Ross and I have always been up for anything, even at a moment’s notice.
Unless we already have plans, any invitation to do something fun will have us loading into the car for an adventure.
When we had our first daughter we wanted to continue to be up for anything at a moment’s notice, but we also knew that babies and young children needed structure. So how could we balance both?
We didn’t want to be tied to a schedule that we could never break, but we also wanted to teach our children to sleep and eat well… which we knew would be easier if they had a predictable rhythm.
So I started using a weekly rhythm in an attempt to balance the two things that we knew we needed for our family, and it worked like a charm!
Having a weekly routine helped me to create the predictability that children love and crave, but it also allowed for plenty of flexibility and spontaneity when we needed it.
What is a Weekly Rhythm?
Even when you use a Daily Bock Schedule, it can be easy to over-schedule and over-complicate our lives.
That’s where the Weekly Rhythm comes into place.
The Weekly Rhythm allows the week to have a predictable ebb and flow between Busy Days and Simple Days, without allowing one to take over the other.
Having this Rhythm in your life will also ensure that your extroverted family members get their out-of-the-house time, while your introverted family members get their at-home time.
How to Create a Weekly Rhythm
In Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne describes having “A” days and “B” days when you are creating your weekly rhythm.
I prefer to call these days “Busy Days” and “Simple Days” to be sure that everything is clear, but you can call them whatever you’d like.
Everyone will naturally have days that are busy, full, and crazy; but they need to be balanced by days that are simple, easy, and peaceful.
To create this balance, we need to designate Busy Days and Simple Days
1) Decide on Your Busy and Simple Weekend Days
Weekends can especially get overloaded with too many activities and become stressful.
To keep this from happening, the first thing that you need to do is choose one weekend day that is going to be Busy, and one that will be Simple.
It’s good to have at least one Simple Day in your weekend so that your kids can recover from all of the busyness…even if that means that your busy day will be busier.
I’ve found that it is better to have one really busy day and one simple day, instead of having two days that are both a little bit busy.
Since we go to church on Saturday, this is our Busy Day.
Saturdays often include going on hikes, bike rides, hanging out with friends, and game nights.
Saturday is the only day of the week that I’m ok with naps being pushed late or skipped and the girls getting to bed late (or even going to sleep at other people’s houses and getting woken up to go home).
So to balance this out, Sunday is a Simple Day at our house.
On Sundays, we catch up on yard work, clean up from any company we had the day before, and we are very particular about making sure that naps happen on time (or early!) and getting them to bed early.
2) Choose Busy and Simple Week Days
Now decide how many Busy and Simple days you will have in your week.
I recommend having at least 2 Simple Week Days and 3 Busy Week Days, but I prefer to have 3 Simple Week Days and 2 Busy Week Days.
You can do whatever works for your life, but I suggest erring on the side of having more Simple Days than Busy Days when you are first getting started. You can always add in more Busy Days if you need to later.
To determine which days of the week should be Simple or Busy, look back at your weekend.
Since I know that our Saturdays are very busy, Friday is a Simple Day for us. I make sure that the girls get down for naps early and get to bed early on Friday so that they are ready for a busy day on Saturday!
I like to have my Simple Days and Busy Days alternate to avoid having the girls (especially my second daughter who is my introvert) getting overstimulated and overwhelmed from going all of the time.
So I just work backward from there: Thursday is a Busy Day, Wednesday is a Simple Day, Tuesday is a Busy Day, and Monday is a Simple Day.
That gives me two simple days in a row with Sunday and Monday being Simple, but I like having two days to catch up on sleep for the girls.
For us, even on the busy days, I am really particular about nap time and bedtime (except for Saturday). I use my Out-Of-The-House Block to run errands and schedule appointments on my Busy Weekdays, but I do my best to be home for the Nap Time Block.
Even on your busy days, you want to make sure that you let your kids rest in between all the busyness.
So often people think that they need to spend *All The Money* on their wedding.
Call me frugal (or crazy…whatever) but I didn’t want to go into debt for my wedding.
Ross and I already had $20,000 in student loan debt before we got married (you can read about how we got rid of it in 18 months here), and we didn’t want to add any more.
My parents were going to reimburse me (up to $3000) for what I spent on the wedding after they sold their house, but I didn’t have any guarantee of when that would be.
So to determine the budget, I looked at my bank account then added what Ross’s parents were going to give us for the wedding. The total was $3,000.
We decided that $3,000 would be our entire budget and that we would not use our credit cards to pay for anything above and beyond that amount.
So in honor of Ross and my 10th wedding anniversary this month (what?!?!), I thought it would be fun to do a different type of budgeting post.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane together and I’ll show you how we planned a wonderful wedding on a shoestring budget!
1) We Determined Our Priorities
When you have a tight budget for your wedding, you have to choose your priorities. And if your budget is very tight, you can sometimes only choose one priority.
For me, I wanted professional pictures.
I know that you can cut a lot of money out of your budget by asking a family member or friend to do the pictures for you, but having professional pictures was really important to me.
And since I still have several wedding pictures on the walls today, I am very happy with the decision to spend money on the photographer.
Most of the photographers in my area were going to charge me more than my entire budget for the wedding pictures. But after calling almost every photographer I could find online, I was able to find a husband-wife team of photographers that were willing to take the pictures for $1,500!
I was ecstatic, but I knew that I had very little money to spend on anything else.
2) We Went Cheap on Everything Else
Once I had my photographer price determined, I knew that I only had $1,500 to spend on everything else.
So I sat down with my handy-dandy excel spreadsheet and started crunching numbers.
I put everything we wanted to include in our wedding on the spreadsheet and wrote an estimate of what each item would cost next to it.
Then, as I booked or purchased anything, I would put the actual amount that we spent into the spreadsheet. That way I knew if I had any wiggle room for any of the other items on the list.
Keeping track of every expense is the only way that you can stick to your wedding budget!
3) We Asked
Once we had our spreadsheet filled in, we knew that we weren’t going to be able to afford professional prices for any of the other services we wanted for the wedding.
That meant that we needed to see if friends and family would be willing to help with different parts of the wedding.
We have friends and family members who are great at making cakes, playing music, doing hair, arranging flowers, and just about everything else that we needed to pull the wedding off!
I know most people don’t like to ask for help, but the Benjamin Franklin Effect says that people actually like you more when you ask them do to something for you.
So if you want more people to like you, ask them for help!
If you aren’t sure how to ask, just ask them how much they would charge you for whatever it is that you would like their help on.
In our experience, almost everyone said they would do it as our wedding gift, and everyone else asked for very little money.
We did give everyone who was doing something as our wedding gift a gift card as a thank-you, but it was still much cheaper than paying for a professional.
4) My Aunt Made The Cake
The cost of the cake can really sneak up on you if you aren’t careful! Find a friend or family member who is good at baking and ask them to make the cake for you.
My aunt made our almond poppyseed wedding cake with raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting. And it wouldn’t have tasted any better if we had paid an arm and a leg for it.
Even if someone has never made a cake for a wedding before, don’t be afraid to ask them if you know that they make delicious cakes (or whatever dessert you are having at your wedding). My mom would have never considered herself a wedding cake maker, but several of my sister and my friends have asked her to make cakes for their weddings because they loved the taste of her gluten-free cakes.
If you don’t have a cake-maker in the family, sheet cakes from Costco are cheap and delicious!
You don’t have to have a fancy wedding cake to have a beautiful, fun wedding. And remember, it’s only going to be eaten anyway!
Ross was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to go cake-tasting for our wedding. So for our 5th anniversary, we did just that! We told the bakeries that we were already married and we would be happy to pay for the cake when I called to book the appointments, but they only charged us between $10-$20 for each place that we went.
5) My Music Teachers Played Music for the Wedding
Another area that can cost a lot of money at a wedding is music and entertainment.
But again, we asked for help!
One of my piano teachers played piano for the wedding, and my sister’s trumpet teacher (who also happened to be a long-time family friend) played the trumpet for the recessional.
For the reception, we just had an iPod with music on it playing in the background.
6) We Borrowed Chairs from our Church
Instead of playing $1.50-$2.00 per chair (which still breaks my brain) we called our church and asked if we could use their chairs.
Nope, they weren’t perfectly matched.
Yep, they held everyone in the seating position perfectly.
7) I Asked a Friend to do My Hair
Getting hair and makeup professionally done can also cost a huge amount of money.
So again, I asked for help.
I happened to have a friend who was going to beauty school at the time of my wedding, and she agreed to do my hair for the big day!
I just had to pay to go into her school and let her do the practice runs in front of her teachers a couple of times… but again, this was much cheaper than getting a professional to do it.
8) We had an Outdoor Wedding
We had some friends who had connections with a beautiful school campus.
We were able to pay only $200 for the venue and had a beautiful stetting for our wedding.
Think outside the box when you are choosing where to get married. If you choose to get married somewhere that doesn’t usually host weddings, you will generally save a lot of money.
If you can’t find an option that won’t cost you a lot of money, see if you could get married in a friend or family member’s backyard.
Backyard weddings can be beautiful, fun, and best of all…cheap!
9) We Didn’t Have a Meal
We didn’t have a full, sit-down meal at our wedding. Not because we didn’t want to, but because we just couldn’t afford it.
To be sure that our guests wouldn’t be expecting to get fed, we got married at 3:00 pm, which is not typically a mealtime.
We also put on the invitations that there would be cake, mints, and nuts at the reception. That way people knew there wouldn’t be a full meal.
10) I Didn’t Pay an Arm-And-A-Leg for my Dress
With only being able to have one large priority, and that was the photography, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on my dress.
To be sure that I would stick with my budget, I didn’t even look at or try on dresses that were too expensive for me.
2) Decluttering Decreases The Amount of Time and Effort That It Takes to Clean
I know this one is on every list out there, but it is such an amazing benefit that I couldn’t leave it out!
Not only will decluttering decrease the amount of time that you spend cleaning on a daily and weekly basis, but it will also decrease the time that you spend getting your house back in order after you go away for the weekend or come back from a long trip.
Plus when your house is decluttered it is very obvious if something isn’t where it should be, which leads me to…
3) Your Kids Will Be Able To Clean Up After Themselves
One of the reasons that kids’ rooms are typically a mess, is that they have too many things to put away.
When you have too many things to put away, it is almost impossible for every toy to have a specific place that it goes. And when toys don’t have a specific place that they go, it is almost impossible for kids to know when their room is considered clean.
Have you ever asked your kids to clean their room, but you had to send them back multiple times before it met your standards? If so, try decluttering their rooms.
Once it is easy for them to see exactly where everything goes, they will be capable of cleaning up after themselves.
4) Decluttering Makes It Easy to Find What You Are Looking For…
…Because you know where everything is supposed to be!
When you live in a house that is decluttered, and everything has a place that it lives, then you waste very little time looking for things.
When I was growing up, I remember spending a lot of time looking for different things on any given day. And that is because nothing had a specific place that it belonged.
This was one of the biggest motivators for me to live in a clutter-free house when I grew up because I wanted to always know where things were when I was looking for them!
5) Decluttering Allows You to Be Present
When you are constantly cleaning up, you have very little time to sit down and be present.
But when you declutter, you aren’t spending all that extra time running around putting things back anymore. Which means that you can spend that extra time with your family.
6) It Reduces Stress, Makes You More Productive, and Makes You Feel Better
There are many studies showing that clutter produces cortisol (aka the stress hormone) and makes people feel more depressed and less satisfied in life.
Your mind sees clutter as something on its to-do list that it needs to take care of.
As Christina Scalise said, “Clutter is the physical manifestation of Unmade Decisions.”
And unmade decisions make our brains a little crazy.
Decluttering forces you to make decisions about the items sitting around in your house. You have to look at everything that you own and decide if you love it right now… or if it snuck into your house somehow, but it isn’t serving any useful purpose.
So if you want to clear your mind, clear your clutter!
7) Decluttering Makes It Easy to Decide What to Wear
When you only have what you love and use consistently in your closet, it is much easier to decide what to wear every day. You don’t have to sift through all of the extra clothing that you only keep “just in case” to find what you are looking for.
Like I’ve said before, I’ve never had a closet that was stuffed full because I’ve always been drawn to minimalism and started decluttering as a kid, even before I knew it was a thing.
But one of my good friends asked me to help her declutter her closet recently.
It was interesting to me, after the process was over, how much less time she told me it took her to get dressed.
She also travels a lot for work and said that it used to take her 2-3 hours of trying on clothes to pack for a trip. She never knew if something still fit or how it looked on her.
Now she takes very little time to pack because she knows and loves everything the has.
Decluttering your closet can also make it easier when you are shopping for new clothes since it teaches what your your personal style is as you pare down your wardrobe.
You will quickly start to realize which colors you are drawn to most, which styles look the best on you, and which type of clothing you choose to wear the most.
Once you have decluttered your closet, you will easily know if you will wear an outfit (or not!) before you take it home from the store.
8) Decluttering Allows You to Help Those In Need
Americans tend to keep a lot of stuff sitting around their houses “Just in case.” But in many cases, someone else could use these things right now.
When I wanted to donate some of our baby items, I found an organization that collects items for teenage mothers and single mothers who don’t have a support system.
I knew that the items would get good use and be going to someone that truly needed them.
The organization even came to my house to pick everything up!
When you are donating items, think outside the box of Goodwill and look for organizations in your area that serve people who could specifically use the items you are donating.
9) Decluttering Can Help You Make Money
If you have valuable things that you are decluttering, selling them can make you some cold, hard cash!
I had always wanted to play the violin, so my parents got one for me off of ebay for $75 when I was 14. After struggling to learn from video lessons for about a year, I quit.
But I kept the violin, always telling myself that someday I was going to get a teacher and learn how to play.
Well the years past, I got married, and eventually had my first baby.
Every time I saw the violin, I felt guilty that I hadn’t learned yet.
Finally, I realized that the likelihood that I would be able to learn an instrument as a new mom was pretty low. So I decided to see if I could sell it.
I listed it for $75 and figured that I would maybe get $50 for it.
But when the guy arrived and I showed him all of the broken strings, he told me it was exactly was he was looking for! Apparently he wanted a violin that he could take apart and put back together, and he paid me $75 for a broken violin! Go figure.
So now I don’t feel guilty about not learning the violin, he gets an instrument that he can deconstruct, and I earned some money. Win-win-win!
10) It Makes Moving Easier, Less-Stressful, and Cheaper
Whenever we moved growing up, the process was always stressful.
We would be packing for weeks before we moved, we would still be frantically putting things in boxes the day that the trucks arrived, and we always had to get an extra truck because we had so much stuff.
The moving experience for Ross and I living in a minimized house has always been very different. It has usually taken us about one week to pack up, we’ve usually been completely done with everything waiting in the garage or the living room the day before the truck arrives, and we usually need a much smaller vehicle to move ourselves that we even realize.
At first, it was almost weird to me how easy it was, but it makes a lot of sense.
Less stuff = less time. And Less Stuff = Less Money spent on a moving vehicle.
Even before we had kids, road trips were one of our favorite ways to travel because.. well, they were cheap.
Once we had kids, we figured that road trips would be our main mode of travel because we wouldn’t have as much money in our budget.
But once you add up paying for lodging, meals, gas, and entertainment, even road trips can become expensive if you aren’t careful.
So how can you go on a road trip without spending a fortune?
One of the best ways I’ve found is to plan out your meals ahead of time.
Meal planning for your road tip doesn’t mean that you never get to go out to eat, it just means that you eat out at the really awesome places and skip the fast food.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to create the perfect Road Trip meal plan the easy way!
5 Steps to Creating a Road Trip Meal Plan
1) Create a Master List
One of the challenges with traditional Meal Planning is starting from square one every time.
Creating a master list will solve this problem!
If you are a spreadsheet junkie like I am, an excel spreadsheet or Google Spreadsheet works really well for keeping the list organized.
2) Write Down Your Go-To Meals
If you are using a spreadsheet, I like to have one column for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. Then I list my favorite, go-to meals in each column.
Our favorite road trip breakfasts are zucchini muffins, banana muffins, mini frittatas, pre-made pancakes, and cold cereal that we put into ziplock baggies or snack containers.
We like easy meals that the kids can eat on the road without making too much mess in the car.
One of the benefits of doing breakfast in the car is that our kids will often eat breakfast for a really long time. Allowing them to eat in the car enables us to get a good start on driving while the kids are doing something that they would have been sitting for anyway.
For lunches, we often take a break from driving and have a picnic, so our favorite lunches are picnic-type foods.
We like to have stuff for making sandwiches, veggies, fruit, and chips.
We try to find a park along our route and give the girls plenty of time to stretch their legs before getting back on the road.
We keep snacks handy that they can eat as we are driving.
We try to be at our home base for the night by dinner time.
Our dinner choices change depending on the trip. If we are staying with friends, sometimes we will eat dinner with them, if we are camping I will usually make something from our Camping Meal Plan, and if we are doing a VRBO or Airbnb, I will do something easy like pasta, burgers, or KLoaf.
I like to do a lot of easy-to-make, quick-cleanup meals… which means we end up making things that are more processed than we usually eat at home. But that’s part of the fun of a vacation, right? And Mamma need a vacation too!
Some of our favorite road trip dinners are burgers, hotdogs, KLoaf, haystacks, and pasta.
3) Pull From The Master List
Now when it’s time to plan your meals for your road trip, all you need to do is pull however many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners from your master list!
4) Grocery Shopping
Normally I recommend only going to the grocery store once a week, but if you are keeping all of your food in a cooler, it won’t stay good for an entire week.
So I recommend getting what you need for the first two days, then going grocery shopping every couple of days for what you need. This will help you eat the food that you buy before going back to the store, and keep you from buying more than you need.
If You Are Going With Another Family…
5) Assign Meals
If you are going on a road trip with another family, assign meals that each family will be responsible for making.
You could let one family be in charge of lunches, one in charge of dinners, and have breakfasts on their own.
Or you could alternate days that each family will take care of the meals.
Once you know your assigned meals, simply pull from the Master List that you have already created!
Ready to Stop Feeling Stressed About Meal Planning?
After Ross and I paid off our student loans (more on that story here) we wanted to travel… but we didn’t want traveling to hurt our financial goals.
So we decided to go to New Zealand, Ross’s dream destination, and spend the least amount of money that we could. Think couch-surfing, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and sleeping in our car when we couldn’t find a couch to surf on cheap.
When we went to Europe (my dream destination) the following year, we carried our enormous backpacks everywhere we went because we were too cheap to rent lockers, we slept in train stations and on trains, we couch-surfed, we ate more peanut butter and jelly (but we did remember to buy trail mix this time for some variety!), and only paid to use a public bathroom once… because I was desperate (I still can’t believe they make you pay to pee in Europe! I’m over it, honest.)
When we had kids, we knew we still wanted traveling to be a part of our life.
But since I was quitting my job to be a stay-at-home mom, our budget was even tighter than it was before.
So we took what we had learned from traveling cheaply as a couple and figured out how to have a fun family vacation on a shoestring budget.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to set your vacation budget, give you some budget-friendly travel ideas, and tell you how to stick with your budget, even when you’re on vacation.
How to Plan a Fun Family Vacation on a Tight Budget
1) Determine Your Budget for the Vacation
The first thing that you need to do if you are on a tight budget is to sit down with your monthly budget and determine exactly how much you can afford to spend on this vacation.
Be sure to talk with your spouse or significant and come to an agreement on an amount that you are both comfortable with.
When you vacation shop first, you will probably be disappointed when you can’t afford your dream vacation. So always start with the budget… then look at which vacations you can afford.
2) Prioritize Your Spending
When you are on a tight budget, you have to choose where you want to allocate your money.
You won’t be able to afford spending a lot of money on eating out, fancy hotels, and exciting excursions.
But, you can probably spend more money on one of those things if you are frugal in the other two areas.
When we were traveling to our dream destinations before we had kids, we chose to travel, sleep, and eat very cheaply. That way we could spend more money on some fun experiences that we had always wanted to do, like skydiving and bungee jumping in New Zealand.
We wouldn’t have been able to afford to skydive or bungee jump if we hadn’t determined before our trip that we weren’t going to spend much money on meals and lodging.
So prioritize what you are going to use your money for before your trip to make sure that you spend the money where you want to.
Decide which of the three areas you are going to spend some money on and which two you are going to be frugal in.
3) Brainstorm Ideas for Your Vacation
Now that you know your budget, you can decide what type of vacation that you can afford.
Here are some ideas to get you started!
1. Visit Family
Visiting family for your vacation will save you a lot of money on lodging and food.
If you don’t want to be a financial burden to your family by staying with them, offer to pay for groceries! It will still be a much cheaper vacation that if you go to a hotel and eat out for every meal.
We are lucky enough to have family living in Hawaii right now and were able to have a really fun vacation while staying with family in a lovely tropical location.
Since we have family that live all over the US, we usually plan our trips to visit someone and do some sight-seeing at the same time.
2. Visit Friends
Just like visiting family, visiting friends is not only fun, but it will save you money on your family vacation.
A vacation doesn’t need to be far away from home. We love visiting friends that are only a couple of hours away just as much as we love visiting friends that are states away!
3. Go Camping
If you don’t have friends and family on the route that you want to take, bring your camping gear!
Not only is camping a great way to spend time in nature with your family, it is a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel or hotel alternative like AirBnB or VRBO.
Another reason I love camping is that campsites often don’t have WiFi or cell service. This forces everyone to put down their devices and truly spend time together.
Instead of flying to your destination, try taking a road trip instead!
We have driven a lot with our kids from the time they were tiny to get them ready for the bigger road trips that we wanted to take.
Neither of our girls was particularly fond of their car seats when they were babies, but we kept taking short 2-3 hour road trips whenever we could to get them used to it.
By the time our younger daughter wa 15 months old, we were able to go on a multiple-day road trip with happy campers in the back seat!
The only thing that we did to make them a little bit more excited about being in their car seats for so long is we got them each one new toy that we gave them for the trip. Our second daughter got a Buckle Toy, and our first daughter (who had just turned 4) got a Doodle Pad.
5. If You Need to Fly, Use a Credit Card to Get Points
When Ross’s brother moved to Hawaii and we knew that we wanted to go see them, we immediately got an Alaska Airlines credit card and began accumulating points.
Since we signed up when bonus miles were available, it didn’t take us too long before we were able to go to Hawaii with only needing to pay for 2 tickets (our younger daughter was under two, and our older daughter was able to fly on the companion ticket.)
If you know that you need to fly somewhere, see if you can find a credit card that you can earn miles with.
6. Have a Stay-Cation
If your budget doesn’t allow for you to do any of the above ideas, have a stay-cation with your family!
There are probably a lot of fun things to do close to your home that you’ve never done before. Are there fun restaurants that you have been wanting to try? Has a new water park opened up in your area? Are there gardens to visit or hikes to go on?
Take some time off work, put away your phone, and pretend you are on vacation with your family right in your own city!
4) Make Your Decisions And Begin to Prepare
1. Set Aside Money Every Month for Your Trip
It’s never too early to start saving for your trip.
You won’t be disappointed if you end up with more money to spend on your vacation than you originally thought, but you will be disappointed if you come up short.
You could even put a spare change jar in the kitchen so your whole family can see the goal and easily contribute to it.
2. Make Arrangements for Your Trip
This is when you want to check with any family or friends to see if they are available for you to stay with them, book hotels, book airline tickets, and anything else that you can purchase and reserve ahead of time.
Many things get more expensive as the date approaches and you can save money by booking in advance.
3. Meal Plan and Eat Out Sparingly
If you need to save money on your vacation, meal plan before you go.
Plan which days you will eat out and which days you will make your own food.
Do some research ahead of time on the local favorites so that you can be sure to go to the good places while you are there.
We have saved so much money on all of our trips by meal planning and going to the grocery store instead of just hitting the restaurants.
It’s not to say that we don’t go out to eat at all, but we plan on which meals we are going to eat out and we try not to impulsively go to restaurants just because it seems more fun at the time.
4. Research Free Things To Do Before Your Vacation
No matter where you are going (or if you are going nowhere at all!), there are free things to do.
There is no better way to make your budget stretch even farther than by taking advantage of cheap or free things to do.
5) Pay Attention to Your Budget When You Are On Your Vacation
If you are on a tight budget, make sure you aren’t overspending when you are on vacation.
It can be really easy to get caught up in #vacationmode and start making it rain everywhere you go, but all those little expenses add up.
If you don’t want to be paying for your summer vacation from now until Christmas, keep track of all of your spending either with pen and paper, through the Mint.com app, or by using cash for everything!