Our June 2017 Family Finance Overview

Can you believe we are already past 1/2 of the year? My little one turned 6 months old and I feel like all these happened in a blink of an eye 🙂

With 2 kids and move to a new place, our expenses went up quite a bit lately. We didn’t buy a lot of baby items for Meera as we used Jeev’s stuff for her. We are also slowly getting rid of stuff as she outgrows them (hello, bouncer!). One thing I realized is, babies don’t need a lot of stuff. They only need few clothes and food. My kids play with empty boxes more than they play with expensive, educated (we think) toys that we buy them.

My husband and I have monthly financial meetings at the end of the month to go over our spending pattern and changes we need to make. I thought I can share our monthly family finance wins and fails over here for you all. I hope you find them useful.

WINS:

Niagara Roadtrips Instead of Flying:

It’s definitely one of the financial wins for this month. Hubby was not sure how the road trip would turn out to be with a toddler and a baby. We live 6 hours away from Niagara. When I checked, the airline tickets were quite expensive and it didn’t make sense to fly when we can drive with a little bit of planning. We spread the trip over 4 days (it would have been just a day trip if we flew) and let me tell you, it was one of the best trips we had with kids.

The whole stretch from NJ to Niagara Falls is full of trees and so gorgeous. It’s one of the reasons we never felt tired of driving. We stopped at random spots and explored the local area.

Eating Out on Vacation:

If you are following this Facebook or Instagram, page, you know we traveled quite a bit in June. Subway and McDonalds are our stable restaurants especially when traveling. We love the variety of options Subway provides and we get coffee and snack from McDonald’s (McDonald’s does have some healthy options in their menu).

For dinners, we carried Instantpot thinking that we would cook dinner at least for Jeev. However, every night we reached hotel room only around 10 PM and eating out was the easy option. For restaurants, even before starting the trip, I bought discounted gift cards for Subway and McDonald’s from Raise (I use these discounted gift card selling websites quite a lot for my purchases). 

Food Budget:

We ate out only a few times in June and surprisingly we didn’t miss it at all. More than saving money, health is the primary reason we are limiting outside food. Instead, I am making whole wheat pizza and other splurge foods at home when we crave for junk food.

Fails:

Light Fixture:

One of us broke the light fixer in the house and we had to buy a replacement for a whopping $80. Even though I cringe when I think about the $$ wasted, it was an accident and was no one’s fault.

Marshalls Trips:

I love Marshalls and I buy a lot of items from TJ Maxx and Marshalls. I made way too many trips to Marshalls in June that my shopping $$ were quite high. If only I remember what we bought there.

I bought a toy for a friend’s kid birthday and even though I hid it from Jeev, somehow this little guy found out and opened it the next minute he saw the toy. Well, it’s the mom’s mistake to have kept it in the house (I should have left it in the car itself). I had to make another trip to Marshalls to buy another toy for the birthday kid.

Emergency Visit:

As I mentioned in my last Life Lately post, we had visits to ER a number of times in the last few months. At the end of each trip, I felt like I overreacted (glad it was nothing scary). In June, it was my turn to visit ER and it’s a huge part of our total expenses. Hoping for less surpricing spends in July.

Disclosure: I get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use my links, but I’m very grateful when you do. 

Life Lately

Life LatelyIt’s been minutes since I shared my life lately. Probably not after the baby was born? 🙂 You all know how the first few months after baby would be. Jeev was getting adjusted to having a sibling, sleepless nights, new place, and a lot more changes than we would prefer. We survived and finally, things are getting better.

about meera

About Meera:

Meera just turned 5 months old and she already adores her brother. She is sitting on her own and always looking to grab something to put it in her mouth. She is such a charmer and wants everyone around her. She gets upset even if one of her moves away from her. This girl is full of life and I’m already seeing her uniqueness.

hershey chocolate world

Our Trips to Chocolate factory and DC:

When Jeev was born, we started taking him out as soon as he turned 2 months. With Meera, we finally took a long trip only after she turned 4 months old. My husband has been working too many hours lately (not a happy wife here) and on a Saturday evening, we decided to take a 3 hours trip to Chocolate Factory in Philadelphia. The best part was, we finally traveled to someplace nice and enjoyed every bit of the experience. The worst part was, Hubby was on call all through the journey and we missed meeting some of the folks in PA.

Then, the week after, we took my mom to DC. DC is 4 hours away from our place and it only took us 7 hours to reach there after taking breaks almost every 30 minutes.

It’s our third visit to DC and a low key visit. We made the whole journey as simple as possible. Driving to DC was the hardest part of the trip. We stayed 5 minutes away from major attractions and took Uber everywhere. We came back to the room for kids nap time and went out again in the evening. It worked perfectly fine for us.

Back to work:

I was back to work from maternity leave from March. It’s been over 3 months and I should say life has been crazzaay over here. I’m not really complaining, I love what I do and overall I’m happy that I’m able to balance better than I expected. Big thanks to my family!

Meera’s 100 days and Anna Prashanam:

I’m someone who keeps looking for ideas to celebrate and create memories as a family. We celebrated Jeev’s 100 days and I followed the same tradition for Meera as well.

For Meera’s anna prasannam (first feeding ceremony), mom and I went to Jo Ann’s, picked material for her dress, and Mom handmade a dress for her first bite. I’ll treasure this dress forever. The day was, for sure, very special.

My YouTube channel:

I started YouTube channel a couple of months ago to share some of the things that work better when I show visually. I also realized I’m stressed out when I try to do everything. My initial plan was to post a video once every couple of weeks and I don’t think it’s feasible.

Even to take a video, I had to wait till the house is silent (is that even possible with an active toddler and a baby?), set up everything, take video, and edit. Man, it’s a lot of work and not doing something I planned stresses me out.

So I decided to take it easy and shoot videos whenever I feel like. If I post a video, I’ll share it on Facebook and Instagram.

The Bad:

In the last few months, we had to visit ER multiple times. By God’s grace, all are due to me freaking out over small issues (mom hormones, maybe?). But, this side of life is definitely stressful. I hope there won’t be any sickness for a while.

Did you have any big moments in the last few weeks/months? I’d love to hearing more about you.

Gifting Options to Family in India + $100 Giveaway

Gifting options to family in IndiaAs someone who is living outside of India, I miss the celebrations and special occasions in the family back home. Worst of all, they get used to us being away from them. For them, the first few years are hard. After that, they’re used to our online presence and don’t miss us like before. No matter whether it’s our own parents or distant relative we love, it’s important to keep the bond strong. It’s important to remember and wish on their special occasions.

Gifting Family in India:

People who are close to us, don’t expect gifts or anything from us. But, we know they will be very happy if we gift them something that they love. When the years pass by, I no longer know my family members wants and needs. For example, as long as I remember, my mom never wore makeup. She didn’t like to wear any big jewelry or anything, nor did she like to wear heavy silk sarees. So I assumed that my mom doesn’t like makeup and not much into grooming. She recently visited us a few months back. Even though it’s her 3rd visit here, only recently I got to know that she likes makeup. Well, now it’s my turn to find suitable products for her and help her learn to apply makeup.

Gifting Fail:

Finding and deciding suitable gifts for the family members is the most painful part of India trip planning. I remember buying vegetable peelers and handbags in bulk before one of our India trips. 😉

For birthday and other special occasions, our standard gift so far has been either booking movie or ordering cake. It’s so predictable that it’s no longer a surprise for our family in India. I remember buying something from Amazon for my nephew’s birthday hoping that he would like it.  We gift everything we thought they will like it, but in reality, they might not want to watch that movie we booked or play with that toy that we gifted.

In our defense, we have very limited options to gift from here. Recently, I came across Oxigen’s digital gift services and I ordered Levi’s gift card for my brother through them. The gift card was delivered to his email directly (I got a copy of that email as well. Sweet!).

My Brother’s Experience:

  • He searched the nearby Levi’s store from the list of exclusive stores where the gift card will be acceptable
  • He went to one of the stores from the list and checked in the billing counter whether they will accept the gift card
  • He selected a shirt and bought it using the gift card

I was not completely sure of using gift cards in an Indian retal store. I was so happy that he was able to use it without any issues. Maybe I should visit India often.

Some of the highlights of Oxigen’s digital gifts are,

  • They are great as last-minute gifts when you’ve almost forgotten an occasion.
  • It works when you don’t want to or can’t make a decision on what exactly to gift a loved one,
  • It also provide flexibility when specific preferences come into play (clothes size, material, color, etc.)
  • They offer a variety of gift cards for buying both physical as well as experience gifts. For example, they have gift cards even for restaurants, movie theater, spa, travel etc

Now that we are only a few days away from Father’s day, a gift card to your Dad in India might a good option. I’m sure he would be delighted to try Italian cuisine Spaghetti Kitchen or watch a movie through BookMyShow.

Note: 

  • Even though Oxigen’s online gift cards are instantly delivered to your email, the first transaction takes 2 days to complete. I ordered their gift card on Friday and both my brother and I received the email with gift card information only on Sunday.
  • When you receive the gift card over email, it also contains the list of stores where you can use the gift card. Make sure you use in one of those stores.
  • Certain gift cards, like Cleartrip, Makemytrip and BookMyShow can be redeemed online. It differs for each gift card/type of gift
  • For any issues: the email that goes out to the recipients of the gifts has a link to FAQs and the option to contact the specific retailer for the gift card

Finally, THE GIVEAWAY:

Before going to the giveaway, I wanted to clarify that I spent my own money to try Oxigen’s digital service and even though they are sponsoring the giveaway, all the opinions are my own. I value my readers and I would not recommend anything to you that I would not use/try.

Oxigen is giving away $50 gift card for 2 of my readers. Yay! All you need to do is share this blog post on your social media page with a hashtag #OxigenUSA. You can find a variety of social media share buttons available at the bottom of this post. Choose the one that you prefer and share it to the world with the hashtag #OxigenUSA.

The giveaway ends on June 28, 2017. I will randomly select 2 winners who shared this post on social media (it can be either on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter). Both of you will get $50 gift card that you can choose from Oxigen digital service options. Shower your family in India with gifts using the gift card.

Have you used Oxigen’s services before? What do you think of them? If not, share away this post for a  chance to win $50 gift card of your choice from their options.

If you have any questions, reach me at centsibleindian@gmail.com or leave a comment in this post.

Father’s Day Gift Ideas For Clueless Moms

Father's Day Gift Ideas For Clueless MomsFather’s day is around the corner and if any of you are looking for ideas to celebrate the special day here are some ideas for us, clueless moms 🙂

Do-It-Yourself Gifts:

If the kid is over 2 years old, it’s possible to make a DIY gift for the Daddy. Pinterest has a ton of ideas on DIYs and it’s my go-to place for any DIY project. I came across the below Finger Paint Canvas and I am totally in love with it.

(image credit)

Since Jeev is already 3 and Meera can sit and grab stuff, this DIY canvas is possible to make for this Father’s day although I’m afraid of the mess it would create when we make it. It’s relatively easy to make, yet quite a nice gift that the Daddy would love to receive.

Note: Hubby never visits my blog or the social media unless I sit with him and show him the blog. So there is no way he would know this gift idea. If you know our family outside of this blog, keep this as a secret. Will ya? 😃

Experience Gift:

experience gift for father's day

If your spouse is not much interested in physical gifts, experience gift can be an option. Who doesn’t love a ticket to their favorite game or show?

Experience gifts can be something like, massaging session at a spa, offroad biking, ticket to an event that he wants to go etc. My husband prefers experience gift and every time I bought one for him, it was a success.

We try to avoid clutter in our home. If I didn’t use a non-seasonal item for over 6 months, it goes out of the house. I just got rid of a Clarisonic Mia because I used it only a few times and personally didn’t like it even though I bought it after so much research. I’d rather experience something awesome as a gift than buying something that I might or might not use. My husband has a similar approach and this idea works for us every time without fail. However, this time I am going to try the DIY canvas idea because we are anyway looking to decorate the house and this would be a great addition.

If you don’t know where to start, Groupon can be a good option. Try your local city mom blogs that share upcoming events in the city. Ask for a good spa recommendation to your friends or in your community Facebook page.

Material Gifts:

Now we are talking about typical gifts. Here are some material gift ideas if you’re looking for one: drones, underwater camera, GoPro, bluetooth headphone, Amazon echo, wearables such as fitbit, Apple watch, electric razor etc.

What to do if you don’t know what your spouse exactly wants? If he wants a camera, do you know the exact model he wants? Personally, even if my husband said something about a product he is interested in, I still wouldn’t know the exact model and obviously, I don’t want to ask him.

If you’re not sure what your spouse wants, write the product name in a note and present to him with a greeting card. You can take him to the shop even on the same day and buy the exact model he wants. It’s a win-win because you gave something your husband wants and your husband is happy to get the product model he is interested. This note is a ticket to buy the item whenever he wants.

If you’re buying online, don’t forget to shop through cashback websites for some nice payout.

Family Gifts:

This is yet another favorite gift category for my spouse. He is always on the look out for some fun games to play with my son. Buying something your spouse likes, yet adding fun to the family is the best of both the worlds.

Some of the gift ideas are lawn games, jogger, bike trailer, backpack to carry the child on hikes, kite etc.

Picture Gift:

One idea when it comes to picture gift is to collect all the pictures of your hubby and kid(s) (just them in the picture) and create a photo book. I’m sure your hubby would love to go through this photo book more than ones and it will be his forever treasure.

Create Your Own Gift:

Does it sound fun? 😀 Create your own gift for the Daddy. Offer him personal care such as pedicure, massage or even cut the lawn once for him (if you know how to do it). He will love the little pampering by his special someone. If you can include your kid(s) in the process, it would be more fun.

We have this Conair pedicure at home and my husband enjoys a relaxing foot massage once in a while. I pamper my guy with a nice pedicure using some wonderful feet/hand creams I use. So far he never complained. Guess, its a success? 😉

Do you gift any other fun gifts to your loved ones? Would love to know as well.

How To Plan Your Monthly Activities? + Printable

 etHow to plan your monthly activitiesI used to share my monthly goals on the blog. I stopped sharing here because I’m not sure how useful it is to see My goals (do let me know if you find it useful. I don’t mind sharing with you guys). I still plan my upcoming month and important events in that month.

Planning doesn’t have to be related to money, time management etc. It can be as simple as cleaning the bathroom sink. But here, we are going to focus on major categories to plan your month. Writing in a paper on putting it somewhere visible shows us the list of things we need to do that specific period. The word “goals” might sound too technical. The point is to plan your month ahead of time to avoid any surprises in the middle of the month. Who want to be in a situation when you don’t have any good pajamas at home for your kid’s pajama day at school the next day?

The reason I started planning my month was, on multiple occasions, I was either missing an event or was exhausted after planning something at the last minute. Maybe I am one of those people who have less energy overall. But I perform and thrive well when planned. You don’t need to spend 2 hours planning your month. Sometimes 10 minutes is enough to plan your month. Download the printable below and start filling your dates/events in each category. Make sure you fill it up and stick it in your fridge.

List Of Categories To Plan your Month:

All of us wear different hats in our lives. Mom, dad, wife, daughter, son etc. Whether its an event that we attend or our kids attend, it should be on OUR schedule. Because we are the ones who need to plan and prepare for the event. Below are list of categories that can be planned for your upcoming month:

Kids School Activities:

It’s one of the active categories each month. Every month, something or the other is going on for kids either in their school or daycare. For us, Jeev will start his preschool this month. It’s a big event for us and I’m preparing what to do on the first day, how to plan his transition (he will be moving from one class to another in the daycare itself. I would like his transition to be as smooth as possible). I will be doing a photo shoot and we will be making muffins to celebrate the new class as well. It’s just that I want to create an excitement around the change for my little boy.

Religious Festivals:

There is no major religious festival/event this month in the religion I follow. However, by knowing ahead of time, I will be able to prepare my day/week/month to celebrate the festival without running around like a mad woman. In my religion, festivals involve lots of cooking. Someone who doesn’t like to spend too much time in the kitchen, it’s essential for me to plan ahead, freezer cook, or meal plan for that special day.

The only significant event related to religion for this month is, Anna prasannam for Meera. Meera turned 5 months and our doctor recommended starting solid between her 5-6 months. We have decided an auspicious day to start her first meal (more of a first taste of a puree). I bought a material for her dress, my mom stitched it, I’m looking for some ideas to take pictures of her day, where to start the feeding, what to take to the temple etc. I enjoy planning all these and celebrate important events in our life.

Special Occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries:

We don’t have any birthdays in June, but we do have Father’s Day to celebrate. Buying gift needs major planning in here. My husband enjoys experience gift than material gift. I enjoy utilitarian gift. We also don’t believe in showing our kids with too many toys. So, we do need to plan ahead for that special occasion every time.

Events to Attend:

You might have invitations to attend birthday parties, friends meetup, kids playdate etc. Plan ahead and be prepared for the event ahead of time.

Did you buy a gift for your friend’s kid birthday celebration? Start looking for a deal right away instead of waiting until the last minute and pay double for the same gift you would have bought for a much lesser price if you have planned earlier.

You might need to check your closet for those unopened, quality gifts for regifting. Here is more on regifting.

Budget Meeting:

Can’t stress enough of the importance of budget and spending discussion with your spouse/family. Set aside a time and discuss the spending of the previous month, what you did right and wrong, how you want to take this month ahead etc. Just make sure you do this meeting sometime in the first week of every month.

Holidays/Vacations:

Are you traveling, planning a vacation, someone visiting you home, or there is a long weekend around the corner? Plan ahead on how you want to spend your holiday/vacation. Book that flight ticket as early as possible. I’m super guilty of this one. Husband’s work has been super volatile lately that we are having a hard time planning ahead for vacation. But we are trying to make it work. On an ideal situation, I want to plan our vacation, book tickets etc as early as possible.

Date Night/Day/Shopping:

When was the last time you went on a date with your special one? Our last real date was just days before my daughter was born. We put our son to sleep, asked my parents to watch him, and went for a movie. It was a great movie and we had such a good time together. However, we still try to sneak in once a week. It might be just to get a take-out from a nearby restaurant to the grocery store when the kids are asleep (and mom watching them). But that 10 minutes time together is so valuable and I always feel refreshed when we are back. I can’t stress enough the importance of spending alone time with your spouse. If you’re not doing it now, please try {and don’t talk about your work when you’re alone. Joke around and have fun even if you’re in the grocery store household aisle getting toilet paper 😉 }

Projects/Learning/Reading:

Do you want to read a certain book that you’ve been trying to read, want to learn something, want to make some progress on the big project? Note it down. The power of setting up a goal and having it in your notepad is so powerful that you’ll at least make one step ahead than the month before.

Big Spending:

My husband and I don’t discuss or ask for approval for small purchases. Both of us are not spenders and we discuss our spending at the end of every month in our budget meeting. However, if we are looking to buy something big, whether it’s for the house, family, or for the individual, we discuss it. We put an alert in places such as Slickdeals and continue to look for deals. If it’s something urgent that will save time/ money, waiting for a good deal might not makes sense. In that case, we will just go ahead and buy. For something that can wait, we will continue to look for deals and wait till we get one. However, it will be in our monthly planner so that we are continuing to look for a better deal before we buy one.

It’s important to note down big purchases because, it’s visible to all the family members, you’re waiting to buy it and continue to talk to your family about this. Sometimes after discussions, you might realize you no longer need that product. We have decided not to buy many items after much thoughts/discussions with each other. Hence, it’s important to note it down.

Here is the planner printable for your monthly events. Print it out at the starting of every month, write down your list, and stick it in the freezer for tracking and visibility.