Baby’s First Bank Account: Saving for the Future

Not long after Madeline was born, Mike and I were thinking about all of the expenses that would be incurred over her life, not the least of which is college.  Having both had student loans, we really felt like we’d like to be able to afford to send Madeline to college and not saddle her with the burden of student loan debt as she starts out her adult life.  That being said, this is easier said than done! Particularly with the rising costs of higher education in our country.  We didn’t want her to feel like she either needed to qualify for scholarships or take out student loans, so we came up with a unique plan to start saving for her.

New York State, where we live, has some great savings programs when it comes to college. We chose to open a 529 account for her, these are account that most states sponsor (so if you’re interested check your state’s websites for more information).  The beauty of this is that the money you put in is not only a tax deduction for you (wahoo!), but also not subject to income tax when it’s withdrawn in the future (for qualified expenses).  Once you’ve opened your account in your child’s name, you can then start to deposit money and invest it so that it (hopefully) grows.  *It is important to know, there is a management charge for these types of accounts, in New York State it’s $1.60/year for every $1000 you invest.

Like anything else, you can defer pre-tax money in your paychecks to this account.  I however, chose a different path for the first year of Madeline’s life.  Having a baby comes with a lot of expenses (you certainly don’t need us to tell you that!) Between diapers, doctors appointments, formula, daycare, clothes, etc. it can certainly add up quickly.  So the idea of deferring additional money from our weekly checks into this account just wasn’t going to work in our budget.  Then, I had a thought (that I thought was genius)!

One of the ways in which I keep costs down in our family is through couponing.  As you’ve seen with our diaper stockpile post, we’ve found a lot of ways to coupon and save money.  One of the biggest ways that I coupon is through different cash back apps including (but not limited to!) Ebates, Savingstar, Ibotta, Checkout51, and Find&Save.  All of these are mobile apps that pay you cash back for purchasing specific items or at specific stores.  Prior to Madeline’s arrival, I always just sent the deposits to my bank account, and because they come in various increments, sometimes as small as $5, typically I spent them without thinking twice about it. That’s when this plan really came to fruition.  Instead of depositing them into my checking account- I started to deposit them into a separate savings account for Madeline.  I didn’t miss them in my checking account because I never counted on them anyway. After two weeks of testing this, I was surprised to find that I had accumulated just shy of $86 into her savings account.  So now, monthly, I deposit that savings into her NY 529 account and invest it.  It’s a small way to start saving for her, without putting a strain on our budget, we don’t even notice we’re doing it!

Do you have creative ways to save for your little ones? We want to hear about them!

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What You Can Bring/Do for New Moms

As Sherrie gears up for baby #2 we thought it was a good time to reflect on what people brought us as new moms and what we really appreciated. Of course, you’re always appreciative of visitors, everyone wants to visit and meet the new baby which is very nice, but can be overwhelming as well!  The last thing you want to do after pushing a baby out is entertain guests. You’re sore, you’re sleep deprived, and you’re trying to adjust to life as new parents.  We have found that there are many things that you can bring or do for a new mom (and dad!) that they will truly love you for!

Food
  It’s very hard to want to muster the strength to cook dinner once you come home from the hospital – especially knowing you need to wash dishes after! Some people, like Emily, were able to prep meals before they went into the hospital and keep them in the freezer. Not everyone gets the chance to do that though so one of the best things that you can bring to a new parents is food.  Whether it’s a mac and cheese dish, any type of casserole, soup, etc. We suggest something that can be reheated easily or frozen and then baked.  It will be so appreciated by the new parents who barely have time to eat together and who are probably getting sick of eating and paying for take out.

Cleaning
This may sound crazy but one of the best things someone can do is come to the house and help out with some of the housework that has built up.  Whether it’s doing a load of laundry, loading the dishwasher, vacuuming, etc. – we promise the littlest bit is greatly appreciated by the new parents.

 Time and Patience
Another blessing that can be done for a new mom is time and patience, and by that we mean, give mom a break! Visitors that come for an hour, hold the baby, and let the new mom sleep uninterrupted for a short period of time are amazing. As much as people say to a new mom “sleep when the baby sleeps” it’s not always that easy as they look around and see everything that needs to still be done.  Having someone to hold the baby and trust that it will be okay really helps.  In Emily’s case, after Mike left for boot camp, she really appreciated visitors that would come hold the baby so she could shower! Putting Madeline down when she was sleeping and then trusting that Bruce wouldn’t bug her for ten minutes so she could shower was sometimes an impossibility! And that shower was the best ten minutes of alone time she had all day!

A Gift
Chances are you may have already gotten a baby shower gift, but if you’re thinking of purchasing something for the baby check out the new parents registry. Perhaps there was something that was not purchased that would be great for them to have – whether it is big or small – the parents will appreciate that it is one less thing they need to run out and get for the baby. Even if you just picked up something small like a container of wipes or a box of diapers – it is all a huge help!

What did people bring or do for you you that you appreciated? Share with us!

Sherrie & Emily

Car Trip Tips! 

Both of us have families who live far away. We recently took Madeline on a trip to see my grandmother, which is 2- 2.5 hours one way and Sherrie and Matt have to travel 3 hours one way to visit her family in New Jersey. We both typically do round trips in one day which can be a handful for both baby and parents.  I was really concerned about how this was going to go down so to ensure it went smoothly, I followed these some tips we would recommend to everyone!

Tip #1: Organization

First is organization in the car. We have this great hanging organizer from thirty-one that we just love.  It has pockets for everything! It also can grow with your baby through their ages.  The top pocket can fit an iPad, though we haven’t gotten to that stage with Madeline yet.  Having everything you will need where you can reach it easily is the key to a successful car trip.  The last thing that the person sitting in the backseat wants to do is try to rummage through the bags at their feet, unless you drive a limo, there’s just not enough space when you’re sitting next to a car seat.

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Tip #2: Pack the Essentials

There are a couple of things that are musts on a car trip.  Just like you would pack them for adults, babies need snacks! A 2.5 hour trip is a long time to be sitting in the car seat and they are bound to get hungry.  Emily has said multiple times how much she loves the Foodi System for making homemade pouches and that love is only multiplied when it comes to car trips.  Also, if you’re going to bring food, be sure to bring either a bottle of milk/formula or water.  Sherrie found these great tops that screw onto regular water bottles- instant sippy cup! Amazing!

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Next, you need some stuff to keep baby occupied.  I mentioned how we’re not at a point with Madeline where we use a tablet, it you are, great! We brought along our favorite Usborne book and her family photo album, both take time to read or look at which can help pass the time spent in the car. Any other toys that they can keep occupied is a plus.  Madeline is at a stage where she likes to throw her toys around the car, so these plastic links are a lifesaver.  We string them together and hook one end to the top of her car seat, the other end to the toy.  Now she can play to her heart’s content but the toys aren’t going anywhere! Another option that Sherries does is keep a small bin of toys in front of the car seat. That way if they throw it and you can’t reach for it, you have some backup right in the bin near you!

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Tip #3: Timing is Everything

If at all possible, plan your trips when you know your child travels best based on their schedule. A well fed baby will be happier in the long haul than trying to struggle and feed a cranky hungry baby midway. Another suggestion is you may want to start your travels during your toddler’s nap time – Sherrie does this with Logan and he easily sleeps half the car ride.

The key to a happy, meltdown free car trip is preparation! Pack smart, keep them occupied, and tire them out.  You’ll be golden and they’ll be happy. 🙂

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Sherrie & Emily

 

App Love: Fitbit

 Sherrie and I both own Fitbits and just love them!  Actually, Sherrie is the reason I switched from an Up fitness tracker to the Fitbit, so we could utilize the challenges and push each other to reach our goals!

If you don’t know what a Fitbit is – it’s an activity tracker that you wear on your wrist. It can count how many steps you take in a day, as well as active minutes judging by your heart rate thereby giving an accurate reading of how many calories you’ve burned. It also tracks your sleep and can tell you how many times you woke up,  how often you were restless and how long you were asleep for. You can also track your food and water intake and other exercise you do like riding a bike, playing soccer, etc.

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Fitbits can be a great source of motivation and accountability. You can add other friends who also have Fitbits and challenge them to see who can get the most steps. I know that when I have challenged Sherrie to see who can get the most steps in a week I find myself deliberately getting up and walking more just to see if I can get those extra few steps in! You can write to them supportive messages and cheer their progress. In addition, when you win challenges, like hitting a milestone in numbers of steps or a milestone in weight loss, you earn badges and trophies. I’m always psyched to earn more!

We truly believe that our Fitbits are helping us to lead healthier and more active lifestyles. So much so we’ve convinced our hubbys to get them too! What are some ways you try to stay active and healthy?

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Products We Love: Teething Necklaces 

When we knew we were having Madeline I registered for a teething necklace but wasn’t 100% sure what it was for. I wore it a few times when she was a newborn and realized we didn’t need it yet. But recently I have discovered why it’s so important.

Madeline is at a stage that I call “the windmill.” She is constantly swinging her arm around in the air – particularly while she’s nursing, which frequently means hitting me in the face. She’s also in a phase where she likes to hold onto my shirt while she’s nursing. Recently I remembered the teething necklace and it has made all the difference in the world! Now while she’s nursing she has something to hold on to, something to keep her occupied, she’s much happier and so am I!

I’m not sure why it’s called a teething necklace, we don’t use it in that way yet. I could see her wearing it in the future and chewing on it as her teeth are bugging her. For now, it’s a lifesaver as a nursing mom!

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There are quite a few styles to teething necklaces, personally I like this one because it’s all silicone and easy to clean. The big beads are easy for her to grab and hold onto. But check out this one from our friends at Sass and Bo.

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DIY: Nursing Cover Infinity Scarf

I’ll admit, I have a scarf addiction.  Even before I had Madeline, I have always loved to wear scarves, they’re such a fun and cute accessory!  So when I saw this idea on Pinterest I knew I had to try it!

Feeding Madeline in public is something I am getting less and less shy about. While I’m still not at the point of where I will feed her without a cover, I no longer feel the need to bring a bottle with us when we’re out at a restaurant or running errands.  Let’s be real here for a second, in our society people take things way too seriously.  If I need to feed my baby, you can bet I’m going to do it.  Personally, I like to cover, and luckily Madeline cooperates with that, because frankly – as much as you don’t want to see my boobs, I promise I want you to see them even less.  I am always carrying a blanket and it can get cumbersome, particularly as Madeline is learning to grab things and will attempt to uncover herself.  So, enter a nursing scarf.  There are tons out there available to purchase, but I knew it must be easy to make I just had no idea how easy!

I searched, of course, for some Pinspiration and came across a variety of tutorials.  Here’s where I netted out.

You’ll Need:
1 yard of stretchy Jersey Knit Fabric (in any pattern or color) 60 inches wide
Sewing Machine

Remember on any sewing project to always wash and dry your fabrics prior to working with them, it’s important that they shrink if need be prior to sewing.  Once you have it washed and dried, you need to fold it in half like a hamburger, with right sides together.  See below:

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Are you ready for the hard part? Sew a straight line down the edge of the two fabrics meeting.  Be sure to back stitch at the start and end.  Trim your threads, and then, you’re done!

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You now have created a fabric tube that works as an infinity scarf.  Wear it out proudly! When it comes time to nurse your baby, it unfolds into an expansive cover.  Bonus points, the cute scarf offers great coverage in case of leaks! And it’s super cute!

This is a really easy project that takes just minutes and is a staple in my wardrobe. as well as a must have for gifts for new moms!

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Teething Tips: Breastmilk Popsicles

Recently Madeline has begun teething. I could not believe it when I figured that out.  By 13 weeks old my baby suddenly became extremely drooly, started chewing on her hands and fussing randomly.  It took me a while to realize it could be teeth because I just thought it was too early! Turns out, if you reach in her mouth, sure enough the top two teeth are attempting to make their way out.

I am a mom who cannot stand to hear her child cry.  Madeline’s cry is so sad and almost cartoon like and it pierces at my heart.  Teething has not been fun for us, she gets fussy and will just randomly squeal and cry, almost like you had pinched her.  I figured out that cold things like teething toys from the freezer seemed to really help.  So I figured, what about frozen breast milk?

I wish I had thought about this prior to freezing some milk.  They make popsicle makers that are smaller so you can pour the milk in and then freeze it but I of course I didn’t think of that.  Instead, I had a few small sized bags of frozen milk, 2 oz or less, why not just give her those in one of those mesh feeders?  Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to work with frozen breast milk but it is STICKY.  The bags I have are not the same size that fit in the feeders, so imagine me, chiseling away at a sticky frozen block of milk, it was not fun.  However, once assembled she is happy as a clam and it keeps her relatively pain free.

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The next time we need them, I will plan better, but breast milk popsicles are the way to go!

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App Love: Ovia Fertility

At Forever Young Moms, we are big fans of the apps created by Ovuline. A while back we wrote a post on our favorite pregnancy apps and we discussed our love for Ovia Pregnancy. We both used it and it is wonderful!  That being said, in order to use their pregnancy app, you have to get pregnant!  That is where the Ovia Fertility app comes in. This app certainly works – twice now for Sherrie or even if you use it to not get pregnant like Emily!

 If you’re trying to conceive this is the app to use – it’s so easy! You just have to enter some data each day. You can keep it simple by entering when your period starts and ends and when you have sex or get more involved and include your mood, symptoms, basal temperature and so much more. The more data you enter and track, the better chance you have of getting pregnant. Entering data is very simple – just click the date on the calendar and scroll down to which data you’d like to enter for that day. The homepage on the app will give you a fertility score based on your data: 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. It will also tell how many days until your next fertile window and how many days you should wait to take a pregnancy test.

Another great feature is the tips and advice it gives in a newsfeed like format. This ranges from what foods boost fertility to proper exercise when TTC to what is happening in your body at the current time during your cycle. The app also has a cycle insights (a snapshot of your cycle based on the data you enter), articles to read about all sorts of fertility topics and the ability to export your data to excel. You can even customize the look of your app with different fun themes to choose from – Sherrie’s favorite is fresh abstract. 🙂

So if anyone can vouch that this app works it has got to be Sherrie. Twice she has gotten pregnant using Ovia Fertility! She started using the app in February 2014 and by  that August she found out she was expecting. Sherrie had irregular cycles so using this app made it easy to figure out when she was ovulating. After a cycle or two the app was able to determine her fertile window. Each time using the app she was pregnant within months and both times tracking a very irregular cycle.

The app not only tracks fertility but also works for simply tacking your period. This is what Emily used the app for. She had many medical issues when it came to her cycle, in fact a few months before they learned they were pregnant with Madeline, Emily had been diagnosed with PCOS which pretty much confirmed her doctor’s opinion on what they had told her for years: she wouldn’t be able to have children.  So she was using the app to track her cycle days, try to estimate her ovulating or fertile days, and try to actively avoid getting pregnant. She had been using the app for almost two years and it worked very well.  In late December of 2014, it became necessary to have her IUD removed because of a hemorrhage and some troubling shadows on an ultrasound – tracking her cycle became even more important.  It also helped her be able to track symptoms that she could update her doctor with at the many appointments she had. Since she was so tuned into her body, imagine her surprise when she found out they were expecting Madeline!  The app is so good, it works even when you don’t mean it to! Seriously though,  Emily is religious about entering information, even now that Madeline is here and they will not be having another for quite some time, Emily is back to tracking her symptoms and inputting information to see what trends arise and make sure she’s on top of what’s going on.

Another great thing about this app is the ability to report special conditions. For example Emily  has reported that she is breastfeeding, so it won’t necessarily take sore nipples as a sign that she’s pregnant. She also was able to ‘hide fertility content’ so her timeline will not show TTC tips as she is not currently trying to get pregnant.

We cannot say enough great things about the Ovia Fertility app! Trying to conceive can be a grueling and emotional process. Using this app can take some of the stress off. Once you report a pregnancy be sure to download their awesome Pregnancy App! Thank you Ovia for helping both of us create our perfect bundles of joy! <3

Sherrie &amp; Emily

DIY: Hands Free Pumping Bra

Going back to work and knowing I would be pumping multiple times a day, I knew I would need a hands free pumping bra.  The idea of pumping one side at a time so that I could have use of one hand or holding both flanges to my body just sounded like a miserable nightmare.  A hands free pumping bra is one of the items we didn’t get from our registry and once Madeline got here, was something I kept forgetting to purchase, it was just so far from my mind.  That is, until the week before I was supposed to go back to the office! Suddenly, I realized, even with Amazon Prime, the magical bra wouldn’t make it before my first day – and that just wasn’t going to work.  Making the trip to a maternity store or Buy Buy Baby also just seemed to be too daunting of a task when I just wanted to spend my last few days at home snuggled up with my baby.

On Pinterest there are tons of tutorials on how to make your own hands free bra, most of them include hair ties and making loops for your nursing bras.  None of them, to be honest, really seemed like they would work.  They also were not easy to figure out.  Then, I came across what is probably the easiest, best and most convenient idea ever!  Are you ready for how easy this is? You’ll probably do what I did when you’re done, laugh that you didn’t think of this sooner!

Here’s what you need:
Old Sports Bra
Breast Pump Flanges
Scissors

Put the sports bra on. Once it’s on comfortably, figure out where your nipples are in relation to the bra. Pull the fabric away from your body (this is important, you don’t want to cut yourself!) and make a cut where your nipples are.  Keep in mind you just want to snip this, don’t cut a big hole yet.  Take the bra off and get dressed again.

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Now that you have the bra in front of you, push your breast pump flange through the hole you made as though you were wearing it -shield side in. This will help you know how big to make the hole you already cut.  Use your scissors to make the hole wider, but not too wide, you want to ensure the flanges are held snugly to your body.  Once you’re satisfied with the size of the holes and how the flanges fit – you’re done! Seriously, it’s that easy.  Throw it on and get pumping!

While they are many things contributing to my success of pumping at work, my Sarah Wells Bag, my Kiinde System and Cooler Bag – this bra is by far the most important piece of it all (next to the pump!).  It’s really great to have my hands free.  It takes me about 7-10 minutes to pump each session, so to be able to multitask by checking emails, getting the bags ready for the milk I’m pumping, or just rearranging everything in my bag, I really can save a lot of time.  Time saving is key here, because even though I need to stop working to pump, I still need to get out of work at the same time to pick up Madeline. I love this DIY hands free pumping bra and the best part is –  it was free to make!  I will be making more than one to eliminate having to wash this one every other day. Plus it was a huge money saver over the ones that you can purchase for $50! I can’t stress enough how important it is to have one of these for your pumping bag!

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App Love: Baby Pics

There is an app that we both love and want to share with you guys called Baby Pics. There are so many great things about this app and you can use it in so many different ways!

Originally, we were drawn to it for the cute photos you can create for your baby – from major milestones to how old your child is to silly little things babies do! You can also add your own text to keep any memory you want. We’ve created some really cute photos of our baby’s that are great keepsakes. Here are few of our faves. 🙂

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What we didn’t realize at first is just how many uses there are for this app- they even have great artwork for pregnancy! This would be much easier than making a chalkboard every week. Sherrie made really cute photos for her best friend (and fellow blogger- check her out!) and is using the app to track her second pregnancy now!

Sherrie also found that this app is great to use for our blog. Remember the BabyBum Diaper Cream Applicator Giveaway we recently had? Well, Sherrie made all of those graphics in this app using the text feature! You can change the font, size and color of text. We can’t say enough good things about it!

One thing we will absolutely recommend is paying the extra $3.99 to download the premium artwork – so worth it! There are so many categories to choose from such as dates, holidays, firsts, pregnancy and so much more! It’s just fun to play around with some of the different artwork  and doodles available – it makes the app that much more versatile. Do you know someone who just had a baby or is pregnant? You can gift the app to them! How cool?!

We love watching our little ones grow and capturing all their milestones and daily moments with this app! It is available for iPhone and Android users! Share your little one’s photo you’ve created with Baby Pics with us on twitter (#welovebabypics) or in the comments!

Sherrie &amp; Emily