"healthy skin"

 

We all want to stay looking young, right? I’m in my mid-to late thirties, and I constantly get comments on how much younger than that I look. I think I’ve done a great job of taking care of myself and staying healthy (or maybe people are just being nice, who knows). I’ve put together a list of the top things I do to maintain young looking, healthy skin. Most of them are free (and save you money!), but I found frugal solutions to the ones that aren’t.  So without any further ado, here are my top tips for healthy skin.

Top Tips For Healthy Skin

Free and Money Saving Tips

 

1.  Don’t Smoke

Seriously, smoking is probably the worst thing you can do for your skin and your health. I don’t know the chemical reasons why, but people who smoke always seem to look about ten years older than people who don’t. It’s also terrible for your health in general. If you haven’t tried it yet, don’t. There are no advantages to smoking. If you are a smoker and want to quit, try some of these smoking cessation products. Your skin (and the rest of your body!) will thank you. (Disclaimer: I’ve never smoked, so I’ve never used any of these products. I’m just trying to help!)

Smoking is also crazy expensive. People spend five bucks a day on a pack of cigarettes! That’s insane! Five dollars a day every year is $1825. That can buy you a trip to Europe, or it can be invested for your future. Quitting smoking will save your skin and be better for your wallet.

 

2.  Stay out of the Sun or use Sunscreen

All the fun things are outdoors. But unfortunately, the sun’s rays can have disastrous effects on our skin. According to WebMD, exposure to the sun is the leading cause of wrinkles and sunspots. It can also lead to serious health problems such as skin cancer!

However, being outside is sometimes unavoidable. I like to wear a fun sun hat when I’m outside to shield my face from the most dangerous rays (They are also quite fashionable! So I’ve been told. I don’t understand fashion). It’s also essential that you wear sunscreen whenever you are going to be outside for extended periods.

 

3.  Minimize Alcohol Use

Sure, I have a tasty drink every now and again. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a delicious adult beverage, in moderation. But I have seen the affects that prolonged alcohol use can have on someone’s skin, and it’s not pretty. I used to date a serious alcoholic, and after a night of heavy drinking my thirty-year-old boyfriend would look like he was in his sixties. That’s just from being drunk one night!  it wasn’t that drastic over the course of many years, but it was still noticeable. Drinking heavily is definitely not good for your skin or for your overall health.

 

4.  Don’t wear a Lot of Make-up

When I was little, my dad told me that wearing make up would destroy my face. He said women don’t need to wear make up to be beautiful, and if you wear too much you end up needing it. That may very well have been the case in the eighties and early nineties, but today there are lots of make-up options that are neutral or even beneficial for your skin.

I don’t wear a lot of make-up and I think my skin looks pretty good. However, I’m not going to tell anyone not to wear make-up. You should do what makes you happy. If wearing make up makes you feel beautiful, wear all the make-up you want. My best advice is to use the good products that hydrate your skin while you wear it.  

 

5.  Work Out!

Yeah, I hate exercise too. But it’s one of the best ways to stay healthy and young looking, and not just in the face! It keeps your entire body fit and healthy.

It is really good for your skin though. According to WebMD(I like Web MD because I know it’s reputable!), increasing your blood flow (like when you work out) helps nourish skin cells and keeps them healthy. The increased blood flow also helps remove waste products. The end result is clean, glowing skin. So get your sweat on!

 

6.  Stay Hydrated

A lot of aging issues are caused by dehydration. If you don’t drink enough water, your body will take it from the organs that don’t need it to survive. One of the first organs on the chopping block: your skin. So make sure you are drinking a few glasses of water throughout the day. It will keep your body hydrated and your skin glowing.

Not So Free, but Frugal!

These first six tips are all very easy, and some of them actually save you money!  How much more frugal can you get? These next three tips are facial products that I personally use which I think have really helped me keep young, healthy looking skin. You can get them all at Amazon, or you can pick them up on your next Target run! You can also ignore them and tell me what your favorite products are in the comments.

 

7.  Toner

My aunt got my hooked on using toner after I wash my face. Apparently, washing alone doesn’t get all the gunk and junk off your face. After you dry, take a cotton ball and dip it in toner, then rub it on your face. You will see all the yucky stuff that the toner gets up! It’s really kind of gross. I use Neutrogena’s Alcohol-Free Toner(because alcohol can dry you out!) This stuff is also super cheap, it’s only six bucks on Amazon! And one bottle generally lasts me about a year.

 

8.  Fight Acne

Another huge barrier to healthy skin is acne. I am thirty-five freaking years old, I should not be having to deal with acne at my age!  But unfortunately, I am. I’ve tried so many different over the counter cleaners, lotions, pastes, and scrubs to control my acne, but I finally found one that works for me.

I use Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 every morning after I wash and tone my face. It’s a 10% benzoyl peroxide formula and it has worked wonders on my acne!  I still get the occasional blemish, but it’s not nearly as bad as it has been. This is the most expensive skin care product that I use, it can cost up to twenty bucks  for four 1 ounce tubes on Amazon. But, I only use a small amount each day, so each tube lasts for about six months. My cleaner, clearer skin is definitely worth that.

 

 

9.  Moisturize

Moisturizing goes hand in hand with staying hydrated. A good facial moisturizer will freshen your skin and won’t leave it greasy.  I never used to use it because every single moisturizer I ever tried to use either caused more problem with acne or left my skin dry and itchy.

My best friend in the whole world on the other hand, always has the freshest, healthiest skin of anyone I’ve ever known. I caught her moisturizing one day and asked what she used. As it turns out, she uses a very common brand that can be found at Target and Amazon, Alba Botanica Hawaiian Oil-Free Moisturizer, Aloe & Green Tea, 3 oz.. I always use the oil free, because my skin is prone to acne. It’s only 11 bucks for a small jar, which lasts me about a year. Talk about a frugal win!

 

What are your tips?

So there you have it folks, my nine frugal tips to healthy skin. I am by no means a dermatologist, but these are the products and tips that have worked for me. I am not being sponsored by any of these products/companies; however the Amazon links are affiliate links. These are the products that have worked for me, and that is why I am recommending them. I would love to hear about what you use to maintain healthy skin as well!

And since we are on the subject of skin care, I need some help! The one thing that I still haven’t been able to figure out is how to minimize the dark circles under my eyes. If anyone has a frugal product they recommend on how to best deal with these, I’d love to hear it!

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I love playing video games. In fact, one of the things I want to do when I achieve financial independence is to become a Twitch affiliate, and make some extra cash streaming my favorite games. That’s the dream for lots of us, isn’t it? I don’t have a lot of free time to work on this side passion right now, but luckily, it’s my boyfriend’s number one side project, so I get to ride his coattails and dabble in it while he takes it seriously!  Yay for having a partner!

What is Twitch?

I know a lot of you are into finance and not so much gaming (Hey, I can have layers, right?) so let me briefly explain Twitch.  Twitch is an online gaming platform that allows you to watch other people play games. It also allows you to stream when you play, so others can watch you. Streaming is all the rage in the gaming world, it’s a great way to connect with people who like similar games.  It’s a lot of fun too!

Lots of gamers also make money on Twitch. There are even a few big shots who stream video games as a full-time job! (living the dream there, right!). The first step to making money on Twitch is becoming a Twitch Affiliate.

What are the Requirements to be a Twitch Affiliate?

Twitch has a few requirements you have to meet before you can become an affiliate.  You have to stream for at least 500 minutes per thirty-day period (that’s a little over 8 hours a month) with at least seven unique broadcast periods. That means you can’t stream once per month for 8 hours and call it a day, you have to stream at least 7 days per month. It’s not just about time though, Twitch needs to make sure people are watching you before they let you become an affiliate. You need to have an average of three or more viewers per thirty-day period and you need to have at least 50 followers on the platform. This all seems incredibly daunting, but it’s totally doable!

 

"twitch requirements"

 

How Do I Become a Twitch Affiliate?

Dedication – Putting in the Hours

The first step to becoming a Twitch affiliate is actually streaming on Twitch. This can take a lot of time and dedication.

Time

The biggest hurdle for me to become a Twitch affiliate is time. I can’t find seven days a month to dedicate a few hours to streaming. But my boyfriend can! Since gaming is his passion, he dedicates the same amount of time to it as I dedicate to blogging. He put in over twenty hours of streaming during his first thirty days on the platform. You need that type of dedication if you want to achieve affiliation.

Putting in a lot of time can also hurt your chances of Twitch affiliation. Streaming for 100 hours with no viewers is going to hurt your average (remember you need 3!). So if you have having an off night with no viewers, it might be better to turn the stream off. 

Timing

The time of day that you stream is very important too.  He works nights, so he could easily stream during the day while I’m at work. But unfortunately, most of the people who would want to watch his streams are at work/school during this time. You have to stream when your audience is free to watch. In order to meet his audience at the right time, he streams at night after I have gone to bed, which is usually around 11 pm our time. The great thing is that we are on the East Coast of the US, so most of the country is still awake.  Once a week, I try to stream with him. When I play with him, we get online a little earlier so that our friends in the UK can stop by and hang out with us. Like I said, it’s important to stream when people are available to watch.

Schedule

Streaming is a lot like blogging in that you need consistency in order to keep your audience. If you stop streaming for three weeks, people are going to stop following you. You need to stream regularly, and unfortunately that makes streaming feel even more like job. Blogging is easier in that regard, because if I don’t feel like writing on Wednesday, I can do it on Thursday and no one will know the difference. It’s a bit more flexible.

If you want to be a Twitch affiliate, you have to stick to a schedule. Obviously, life comes first though. These past few weeks were a bit hard on Brian, because his days off got switched so he had to adjust his streaming schedule. That’s ok!  It’s ok to change things up when life happens, but maintaining a schedule is the best way to keep your regular followers happy.

 

Pro Tip 1: Be Entertaining!! Brian is Hilarious!

Getting People to Come

Ok, so you put in all this time and have a set schedule, now what?  One of the hardest things to do is to get people to stop by your stream. There are so many gamers on Twitch that it is hard to stand out.  You may have the most entertaining stream on the planet, but if people don’t know about it, they aren’t going to watch.

Social Media

The best way to advertise your stream is through social media. We primarily used Twitter, because it’s the easiest platform to connect with like-minded people and create a community. The Twitter gaming community has been fantastic! Both Brian and I have made awesome streamer friends on Twitter, and they are some of the most supportive people I’ve had the pleasure of engaging with. They are highly entertaining too!

If you are trying to become a Twitch Affiliate, you need to be on Twitter. You can share your Twitch link, advertise when you are streaming, and make friends who will want to support you. It’s an all-around win for everyone! There is no way that Brian would have become a Twitch affiliate so quickly without the help of Twitter.  Shameless plug:  If you are on Twitter but struggling with engagement, check out my guide on how to gain 500 Twitter followers in one month, it will show you how to build an engaged Twitter community (also feel free to reach out to me for advice, you can find me here!).

I’m sure you can advertise through the other big social media sites, particularly Facebook and Instagram, but outside of sharing a link to our friends on Facebook, we haven’t really explored those platforms yet. If you have a lot of gamer friends on those, it wouldn’t hurt to share your links whenever you play.

 

Pro Tip 2: Advertise!  People Need To Find Your Stream!

Game Choice

Another great way to get people to check out your stream is by choosing the right games to play. You will want to play something that’s popular, but not so popular that everyone else is streaming it. Right now, everyone is playing and streaming fortnight, so it might be hard to get noticed as a small streamer. There’s too much competition.  

But you also don’t want to play a game that nobody cares about. The one time I tried streaming on own account I played Bubble Bobble, an old school regular Nintendo game that hardly anyone has ever heard of. Nobody is searching for Bubble Bobble, nobody wants to watch someone play a game that they don’t know. I had a big fat zero viewers.

You need to find a balance between these two extremes. Brian played a lot of Dead Cells during his first thirty days. It’s a newer, popular game with a lot of action. But it isn’t so popular that you can’t be found by people who are interested in that game. It worked out, as he managed to average a few viewers per stream.

Keeping your viewers

Alright, so you are streaming a lot and getting people to stop by. Great! Now the last step is keeping them! How do you get people to stay and watch your stream? How do you keep your average viewer count up?

Be Personable

The first step is to be personable. I know it can be super awkward to talk to yourself, but you have to power through. No one is going to stay and watch you quietly play a game. They want to hear your voice! Talk about what you are doing in the game and why, talk about your day, tell jokes, have fun!  That’s why everyone is there. Brian is incredibly high energy so this comes easily to him. He can tell stories and entertain himself all day long, and that tends to keep his viewers entertained. It might take some practice and some stepping out of your comfort zone, but it will be worth it.

Engage with your chat

People really like to be seen and heard. One of the best ways to get someone who is just checking you out to stay is to talk to them. When someone new joins your stream, say “hi” and thank them for joining.  Monitor the chat, ask your viewers questions, have them help you while you are playing the game. Make friends with your viewers and your followers. They are much more likely to stay and to come back if they feel a personal connection with you. And you get to make new friends in the process!  Everyone wins.

Party Games

Another great way to get your viewers involved is to play party games. They can play along with you! We love to play Jackbox, which is an assortment of short party games that anyone can play along with via cell phone. This is a great way to engage with viewers. It gives you something to talk about and keeps them involved at the same time.

Obviously, you don’t want to only play party games. You want to play your favorite games. But having a party game session every now and again is a great way to mix things up and make new friends. We’ve had people come and join us just because we were playing Jackbox who decided to follow and come watch us play different games. They stayed because we followed the other two rules above, we were personable and engaging while playing the other games. We treat everyone who watches like friends who are in the same room with us.

Pro Tip 3: Be Supportive!  People Will Help You if You Help Them!

Be Supportive

Twitch, like blogging, is not just a one man show. It’s a community. One of the best things you can do to gain and keep followers is to support other streamers. Follow other streamers on Twitch, engage with their chats, and retweet their links when they are streaming. Doing these things will not only make you feel good (because it’s always nice to help others) but it will come back to you as well. Support others and they will support you. Make friends with others in the community and they will support you.

I think one of the main reasons that Brian achieved affiliation is quickly is because of how supportive he is. He is constantly on Twitter engaging with his streamer friends, even when he doesn’t have time to stream. He makes sure that he hosts his Twitter friends on his channel when he isn’t playing.  In addition, he follows people and watches their streams.  He’s a great Twitch friend to have, and his quickly growing community proves it.

Give yourself a head start

The last thing you can do to reach affiliate status in thirty days is give yourself a tiny little boost. Brian and I both have twitch accounts, so whenever he was streaming, my tablet was signed into my account and it was watching him as a follower. That counts as one of the three average views you need to reach affiliation.

It also helps in another important way. Humans are naturally drawn to groups. Someone who is just browsing is way more likely to check out a stream that already has viewers than one that has no viewers. It’s just human nature.

You can also ask any gamer friends you have to come hang out with you while you play. Brian’s best friend enjoys playing games as well, and will often come over and hang out while he plays. And you guessed it, his phone is usually on, signed into his Twitch account, and following along. He’s engaging in with the chat while also hanging out with Brian. He’s also providing additional entertainment to the online viewers. Don’t be afraid to invite your real-life friends over for a night of gaming, and have them follow along on your Twitch account. It will definitely boost your viewership and be a more entertaining stream for your viewers.

You Can Do It

Becoming a Twitch affiliate is hard work, but as I said before it is doable. If you follow these guidelines, you will get there in about thirty days. If you need any more advice, feel free to reach out to Brian on Twitter, he’s always willing to help smaller streams gain their affiliations. Let’s Partner together to be Twitch affiliates!

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As you know from my post about having adult conversations before moving in together, I’m all about getting difficult conversations out of the way before they are 100% necessary. So of course we would have plenty of conversations before having kids! We already had quite a few talks about what our lives would look like with children and how we would raise them.

Childcare Vs Stay at Home Parent

Given that childcare is one of the biggest contributors to the outrageous cost of having children, our first conversation was about whether one of us should be a stay at home parent.

The first thing to consider is whether it would make financial sense for one of us to stay home. With daycare costs averaging over $900 per month in the United States (and being higher in cities!) one of us could end up working just to pay for the daycare!

But there are more things to consider than just the financial. First, we would have to think about what’s best for the baby. I would assume that a parent would be more attentive to the baby than a day care worker, but maybe we could find a super awesome daycare. And, the child might miss out on some early socialization with children its own age if one of us stays home.

Another consideration is whether whoever stays home with the baby will be fulfilled in doing that. I wouldn’t want either of us to be miserable. I make more money than my boyfriend does and my job provides much better benefits. It would make more financial sense for him to stay home than for me to stay home.

But would he be happy staying home? This is something that we have discussed at length. He does love streaming video games, and being a stay at home dad would give him an opportunity to grow his audience even more. He’s more than willing to give it a try, and we are both understand that it’s something we will have to continuously readdress to make sure we are both happy. If it turns out that he hates it, we can make other arrangements.

Priorities

Many relationships suffer after having kids. There’s suddenly this brand-new person who basically requires all of your time and energy. We understand that the first year will be hard, because obviously the baby won’t be able to take care of itself. But we also understand that we have to prioritize our relationship.

I think a lot of parents get their priorities wrong. A lot of parents prioritize the kid’s needs, kid’s wants, parent’s needs, then parent’s wants. I don’t think it’s intentional.  It’s just as easy to get the child’s needs and wants confused as it is to get our own needs and wants confused.

We are going to make a concentrated effort to adjust our priorities. Our goal is to have our priority order more like this: child’s needs, parent’s needs, parent’s wants, child’s wants. We know it will be difficult, but I think it will ensure that we continue to have a healthy and happy relationship. And I think that is important for the kid’s sense of stability. A child needs to see a healthy relationship between his parents more than he needs to be coddled. At least that’s my opinion, and that is what we are going to strive for.

Discipline and Parenting Styles

It’s important that you and your partner are on the same page in regards to parenting styles. Is one of you going to be a helicopter parent while the other is more hands off? What will the rules be as the children age? How much independence are you comfortable giving them? These are things that should be discussed before having kids.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to have children is because lots of parents treat their kids like best friends, and don’t want to be the bad guy. This is not going to fly with me! I will not raise my kids to be entitled spoiled little brats who think the world revolves around them. I will also not raise my kids to be helpless. You hear horror stories of mothers going to job interviews for their kids, or still doing their laundry when they are in their twenties; and that just isn’t going to happen. I am going to be more of a free-range parent, and teach my kids independence from an early age. Luckily, my boyfriend feels the same way. We know we are going to have to adjust as the kids grow up, but I think having a game plan beforehand will make things go smoother.

Religion, Values, and Morals

I am not a religious person, and neither is my boyfriend. So, we already know that we won’t be raising our children with any religious affiliation. But what if you and your partner come from different religious backgrounds? Will you expose the children to both or will you choose one? This is an important thing to talk about before having kids.

We both want to raise our children to be good, kind people. You don’t need religion for that. We will show them by example that being compassionate and caring is the way to go, even if you don’t get anything in return.

We do differ on our political affiliations, he is a conservative country boy while I’m a liberal city girl (It’s funny to label ourselves that way, but we both lean more towards center). We both want our children to grow up thinking for themselves though. We want to provide them with the relevant information and show them how to look critically at both sides. We don’t want them to be sheep, voting for a party just because we do.

What Else should we discuss before having kids?

Obviously thinking about what we need to talk about before having kids is brand new to me. Outside of these things, I don’t have a clue! Help me out!  What am I missing? Am I way off base? What do we need to talk about before getting pregnant? Are there any disagreements that you and your partner have had that you wish you would have resolved before having kids?  Did anything pop up that you didn’t expect at all? Let me know in the comments, so we can have that adult conversation before trying for a baby!

 

 

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"biological children"

 The thought of not being able to have biological children has been weighing heavily on me since I made the decision that I want to have kids. What if I can’t? What if I waited too long, and now the window is closed? I know I can’t know the answer to that until I try; and I know I’m not ready to try, but I kind of want to try to know if I can. Does that make sense?

Why I may not be able to have biological children

Age

I’m worried that I’m getting too old to have healthy children. This is one of the driving forces for me wanting to start now even though I know we aren’t ready. I’m not getting any younger. At 35 (almost 36) I’m way too close to the age where any pregnancy will be a high-risk pregnancy. I’m also at the tail end of my most fertile years. According to USA today, as women reach age 35 and beyond, it gets harder and harder to conceive. And according to Baby Center, a whopping two thirds of women over forty have fertility issues! 

I know the older I get the harder it will be to conceive. I’m lucky (and thankful) that I changed my mind about it before the window was closed for good.

PCOS

But wait, there’s more!  Age isn’t my only issue. I have also been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects a women’s reproductive system. It affects the ovaries’ ability to produce and release eggs. Most women with PCOS, even young women, have trouble conceiving because our ovaries don’t produce monthly eggs the way that healthy ovaries do. It’s sporadic at best.  And because eggs aren’t being produced, many women can go months without menstruating.

Fortunately for me (I think) I’ve always had fairly regular periods.  The longest I’ve had to wait is about 2 weeks. I’m hoping this means that my ovaries do regularly produce eggs, even though they have the little cysts in them. But it’s also possible that I’m one of the unlucky few who gets periods but no eggs. If I’m not going to get eggs, I’d rather skip the period all together.

 

                                                                                     

Other Options

Fortunately, there are plenty of options available for people who struggle with fertility. Fertility treatments and in-vitro fertilization are available to help people have biological children, while adoption and fostering help people who can’t have biological children have families. I’ve given thought to all of these options. 

Fertility Treatments

Fertility treatments are going to be my number one option. My doctor said that the majority of patients with PCOS can get pregnant with basic fertility treatments. I’m hoping that if I can’t get pregnant naturally, I will be able to get pregnant with the help of fertility drugs. I’ll just have to take a pill regularly, and as a bonus my insurance should cover the bulk of the cost. It’s easy and affordable, so hopefully if I have trouble conceiving, it will be fixed with these treatments.

 

                                                                                       

In-Vitro Fertilization

If fertility treatments don’t work, I could also opt for In-Vitro Fertilization. They harvest eggs and sperm, make embryos in a petri dish, and then implant these embryos back into the uterus. The technology behind In-Vitro has really come a long way, and tons of people get positive results.

The big disadvantage to In-Vitro is that it’s still very expensive. One In-Vitro session can cost between 12 and 15 thousand dollars! And unfortunately, most insurance companies don’t cover it. Honestly, I don’t think I would pay that much money for the chance of having a biological baby. If my insurance covered most of the cost, I might give it a try, but it isn’t something that I would pay out of pocket for. Raising kids is crazy expensive as it is, I don’t want to add an extra twelve grand on top of that!

Non Biological Children

Given all of the above, I may not be able to have biological children. But there are still options for being a parent!

Adoption

The first option everyone turns to when they find that they can’t have biological children is adoption. Many want-to-be parents want a baby to take care of, and adoption is the best option for this. Unfortunately, adopting a baby is just as expensive (sometimes even more so!) as In-Vitro, and has a lot more hoops.

 

                                                                                       

 

If I were to chose adoption, I think I’d try to adopt an older child in need of a good home. Adopting an older child out of the foster system is the least expensive option.

 

Fostering

Given that, I think I would chose fostering over adoption if I couldn’t have biological children. Foster children have things rough. Their parents might be in jail, or on drugs, or abusive, or negligent. Their situations are usually very sad. But it’s these kids that need the love of a stable parent the most. These kids need guidance and support to prevent them from going down the same path that their biological parents went down.  I also think I would have the opportunity to help more children if I became a foster parent than if I adopted.

Don’t get me wrong, I know this is the more difficult path. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it will be to love and protect a child, and then have to watch them return to their abusers. However, if I can provide just a few months of stability, a few months of love, and a few months of showing a child that the world can be better, it will be worthwhile. And maybe I can end up adopting some children out of the foster system. Hey, I might even foster some kids if I can have biological children.

 

                                                                                    

 

What are your thoughts on being unable to have biological children? If you’ve had experience with this issue, I’d love to hear your story!

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Ok, so I missed one very important reason for being childfree in my last post, and that’s the insane cost of having children. It’s alright though, I did it on purpose! The exorbitant cost of having children deserves it’s own post.

Kids are expensive!

I mean like, really, really super expensive!  According to the latest data, the cost of raising a kid is approximately $233,610. And that doesn’t even include college! That breaks down to a little less than $14000 per year. That’s a lot of money, especially when you have other financial obligations.

Childcare

The bulk of this outrageous cost of having kids is childcare. This cost can vary wildly by state and by metropolitan area, but the variation tends to follow variations in minimum wage and income, so families everywhere are feeling the crunch. Childcare costs around $500 per month in Alabama, and almost $1000 in California, on average. In a lot of places, childcare is more expensive than rent!

No wonder so many families opt to have one parent stay home with the children while the other works. A second income would barely cover the cost of childcare in many cases. Some families are lucky in that they have a grandparent other family member that can help with the childcare while both parents work, but I always knew I would never be able to depend on my family for that. If I had a kid, I’d have to figure out how to balance working with caring for her. This is something that my boyfriend and I will need to discuss when the time comes.

Hospital Bills

Birthing children is expensive too, and apparently hospitals even charge you to hold your own baby! All jokes aside though, the physical act of having a baby can cost anywhere from $6000 to $70,000!!  That doesn’t even include caring for the infant after birth! I have decent insurance through my work, so this shouldn’t be too much of a burden for me, but not everyone is as fortunate as I am. And they wonder why so many people are turning to mid wives and home births.

But hospital expenses don’t end with the birth. Kids get sick. A lot. They run into stuff and bang their heads open. The eat things they shouldn’t be eating. They fall down. And most parents would rather be safe than sorry, so they bite the bullet and take their kids to the hospital when these things happen. Hello hospital bills. 

"cost of having children"

Stuff and Things

Kids need stuff too. Lots of stuff. First, they are going to need the basics: food, clothing, diapers etc. But they are also going to need furniture and cribs and bottles and bibs and toys and educational stuff and probably a million other things that I haven’t even thought of. And they grow so quickly!  I haven’t bought myself new clothes in years, but I’d have to buy a baby new clothes every few months!  That can really add up.

Then they need to go to school, so you have to buy them all their school supplies. And you don’t want your kid to be an outcast, so you have to buy them decent clothing by the time they are school-aged. They will probably also join a few after school clubs and activities, so they will need all the appropriate equipment and gear for that.  I’m hoping my kids join the chess club; a chess board is way cheaper than sports equipment or musical instruments.

Travel/Vacations

As you all know, I love to travel, especially to exotic locations. Airfare for one is bad enough, could you imagine having to pay for three seats on an international flight?  My travel budget wouldn’t be able to handle it! I know a lot of people don’t take this into consideration when thinking about the cost of having children, but honestly it was one of my reasons for remaining child free. But I decided to really look into the feasibility of traveling with children and read a bunch of blogs from family travel bloggers who are doing just that. If they can find a way I’m sure I can too!

Related: The Exorbitant Cost of Having Adventures

College

I know I don’t technically have to help my kids out with college expenses; student loans and grants exist for a reason. But do I really want to saddle my kid with outrageous debt when they are just starting out in life?  College is crazy expensive, and the cost seems to increase exponentially year after year. By the time my non-existent kids go to college it may be upwards of 100K on average!  I’d definitely encourage my children to explore non-4-year-university options, but if they are hard working with an aptitude for academics, I’d want them to be able to study wherever they chose. Therefore, I’d feel obligated to start a college savings plan for them when they are born, to ensure that they have those options. It’s going to be expensive though.

The exorbitant cost of having children

I know I didn’t cover everything. Random expenses crop up everywhere. Kids need a lot of stuff, and some kids need special attention – tutoring, therapy, private schools, medication, whatever the case may be. But there is no doubt in my mind that having children is insanely expensive. The advantage I have is knowing that and having a stable job to pay for some of it prior to having them. And hopefully, it will be 100% worth the cost.

What did I miss about the cost of having children?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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"childfree"

One of the first things I had to consider when I was changing my mind about having kids is why I was childfree in the first place. It took a lot of soul searching and introspection, but I think I know at least part of the answer.

My Father

I grew up in a lower middle-class household. I had a decent childhood. However, one thing that I will never forget is my father drilling into me (and my siblings!) the idea that having kids would ruin our lives. He had his first kid, my sister, when he was a teenager and had two more kids before he turned thirty. Having us at such a young age did limit him. He wanted to move to California and pursue acting. But he couldn’t do that because he had kids. He wanted to take time from work to write a book. Yet another thing he couldn’t focus on because he had kids.

I know my dad doesn’t regret us. I know he loves us, and didn’t want us to make the same mistakes he did. He wanted better for us. Our dad wanted us to go to college, pursue careers, and enjoy our lives before settling down. He never meant for my sister and I to internalize the idea that having children is the most terrible thing we could ever do. What he actually meant was that having children at a young age could ruin our lives. Unfortunately, that message wasn’t entirely clear, as we both are well into our thirties and terrified that having kids will ruin our lives.

Other Family and Friends

It wasn’t just my parents who had their lives disrupted by having children. Some of my family members and high school friends had kids at fairly young ages as well. It seemed as though everyone who had kids struggled, while everyone who did not have kids did pretty well for themselves. Even as I grew older this seemed to be the case.

 I look at my brother as the best example. We are about the same age, we are both pretty intelligent, both college educated. But he had kids immediately upon graduating college and I did not. He continues to struggle, and I do not. I know that he loves his children dearly, and wouldn’t trade them for anything, but is it really worth the struggle? 

He’s definitely not the only one! I’ve seen other high school friends and family members struggle through life after having kids. To a younger me, it seemed as though my dad was right. Having kids would ruin my life.

The weird thing here is that I also have family and friends who have kids and are doing perfectly fine. They don’t seem to be struggling and they are super happy with their lives and their families. I guess I was always looking for the negative due to my father’s message.

Things I want to do

Outside of the internalized message I heard growing up, I had my own reasons for being childfree. There are so many things that I want to do with my life, so many personal goals that I have, and I think having children could really hinder that. I want to travel, I want to do some crazy adventurous stuff, and I want to live my life to the fullest. Hell, that’s why I’ve been pursuing Financial Independence! There’s so much that I want to do, and I know having children will prevent me from accomplishing all of it. But I’m not going to go into that right now, as my next post will be dedicated to how having children will change my FIRE goals. I will say that having kids may prevent me from doing some of those things, but they also may provide me with experiences that I never even considered.

Viator

On disliking Children

My final reason for being childfree is something that I really had to give a lot of thought too.  I really didn’t like most kids. But as I thought about the reasons why, it turns out that it’s not the children I don’t like, it’s the parents. I’ve seen too many examples of parents letting their kids do whatever they want. I see kids running around tables knocking things over at restaurants and being little jerks to whomever they please. My siblings and I would have never gotten away with acting like that when we were a kids!

 I think some parents view their kids as a friend or an accessory; and therefore, they refuse to discipline or actually parent their child. I’ve seen other parents that are just so worn out from all the struggling that they’ve just given up. Those are usually the parents that had a bunch of kids at a young age. But the more I thought of it, the more I realized that it really is the parents (or parenting style) that I don’t like. In fact, one of my best friends has two young kids, and they are incredibly respectful and well behaved. I like those kinds of kids, and I hope that if I have kids, that’s how I will raise them.

Understanding my Childfree stance

Being introspective really helped me understand where my hesitation to have kids came from. Now I know that I internalized the message that having kids would ruin my life, even though that wasn’t really what my dad was trying to say. I looked for examples that supported my cause rather than looking at the entire picture. I realize that now, and I realize that having kids when you are ready, both financially and emotionally, can make a positive impact on your life.

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"having children"

Child free

As most of you know, I do not have any children. What you might not know is that I’ve never really been inclined to have kids. For most of my adult life, it just wasn’t something that I gave any thought to. However, as I’ve gotten older, I became more and more against the idea of having children. By the time I reached my early thirties, I was adamantly in the child free camp. I even told people how much I disliked kids!

Changing My Mind

But then one day, something peculiar happened. I met my boyfriend’s daughter, and I fell in love. She’s an awesome little girl with a lot of personality and a lot of heart. I also saw how amazing he was with her, and got a taste of what it would be like to be a mother. She even called me mommy! And I’m not going to lie, I liked it. I liked it a lot. I started imagining what it would be like to have my own family, and to raise kids with this awesome dad. It’s something that I couldn’t stop thinking about.

Examining My Feelings

I’m not foolish though, having a kid isn’t something I’d just rush into!  Especially after having been adamant about not wanting kids for so long. I definitely wanted to take some time to examine these new feelings before broaching the subject with my boyfriend. Do I really want my own child or could I be happy having his daughter part time? What about being around her made me want to have kids of my own? Why have I been so opposed to the idea of children?

Also, I had just started a new hormonal birth control, so I wanted to make sure that these new feelings weren’t a weird hormonal thing. I’ve had weird bad reactions to birth control pills in the past, so this definitely wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.  I thought about these questions at length (and had many girl talk sessions with my besties) to be sure that my change of heart was real and for the right reasons.

 

                                               

 

The Talk about having children

After a long examination of my feelings and waiting out changes in my hormones, I broached the topic with my boyfriend. He was shocked to say the least. I had always made it clear to him that I did not want children. However, after the initial shock wore off, he said that he was completely awed at the way I interacted with his daughter. He also thought that I would make a wonderful mother!

His only stipulation is that we get married first, to give our future child(ren) a sense of stability. He hates that his daughter lives so far away, and that he doesn’t get to see her very often. He didn’t want to have more children because he didn’t want to put another child through that separation.

 I totally understand his hesitation on that, and I agree that getting married prior to having children is definitely the way to go (I never said I wanted to have a kid right this second anyway!). I am so glad that I wasn’t afraid to have this adult conversation with him, and that we have an awesome plan for the future now.

Plan for the Future

My boyfriend and I do plan on getting married and having children in the future, but nothing is set in stone. One of us may change our minds again or it may turn out that one of us is infertile. However, right now we are both totally into the idea of having a family. So, in order to celebrate that and to think about all the variables, I am dedicating the rest of this month to blog posts about having children. It’s pretty apt too, since it’s my ninth month blogging (I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried!). This month I’ll be discussing the possibility of not being able to have kids, how kids will change my FIRE goals, why I was so child free in the first place, and any other topics on having children that comes to mind. I hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer

One of the most common complaints I hear from the child free community is that people don’t respect their decision. People constantly belittle them by saying “oh, you will change your mind”. Yes, I was child free and yes I changed my mind. However, the vast majority of child free people do not change their minds, and I don’t want my one anecdotal experience to be used to belittle the life choices of others. So please don’t use my story to tell your child free friends that they will change their minds. They are not me, and they probably won’t. Thanks!

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"epic gardening fails"

One of my goals for 2018 was to start a nice little backyard garden and to start growing my own food. Growing your own food is a wonderful way to reduce your grocery bill and your carbon foot print. I figured it would be an all-around win!

Unfortunately, gardening is not quite as easy as I thought it would be. I failed epically with my garden this spring. Here are my five most epic gardening fails, hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and avoid them!

Epic Gardening Fails

1. Failing to weed

My first epic gardening fail was neglecting my garden. I started out on the right foot…I tilled the land three times (and by I, I mean my boyfriend) and cleared out all the weeds before I planted.  But that was the one and only time that I weeded my garden. Now, the garden is overgrown with weeds and I can hardly even open the gate. The weeds are taller than I am, and the task of weeding just seems insurmountable.  To avoid this mistake, make sure you pull the weeds when they first start growing. It’s infinitely easier to pull tiny weeds than it is to grow you-sized weeds.

2.  Not labeling

I’m not a botanist. So I don’t know why I thought I would know what each plant was once it sprouted. I did not. Is this a cucumber or a zucchini plant? Guess I have to wait until it fruits to find out. Is that jasmine or a weed?  I have no freaking clue! That’s actually one of the reasons I didn’t weed…I wasn’t sure if it was a weed or something I planted intentionally! I don’t even remember whether I planted melons or pumpkins! (As it turns out, they were pumpkins) But still, labeling the areas as I went would have made this a whole lot easier. I would have had a better idea of what was a weed and what each vegetable plant was.

3.  Forgetting about seasons

Melons and Pumpkins usually do better in the fall, so why I thought it was a good idea to plant them in the spring in Southern Georgia is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, the pumpkin plant is doing fantastic! It’s growing some wonderful pumpkins! But what am I going to do with pumpkins at the end of July? I also planted some things that don’t grow so well in insane heat. My carrots never had a chance. But I can always try to plant them again at the end of summer! Pro tip: The back of the seed packet literally tells you when the best time to plant is. Don’t ignore it like I did.

                                                 

4.  Not considering that closely related plants might “hook up”

The one thing my garden produced en masse was zucchini. I grew the biggest, fattest zucchinis that I’ve ever seen in my life!  These suckers were huge!  Some of them were as long as my arm and as thick as a two liter of pop!  Curiously, the seeds in these behemoths were also huge. They almost looked like pumpkin seeds!  And the flesh was a little meatier than a typical zucchini. It didn’t take me long to realize that perhaps I had been growing pumpkin-zucchini hybrids. The zucchini tasted fine though, so maybe this wasn’t as much of a fail as some of my other gardening issues. I just never even though about the possibility of cross-breeding.

5.  Failing to realize how big some plants can get

I fenced off a small area of my back yard for my garden. It’s probably about ten square feet. I figured that was enough space to grow a small variety of garden herbs and vegetables. Unfortunately, I failed to consider how big some of these vegetable plants can get. I also failed to consider that many of them grow out rather than up. I’m pretty sure my two pumpkin plants have overtaken everything else in the garden. It’s actually kind of cute how they grow out their little tendrils and grasp whatever is nearby so that they can continue to expand. I definitely didn’t think they would get that big though. And they definitely plowed over my tomatoes and all of my herbs.

zucchini

Learning from my fails

I didn’t expect to have a perfect garden on my first try. Honestly, I’m just happy that something grew. And those zucchini pumpkin hybrid guys were pretty good! I also learned to prioritize. I don’t really use melons or pumpkins that much, so having them overtake my garden was quite unfortunate. On the other hand, I use herbs, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes all the time. Planting only the veggies that I use regularly would have made the garden way more beneficial.

 Unfortunately, these gardening fails did limit the amount of use I got out of my garden this year. But now that I know what not to do, I think next year’s garden will be much more valuable!

Have you had any epic gardening failures?  I’d love to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with it!

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"adult conversations"

 

As you all read in my post, Making the Decision to Move in Together, my boyfriend and I decided to move in together! It did happen really fast; even though it was longer than either of us ever waited in our previous relationships. We both like to jump right into things!  But I think we both learned from those experiences, and we realized that regardless of how quickly (or slowly!) you move in together, it’s not going to work without having some serious adult conversations.

Adult Conversations

My boyfriend and I had numerous adult conversations before making the final decision to move in together. Although every relationship is different, if you are considering moving in with a significant other, there are some things that you need to talk about first.

Finances

Since Partners in Fire is primarily a finance blog, you all knew I was going to mention discussing finances prior to living together. There is no right or wrong way to mix finances and living expenses, every situation is different and every relationship is different. You may decide on a 50/50 split of everything. Or you may decide that you will split things based on percentages of income. You may even decide to have one person stay home and care for the house/kids while the other works (though I would always caution someone who isn’t working to have a back up plan). The point is, your relationship is your own, and whatever works for you as a couple is great! But what doesn’t work is not discussing it.

Another financial topic that needs to be discussed is what will happen if one of you faces a set-back. Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. People get sick, people lose their jobs, parents need help. Having a plan for how to weather these unexpected events will help ensure that your relationship remains strong in the face of adversity.

 

                                                                 

 

Expectations

Every relationship is different, and everyone will have different expectations, but a common complaint I hear among women is that their boyfriend/husband doesn’t help around the house unless they are specifically told to. I’ve had this problem with boyfriends in the past as well. I actually had the idea for this post because of this very situation!

Post motivation

My sister called me and told me that she and her boyfriend got into a fight because he wasn’t helping her around the house. His argument was that she should just tell him what she needed help with, and he’d do it.   But the thing is, she shouldn’t be responsible for telling him what needs to be done. He doesn’t need her to tell him that the dishwasher needs to be ran; he should just run the dishwasher! Why should she be responsible for managing all of the household chores when they share the house?

I think it’s completely unfair to make one person in charge of knowing what needs to be done at all times and making sure it gets done. We are both adults, we can both be responsible for managing our home. My sister was super impressed with this idea; she (and probably tons of other people!) had never even considered it that way before! She decided that she needed to have this very same conversation with her boyfriend, even though they were already living together. Better late than never though!

Our Conversation

 I had this talk with my boyfriend before we ever even moved in together (and before listening to my sister’s struggles!). I told him that the biggest expectation I had was that he would take care of things without needing to be told. He lives here too, so he can tell when the dishes need to be put away, or when the dogs need to be fed. I don’t need to be in charge of that, and he doesn’t either. We are both smart enough to figure out when something needs to be done.  

His Expectations

This wasn’t a one-sided conversation by any means!  My boyfriend had expectations too, and those needed to be addressed as well. Relationships can’t be one sided. It’s not just about what I want, it’s also about what he wants and what we need as a couple.

My boyfriend’s main expectation was that I tell him if I’m upset about something. I have always had a hard time vocalizing my feelings, so this is a hard thing for me. I try, but usually he has to prod me until I spill. He’s amazing at reading me and knowing if I’m mad though (so unfair!), which makes it easier to tell him (because I can’t hide it).

Although I struggle with it, I think his expectation is very fair. We can’t resolve our issues if we don’t talk about them. That’s what this entire blog post is about!  But for some reason, it’s way easier for me to talk about something before it’s a problem. I guess that’s because there are no emotions involved at that point?  Either way, I know it is something that I need to work on, and I’m trying.

 

                                                               

 

Chores

Most blogs I’ve read about moving in together suggest having a discussion about chores. However, I don’t think it’s entirely necessary. I think that the discussion we had about us both being responsible for managing the house is sufficient. We don’t need to outline who does the dishes or laundry or vacuuming. All we both need to know is that it’s a shared house that we are both responsible for.

However, some couples do need to have a structured list of who does what, and that’s perfectly fine! If that works better for your relationship, then go for it.

Lifestyle

It’s not difficult to merge differing lifestyles if you are both willing to compromise. But it’s important to talk about what your merged life will look like before you move in together. Does one of you prefer to go out all the time while the other is more of a Netflix person?  Is one of you an introvert while the other is an extrovert?  Do you have a spender verses saver situation going on? None of these differences are inherently bad or insurmountable. However, discussing these differences prior to moving in together will save a lot of angst and drama in the future.

Life Goals

The day to day lifestyle stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. You also need to discuss the future, and where you see yourselves and your relationship heading. You would think that before taking a big step and moving in together, most couples would discuss their life goals. Do both partners want to get married?  Have children? Do you both want to retire early?  Is one person a homebody while the other wants to travel the world?  Where do you want to live? These (and countless others) are huge topics that can really put a damper on a relationship. However, even if you aren’t on the same page about any of these topics, that doesn’t mean the relationship has to end. Relationships are about compromise, and there may be ways to compromise on all of these issues that works for you.  But you can’t compromise on any of these things if you don’t talk about them.

Everything!

Communication is absolutely key in a relationship. There are probably issues specific to your relationship that you need to talk about that I wouldn’t even have considered. The important thing is that you need to have these adult conversations, and you need to revisit important issues regularly. If you can’t communicate with your partner prior to moving in with them, maybe you should rethink moving in together.

 A Happy Home

I know these adult conversations can be difficult, and I know they won’t prevent every argument and disagreement. However, having these conversations will give your relationship a baseline and will prevent a lot of stress and discontentment. The point of moving in together is to have a happy, joyful, harmonious relationship. It’s to enjoy each other’s company and have a partner to make life more pleasurable for both of you. Having these conversations upfront will really help ensure that your shared home is a happy one.

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"Six week hiatus"

 

Welcome back, Partner’s in Fire!  As you probably noticed, we took a six week hiatus from blogging. It’s unfortunate that we had to take this time off right at our 6-month mark and when we were experiencing a steady increase in readership, but alas, sometimes life happens. So what happened that made us take this long break?

Visitors

I love my friends and family. So, when I had nearly six weeks of continuous visitors, I made them a priority. I actually did try to blog for the first week or so, but between working a full-time job and prioritizing my personal relationships, it just started slipping through the cracks.

It was well worth it though, because I spent time catching up with an old friend I had not seen since college. We went out for a few nights on the town, hit up the famous cemetery, checked out some local beaches, and just all around enjoyed hanging out with each other.

I also had the opportunity to visit my favorite cousin, who I haven’t seen in about a year. She was stuck in Jacksonville on business, about two hours away from my house (she’s usually about 12 hours away, so this was quite a change!).  I had to take a weekend to go see her!  We had a great time too, catching up, gossiping about family, and visiting the Ripley’s in St. Augustine. Great times.

The majority of this time off was spent with my boyfriend’s daughter, who lives out of state. I spent a lot of time getting to know her and building a solid relationship with her. We even took her down to Disney World, an experience that I’m sure she will never forget. We had a great time and she even took to calling my mommy! *swoon*. I hope to be her step-mom one day so I consider this time incredibly well spent.

Exhaustion

I’m not going to lie though, the visitors weren’t the only reason for my hiatus. The second reason is that I’ve just been feeling so tired lately. On the few days I had to myself these past few weeks, I haven’t had the energy to do anything; I just wanted to veg out in front of the tv. Yes, I know how terrible that is, but I was just so tired!!  I’d go to bed around 9 or 10 and wake up at 630, still feeling tired. I could manage to make it through my work day, but I didn’t have the energy for much else.

I wasn’t cooking healthy meals, I wasn’t working on my side projects, and I wasn’t doing anything to better myself. At first, I thought I was just tired from all the activity that was going on around me. However, most of my friends convinced me that my level of exhaustion was not normal in anyway. I’m also notorious for being cold all the time, so two of my friends recommended that I try an Iron supplement.

I tried the supplement, and my energy is through the roof! I don’t eat a lot of meat, so I guess I wasn’t getting enough of this important vitamin. I’m happy to report that I feel fantastic now, and I hope that was the only problem.

Related: Partners in Fire is 6 Months old!

I’m back!

So now I’m back after a six week hiatus, and unfortunately (though obviously) my readership has suffered. I will write a 7-month update to go along with all my other updates, but it will be short considering I hardly did anything to support my blog during the seventh month.

But you know what, sometimes you have to take care of yourself first. And sometimes you have to sacrifice some things to build and maintain relationships. I don’t regret my hiatus, even though it probably erased some hard won gains. I’m happy with where I am.

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