Free Books: I Am in Love!


One of the best things about blogging is revisiting old posts. Reading my own words helps keep me accountable to myself. As a result of recent home renovations I created a little note to myself called A Few Things I Learned While Nesting, Purging and Streamlining.

Lesson #7 including the following:

Books are a huge waste of money if I never find the time to read them. I am not allowed to bring any new books into the house until I read the ones I already own. After I read them I will pass them on to someone else. I almost never read the same book more than one time so why on earth am I putting them on a bookshelf for later.

When I was a child I absolutely loved visiting the library. I remember exactly how that building was configured. How the long checkout desk stood at the entrance and how many steps it took to reach the children’s section after walking through the front door.

I’ve written many times about my love of reading and about my strange habit of buying books, but never setting aside the time to read them.

For years friends, family and readers of this blog have recommended borrowing books from the library, but I’ve always been against the idea. Our local library is dark, dingy and quite frankly a bit disgusting.

Before my son started preschool I began taking him to story hour once a week. Every Monday we walked straight to the children’s section and then straight back out to the car from there. My experience in other parts of the library haven’t been pleasant so I avoided going back there. The books I want to read are never available and the ones I find interesting are typically stained, ripped, written on or water damaged.

So every week despite being inside the library I refused to check out any books for myself. I continued to buy books unnecessarily and worst yet never found the time to read them.

That is until a few months ago when I began reserving library books online. When my son was younger we read books three to four times a day. In the morning we read between six and ten books, before his afternoon nap we read another handful and before bed he chose another three.

Although we own boxes full of children’s books, (primarily gifts and hand-me-downs), I began to get bored from reading the same stories and rhymes day after day and week after week. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on books he may outgrow quickly so I searched for the best books for three and four year old children and searched the catalog at our local library.

While most of the books weren’t available immediately I submitted a simple online request to reserve them. A few days later I received an email alert that the books were all ready for pickup.

Every two to three weeks I pick up a new set of books and return the ones we checked out earlier in the month. The books I reserved are all waiting for me on a long shelf right next to the checkout desk. I simply walk in, search for my name on that shelf, gather up my books, scan everything and walk out the door. It typically takes less than five minutes from start to finish.

I find that the books are in much better condition than the ones I see on the shelves at the actual library. I can’t account for this discrepancy, but in the past three months I’ve only received one book with ripped pages and children’s scribbles.

My only regret is that I didn’t start using the online reservation system earlier. While I typically purchase used books from eBay and I’m pretty certain that I still spent hundreds of dollars on books over the past few years. From this point forward I don’t intend to spend a dime.

Photo Credit

March 25, 2015 at 11:07 PM Leave a comment

Medical Insurance Update – Labor and Delivery Costs

piggy bank

Our medical bills for the delivery of baby #2 just arrived and so far we owe just over $560. This included a $250 copay plus hospital inpatient charges up to our $3000 deductible. Our insurance rolled over on December 1st and it seems we racked up $3000 worth of medical charges between then and now.

Due to my history of blood clots and advanced maternal age the doctors required weekly ultrasounds beginning in early February. Those radiology services amounted to nearly $900 worth of charges, but those weren’t the biggest hits to our wallet. Interestingly enough my husband’s podiatrist appointments accounted for the remaining $2000.

The good news, (if there can be any good news when talking about medical insurance), is that we shouldn’t owe anything other than co-pays from now until November 31st of this year. I’m going to tell my husband to go to the podiatrist as often as he needs to between now and that time.

Here is a price comparison between my first son’s birth in 2011 and my second son’s birth in 2015. These figures represent the total charged to insurance, not what we actually paid.

Year 2011 2015
Hospital Costs $3916 $4200
OB Costs $4470 $5655

We stayed in the hospital for two days after the birth of baby #1 but less than 32 hours after the birth of baby #2. Unfortunately I was in labor and delivery much longer this time around: nine hours compared to less than four last time. With my first son I labored at home for as long as possible. With baby number two there were more logistics to work around, like lining someone up to watch my older son and driving to the hospital just after a snowstorm.

Does $10,000 seem like a lot for the routine delivery of a child? Honestly, that number seems quite low to me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve paid so much for costs not covered by insurance over the years. I once received a $6,000 bill for a minor in-and-out procedure.

March 20, 2015 at 5:07 PM Leave a comment

Radio Silence: Baby #2 Arrives


Baby #2 arrived a bit earlier than expected; three weeks early to be exact. I thought I had one more week to prepare for the arrival, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. As I labored in the hospital my husband and I walked the halls and tried to agree on names.

In fact, up until an hour or two before delivery we were still hashing out ideas and going back and forth about our favorites. We settled on a name for a boy relatively quickly, but since we didn’t know the gender we continued to discuss girls names until my labor became too intense to think about anything other than giving birth.

It seems all that talk of girl names was irrelevant. Our baby boy arrived in the wee hours of the morning. Despite his early arrival he appears to be robust and strong.

Big brother was convinced this little guy was going to be a sister, but didn’t seem terribly disappointed when we told him a little brother had arrived instead. So far everything is going quite smoothly. Well as smoothly as life with a newborn can go.

There may be a bit of radio silence while we adjust to life as a family of four.

March 15, 2015 at 2:43 PM 6 comments

A Guide to Saving for Maternity Leave


This post is part of Women’s Money Week.

In my opinion as soon you decide to have children, (no matter how far into the future that day may seem), you should start setting money aside for the big day. Think of having a child like any other big financial goal in life. You know you need to save to buy a house, a new car or to travel on an exotic vacation, so why not save to expand your family?

The sooner you decide to save the larger that sum will swell. If you don’t earn a lot of money set aside a little bit each paycheck. You’d be surprised how quickly those numbers can add up over time. Set a big goal for yourself. Imagine you don’t know where you’ll work a few years from this point in time and whether or not maternity pay will be offered. You are married and want a family but you aren’t certain when. Start a savings account dedicated to financing your maternity leave.

In general cut back on your spending, clip coupons and stay out of stores. Calculate all of your monthly expenses and see what items you might be able to eliminate. Start making calls to cell phone companies and satellite TV providers to find out how to reduce monthly bills. Think about possible ways to earn extra income by taking on extra hours at work or selling unwanted items on eBay.

Once you conceive keep your ear out for anyone willing to offer hand-me-downs and investigate all the places that sell second-hand baby items. You would be amazed by the number of people who have boxes full of baby related items hiding in their basements. If you live in or near a major city you will probably find second-hand stores and consignment sales that sell items for a fraction of the retail price. Consignment sales are typically held just three or four times a year, so make certain to mark the dates on your calendar. If you are looking for something specific try eBay and Craigslist before buying from an online retailer.

Think carefully about how you register for baby items and avoid letting yourself get into the baby craze. You’ll feel driven to wash everything the minute you receive it, but don’t. Keep tags on just about everything. It’s amazing how quickly children outgrow toys and clothing. Rather than washing everything and folding it neatly into drawers keep the tags on clothes until just before your child will need to wear them. This makes it easier to return or exchange the items for larger sizes. It also makes it easier to sell items if the need arises.

Kids don’t need much in that first year of life other than love and attention, so stick to a very small set of toys. You’ll be amazed at how enamored your child will become with a simple cardboard box or a plastic bucket.

Think strategically about decorating your nursery. Baby stores have notoriously high prices, so make certain to compare prices at traditional furniture stores before buying. Also, try to envision your child’s bedroom five or ten years into the future. You don’t want to purchase all new furniture when your son or daughter gets older.

I mentioned this in the post linked to above, but I think it bears repeating here; keep in mind that some baby sized gear is cute, but certainly not necessary. Full sized towels work better than the hooded versions and extra soft wash cloths will work perfectly fine for a baby. They may not have super cute motifs on them, but they will last long beyond the first year or two.

Before getting pregnant or at the very least as soon as you find out you are pregnant talk to your human resources department and ask for detailed benefit information. You want to know how long you will be paid and what percentage of pay you will receive. Some women get paid 100% for weeks on end, some receive partial pay and others get nothing at all.

I’ve known at least two women who returned to work much earlier than expected because they didn’t understand their benefits. A friend of the family planned to stay home for three months, but found out her pay ran out after just eight weeks. She was informed on a Friday and unexpectedly back at work the following Monday. Had she realized this sooner she could have saved more money to stay home for that period of time or at least better prepared herself for a shorter leave. Instead she felt forced to return to work and unhappy about doing so.

Make certain to ask your employer if you can use sick leave and/or vacation time to pay for your maternity leave and if you can transition back to work with reduced hours or a more flexible work schedule.

Most importantly plan as much as you can before the arrival of your new little bundle of joy. The sooner you plan and the harder you save the easier the transition to parenthood will be.

March 5, 2015 at 6:40 PM 1 comment

Maternity Leave – How Much Is Enough?

This post is part of Women’s Money Week.


Planning for maternity leave sucks. When I found out I was expecting my first child I sat down with a calendar and mapped out the days and weeks until I would need to return to work.

My son was due in late October and I ran all sorts of calculations to determine the maximum amount of time I could spend at home. Since my vacation hours reset in the new year I wondered if I could take STD, a week or two of vacation, then maternity leave and take another two or three weeks of vacation after that.

No matter how many times I stared at that calendar I could not figure out a way to extend the time beyond ten weeks. I knew I was lucky to get that much paid time off, but the idea of returning to work after less than three months made me feel incredibly sick.

I had every intention of returning to my job after my son was born. My tasks weren’t particularly difficult. I earned a six figure salary and worked from home a few days a week. Who wouldn’t go back to that?

But as fate would have it I never returned. I suffered the consequences of a large company-wide restructuring effort. One day I walked into work and was told my position was no longer needed. After twelve years with the company that was the end of that.

My lay off was a blessing in disguise. I no longer needed to feel torn about staying home versus returning to work. My company didn’t provide maternity leave, but they did pay me in the form of a six month severance check.

I lined up a job that was set to begin when my son turned six months, but as the months came and went I still didn’t feel ready to return to my old cubicle life.

As the due date for my second child approaches I think a lot about the circumstances that brought me to where I am today. I completely understand why employers can’t retain a new mom’s position indefinitely. I also understand the turmoil and inner struggle of women who just want a little more time with their babies.

March 4, 2015 at 4:21 PM 2 comments

Odds, Ends and Other Such Things


A spattering of financial thoughts rolling around in my brain:

  1. Next month will start the four year countdown of our primary mortgage!
  2. My family hosted a surprise sprinkle for baby #2 after all. Despite saying that gifts weren’t necessary everyone brought something and yes I felt guilty for each of the gifts we received. Having said that I am glad we celebrated the new addition to our family. Only family and very close friends attended and there was so much love!
  3. Our insurance plan changed in December and I can’t seem to find out how much we’ll owe for labor and delivery. We still owe $1,000 of our $3,000 deductible, but after that it’s very unclear if we’ll owe a percentage of coinsurance and/or co-pays. I’ve decided not to worry about it for now.
  4. Although buying in bulk saves us a lot of money I’m considering ditching those giant containers of coconut oil, ketchup and salad dressing. We gave up a lot of storage space when we remodeled our basement and I just don’t have the room to store those gargantuan plastic bottles. I’d like to perform a little cost analysis to see how much money those bulk containers save.
  5. After complaining about the price of bowling with a toddler I found a great Groupon deal at AMF locations. Just click the Groupon link and then type AMF to view the deal.
  6. I haven’t made any progress on preparing meals in advance of baby #2’s arrival. I just don’t seem to have the motivation or desire to work on this goal, which means we’ll probably rely on more fast food and takeout than I’d prefer. I need to get over the guilt or move into action, but neither seems to be happening.
  7. Snow, sickness and general lethargy have let a few high-value store coupons go to waste in the last few weeks. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but surely I could have spent those $5 coupons on something; socks at Kohl’s and soap at CVS.

March 3, 2015 at 5:12 PM 3 comments

Keep Your Car Smelling Fresh with Febreze ($25 Gift Card Giveaway)

FebrezeThough its been a few weeks since contractors finished remodeling our house the basement still smells new.  When my son’s friends come over to play in the morning the moms all comment on the smell of freshly cut wood.  I know this scent won’t last forever, but I sure wish it could.

It’s like the smell of a new car. You open the door, slip behind the steering wheel and absorb that scent of fresh leather. As time goes on you can still smell a little bit of that new aroma and then one day you jump into your car and realize its gone. Unfortunately, its typically replaced by something much less pleasant.

Our car is particularly stinky after the six hour drive from Maryland to North Carolina. I can’t exactly describe the foul odor. I suppose it’s some combination of fast food, sneakers and plain old sitting-in-the-car-for-six-hours stink.

I typically air the car out the day after we arrive. I roll down all the windows and hope some of that salty ocean air will permeate the seats and dashboard. When that doesn’t work I run into the laundry room and grab two dryer sheets and proceed to tuck them in between the sun visors and the roof of the car. The problem with this solution is that the sheets fall out any time you actually need to shield your eyes from the sun, which is not exactly ideal.

I figured there was a better solution to keeping my car smelling fresh and clean without having to roll down the windows for hours on end or use products from my laundry room, but I didn’t know what to try. Eons ago I used those Christmas tree shaped air fresheners that hung from the rear view mirror, but I never liked the way they rocked back and forth when the car moved and I always thought the scent just out of the package was much too potent.

Three Pack

It turns out there is a better solution to covering up the unpleasant odors that build up in your vehicle. Febreze Car Vent Clips attach easily and work immediately. Unlike those old hanging air fresheners you can select the level of scent intensity. You can dial up the notch to produce a lot of fragrance or dial it down for a subtle aroma.  When you adjust the dial to a lower intensity the clip will last for a longer period of time, typically up to thirty days.

While I want to cover up any unpleasant odors in the car I don’t like overpowering scents. In fact, around the house I typically use fragrance free products. I like being able to adjust the intensity of aroma. I want a subtle clean smell, not an overpowering, spritzed by the perfume girl in the makeup department scent.

Unlike my dryer sheet solution these clips attach securely to the vents in your dashboard. Once installed they stay in place until you remove them. I suggest attaching them to a vent that you don’t adjust often. I put mine in the middle most vent of the dashboard, which we never seem to move.

Febreze Car Vent Clips are a great way to keep your car smelling fresh and clean. In fact, if you love that new car smell as much as I do you can buy a clip with the New Car Scent.

Find Febreze Vent Car Clips at your local Walmart and take freshness on the go. They last up to 30 days and help you take the comfort of a fresh-smelling home on the road. Look for a buy-one-get-one free offer in the 3/1 Sunday brandSAVER available at Walmart.


SheSpeaks would like to provide one lucky winner with a $25 Walmart gift card to use towards the purchase of Febreze Vent Car Clips or anything else you might desire.

Enter to win by leaving a comment below. Tell me about the longest amount of time you’ve been stuck in a smelly car, what you do to prevent odors on long road trips or a time you accidentally forgot something smelly (gym clothes, fast food wrappers) in your vehicle. A winner will be selected on March 20th!

A winner was drawn and the random number selected was #36! Congratulations Lucy.

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Febreze.

March 3, 2015 at 11:03 AM 43 comments

Time for Our Annual Financial Meeting

200547695-003Way back in March of 2006 I read The Family CFO and subsequently asked my husband if he’d like to sit down for an in-depth meeting to discuss our current finances as well as our short and long term goals.

At the time I took this task very seriously. I created an agenda and followed the step-by-step process outlined in the book.

Here is the agenda from our first meeting:

  • Review Net Worth Report
  • Review Cash Flow Report
  • Discuss Major Expenditures
  • Discuss Insurance
  • Discuss Expected Tax Bill/Rebate
  • Discuss Plan for Excess Cash (ex. CD – 1 year, 6 month, etc)
  • Discuss Goals/Accomplishments from the previous year
  • Exercise
    • Write & Share Goals
      • Ex. Retire @ 50
      • Return to College
      • Replace Furniture
    • Assign a Time Frame to Each Goal
      • 1 – 5 years
      • 10+ years
      • 30 years
    • Rank Goals
  • Discuss Options to Achieve Goals

While we consistently held these annual meetings for years, and updated our goals and progress, we dropped the ball starting shortly after my son was born. With the addition of baby #2 later this month my husband thought we should schedule another meeting. It’s time to look at the calendar and set a date.

I plan to gather all of our paperwork and hopefully use a prepaid restaurant gift certificate to eat dinner while discussing our finances. It will be good to get on the same page before the newborn chaos begins!

March 1, 2015 at 6:50 PM Leave a comment

Mom Should Look Good Too!

Being a mother can be taxing. Although motherhood is wonderful, caring for your children becomes the number one priority and it’s hard to make time for yourself. Moms barely have time to sit down so shopping for a new wardrobe seems nearly impossible, and plus new clothes are expensive.

Luckily though, there are many clothing stores that feature deals and coupons that can all be accessed easily online. Moms can now shop while at home caring for their kids and save money at the same time- the ultimate form of multitasking.

One of the best places to find a myriad of coupons is through Groupon Coupons. An online coupon database through Groupon, Groupon Coupon features thousands of new coupons from a variety of stores daily that appeal to the masses. Most of the best deals come from clothing stores too. Nordstrom is always featuring some great sales, particularly for designer women’s clothes, making it fiscally possible to stay fashionable as a mom.

Of course, as a mom, you have to take care of the family as well, but with Groupon Coupons, there are great deals to cater to the family too. For the younger kids there are stores such a Gymboree, for the teens there’s American Eagle, and Kohl’s for the whole family.

Take some time for yourself Moms, you deserve it. There’s nothing wrong with getting a whole new wardrobe it will make you look and feel better. And after all, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

March 1, 2015 at 4:50 PM Leave a comment

Book Review: Aoléon The Martian Girl: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Saga – Part 3: The Hollow Moon

Aoleon The Martian Girl Part Three

Book Description:

Spying on the Luminon, Aoléon and Gilbert uncover his plot to steal Earth’s milk cows and make the disturbing discovery that the Martian leader plans to disrupt Mars’s galact supply. The duo races to warn Aoléon’s father, Deimos, a manager at the galactworks, before the Luminon’s saboteur can act.While still on the run, Aoléon takes her pilot’s exam so she can join the Martian intergalactic exploration fleet. However, during the test-run, something goes horribly wrong. The two are put in a life-threatening situation and only Bizwat, Aoléon’s Procyon commando friend, can save them.Gilbert finally gets his chance to learn to skyboard, but the lesson turns into a test of skill as he and Aoléon are chased by the Royal Paladin Guard.Will they survive?

Don’t miss this exciting part 3 of 5 of the middle-grade sci-fi series Aoleon The Martian Girl.

My Thoughts:

If you thought part one and two of Aoléon The Martian Girl series contained a lot of action and excitement just wait until you jump in to part three! The story of Gilbert and Aoléon’s adventure continues as they use a device provided by Bizwat, (a super-elite member of the Martian commando unit who just happens to disguise himself as a pizza delivery guy), to hack through security systems and deactivate force fields. With the force field deactivated they climb through an air duct and overhear Luminon’s plans to steal Earth’s cows. It seems the Martian leader hopes to attain absolute power by conquering Earth and acquiring its precious milk supply.

Luminon plans to cause an accident at Galactworks that would disrupt the flow of galactmilk. With production halted Martians will begin to starve. As the shortage of milk continues Luminon believes the Martians will be easily convinced to look for alternative sources for sustenance. The Martians will look for milk wherever they can find it and Luminon believes it will not be difficult to persuade the Martian population to invade Earth and steal Earth’s dairy cows.

Gilbert and Aoléon race to Galactworks to warn Aoléon’s father, Deimos, of this devious plan. The action continues as they do their best to avoid danger while trying to save Gilbert’s home planet.

I enjoyed reading part three of this series just as much as parts one and two. The story is quite approachable for middle-school aged children, (the intended audience of this series), as the story of stealing cows is easy to understand and relate to without being too scary.

The images and graphics once again bring the story to life before the reader’s eyes. The pictures of the bad guys like Luminon help the reader visualize this foreign world while the pictures of Gilbert and Aoléon racing to save Earth make you feel the flurry of action that helps keep the story moving at a rapid pace.

Although this story is intended for a middle-school audience it has certainly captured my attention. The language is easy to read and absorb and the pace of the story enables you to read it from cover to cover in just over an hour!

Disclosure of Material: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

March 1, 2015 at 9:00 AM Leave a comment

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