Happy Valentine's Day!

Aren't I the luckiest girl to have more than one adorable Valentine?  This year, I get to spend most of the day with this adorable guy...

And Happy Birthday to Arizona, as well!  We are going to party all weekend long around here!

If you need any ideas, check out Camille's blog, Friday We're in Love, for a list of 10 easy Romantic Date ideas!  We were already planning on doing her first suggestion, fondue, tonight for dinner.  Or, mix up a few "mocktails" for a romantic evening with your significant other.  Enjoy!


My Favorite EASY Valentine's Inspiration

I'm taking a break in my baby series to post a little Valentine Inspiration!  If you have kids, they most likely will exchange Valentine's with their friends.  If you didn't realize, that is this Friday...

But don't worry!  The internet is jam-packed full of fun, easy, DIY (or free printable) options that are probably simpler and cheaper than buying the pre-packaged, over-priced boxed Valentine's plastered in cartoon characters.

I first fell in love with the personalized lollipop Valentine's that I saw a few years ago.  And with the free online picture editing sites (like picmonkey), and the inexpensive cost of printing pictures (think Costco, Walmart, or Walgreens), these personalized Valentine's would be a cinch to make and very budget-friendly!  Now I have stumbled on a ton more personalized Valentine's that I am crazy about.  Here are a few more ideas!
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
If personalizing isn't in your time frame, here is an idea board full of simple, DIY Valentine's that are too cute for words.  (Be sure to follow the links to the sources, many have tutorials or are FREE printables!).
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
And if you are sick of all the candy and other sweets, give these adorable non-sweet Valentine's a try!  I'm sure they will still be a hit with kids, they will get plenty of candy elsewhere!  I'm sure most of these things could be ordered in bulk online, or found at the Dollar Store for very little.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Fun Valentine's aren't just for school-aged children, though.  Last year I made a little personalized Valentine "from Landon" to give to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and a few little friends with a treat attached.  I did another one this year, I'll share on Valentine's Day.

Last year's Valentine from Landon...
Photo inspired by this pin

And even if you don't have any kids, you could do some variation of these as a married or dating couple or a single person, to send to loved ones.  Think of it as a light-hearted holiday card.  People love receiving happy mail or finding something fun on their doorstep.  Hope you have a great week and show those closest to you how much you love them.  Even a thoughtful note or encouragement means a lot!


Budgeting for Baby: Medical Expenses & Accepting Help

Medical Expenses 
I am no expert on the medical/financial side of having a baby, so that component to this post will be brief.  I have been extremely fortunate to have maternity insurance for both of my pregnancies, because my husband had benefits through his job.  I know not everyone has that privilege.  But I also know that there are many responsible ways to finance a baby.  Nearly all of my husband’s side of the family works in agriculture, which provides a lot of different perks, but not always health insurance.  Some are also self-employed in other industries.  They have all had several babies in a responsible financial matter, and paid for them all very differently.  Talk to people, talk to your healthcare provider, talk to coworkers, research, and find a good fit on what works for you.  They have all done things differently and found ways that work for them.  Most of them have at least 4 kids and live in a rural area, so it is definitely attainable!     

However, even though I have had decent maternity coverage, it can still be expensive.  We pay monthly for insurance, plus a big bill to the medical staff, and a good chunk to the hospital.  One thing to look into is an HSA account.  I don’t know tons about them, my husband deals with ours.  But it has been helpful.  Many employers even contribute or match to them, and they can be used on anything medical (like having babies, going to the dentist, or even a sport’s physical, etc.). 

And my last tip is, pay off what you can as quickly as you can.  For many people, the medical side of child bearing might put a financial strain on a budget, and put the family into some debt.  That is okay, if you are being reasonable and responsible.  But--make a plan on how to slowly or quickly (whatever is doable for you) chip away at the remaining expenses after the baby is born.  It is stressful to start getting a lot of extra bills in the mail.  What worked great for us when I had Landon (and what we plan on doing for this baby), is paying off the remainder of our costs when we get our tax return or when my husband gets a quarterly bonus.  It is one of the few times a year we get a larger chunk of money that we don’t budget into our daily expenses.  So while getting new furniture or going on a fun trip sounds so enticing, we do the responsible thing and pay off our debts.  And it is so nice for the extra bills to disappear and to know that we are free and clear of those expenses.  We might not have a glamorous vacation to reminisce on, but that’s okay!  Sacrifices…remember?  If you don't have a big chunk of change like that, then slowly paying it off will work just as well too!  Again, talk to people that are in similar situations and see what has worked best for them.  Communicate with the hospital (or birthing center or midwife) about payment options.  It is best to look into this before the baby arrives, because there might be payment options that are more beneficial to you, if you start the process earlier rather than later.  

Sorry I can't give more specifics on this big part of paying for a baby, but everyone is so different in their circumstances, that it really is hard to pinpoint what will work best for each individual family.  Hopefully I at least gave you some ideas/direction on options you might not have thought of.  

Accept the Help that Comes, But Don't Expect a Certain Kind of Help
So, while baby showers are a cultural norm, especially for a first-timer parent, please don’t expect your family, neighbors, and coworkers to provide everything your baby needs.  I hope every momma gets at least one baby shower, because they truly are helpful and it really is such a nice gesture.  But please, don’t think that every baby you have you “need” to have a shower—it’s my opinion, but it’s tacky.  It's not that I don't believe in celebrating "every baby" (I've heard that as a reason to have a shower for every one), because showers are really just asking people to bring you stuff.  If you are worried about a celebration, there are plenty of other ways to celebrate!  I know that everyone won’t agree with that opinion, but I’m allowed to have it.  I was shocked when I heard someone saying that they were asking someone to throw them another baby shower because they still needed some stuff, like diapers, pacifiers, etc.  I thought to myself, “did she not anticipate having to pay for anything on her own?”  So, disagree with me if you would like, but just know that you can do most, if not all, of it on your own!  And I’m sure you will be surprised at the generosity of others.  Family members and neighbors still often bring by gifts, even if you don’t have a shower.  Friends will bring by a big bag of hand-me-downs that have a bunch of potential.  You will feel the love.  You will have help.  Just don’t plan on having a certain kind of help.  Just accept the kind of help that comes your way.  And reciprocate the help when you know of someone else having a baby!  You will remember how much you appreciated it, so do it for someone else. 

This might sound like a harsh philosophy to have, but I am of the opinion, that child bearing and rearing is a responsibility that we must take upon ourselves.  We can't have the feeling of entitlement when it comes to providing for our families.  I whole-heartedly feel that being a mother (or father) is one of the most important and divine things we can do in this life, and that it is our purpose here.  I personally believe that God commanded us to have children and not delay this important part of our lives.  I also strongly feel though, that God wants us to be as self-reliant as possible, and that he also gave us brains to figure out how to problem-solve, prepare, and provide for ourselves and families.  Sorry for the post to take a religious tangent, but I just wanted to explain part of the thinking behind my perspectives.  Because of my beliefs, I think the time table for every family in regards to child bearing will be different, and that is okay.  It is between husband, wife, and God, and it will look different for everyone.  So take that for what it is worth to you!  My next post will be more practical and small ways to begin preparing for a baby!  Stay tuned!

For other posts in this series:


Budgeting for Baby

I know, I know…I’ve been so lame at posting.  But this blog is a just-for-fun thing right now, and sometimes exhaustion and other responsibilities (like motherhood and such) take priority, ha!  I did want to do a few posts on “budgeting for baby”, seeing as this is my second go-around, and I have a little bit of advice that I feel like might be useful to other mommas and mommas-to-be out there.  I'm in nesting mode at the moment, since this baby girl can really arrive at any point now!

First off, I just want to say, that everything I am going to post in regards to this are my personal opinions, preferences, and experiences.  Having a baby is personal, and what works for me will surely not work for everyone.  And who knows, after having baby girl, some of my opinions might shift or change on what works, because having two kids will be a heck-of-a-lot different than having one babe.  My world is about to be rocked, folks! 

We all know this, babies are p-r-i-c-e-y!  Or they can be for many families.  Obviously, I am basing my comments on a healthy pregnancy and birth.  Those who have medical complications and things are definitely going to face different financial burdens that often are hard to anticipate or prepare for.  There is nothing wrong with that and I genuinely  hope the best to the families in those situations.  It is never something that is desired, but thankfully we live in a time when many resources are available to us and I’m very grateful for that! 

With that being said, I know many of us might not feel like we ever “have enough” money to have a baby.  However, it is my personal opinion, that parents should be responsible to plan and anticipate most costs of having a baby, and be able to provide for their needs.  Depending on your situation, it might mean having maternity insurance, researching cash pay plans, or other resources available to you.  That also might mean, looking at where you can trim your grocery store costs and shave off money to put towards diapers and wipes.  It might mean making some sacrifices.  That is part of being a parent.  Please don’t feel sorry for yourself if you can’t go out to eat every week or your baby doesn’t have the most current Baby Gap line of clothing in their closet.  It is not what being a parent is about and you make things work with what you have!  That’s what this series is all about!  Parenthood is much too precious of an experience to get sucked up into peer pressures of keeping up with the “baby Jones’”.  Between blogs, Facebook, and Pinterest, it is pretty easy to feel like a lousy parent if you compare yourself to everyone.  I hope this blog series will help alleviate some of those negative feelings and instead make you feel empowered with what you have and give you ideas on how to be creative to provide a fulfilling and happy experience for your family when a baby is born--not a stressful and negative one that you dread or resent.  Being a parent is the most rewarding and life-changing experience a person can have.  

So hopefully this baby series is helpful to some expectant parents! Please leave comments with your opinions and suggestions--the way I came up with many of my ideas is from hearing what worked for other people and tweaking it to work for me!

Other posts in this series:
Budgeting for Baby: Medical Expenses & Accepting Help