6 Useful Tips for Walking Outside With Your Baby

Shortly after the birth of your baby, your doctor will likely recommend walking as a first exercise. Walking is perfect, because your pace can be as quick or slow as you wish and you may walk for as long as you feel comfortable. And my favorite: you can exercise when baby is with you! Here are my useful tips on walking outside with your baby.

I received an Ergobaby 180 Stroller to facilitate this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

1. Put All Your Walking Essentials Together

When I’m ready to take my baby for a walk, I don’t want to make a dozen trips back inside the house to get what I need. I created a place in my garage that holds all of my walking essentials in one place. Think about the things that you use when you go for a walk and place them in one central spot for quick access.

  • Walking shoes & socks
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen (for you and for the baby)
  • Sunglasses
  • Music player & ear buds
  • Water bottle
  • Sweatshirt (for chilly days)
  • Cooling Towel (for hot days – one for you & one for baby!)
  • Baby care needs, including diaper/wipes and sipper cup and snacks for toddlers

Read these 6 tips for walking with your baby including what to bring with you, where to go and choosing the perfect stroller. #Exercise #NewMom #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn

2. Choosing the Right Stroller for Your Baby

My family is already a fan of the Ergobaby line. I have the Ergobaby Omni 360 baby carrier. I’ve called it my “must-have travel item for babies“! It’s come in so handy on vacation. But I also use it every day when I need to hold my toddler but also remain hands-free.

As soon as your doctor gives the okay, it’s usually fine to take your healthy newborn outside for a walk. At first you may choose to place your baby inside of the front carrier. But eventually you’ll probably want to graduate to a stroller. The Ergobaby 180 Stroller has so many great features, including a reversible handlebar that quickly adjusts for height. I like the simple recline with breathable mesh side panels so my daughter can comfortably nap on our walk. It’s a very simple-to-use stroller, with one-hand folding and easy-tap foot brakes. Having a stroller that’s equally easy to maneuver and also comfortable for your baby is ideal.

Read these 6 tips for walking with your baby including what to bring with you, where to go and choosing the perfect stroller. #Exercise #NewMom #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn

3. Where to Walk With Baby?

If you live in a neighborhood or city, hitting the sidewalk right outside your front door is great. On particularly hot days, I’ve taken my baby and stroller to the indoor mall for window shopping while walking. The Ergobaby 180 stroller has 4-wheel steering and easily moves from smooth sidewalks to rougher terrain. You can quickly adjust the wheel locks by pressing a button to adjust each wheel.

I personally love to walk in the park. Local parks often have looping walking paths that are perfect for walking with your baby. At just 20 lbs, the stroller is lightweight for travel and easily folds with one hand. It’s also car seat compatible (with the car seat adapter, sold separately). Grab your walking essentials, load the stroller into the car and head out to the park!

4. Best Time of Day to Walk With Baby

In the warmer summer months, early morning hours are ideal for walking with your baby. However I have a toddler, so my daily walk is intended to kick-start her nap time! I usually don’t start my walk until around 11 am. This means it can be warm outside and I need to take the proper precautions to prevent overheating.

I make sure that my daughter has her sipper cup filled with water and that I’ve applied sunscreen to her legs. The Ergobaby 180 stroller has an over sized sun canopy to protect her from too much exposure. The stroller also has roll-up panels that reveal full mesh sidewalls. This helps to keep air circulating and prevents the baby from overheating when she naps on our walk.

Read these 6 tips for walking with your baby including what to bring with you, where to go and choosing the perfect stroller. #Exercise #NewMom #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn

5. Benefits of Taking Baby for a Walk

  • Fresh air, exercise and stimulation! I find that a daily walk helps me to work out my thoughts, improves my sleep at night and gets me moving (especially in those early months with a newborn, when you only feel like you’re sitting and nursing all day!)
  • If Baby is overstimulated by the view or if you simply want to keep an eye on her while you walk, the Ergobaby 180 stroller has a quick response. The handlebar has an easy flip option so you can turn it to face either way in about three seconds!
  • My daughter is just two-years old, so I like taking her for a walk in preparation for nap time. Sometimes I’ll walk to the store and pick up a few essentials. The under-stroller basket on the Ergobaby 180 stroller is extra large for holding plenty! Usually my goal is getting her to fall asleep so a long walk benefits us both.

Read these 6 tips for walking with your baby including what to bring with you, where to go and choosing the perfect stroller. #Exercise #NewMom #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn

6. Safety Concerns

  • Don’t walk where you don’t feel comfortable. Choose walking areas away from vehicle traffic and that are well-lit.
  • Consider walking in a group with other people.
  • Use the brakes on the stroller every time, even if you stop on flat ground. You never know if Baby’s movements will cause the stroller to roll.
  • Don’t put your wallet or phone where it can get grabbed. The Ergobaby 180 has a hidden storage pocket behind the seat where I place my valuables and then zip it closed.

My toddler and I really do like the ease and comfort of the Ergobaby 180 Stroller. We’ve already taken the stroller on a trip and appreciated the lightweight frame & ability to fold down small into the trunk. Click the link to purchase and you’ll receive a code for a free snack tray attachment with your stroller order (offered for a limited time).

Read these 6 tips for walking with your baby including what to bring with you, where to go and choosing the perfect stroller. #Exercise #NewMom #Ergobaby #LoveCarriesOn

 

Create a More Calm and Peaceful Entryway in Your Home

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GladeFineFragranceMist #CollectiveBias

In the last few months, I’ve been focusing on being in a more intentional place. FOCUS is my Word of the Year and I really am trying to press into that. I want to be a more focused mother for my children. A wife who has a great focus on marriage as a whole. And I’ve just started going to night school, so I definitely want to be more focused on my studies. All this focus can leave other things, like housework, in the dust (literally!) There’s only so much of me to go around, you know? Staying focused on a few things means that other things can get neglected. And to be honest, that truly affects my mood. I want to be good at everything, even when I know that’s impossible! But if I neglect ME, then nothing else is going to go right.

My DIY entry way tutorial helps to put me in the right mood the moment I walk inside the front door. Find out what to use, including fragrance, to add joy into your every day. #GladeFineFragranceMist #ad

Saying Yes to More Peace

My moms group has been delving into the topic of getting more peace in our lives. Bottom line: It’s not your circumstances that bring you down. It’s the attitude and thinking you have about things that ultimately makes you upset. My happiness should not be based upon what is happening around me. It’s not the circumstances, it’s the attitude and thinking I have about them.

I have it on my heart to be more conscious about my mood when I come home after a long day. It’s too easy to fall into the chaos once inside the door and I aim to be more centered and at peace at home. A relaxed and calm Mom is better at all things!

One thing that I do as a reminder to stay serene is take a moment in my entryway to pause. It’s only a moment that I need before the whirlwind hits me. I have my entryway table set up with everything I need for a proper welcome home. I can choose to think about positives I’m grateful for and not the potential craziness that awaits me beyond the entryway. With just a few key items in this place, I’ve made my home a more calm place.

Creating a Calm and Peaceful Entryway

Creating a peaceful and beautiful entryway helps set up the reminders for me about being purposeful. I have carefully chosen only what makes me happy and gives meaning. Clutter is the enemy! Only what absolutely needs to be there should be allowed in this place. I take time each day to make sure this area is tidy. Even if my office desk has a huge stack of papers or there are dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, at least I know that this one sacred place of peace and meditation is clutter-free.

My DIY entry way tutorial helps to put me in the right mood the moment I walk inside the front door. Find out what to use, including fragrance, to add joy into your every day. #GladeFineFragranceMist #ad

These are the things I have in my lovely entryway that bring me joy –

Favorite art and calming quotes. Surrounding yourself with lovely things really does go a long way towards calm.

A table runner is a great base to start from. I went with a neutral so that I could choose to add more color with my accessories.

A place to put car keys because hunting for lost car keys when you’re already running late is going to make you crazy. I love this pretty bowl to use as a catch-all from keys to earrings.

I try to deal with mail immediately while it’s in my hand. I sort out the junk into the recycling and put bills on my office desk. Don’t let paper clutter up your special space.

Add a touch of nature, whether it be a vase with flowers, a tiny cactus or something like this bonsai I have. An earthy reminder can help you to stay grounded.

Include something meaningful to you. I have a pretty vintage cake plate and a soapstone container that my husband bought me on our first vacation together.

My DIY entry way tutorial helps to put me in the right mood the moment I walk inside the front door. Find out what to use, including fragrance, to add joy into your every day. #GladeFineFragranceMist #ad

Using Fragrance to Move My Mood

The Glade® Atmosphere Collection™ Fine Fragrance Mist helps welcome me home. The scent of fragrance upon coming in my front door is the gentle nudge I need to remind me to breath deeply, stay calm and let the stress of the day slip away. I found these at Walmart. I chose each of these two fragrance mist products for different reasons.

My DIY entry way tutorial helps to put me in the right mood the moment I walk inside the front door. Find out what to use, including fragrance, to add joy into your every day. #GladeFineFragranceMist #ad

The notes of jasmine and rose with cedarwood and clove in the No.1 Enraptured™ fragrance helps to put me in a loving mood. The No.2 Bright™ scent has a light and bright note of raspberries and orchard fruits with pear and sweet pea.

My DIY entry way tutorial helps to put me in the right mood the moment I walk inside the front door. Find out what to use, including fragrance, to add joy into your every day. #GladeFineFragranceMist #ad

The Glade® Atmosphere Collection™ Fine Home Fragrances are infused with essential oils and masterfully crafted fragrances. Just spray up and sweep side to side. It is a continuous spray so the mist lingers in the air. A quick spray and deep breath from me and I’m in my calm space. Just the welcome home that I need!

How can you use fragrance to transport you into a peaceful place?

Follow this entryway tutorial to put you in the right mood the moment you walk inside the front door. Find out what to use, including fragrance, to add joy into your every day. #GladeFineFragranceMist #ad

Mom’s Holiday Party Prep Tips for the Busy Season

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MerrySpritzmas #CollectiveBias

Though I really do try to stick to our family motto and keep things simple during the holidays, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of the season. That means events, activities and parties just about every weekend in December. The holidays are a time of parties – I have two each weekend this season! I love it all, I really do. But wow, does it get busy! Seems I hardly have time to use the bathroom (we’ll get to that issue later!)

These practical tips will help Mom holiday party prep for an evening out! Ideas for time management & evening bag packing. #MerrySpritzmas #AD

Ready for a night on the town!

My husband’s work Christmas party was this past weekend. With four kids at home, I didn’t have a lot of time to get myself primped. But I still wanted to look good, right?! I’m sharing my tips for getting prepped for a night out, including what to pack in your holiday evening bag. Keep reading and I’ll give you all the details on why Poo~Pourri is a party MUST HAVE!

Hover over this photo and click on the images to visit Bed Bath and Beyond’s website, where you can order directly!

Time Management

When you’re getting ready to go out for the night, plan ahead and make a list of what needs to be done.

  • I chose my outfit the week before the Christmas party. I made sure to try on my outfit with the shoes that I was planning to wear. If you need to pick up stockings or tummy support briefs this will give you a few days time to grab those necessities.
  • I did my nails the day before so I wouldn’t feel rushed the morning of the party.
  • I needed a haircut before the party so I scheduled it for that afternoon. This way I was able to get the wash, cut and style and save time on not having to do my hair myself.
  • Have the babysitter arrive early so that will give you time to put your make-up on and get dressed so you aren’t running around, tending to the kids.

Packing Your Holiday Evening Bag

Just before before the party, I pack up my holiday evening bag. Once I’ve decided on my outfit, I match the bag with what I’m wearing. You won’t need a lot, so your evening bag can be really small – Unless you’re like me and your husband tends to hand you everything out of his pockets to carry in your purse. These are my handbag must-haves for a night on the town.

  • Wallet. Include at least a few dollars, just in case you need to tip or the parking lot only takes cash.
  • Drivers license or ID. You might get carded!
  • Make-up refreshers. This may include blotting papers to get rid of excess oil, finishing powder and lipstick or gloss.
  • A small mirror. Use it quickly to check your teeth and make sure there’s no holiday food left there after your meal.
  • Compact hair brush.
  • Fully charged cell phone. And just in case you get into a selfie mood and post a ton of pictures to social media, bring a back-up charger and cord.
  • Antacids. After eating a rich dinner & having a few drinks, my tummy needed some relief.
  • Car and house keys.
  • Poo~Pourri.

These practical tips will help Mom holiday party prep for an evening out! Ideas for time management & evening bag packing. #MerrySpritzmas #AD

Don’t be the Party Pooper

Time to get real. Think about the last party you went to. Seems like there is always someone waiting outside the bathroom door to use the facilities after you, right? With so many holiday parties at friends’ houses and the bathroom line down the hall, nobody wants to the be the “party pooper” – leaving a stink behind for the next guest!

Have you heard of Poo~Pourri? If you haven’t, this video is a must watch.

Simply spritz Poo~Pourri into the toilet bowl before you go. Poo~Pourri’s pure blend of natural essential oils creates a film on the surface of the water. The protective barrier traps odor under the surface – which means no stink! All you’ll leave behind is a light refreshing scent. When you leave the bathroom for the next person in line, nobody will be the wiser!

Give the Gift That Doesn’t Stink

I was recently at Bed Bath and Beyond and found a large collection of Poo~Pourri. It was located at a kiosk towards the front of the store. There were more Poo~Pourri products on an end cap (including a gift box that looks like a toilet!)

I have Original Citrus in the bathroom at home, which is a blend of lemon, bergamot and lemongrass natural essential oils. Merry Spritzmas® and Secret Santa scents are sold in this clever holiday pull-apart gift set (the text on the box makes me giggle!)

I kept Poo~Pourri Merry Spritzmas® in my evening hand bag. The blend of peppermint, vanilla and citrus is a spritz of holiday magic! And it was a relief to know I had the Poo~Pourri with me on the chance that I needed to use it at the party. Did I use it? I’ll never tell!

I already know whom I’ll be gifting Poo~Pourri Secret Santa to! Poo~Pourri is actually the perfect item for the holiday gift exchange –  It’s funny to give but it really works!

Don’t forget to look out for special coupons on one item at Bed Bath and Beyond’s website before heading out to shop or shopping online. And check out these other fun ideas on how to give the gift of Poo~Pourri this holiday season!

These practical tips will help Mom holiday party prep for an evening out! Ideas for time management & evening bag packing. #MerrySpritzmas #AD

No Painful Feet! How to Find Foot Comfort in Your New Shoes

If painful feet stop you from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

I hate shoe shopping. Okay, so I know I’m in the minority and lots of ladies love to buy new shoes. But I don’t. I HATE getting new shoes because it means I have to try them on, break them in and suffer through the pain and discomfort of new shoes. The thought of painful feet is enough for me to avoid buying new shoes. So I stick with the worn out and broken in shoes I already own. I’m on the hunt for foot comfort, especially when I know I’ll be traveling and walking a lot!

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through these links helps me in a small financial way, thank you! I’ve received complimentary product for some of the items reviewed in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Painful Feet? Try These Tips

  1. Compression Socks
  2. Open-toed shoes
  3. Shoes that don’t require “breaking in”
  4. Stick with what works for you
  5. Inserts

Compression Socks

Several years ago my husband and I flew overnight to Europe. It was my first long-haul flight and I made the mistake of taking off my shoes and putting on cozy socks while I slept. When it was time to get off the plane, I had to cram my swollen feet back into my shoes. By the time we reached the taxi I had blisters on every toe, across my heel and several of my toe nails were broken! Not the best start to a 10-day trip.

The next time I flew long distance you can believe I was wearing compression socks! I’ll be honest: I always thought that compression socks were for “old people” or if you were in the hospital and couldn’t exercise. But these adorable patterned socks from Vim & Vigr changed my mind (they are so cute!)

These nylon compression socks from Vim & Vigr have a multi-dimensional weave and 400-needle count that allow for comfort, flexibility, and breathability. They even offer socks for wide calves.

I hear that compression socks are great if you’re running (not that I’d know about that!) I’ve worn the Vim & Vigr socks on each flight since and no blisters or broken toe nails after flying again!

Vim & Vigr 15-20 mmHg Graduated Compression Socks – Nylon Collection – M – Cream & Black

Why I Gravitate Towards Sandals

After the birth of my last baby I realized that my feet had grown along with my belly! In fact I now have one foot that is over a half-size larger than the other foot – how annoying is that?! And it makes it nearly impossible to purchase certain shoe styles. I suffer with having one shoe too tight or the other flopping off.

If painful feet stop you from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

My 7 1/2 months pregnant feet walked the Disney parks in Crocs!

That’s why I tend to choose sandals over any other shoe type. Fortunately I live in Southern California, where I can wear sandals 75% of the year! Here are a few of my favorite sandal choices that are comfortable for long distance walking. I discuss more sandal options in my post, Best Shoes for Disney Parks – Why I Love Sandals! 


Comfortable Shoes for Kids (No Breaking In Period!)

I’ve been purchasing pediped shoes for nearly 6 years. They were my son’s very first pair of shoes. When I saw how comfortable they were for him and how much he enjoyed walking in pediped, they quickly became the only pair of shoes I would buy for him. It’s a happy day for him when he sees a box from pediped in the mail!


When I first found out I was having a baby girl, a pair of pedipeds Originals was one of my first purchases! They are the shoes she took her first steps in and I’ll be putting them into her keepsake box. Any other shoes she outgrows will be gifted forward to another child. We’ve handed down my son’s outgrown pedipeds to his cousins.

If painful feet stop kids from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

My kids wearing their pedipeds at Walt Disney World.

I’ll be honest about the price because it might be more than you’re used to paying. Many people will not pay a high price for kids shoes, preferring to buy cheaper shoes. I’d much rather purchase something of high quality that is comfortable for my child, supports her feet and won’t fall apart or look worn after just a few wearings. My kids only have 2 or 3 pairs of pediped shoes and rotate between them (instead of a dozen pairs of “cheap” shoes).

If painful feet stop you from exploring check out these tips and products that will minimize blisters, swelling and foot pain!

My son in his Flex Sahara Red sandals at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

Because many pedipeds are washable they uphold their look. And the high crafted quality means they last and last. My son is currently wearing pediped sandals he had last summer and they still look in perfect condition!


My only complaint? That my eldest daughter is now 13 and has outgrown them! I’ve only bought her pediped shoes for the last five years. She has one foot that rolls inward, causing shoes to get a hole in them after just a few wearings. Pediped is the only brand that we’ve found that will hold her foot solidly upright and not to roll. pediped footwear has been awarded the American Podiatric Medical Association Seal of Acceptance for the promotion of healthy foot development.

Stick with What Works

I legit own 8 pairs of shoes total. Four of these shoes are exact duplicates of each other, just in different color schemes. I know what works for my feet so I tend to purchase two at a time.

I gave up a long time ago trying to wear regular high heels. Now if I’m dressing up I wear my favorite crocs Women’s Leigh Ankle Strap Wedge Sandal. I have them in oatmeal and black and they’re versatile enough to wear with either a dress or jeans. And the best part is that I can actually dance and walk comfortably all night in them (and not revert to the barefoot walk back to the car at the end of the night!)

If you have a favorite shoe, next time buy two so you can switch out between them!

Comfort Aids for Inside Shoes

Adding extra support where your foot needs it is a great way to get comfy. A little lift here, a little cushion there and your foot pain can be greatly relieved. I recently tried Silipos Active gel products. These conform to your body reducing friction, abrasion and burning sensations during high impact activities.

I tried Silipos Active Ball of Foot Gel Cushions. Slip the loop around one of your toes and the cushion rests underneath, covered by a sock. These cushions are so thin I wondered if they’d make a difference. I tested them on a 5 mile hike we took across concrete and gravel. I could really tell the difference after walking as I didn’t have the usual ache in my foot bones that I usually do after walking on that type of terrain.

Ever worn a pair of flip-flops when the center post cut into your toes? That is just the worst! Silipos Active Sandal Toe Protectors slips over that post to cushion between the toes.

How do you counteract painful feet? Share in the comments!

5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

Okay I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but constantly budgeting my money makes me cranky! With 4 kids and a limited budget, there’s not always a lot of wiggle-room when it comes to “fun money”. Yes, I’m always putting money in the savings account for our retirement and there’s a little bit going into the Disney bank. But when it comes to right here and now, not being able to just buy whatever-I-want whenever-I-want-it makes me irritable!

So I can’t go on a spending spree and that’s okay. These are 5 things I do when I need a little escape from reality. They are just the right pick-me-up when the budget is tight.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

1. Plan a Fake Vacation

Can’t hop a plane or jump ship? Just like reading a book transports you into another world, planning a fake vacation can transport you around the world with a click of a button. This is one of my most favorite ways to daydream. Pick a spot on the map and delve into this area as if you were really going to visit!

  • Borrow travel books from the library. Which part of the world are you most drawn to?
  • If you could only drive 500 miles or less, which direction would you go and what would you do?
  • If you had to travel in central Europe which country would you go to? (I actually made this decision when I won a travel contest!)
  • Read up on cruising. Check out the Disney cruise restaurants and menus – They’re all online!
  • Which attractions would you visit in Orlando other than Walt Disney World?
  • If money were no object (and it never is when planning a fake trip) which extravagant add-ons would you make?
  • Perhaps someday when you win the lottery (that’s totally going to happen, right?), you’ll already have your travel itinerary ready to go!

Planning a Disney trip? Pick up one of these recommended Walt Disney World or Disneyland books for everyone in your group!

2. Fill my Online Shopping Cart with Clothes I’ll Never Buy

I’m not literally going to go to Target, load up a cart and then abandon it at the door. But it’s TOTALLY okay to do that online! In an online shopping cart you can virtually mix and match, quickly move from dresses to shoes to jewelry. And when you’ve gotten the shopping bug fix, simply close the browser window and you’re wallet is still intact!

3. Get Rid of Stuff

If I’m on a budget I can’t buy more stuff but it does give me some joy to pass along some of the stuff we already have. Purging and giving makes me thankful for things I was able to purchase and reminds me that I already have enough “stuff”.

  • Weed through kid’s closets. What doesn’t fit and who can you pass the clothing down to?
  • Is there something in your closet you haven’t worn in a very long time? Request a bag from ThredUp and you may be able to resell some of your items.
  • Have a garage sale. Put the money you make towards something special.
  • Be ruthless in the kid’s toy bin. Keep only what they really play with and donate the rest.
  • Next time you pull out the holiday or seasonal bin, see how you can pare down the decorations so that you only keep your most favorite items.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

4. Buy Something Little and Fun

A cheap but meaningful splurge can really boost spirits when the wallet is tight. Obviously you can’t do this one every day (or even every week!) but once in a while buying something small is just what you need. What little thing makes you happiest? For me it’s something that pampers me, like new Jamberry nail wraps or a lipstick! For family fun, choose a new board game or get a gallon of vanilla ice cream and a few toppings for mid-week sundaes.

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

A manicure at home (on a budget) makes me feel better!

Look Ahead to Something Real

What fun thing do you have coming ahead in the calendar that you can look forward to? Whatever it is, start your planning now! I love planning and think that research is half the fun. So if you have a vacation ahead, cultivate your own official itinerary. Research restaurants, peruse online menus and decide which mouth-watering dessert you’re going to order when you get there. I find that looking ahead (and not dwelling in the I-can’t-right-now) really fills up my thankfulness cup and reminds me why I’m budgeting and saving in the first place!

What do you do when budgeting gets you down? Share in the comments!

No Spending Month – 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

I have a 30 day dare with myself and my family not to have any extra expenses. January is our “no spending month” and I’d love for you to join me on this challenge. Read about my “why” and how I plan on implementing these no spending rules, without undue stress or resistance from my kids!

The Start of my No Spending Month

It was January 2nd and I needed to make a Target run for more whole wheat flour and canned tomatoes. I had no reason to walk through the Dollar Spot area but I did, you know, just to see what was there (I know you feel me on that, right?)

Into my cart went stickers ($1 – for the students I teach at the rec center), Valentines ($3 – for my preschooler) and a Day planner ($3 – for my husband, who’d mentioned wanting one). Then I remembered that the dish soap had run out so I grabbed a refill bottle ($3.99).

Almost eleven dollars spent. Sure, that’s not much. But in hindsight, it wasn’t anything I needed to buy. I already have stickers I could use for my students, I didn’t need to buy more but they were cute and “cheap”. Valentines Day is still a bit of time away and I actually could probably print them myself at home. The dish soap wasn’t really needed. I have multi-purpose soap concentrate that we bought in bulk that can be used as dish soap. And my husband said he didn’t really need the paper day planner after all, he’s going to use a free app on his phone.

If I took a more serious look at my budget I just know that there are more ways I could be cutting back; I know there are extra expenses I’m making that don’t really need to be made! I’ve decided to make January my “No Spending Month” and intend to go at least 30 days without extra expenses.

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

What are “Extra Expenses”?

Extra expenses mean different things to different people. Perhaps for you it’s skipping the coffee shop and making your morning brew at home. Maybe it’s brown bagging lunch to work or not buying any clothes for the month. Or eschewing entertainment costs for at-home family fun.

For us, eliminating extra expenses means-

  • Not eating out
  • No frivolous food purchases, including chips/crackers, dessert items and alcohol
  • Nothing that we don’t imperatively need or require to run our family or home.

What are your “No Extra Expenses” rules? Write them down to make them real and do your best to stick to it for at least 30 days.


Discuss it as a Family

Everyone will need to be on board to accomplish getting through 30 days without extra expenses. Talk about your plan with the kids so they’ll know what to expect. If they’re used to spending money out on the weekends or dinner in a restaurant a few times a week, they’ll need to see and hear why you’re making changes in the usual routine.

However saving money doesn’t have to be a downer and here’s a story to reiterate that. Once in a while I take my preschooler out to lunch, just the two of us as a special treat. Those “special treats” are usually only twice a month but with the average cost around $15 a visit, that’s $30 I could be saving! Today when I picked him up, he asked if we could go to lunch in a restaurant and I had to tell him no, that we aren’t doing extra spending this month.

However I want to make saving money a positive thing for thing, so I told him we could still do something special. When we got home, we made pizza together for lunch. It cost me about $1.50 in groceries (that I already had at home) and it was still a special treat for just the two of us!

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

Why are Your Doing it?

In essence, why are you making this change to eliminate extra expenses? Your reason might be different from your spouse, and even your children.

  • Do you feel like you’re overspending?
  • Do you have too much unnecessary stuff in the house?
  • Are you an impulse buyer and need to rein it in?
  • Do you want to save up extra money for something specific?


Consider the Cut-Back First

If your family is accustomed to movies, date nights, dinners and shopping every weekend and you’re planning a nix to all of it, a drastic change in the usual plans may be a shock to them! Perhaps consider a cut back for 30 days first before completely cutting things out.

If you’re used to eating lunch out every day, cut back and only indulge in one or two lunches out and pack your lunch for the other days. If you always purchase concessions at the movies, still go see a film but have a snack at home first. When you’re ready to cut back further, skip movies in the theater and watch them only when they come out on DVD.

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

Fun Stuff Already in the Plans

What is you already have something planned during the 30 days? Use good judgement and don’t outright cancel your fun plans. If you’re going to a birthday party it would be okay to purchase a gift rather than showing up empty handed.

What About Entertainment?

We’ve slowly eliminated most costly entertainment over the years so it won’t be much of an affect for my kids during the 30 days of no extra expenses. We eat at home before we go somewhere or pack a lunch and snacks to take with us so we aren’t tempted to eat out when hunger strikes.

We choose free things around town to do, usually something that gets us up and moving. We’ll take the soccer or basketball to the park or we’ll set out on foot to explore a trail. We can usually find a family movie on Netflix or we pull out one of our tried-and-true DVDs to watch in the evening.

What Will We Do With the Extra Money?

As usual, I’m saving up for travel”! Hoping to be able to take my kids to a conference at Walt Disney World this year and airfare is over-the-top expensive for all of us. But $11 saved here and there really can add up! My goal is to save $200 a month for the next 4 months to get the airfare costs covered.

What will YOU do with the extra money you’ll save from this challenge? Share with me in the comments!

Challenge Yourself to a No Spending Month - 30 Days Without Extra Expenses

Budgeting Steps to Savings – Coming up with your “True” Budget

We all have those numbers in our head. They aren’t exact because, well things fluctuate month to month. You know approximately what you earn each month. An idea of what you spend each month. A soft number of whatever is left over after everything’s been paid. Or maybe there isn’t anything left at the end of the month…how did THAT happen?! How can you figure out your budget and save money each month if you don’t know exact numbers?

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

It’s Time To Figure Out Your “True Budget”

You can’t track in your head if you want an accurate budget, you’ll need to write it all out. Being able to save money each month means you have a much firmer grip on your actual numbers.

  • You’ll know what your monthly income will be.
  • You’ll know how much money you are going to spend that month.
  • You’ll know exactly what you will be putting into savings.
  • And only then will you have an idea how much you can sock away.


Get Hands On With Your Money

There are hundreds of free online budget templates you could use to plug in numbers and the software would automatically compute everything for you. It may even give you a fancy-looking graph or a pie chart. However I think computing your own numbers and physically doing this “hands on” with a pencil and paper simplifies things and makes your money real.

These aren’t just numbers; these are your hard-earned dollars and only you are responsible for the spending of each one of those dollars. They don’t fly out of your bank account on their own, you know (though it does feel like that sometimes!).

Sit down with a pad of paper (or the handy worksheet I’ve created for finding your true budget), a calculator, all of your monthly bills, a few colored highlighters (or crayons), bank and credit cards statements and a pencil. If you have your bank and credit card statements online, print them out a few months back.


1. EXPENSES

Pull out your monthly bank and credit card statements. If you tend to pay cash for expenses, keep your receipts to tally.

  • Highlight everything that is a rotating monthly bill. These are almost always going to be the exact same amount month to month. The payment is due the same time each month. {ie: Rent/mortgage. Auto loan. Car insurance. Trash bill. Cable. Phones.}
  • In a second color, highlight your fluctuating monthly expenses. The amounts may not always be the same month to month. {Water. Electricity. Gas for your cars or transportation costs. Groceries. Household stuff, like toilet paper or soap. Medical Bills. Outstanding credit card balances}
  • In a third color, highlight your automatic withdrawls. These are monthly expenses you’ve already set up where you never see the money leave your account. Perhaps they are the same amount every month, perhaps they vary. {Gym membership. Tuitions.  Netflix. Donations. Medical/Dental/Life Insurance. Student or Bank loans etc.}
  • Underline expenses that were out of the norm, like maybe you had to get new tires or had a plumbing leak that required repair. These expenses come up occasionally, just hopefully not every month!
  • Finally you are going to circle the last group, the “extra” stuff. We’re talking toiletries (like a new tube of lipstick). Back to school clothes. Things you grabbed in the Target Dollar Bin because, well “They were a dollar!”. The birthday gifts you bought for the three parties your kid was invited to this weekend. The beautiful new blouse that was on sale and you really don’t know where you’re going to wear it but it was on sale and you had to have it. Some of these extras might be necessary (like the back to school clothes for the kids). And there might be other “extras” that you could have lived without (like eating out or buying non-necessities). Circle all of these extra expenses.

For the purposes of getting really hands-on, simply writing down your expenses every day can be a real eye-opener. Just like those who are trying to lose weight will write down every bite or nibble, so should you log your every penny to get a good look at your daily expenses. It’s easy to forget the little things, like money handed over for a school field trip, lunch out with friends or money for the collection basket at church. Keep track of all of it in a small notebook.

2. INCOME

Pull out your monthly bank statement. Highlight everything on your account that is a deposit. Note on your budget where the money came from. If you have a job where the monthly paycheck fluctuates because of tips or overtime it will be more challenging for you to figure out a true budget. More challenging, but not impossible.

I work one day a week at a recreation center teaching children gymnastics and my paycheck varies depending upon how many students I have registered. I also sell boutique items in my Etsy shop. Some months I have 10 orders, other months, none! If this is the case for you too, give yourself a range between your lowest and highest paycheck so you have a best/worst case scenario of what you are working with.

3. CHART IT OUT

  • Fill in the worksheet with your expenses and incomes.
  • Total the columns and simply subtract your expenses from your income. What do you have left? That’s your month end difference.

4. DIVIDING UP THE MONTH END DIFFERENCE: BUDGET AND SAVE MONEY

You’ve heard it before, “Pay Yourself First”

Yes, even when you are trying to pay off credit cards or putting money into a vacation fund, you should still always be “paying yourself first” by putting money into a savings or retirement account. Things happen and everyone should have a cushion to fall back on. Consider setting it up with the bank to have a set amount diverted immediately into a saving account when your paycheck is deposited. I highly recommend plugging 50% of your month end difference into your savings account.

What if you have outstanding credit card balances that are currently incurring interest?

  • Start by calling your credit card companies to find out if they will lower the interest rate in any way while you work on paying off the balance. You never know unless you ask. Some credit card companies will offer you a deal (ie: lessen the amount owed) if you pay the entire balance off at once. If you have the extra money to do that, by all means you should. Just don’t clean out your savings account to do so.
  • Divide your difference in half. Put half into savings and the other half towards the credit card with the lowest amount owed. So if you have three charge cards, one for $125, one at $375 and one at $1650, you should be paying the minimum balance on the second two cards and half of your difference on the card for $125 until it’s paid off.
  • Once that card is paid off, keep it open (closing it can negatively affect your credit score). However you should only use it sparingly and always pay it off in full each month to avoid interest charges. When that card is paid off, the money you were using for that card should be added to the next lowest balance card. Continue in this way until all charge cards are paid off in full. I speak of past experience, this method does work and can truly get you out of debt.

Finally…Vacation Fund $$

  • Now it’s time to see how much you have left to set aside each month to add to your vacation fund! I suggest getting an actual account at the bank to put your money in that you will transfer to after all other expenses have been taken care of.

What’s Your True Budget?

Now, pull out the budget estimate you created in Step 1 and compare it to your true budget. Are there some major discrepancies between the two? Where did the majority of your expenses occur? Did you spend more on “extras” than you thought? I know when we first did our budget, we were shocked to see how much we were spending on groceries. However when we really figured things out, we realized that we were not overspending so much as under-estimating the costs. Since we eat at home or pack lunches 95% of the time, we just hadn’t estimated enough in our grocery column.

I suggest doing your true budget in this way for at least three consecutive months to get a feel of your spending patterns. Once you can see your patterns, you will start to see ways to shave off little bits of spending here and there.

Want to save money but have not idea where to start? Here's how to come up with your true budget to save money.