Planning for the Future: Retirement Planning

While I am far from retirement I have started planning for it from an early age. The one thing my dad always talked about as soon as I was old enough to get a job was to start saving early so I would have enough put away when I was ready to retire. Yes, at age 16 I was already well aware of retirement planning.

And I did what I’m sure other teens did not do. I listened to my dad. And at the age of 17, when I was eligible per my company’s regulations, I opened up a 401K. At first I simply put in a certain percentage, not quite sure what matching was and how it would benefit me.

Then my dad taught me the benefit of being aware of how company matching could do for my savings and I increased the percentage I was putting away each week. Lucky for me my husband also felt the same way about early retirement planning and had already started his 401K as well.

But I’m sure many aren’t lucky enough to have a dad like mine who pushed me to save at such an early age. So I’ve come across some great tips while researching ways to continue my retirement planning now that I’m a work-at-home mom.

Retirement Planning at an Early Age

1. Set up an automatic retirement savings plan –

Whether you contribute to a 401K through your work or set up a savings account on your own, start putting away a percentage of each paycheck starting now. The sooner you start saving – and investing – the sooner you’ll be able to retire.

2. Take advantage of employer contributions –

As I mentioned before, the company I worked with would match our 401K contributions up to a certain percentage. If your company offers this then you should definitely be taking advantage of this. Who can say no to free money? Usually there is a cap on what they’ll match to so make sure you know all of your company’s guidelines and regulations.

3. Leave your money where it is –

While it may be tempting to cash out on your 401K for that new car or a down payment on a house, you aren’t doing yourself any favors! Consider sitting down with a financial planner to plan out how to save for large purchases or investments without touching your savings. You’ll be thankful in the long run.

4. Sit down with a professional –

Still lost with all of this talk of savings? Consider sitting down with a professional and going over your finances. From there you can determine just how much you can be putting aside for retirement and how long you’ll continue to do so. There are so many great resources and apps out there for us to use. Take advantage of the knowledge at your fingertips!

Have you started planning for retirement?

With our financial planning laid out and a plan for retirement always in the works I feel a lot better about our future. I definitely don’t want to be working past 65 if I don’t have to. And if my husband and I are still lucky to have our health by then we want to be able to use that time to enjoy ourselves.

Planning to retire a little sooner than I am? Consider reading this article on 7 Tips for People Planning to Retire in 2013 to find out if you’re ready to retire sooner!

Disclaimer: Information for this post is sourced from Genworth Financial in partnership with the SheHeard Influencer Network. All opinions are my own.

Encourage Reading with Kids Reading Nook Ideas

The one thing I will never deny my child is a book. No matter where we are, if my kid finds a book they love, I’m going to get it for them (within reason). I can say no to more toys, more clothes, more shoes, but I can’t say no to books! So I decided to find out how to encourage reading even more and was amazed at the great kids reading nook ideas I came across.

Not only would the kids be able to have a place to access their books, they could cozy up and read them as long as they want.

I read somewhere that the biggest hurdle at home to get kids to read was the lack of books available to them. They either didn’t have many books to access or there wasn’t a place to put them. So from a very young age I’ve made sure that my kids have access to many different books. And we may have taken it a bit overboard.

We have books pouring out of every room in the house. So having one central location for most of the kids books was a big priority when we rearranged the room and moved some furniture. And with this change we created our kids reading nook.

Kids Reading Nook Ideas

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Money Management Tips: How to Prepare For an Emergency

Since taking over the family’s finances when I became a work at home mom and attempting to reign in on our spending and pay off our debt I’ve come to realize just how important it is to prepare for the unexpected.

As important as it is to recognize the day-to-day expenses, it’s also very important to set aside funds for things that just happen. A few months ago my daughter was bit by the family dog. All is fine with her now but at the time I had no idea what our bills were going to look like after our ambulance trip and ER visit.

Lucky for us we put aside funds for emergencies like this and are prepared. And while it was a very scary thing to go through, not having to worry about paying the bills afterwards was a relief.

money management tips emergency

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Enjoying a Fun Date Night In San Diego with National Comedy Theater

NCT - Fun Date Night in San Diego

The one thing my husband and I have been pretty diligent about even after having kids is making sure we have at least one night a month dedicated to date night. I was even writing a monthly post for Date Night 411 (before the site was closed) and loved sharing my date night ideas with others who are looking for things to do.

So I’m going to start sharing the things we do on our date nights again. And this time it’ll be on my blog so I don’t lose all of the photos and the content when the websites I write for are gone (sorry… a little vent… but I’m done now!).

One place we LOVE to go to at least every few months is National Comedy Theater on India Street. I first heard about this show after being asked to check it out as a blogger. Now I love going even when I’m paying for tickets! Not only is it an awesome improv show that changes nightly, it’s also next to some fabulous restaurants!

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Prepare for Your Child’s Education with a ScholarShare 529 Savings Plan

Before our son was even born my husband and I began discussing college savings for him. Coming from a family where I was expected to pay my own way through school and having a husband who was lucky enough to have parents who were able to save up for him made us both realize how important it was to tackle this issue early on.

A few weeks ago I posted a poll on saving for our children’s college education. And the results were quite different from what I expected. Half of those polled had not yet considered a college savings plan for their child and weren’t quite sure what they were going to do once the time came.

ScholarShare 529 Savings Plan InfographicsREV2

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5 Great Ways for Moms to Get Out in San Diego

Being a mom doesn’t mean that we can’t get out and have fun anymore. It just means that we need to get a little creative to do so. Lucky for me, I live in a city filled with entertainment and a never-ending list of places to go and things to do.

Since my time away from the family is much valued but short lived, I need to make the most of it and really create great memories to hold me over until the next time I get out.

Here are a few ways I like to enjoy my time away from the kids and family while enjoying the city I live in.

5 Great Ways for Moms to Get Out in San Diego

1. Happy Hour – 

Now happy hour is not the same as it was pre-kids. No longer are we heading to an upscale bar after work for a few drinks, appetizers, and some girl time that goes late into the night.

Happy Hour has now become any time the girls get together at a place with food without the kids. Drinks may or may not happen but all we know is that we’re eating a whole meal without having to feed another being.

We also will be able to eat our meal while it’s still hot and won’t have to worry about asking for it to-go because of a tantrum. Meals away from the family means chit chat and girl time at its best… un-filtered!

And if there is booze involved… watch out! Cause moms are usually quite fun when tipsy (but always safe)!

2. Networking in Disguise – 

One of the best things about my life as a mom is the fact that I get to hang out with other cool moms all the time. And sometimes we get to network with each other finding out that we might be able to help each other more than we thought!

And one event that brings moms together to do just that are the SD Mom’s Night Out events. They are an absolutely amazing way to relax, reconnect, and network with other moms in San Diego who you might not have known about. From Momtrepreneurs to bloggers to stay-at-home-moms looking for a great way to get out and explore. Each event is different and has something else to offer.

The next event is their one year anniversary and it isn’t to be missed! Not only is it being held at Kin Spa, it also includes some amazing perks and goodies! To read more about the SD Mom’s Night Out Anniversary Event, check out my post here.

Click here to purchase tickets for the event.

3. My Favorite Things – 

Every few months my mom friends and I get together for what we call a My Favorite Things party. We each bring 5 $6 items that we’ve dubbed as our favorite thing and we pass them out to each other (drawing names to choose who gets what). We eat and drink our favorite things too!

I love this type of event because it’s low maintenance and it’s a way to learn about things I might not have known about in daily conversations with my friends.  Our last Favorite Things party focused on our favorite kid items. And as you can imagine it was pretty hard to chose one item for $6 or less to share. But I was amazed again at the products that were shared and have fallen in love with a few new awesome things!

4. Playdates – 

Yes, I know. This technically is not getting away from the kids but my friends are awesome. And when we get together, we are able to mingle and chat while our kids play around us. Most of the time I’ll host playdates at my home and just rope the kids off into certain parts of the house and yard. That way the moms can sit in one central location and chat without having to worry about what trouble our kids are getting into.

This option does require a little bit of work but the reward is much worth it. Not only do we each get to sit and enjoy adult conversations, we also get to tire our kids out so that when we do go home they (hopefully) take nice, long naps. Win-win!

Now these adult conversations aren’t always just about us. Usually one way or another we end up talking about some pretty fun topics. Bladder control, birth, and a few other wonderful mommyhood moments having to do with poop usually come up.

5. Shopping – 

Whether it’s for groceries or for clothes… shopping alone is always considered a great way to get out in my book. Not only do I get to enjoy some peace and quiet, I get to participate in one of my favorite activities… spending money!

While I love time with my kids, I don’t love having to worry about my kids breaking everything within reach while we’re out and about. I’ve learned that I’m a lot less stressed when I can go to a store alone and actually consider it relaxing to shop knowing that my kids are elsewhere having fun and not asking if they can have every.single.thing they see at the store.

What do you do for your mom-time without the kids?

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by SD Mom’s Night out. I received two tickets for their SD Mom’s Night Out Anniversary event in exchange for this post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 

5 Easy Ways to Get Kids Cleaning

Kids-Cleaning

I’ve always looked forward to the day that I could put my kids to work. I remember my mom doing it and at times felt as if I were a slave. Laundry, dishes, bathrooms, and more. I hope I pulled my fair share of the weight in the chores department but there was always something to do!

So now that my son is nearing an age where he is more than capable of helping out I’ve started to find that making a game out of cleaning is the best way to go about getting him involved! Here’s what we’ve been doing:

1. Stuffed Animal Hoops –

This is basically a game of basketball but you use shopping carts and strollers instead of hoops. You try and throw as many toys into the shopping cart as possible and than race them down to the playroom to dump out.

2. Food Hockey –

My kids are messy eaters. Crumbs fly everywhere! And when our dog isn’t inside to clean up what’s left on the floor, my kids are expected to sweep up the rest. But we make a fun game out of it!

One kid holds the dust pan while the other sweeps the crumbs in the direction of the pan and tries to make as many crumbs go in as possible. Usually I have to start out by making a small pile

3. Messy Suds –

Bathrooms aren’t the most fun room to clean (what room is??). So we make a fun game for the kids and let them sit in the tub with some soapy water and wash everything around them with washcloths. Not only is the tub clean, the kids come out sparkly as well!

Afterwards I simply spray a bit of water/vinegar/tea tree oil solution on top of the clean walls and tub and wipe once more. But all of the heavy scrubbing is left to the kids.

4. Floor Skating –

When we mop we have fun! While I go around mopping the floor with either our steam mop or our regular mop, I have the kids behind me with towels under their feet to skate across the floor. And while we do get a bit wet and slip a LOT we have a great amount of fun while cleaning.

5. Color coordinating –

When sorting clothes to take to the washer and dryer, my kids help by picking out the colors, whites, and reds.  Sometimes when I’m feeling especially evil I will have them sort the colors even more.

Then they help out by bringing the clothes out to the garage and putting them in the correct bin to be washed. They also love transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer and my daughter gets a kick out of slamming the dryer door shut when it’s ready to be started.

What do you do to get your kids involved?

A Few of my Favorite Things

One of the best parts about running a playgroup is that the women I meet become more than just “other moms” they be come friends as well. And sometimes these friends come up with awesome ideas. Recently an idea was posted on our meetup page about having a My Favorite Things party. I wasn’t quite sold on it until I found out what it was.

Don’t know what a My Favorite Things party is? Well channel your inner Oprah and read on!

My guests’ favorite things

A My Favorite Things party is a night in (or out) where each guest shares their favorite item under a certain dollar amount with their friends. For our party we chose a dollar limit of $6 per item. Each guest brings 5 of the same item under that $6 limit to share and gift to the others at the party.

When you get to the party, write your name on 5 pieces of paper. Each guest will choose 5 different people to give their favorite thing to (make sure to do this in advance to avoid duplicates or drawing your own name). Once the names are drawn, go around the room and explain why the item is your favorite and then announce who the lucky girls are to receive your item The party can be general, like our first one was, or themed!

My favorite thing – Earth Mama Angel Baby!

We each brought one of our favorite dishes to share and our favorite bottle of wine so that before we jumped into the fun of exchanging our favorite things we were able to eat and mingle together. Since each dish was a favorite I made little signs to go along with them. The party can also be hosted at a restaurant or other location outside of the home but since we all didn’t have childcare this was the best option for us. Dads watched the kids outside while the moms enjoyed some time to chat and talk.

Once everyone had a bite to eat we got to sharing! And boy was this part fun.

When the kids heard that presents were involved they quickly came in to help pass out the favorites. Once they realized what was inside the presents, they weren’t too excited about helping. Ignore my son, spiderman… he just got home from a birthday party.

Here’s the favorites from our party:

  • My Favorite – Earth Mama Angel Baby Happy Mama Hand to Toe Wash
  • Elizabeth’s Favorite – Krispy Kreme gift cards
  • Clarissa’s Favorite – Muir Glen Organic marinara sauce
  • Jen’s Favorite – Tresemme dry shampoo
  • Kari’s Favorite – Lush Bubble Bar in Dorothy
  • Sophia’s Favorite – Yellowtail wine
  • Nikki’s Favorite – Bath & Body Works CO Bigelow Mentha Lip Tint

In addition to these awesome favorites, Chobani was kind enough to send each of my guests Family 4 Pack tickets to Kidsfest AND 2 free product coupons.  Boy were these mamas excited about yogurt!

I also included my Lipton Tea & Honey Klout perk samples and some Hot Dog on a Stick temporary tattoos for the kiddos that I received in a prize package I won at the SD Mom’s Night Out Tweetup. What fun is it to keep all these fun goodies to myself, right? Gotta spread the love!

Each mama went home with five new and fun items. I was so excited to see what each person brought and was surprised to find how diverse each of our items were. We’re already planning our next My Favorite Things party and this time we’re going with a theme: Baby/Kid’s Favorite Thing!

I gave a little bonus to my guests courtesy of Earth Mama Angel Baby and shared my Baby/Kid item, Angel Baby Bottom Balm. I’ve blogged about it before and can’t say enough about how awesome it really is. And EMAB was kind enough to also send samples of their awesome Monthly Comfort and Milkmaid teas (both of which I needed!). So stay tuned for our next party and what new favorites we come up with!

Check out more photos of my party on Facebook and G+!

What would you bring to the My Favorite Things party?

Disclaimer: I was given a free product or sample. I was under no obligation to receive the sample or talk about this company. I get no additional benefits for talking about the product or company.

Girl Time {The Importance of MNO}

Over the past few months I’ve come to realize the importance of girl time.Not only does it bring me out of the house and away from the kids but it also allows me to form and build on relationships with my peers. I’m able to have adult conversations without wiping a nose or chasing a kid. And I get to meet new people too!

So how do I make this happen. It’s simple!

  1. Write it in on the calendar
  2. Remind the husband the night before
  3. Run out the door

This past week I was able to attend an awesome launch party for The Pulse SD at Whiskey Girls. Not only were there delicious Pulsetinis from Smirnoff, but the entertainment from Lucient Dossier Experience was amazing to say the least.

I was able to sit back, have a glass or two of wine, and enjoy some girl time with my good friend Kari and her sister (not to mention the fabulous ladies we also hung out with). We had fun, danced, acted silly and Kari even managed to talk her way into scoring a swag bag. What that girl will do for free stuff! I kid, I kid!

And I always make time for SD Mom’s Night Out. Not only are these events fabulous, they’re always at a different venue and feature different companies as well. The most recent event at Bliss 101 had chair massages, wine from Whole Foods, Skinny Shots, swag bags, and more. Plus the famous raffle! This time if you purchased $20 worth of tickets you got double the amount!

These events are definitely networking in disguise. Not only do I get to spend time with my girlfriends but I get to branch out and network with other moms and businesses as well all in one location. Much easier than trying to talk via email or online.

Then there are fun events that I get to partake in. Recently I won tickets to the advanced screening of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. We got some pretty nifty shirts, boxes of prenatal vitamins and some hemorrhoid wipes. Never know when you’re going to need those, right?

Aside from the goodies, I got to chat with friends beforehand and enjoy a hilarious movie! Usually I go to the movies with my husband so going with girlfriends is a much different experience!

Perhaps some of the most fondest moments of getting out with the girls is gathering with friends who come to visit San Diego after moving away. Whenever any one of our book club buddies comes back we always make a point to schedule something awesome to spend at least a few hours chit chatting like they never left!

Breakfast at Snooze? Heck yes! Good friends who’ve been together for 5!! years already? Do you really have to ask?!

Do you get out for a night (or morning or afternoon) with the girls?

Gardening with Kids

Gardening With Kids

Since we started our garden in November we’ve been trying to find more and more ways to get the kids involved in tending to it.

I’ve found that by including them in the process they’re not only more willing to actually eat what we harvest, they also are less tempted to start playing in the garden with trucks, balls, dinos and airplanes.

Those get left in the sand box where they belong! Below are a few ways to get your kids involved in the yard whether it be tending to an edible garden or picking the weeds in the flower bed.

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