How To Avoid Being House Poor

How Much Home Can I AffordEarlier this year, I published the post Is Being House Poor Limiting You? While no one ever thinks they will fall into being house poor, it does happen to some. Due to this, when asking yourself the question “how much home can I afford,” it’s best to think about ALL of the expenses that go into homeownership.

There are many “hidden” costs that go into homeownership that many do not think about when buying a home. While some homes may seem affordable, there are many factors and expenses to think about.

According to recent data from Zillow:

  • U.S. homeowners on average spend more than $9,000 per year in hidden homeownership costs and maintenance expenses
  • U.S. homeowners pay an average of $6,042 per year in unavoidable hidden costs: homeowners insurance, property taxes and utilities
  • U.S. homeowners pay an average of $3,435 per year in annual optional costs including house cleaning, yard care, gutter cleaning, carpet cleaning, and pressure washing.

That’s a lot of extra money each year that many homeowners do not realize that they may need to pay for.

By not knowing about these costs, a person may become stressed due to the amount of debt they may rack up from being house poor. It may also delay retirement, lead to a house being empty (there might be no money left to decorate), and more.

There are things you can do though so that you can make sure you don’t fall into a house poor situation, though. When pondering the question “How much home can I afford,” think about the many tips below.

 

Add up all of the costs.

Buying a home can easily lead to being house poor if you don’t do enough research. This can limit you because you may be even more house poor than you originally thought.

When some families buy a home, they don’t think about the total cost of homeownership. While you may be able to afford the monthly mortgage payment, you may not be able to afford everything else if you don’t do your research.

Before you say “yes” to a home, I recommend you add up all of the extra costs that you may have to pay for if you decide to buy a specific home.

Other homeownership costs include:

  • Gas. Many homes run on gas in order to have hot water, to use the stove, and so on.
  • Electricity. Generally, the bigger your home then the higher your electricity bill will be.
  • Sewer.  This isn’t super expensive, but it is generally around $30 a month from what I’ve seen.
  • Trash.  This isn’t super expensive either but it does cost money.
  • Water (and possibly irrigation).  Water bills can vary widely. I know many who live in areas where the average water bill is a few hundred each month.
  • Property taxes. Property taxes can vary widely from town to town. You may find yourself looking at two similar houses with similar price tags, but the property taxes may vary by thousands of dollars annually. That is a LOT of money. While it may seem small when compared to the actual home purchase price, remember that you have to pay property taxes annually and a difference of just $3,600 a year is $300 a month for life.
  • Home insurance. Home insurance can be cheap in some areas but crazy expensive in others. Don’t forget to look into the cost of earthquake, flood, and hurricane insurance as well as that can add up quickly depending on where you live.
  • Maintenance and repairs. Even if your home is brand new, you may have to pay for repairs, which is something that many don’t realize. No matter how old your home is, repair and maintenance costs will eventually come into play.
  • Homeowners association fees. This can also vary widely. You should always see if the house you are interested in is in an HOA because the fees can be high and there may be rules you don’t like as well.
  • Home furnishings. Furnishing your home can be done cheaply, but I know some who buy huge homes but can’t afford to put anything in them, such as a table, a bed, and so on. Why own a $500,000 house if you don’t have any furniture?

Related: Home Buying Tips You Need To Know Before You Buy

 

Buy for less than what you are approved for.

Many potential homeowners are approved for home loans that are somewhere around 30% to 35% of their salary before taxes.

That’s a lot of money. This amount is before taxes as well, which means that your actual monthly home payment would be a significant portion of your take-home income each month. Many who buy at the full approval amount cannot afford their homes due to the fact that it is such a significant percentage of what they earn.

If you don’t want to be house poor, then you should make sure to buy a home that is less than what you are approved for. You should also add up all of the costs of owning a home and make sure it is an amount that you are comfortable with.

Related posts:

  • Renting Out A Room In Your Home For Extra Money
  • How To Live On One Income
  • Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month

 

Have an emergency fund.

An emergency fund isn’t just to protect you from your job. They also exist to help you in case something goes wrong with your home.

Your roof could spring a leak, a tree may fall on your home, a pipe may burst, there may be an electrical problem and more. Homes have many things that go into them and you never know if something may need to be fixed.

By having an emergency fund, you will have a fund that will help you if something were to go wrong. It will be you be more prepared so that you don’t have to take on any debt in order to help pay for an expense.

What would you say to someone who asks “How much home can I afford?” Do you know anyone who is house poor?

 

The post How To Avoid Being House Poor appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Top Pet Products Not to Skimp On

Check out this list of top pet products you should not skimp out on.I first adopted my dog Molly, I was so excited. She was the first dog in the first kennel at the SPCA, and the only dog in the group not barking. My fiance and I were instantly drawn to her.

We continued down the row of kennels, looking into the cages and seeing dogs of all different shapes, sizes and energy levels, but none of them got our attention like the little black and white dog in the first kennel.

After walking her around outside of her kennel for a few minutes, it became even more clear that this was the pup for us. She wasn’t spayed, and the shelter wouldn’t release her until she was, so we shut her back into her cage, and put our name down for her with the office staff. She’d be ready to pick up in a few days, but in the mean time, we were off to get her supplies.

That was six months ago, and since then, I’ve learned a lot about the huge industry that is pet products. For every genuinely useful or essential product, there are ten poorly constructed or downright pointless products sitting right next to it on your shelf or screen. So, today I’m going to go through some of the pet products I think are completely worth spending money on, and, just for fun, some that aren’t a good investment.

A Strong Collar

Our first stop when picking up Molly’s supplies was to Walmart, where I picked up a typical collar with a plastic buckle. Within one week, the flimsy buckle was snapping loose. So back we went, to replace the cheap-o collar with one with a strong metal clasp.

Tartar Busting Bones

Poor dental hygiene can lead to costly teeth cleanings and other nasty diseases if left untreated. To combat this, invest in some tartar busting bones. The rough surfaces naturally clean a dog’s teeth when chewed on, and keeping tartar at bay early on means cheaper long term dental care (better breath too).

High Quality Dog Food

Now, I’m not saying you need to go out and buy the $30 bag of organic, free range, human grade dog food. But in the arena of nutrition, dogs aren’t that different from people. Poor quality food contributes to poor quality health, and an unhealthy dog is an expensive dog. High quality food also contributes to better breath, a shinier and softer coat, and less…erm…waste.

A Dremel Nail Grinder

Unless you want your floors, couches and skin all scratched to hell, you need to clip your dog’s nails. With some care and positive training, nail clipping can easily be done at home, without any need for a trip to the groomer. I bought a pair of cheap nail clippers, and their dull edges means I have proceed with nail clipping very carefully in order not to hurt Molly’s little paws. To make the project easier yet still save hundreds at the groomer, consider investing in a Dremel Nail Grinder instead.

The Furminator

Pets shed. A ton. I have a long haired cat and a short haired dog in four hundred square feet of living space. To cut down on the crazy amount of hair that can accumulate ridiculously quickly, good quality brushes are a must. The furminator is great for that.

Things That Aren’t a Good Investment

This, this, this, oh and this (although that one is kinda cute).

Not everything that is put out by the pet industry is a worthwhile investment, or even remotely useful. In fact, most of it is probably crap just released because pet crazy people love to spoil their animals. To make your dollar go further, make sure to invest in high quality items that will keep your pet healthy, and help you save money over the long term.

What’s your number one indispensable pet item? I want to know!

The post Top Pet Products Not to Skimp On appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

6 Reasons to Try the FIRE Movement

The idea behind FIRE is if you can earn more money, live on less, and save and invest the rest, you can cut years — or even decades — off of your working career. Of course, the FIRE movement has its problems. 

Not everyone can save 50% or more of their income to work toward FIRE. And most who retire early continue working in some capacity to avoid running out of money early. Also, achieving FIRE is considerably easier during times of economic prosperity — no matter what anyone says, it would’ve been a lot harder to get excited about FIRE in 2008 when the Dow dropped by 33.84%!

Achieving FIRE and retiring early sounds good in theory, but it’s actually very hard to execute in a real-world sense. But here’s why you should try anyway.

6 Reasons FIRE Still Works

But, you know what? I would argue that anyone who can, should at least try to pursue FIRE anyway. As I’ve become more interested in financial independence, I’ve learned that there are side benefits to cutting expenses and learning to save money and invest more. Some advantages to FIRE don’t even have anything to do with money at all.

If you’re on the fence about FIRE, here are some of the reasons you might want to change your way of thinking and get on board.

1. Encourages Living With Intention

After reading Michael Hyatt’s book, Living Forward, its concept of “drifting” stuck with me. Drifting occurs any time you’re going through the motions in life, but living without any concrete plans or goals. 

Maybe you’re going to work every day, taking care of your kids, and keeping up with bills. But in these day-to-day tasks, you’re not actively achieving anything in particular. 

You’re just waking up and getting by.

With the FIRE movement though, you learn to live with intentionality because you’re forced to focus on your spending, and the specific goals necessary to reach financial independence. 

As you pursue FIRE, you can’t simply drift through life in hopes that the numbers work out in your favor. To have enough money to retire early, you need a plan. You have no choice but to set goals, and the act of doing so forces you to get real about how you’re living and what you really want in life. 

Are you saving to buy a house? Are you saving to pay for college? Are you saving to retire early? Whatever your goals are, FIRE forces you to reverse engineer your long-term plan so it’s actionable and intentional today.

2. Feels More Financially Secure

Here’s another potential side benefit of pursuing FIRE — you get the opportunity to feel more secure and sleep better at night. This is something I personally experienced when I started becoming FIRE-minded, but it’s also backed up by research. 

In fact, a 2019 survey from Schwab showed that 63% of people with a written financial plan said they felt financially stable, compared to only 28% of those without a financial plan. Further, 56% of people with a financial plan said they felt “very confident” about reaching their financial goals.

If you’ve ever felt helpless about your finances before, then this probably makes total sense. Having a plan provides some comfort — even if you are far away from your goal. At least you’re working toward something, and that provides peace of mind. 

3. Forces You to Take Control

I don’t always agree with everything Dave Ramsey says, but I do love some of his best quotes. One example is:

“You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you.” — Dave Ramsey

The point I’m making is that, if you don’t ask yourself important, uncomfortable questions, you might never get control of your finances — or your life. 

Think about it this way. If you’re drifting through life and spending money without really saving for a goal, you’re at the mercy of your job and outside factors that affect your income and savings. But if you learn to take control of your spending, you’ll also learn to take control of your future finances in ways you probably never realized before.

When most people start pursuing FIRE, they realize right away that the biggest part that’s in their control is their spending. The other side of that coin is, of course, how much you’re able to save.

A recent survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows the average American set aside 5% to 8% of their income in savings. In contrast, those who pursue FIRE, frequently save 50% to 70% of their incomes toward their goals. 

When you find a way to save a large percentage of your income, this means you’ve taken control of the reins. You have goals and you have a purpose, and your money is no longer controlling your future. You are.

4. Empowers You with Information

According to a joint study from PwC US and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) at the George Washington University, only 24% of millennials demonstrate basic financial literacy. And, even with minimal knowledge of their own, only 27% had sought out professional financial advice. 

This is one area where even studying FIRE can leave you dramatically ahead. After all, pursuing FIRE or even reading about it forces empowers you with information about saving and investing for the long haul. 

For example, through FIRE you’ll randomly learn personal finance lessons like the 4% rule for retirement and how to create a budget. These are cornerstone concepts of the FIRE movement. 

You’re also forced to think about your income and your financial situation in a brand new way. This includes questions, like “How much are you actually earning?” and “How much interest are you paying toward debt every month?”

As a financial advisor, I can tell you for sure that a lot of people don’t know the answer to any of these questions because they’ve never thought about it before. You wind up learning so much that can help you along the way toward your goal.

5. Learn How to Budget and Question Yourself

I remember back in the day when my wife and I first started getting serious about budgeting. We’d sit down to look over our bills, and were shocked by some of our ongoing expenses and subscriptions. 

These budgeting “meetings” made a big difference in how we worked together to achieve our financial goals. When we sat down to look over our expenses, our income, and where we were headed, we found ways to spend less without affecting our quality of life.

Now, I hate budgeting, but I do think it’s an important part of pursuing FIRE — especially at first. After all, you can’t really work toward major financial goals if you have no idea where your money is going every month. 

And, the thing is, you can’t really argue anything when you start budgeting and tracking your expenses. You get the chance to see where your money went, in black and white, and you get the opportunity to act accordingly. This may sound like a huge buzzkill, but I’ve found that taking control and budgeting is actually really empowering. 

Crazily enough, not enough people have any idea how they spend the income they work so hard to earn. In fact, a recent survey from the budgeting app Mint found that 65% of respondents had no idea how much they spent last month. 

When you ask someone pursuing FIRE how much they save each month, these people know. In fact, they often know their savings amount down to the penny. 

6. FIRE Helps You Be Grateful

Finally, there’s one more major benefit of FIRE that goes largely ignored. I’m going to call it the “contentment factor”. It’s the ability to be content with what you have. 

Everything involved with FIRE — tracking your spending, cutting things you don’t care about, creating long-term goals — can really put your life in perspective for you. It also makes you realize you might have more power over your life than you realized. That’s a pretty amazing lesson. 

And of course, learning contentment leads to learning how to feel grateful. How amazing is it that, in this broken world we live in, you can earn a living, care for your family, and set aside something for the future? How amazing is it that you have the chance to work hard and retire early, and then spend decades doing whatever it is you love?

This brings me to a quote I love from Oprah:

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ―

Oprah Winfrey

This is what I love about FIRE; it really encourages you to be grateful and teaches you to be content with what you have. After all, there is no way you could ever save 50% or even 30% of your income without these lessons. 

Pursuing FIRE teaches you that you don’t need the hottest pair of sneakers, and that you might not need that cable television package you pay for each month. It teaches you that a huge car payment isn’t worth it, and that any “friend” who judges your car probably isn’t a good one. 

Learning about FIRE makes you ask yourself all of these questions, and sometimes, that’s all it takes to realize how good you have it.

Garth Brooks once said that “you aren’t wealthy until you have something money can’t buy.” 

And perhaps that’s the greatest benefit of pursuing FIRE. You learn that happiness and true contentment comes from within. And that, my friends, is priceless.

The post 6 Reasons to Try the FIRE Movement appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Tips to Help You Fund (and Keep) Your Emergency Fund

Everyone who’s ever had an emergency will tell you money is key to making good decisions. We make bad financial decisions when we’re broke and desperate. That’s why having an emergency fund is vital to starting any personal finance journey.…

The post Tips to Help You Fund (and Keep) Your Emergency Fund appeared first on Modern Frugality.

Source: modernfrugality.com

Game Changing Mom Life Must Haves!

As busy moms, we need to cut the time, trim the cost, and lessen the mental load, and here are the mom life must haves to help you do it!

Ugh! You just crossed off two items on your to-do list (yaaa!), and then you immediately added four more on to it! #momlife Seriously, you feel like you’re bailing out a sinking battleship with a sippy cup, and there’s no end in sight. Or so it seems…

Every good General knows you need the right tools & resources to win the war, so it’s time to fill your arsenal with the best mom life must haves! These are the things that will help you triumph over errands, chores, and mealtime! All while helping you feel calmer and happier, settling your racing mind, giving you the space to do what’s most important!  

Yes, snuggling your kiddos, kissing on your honey, or maybe hiding in the bathtub for 2.5 hours reading a good book and eating chocolate. Hey, self-care is in, right? So sit tight, and get ready to rock your to-do list!

game changing mom life must haves

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How to be a better mom (by having the right support)

Whoa, that’s a loaded statement! I mean, “be a better mom” implies that you’re doing a bad job now, right? NO! We are all doing the best job we can in the life we have right now. No one wakes up and says, “I want to be mediocre today”! No, we want to do a great job every day. Yet, sometimes, at least for me, I fall short.  

Some days I’m exhausted, have too much on my schedule, or run out of brown sugar, so no cookie baking today (true story, huge tears ensued from my 5-year-old). When these days happen more than I would like, I know that I need to sit down and recalibrate. Take stock of the common themes, look for overlapping reasons why the $hit keeps hitting the fan, and then figure out what I need to do to get back on track.

Usually, either I need a mini-vacation (sigh), or I need to check out my tools and see where I need more support and even some tools that I may have forgotten about. I call these my mom life must haves! I’ve rounded up my best tips, tools, and resources on the items that help me be a better mom!

When I say “better mom,” I mean…

  • less frazzled, more calm
  • less scatterbrained, more organized
  • less tired, more energized
  • less scroungy, more stylish
  • less last minute, more prepared
  • less mediocre, more badass!

Being a better mom can mean anything that you want it to mean! Don’t let my own definition put restrictions on your best version of you! You can use my ideas to be a jumping-off point, and then tailor them to your own personality and goals!

Take advantage of Amazon Prime Day for huge savings!

I know that spending money on ourselves is hard. I will convince myself that I don’t really need something, or that the money would be better spent on a new thingamajig for my little one. I don’t know why I feel guilty spending money on myself, I just do sometimes.

One thing that always helps me feel better about spending money on myself is if I get it at a good deal! I love saving money! (yes, I’d save a whole lot more if I didn’t buy “it” at all but sometimes we need something! Especially when that something makes our life better or easier! So that’s why I am super excited about Amazon Prime Day!

What is Amazon Prime Day?

It’s a two day event where Amazon offers up steep discounts on millions of products across all categories! People use this time to stock up for holiday gifting, or to splurge on normally expensive items. If you’re a Prime Member you get early access to some of their deals so if you have been thinking about getting a membership, then now is the time! Don’t forget to snag your free 30 day trial!

When is Prime Day this year?

It’s October 13th & 14th this year, but if you’re a Prime Member you’ll get early access!

I am so happy to say that Amazon will be supporting small businesses this year too (sounds counterintuitive but hear me out). Small Businesses can be a partner shop on their platform, and if you purchase starting now through October 12th, if you purchase $10 worth of items from a participating small business you will get $10 credit to use on Prime Day! Check out all the small business partners here!

Amazon Prime Day Deals

Now the following items aren’t a part of my own person list of mom life must haves, yet so many people swear by these. Starting today, Prime members can shop early offers and deals everyday leading up to Prime Day on October 13 & 14.

  • Amazon Devices: 
    • Get two Echo Dot devices for $39.98 
    • Fire TV Recast for $129.99 to store up to 75 hours of HD programming.
    • Save up to $100 on Toshiba 43-inch Smart HD Fire TV Edition TV for $179.99.
    • Insignia 43-inch Smart 4K UHD Fire TV Edition TV for $199.99;
    • Save $40 on Echo Show 5
  • Amazon Music: For just $0.99, Prime members who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited can get four months of the premium streaming tier with unlimited access to more than 60 million songs ad-free, and now a wide selection of popular podcasts.
  • Audible: Prime members can save $50 on a year of Audible Premium Plus. Audible members will also get access to the Plus catalog, featuring more than 10K Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts, all at no additional cost.
  • Kindle Unlimited: New customers to Kindle Unlimited save 50% off a 6-month subscription.

The main question with Prime Day Deals, is did you want this item before you heard about it on Prime Day? Or did you simply see it and think “ohhhh, shiny!” Remember, it’s only a deal, if you were going to buy it anyway!

Mom life must haves for the home

1. Family charging station

mom life must have #1 - family charging station
4 1/2 stars with 4,300 ratings

Hercules Tuff Charging Station

  • charges up to 80% faster!
  • charge six devices at once
  • gift-ready packaging
  • includes 4 Lightning Cables, 1 Type-C Cable, and 1 Micro-USB cable perfectly sized to keep your space organized

This is honestly one of my favorite things, and I’m not usually a gadget person. If my phone isn’t in my hand, I always know where it is, the family charging station is the natural place to put it down, so it’s an easy habit to start. There’s no worrying about your hubby or kiddo walking off with your charging cables! Plus, it makes mealtimes more family-friendly.

We can sit down to a meal without having our phones on the table or in our pockets, where it’s so easy to start scrolling or get sidetracked by notifications!

Time Saved by less distractions and mindless scrolling!

2. A great handheld vacuum

mom life must have #2 - a great handheld vacuum

Black & Decker Max Pivot Handheld Vacuum

  • Lithium battery for strong suction that never fades
  • cordless
  • 4 stars with over 12,000 ratings!

I’m not a Roomba vacuum kind of person, even though the concept sounds great. I don’t trust them 🙂 I don’t think they’ll do a great job, and I’ve heard the horror stories of them eating cords & carpets. So that means a handheld vacuum, which sounds lame as they don’t usually have a lot of power. Until I found this one, the Black & Decker Pivot! He’s lightweight and super fast to pull out of the pantry for a quick clean up!

Honestly, this vacuum is amazing! I got mine for Christmas 2015. Yes, 5 years ago, and I can still say it’s amazing! It has so much power to it; it vacuums up everything! I’ve only had the battery run out one time; it was when we were moving, and I cleaned the whole house for the entire day. So I don’t blame it 🙂

I hate to admit this, but I didn’t know that there was a removable filter that you had to take and shake out for the first two years. Yes, I emptied the chamber, but I didn’t know about the filter. I didn’t notice it, and it still worked great!  Shhh… don’t tell anyone how dumb I was!

Besides, you cant lift a Roomba up and vacuum huge spiders off the ceiling like you can with this handheld vacuum! (Just this past week, it was two mornings in a row that I had to climb on the bathroom counter and get ’em!)

Both time & money saved, as it’s very convient for a quick clean and money saved as this is a quality vacuum, and I expect it to last a long time!

3. An Amazon prime membership

This sounds so silly, as everyone must have it by now, right? Nope, they don’t, but it’s such a lifesaver! Every one should find a way to fit this into their budget. It’s $119 a year for an annual subscription or $12.99 a month. But the main question busy mom’s ask is, “Is it worth it?”

“The actual value of Amazon Prime is estimated to be around $784 annually after all of its individual perks and benefits are considered, according to a recent analysis by JPMorgan”, says Business Insider. So the resounding answer is yes! Click here for your 30 day free trial to Prime.

You get free shipping, two-day shipping, movies, free ebooks, music, file storage, and more! Prime members also get extra discounts to Whole Foods and member-only deals.  

Plus, there’s Prime Reload, which gives you 2% by linking up your debit card and reloading your “available shopping balance” from there! Saving money without the lure of a credit card is a great option!

Their Subscribe & Save program also offers great perks! You pick out which items you order all the time, like bar soap or diaper pail liners, and you signup to get them regularly delivered to your door; with this you can save up to 15% on these purchases!  Amazon Prime Family also offers 20% off diapers and special baby registry benefits!

Don’t forget to look for available Prime Membership discounts:

  • Prime Discounted Monthly offering is just $5.99/month for qualifying customers with an EBT or Medicaid card
  • Prime Student has a 6-month trial and then $6.49 a month 

Amazon also has their Signature Visa, where you get 3% back at Whole Foods, 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores. 1% back on utilities and all other purchases (see terms & conditions for current details).  

Don’t forget you can get a 30-day free trial on all Amazon Prime!

Money saved! You will find great deals on Amazon, but you might need to spend some time digging through reviews and products.

4. Easy & fast dinners

Meal kits certainly aren’t new anymore, so the novelty has worn off. They’re not just for “fun” anymore, but they are a lifesaver! And there are so many different companies you can choose from, meal kits for any diet and lifestyle!

We like EveryPlate, as it’s one of the cheapest out there at $4.99 a serving! Meal kits save me so much time and brain angst (is that even a thing?). But you get me, I mean I would waste so much time trying to figure out what to make for dinners for the week. Then I have to go buy it all, and the prep it. Ugh! My brain hurts just thinking about it!

With EveryPlate, it takes me 12 minutes every month to go into their dashboard and pick my meals. That’s it. The recipes are easy to make, tasty, and I feel good about not serving up a frozen pizza or take out every night.

We have also started trying Dinnerly too. I’m not into blindly following brands, I like to be sure that I am getting the best deal for the best value out there! So of course I am going to try the competition! Dinnerly and Everyplate are similar in cost, program, and quality.

YET, Dinnerly just started offering extra protein portions (in case you want to make a little more). AND, they just started offering desserts too! This next week I signed up to get a caramel apple spice cake and the following week pumpkin pie cheesecake bars! (fall flavored treats are my weakness). Click the here to start making meal time easy (finally!) and treating your family!

Don’t get me wrong, meal kits have their drawbacks, sometimes the cucumber arrives soft, or it’s not enough for my hubs, but overall it’s a great option, and it totally works for us!

We also use our trusty old slow cooker! It’s still great for making a good amount of food that we can use as quick leftover meals throughout the week. Things like chicken fajitas, or three-bean chili, or mac & cheese are great options.

This slow cooker is great as it’s programable for temp & time. Then when it’s done cooking, it switches to warm mode, so you don’t overcook your dinner! It also comes with a temperature probe, so if you’re cooking meats you can be doubly sure it’s fully cooked!

On my wish list is this Instant Pot; I mean, it has 4 1/2 stars with over 100,000 reviews! That’s crazy, right! Besides, any gadget that says it’s perfect for beginners is for me!

Time & money saved! But more so, my sanity as I hated trying to decide what to make for dinner!

Mom life must haves for our kids

So we wouldn’t be busy moms if it wasn’t for our kiddos, right? These things are ones that I love, and have made this crazy journey a lot easier!

5. Honest Company products 

mom life must have #5 - safe products for our kiddos - The Honest Company
4 1/2 stars with 4,000 ratings
mom life must have #5 - safe products for our kiddos - The Honest Company
4 1/2 stars with 3,500 ratings
mom life must have #5 - safe products for our kiddos - The Honest Company
4 1/2 stars with 7,000 ratings

So this sounds corny, but I honestly love Honest Products! Actress Jessica Alba started the brand. Honest’s bio page says, “When she couldn’t find one brand to trust for all her everyday needs, she had to create it. And she knew that there had to be others out there looking for safe products, simple solutions, and clear information about their choices, just like her.”

Did I ever tell you that I am a natural skeptic? When someone says their product is safe and uses only the best ingredients, I look to the experts to tell the truth. I use the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep app on my phone all the time for this! I scan the barcode of an item, and it tells me if it’s considered safe by their 3rd party unbiased testing. EWG is a “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.” Their app doesn’t have every product in its database, but they have a lot (mostly in the beauty and cleaning area). 

When I am standing in Target and looking for something for my kiddo, I scan all the brands to find the one that is the least toxic, and then I go to Amazon to check out the reviews on that item. If people love it, then I buy it!

I just used it this past month, we stayed at my mom’s house for a few days, and my daughter used their bubble bath; she loved all the bubbles. But a few days later, she broke out in a rash, sure enough, I found it was rated an 8 (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst). Whoops!

So I went to target and scanned a few and settled on The Honest Company’s lavender bubble bath, and it was rated a 1! I bought it, and it worked great (as much as a bubble bath works), the bubbles lasted forever, smelled great, and she loved every second of it! (oh and no rash!)

I bought…

  • The Honest Company Truly Calming Lavender Shampoo & Body Wash
  • The Honest Company Truly Calming Conditioner
  • The Honest Company Truly Calming Bubble Bath

I feel great about these products as I know they’re safe (peace of mind is priceless), work great, and don’t cost a fortune!

Mental space & time saved! As I don’t wonder anymore (or feel guilty) about knowing that the products I use on her are safe!

6. The best safety in the industry

mom life must have #6 - the best in car seat safety
Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat
5 stars with 1,800 ratings
mom life must have #6 - the best in car seat safety
Britax Boulevard ClickTight convertible
4 1/2 stars with 3,300 ratings

Along the same vein of keeping our kiddos safe, I researched a lot of items when I was pregnant, and one of the most researched items is a car seat! I finally chose the Britax B-Safe 35 (funny story here), and then when she got older, the Britax Boulevard ClickTight convertible car seat.

I honestly spent way too much time agonizing over the car seat choices. I wanted the best for her without spending a fortune. Yes, Britax is a teeny tiny bit expensive, but a car seat is so important, as a bad car seat can have horrible repercussions!

Anyway, funny story, so I was agonizing over which to choose for weeks. One day, as I watched TV, a clip about Prince William & Kate came on, as they just had their first baby. The TV shot was of them standing at the top of some stairs, walking down and outside to their car. Prince William was holding the car seat, and I recognized the colors (black & red) of the car seat.  

I paused it, screenshot it, and zoomed in; sure enough, it was a Britax B-Safe! Within two minutes, I was on Amazon and ordered it! If this was the brand & model that the Royal Family trusted, then this was the one for me! Problem solved, no more worries!

All of their models’ rates very high for safety, their quality is great, and they are easy to use!

Peace of mind! Knowing that I have done everything I can to protect my daughter, while in the car, is important to me!

7. Car Snacks

mom life must have #7 car snacks - packaged nuts
4 1/2 stars with 2,000 ratings
mom life must have #7 car snacks - whole grain fig bar
5 stars with 76 ratings

A busy mom’s best friend is without a doubt her car snacks! Car snacks for the kiddo and absolutely car snacks for us!

Car snacks keep everyone happy, and they keep you out of the drive-through! Oh, and did I mention that when your kiddos are eating the snacks they’re not asking you 459 questions!

I have two go-to’s for this.  

  • Emerald nut mix, variety pack 100 calories packs. Right now, it’s $9.44 for the box of 18 small individual packs. That’s $.52 a pack.
  • Nature’s Bakery Whole Grain Fig Bar – these are the best, as they don’t harden into rocks when your car has been sitting out in the freezing cold. They don’t melt in the summer, and they don’t crumble and get a mess everywhere! Plus, they’re tasty and not total garbage nutritionally speaking! 

Time & money saved, as you’re not stopping for fast food! More importantly, I can say that the magic of car snacks has saved my own personal sanity!

Mom life must haves for ourselves

8. An organized life

If I had to get married again (and not to my husband), I would marry Trello! Seriously, I feel that strongly about this app! If you’re not familiar with Trello, it’s basically a place where you can put your entire life & brain to help keep you organized!

Picture this; it’s like a giant whiteboard with lists and sticky notes, links, files, and images. It’s sharable so you can work with people on projects too! It gives you the big picture and zero’s in on the tiny details. It’s for desktop and mobile, and it’s free! Yup, FREE!

If you have a daily planner or 489 sticky notes, then you have to check out Trello!

If you absolutely love your pen & paper style organizing, then check out my Brain Dump printables! It’s for when you’ve got way too much swirling around in your brain. You lay it all out in formatted sections, and it helps you plan, prioritize & delegate your to-do list!

Time & sanity saved! I don’t forget things nearly as much (but I’m not perfect).

9. A delicious nutritional home run

mom life must have #9 - a good protein powder
4 1/2 stars with 800+ ratings

Garden of Life Sport Certified Grass Fed Clean Whey Protein

  • vanilla or chocolate flavor
  • 24 grams of protein
  • no added hormones, sugars, or rbst free, and gluten free
  • delicious! (truth!)

As busy mom’s we’re run ragged sometimes. So much to do, and it’s easy to forget about taking care of ourselves. Or we push it to the back burner, always meaning to get to it later, but never actually doing it.

Ugh. Fail.  

We know we feel better when we take care of ourselves, yet it’s hard to prioritize yourself over your to-do list (at least I do). So make a promise to yourself to start taking better care of you! For me, that looks like having a healthy smoothie! For you, it could look totally different, and that’s fine!

My favorite protein powder is Garden of Life Whey Protein Powder, I don’t need anything crazy with 78 grams of protein, I just need something to feed my body, without a ton of crazy chemicals. (Yes, I do realize that protein powders are processed, but this is a very well respected brand, and it was recommended to me by super knowledgeable staff at a natural grocery store.)

“We start with what goes IN our products—true, whole food ingredients. But we don’t stop there. We also pay very close attention to what we keep OUT of them.  And once again, we look at food—real nutrition food. When is the last time you picked up an apple, turned to read the ingredients, and saw a list of chemicals?  If it’s not in your food, then we don’t want it in our supplements.  We use third-party (never self-affirmed) certifications to prove we are clean!” (source).

My base recipe…

  • 1 scoop of protein powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds

Then either…

  • 1/3 can pumpkin puree with 1 tsp of pumpkin pie seasoning

Or

  • a handful of frozen mixed berries with 1 tsp of vanilla

These smoothies are a part of 21 Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide, which I did last year! I felt so good about focusing on my health and I plan to do the program again (as life happens, right).

For those of you a little wary of the can of coconut milk, I want you to try it at least once. It’s delicious, and it fills me up all day long! Yes, it has a lot of fat in it, but so many vitamins and nutrients. I’m not a food or weight loss blogger, so I won’t try and convince you of the scientific health benefits.  

It’s delicious (truly, I’m not exaggerating), and it makes me feel great, and it’s healthy! That’s good enough for me. Besides, when I make it in my Vitamix, cleaning up is super easy! I just give it a quick rinse in the sink, pour some dish soap in it, fill it with hot water, put it back on the base, and turn it on for 40 seconds! No taking apart pieces and scrubbing it! (of course, if I use dairy, then I do put it through the dishwasher)

Time saved! Smoothies are quick and easy, plus I feel good knowing that I am taking care of myself so that I can have the energy to take care of my daughter and answer her 45,871 questions!

10. Chug Chug Glug

mom life must have #10 - a good water bottle
5 stars with 16,500 ratings for standard mouth
mom life must have #10 - a good water bottle
5 stars with 225 ratings for wide mouth

That’s code for drink more water! We all know this; it’s been drummed into our head with 1000 hammers. Yet, it’s still true; we all need to drink more water!

I love my Hydro Flask! It keeps my water cold for FO-EV-ER! It never sweats, I have dropped it a billion times, and it only has one dent (haha). I love the lid with the loop, as I can hang it from my mommy hook on my little one’s stroller. (Mommy hooks are great too, you can hang anything with it!)  

My current one I’ve had for two years, and the only reason I needed a new one is I lost my older one, which was at least three years old (my Amazon order history only goes back so many years, I guess). So that ‘a good sign; they last forever! Well worth the price! Plus, they come in super cute colors!

Oh, and did I mention Hydro Flask makes a wine tumbler too! Ha! This might absolutely help me be a better mom!

Money saved, as this water bottle lasts forever! Probably money saved too, as I eat less snacks and less at meal time as I’m well hydrated.

11. A simple cute & comfy style

mom life must have #11 - comfy yoga pants
4 1/2 stars with 25,000+ ratings
mom life must have #11 - comfy yoga pants

This is a hard one, as I’m a little bit ashamed of my path to this product. I got to a point where I was getting a bit scroungy; you know sloppy. My sweatpants were old, and the t-shirts were stained. Sexy huh!?!

It was time for a mini mommy wardrobe makeover! I have been reading a lot about minimalism and especially capsule wardrobes, and am in love with the nice, basic simplicity of it! It appeals to me on all levels! Find pieces that fit & flatter, that all go together and stick to it!

So I went through, purged my closet (I got rid of 75% of my clothes), and focused on an inexpensive capsule wardrobe! The base of the collection is these amazing IUGA high waist yoga pants! I got a pair in black, and I love them! With 4 1/2 stars with over 25,000 reviews, they have to be amazing, right? They are! An absolute staple for this mom life must have list!

And they don’t cost a fortune either! Just $25 for this pair! I did buy some nice yoga pants at Target before finding these, but they didn’t come in black). These IUGA pants…

  • come in 26 colors
  • inside waistband pocket for keys
  • hip pocket for phone
  • aren’t see through (whew!)
  • 30 day money back love it guarantee

Time & sanity saved! As I don’t stare blankly at my closet for 12 minutes every am, wondering what to wear, of if it will look okay! It’s a quick scan the closet, grab the pants and it’s go time!

12. Survival in a can

mom life must have #12 - canned wine
4 1/2 stars with 50 ratings

If I didn’t mention my absolute favorite must have for moms, I would be doing you a disservice. I would also be hiding the real me. I don’t want to do that, as that’s lame. So my favorite mom life must have is canned wine.

…cricket cricket…

Let me explain. I love canned wine. I really do. I like wine, but I don’t like opening a whole bottle of it. If I drank a whole bottle, that’s bad news. Yes, I could put a stopper in a bottle and save it. But my favorite one is The Bubbles, a sparkling white wine (kind of like a Pinot Gris). So if I used a stopper, the bubbles wouldn’t be as amazing a few days later.

A can size is perfect, usually consumed over two nights. And then I don’t have to worry about it going bad, or feeling like I need to drink more than I should, just because I don’t want to “waste” a bottle.

Besides, canned wine is coming up in quality and popularity! It’s not like those jugs you see at discount grocery stores for $4.99. Trust me; it’s delicious!

The Bubbles is my favorite, and you can get it from Whole Foods through Amazon Prime delivery! Plus, add a snack tray and a heavenly chocolate bar from WF, and you’re set! This is my perfect meal for a relaxing evening on my own!

I wish that I could say that this saved me time or money. But this is just something that makes me happy!

At the end of the day

As busy moms, we have our hands full, not to mention our brains! We need all the help we can get, and I am not too proud to accept help from great tools and resources! These mom life must haves help me be a better mom by taking away the unnecessary, automating what can be, and making me feel better in my skin, my mind, and in my heart!

Posts related to mom life must haves:

  • The Secret Formula for Getting the Best Gift for Mom
  • Want to be a Stay at Home Mom? Read This First!
  • Mamas Talk Money Goals!

What’s your mom life must have item? Let me know in the comments below!

The post Game Changing Mom Life Must Haves! appeared first on Money for the Mamas.

Source: moneyforthemamas.com

Money-Saving Hacks to Implement Now

Redo your monthly budget (and stick to it)

You can do plenty of things to improve your budget, and it's not all about pain and suffering, as many would have you believe. Everyone has a few things they overspend on. The challenge lies in identifying those particular items and weeding them out. A good place to begin is with restaurant spending, grocery bills, and impulse buying. A wise general philosophy is to assign a destination for every dollar you earn and place that category on your budget. Try cutting restaurant expenditures in half, reducing impulse buys at convenience stores, and shopping for groceries just once each week to regulate what goes toward food items.

Refinance your education debt

If you have any education debt still hanging around after all these years, refinancing student loans through a private lender is a way to lessen your monthly expenses. Not only can you get a longer repayment period, but have the chance to snag a favorable interest rate. But the clincher for money-saving enthusiasts is that your monthly payments can instantly go way down. That means extra cash for whatever you want. Use the excess to fatten savings or IRA accounts, or pay off high-interest credit card debt.

Install a programmable thermostat

For less than $20, it's possible to chop at least three percent off your utility bills and perhaps much more than that. 

Programmable thermostats are easy to install. You don't need special tools or advanced skills. Be sensible about summer and winter settings and you'll see a difference in your electric bill almost immediately, especially during the hottest months of the year. Don't forget to program the device to go into low-use mode while you're away for long weekends or longer vacations.

Join a shopping club

Although shopping clubs come with annual membership fees, the savings on groceries, household items, and gasoline usually offset them within a month or two of actively using the membership. That leaves the other months of the year for you to save money on household necessities. 

For people who drive a lot, shopping clubs with on-site gas stations offer one of the best deals going. Not only do the clubs offer gasoline for about 10 cents off the regular price, but some also offer free car washes and coupons for repair work at participating shops. Although shopping clubs are a win for most anyone, a family of three or more can log thousands per year in savings.

Refinance your home or car

If you have owned your home or car long enough to ride the interest rate waves, you likely qualify for a refinancing agreement. This strategy is excellent for consumers who have better credit now than when they made the original purchase. 

Young couples are perfectly positioned to refinance a home after several years of making payments on it. Likewise, anyone who still owes on a vehicle and can get a lower interest rate should look into a car or truck refi. Not only can you get additional months to pay off the obligation, but with a lower rate, you stand to save a nice chunk of money.

Take bagged lunches to work

One of the oldest, more reliable ways to instantly cut personal expenses is to prepare and take your own lunch to work each day. Not only do you save money by not eating out or buying lunch in the company cafeteria, but you also have added control over what you eat. That means you're doing a favor for your wallet and your health at the same time. 

Don't fall into the rut of eating at your desk. Consider taking your bagged meal outside and enjoying the scenery, taking a walk after eating, or joining friends in the cafeteria to socialize. 

Use public transportation as often as possible

If you live on or near a bus or light-rail route, do the logistical planning necessary to travel to work at least a few times each week by public transit instead of by car. 

Unless you reside in a small town, chances are you have access to buses and trains for commuting purposes. Once you get into a habit of using the public transit system, consider buying a one-month or annual pass, which can represent a major discount on one-time fare prices. Public transportation can take a bit longer to get you to your destination, but it's easy enough to make use of the time reading, catching up on work, or just relaxing.

Use credit cards wisely

If you use credit cards to make purchases you can't afford, you're headed for trouble. But if you use your plastic wisely, you can reap real benefits.

If you have a good credit rating, you'll likely qualify for cashback cards that give a percentage of your money back on some or all of your purchases. You can use that cash to pay for a portion of your monthly credit card bill. You could also let your cashback savings accumulate and use it to pay for larger purchases in the future.

Just make sure not to outspend your monthly budget so you're able to pay your credit card balance off in full each month. Keeping a balance on your cards is counterproductive because you'll also be paying interest fees.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com