Eight Essential Items to Traveling Europe with 2 Toddlers and 1 Baby


Last year we went to Europe for 3 months with our 3 children (then aged 4, 2.5 years, and 7 months old).  I talked in this post about how we made this work and in today’s post, I’m going to talk about the eight items that ended up being the most useful equipment we took that made our lives way easier as we traveled with such young children.  A few of these were last-minute decisions that we were super happy we made, and others were extremely well-researched, deeply-considered purchases that ended up being worth every single penny.

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DIY: How To Refinish Any Piece of Furniture the Lazy-DIY Way

Turning auction finds into a useable Coffee Bar!

I love refinishing pieces that need new life in them or that I can use around my home, but to be honest, I’m lazy about it.  I hate sanding, I hate prep work.  When I want to do something, I just want to get down and do the actual thing.. NOT spend 5 hours on sanding every last piece of paint or finish off.  Keep reading for my 5 easy steps on how you can get your project done with minimal stress and work…

 

 

 

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YNAB: The ONLY Budgeting Software you should EVER use!

Photo: #YNABstockphotos

Why We Started Using YNAB

When my husband and I got married, we both were on the same page as far as finances went. We both felt strongly about having as little debt as possible; living within our means; and handling the money we did have responsibly.  We didn’t have much experience in budgeting or fiscal responsibility though.  We were both very young (20 years old); and neither of us had ever had much money to handle.  So it was fortunate for us, that due to the recommendation of my husband’s boss, we started using an awesome piece of budgeting software called, You Need a Budget. Or for short, YNAB.  This one piece of software has changed our lives in numerous ways!

What Is YNAB:

You Need a Budget is a piece of software that is easy to use, effective, and necessary for your financial life! It allows you to:

  • easily set financial goals
  • categorize your spending as finely as you want
  • syncs with your bank
  • makes it a dream to reconcile your spending
  • makes it HARD to overspend
  • has an awesome mobile app
  • helps you save thousands
  • gives you super-cool, easy-to-read reports on how you’ve prioritized and spend your money.
  • AND it’s easy to use

Most budgeting software seems to be geared towards someone who has had years of financial training.  Not YNAB!  For sure, it works great for the CPAs, and CFOs and all that, but in my opinion, where it shines is how it enables normal, everyday people to take charge of their money in a clear, straightforward effective, FUN way.  

A Few Ways it Has Helped Us:

Saved us a lot of arguments:

Statistically, finances are one of the greatest sources of arguments between two married people.  We tagged this as an potential weak spot in our marriage at the start as we’re both very strong-willed people who both have very clear ideas of what we want. With that in mind, we committed to keeping our communication clear on the topic.  YNAB makes this extremely easy by not only being easy to use; easy to have access to on multiple devices; easy to sync; and easy to quickly determine problem points in the budget.  Other systems (like QUICKEN – ick!) are just a big pain in the butt and hard to understand for the average person.  Every year we talk about our financial goals for the next year and then we review those a few times a year.  We reconcile a few times a month, a process that takes less than 20 minutes, due to how streamlined and easy to use their interface is.

Made it Easy to Set Financial Goals

You Need A Budget is set up in a way to make it incredibly simple to set financial goals.  For each category, you have the option of adding how much you want to save by when.  The software then tells you how much you need to set aside each month to make that happen.  Not only does this give you a cool little graph to follow as it ticks upward each month, it also lets you easily see if your goals are even feasible to begin with.

Saved Us 100s of Dollars

YNAB is the number one tool that we both believe has saved us hundreds in unnecessary spending.  Even the people with the best of intentions can find themselves spending more than they think when they have no easy way to keep track of their money-out/money-in.  It’s kind of like dieting.  Before you start, you think you’re eating 1800 calories and then you start counting them and you realize you’re eating 3000 calories and most of that in food you don’t even like.  Keeping track of your calories(money) allows you to make informed, thought-out choices on what you buy and to maximize the amount of money you have with what your priorities truly are. The tiny yearly fee they charge for using it is more than worth it for the money they save us.

Saved Us a Lot of Stress

The other area in which YNAB excels is making it a piece of cake to set aside money in a consistent manner for “those things”Ya know, car repairs, appliance replacement, out-of-the-blue medical bills – all that stuff.  We have categories for all of these items and because we add a bit to each one each month, by the time we’re hit with that huge car repair it’s not a stress. Because the money has been set aside waiting for the time it’s needed.

Real-life examples of this in the past 5 years are:

  • finding out our only car needed a complete overhaul four days before a long car-trip
  • appliance repair (and replacement)
  • sudden medical expenses
  • and Christmas budgeting. ( Yes, we budget for Christmas and it’s amazing how little stress you have at the holidays when you’ve set aside money all year and it’s just there!)

Allowed Us to Travel

In England

This is an extension of everything else I’ve written here.  When you have two people who have an easy-to-use, effective, (FUN) piece of software the makes managing your money a breeze, it’s much easier to accomplish your dreams.  One of ours was to go to Europe for three months and we achieved that last year and not only did we do it, but we did it with our three little kids (4 and under!).   And no, we’re not rolling in wealth: we’re just normal people.  We set categories and goals years before, prioritized our spending, and set a timeline.  And when we finally did it, we felt incredibly empowered and had an amazing time!  And I can say in all honesty that without YNAB, that would never have happened.

 Dream Careers

Okay, I haven’t worked there, but they are for reals my dream company to work for!  I’m not even kidding, every time they post a new career opportunity, I go and read through them all and then daydream for about 5 minutes before reality hits me.  If you don’t believe me, ask my husband.  Maybe someday!  I’ve only ever heard good things about their work environment and the perks they offer their employees are awesome!  Seriously, if anyone reading this is considering a new job, you should check them out!

Give You Need a Budget a Try

If you’re still on the fence, YNAB has a great offer where you can try it for free for 34 days!  So, give it a go! You’ve got nothing to lose but fair warning.. you’ll be hooked for life!

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The Best Fall Fashion Finds for Easy, Cozy, and Stylish Outfits

My son in the leaves

I love Fall: the cold crisp days; falling colorful leaves; crackling fires in the morning; getting ready for Christmas and last but not least, cozy sweaters; leggings; boots; scarves – basically everything about fall fashion!

I’m also a ‘lazy’ shopper. Or I prefer a ‘smart’ shopper. I have three kids four and under and clothes shopping can be a big pain when all your toddlers want to do is go home and take a nap or play or anything except be there and watch their mom look for clothes. And that’s not even taking into account the whole “trying things on ordeal” as you keep the girl from dragging the baby out of the dressing view while the boy loudly proclaims how he wants to color dinosaurs now and they suddenly are all hungry and thirsty at the same time.

Because of that I’ve transitioned to buying most of clothes online.  Amazon has come a long way in the past few years in their clothes department to the point where they now have a huge range of items. Also, if you have Amazon Prime, you get free two-day shipping (= you get your items super quickly) AND you get free returns, which means you can easily return things that don’t fit.

With that in mind, here are my favorite fall clothing staples for my 2017 Fall and Winter wardrobe:

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My Top 10 Go-To Fitness Accessories for Living an Active Lifestyle as a Mom

 

On a short getaway to San Diego!
My babies!

As a full-time mom to three little ones (4 years old, 2.5 years old, and 3 months old) it’s not always easy to carve out time for exercise and it’s also far too easy to make excuses for myself!  So, I’ve written up my Top Ten Go-To Fitness Products that either help me stay motivated; help me stay on top of my fitness goals; or make it easy to exercise even if I have to do it with all my kids.  I’ve included a “Why I love this” description and a link that will take you to Amazon where you can find more reviews and current prices.  So, keep reading below for what makes working out with toddlers easier for THIS mom.

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The Top 5 Rowing Machines of 2017

Why You Should Row & The Best Rowers of 2017

When people head into a gym, they immediately gravitate to the treadmill.  Or elliptical.  Or maybe the free weights.  But they rarely head over to the most underused AND undervalued piece of equipment in the gym: the rowing machine.  Maybe it’s because they feel intimidated by it.  Or maybe they feel like it’s uneffective.  But the fact of the matter is, the rower is one of THE most effective exercises machines that you could use.  About the same price as a good quality treadmill, the rower is a way more efficient and worthwhile machine to consider for your home gym.

If you don’t have much time you’ll find a short list below of the Top 5 Rowing Machines of 2017.  I include a brief description on why each machine is a good rower and a link that will take you to Amazon for the current price and more reviews.  If you have more time and want more information, keep on reading for some more information, workouts, how-to videos, some helpful accessories and some fun facts about rowing and all that it does for your body!

The TOP 5 Rowing Machines of 2017

  • Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5:
    The Concept2 Brand is considered to be the Gold Standard of Rowers.  Used by professionals for its similarity to  the real thing, the Concept2 Model E provides a smooth low impact and total body workout with minimal noise and set up.  It easily separates into two pieces for storage and has a 500 lb. user capacity.  It includes a monitor that provides accurate data for each stroke of your workout. There is also a Model D which caters to a slightly different audience.  Check here for my review on the Concept2 Model D and here for my review and comparison of the differences between the Concept2 Model D and the Concept2 Model E Rowers.
  • Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower This Magnetic Rowing machine allows you to program different workouts as well as adjust resistance and workout time with the touch of a button.  It  comes with 12 programs and a fitness monitor that tracks distance, time, calories, watts and strokes per minute.   This is a perfect rower for someone on a moderate budget who wants a great machine for their home gym.

 

 

 

 

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The Top Five TRX Strap Kits in 2017

TRX Straps: My New Favorite Gym Addition in 2017

TRX Straps

Are you traveling and need a solution for working out on a budget?  Or can’t afford a big set of weights but want to do strength training?  Looking for a good core workout?  TRX straps are your answer!  Inexpensive and yet SO effective, these handy straps are light, easily slipped into your suitcase or used in your home and take literal seconds to set up.

If you are short on time, see below for a list of the top 5 TRX Strap Kits in 2017. I’ve included a short description and the links will take you straight to Amazon where you can find the current prices and sales. If you would like to see a more detailed review, you’ll find a comprehensive review a little further down, complete with pros and cons, how-to videos and workouts.

 

 

The TOP 5 TRX Strap Kits in 2017

TRX Tactical Kit: This kit is perfect for those who want an army style workout!  It comes with every single thing you need to work your whole body in shape: including three ditigal bootcamp workouts and access to the TRX Force Super App.  It also has a one year 100% purchase satisfaction, which means if you don’t love it you can return it for a full refund!

 

 

TRX PRO Suspension Training Home Gym: This TRX kit is similiar to the Tactical Kit except that it’s geared more towards home users.  It includes an 8 week workout program, 5 video workouts specific to different parts of the body, one total body workout, and 2 extra workout videos.  It also has a 100% satisfaction guarantee for one year, making this a great option to try out!

 

TRX Suspension Training Home Gym:  This TRX kit is similiar to the Pro Kit except that it has slightly less extras included. It also includes a one year 100% purchase satisfaction guarantee and comes with six digital home workouts and a comprehensive guide on using your TRX straps to their full advantage.

 

TRX training – Suspension Trainer Basic Kit + Door Anchor, Complete Full Body Workouts Kit for the Home and the Road:  This product is perfect for someone who wants a travel friendly kit.  Geared for people on the go, this product is lighter and easier to transport but JUST as high quality as the more expensive TRX strap kits.

Lifeline Jungle Gym XT: This is a great option for those who want to give Suspension Training a try but aren’t ready to invest a lot of money in it.  These are just as effective, and easy to use but are much more economical and more friendly to your budget.

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The WaterRower: The Ultimate Indoor Rowing Experience

What Is a WaterRower?

Quite simply, a WaterRower is an indoor rowing machine that uses water (typically in a small/medium sturdy container) to provide resistance instead of using air or magnetic resistance typically used by other rowing machines.  Because it uses water as resistance it is often boasted of mimicking the feel of a real boat and provides a smooth, natural, rowing feel.  

Average Cost of a WaterRower:

Because of the quality and craftsmanship of WaterRowers,  they are not inexpensive machines.  However, people who use them believe (and I think this as well) that they are well worth the investment.  You’re not only paying for a better and more accurate rowing experience, but you’re also paying for the fact that these machines will practically last forever.  When you weigh that against a cheaper machine that might break down after a few years use, you end up spending less money overall.

That being said, every machine I discuss below typically fall somewhere in the $800 – $3000 range (depending on the machine and current sales).  If you aren’t looking for a indoor rower in this price range, consider checking out the Stamina Air Rower or Stamina Trac Glider which fall into a significantly lower price bracket and are still well-reviewed, good rowers.  Otherwise, keep reading or head on over to Amazon now to see some well-reviewed rowers.

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Is the Stamina Body Trac Glider the Best Rowing Machine under $200?

The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050: Product Review

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 (image will take you to Amazon)

Are you someone who wants to build up a home gym but your budget is limited?  Or maybe you are interested in giving rowing a try but don’t want to commit to the cost of a machine like the Concept 2 rower .  In either of these cases, checking out the Stamina Body Trac Glider could be well worth your time!  Continue reading for more information on this low-cost, effective rowing machine or go straight to Amazon here for the current price.

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Concept 2 Model E vs. Concept 2 Model D: Which is better?

If you’re looking for a high quality rower, chances are pretty good that you’re are thinking about getting a Concept 2 Indoor Rower.  In looking around, you may have noticed that they have a Model D and Model E and that although the Model E is approximately 20% more in price than the Model D, there otherwise doesn’t seem to be much difference.

That’s what this article is for: to save YOU your valuable time in researching and give you a clear article on the differences between the two models so that you can make an informed decision before you purchase.

To go straight to current prices on Amazon, check below or keep reading for more information:

Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rower

Concept 2 Model E Indoor Rower

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