1/9/20

2020 Budget Planning: The Best Time To Buy Cars, Dishwashers, Baby Crap + More


As a homeowner, it never fails that every few months something leaks, squeaks, breaks or dies. For the things that can't be fixed, kicked, patched or rigged, knowing when to buy a replacement could save you hundreds of dollars, even waiting a week could make all the difference. There really is a, best time to buy a car.

According to Consumer Reports:

"In these high-tech times, you might think the days when the calendar dictated when consumer goods would go on sale are behind us. Not so. Consumer Reports' market analysts have found that deep discounts for many products are still tied to a particular month of the year: Some sales are timed to the introduction of new models, while others are long-standing traditions, such as January white sales.  Consumer Reports' market analysts have found that deep discounts for many products are still tied to a particular month of the year: Some sales are timed to the introduction of new models, while others are long-standing traditions, such as January white sales." 

Below is a list of the best time to buy various big-ticket items according to consumer reports. 




For the best time to buy a car and the free Consumer Reports Car Buyer's Guide click, here.

For the complete Consumer Reports Buyer's Guide click, here.



Happy Budgeting in 2020! 

1/3/20

How to Survive Being Married... With Children.





I once heard the leading cause of divorce is marriage. I'm now convinced, it's children that lead the pack to divorce. It's so hard to stay connected mentally and physically to your partner when your children are physically stuck to you while mentally destroying you.

We have watched many happy couples during the first few years of becoming new parents struggle with balancing their relationship and being parents. Sadly, many of those couples are now divorced. Now, infidelity, abusers, liars and fu@kwits are one thing, but for the couples that just fell out of love, I get it. The Aussie and I have had many, many ups and downs in our relationship since becoming parents.

Today, we are celebrating seven gloriously years of marriage. (Think: War & Peace meets dirty porn. Kidding... maybe...) It's been amazing, hard, annoying, fulfilling and as much as I want to throat punch the fu*ker sometimes, I am so happy and blessed to call him my partner in life. In honor of our seventh wedding anniversary, we wanted to share a few tips we've learned the hard way about being married with children.

1. It takes so much friggin' work. During the days leading up to our wedding, we asked people about the secret to a long marriage, all of them answered almost word-for-word, It's not easy, it takes work. They were right. Marriage is anything but easy. Marriage takes loads of compromise, putting yourself second, but not all the time, accepting an opposing opinion, alternating weekend days so you both get a morning to sleep in... Basically, when times get tough, you have to work through the issue as a team. You know, the whole United We Stand, Divided We Fall, thing, it applies to marriage big time.

2. Talk to each other, not at each other.  Communication is Key. You have to talk to each other, and not just about the shit that annoys you about each other. Talk about your day, current events, the neighbors, whatever, just talk. A couple of years ago we fell into a nonverbal funk. We both knew we were drifting apart, so we agreed to spend at least 10-15 minutes each night after our son went to bed talking. We migrated out to the porch, sometimes walked around the house, sometimes had a beer. To this day, we go outside together at night regularly. It's really nice.

3. Affection is what sets you apart. Nothing beats hella good intimacy in a marriage. I once read that the fastest way for couples to reconnect is to have sex every day for 30 days straight.  I can definitely get down with that. The couples that stick together, well, stick together.

4. Date Nights Are Not Optional. Date nights are essential for staying connected. Especially, if you have children. You have to get out monthly and be human together. Not parents, humans. The people you are deep down inside underneath the baby spew, yoga pants, football games, practices, and recitals. Leave all that shit at the door and go out like two kids about to wreck the town. TIP: Can't afford a babysitter and dinner? (Who can anymore?) Order takeout and have a picnic in the yard, set the patio table with candles or make a carpet picnic and play music.

5. Be Independent. There is more to life than each other. It's unhealthy for one half of the partnership to live only through the other. Both of you need friends, events, and hobbies outside of your marriage. No one likes to be smothered. TIP: At least once a month go out independently with friends, retail therapy, a walk...

6. It's Not Supposed To Be Onesided. It's not fair for one half of the partnership to be in charge of dealing with all the crappy stuff. No friggin' way should only one person always cook, clean, change diapers, drop off, pickup, control the TV, wake up early with the kids on the weekend... Nothing brings on resentment faster. Write out everything it takes to keep the ship sailing smooth and work together to share the responsibilities. Both of you deserve to sit down at the end of the day.

7. Say, I love you and makeout, every day.  Love and affection are such an integral part of marriage. Every single day take at least a moment to appreciate each other and your relationship.  Tell your partner in life, I love you. Look into each others eyes and reconnect. Makeout. Be there in the moment with each other. Let everything else fades away. Because, in the end, that's one of the magical things about your partner, when you're together, the world melts away.


How do you keep the marriage fresh? Were you surprised about the huge amount of stress children put on the happiest of marriages? Me too. I've written many articles over the years about the ups and downs of marriage here.






1/1/20

10 Things All Toddlers Have In Common


Here are ten amazing facts about toddlers. Facts I wouldn't have believed unless I witnessed them myself...




1.     Toddlers are one big mess making factory. They can stand still in an empty white room and still figure out how to make a HUGE FREAKING MESS! I sometimes think my Toddler has a magnet for crap embedded in his body, so the minute he walks through a room all kinds of crap comes flying out from every corner, and lands at his feet.  Even though I watch it happen, I cannot wrap my head around the fact that something so small can completely wreck everything in 3.2 seconds! 
2.     Toddlers think everything is awesome... for five seconds. The attention span of a toddler has to rival that of a blowfly. Every single new thing my toddler comes across is badass.  He HAS to have it. Then five seconds later, he is on to the next awesome thing.
3.     Feeding a toddler is like feeding a monkey. A picky, drunken monkey. Between the flailing arms, the poor spoon/fork usage, the food launching and the occasional bite that actually makes it into their mouth… yeah, it's monkey business. Frustrating patience-testing monkey business.

4.     Toddlers have NO use for clothing. – My kid thinks shoes, pants and socks are the dumbest damn inventions. He has no use for them. My toddler would prefer to live as a free ballin’ nudist, and that’s all there is to it.
5.     Toddlers Have NO Shame. They will stop in the middle of a large crowd to concentrate on crapping their pants. They will fart in the arms of President. (I bet at least one has done it before… this year.) They will scream bloody she-is-kidnapping-me murder the minute you pick them up to leave the park and best wishes to those that think errands will be run in a timely clam orderly fashion. They have no shame and are happy to prove it. 
6.     Toddlers are 24/7 wrecking balls. If you love something or it is just expensive, a toddler will destroy it. DESTROY. IT. Again with the magnet theory. Toddlers have a homing beacon that seeks out expensive things, danger, and trouble.  
7.     Toddlers only have an ON switch.  The minute they learn something, that new function stays on! Walking, running, dancing, talking, repeating bad words… they learn it, and Man, it's SO ON!
8.     Toddlers like everything on repeat. I have read, and re-read, the same book for days in a row.  I have watched the same Mickey Mouse Clubhouse shows so many times I know the words. Why, yes, I have tried other books and shows. He doesn’t want those, he wants his Trucks and Diggers book read front to back, then back to front...  OVER AND OVER AND OVER. Don’t even get me started on the books with buttons, but only one button will do OVER AND OVER AND OVER. I have also stood by while my toddler has gone up and down the slide four hundred thousand times. Repeat I tell you. Repeat.
9.     To a toddler, ‘No’ means proceed at your own riskThey know better, but if they really want to do something, they are going to do it. Toddlers invented the theory: It's far easier to ask forgiveness, than permission.
10.  Toddlers ensure that there is never a dull Day. EVER!  For example, yesterday morning we needed a few things from the grocery. So I made my iced coffee, got Ollie and I dressed, and left for the store. Once at the store, (shoes already off of course) the second I unbuckled him from his car seat he lunged into the front seat, knocking my iced coffee into my driver's seat, (MY seat!) then he sat in it to drive the car. (Yes. Yes, I did want to shed a tear.) With no towels on hand, I used a diaper to sop up the coffee. Then, I turn my sights to him. Of course, while I was focused on cleaning up the coffee, he was climbing around the car turning on every button and emptying out my bag. When I finally caught him, I somehow missed him crapping his pants between leaving the house and that moment. Did I cry? No. Did I lose my temper? No. This is just another day in the life of a parent of a toddler.   





Call me certifiable, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

Want more images of, Life With Kids Vs Life Without?

12/19/19

5 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Road Trip

Taking a family road trip can be a fulfilling, bonding experience, but many parents can view it as the Mount Everest of family holidays. But with these 5 tips for taking a road trip with children in mind, you’re assured a fun and relaxing holiday. Explore a country from behind the wheel, and maybe even hire a motorhome for your trip to ensure maximum comfort and ease. Check out our advice, and then let the adventure begin!






Pack The Snacks

No one is pleasant when they’re hangry, so avoid this at all costs. Purchase snacks before the trip to ensure you don’t have to overspend at petrol stations and resort to unhealthy choices. Kids on a sugar high are not ideal in such a small space, so aim for nutritious food that is low in sugar. Also avoid big meals, as this can cause travel sickness. Ideas include:
  • Rice crackers and rice cakes
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts and dried fruit
  • Sliced fruit
  • Vegetable sticks and hummus, or another dip
  • String cheese
  • Sandwiches 
Pack food in portions, to avoid hassle on the road. And be sure to pack heaviest things, like drinks, at the bottom to avoid it getting crushed. Speaking of drinks, pack enough water and juice to keep everyone hydrated! 

Keep it fun

Boredom is the biggest danger during a road trip, as it leads to whiny, impatient kids. Defeat boredom by planning ahead, and having plenty of family car games. Classics like “I Spy”, “I’m Going on a Picnic” and “Travel Bingo” are ideal, as it keeps everyone focused and occupied. But also bring activity books, which can be found in any bookstore and will keep them entertained. 
Bring a CD that the whole family can tolerate, for when they’re more tired and just want to listen. I like downloading an audiobook (Harry Potter is great for slightly older children), as I find it more bearable than a children’s CD on repeat. 
Always have a backup. And by back up, I mean electronics. When things get really dire, an iPad or Laptop with a film will be your only salvation. Hopefully, it won’t reach that point, but be prepared.

Stops

Plan your stops in advance. This has two effects. Firstly, it gives kids something to look forward to, so they’ll ask to stop less. If you have set stops you also won’t be tempted to stop too often and ruin your schedule. Secondly, it ensures you stop at the right places. Avoid stopping at boring gas stations with overpriced shops and toilets, and instead, plan to stop somewhere with a playground for the kids to stretch their legs. Give a specific time that you’ll be at a stop, to avoid it running on. Another place to stop one day would be a beach or pool, perfect for a long day of driving. Have their splash stuff packed somewhere easy to grab, in a waterproof bag.

Packing

Make a list before your trip starts of everything you need to bring. Consider snacks, spare clothing, blankets and more. Pack clothes for each day separately, to make mornings easier, with a spare jacket on hand. 
Don’t forget to pack the following:
  • First aid kit (including travel sickness pills!)
  • Baby wipes
  • Hand sanitizer 
  • Power banks for electronics
  • Small trash bags for on the road
If you’re heading abroad, be sure to check the rules for each destination you drive through. Some countries require you to contain certain documents or safety items in the vehicle at all times, so don’t be caught unprepared!





















Destinations

When traveling to multiple destinations with young ones, planning ahead is vital. Make a list of each place you want to visit or things you’d like to do, and then look around each for things your kids would love too! Try to switch between preferences, to ensure smiles throughout the car. By camping with your motorhome each evening, you also give kids the room to run about and stretch their legs. Aim for a campsite with a playground - or even a pool- for the happiest of children. If you’d like to visit museums, aim for ones with interactive exhibits. 

12/15/19

5 Sanity Saving Hacks For Family Holiday Travel






After dragging my son around the world and back, I feel pretty solid about sharing a few tips for meltdown free family travel. So, if you're dreading heading to Grandmas for the Holidays, or even trading bitter temperatures for warm sands, I can help make the trip not suck, because regardless of the mode of transportation or destination, one thing remains the same, the kids are coming and you need to prepare. 

1. Pack as light as possible. Between the gadgets, toys, clothes, blankets, bedtime bears and favorite pillows, it's easy to over pack. Very easy. Combat this by making a list of essentials for each family member, and stick to it. It's not like you're leaving for good, it's a week! 

Road Trip Tip: Check to make sure the headlights and taillights are working. Give em' a wipe while you're at it. Double check tires' air pressure and tread and look for nails or debris that could be potentially dangerous. You may want to invest in an air freshener too!

2. Snack Attack. Whether it's a hungry kid or a chatty kid, snacks will come in very handy.  Skip the traditional sandwiches for bento box lunches to keep kids busy.  Also, have a bribe treat. The go-to to your kid won't turn down. Like a scooby-snack. This is your miracle worker. Don't leave home without it.



Road trip snack TIPFreeze small bottles of water and use them in the cooler instead of ice. The frozen bottles will keep things cold and the cooler from filling with melted ice that sloshes back and forth with every turn, begging to pour out all over the floor of the car.

3. Floors Are For Feet Only. Let's face it, the floors can be valuable real estate when traveling, but not so great for the person losing the foot space. Free up the foot space by hanging bags on the back seat. Backpacks fit nicely over the 'shoulders' of the seat or secured by the headrest. When in flight, slip things over the back of the tray table to free floor space.



4. Check Your Tech. Before embarking on any trip, check your tech; replace the batteries in your camera, charge everything, and bring a car charger. Pack all tech stuff in the same bag. When it comes to a crying kid over a dying tablet, the last thing you'll want to do is search four bags to find it. 

5. Set expectations very low. With all the planning, comes high expectations. Kill them. Now. Expect everything to go wrong. Make sure the children think they are on their way to hell and it will take hours to get there. The lower the expectations and understanding that shit happens, the happier everyone will be. 

Road trip tip: Whether you're traveling with a child or not, invest in a box of baby wipes. The pre-moistened wipes clean messy faces and surfaces in a pinch, and without stinky harsh chemicals! Not to mention, those little wipes will be a lifesaver at those grimy roadside and airport bathrooms that haven't seen an attendant in at least a decade.

12/11/19

Upgrading Your Home the Affordable Way

Throughout the annals of time, the most beneficial rooms to upgrade have been kitchens and bathrooms. Naturally, the next most popular rooms to upgrade are laundry rooms and bedrooms, especially bedroom closets. Upgrading a room must be done with the most recent neutral accents and colors in mind so that the improvement is most likely to be appreciated by many. If forced to choose only a few rooms to upgrade, then select your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room or bedroom to get the greatest benefit from the resale or tax deduction on your home.

It wasn't easy. It was definitely worth it. 


Tax Deductions from Home Improvements

Unless your home is a rental property, most of your upgrades are not tax-deductible. However, the greatest benefit from home improvements lies in the resale value of your home. Capital improvements such as remodeling a kitchen, installing a septic tank, fitting a new water heater, pouring a new driveway, or making your home more accessible for the disabled or infirm are all considered permanent improvement which increases the value of your home. If these types of improvements are completed before a sale, they are tax-deductible.

Upgrading a Bedroom

Consider paint, crown molding, and sliding interior doors to improve the look of your bedroom. Today's sliding doors can take on a wide variety of styles: barn doors, French glass doors, split whiteboards, chalet barn doors, and many more looks. The walls can be changed to look very different also. They can be painted in stripes or other patterns. You could add mirrors to give the illusion of space, add a painted mural, or add wainscoting to create texture or interest to the whole room or portions of it.

The Most Value Added to a Home from an Improvement

Kitchen remodels generally generate the greatest return for your investment. Add as much as 15% to the value of your home with an upgraded kitchen. Kitchen appliances that are more than five years old should be updated to the most current models that you can afford. Today, the popular look of appliances is stainless steel, but you should consider what fits with your décor and the function of your kitchen as well. 

Just painting my cabinets made a HUMONGOUS difference.

Another focal point in the kitchen is the cabinetry. Still, another is the kitchen countertops. Updating the cabinets increases your home's value significantly. Consider updating the finish, the hardware, and adding special features like wine racks and corner cabinets to make better use of space. Instead of laminate countertops, opt for something more permanent and durable like concrete or granite. By making these improvements, the value of your home will multiply in value by a significant number. If money is a problem, use creativity. Consider ideas from affordable sources.

Bathrooms Can also Add Tremendous Value to a Home

No guest bath in your home? Adding one could greatly increase your home's value. A guest bath is traditionally a half bath with a sink and toilet only. If you have the room, you may decide to install a full bath with a sink, toilet, and bath/shower. A full bath contributes even greater value. Just like the upgraded kitchen, a new bathroom can increase a home's value by 10.5 percent with a half bath and a full 20 percent with a full bathroom. Repair tile on the floor and walls, replace traditional toilets with the new low flow water-conserving toilets. Add shower heads and controls that add a variety of functions like rainfall, high pressure, and handheld.

The Last Room that Adds Value to a Home

Oddly enough, walk-in closets can add tremendous value to your home. These are especially valuable in master bedrooms. If you can build one for both spouses, that's even better. A home with a double sink and double walk-in closets wins every time.

Saving Money on Upgrades

To save money, begin by starting with the most important aspect of the upgrade. If you are working with a kitchen that has old appliances, bad floors, and horrible countertops, you'll need to price your replacement features at an outlet store because all those elements should be replaced. If you are attempting to upgrade another room, choose the least costly manner of refinishing walls or floors, but always use the best materials. Never compromise on quality, but always seek out discounted versions of the best elements. Take advantage of store specials for labor and materials, whether seasonal or sold in bulk.

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