Category Archives: Money Smarts

Wallet-Friendly Finds: Springtime Maternity

I have this thing with Spring — I love all the greenery and flowers growing back, but the rain has been annoyingly resilient over here! Regardless, Spring is a good transitional season to figure out what pieces to keep in your closet for days that range from warm and sunny, to cold and rainy. I’ve picked out some of my favorite, affordable springtime maternity pieces from different shops, and linked them for you so that you can find them!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored or affiliated post. All opinions are my own.

ZULILY

Lace-Yoke Belted Maternity Tee | Floral Off-Shoulder Top | Crochet-Accent Maternity Shorts

Zulily’s got great options for warmer days. A tee with a lace yoke can be dressed up or dressed down. Cold shoulders are definitely on-trend right now, so I thought this off-shoulder top was perfectly springy, and will make you feel a little cuter on your rough days during pregnancy. Also, dresses and skirts are a great way to go when you’ve got to endure some heat with your bump, but you cannot go wrong with a cute pair of maternity shorts. Show off those legs, girl!

MOTHERHOOD MATERNITY

Striped Maternity Dress | Black Destructed Maternity Jeans | Anorak Maternity Jacket

I have been loving stripes during my pregnancy; they do a good job of complimenting the baby bump! This striped maternity dress is honestly perfect for any springtime event.

Jessica Simpson was on point in designing her maternity jeans. They fit my body perfectly, and I am a true curvy girl. I promise there is hope for you out there! Aren’t these black distressed jeans the perfect amount of edgy? Love ’em.

And we all need a good jacket for those rainy spring days. This anorak maternity jacket is seriously so cute. It’s durable, neutral, and perfect for the season.

NORDSTROM RACK

You’ll notice that I’m on a pink kick here with Nordstrom Rack. You know what, I’m not ashamed. I don’t think I own any pink otherwise, so I think now is the time to embrace it!

Infinity Nursing Scarf | Maternity-Nursing Sleep Dress | Lattice Studded Maternity Sweater

I love this bright pink infinity nursing scarf from Itzy Ritzy — it would be perfect with a loose or fitted black dress! Plus, it is an item that you can take with you past pregnancy; you can wear it as a scarf until it is time to feed baby, then you can put an arm through it and stretch it over you and your baby as a nursing cover.

Since we are stubborn and aren’t ready to turn the A/C on yet, there have been nights where our house is near 75 degrees, which is very uncomfortable for my already uncomfortable sleeping situation. A maternity sleep dress is the way to go so that you can stay cool under the covers, but you are covered up enough to let the dog out in the morning. This one is also a nursing dress, so all you have to do for middle-of-the-night feedings is unsnap the straps.

And, for those days where it’s drizzly, dreary, and not as warm as you’d like, there is this adorable maternity sweater. The lattice sleeve makes it perfect for a transitional season like Spring. Plus, I love maternity pieces that have some sweet detailing; cute maternity clothes (that are also affordable) is hard to come by!

And that’s it! Pregnant or not, what are your staple items that you must have for the springtime??

xo,
Jan

It’s a Girl! Plus a Budget-Friendly Gender Reveal

We are having a girl! Her name is Audrey Marie, and she is growing right on schedule. At our baseline ultrasound, we got to see that she was, in fact, a girl, and we watched her move around (we hadn’t seen her since I was seven weeks pregnant!). My mom and Alex’s mom both got to see her on the ultrasound screen, too. It was an exciting day!

We weren’t able to set up a way for Alex and I to be surprised about the gender because schedules just didn’t work out, so we decided to surprise our close friends on our own. One of the ways we did that was by setting up a gender reveal party on Valentine’s Day; our friends could join us for dessert and drinks at our house after their Valentine’s Day dinners to be surprised about the gender. We were on a tight budget for the party but we still had a lot of fun; here are some tips to save some money on a great party (gender reveal or otherwise).

1. Don’t cook an entire meal. Just do dessert or snacks for your guests. Don’t throw a big party with a full meal if you don’t have to. The nature of a gender reveal party, to me anyway, feels like the stakes are much lower than that of a shower or holiday/birthday celebration, so I didn’t want to invest in feeding people an entire meal. The timing of our party being on Valentine’s Day really helped because we knew people would have arrangements for dinner otherwise.

I made gender reveal cupcakes, and I had candy and drinks available for people. That was it; I didn’t make four different types of desserts or make snack trays. I kept it simple. Moreover, I found the candy for cheap because it was Valentine’s Day. I bought the box of cake mix and icing from Aldi, and simply used food coloring to color the frosting.

2. Keep decorations simple. I actually didn’t formally “decorate.” My mom had bought a blue and pink teddy bear before we knew the gender, plus she bought those blue and pink king babies for the cupcakes. The kitchen and dining room were filled with pink and blue, and it took basically zero effort on my part. Use your food, early baby gifts, and free prints off of the internet to decorate. Another inexpensive/free option is to pick up a bunch of color-appropriate paint chip cards at the hardware store and make a banner out of them.

3. Include time for some fun games. I found some fun, Valentine’s themed “Minute to Win It” games, which cost me less than $5 to set up. Also, I had people vote for the gender they believed our baby to be, which created a little bit of fun competition between the “teams.” Games like these won’t break the bank, and they will give your guests a memorable evening.

4. Be minimal in your guest list. Because of our time crunch, we only invited a group of our closest friends. Our families already knew, and there were friends that I texted with the news. Having a smaller gathering saved me on money and time, and it felt a lot more special because we could genuinely visit with everyone.

(Would you look at that? Maybe those old wives’ tales are onto something!)

How to Love Your Spouse Well on a Budget

The Hoopers are currently a one-income household; This might mean something a little different to everyone, but for us that means only one of us has a solid, reliable income. His income pays our bills, our debt, and is our extra padding. Any money that I make from Tastefully Simple really sort-of maintains and circulates within itself.

love_well_budget

Living on one income as a married couple without children may seem like it is easy, and I’m sure that it is certainly more of a “walk in the park” than my single-income friends who do have children. However, there have been a lot of uncomfortable moments in our marriage that really boil down to our discomfort with our income. For example …

– When one of the two of us buys something frivolous, we feel a lot of guilt and shame.
– I constantly feel a cultural pressure to get a job, yet blame that pressure on Alex.
– We haven’t been able to celebrate and do fun things with family and friends like we used to, which causes a lot of tension.

Every two weeks, when Alex gets a paycheck, we are re-budgeting and re-prioritizing. I will say, with confidence, that Alex and I have a good eye on our income and expenses. He is logical and practical with our cash flow, and I have become a lot more critical when grocery shopping. This leads me into the best list I could come up with of ways to love your spouse in the midst of limited finances:

1. Communicate about your budget regularly.

So if you aren’t here–if you aren’t communicating constantly with your spouse about your budget–then you are already in deep water. It will take a lot of time and vulnerability to come together and discuss what your weaknesses are, versus what your goals are. Alex and I have had to point out to each other some of the serious mistakes we make with our non-flexible income (one of us loves fresh, new comic books, and the other loves that regular stop at Dunkin Donuts for an iced coffee). It doesn’t ever get easier to admit fault, or to rebuke one another in love; however, it becomes more normalized and more expected if you practice it often.

Here’s where I think you can start: Over dinner tonight, ask one another what your goals are with your income. When do you want your loans paid off? When do you want that car paid off? Should you be saving a certain amount every month? What would you be saving it for? A vacation? A baby? New furniture? Once you’ve established some goals that you are both on the same page about, then reach a point of boldness and vulnerability where you admit fault and seek forgiveness for any habits you may have that impede those goals for one another. If one of you really wants a baby, but the other one literally cannot resist Amazon lightning deals, then your marriage will suffer for far too long.

Alex and I use Mint.com to keep track of all of our in’s and out’s. I highly recommend it; you connect it to your bank accounts and it automatically categorizes your spending (restaurants, gas, home goods, etc.) Plus, you can set it up to remind you about bills and other scheduled expenditures. It has made not just budgeting, but talking about budgeting so much simpler. At the end of the month, we are able to look back and see where we overspent based on the categories.

2. Get creative about dating each other.

If you haven’t heard it already, I’d be surprised… but I’ll tell you anyway: you need to date your spouse. What blossomed your love in the first place was doing things together that were special to you as a couple. Alex and I went to a lot of concerts and hockey games as a dating couple, and those are two things we really don’t do anymore because of the cost. Usually, dates now will consist of dinner, and a movie if we are feeling crazy. So, long story short, this is something we are still working on.

Eating dinner at home together is not a date. You can do that multiple times a week if you tried, so eating dinner together really shouldn’t be special enough to consider a date-night. Determine whether once a week, or once a month is what your marriage needs to go out and experience something new together. We like to check Groupon and Living Social for discounted, fun ideas for date nights. For example, we recently bought tickets for a local drive-in theater where we can bring our own food and drinks, relax and watch two new movies back-to-back.

I also recently pinned a great resource from Six Sisters Stuff about stay-at-home date ideas. The difference between these and merely having dinner together at home is that these ideas will require you use a little bit of creativity. Some of them are real cheesy, but they could be fun! Another good frugal-date list comes from Popsugar, and this list is organized by season, so that you can let the weather determine your activity.

3. Get creative with gift-giving.

If you’ve been married for any amount of time, then you’ve probably asked each other “do we need to buy gifts for each other?” around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and anniversaries. It is so important to be critical about the gifts you buy one another; are you buying things you really want or need, or are you buying a gift merely out of obligation?

Let me give you an example: I have wanted an 80 oz. Keurig Coffee Brewer for a while now. We used to have a Keurig, but it was a single-serve Mr. Coffee (like, you had to refill the water chamber with every single cup you made). So, we replaced that with a cheap, classic coffee pot. But now, my only option is to make a whole pot or nothing at all to make the effort worth while. We cannot justify purchasing the Keurig (a ‘want,’ not a ‘need’) right now because we are still eating the cost of vacation. But, since we currently have a way to make coffee, this would make the Keurig a realistic birthday or anniversary gift.

But, in order for us to know how to narrow down these gift ideas, we have to communicate about our financial goals. Other than that, your gifts to one another should really be focused on experiences, not material things.

4. Your everyday expenditures should exist to support one another.

Okay, you might be thinking “how does my stop at Dunkin Donuts help my spouse at all?” Well, if an iced coffee is what you need to get you through a couple of hours of grocery shopping and laundry, then perhaps your spouse will support you in that decision. Alex and I are so financially limited right now that, even for those small purchases, I tell him whenever I am about to make those decisions. For some of you, that might not be necessary, but it sure is a humbling practice.

Okay, now think about your grocery store trips; are you buying groceries that are healthy, wholesome, and supportive of your bodies? Another expense that we are regularly intentional with keeping on our shopping list is gifts for loved ones, and groceries that will feed people we have over for dinner. We have a goal, as a married couple, to also love our neighbors well, and sometimes we have to plan for that in our budget.

What are your financial goals in your marriage? What changes have you been trying to make in order to meet those goals? What other ways can you love your spouse well on a budget?