Monday, September 30, 2013

The Best $5 We've Spent on Our Baby

Some people are quick to point out that babies cost a lot of money. Sure, daycare and schooling adds up, but so far, one of my favorite baby-related purchases was only $5. This purchase is also a time- and sanity-saver: the Baby Connect app!

While in the hospital with Monica, I was given a paper log to track her diapers, nursing, and pumping. It worked, but was a little inconvenient. During one of my last nights there, I asked one of the nurses for a baby tracking app recommendation. She told me about Baby Connect. Instead of researching more apps and winding up with analysis paralysis, I went with her recommendation and downloaded the app when we got home.

OMG, I loved it! With a few taps on my iPhone, I could easily log in diapers, nursing, pumping, and her growth. This has been extremely helpful when answering questions at the pediatrician: how many diaper changes per day, how often she was eating, and such. And let's be honest, sleep deprivation makes it hard enough to remember to shower, let alone remember which side to nurse on next.

The app also helps us figure out what Monica might need. When the afternoon fussies hit, it can be a bit of baby mind reading. Monica might be hungry, tired, need a diaper change, want some snuggles, or who knows what. Seeing when she fed or slept last can help us come to the solution much faster.

As we were getting ready for daycare, I began tracking her sleep as well. We follow Monica's cues on when she's hungry or tired, so the app has been helpful in telling daycare her patterns. At three (almost four) months, Monica's day looks a little something like this: wake up, diaper change, nurse, play, and once she's been awake for 1.5-2 hours, she's ready for another nap. Naps are usually an hour, but can range from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Now that I'm back to work, the app is extremely helpful in reminding me when I pumped last and when it's time to go again.

And let's be honest, as helpful as the app is, my nerdy self really enjoys watching the trends and analyzing the numbers and charts. Yes, it's a little depressing seeing the number if diapers we've changed, but I'm happy to see that the amount per day has decreased. I also really enjoy the pumping data. John likes to joke as I freeze milk and get bottles ready that it combines my two loves: being a mommy and inventory. This is from the kid that performed an inventory count of her Halloween candy ;)
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall Favorites

Blazer, Boots, Tee, Jeans, Scarf, Satchel

Hey there, Fall. Fancy seeing you around these parts. I wouldn't say that you're my #1 season, but I do appreciate your cohorts: blazers, scarves, boots, and pumpkin ale/spice latte/baked goods/etc. We'll also have to fit in a little apple picking and apple baking soon.

It may have been in the 60's yesterday, but that didn't stop me from donning my navy blazer, boots, and a scarf. And while we're at it, can we discuss this scarf? Is it too early to put things on my Christmas list because I'm mildly obsessed. This lovely would go with everything!

Hope you have a fantastic start to your week!

PS - I just added a hovering "pin it" button thanks to {av}'s quick and easy tutorial!
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Makeunder My Finances: Step 4

Welcome to the final installment of the refreshed "Makeunder My Finances" series, as inspired by Jess Lively's makeunder steps. Missed the first three steps? You can find one, two, and three here.

Step 4: Reflect and evolve

This should be the "easiest" step of a financial makeunder. The real work goes into creating a vision, exfoliating stuff, and identifying intentions. Once your budget, savings plan, and automatic deposits are in place, it's a matter of evaluating your progress. Are you being too strict in some areas or too lax in others? Does your budget need a little tweaking? Can you sock away some extra money to meet your goal early?

How often should you be evaluating? Part of that depends on your timeframe and if you've made dramatic changes. I would also take a closer look at things in the beginning to set a good foundation. Remember, you're setting yourself up for success. Don't set unrealistic expectations. In general, a weekly update and monthly review should suffice.

It's also a good idea to check in on your vision and intentions. As you grow and mature, you might realize that your vision and intentions have also evolved. As Jess says, "The more regularly you reflect on the vision the less you will need to create major changes going forward." For example, when I married John, I felt a shift in priorities. Our finances also merged, so my decisions didn't just affect me anymore. And as you achieve one financial goal, you'll have the confidence to save for something else.

In a way, this refresh of the series is like one giant exercise in reflecting and evolving. Where we were three years ago is almost a world away from where we are now. Our financial situation and responsibilities have changed, so it only makes sense to reevaluate our goals and approach to savings and spending. 

Good luck with your own financial makeunders. Small changes here and there can really add up. Send me an email at if you have any questions.

Have a great week!
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Friday, September 13, 2013

Our Fifth Wedding Anniversary

Happy anniversary to my best friend! I can't believe it's already been five years! We've seen all sorts of changes these past five years: moving to Chicago, buying a house, changing jobs, and having a baby. And I couldn't think of a better person to experience them with than you :)

While we're more likely to go out to dinner or take a long weekend trip than give gifts, I thought I would share a few gift ideas based on the traditional fifth anniversary gift: wood.

Mrs. Earrings, Dress, Shoes, Bracelets (knot, pink, white), Wood Clutch

That wood clutch is a little out of my price range, but isn't it gorgeous? I would love to take it with me to a fancy pants anniversary dinner.

AHeirloom cutting boards: Missouri, Flag, Chevron

We love to cook, so a custom cutting board from AHeirloom is only appropriate. They recently added the monogrammed cutting boards in addition to their always-popular state and country boards.

Beer sampler set and coasters from Taunton Green

As a homebrewer and lover of craft beer, a beer sampler set with matching coasters and a 6-pack of craft beers would make John one happy guy.

Chef Graham Elliot's custom wooden glasses

If your significant other wears glasses, Chicago's Urban Spectacles makes custom wooden glasses. As I've mentioned before, we're huge fans of the show MasterChef and judge Chef Graham Elliot wears a pair of bespoke wooden glasses made by Urban Spectacles. In related news, we went to Graham Elliot (the restaurant) for an anniversary dinner two years ago and he replied to my tweet about our amazing dinner.

Have a fantastic Friday and weekend!

PS - If you're interested in reading previous anniversary posts, here are my posts about our weddingwedding planning tips, and discussion points and tips for merging finances.
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Three Years of Blogging

Hi, friends! It's a day late, but yesterday marked three years of blogging at Fiscally Chic. Heck, it's anniversary month around these parts. In addition to Fiscally Chic's birthday, last week was the second anniversary of my Etsy shop and Friday will be our fifth wedding anniversary!

At my second blogging anniversary, I wanted to focus on the "big wins" of creating wealth, organizing your finances, and writing about other financial moves that give a bigger return on your time investment than cutting back on lattes. While I succeeded with posts like financially preparing for a baby, buying a new car, and negotiating cable and Internet bills, I also noticed a surge in traffic on my DIY posts. The biggest being sewing curtains with a hidden tab top. Is that something you want to see more of?

A new subject matter also creeped into my blogging line-up this past year: pregnancy and babies! I don't plan on turning Fiscally Chic into a mommy blog, but Monica is a huge part of my life now and it's only natural to occassionally blog about baby-related things.

That being said, this coming year will be more about setting priorities and figuring out how to balance everything: family, personal time, work, blogging, my Etsy shop, and the like. So what does that mean for Fiscally Chic? I'll be taking my time to write quality posts and be gentle on myself if I only have time to blog once a week.

To help celebrate Anniversary Month, I'm having a sale in the shop! Use coupon code "ANNIVERSARY15" for 15% off all purchases through September 15, 2013.
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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Makeunder My Finances: Step 3

Hi there! I hope you enjoyed the long holiday weekend. We took some time to do a few projects around the house. Did any of you take a look at your finances as part of the "Makeunder My Finances" refresh? If you're just joining in now, Step 1 is all about creating a vision. Step 2 is taking a closer look at how you're spending your money. After walking through those steps, have you identified spending strengths and weaknesses? I hope so because this week is all about setting specific goals and intentions.

Step 3: Identify Intentions

In the first round of our financial makeunder, John and I were saving money for a down payment on a house. This time around, our larger vision is financial freedom. While we don't spend too much money on shopping or entertainment, we now have a new budget line for baby stuff. We value living simply and spending time with family and friends. 

With your intentions in mind, it's time to create some SMART goals for saving and spending:

■S = Specific
■M = Measurable
■A = Attainable
■R = Realistic
■T = Timely

How much do you need to save? And don't just say "I need to save more." What is "more?" If you don't have a specific amount in mind, how will you know when you get there? You probably have a good idea of the price tag based on your vision.

Dollars are pretty easy to measure, but what happens when your "vision" dollars start to mingle with your "needs" or "wants" dollars? In order to properly measure your savings, it’s best to create a separate savings account. We like to use Capital One 360* (formerly ING Direct). It’s an online bank, so it has a higher interest rate (the good kind). We can automatically transfer money from checking to savings on my schedule and withdrawals take a couple days. That means we're less likely to pull from our savings on a whim. And with automatic transfers, we don’t even miss the money if it’s not available to be spent. You can find other savings accounts and interest rates at

Your monthly savings goal should be reasonable. Set yourself up for success. No need to drive yourself into the poor house trying to save for something enjoyable (i.e. European vacation). To stay motivated, set aside an amount that’s not too far out of reach. We’ve cut out a few extra frills by dining out less frequently and bringing our lunches to work.

At the same time, your goal should be a little bit of a reach so that you’re willing to work towards it. That makes accomplishing the goal even more worthwhile. So set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!

Set a timeframe and mark the date on your calendar. Again, be specific, not just "in the next 5 years." And be realistic. Automatic transfers are another way to stay timely. Schedule transfers for once or twice a month so you won't forget to stash the cash.

Inception "Dream A Little Bigger Darling" Print - 8x10"
Print available from Mulberry Press Co.

John and I used Mint's goal tool to track the progress of our down payment. It’s as easy as entering our goal, setting a date, and linking a savings account. We then knew how much we needed to save each month, which is factored into our budget. Mint will email your progress every month and offers savings advice and information about the home buying process.

Now that we're focusing more on financial freedom by paying down our mortgage, increasing savings, and investing; we look at overall trends on Mint, particularly our net worth.

You can obviously track everything in an Excel spreadsheet or on a piece of paper, but I like the convenience of having everything online. That way I can access the information on the go and make changes as necessary.

Don’t be afraid to take ownership of your finances! The best way to become financially independent is to learn about the different resources and tools. And ask questions!

*Affiliate link for Capital One 360.

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