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How To, Inspiration

My 2017 Vision Board + How to Make Your Own

2017 felt like the birth of many big dreams for me.  And not just dreams that I wanted to start chasing, but dreams that I wanted to start living.  I actually wrote about all that, here-my dream to really commit to growing this blog.  I also set goals for myself in areas like motherhood and family life.  In the midst of realizing my dreams and goals, and determining that I was going to start living them out now, I began making a plan of how to keep myself inspired.  I don’t know about you, but I am a very visual, have-to-see-things-on-paper type person.  I am the type of a person that if I don’t write out a to-do list, nothing will get done!  (bad bad, I know!)  So I knew that my plan to start living my dreams would not become much of a reality if I didn’t create a “roadmap,” of sorts, of how that was going to look.  A vision board seemed to be the perfect tool!

I love creating “mood boards” in my house!  I have so many bulletin board collages of pictures that just inspire me, scattered throughout my house.  But for this, I wanted to create a vision board for 2017.  I wanted to fill it with words that inspired me and pictures that motivated me.  This vision board is to encourage me every time I sit down to write on my blog, to remind myself of why I am doing it and what I want to accomplish.  It is to help me take a breath when motherhood is overwhelming me and remind myself that I am enough.  This board is to reassure me that it is okay to simplify my life, to do less with more focus, and to say NO sometimes.  And more than anything, I want this board to remind me that God is making a way in my life, that He has plans for me, that I only have to have faith and take the risk!

On my vision board, I included pictures of my little family (because they are my biggest motivators), images of coffee and flowers (because I feel energized and focused by both), quotes about taking risks and going after things (because the fear of stepping out can psych me out), and pictures of cameras (because I want to become better at photography and I want to finally start a YouTube channel).  I could probably fill up 10 vision boards full of inspirational things, but this was a good start!

If you want to make a vision board to get inspired to start living your dreams, here is a list of what you will need:

  • Framed cork board or other board of your choice
  • Fabric to cover board
  • Staple gun
  • Ribbon
  • Push pins or spray adhesive to attach your pictures
  • Pictures, images and quotes that inspire you!

I recommend that you take some time, sit down with a cup of coffee or tea-planner, journal, inspirational books in hand-and write down your goals for 2017.  Just take some time and envision your life.  Think about where you are right now and where you want to be.  Once you have determined this, you can fill in all the in between steps.  Don’t create goals that are unattainable within a certain time frame.  Create small, achievable goals you can meet along your journey.  Remember, life is not just about an end destination-this one place or thing that will finally make you happy.  It is about the journey-what you learn along the way through trials, missteps, triumphs and success.  I firmly believe that when we envision the life God has for us and truly believe that He wants great things for us, we will succeed and flourish and live a fulfilling life!  Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: . . .”

Friends, I believe that God wants us to dream and dream big.  He wants us to have a vision for our life.  There is nothing wrong with making plans for your life when you are following God’s prompting.  If He has given you a talent, a calling, a prodding or a dream, go for it!  Follow after it!  Live it!  Live your life with intention.  Live it to the fullest.  Don’t believe the lies of the devil or the discouragement of others when they say you can’t do something; because, you can do anything you put your mind to.

So fill your vision board with words and images that will draw you closer to your goals and that life you envision for yourself.  Every time you look at it, be inspired that you are capable to achieve and live out your dreams.  This first month of 2017 was great, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds for my family and yours.

If you create your own vision board, I’d love to see it and be encouraged in watching you live out your dreams!  So tag me @thegrowingnest or use the hashtag #growingthenestvisionboard on Instagram so I can see your creation!  Remember, we rise by lifting others; let’s lift each other up and cheer each other on as we live our dreams in 2017.

 

Baby, How To, Motherhood, Parenthood

How to Choose the Best Carseat

This post contains affiliate links.  If you choose to use these links, I may receive a small commission for connecting you to the source.  You can read my full disclosure, here.

Parenting is full of really confusing choices!  One of those choices is choosing the best car seat for your growing baby.  It pretty much ranks up there as just as confusing as creating a baby registry (wayyyy too many choices!).  Before Avary was born, we chose to buy a travel system that included an infant car seat carrier that would attach to the stroller.  I do not regret that decision at all because we got so much use out of it!  However, as Avary has been creeping up on turning one, I began to realize that she was getting much too big for her infant seat and it was time to move up.  I had no idea where to start in looking for a convertible carseat!  So I did a bit of research, talked to other moms, and began formulating a list of potential seats.

The most important thing to remember when shopping around for car seats is that each car seat on the market has gone through the same rigorous crash testing and has met the federal safety standards.  While some seats may perform better in tests, the difference in price comes into play for reasons like, comfort, convenience, ease-of-use, style, quality, and brand/name.  Because of this, you will find that there are recommended car seats ranging in price from $39 up to $500!

What I recommend in helping you make a decision is to write out a list of your needs and must-haves for a seat.  Include things like:

  • Rear-facing and forward-facing: Do you want to do extended rear-facing?  How long will your little one fit?  What is the weight and height limit for forward-facing?  Will you have to buy another convertible seat when they meet the limits?
  • Size, dimensions & compatibility with your vehicle:  Get the measurements of the car seat and the vehicle you will be placing it in.  Will it fit comfortably?  Does your vehicle have LATCH anchors or will you be using a seat belt?  Will you have more than one car seat side by side and will they fit?
  • Ease of use:  Is the car seat easy for you to use?  If you will be transferring it between vehicles, is it light enough for you to carry on your own?  Do you prefer a “rapid-release” style?  Is it easy to anchor?  Are the straps easy to tighten and loosen?
  • Durability and washable:  Do you want a seat cover that can easily be taken off and thrown in the washer?  Is the fabric durable if you can only spot-clean?
  • Comfort for baby:  Is the seat comfortable for your little one?  Is there enough head support?  How much padding do you want?  What material is the padding made of (too hot, too thin, etc.)?  Does the seat have different modes for recline?  Will baby be able to sleep comfortably in it?
  • Safety and construction of the seat:  Is there adequate side-impact protection?  What materials is the seat made of?  How did it rank in crash tests?
  • Cost:  How much are you willing to spend?  Is the seat within your price range?  Will the seat last through toddlerhood or will you have to upgrade again?

Once you go through that list, you can better determine which seat is right for your little one and your family.  I strongly encourage you to research on sites like Car Seats for the Littles (list of recommended seats, car seat safety laws, recalls, and resources), Consumer Reports (ratings, recommendations, crash test results and comparisons) and The Car Seat Blog (reviews, ratings, comparisons and information).  You will be able to find all the information you could ever need!

 

After going through all the research and information, we decided to purchase the Graco MySize 65.  It met all the criteria we were looking for, we found it on sale on Amazon, and we got Amazon Prime free shipping-so we paid just under $150!  We are very happy with our choice, and I think Avary is too! 🙂

 

Here are a few popular, top-rated car seats:
*affiliate links*

Chicco Nextfit

Britax Marathon

Graco Extend2Fit

Graco Contender 65

Britax ClickTight Advocate

Graco 4Ever All-in-One

 

Happy car seat shopping, friends!!  And remember, do what’s best for your family!

Family, How To, Motherhood, Parenthood

How to Afford Being a SAHM + FREE Budget Printable

Before my husband and I got married, we talked about the family we would grow one day.  When we talked about kids, I always knew I wanted to stay at home with them.  At the time, I didn’t know the logistics of how we would make that possible, but I knew it was a priority.  My own mom was a stay-at-home mom throughout much of my 3 older brothers’ lives, as well as mine, until she began a teaching career when I started school.  So all my childhood memories, I remember my mom always being there with us.  That is the kind of childhood I wanted to give my kids.

Matthew joined the military straight out of high school, we got married at 20, and I attribute the fact that I can stay at home all to the security of his job and the amazing health insurance we receive.  However, I have heard so many women talk about how they wish they could stay home with their little ones, but they feel like it is impossible.  So I wanted to give you all some practical tips on how we have afforded living on one income so that you can examine your own living situation, if staying at home with your kids is what you really long to do!

1.  Plan, plan, plan AHEAD

Like I mentioned above, Matthew and I discussed what we wanted our life to be like when we had kids, so we planned accordingly.  When Matthew joined the military, we spent 2 years dating long-distance.  While he was living 1,000+ miles away from me and deploying regularly, and I was home going to college, we SAVED.  Matthew opened a 401K and started saving for retirement, as well as saving a large portion of his income in a savings account he didn’t touch.  I saved for our wedding and he saved for our future.  One of the best things you can do if you want to become a SAHM is to plan ahead-before having children-what you want your life to look like and saving for that.  If you already have kids, that’s fine!  My best advice is to try to build up your savings account as much as you can.  Also, work as much as you can before and during pregnancy.  I know this is not possible for all women, but if you have a healthy pregnancy, it is great to try to make as much money as you can before the baby comes and you stop working.

2.  Begin living on one income well before the baby comes

This helped us tremendously on the shock and adjustment that going from a two to a one income household brings!  While I was pregnant and still working, we began transitioning all of our bills to come out of my husband’s paycheck.  Even though we still had the “cushion” of my income, we did not use it to pay bills.  Instead, we used my income strictly for baby purchases we needed or savings.  This method really helped us reevaluate our income, what we were spending money on, what our necessities were, and that being a SAHM was going to be possible!

3.  Make a budget!

This probably should have been tip #1, but guys, make make a budget!  You have to do it!  When we were both working and we were newly married, we spent money on whatever we wanted and we didn’t keep a checkbook (do those even still exist?!) or really keep an eye on our money.  But when we wanted to make this transition, it was important that we sat down and wrote out our budget for us to see.  We took our bank statements and looked at what are monthly income was, the bills we had, the areas we were needlessly spending money, the areas we could cut down on expenses, and how much we felt we needed to save and invest.  And who says budgeting can’t be fun?!  Get creative with it!  I know that I am most productive and willing to stick with something if I can write it out and it looks cute and pretty.  So that’s why I made this FREE Monthly Budget Printable for you guys!  Hopefully this will help you get organized and stay motivated to stick with your budget.

4.  Plan large purchases ahead of time

One thing that my husband and I have really been trying to get better about is planning out our large purchases ahead of time and saving for them!  We do not like the idea of going into debt for something we need, so we try to save for it and pay in cash.  These could be purchases like furniture, a car, a laptop, a camera, a new mattress, etc.  Obviously most of us can’t pay in cash for something like a house, so you still want to save as much as you can and make sure it is a home below or at what you can truly afford.

5.  Minimize your monthly expenses

When you write out your budget, you will be able to clearly see where your money is going every month.  One of the biggest areas that sucks away your income is those recurring, monthly expenses.  While some of these are necessary, paying them down or eliminating them will free up so much extra cash!  For example, we have two car payments each month.  Even though we bought used vehicles, we have these two recurring payments that suck almost a quarter of our monthly income!  We have recently been following Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball idea to aggressively start paying of this debt.  Minimizing your monthly expenses can also mean cutting those subscription services you use like, Amazon Prime, Hello Fresh, Fab Fit Fun, whatever.  While they might seem like a good deal by themselves, they truly add up!  Also, cut your cable!  I am a firm believer that cable is the most overrated, unnecessary monthly expense that most of us have in our homes.  Cable is sooo expensive and a lot of us rarely watch enough live TV for it to be worth it.  With all the free shows on the internet the day after or Netflix, Hulu, etc., cable proves pretty unnecessary.  Unfortunately for us, the only internet provider in our area is Comcast, and for us to have internet, the cheapest way is to bundle it with their basic cable package.  It is frustrating because I know so many people who pay much less than us but with Comcast as the only internet option, our hands are tied.  But, we got our bill as low as possible!

6.  Look for sales, use coupons and thrift

I will admit, I am not a couponer!  One of the main reasons I don’t use traditional coupons very much is because we generally try to buy whole foods-fresh produce-and we shop at stores that don’t accept most coupons you see from manufacturers.  We live in an area where the cost of living is rather high compared to many other places, so we do most of our grocery shopping at Aldi and Trader Joe’s.  We have found that we can get the most from our money here and it allows us to get more fresh and organic foods at a price we can afford.  But, for household items like toilet paper, laundry detergent, diapers, baby wipes, etc., I absolutely look for coupons!  You can always find deals on items like this usually in the P & G section of your Sunday newspaper and stores regularly run sales on them, as well.

Another super easy, amazing way to save on the items you have to buy is through rebate apps!  Rebate apps will give you cash back or rewards towards gifts cards, etc. on the purchases you make.  My very favorite rebate app to use is Ibotta!  To use Ibotta, you just:

  • Unlock cash back rebates (by watching a short video or answering a simple question)
  • Go shopping, buy products you love & keep your receipt
  • Verify your purchases by scanning the products you bought and taking a photo of your receipt

The best thing about Ibotta, compared to most rebate apps, is they offer rebates on a general item like: bread, milk, eggs, bananas, etc. instead of it having to be a specific brand name.  This is huge because sometimes you might not be buying the brand that the rebate offers.  I also love that you can get rebates for fresh fruits and veggies!  Also, Ibotta is not just for groceries, but for online shopping (Ebay, Groupon), pharmacy items, clothing, and even restaurants.  If you don’t have it, try it out because it is amazing!  If you want to sign up and use my referral code gjneyap, you can get a free $10 credit when you redeem your first rebate!

Another rebate app I love is Shopkick.  It is super easy to use and when you shop, it rewards you with “kicks” just for walking in the door of your favorite stores.  You also can get kicks for simply scanning certain items in the store, as well as purchasing certain items.  These kicks can then be redeemed for gift cards!

If you are an avid online shopper like most of us moms are, you need to be using the rebate site Shop at Home!  All you do is visit their site when you are ready to do some online shopping and pick your store out of the thousands they have on there, you purchase the item through their website, and you then get a percentage of cash back straight to your account.  You literally are getting rewarded for online shopping! (My hubby won’t get upset about that!)  Shop at Home will also show you the great deals all your stores having going on so you won’t miss a thing.

Another way to save big when you are living on one income is to look out for sales for kid’s clothes.  We all know how quickly are little ones grow and that means we are always buying clothes!  When I know I need to get Avary new clothes, I wait for when stores are giving away cash back like, Old Navy super cash, Children’s Place cash, Carters rewards.  Most stores now give cash back for you to spend when meet a minimum threshold.  I shop to get the cash back when the store is running a good percentage off discount or I have a coupon code.  Always sign up for the rewards program at the stores you frequent because it just means more coupons and sales in your pocket!

Also, thrifting or buying second-hand clothes is a great way to score gently used children’s clothes at unbeatable prices.  Consignment shops are popping up every where, and depending on the area you find them in, you can find some name-brand, quality pieces!  You can also consider joining a Facebook buy/sell/trade page in your area to find even more steals.  A lot of times these items are priced even lower than a consignment shop because you are buying directly from the owner.  Shop smart!

7.  Choose free or cheap entertainment

When you are wanting to become a SAHM, you have to evaluate what areas you can cut to save money.  Entertainment is definitely one of those areas.  Going out to the movies, going out to eat, going to amusement parks, or planning costly vacations can take up quite a bit of money.  Instead, try to create free or cheap entertainment for your family!  This could mean family pizza night at home with a $5 family pizza from Aldi and a Netflix movie or a coffee date night for you and your husband at home instead of at a coffee shop.  You can still have fun without spending so much!

Also, look up free activities in your area for kiddos!  You can find library storytimes, playgroups, and parks that are all free of charge.  And, you can always call up a friend for a play date, take a walk in the stroller, play in the backyard, or go window shopping to entertain your little one.  Use your imagination!  There are lots of ways to create free fun at home with children, and I find so many ideas on Pinterest!

8.  Meal planning + cooking at home

I know we all lead busy lives, especially us moms!  But let me tell you, you will save so much money if you begin meal planning for your family and cooking at home.  Just within the last couple of months, I have really gotten into the habit of planning out our meals before going grocery shopping, and wow-what a difference it makes!  Not only does it cut down on our grocery bill, but it cuts down on food waste.  So before going shopping, I’ve been sitting down with a free meal planning printable from Christene at Keys to Inspiration to plan out my meals for each week and jot down the ingredients I need to make it.  If you sign up for her email list, you get access to all her free printables, check it out!  Meal planning will help you stick to a specific menu and encourage you to cook at home.  When you have a plan, you can always prep something ahead of time to save on time for a busy day.

So those are my 8 tips on how to afford to be a stay-at-home mom!  I’m not going to lie, going from two incomes to one was a big adjustment-a lifestyle change, really.  But I never once have regretted my decision to make the sacrifice.  If you have a strong desire to stay home and care for your little ones, but you don’t think it is possible, I challenge you to take a step back and reevaluate.  Look at your budget, try living out these steps and see if they make a difference in freeing up some money, and determine what you feel are essentials and non-essentials for your family.  No matter what-SAHM, working mom, or WAHM-you are amazing and what you do for your family is priceless.

Let me know in the comments, how did you decide to be a SAHM?  Was the transition hard for you?  Let me know any tips you have on how you afford to live on one income!