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In Budgeting, Motherhood on
August 16, 2017

How to financially prepare for your new baby

There’s so many questions when preparing to have your first baby, as my husband and I quickly found out. You can predict some extra (and unexpected) costs when it comes to adding a new addition to your family, some of which may end up being a burden on your finances. I’m here to help give you some practical advice on how to plan your finances as a new mom-to-be, as well as advise you on what to prepare ahead of time so you can save a few bucks during your pregnancy. 

One of our biggest money savers when having Landon has been shopping secondhand for nursery furniture. Have you ever looked at the prices of crib sets? A full nursery set can cost you anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000. The dresser alone costs more than an adult dresser! If you’re having your first baby, I understand your wanting to have everything new. That’s totally fine (I’m right there with ya), but I would recommend re-furnishing secondhand items if you are open to the idea. My husband and I purchased a used bar table and after some planning, my husband extended the top part to make it into a baby changing table. It was a $30 find and only took a little labor, some new paint and cheap sandpaper to give it that rustic look we all lust after. We also purchased a secondhand dresser, which we re-painted to match our nursery. There are so many apps, websites and FB groups to use when it comes to finding some cool second hand stuff. We like to use the app Close5, which is where we found our second-hand purchases!

Another great way to save on pregnancy costs, such as copays or blood work is by signing up for a health spending account through your job. If you are planning ahead or thinking of starting a family, be sure to look into this option. An HSA account is a pre-tax account used to pay for eligible medical care expenses that aren’t covered by your insurance plan. If you can stash some money away into an account like this, you should have enough money to cover anything that the insurance doesn’t end up paying. My job offers a similar service, called a Flex Spending Account, where my company actually gives me money to keep healthy by going for routine physicals, dental exams, joining a gym, etc. They basically give out around $500 of free money in incentives to keep myself and my family healthy! It ends up saving insurance money in the long run, so look into what your job offers such as this.

Another piece of practical and pretty obvious advice would be to get to know your personal insurance plan. Do your research and shop around for the right insurance option for you and your family. Check into how much your deductible is and what you will need to pay out of pocket. By knowing your deductible ahead of time, you can anticipate the cost of your delivery and hospital stay. Another great perk of having insurance is that most companies (if not all), cover the cost of a breast pump. When you are in your third trimester you can get a script from your doctor which you can then submit to your insurance and in return receive a free breast bump — often times they will even deliver it to your local Target store. Breastfeeding is another way to save tons of money on milk and is beneficial to your baby’s health.

Finally, be prepared to save. Understand that taking your three-month maternity leave that you will not be paid at 100 percent of your current salary. Most moms only make up to 60% of their normal salary during this time. The best case scenario would be preparing ahead of time and putting aside some money every month to account for this loss of income. I didn’t do my research before I became pregnant, so I was unaware that you weren’t paid your full salary during maternity leave. We always have our savings, but didn’t set aside any extra money for this time. If you could have a special account set up beforehand, you will be better prepared financially and not blindsided by your lessened salary. If you are returning to work full-time after your pregnancy, keep in mind the cost of childcare and set up a plan for aftercare once the baby is born. Compare prices of local day cares or see if a close family member could watch your little one on the days you have to work.

There are so many money saving tips out there, but it can still feel overwhelming as you try and prepare for your first baby. Don’t let your pregnancy get ahead of your bank and make sure your savings are set before your kiddo arrives. 

Feel free to leave me a comment below with your best kept money secrets!

 

This post was written by Jess but first seen on Society Letters here

In Budgeting on
July 19, 2017

5 easy ways to save money on the fly

Are you making saving a priority in your life? Or do you find it “too hard” or that there “just isn’t enough money to go around?” I know exactly how you feel, I have been there! For that reason, I have been thinking what practical advice that I could offer to help answer these questions. Here is what I came up with.

 

1. Set reasonable goals and stick to them

2. Make saving a monthly bill

3. Only spend what you have

4. Cut back on unnecessary expenses

5. Pack your own food

 

  1. Setting realistic goals is super important. Yes, everyone would love to save $10,000 a year, but is that actually reasonable? Could you actually make that happen? You need to set goals that make sense for you and your family. What goals work for me are different than what may work for you. Everyone is different. People make different incomes and have different expenses. Goal setting is completely personalized to what fits YOUR needs. Make sure to set reasonable goals and then of course, stick to them! Building a hefty savings account does not happen overnight.

 

  1. I suggest treating saving as a monthly expense. Make saving just as important as paying your mortgage bill, rent, or purchasing food. If you put your bills first, then whatever is left over at the end of the month will be your allotted guilt free spending money. My husband and I put our savings right into our budget. It is something that is routine and doesn’t change. We don’t make excuses and make it a payment that has to be met every month. Since we started doing this, we have been able to contribute a significant amount per month into my student loans (on our way to tackling all of our debt!!)

 

  1. By only spending what you have left over at the end of the month, you will not be accruing more debt or racking up a large credit card bill. This is where you need to be in control of your spending and know when to say no. I struggle with this myself, especially when there is something extra that I want to buy that month or somewhere special I want to go. My husband and I set a monthly allowance that we both have to spend on miscellaneous items. It’s simple, if you don’t have the money, don’t spend it.

 

  1. I think most of us can relate to this. If you were to make a list of your monthly spending, would there be things that were non-essentials? Things that you could have passed up or said no to? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you can’t have fun…but all in moderation. When you work hard, you should be able to spend your money. But I suggest being reasonable with your spending or splurges. Do you go to Starbucks 15 times a month? What if you cut back and only went 7? That would be an extra $25 every month just from cutting back on coffee. What else can you cut back on? Do you have a monthly gym membership that you don’t even use? Then get rid of it! Go for a walk or run outside. YouTube at home workouts. That would save you another $60 a month. If you are unsure if you are overspending in this area, write down a list of what you bought for an entire month. At the end of the month look over your list and decide what was necessary and what wasn’t. My husband and I do this every month. We keep track of our food receipts and our miscellaneous spending. At the end of the month we keep eachother accountable for our spending.

 

  1. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? This step alone can save you so much money. I know to many people who buy their food out everyday or order out every night. Do you know really how much you are spending on food every month? My husband and I are big on packing lunches, especially since we know how expensive food is! If you have a husband who eats as much as mine does, we would go broke if we didn’t pack our own lunches everyday.  Buying cold cuts at the grocery store will last you 5x more than the 1 sandwich you bought at the local deli for lunch one day. Make a list of what you like to eat and then go pick it up! Yes, it may require some food preparation late on your Sunday night…but the money you will save will be worth it. You will thank yourself later.

 

I hope you found some of these tips to be practical and helpful. Saving isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time, patience and even practice! Make saving a routine bill and then pretty soon it will just become second nature. They say that it’s so much easier to save when you are young, so why not take advantage of our time? What do you have to loose? All you have is money to gain!

 

In Budgeting, Guest Posts on
July 5, 2017

Proven methods to pay off debt fast

Debt can be overwhelming. Can’t it? Do you find yourself stuck paying the interest every month and not seeing that loan number lessen? You’re not alone! Thousands of Americans are finding themselves in the same situation. I want to share with you some proven methods to help pay off debt as soon as possible – because, let’s face it, debt makes you a slave to the lender. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Let’s get you out of debt and on your want to freedom, shall we?

I want to share with you the 3 methods I used to help pay off $21,000 in 15 months. It’s all things you can do – kids or not. I promise!

 

Budget, budget, budget. Oh, did I mention budget?

If you want to get out of debt as soon as possible, it’s crucial to stick to a monthly budget. Budgets are usually looked at as constraining, but I think about it as a tool that I leverage to gain my freedom. You can still get coffee every now and then, simply put it in your budget. By utilizing a budget, it allows you to see how much money you actually spend a month and out of that what you may or may not need to buy. Most of the time, you don’t need that extra pair of shoes unless they are falling apart on you. Budgeting allows you to see how much money you can throw at debt at the end of the month instead of buying $100 worth of clothes that will most likely sit in your closet.

 

Live Off of 25% of Your Monthly Income

I know this sounds insane. I do! By cutting back and simply living on the bare necessities, you’ll be able to throw 75% of your income towards debt! How amazing is that?! We utilize this method and that’s one way that we’re planning on paying off $150,000 in student loan debt in about 3 years. It’s not like we’re living life missing out either! Not at all. We still go out to the movies every now and then. I get to have a latte once in awhile. It’s just not every day. There’s also a ton of free things you can do around your community. So, we’re still living life to the fullest and having a blast doing it! Don’t think you can’t use this method because it sounds crazy. I think you’ll realize it’s a lot easier than you initially thought. Once you’re on a good routine, you don’t even notice it.

 

Debt Snowball Method

This method is by far the best method I’ve ever read when it comes to paying off debt quickly. The Debt Snowball Method is for those of you who may have large families and can’t live off of 25% of your income. But, it’s a proven method (that I’ve used) to roll your money into one giant debt payment at the end of it.
For this method, you need to focus on your smallest debt while paying off the minimums on all your debt. Once that small debt is paid off, take that payment and roll it into your next smallest debt.

For example, let’s say that I have $500 in credit card debt with a minimum payment of $50 a month. I also have $1500 student loan debt which totals $150 a month and I bought a car right after I graduated college and now I have $13,000 in car debt with a monthly payment of $250.

So, I’ll pay the minimum amount on all my loans. But, if I have any extra money each month – I’ll put it towards my credit card debt to try and pay off that debt as soon as possible. Once that is paid off, I’ll take the $50 that I used to put towards my credit card debt and put it towards my student loan debt. Now I’m making monthly payments of $200 a month. Once your student loan debt is paid off, I’ll take that $200 I used to pay for my student loan debt and add it to my monthly payment for my car debt. Now I’m paying $450 towards my car instead of just $250. Which will allow you to pay off that debt sooner than you ever thought!

You’ll be paying off your debt without even noticing it because you’re so used to paying off all those minimums nothing really changes in your budget and you become debt free sooner which gives you  an additional $450 back a month to invest in yourself!

 

Those are the three proven methods that I used to pay off $21,000 in 15 months and that’s the same method that will allow me to pay off $150,000 in 3 years. To follow along on my debt journey, feel free to head over to my blog and I share with you more tips, tricks, and resources you can use to help you pay off your debt sooner than you ever thought possible!

 

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