the lack of storage at our house, a lot of smaller/cheaper items like infant and children’s clothes we donated (keeping maybe the equivalent of two totes only) but we did hold onto all larger items like the crib, pack and play, tub, swing. Pretty much everything outside of clothes if very gender neutral which helps too since we don’t yet know what we’re having. The only things we really need this time are a car seat since our infant seat had expired (we scored one already for almost 60% off!), a diaper bag (I used my first one religiously until Maria was out of diapers/not changing her outfit four times per day due to mess, and it fell apart behind repair. Again already purchased online for $36.00 down from $215.00), and a new monitor since ours was always terrible and we just never got around to replacing (still need to buy).

The fact that we have so much starting out is a huge help. I did need to buy a few maternity clothing pieces since we’re in opposite pregnancy seasons and despite my effort looking second-hand, I eventually gave up when it was forecasting 30 degrees (Celsius) and I had no shorts that fit my ever-growing belly. I didn’t pay full price though and may have made three trips with the same discount coupon to save me the 50% on the outrageously expensive maternity clothing items.

Budget Better

As I said we’re in a much better spot financially, not only have we paid off tens of thousands of dollars in debt in the last four years and have a decent ER fund set aside, in general we manage our money better. We’re in the process now of looking into how things will change when I go off and what we need to prepare. We’re fortunate that our daycare situation is so flexible and willing to do whatever works for us too, a huge help since as it looks now, due to my professional licensing requirements for work I’ll be off five weeks earlier than I’d like and will probably pull her out of daycare for two full months then resume in the new year part time (I can’t justify paying a whole years’ worth of fees to work for 5 weeks, financially it makes zero sense).

Shifting Debt for Savings

Until I go off work and we have an idea of our finances, we’re going to temporarily suspend our extra debt payments and stash everything in savings instead. Once my maternity leave money starts coming in and we have an idea of how much we can budget, we’ll then throw it all on debt but in case something happens I want to know we have a cushion to fall back on (though having gone through the process once I don’t foresee anything major happening).

I’m genuinely looking forward to the next half of this pregnancy and meeting our new baby, just as a pregnancy should be. I’ll be honest, getting pregnant when we did certainly derailed a few of our financial goals temporarily but honestly, such is life. I know some people would be torn apart about it, but something I’ve definitely learned in the last four years is that defining your relationship with money is important, and for me, I never want to allow my relationship with money to take away from actually living my life, babies included.

How did you/will you prepare for kids?

Having Fun When You’re Broke.

TTRI admit that a lot of the things I enjoy doing for ‘’fun’’ involve spending money. I love eating out, I love going out for coffee with friends, I love farmers markets, I enjoy going to the gym, I love going on road trips, I enjoy concerts and theater…all of these things cost money. There was a time (multiple, if I’m being honest since the inception of my money-earning days) that I was broke but was still looking to have a good time.

I actually love(d) these days though. I mean don’t get me wrong, people don’t enjoy the feeling of being strapped for cash or not having an emergency fund in place, but given the opportunity you can learn a lot about yourself and really understanding your wants and needs when money becomes an issue. It was during these days that I learned how to have a good time without spending much, if any money at all. Even though money isn’t an issue anymore, these are things I still love and regularly practice today.

Board games

Growing up, cards was something I always enjoyed but I’ll be honest, playing board games wasn’t a big part of my childhood. As an adult though, when I was trying to plan an evening in (because going out was not an option!), I decided to ask friends to bring some games that that had, with them. I wanted something to do that wasn’t watching a movie or sitting around doing nothing. I loved them. It was that year that my husband and I really got into games. My husband’s family had always played games so he already owned a few, we just hadn’t done much together or with friends. Over the years we have acquired quite the board game collection. A few we’ve bought new, some in great shape at second hand stores and a few as gifts. We have our favorites (Catan and Ticket to Ride top the list) but we’re always looking to expand.

Having a game-night in is not only uber cheap, it’s incredibly fun. I can honestly say I would rather spend an evening in with friends playing games than out at a restaurant eating and drinking our bank account dry.

Walks and Hiking

Most of my life I’ve had access to a rec center membership. I really enjoyed going to the gym but a time came when we had to give the membership up, it just didn’t fit in our budget anymore. I relied mostly on walks and hikes to get my exercise in and guess what…I really honestly enjoyed it. I would usually go with my sister or a friend, we’d meet up and go for a decent 4-5km walk a few times per week. When I was on maternity leave, my daily walks were the key to me losing weight. I love finding new places to explore and enjoy getting caught up with friends or being with my own thoughts for a little while. Best of all, it’s free to walk, and it satisfied that ‘’I want to be in a coffee shop drinking coffee with you’’ itch.

Cooking

I have a funny relationship with cooking. I actually don’t enjoy cooking for just two adults, but love preparing a meal for a crowd. When going out to restaurants regularly wasn’t an option, not just for us but many friends too (babies, wedding and new homes do that to you), I started offering to cook in much more. I have become pretty good at feeding a crowd on a budget and really enjoy it. Combine with a few board games and you can have a pretty decent time for minimal cash spent. You can easily turn it into a potluck style meal as well to save even more.

There was a time where I really thought I needed to spend money to enjoy myself. I’m appreciative of the times when spending money wasn’t an option though, as I’ve really learned what it was I wanted out of those situations and can easily replicate for little to no actual money being spent.

What’s your favorite way to have fun without breaking the bank?

How Much ‘’Extra’’ Money Did You Need When Buying a House?

Buying a house is likely one of the biggest purchases you will ever make. After a conversation with friends over the weekend as we visited them in their new purchase, we started to discuss just how expensive those first few weeks post-move actually are.

When we bought our house, we were somewhat prepared for additional costs but like our friends, were totally unprepared for how much the bottom line actually ended up being.

Things we Remembered to Consider

Outside of costs associated with the actual house buying process, we were also prepared to buy the following:

  • Paint for rooms
  • New locks
  • Various furniture
  • Lawn mower/rake/shovel
  • Garbage can
  • Some home linens (more towels, hand towels for bathroom, sheets for new bed etc)

I say prepared but in all honesty we hadn’t done near enough homework on what exactly these things were going to cost us, just that we needed them. We set aside some money and hoped for the best. We were more than a little shocked when we went to buy new locks for the house and came to find out even cheap exterior door knobs could be close to $100 and paint quality and price is hugely variant. It was a big wake-up call to go to our first store, spend close to $700 and still not have everything we needed.

In the first few weeks there were many other things that crept up and we ended up buying, putting us well over the budgeted amount we set aside. Things we needed which didn’t factor in were:

  • Vacuum (not sure how this got through the cracks)
  • New broom/mop
  • Window treatments (the previous owners left some (which were hideous) but not all rooms were equipped)
  • Light fixtures and CFL bulbs
  • Paint supplies (over and above what we previously considered)
  • Our first Costco visit….we may have been a little overzealous with this one.

It was so long ago now that I honestly forget just how much more everything was but I know we spent way more than anticipated and this past weekend our friends were explaining their same experience.

Preventing it From Happening Again

If all goes well, we will be moving in the next two to three years. We were initially aiming to place our house on the market for late 2017/early 2018, but with baby 2.0 on the way it will likely delay us until end of 2018/early 2019 as I will be spending a year on maternity leave, but we haven’t yet figured the numbers out yet so we’ll see.

When we move, not only will we be much, much, more financially savvy, we will do way more homework to prevent another huge budget buster from happening again. It will also help that we will be moving from one house to another house with most things a house would need, where in move number one we moved from a small apartment to a house and were hugely unprepared.

When we look to buy our next house, we will have much more knowledge which will help. I plan on spending a few hours walking through the house before we even put an offer in, itemizing everything that we will want or need. I will do this with every house we consider since initial money needed may be the deciding factor.

Houses are expensive and sometimes I wish we didn’t have one but at the end of the day I really do love having a home of my own where my family can put permanent roots down and create some great memories.

Were you unprepared for your first home purchase?