Sunday, March 11, 2018

Fave Five!

Top Five Blog Posts EVER from Mormon Mom Planner!

Below you'll find links to the five most popular Mormon Mom Planner blog posts of all time! Be sure to read through the comments on each post for even more good tips and tricks.
Happy clicking!

Isn't washi tape the best? In this post from April 2014, there are some fantastic tips and tons of ideas on how to use washi tape to spruce up your planner. Did you know washi tape and cute scrapbook paper can even help you add mini pages to your planner? Read all the way to the end of this post for the link to some adorable and FREE General Conference note cards!

Ever wondered just what you should do with all the pages in your planner? Then this is the blog post from May 2015 for you! It'll help you figure out how to use the monthly and weekly spreads, relationship tracker, even the to do's and budget tracker.

Want to learn how to make dividers for your planner? Pockets for all your adorable sticky notes? Want the link for my favorite pen? Say no more. Just read this post from April 2013!

Who loves free downloads?? What about free downloads that call for eating chocolate?! Then you'll love this adorable idea for teaching kids (or adults!) about baptismal covenants.

Doesn't it seem like Sundays are full can'ts? In this post you'll find some great ideas so you can add some can's

Check out the latest Mormon Mom Planners!

Monday, February 26, 2018

I'm not a Working Mom. I'm a Mom Who Works.

by Whitney Child
Follow her @whitney_child

I’ve always struggled with the term “working mom.” It feels like a derogatory term. On one side, it takes away from the fact that all moms work whether it’s as a stay-at-home mom or a mom who has a job outside the home. On the other side, it takes away from my primary role: mom. I am a mom who works. I’m a mom first.

Tony and Whitney Child and their two boys, Jack (right) and Thompson.

I was lucky enough to go to college knowing exactly what I wanted to do in life, graduated in four years, and found a job teaching high school in the community—essentially living out my American dream. I was ready to take on the working world, and I found so much joy in it. I was involved in every single extra professional development I could. I worked for four years teaching, and I got married at a little bit older age. Then after some years of fertility struggles, we were able to have two boys. When my first son was born, I had been working for ten years, and I loved those ten years. Culturally, the expectation was that I would give it up and stay home because that is what is expected, but I never felt like that was right for me. I dealt with quite a bit of culturally imposed guilt as a result of other people’s ideas of what was right for me. When it came down to it, I had to do what was right for me and my family. As a self-proclaimed people pleaser, that was really difficult to do. My job is my hobby—it’s a calling in life, and I feel fulfilled doing it. All of the outside voices were telling me being a mother should be enough for me, and as much as I loved that new baby boy, I knew that I needed to both do my job outside the home and inside the home. After prayerfully considering my options, I decided to keep doing what I was doing, and then to reflect and revisit it each year to make sure it was still right.

When I am at work, I know that I am ok being there. I have had some significant spiritual experiences in my classroom confirming to me that it is exactly where I needed to be at that time. When I was at home, I know it is ok being there. Going into this mom who works world, I knew I had to find a balance between the two, and even eight years later, I’m still reflecting, revisiting, and revising how to maintain (or even just get!) that balance. 

Looking back over the past eight years, I haven’t been perfect in finding that balance; however, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of being a mom who works. When I decided to keep my full time job, I knew there were things I was going to have to be better at and there were things I had to let go. The following are some of my rules of thumb to help me maintain or find balance between the two worlds.

  1. Make sure it’s right for you.
Working outside the home while raising children is not for everyone, and that is just fine. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. Make your decision because it’s what works for you and your family. I had to be willing to let go of what everyone else thought was right for me, and actually do what was right for me.  

  1. Be ready to make sacrifices.
Since becoming a mom, I cut way back on what I do at school. I try not to take work home with me, and if I do, it gets done after the kids are in bed. I don’t do as many conferences or professional developments. As much as I’d love to travel to summer institutes, I gave that up to have time with my kids. I really want to pursue a Master’s degree; however, right now, I just can’t fit it in, and that’s ok.   I’m very picky on any outside of normal school hours activities I attend. When my oldest son was two, I decided I needed to work closer to home if I still wanted to keep up with what I was doing. At the time, I had a 30 minute commute each way, which wasn’t that big of a deal before I had kids, but then I realized it was an hour a day of just driving. I decided to move to a school closer to my home and in a different district. In doing that, I gave up the comfort of a school I’d known for 12 years. I lost 5 of my years, and I took a $10,000 pay cut, but I was 5 minutes from home, and the school had a daycare in it, so my kids would be closer to me.  It was a sacrifice, and the first year in my new school was incredibly difficult.  In the end, it was the best decision for my family.

When one of my kids is sick, I do all I can to be home with them. Most of the time, I have been able to work it to stay home with them, but when I can’t, my husband has been great at sharing that responsibility with me. My older son’s school is close enough to mine that I can run over there when I need to.

At home, most of my outside social life is non-existent (more to the chagrin of the people around me than me). Most of my social outlet is actually at work, and I really don’t mind that. I have great connections with my colleagues, and I’ve made life long friends with those people I work with. By choice, I rarely do a girls night out or girls’ trips. People always invite me, and I always appreciate it, but when it comes down to it, I want to be home with my family, and I’m completely ok with that. I have one book club I attend monthly (after kids are in bed), and I leave it at that. I try to do a few date nights with other couples as well.  I’ve found that those people who are truly my good friends don’t mind if I don’t go out with them all the time. They are always there when I need them to be.

  1. Be organized.
When I first started this mom who works life, I had a friend who had already raised her kids who told me she knew I could do it because I was so organized, but she never could have because she wasn’t organized enough. This is where the Mormon Mom Planner has been a lifesaver! I sit down once a week to look at the week ahead and make a plan to accomplish everything from getting kids to where they need to be to meal planning. I make my weekly and monthly “to do” lists.   I make our weekly menu based on what our plans are for the week.  I try to find ways of serving my family members each week, and I write those down, so I remember to do them. I reflect on my spiritual and temporal goals and look at what small things I can be doing now to accomplish those.  

I have a pretty solid routine for grocery shopping, house cleaning, and laundry, and they have all become a family routine, not a mom routine. I can’t do all of it alone, and I need the help of my family. Those routines have changed as my kids have grown up, so they will fit the needs of my family at that time. I only do laundry once a week because that’s all I have time for. It makes for a long day of washing and folding, but it gets done. I do online grocery shopping, so I can order later at night, and pick up the next day quickly.

  1. Realize you can’t do it all.
In the words of Lorelei Gilmore, “I fancy myself Wonder Woman.” I really thought I could do everything all the time and be perfect at it. I can’t. I could kill myself over trying to do all of it. I had to choose what was the most important for me, and give up some of those other things. I can’t be a room mom at school, but I can take a personal day at school, and go on field trips. I can’t volunteer in my son’s classroom, but I can go over every other week on a prep period to change out take home reading books. I can’t organize the SEP dinners, but I can sign up to bring something. I can’t be the PTA President, but I can do the newsletter.  

For a few years, we had a house cleaner, which was a lifesaver. I really wanted to be able to do it all by myself, but that was one thing I realized I could give up to relieve stress and have more time with my family.  I worried that I wasn’t teaching my kids how to work because I wasn’t having them help me clean the house, but I could teach them to work in other ways. (We are currently back to cleaning the house ourselves simply because our original house cleaner moved, and we have yet to find another one we like anywhere near as much!).

I also have a husband who is incredibly supportive of me, and he does his fair share around the house. I could not be a mom who works if I didn’t have his support. The decision for me to work full time after having kids was a decision we both made.

  1. Make time for you.  Schedule it!
When I first started  being a mom who works, I looked at my work time as my “me-time.” It didn’t take long for me to realize that it really isn’t “me time.” I knew I needed to have some quiet time every day in order to remain sane. I’m a morning person, so I decided to get up earlier to have that time. I give myself about 30 minutes each morning to read, study, or just sit, and I do it before anyone else in my house wakes up, which means my alarm goes off around 4:30 am.  For right now, this has worked for me.

I’m far from perfect, but I’m working on balance. When it comes down to it, even though I have a successful career, being a mom comes first—always. Despite all my fears and worries, my kids are doing great having a mom who works. Everything gets done, eventually, and I’m ok with that. This is a path that has worked for me, but I’ve had to make adjustments to what is considered the “norm.” We have worked as a family to make it work, because I cannot do it all alone. I have a full and rewarding life that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I spend as much time as possible with my family, and we continue to grow together as we do. When I feel out of balance, I reflect on my decision and make necessary changes as they are needed. Being a mom who works is not an easy task to take on, but it has been a rewarding experience for me.

Click here to view all the different options Mormon Mom Planner has to offer.

Monday, February 19, 2018

You're Not A Martyr. You're a Mom.

The below post was written by Becky Squires from @makeminehappy
Welcome, and thank you for guest blogging here with us! 💜

You're a martyr. You're a mom.

You could say that I’m in the midst of motherhood. I have thirteen years of experience. Hundreds of diaper changes, temper tantrums, and sleepless nights.  I’ve lived the highs and the lows. But just recently I had kind of an “Aha!” moment. I had just sat down to eat lunch while my kids were all occupied doing other activities. If you’re a parent, you know what happens as soon as you sit down, right? My two youngest boys came running up to me demanding I get them a drink. I hadn’t even taken my first bite. I almost stood up out of habit to cater to their request, but then I paused as I looked at their faces.
“No,” I simply said. They looked confused. “Do you see that I’m eating lunch?” They nodded. “I would be happy to help you when I am done, or you can get yourselves a drink.”
And guess what? They pulled over a chair so they could reach a cup, and they got themselves a drink. So simple, I know. But it changed my perspective.
When you are constantly keeping your needs on the bottom of the totem pole, you are creating children who are entitled. Then they may grow up expecting other people to handle their problems for them.

Losing your sense of self is not indicative of your devotion to your children.

Forgetting yourself doesn’t make you a more responsible and caring parent.
So why do we think like this? Maybe it’s the way we were raised. Maybe it’s our culture. Maybe we moms enjoy the feeling of being needed all the time. But being needed doesn’t mean we have to fill our days with being busy, yet not really accomplishing anything worthwhile.
Why do we glory busyness? Filling your days with chaos doesn’t make you a good mom. Filling your children’s lives with endless activities doesn’t make them happy. Do you know what makes children happy? A mom who knows that taking care of herself is the first step. Then, we can take care of their needs. And as we take care of their needs we should be teaching them how to take care of their wants. We should be building children who are self-reliant and responsible.
Why do we treat motherhood like martyrdom? If you don’t want to be victimized, stop playing the victim. Martyrs always want to be recognized for their “selfless” acts. But isn’t that the definition of selfish?  You’re not a victim. You’re a mom. Let’s face it. Motherhood is probably the hardest job with the least amount of recognition. But we shouldn’t be in it for the recognition. That’s not why I became a mom. And I’m sure that’s not why you did either.  
It’s so important to take care of yourself. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time away from your family or cost a lot of money. There are thousands of ideas out there on how to get started. Here’s one great article full of ideas to get you started.

We moms think we are showing the world how to drain out all our moments and efforts into motherhood and that they will see a Super Mom. But what they are seeing is a tired and frustrated woman with little to give. Take care of yourself!  You’re not a martyr, you’re a mom.

Thanks again to Becky Squires for this sweet post! You can read more from her here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Why I go all in on Valentine’s Day!

by Jen Sorensen

Why not use Valentine's Day as an excuse to make your kids feel extra special?

I love holidays! I love that they are a perfect excuse to take silly family traditions and turn them into treasured childhood memories.

Years ago, when our oldest three were still tiny, my husband and I decided that for Valentine's Day, we would give each of them a little gift. They didn’t know much about the holiday yet, so we told them it was an extra special day where our family got to tell each other over and over how much we love each other. Amidst their giggles, we also told them we had a little surprise for each of them. They all climbed on the couch, tiny legs kicking and eyes and shoulders scrunched, and asked what the surprises were—a question that always makes me laugh. We told them to close their eyes and hold out their hands. We put a simple coloring book and a new box of crayons in each of those wiggly hands and then told them to open their eyes and you might have thought it was Christmas morning all over again. They were so excited and spent the rest of the day lying on their stomachs coloring, telling each other how much they loved them and their pictures, and saying how fun “Valentimes Day” was.

Fast forward a decade, and I still love having a special day to show my family how much I love them. Do I wish every day was spent like that? Of course, but let’s be real. Sometimes soccer practice and dinner and trips to the gym (as in gymnastics. not working out. puh-lease.) and jobs and homework and—you get the idea—just get in the way.  So, on this special day, we’ve moved on from coloring books, but I love our new traditions, too. Our younger two love waking up to find a new stuffed animal waiting for them. For breakfast, everyone gets their own box of donuts and a huge bottle of strawberry milk all to themselves. For the last several years, I’ve started on February 1st and left a love note for each of them in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Some years we make chocolate-dipped strawberries together. Some of them end up with more chocolate than strawberry. We call those quaDRIPled strawberries. This year, we’re introducing them to our favorite RomComs: Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. Our boys are especially stoked about this new tradition. Not. But I think sitting together on a blanket in the middle of the living room stuffing our faces with Valentine’s treats while we laugh at the absence of cell phones and the introduction of AOL in “old” movies sounds nearly perfect.

Someday (sooner than I'll be able to believe), Valentine's Day will just be my husband and me again, which I will cherish, but until then we'll make this day extra special for each of our kids. Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Five Reasons To Tuck Your Teenager In At Night

by Danielle’ Dimond
Check out @my30somethings for even more!

As my kids have gotten older and 3 out of the 5 of their bedrooms have moved down to the blessedly out-of-sight basement (because you know, kids are slobs), I have fallen out of the habit of tucking them in at night. Gasp!! Yes, it’s shamefully true! I have even been known to skip tucking in my 5 year old when I’m too worn out. It’s ghastly, I know. So, I challenged myself in January to rectify this most heinous crime to motherhood. I began a 30-day challenge to give all 5 of my offspring a special tuck-in service every night. You know, for 30 days. Even by Day 23, I was astonished at what we have all been missing over the last few years! The response (especially from the older kids) has been staggering! Never before have my 9- and 11-year-old boys been so eager to get to bed.

If you have any preteens or teens I know you’re thinking they don’t need or want you coming in every night to tuck them in like little kids. You’re probably concerned for your safety if you try. I promise, they wont kick you out. They may play it cool and act like they don’t care what you do, but I’m confident that the average teen will not, actually dismiss you. In fact, I’m optimistic that you’ll see some major positives from this one little bedtime habit.  So if you’re tired of your teen or preteen waking up on the metaphorical wrong side of the bed, here are 5 reasons to encourage YOU to securely tuck THEM in on the RIGHT side of the bed each evening.

Five reasons to tuck your teenager in at night

#1 Boogeyman Emotions are Minimized
The Boogeyman of emotions likes to lurk in bedrooms after dark. The pressures of schoolwork, family responsibilities, friend drama, church expectations and the ever-consuming drain of the technological world can make for a teenager who is bogged down. When the lights go off at night and there is nothing to distract them from negative thoughts, there are countless kids who can feel the pressures and anxieties of their world hanging heavily over them. When my kids are going to freak out about something, even just the little things, it’s going to be at or after bedtime. During the act of coming in to tuck them in for bed, I’m able to soothe away any built up stress with encouraging or tender words and planting a magical (yes even for teens) Mom-kiss upon a forehead. Having a person taking care of you is the ultimate way to de-stress. I don’t care what anyone says about a bubble bath, essential oils or meditating, this is the #1 way to calm the body and the mind.

#2 They’ll Open Up
The key to this one is taking your time on the tuck-in. Easy now. Make a point to straighten the blankets, turn down the overhead light, sit on the side of the bed, fuss with their hair and then look them directly in the eyes. Pause for a moment…a good pause…and then ask a question you feel needs asking. “Honestly, how was your day today?” “How’s your life going so far?” “Are you OK?” “How can I be a better Mom to you?” “Is anyone causing you trouble at school?” “Do you have anything you want to talk about?” You get the idea. I pinky promise, if you’re open to it, when you sit on that bed and look them square in the eyeballs, you’ll KNOW the question you need to ask them. When they know you aren’t in a hurry to get out of their room and on to other stuff, they’re going to be more open to opening up. Especially since you’re already in their room, without the distractions of daylight and other kids.

#3 Infuses Them With LOVE
In my humble (but correct) opinion, there is nothing on this earth more comforting and safeguarding than feeling someone lovingly fuss over you. If you’re napping on the couch and someone lays a blanket on you its like instant warm fuzzy feelings. Say you’re sick and miserable (of the man-cold proportions) and your spouse lays a cool and tender hand on your forehead—it’s like for that moment you don’t mind being sick so much. Or when a friend comes over for the sole purpose of finding out how you’re doing and suddenly, you aren’t alone anymore and there are people who care! I’m convinced that taking 5-10 minutes a night to individually tuck in your kids is like ALL of these things in one simple action. There is something chemically stress relieving about having a loved one fuss over you. Even if it’s for just a few minutes! It sends a rush of wellbeing and safeness that a hug and a kiss goodnight cannot do by itself. Chocolate works too, but is put to better use for your own chemical stress relief later on.  

#4 Shows Them You Can Be Counted On
Kids (and teens) love and need routine and structure in their lives to help them feel grounded. If you are regularly and lovingly tucking them in they begin to look forward to that few minutes of one on one time every night. No matter how old they are! In fact, on days when life has been particularly hard on them: their friends are being nasty, they bombed that History test, missed the bus or lost the game, they will begin to rely on at least that few minutes at the end of the day when you will inevitably come quietly into their room and give them some much needed love and attention. What’s even more, if they know you’ll do this even when they’ve disappointed you or gotten themselves into trouble, their trust and faith in you is doubled! Nay, TRIPLED! If they can rely on you to do this, then they may just trust you enough to tell you the hard things. That’s what we want right?

#5 End the Day On A Tender Note  
Those hard days I just mentioned, happen a lot to teenagers. A LOT. Especially in this modern day in which they live. I am the proud Mama of a 14 year old and a soon to be 12 year old (amongst a few other kids too;). I am becoming more and more aware of some of the crazy awful influences they have to deal with on a daily basis. When they climb into bed at the end of a day where good decisions were hard to make or weren’t made at all, I like to think that it’s my job right then to let my older kids know that there is someone rooting for them no matter what. There is someone who knows that they’re doing their best and she’s in their corner to offer that reviving drink, that healing touch and those bolstering words to encourage a strong fight again tomorrow. I can send that message with the simple and yet time tested act of tucking the little (and not so little anymore) ones into bed.

A little over dramatic? After this month of tucking in even my older kids, NO, I don’t think it’s over dramatic at all. This is a difficult world and these kids are up against a difficult fight! So I’m going to use every simple trick in my motherhood arsenal of care and encouragement! They deserve it. So before you write off your teen or preteen as too old, too independent or too prickly for a nightly tuck in, think again. They dearly need some extra love at the end of the day too! I daresay they may need it more than the little kids do.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Seven Home Stations that will Curb the Chaos in 2018

By Jen Sorensen

For the new year, I went shopping through my own house looking for anything I had sitting around that could be rearranged for some magical organization! Here's what I came up with!

Station #1
Device Check-in & Charging Station

Seven Stations that will Stop the Chaos in your Home

At our house we don’t allow devices in our kids’ rooms at night. They have to use good ole’ fashioned alarm clocks because their little brains need a break from the constant notifications that come with the world of social media and gaming, not to mention the less-than-stellar decision making that happens when kids are tired. So, all devices have to be checked in by 9 pm on school nights (yeah, even my high-schooler!) and by 10 pm on weekends. I found this old letter filing thing from around the house and used some command strips to stick it to the side of the little bookshelf in our front room. Voilá! It keeps all the cords off the floor and I can easily see who’s devices are checked in.

Station #2
Busy Morning Breakfast Station

Seven Stations that will Stop the Chaos in your Home

This used to be our catch-all counter. Such an eyesore!! So, killing two birds with one stone, I cleared out all the clutter (don’t look on the other side of the fridge) and turned it into a quick breakfast station. Breakfast is definitely a casualty of busy mornings around here and as much as I wish I was the kind of mom who had a hot breakfast ready for my family each morning, I’m just not. So, this quick breakfast station is our life-saver. Everyone can at least grab a hot chocolate to-go and a breakfast bar, pop tart, or even a quick microwaved bowl of oatmeal on their way out the door.

Station #3
Clutter Control

Seven Stations that will Stop the Chaos in your Home

Do you guys have kids who leave bread crumb trails (sometimes literally. gross.) and you can look at the clutter around your house and figure out exactly where they’ve been, what they’ve been eating and what they’ve been doing? Yeah, I have a couple of those. So, in order to help make the evening tidying up a bit quicker, we have this basket that sits on the bottom shelf in our entryway and it holds anything that should either go upstairs or downstairs that we’re in too big of a hurry to actually put away. Once a week someone gets the joy of divvying everything back to its rightful place.

Control Center
The last four stations make up a 4-in-1 control center and it has helped us immensely! It's definitely one of my favorite spots in our busy house.

Seven Stations that will Stop the Chaos in your Home

Station #4
Messages Station

Seven Stations that will Stop the Chaos in your Home

There is a lot of coming and going at our house, so we needed a central place where messages could be scribbled and the kids would actually look for them. I love these windows I have in my house and they make the perfect message boards right in the kitchen which, of course, has the most traffic in the house!

Station #5
Paper Products Station

Seven Stations that will Stop the Chaos in your Home

In case I’ve been subtle up to now, I’m all about time-saving tricks since I am a mom who works. I know that using  paper products on a regular basis  is soooo not cost-efficient, but it’s something I indulge in because it means fewer dishes. I know, someday my environmentally-friendly side will win out, but right now it’s buried reeeeaaaaal deep.

Station #6
Homework Supplies Station

Seven Stations that will Stop the Chaos in your Home

Homework is the worst. Come on, I cannot be the only one who thinks that! But, there is nothing worse than actually getting them to sit down and focus only to realize they need a ruler or some glue or even a sharpened pencil - all of which are nowhere to be found. So each school year I replenish all the school supplies and, now that they've ended up in this cubby, they are off-limits to any activity other than homework. (Or so I hope.)

Station #7
Quick School Lunch Assembly Station
(definitely saved my favorite for last!)

Seven Stations that will Stop the Chaos in your Home

Oh, school lunches. How I loathe thee. My kids have always had to make their own school lunches, so I do a few things to make the process a little easier on them. I either buy in bulk and split snacks into little baggies or sometimes I splurge on pre-packaged lunch items. There are also uncrustables in the freezer (nope, not homemade ones … ain’t nobody got time for that around here!) and, of course, fruit in the fruit bowl, but I keep almost everything right here in these two cubbies for a quick assembly. Even lunch bags and throw-away sacks hang out right here. This will come in super handy in the summer when we’re throwing picnics together all the time!

**Disclaimer: Just know that about half of these work about half of the time, but at least there’s a plan!

Monday, January 8, 2018

How Being Smart with Your Money NOW, will Pay Off LATER!

This guest blog post was written by Sheila Scarbrough from Eagle Mountain, Utah.

The day after school let out in 2015, we woke up our 4 fourkids, then ages 15, 14, 11, and 7, with the surprise that we were leaving for a California, Disneyland, Universal Studios trip. We spent 3 days in Disneyland, an epic day at Universal Studios and 2 days on the beach. While we did stay in a hotel that provided breakfast, we ate every other meal out either in a park, on the beach, or in a restaurant. It was a wonderful trip where even me, the mom, got to relax because I wasn’t trying to watch every penny.

Disneyland trip planning - How to save money with good planning!
June 2015 Surprise Disneyland Trip

Rewind a few years (maybe quite a few) to the very first time we took our, then 3, kids ages 5, 4 and 21 months to Disneyland. We once again stayed in a hotel that could accommodate us in one room and provided breakfast. Not only that, but it had a mini fridge and microwave to help with some other simple meals. Our goal was to eat out a maximum of once a day, and cheaply when we did that. We packed in Lunchables to the park, the older kids wore fanny packs carrying their own snacks for the day, and we ate things like Cup of Noodles on the days that we were eating dinner in our hotel room. Our goal for that trip was to do a Disney trip for less than $2000. We did it then and at least one other time before spending a little more on a 3rd trip and finally doing it the way we did in 2015. No matter how we did it, our goal was always that we could come home and have the trip completely paid for. No credit needed. No worries about future bank statements.

Disneyland trip planning - How to take your whole family for $2000
2006 Disneyland Trip
Where am I going with this, you ask. If you had to budget so much, why did you not wait till you could do it in the most epic of ways? If it was stressful, why did you bother planning and packing in groceries that could be easily made into dinner in a microwave? Why not do it the way you wanted and just put the trip on credit? Because, my friends, I’ve learned something vital in my 18 1/2 years of marriage:

No number of trips, or things, or house upgrades feels as good as financial security.

I am certainly no guru on the topic of finances. In fact, when you start talking about 401Ks and investing and things, my eyes glaze over and I feel REALLY DUMB. However, experience and good examples have taught my husband and me some really great lessons that have kept us from any scary financial situations. They have also kept us from ever having a fight over finances. So, with a new year and the new financial goals people like to set, let me share a few of those lessons. Take what you will, and laugh at the rest!

#1 I REPEAT, No number of trips, or things, or house upgrades feels as good as financial security. I can in all honesty say, we have never purchased something on credit that we could not pay off when the statement came the next month.  This was a lesson my parents taught me and one that has served us very well. Now this does not include the big 3—house, car, school. We do have a house payment and one car payment, but thankfully, the school loan got paid off long ago. However, we have never bought furniture or an appliance or put a trip on a credit card that we couldn’t pay off when the bill came. Do you want to know one of the best byproducts of that? We have never experienced buyer’s remorse. We have never looked at each other when the credit statement came and said, “We shouldn’t have done that.” That’s because each major purchase we make has been talked about, thought about, researched, and talked about some more. We knew we could pay off whatever it was that we decided to buy and every night we get to go to sleep completely financially secure. Does that mean that maybe we haven’t had the latest and greatest? Yup. Does that mean that our kids didn’t always have the name brand stuff? Yup. But it also means that we have had the money to take our family on trips where unforgettable memories have been made and we could come home and pay it right off. Always feels good, I tell ya.

#2 Pay yourself. Another lesson my parents instilled in me. With each pay check, pay the Lord, in our case tithing to our church but could easily be any charitable contribution, and pay yourself. In other words, SAVE! My parents always paid 10% to tithing and 10% to themselves before paying bills, buying groceries, etc. Now, I have to admit that we haven’t always been able to pay ourselves 10% from every paycheck, but we have always saved more than we thought we could. Doing this is helping us to build savings for our favorite family activity, traveling, but it’s also helped us as we save for a secure financial retired future. Not living paycheck to paycheck is absolutely freeing!

#3 Don’t expect to live like your parents do when you are newly married or have a young family. Sorry folks. Not all of life is going to be instagram worthy.  You may be living with hand-me-down furniture for years, like we did. You may not have the snazziest boutique clothes for you and your 3 month old. You will not get to take grand adventures to the Hawaiian Islands every other year. Guess what? It’s okay. Wonderful memories, strong relationships, happy lives are built one day at a time. We have so many funny stories from driving for all of our vacations. (Our kids have been on one airplane trip.) We have chosen to not move and “upgrade” our house because we and our kids would rather take some kind of great trip each year. We didn’t get to take that fourth California trip where I didn’t have to feed my kids in the hotel room until we’d been married for almost 16 years. Our memories from the previous trips were still amazing, even eating Lunchables in the park instead of turkey legs.

#4 Talk about it! Finances should be an open book for both people in a marriage! Never hide purchases or what you paid for something from your spouse. ALWAYS talk about big purchases, and when you’re first married, almost any purchase is a big purchase. If you both know what’s going on and where you are at financially, you can both plan and dream for the future.  If you’ve both had a say, no one gets to be mad at purchases made. One less thing to be a possible source of contention is a great thing for a marriage, I promise!

Back to our traveling, because it always comes back to that for us. None of those four trips to Disneyland did we stay in a Disney resort. We always chose to stay off-site in a family suite that accommodates us and feeds us breakfast. Never did we buy every snack that sounded good or every souvenir that was amazing. Because we do things this way, we’ve also taken our kids on a Royal Caribbean Cruise and had a week in a beach house in California. Those memories are dinner conversation around here, frequently. We loved every minute of those trips and have gotten to come home and fall asleep completely at peace with our financial security.

Disneyland trip planning - How to take your whole family for $2000
The Scarbroughs on a Royal Caribbean family cruise.

For us, traveling is our thing.  Maybe for you, it’s having the latest electronics, or getting your dream home. No matter what you do with your finances, do it together and stay smart about it, even when you do feel financially secure.