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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!

 

Family

Our Fall Bucket List + Family Traditions

Happy Fall, ya’ll!

Okay, I don’t ever say ya’ll, but the little saying is cute so I went with it! (ha!)  Anyways, Happy Fall!  If you’re like me-or like any basic woman or mom out there-you love fall.  Autumn is by far my favorite season!  I just love the coziness of it, the start of routines and traditions, the food, the smells, the coffee, the cider, the pumpkins, the apples, the baking, the fashion, the Bath and Body Works candles. . . okay, I’ll stop now because my list is later!  I also love the fall because it is like the start of the holiday season, and it just reminds me of all the goodness right ahead.

So every year, I always formulate a “bucket list” in my head of things I want to do for the season, but I never have actually written it down.  This year, I decided to create my bucket list and share it with you all and maybe you will get some inspiration to go out and make sweet memories this fall!

our-fall-bucket-list-2

Now I know what every parent means by seeing through your children’s eyes.  I’m so excited to share the fall and the upcoming holiday season with Avary.  I can’t wait to help her pick out her very own baby pumpkin and watch Matt help her pick apples from the trees.  I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she plays in a pile of crunchy leaves (she loves anything that makes a crunch noise!).  It is just so fun to get to experience all her ‘firsts’ with her!

What I also love about the fall is the little family traditions Matthew and I have created together.  I love how family traditions are formed through influences we both had as children and what we did with our own families.  Every fall season we find a local apple orchard and pick apples that are in season, get a gallon of apple cider, buy some apple butter, and get some tasty treats like apple cider donuts or caramel apples.  I did this with my mom every single fall and it is such a special memory for me.  I can’t wait to create these memories with Avary.  A trip to the pumpkin patch was something Matthew and I both did with our families.

I don’t know about you but the crisp, cold air in the fall just puts me in the mood to bake and make yummy, warm food!  Some of my favorite things to make in the fall are recipes passed down from my mom like: pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, pecan tartlets, and blondie brownies.  I also love making slow cooker meals like: beef stew, chili, potato soup, and chicken tortilla soup.  This year, I’d like to try baking double chocolate zucchini bread and pumpkin scones!

Here is the link to my go-to Beef Stew recipe from Butter With a Side of Bread and the recipe for double chocolate zucchini bread I am going to try from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Butter With a Side of Bread

Sally's Baking Addiction

Sally’s Baking Addiction

You can find all the fall recipes I’m loving and all the fall goodness I’m pinning here!

So what is on your fall bucket list?  Do you have special traditions you do with your family?  Share them with us all below!  Excuse me while I go drink a glass of Trader Joe’s spiced cider!  Happy Fall!

sean (1)

Favorites

3 Month Favorites for Baby

three month

*This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you choose to use these links, I may get a small commission for connecting you to the source.  I only share links to products I love and use, and that I believe will benefit you.  Thanks for supporting my little growing nest.*

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It’s that time–another favorites post!  I have to admit, when Avary turned 3 months old, everything started changing!  Developmentally she was doing so much more, she was more awake and alert, and I think the biggest change was that she finally wanted to play!  My list of favorites this month features a lot of items for an active, playful baby.

Bumbo.  We started putting Avary in her Bumbo seat when she turned 3 months old.  She had great head and neck control and always wanted to be sitting up so she could see what was going on.  I put her in the Bumbo under her play gym so she could grab her toys, on the bathroom floor while I showered, while I cooked dinner, outside while we had a picnic. . . I love our Bumbo, and I’m sure I will keep using it for awhile longer!

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Infantino play gym.  I was so excited when I got to take out Avary’s Infantino play gym!  I couldn’t wait to watch her explore and enjoy her toys.  I loved this play mat because it was easy to set up, take down, and wash.  Also, I loved that it came in girly colors!  Avary would spend quite a bit of a time on this playmat batting at the toys.

Tula baby carrier.  I am a big advocate of babywearing, I just love it so much!  When Avary was a tiny newborn, I loved using my Moby wrap because she could be all snuggled up against me, and she loved falling asleep that way.  As she got to this age, she didn’t want to sleep anymore–she wanted to look around and see what was going on!  I borrowed a friend’s Tula (when I took a flight with Avary by myself) and fell in love!  So I purchased one of my own, and I couldn’t be happier!  I loved the support it provided, it never hurt my back, and Avary loved being able to see everything!  Not to mention, the come in the cutest prints!  I also purchased the newborn insert; because, without it, Avary sat too low in the carrier.  I don’t regret spending the extra money on the insert because even now at 5 months old, she is only around 14 pounds and it just provides her more support and lets her see better.

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O Ball.  At 3 months old, Avary was still working on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, of course.  She always wanted to try to grasp and hold onto her toys.  We got her an O ball and she absolutely loved it! (still does)  The openings make it so easy for little, learning hands, and I could tell she felt so accomplished when she grabbed hold of it and could swing it around.  I actually think this toy helped develop her coordination to move on to grasping other things successfully.  I definitely recommend trying an O ball out–such an inexpensive toy that baby will love!

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Bright Starts Lots of Links.  These were another one of Avary’s favorites.  We used these links all the time to entertain her.  We would strand several of them together and hang them from her carseat and it would entertain her the whole ride!  Most of the time she would fall asleep holding onto them (too cute!).  We also would use them to extend her toys hanging from her play gym to make them more in her grasp.  What else can I say?  They are cheap and loved!

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Infantino Topsy Turvy Soft Foam Puzzle Mat.  Because we have hardwood floors, I knew I needed some kind of foam floor mat to cushion the area I was letting baby play.  These Infantino foam squares work perfect!  Avary rolls back and forth and does tummy time on them every day.  I think she likes how colorful they are, as well.

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Lamaze Classic Discovery Book.  This crinkle book is seriously one of Avary’s must-haves!  It is a soft fabric book with crinkle pages, as well as a squeaky page and a rattle page.  It has lots of different fabrics and textures on it, and it is great for little, discovering hands!  I clip it on the carseat, take it in the diaper bag, put it on the bouncer–this little book really keeps Avary interested, engaged and happy!

These are the products that I loved during Avary’s third month of life.  What did you love, mommies??

sean (1)

 

 

Favorites

2 Month Favorites for Baby

 

SARA (1)

Since I previously did a post on my Newborn Essentials  for our baby girl, I decided I wanted to do a series of favorites for baby, featuring products I am loving every month!  I know that I love looking at what other people are loving for their babies during different ages and stages, so hopefully this can help you, mamas, too!

My 2 month baby favorites for Avary may be a little basic, but at this age, she still was in that newborn face of not doing much besides eating, sleeping, and. . . well, you know!  These are the products that we used the most.

  • Carter’s sleep gowns.  I can’t tell you how much I LOVE LOVE LOVED sleep gowns for Avary in those early months!  For one, they are so unbelievably cute and precious, but for late night diaper changes–they were essential.  I didn’t want to have to fumble around for snaps or unswaddle her all the way to change her diaper.  (We used the Halo sleep sacks I posted about in my Newborn Essentials, so you can just unzip from the bottom without unswaddling baby)  The gowns allowed me to just pull it up, change her diaper, and get back to sleep.  Carters always seems to have the cutest prints, as well.
  • Dr. Brown’s bottle & pacifier wipes.  I think every mom (especially new moms) are a bit like “germ-freaks” when it comes to a new baby.  For me, I obviously didn’t want my baby putting something dirty in her mouth, but no one has the time to steam sanitize all day long!  I loved, and still love, using the Dr. Brown’s bottle and paci wipes to sanitize.  They are made with all-natural, plant-based cleansing ingredients, like xylitol (keep away from your dog), and they come in a little wipe pouch so they are easy for on-the-go.  These came in handy when I flew with Avary when she was 8 weeks old.  I was by myself so I inevitably was going to drop something, and I wanted to be able to cleanse it easily.  If you are interested in my tips and tricks for flying with an infant, let me know in the comments down below!
  • Aveeno baby calming comfort bath & lotion.  I try to use as many natural products I can in our home and with our baby as I possibly can.  I love Aveeno’s products and I trust them on Avary’s delicate skin.  Once we got past that one month mark, I began realizing that I needed to get Avary into a routine–especially for bedtime.  Part of our bedtime routine is a bath and a massage with lotion.  I love that calming smell of lavender at nighttime, and I truly believe it helps Avary know it is time to relax and wind down.
  • Honest Co. diapers.  Because we want to use natural products on Avary and save a bit of money, we decided before she arrived that we were going to cloth diaper.  We bought her a stash of cloth diapers, and we love using them! (If you are interested in the products we use to cloth diaper, our setup, and routine, let me know in the comments!) We didn’t want to deal with cloth when we went out or overnight, though, so we were still in need of a good disposable diaper.  During her first month, we used some of the Pampers swaddlers–assuming they must be good because that is what the hospital uses!  However, Avary would break out in a rash from them almost every time!  We tried a variety of different brands until we finally settled on the Honest Company.  These diapers are so gentle on her bottom, they fit so well, and of course they have the cutest prints!  They were the perfect option for us, and we now use lots of their household or personal care items, as well.
  • Infantino go-gaga spiral car seat activity toy.  By 2 months, Avary was interested in looking at dangling toys and would try to touch them.  We bought her this Infantino toy and used it on her carseat, stroller, even her playmat, and she loved it!
  • Honest Co. soothing bottom wash.  Okay, let’s be honest–newborn poo is sticky and gross.  Breastfed baby poo is yucky, as well.  I love how durable the Honest Company wipes are, but I found they are not very wet and I like a little bit more moisture when I am wiping the baby’s bottom.  I want to know that she is getting super cleaning.  I tried out their soothing bottom wash and absolutely love it!  Again, it is organic and there are no harsh chemicals in it, and it smells amazing!  I just give a little spritz, wipe, and baby is super clean!  Also, if you use cloth wipes, this would make a great wipe solution!
  • Graco pack n play “cuddle cove”.  So we got a Graco pack n play play yard, and it came with the removable “cuddle cove” seat on top.  The cuddle cove seat rocks and vibrates and is so handy because you can easily carry it around the house.  In month 1 and 2 of Avary’s life, she did not want to sleep anywhere except on me or right next to me.  However, we started putting her in the cuddle cove with the vibration on and she absolutely loved it!  We would swaddle her up, turn it on, rock her back and forth, and she would fall asleep!  We would use it downstairs for naptimes so we could keep her close.  I do not believe it is recommended for overnight, unsupervised sleeping.  It was so helpful to me, as well, when Matt had to go back to work.  I would put her in it when I had to shower or go to the bathroom, and she would be perfectly content!  I love that it was included in the pack n play purchase, and we didn’t have to buy something extra.  She stopped fitting in it around 3 months old.

Those were my favorites for Avary while she was 2 months old!  Every baby is different so what works with one, will not always work with another.  I would love to hear what your favorites were for your babe at 2 months.  Let me know in the comments!

sean (1)