Fun Baby Shower Games – Minute to Win it

Showering an expecting mother with all she needs to be prepared for her new baby’s arrival is a great joy. Planning the shower can be a lot of work and coming up with unique and fun games is always the most challenging task. I recently planned my sister’s baby shower, she is soon to have a little baby boy! We decided to make the games minute-to-win-it style and it was a real hit! I will be sharing the 4 games we played below.

Before I start on the games I wanted to mention the steps we took to make the baby shower more COVID friendly, the expecting mother was especially nervous about the safety of herself and the guests. We made separated bags of chex mix sitting on the tables prior to the food being served. Guests went through a line to get their food but we made dishes that were easy to grab. Slider sandwiches, cheesy potatoes that we pre-portioned in dishes, fruit on skewers, and cupcakes. 

Nothing in the line required serving spoons and the guests were able to move through quickly. We put hand sanitizer on every table. We also asked the guests to wear masks when they were not eating and everyone felt comfortable with that because we had a few guests over the age of 80.

Game 1: Diaper Pong

Each team steps up to the table and has 1 minute to bounce ping pong balls into the diapers to collect points. Then rotate and the team with the highest points is the winner of this game. What you will need: 2 poster boards or 1 tri fold board, wrapping paper, prong pins, ping pong balls (We bought 12), diapers, and points labels

Game 2: Baby Rattle

In this game two teams face off the shake as many gumballs through the rattle as they can in one minute. The host announces the time on the clock in 15 second increments so the team can pass the bottle to their next team member and take a rest. At the end of one minute the two teams set down the bottle to see who has shaken more gumballs through. You can also extend this game past a minute and have the two teams race to move all the gumballs through the rattle. Here is a YouTube video where they race to get all gumballs through the rattle. What you will need: 4 empty two liter bottles, a bag of small gumballs, duck tape. 

Game 4: Snot Bottle

The name may not sound very appealing but this game is a crowd pleaser. Each team nominates two players who race to pick up marshmallows and move them into a baby bottle with just a snot sucker. They have 1 minute to see how many marshmallows they can suck up and drop into the bottle. At the end of 1 minute count how many marshmallows were moved into the bottle and pass the snot suckers onto the next team. The team with the most marshmallows in the bottle is the ultimate winner. What you will need: 2 snot suckers, 1 baby bottle, marshmallows.

Game 3: Diaper Blowout

To play this game you need a couple of diapers and baby onesies. Each team has 3 minutes in this game to change the bear as many times as possible out of their dirty diaper and onesie and into a new one. What you will need: 1 Teddy bear or baby doll, at least 2 diapers and 2 onesies.

Finally, I was able to put a fun twist on the games by coming up with funny team names such as team “Lactating Nipples” or team “Stretch Marks”. The guests found their team on a board I set on our welcome table.

We had 5 teams and 4 minute-to-win-it games which gave us about 40 minutes of game time once you include time to explain the games and rotate the teams through the games. We also had small prize bags for the winning team that included chapstick, a pack of gum and a bath bomb.

Lastly, I wanted to share our party invitations. I purchased them through a site called Zazzle. It was so easy to customize their cards and they often run promotions making the invitations very cost friendly. 

Good luck with your shower planning! Please message me if you have any questions about building these games for your upcoming party. Thank you for reading!

8 Qualities of a Good Friend

The most important way to evaluate if a person is a good friend is to consider whether or not they make you a better person. If your answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t invest in a ton of 1-on-1 time with that friend invite them to a fun group outing but don’t dedicate yourself to people who don’t make you better in some way in life.

Good Listener

Does your friend listen to you and truly hear you? Do they give you plenty of time to speak and actually go out of their way to contribute to improving your problems or giving you sound advice? The greatest friends are the ones you know you could always talk to.

Inclusive

Does your friend think to include you on group outings with other people? Does she shoot you a text to join girls for drinks or dinner? Good friends always think “hmm I wonder if Mel is bored tonight, I should text her and see if she wants to join. I do this for a lot of my friends and I’ve come to find my favorite friends don’t care who the crowd is, they are just happy to be invited and would love to join.

Supportive

You need friends who are cheerleaders for whatever your nerdy hobby is or your career path of choice. Don’t spend time with people who put down things you enjoy. 

A Positive Attitude

I am not huge on reading people’s energy but one thing I can always sense is negativity. No one enjoys the person who is always calling out the flaws in situations. Best friends make anything fun! If your car broke down in the middle of no where, would they be the passenger to start laughing and problem solving or would they say “Ut oh, this sucks”? Give me 10 of the gigglers and 0 of the suckers, please.

Adventurous

I think it’s important to have friends that push you out of your comfort zone and get you to try new things. They are the friends you will make tons of memories with that you will reminisce on 40 years from now. Not every friend has to be adventurous, and there is a difference between adventurous and wild, but I think this is a great quality to look for in a friend.

Consistent

Being a consistent friend means you are not flakey, you don’t have an on-again off-again friendship. This friend will always answer your call when you need them and they will be the person you could go months without seeing but things would pick up right where they left off. Long term friendships have a huge impact on your health and happiness so you should seek friends with this quality.

Playful

Playful friends will give you the belly laughs when you are together. This doesn’t mean they are funny or loud, it means they are willing to be their true selves around you. This is the friend you feel like you’re a kid again when you’re around. You will always leave them feeling better than when you arrived.

Kind

A kind friend will want to help pick you up when you are down. They will stay up late with you the night before an exam or call you after an important doctors appointment.  Kind friends are the ones who ask how your family is doing, they send you reminders that they are grateful for you and they can always find a nice thing to say about other people.

I am really really lucky to have found amazing friends through out my life. I’ve also gone through phases of my life where I feel like it’s hard to find people with these qualities. The good news is, once you have friends like this, they rarely leave. Let you’re friends know that you appreciate these qualities in them.

The Science of Well-Being at Yale

Over the past few weeks I have been enrolled in a Yale Course for free through a platform called Coursera. It is a course taught by Laurie Santos who also taught Psychology and the Good Life, which became the most popular course at Yale. As a person who studied mostly math, economics and business topics it is super interesting to learn a bit more about how we are wired as people and what truly boosts our happiness. 

Here is the link to the course for anyone who is looking to enroll, I would highly recommend it! 

I will not be spoiling all of Professor Santos’ tips and tricks because I truly think you would benefit from taking the course but I will share a few things that stuck with me through the course.

Weeks 1, 2 and 3 of the course focus on things that we think are going to make us happy but they just do not make us any happier than we think and in some cases it actually makes us less happy. Of course, the initial one we might guess is money and you are right, Professor Santos explains that after an annual income of about $75,000 we do not get any true happiness benefit from earning more money. The one that stuck with me is actually performance, humans think that by succeeding greatly in our jobs or in school that we will feel really good and happy. This is true, success does make us feel good but not nearly as much as we think it would and not for nearly as long. Additionally, we would expect that failure makes us feel really unhappy and we have this huge fear of failure but really, failure doesn’t impact us nearly as much as we would think in terms of happiness. 

Weeks 4, 5, and 6 dive into studies about what actually DOES make us happy and how we can incorporate it into our day-to-day to make us happy. My favorite one is social interaction. In the course, Santos walks through studies that show just by talking to a stranger for 5 minutes we can immensely boost our happiness scores. 

All of the items I learned about in the class are things that I feel I can practice in my daily life but they are against my natural instincts. Here are some of the practices I have taken home with me after studying the Science of Well-Being with Yale:

  • Meditation
  • Extreme Gratitude
  • Healthy Sleep
  • Invest in Experiences not Stuff
  • Savoring
  • Chasing my Passions in my Career over Money
  • Interacting with Strangers

I highly highly recommend this course for anyone who is looking for small ways to change their mood. I am working on restructuring my habits but have already seen impacts on my happiness from what I learned in this course!

Tips for Finding an Awesome Apartment

I have become a professional at moving. In the past 5 years I have moved 6 times! It is exhausting but one part that I love is apartment hunting. It is so exciting to be deciding on a new home and picturing yourself somewhere new! First, you need to decide two things:

  1. Location – this is what you have to nail down first. Before I moved to Austin, TX I drove down there just for a weekend of exploring where I felt fit. Deciding on a specific location is pretty obvious but I wanted to point out that it is the first thing to be done.
  2. Budget – it is often recommended that your rent be 30% of your gross income. So if you are making $40,000 per year ($3300 per month), you should have a budget of $1000. I also always recommend working towards setting 3 months rent aside in a savings account for darker days.

Once you have your desired location and your budget nailed down you are off to the races! Now you can prepare for the fun part! Here are some tips and tricks I would share with first-time apartment hunters:

  • When touring apartments, be sure to take a video of every unit you tour. Pictures often make you truly forget the size of the space but videos will remind you of the unit when they all start to blend together. If you can, start your video with a picture of the layout and make this your thumbnail so it is easy to remember.
  • Most of the time people tour apartments during the day, but I believe you should always come back around 7 PM or later and evaluate the parking situation at that time. You can also get a feel for how well-lit the property feels and if you feel safe at night.
  • Decide if you are a first floor person or a top floor person, but don’t be a middle floor person. If you are a middle floor person, you still have to take the stairs AND you deal with the potential noise of someone stomping around in the unit above you. You might feel safer on the top floor and like the view out the window or you might be like me and like the idea of not carrying groceries upstairs.
  • Look for a unit close to your favorite amenities. My property is pretty large and living closer to the gym has actually made me go there more often. We also have a little convenient store right around the corner and I love that I can be there and back in less than 5 minutes!
  • When touring units, always be thinking, ‘Do I feel at home here?’ ‘What is it going to be like to keep this unit clean?’ and ‘How much will I have to spend on furniture to fill this place?’
  • When you are on your tour, notice the people around the property, do they look like they could be your friends? Chances are they probably won’t become your friends but it is a subconscious way to consider if you feel at home there.
  • When researching apartments, always look to rent directly from the property unless you confirm with the management company that subletting is allowed. If you try to fly under the radar you are putting your home where you will live at risk.
  • Get EVERYTHING in writing. Sometimes I would be tempted to call management offices and ask them my questions but with apartments you should almost always inquire via email so that you have everything they tell you in writing. I have had multiple instances where the apartment agent promises me I won’t be charged for X, Y, Z verbally and then once I have signed my lease they start trying to charge me for it.
  • Consider how organized the management team is when working with you. If they are ready for you to arrive, have papers already prepped for you and are quick to respond to emails, you will likely also have fast maintenance service and management support when you are a tenant.
  • ALWAYS ask about their rules for breaking leases. If you forget to ask this, you might get stuck in a contract you cannot buy your way out of if you decide you want to move for a new career opportunity or to be closer to friends/family. Often when we’re all excited about getting a new place  we forget to ask about the potential of us leaving it so soon.
  • If you need renter’s insurance you should check out Lemonade, it is the cheapest and easiest policy I have ever worked with (not sponsored, I swear it is great!)
  • My last piece of advice is to always try to negotiate the rent. Rent prices are ever-changing. The worst thing that can happen is they say no, so why not give it a shot. Write a kind email to your agent saying you loved the place but you feel like you cannot justify the price over (similar lower priced property) kindly ask if they would be willing to match this lower rent. Remember, what do you have to lose!?

Happy hunting! I hope you find a new home!

A Time of Opportunity

Right now, the leaders of the world are facing one of the toughest moral decisions ever, should they end quarantine to keep the economy from falling even further at the risk of a more wide-spread deadly infection? 

Lives or Livelihood is the debate and I am so grateful not to be the one in the hot seat. Instead, I wanted to focus this article on the good things that can come for business out of a time of struggle. In summary, I would like to point out a few lights in the darkness right now for the professional world.

Let’s start with layoffs and unemployment. Layoffs are horrible, my company actually had to lay off nearly half of their workforce during this pandemic, but as I speak to my friends who were let go from my company, they all have had time to reflect on what parts of their jobs they really enjoyed and what they want to do next. Sometimes we fall into a routine and become comfortable in our career and it can keep us from advancing or pivoting in our career toward something we would have more passion for. To those who have lost your job, I am so sorry, but I hope you find something that propels you even further than the path you were on prior to COVID-19. For businesses, this means there is a pool of tremendously talented individuals ready to be snatched up!

An increased focus on customer satisfaction. As consumers, I think we have all seen some awesome companies step up and offer relief and expand their services to meet our current needs. Though the discounts, credits and relief may come to an end, the expanded services likely will not. People will continue to rely on teladoc, food delivery, grocery pickup, and so much more because CoronaVirus exposed how convenient these services are. Companies who step up their customer satisfaction game during this pandemic can likely reap the benefits of higher gross and net retention in the future.

Improvements in operational efficiency. When resources are scarce it seems to become clear what things are truly important and valuable. Specifically, as businesses have reduced labor their employees have less time and more responsibilities. Within a few months, employees will have sorted through the noise and built themselves a more efficient work routine. They will push off the things that can wait, they won’t schedule redundant meetings and they will find ways to automate pieces of their workloads. Boom, operational efficiency boosted.

Tightened cash management practices. It is clear to employees right now that every dollar matters. Companies are looking at their list of softwares they have subscribed to and their typical travel spend and thinking “we cannot continue to operate like this”, yes that is a sad story but as we tighten our expense habits now, employees will become more away from the impact of waste. I bet you a cook at a restaurant will be much more likely to approach a manager and say “hey boss, we are throwing away a lot of chicken each week” now that everyone’s cash radars have been turned on than they were before the pandemic.

Lastly, and this is my absolute favorite light in all this darkness, new business will bud from this recession. People who have lost their jobs will consider pursuing their own ventures. People being quarantined has given them extra time to think and invent new ideas. Right after a recession there is not immediately prosperity, but rather, a time where the economy rebounds THIS is a time of OPPORTUNITY.

How to Avoid Killing Your Significant Other During Quarantine

We are well into week 3 of quarantine and America is being tested. What will follow this period, a baby boom or a spike in the divorce rate? Maybe both.

Austin and I live in a 700 square foot apartment which has been in a constant state of pandemonium for the past 3 weeks. Right when I pick things up, shit is right back all over the place. Our patience is being tested, Austin has to listen to every zoom meeting I have for work and I have to listen to every stupid Youtube video he plays throughout the day.

Here are a few tips that have kept tensions low during this time stuck at home.

  1. Random Dance Parties – Yes we actually do this, play a song we both love and get up and do some stupid dance moves. Nothing you could be working on could possibly collapse in the 2 minutes it takes to have a dance party right?
  2. Bubble Baths – Not just any bubble bath though, if Austin sees me getting stressed he will draw me a bubble bath, light some candles and let me have 20 minutes alone to unwind in the tub and vice versa. A bubble bath is even sweeter when someone else got it ready for you, a glass of wine in my hand and this is the closest thing I can get to a vacation right now.
  3. Take Turns Leaving the House – Don’t worry, we are participating in social distancing but we will go on walks or bike rides separately. Yes, my walk is enjoyable but my 30-minutes at home alone while Austin is gone on his bike ride is the actual escape. I didn’t realize how much I appreciated time alone until this pandemic.
  4. Be Quick to Forgive – Snapping in this quarantine is bound to happen. Our patience is all being tested so when your significant other snaps at you, try to not take it personally and be quick to forgive them for their outburst. 
  5. Shower with Compliments – I have put on makeup once in the past 3 weeks. Austin’s hair is so long he has trimmed parts of it himself this week, the point is we all are not looking or feeling our best right now so boosting each other’s confidence and self-esteem with extra compliments can go a long ways.
  6. Express your Gratitude – Say thank you as much as possible, even if it is simply for making the bed or taking out the trash or going to get the mail.
  7. Try Something New Together – I know you may be thinking “What new thing can we try together when we are stuck at home?” Take a 30-minute class online that neither of you have tried before, Karate, Salsa Dancing, Spanish, something weird and new. It’ll make you feel like kids together and can really lighten the mood.
  8. Care About Your Significant Other’s Work – Ask them about the projects they are working on and ACTIVELY LISTEN. In the morning, ask what meetings they have that day and what they are stressed about getting done. We used to have coworkers to talk to, now we have to play the role of coworker and significant other.
  9. Be Goofy and Playful – I don’t know if it is Goofy or Delirious but Austin and I have become similar to Michael Scott and Holly in The Office in a way that we kind of speak our own language and live in our own make-believe world at times. Yesterday we had a Krabby Patty Flipping contest, using spatulas we competed for who could do the coolest tricks. There were no patties involved.
  10. Leave Sweet Notes Around the House – Little Stickies with jokes or sweet notes are perfect for getting the day off to a good start.
  11. Participate in Random Acts of Kindness Together – Everyone is more attractive when they are doing good and helping the world. Plan an act of kindness you want to do together. Today, we tipped the sandwich shop workers on the corner extra. It just makes you feel grateful for what you have.

I hope this post helps lighten the mood in your homes right now! Remember, if your relationship can survive this you are freaking strong! Comment if you have some tips of your own to share, I would love to try them out!

Things to do while Quarantined for Coronavirus

Well, the world is quarantined to their homes and the scariest part is not knowing how long it will last. I will be the first to admit I have already watched multiple Netflix movies and spent hours scrolling my phone but today I decided that I want to use this quarantine as an opportunity to get ahead and be productive, so I started to brainstorm how I could best utilize this time. Here is my list:

  1. Try some new online workouts. Check out this article titled “These fitness studios are live-streaming workout classes for free during the coronavirus outbreak”. I think I am going to try the Orange Theory class tonight!
  2. Read a new book. If you have not tried Audible by Amazon you can sign up for their 1-month free trial and you get 1 audiobook for free. I think I am going to stick to the hard covers during this time to give my brian a refresh, I plan to start the book Shoe Dog by Phil Knight the founder of Nike.
  3. Mail Hand Written Notes. Take a few minutes each day to write a card to an old friend, people will enjoy getting mail during this time of social isolation. I always try to go above and beyond to remind my friends that I am thinking about them.
  4. File your taxes. It is tax season and if you’re like me, you procrastinate filing your taxes until the last possible weekend. Knock this out while there is nothing else to do and get your tax return cash a few weeks earlier.
  5. Call your Extended Family. I called my grandma yesterday, she told me she wasn’t scared of running out of toilet paper because growing up, they had to wipe with newspaper anyways! Haha! She was very happy I called and I think tomorrow, I will see if she can figure out how to facetime on her iPad.
  6. Dive into the Spring Cleaning. – It is technically the time of year for spring cleaning and the easiest place to start is always my closet. Sorting through which clothes I wear often and which could be donated is an easy way to declutter.
  7. Collect Some New Recipes. – Research new recipes you’d like to cook for you and your family. Maybe you’d like to eat more healthy, shop more economically, or be better at meal prepping over the weekend. Add some new recipes to your archives for after the chaos.
  8. Work on a Side Project. – For me, one of my side projects is blogging, I will utilize this extra time at home to brainstorm new blog topics, outline some future posts, and share some of my old posts on online forums to drive more visitors to my blog. Maybe starting a blog isn’t your passion project but there are a lot of other projects you could work on that are good outlets for creativity or future possible sources of income. You could record a new course to be shared on Udemy, record a podcast, pick up some freelance side projects, build a few crafts you could sell.
  9. Reconnect and Expand your Network. – Reach out to old colleagues, build your connections on LinkedIn, ask people how their businesses are doing in navigating these unknown waters. Now more than ever, you will want to have a tight professional network. Maybe you will find some people you can help weather the storm, maybe someone you reach out to will be able to help you down the road.
  10. Self-Reflect and Goal Set. – New Years is the time where most people self-reflect and set goals. Now that 3-months has passed since New Year’s we have probably all forgotten our original resolutions. Now would be a perfect time to set new ones. It is also a good time to open up a journal and reflect on what is important to you in life. Redefine your values and recenter your focus.
  11. Plan your Next Trip. – Although I wouldn’t recommend booking anything just yet, we all see the flight prices falling daily. There should be some cheap trips you can scoop up after all this madness passes. Start your vacation planning now so you can capitalize on these discounts once you feel comfortable booking travel again. Planning this far in advance will also allow you to start saving for the trip!
  12. Learn Something New. – I haven’t told Austin yet but I think I may force him to have a date night where we take a YouTube dance lesson together. There isn’t much else we can do for date nights so I think I might win this one and we will be learning to salsa in no time!
  13. Lend a Hand. – Sometimes it is hard to know how to help during a time of social isolation but if you are completely healthy, and you have any elderly neighbors, offer to get groceries for them. You could also offer to babysit for close family/friends so they can enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. 

Well, that is 13 items, that is about 2 weeks worth of quarantine activities. Let’s all pray this doesn’t last longer than 2 weeks or I will need to write a new list of things to do! Feel free to comment if you have additional ideas you’d like to share.

The 10 Responsibilities of being a Maid of Honor

Help the Bride Find the Perfect Gown

This is my favorite part of being a maid of honor so I think it is the best place to start this list of responsibilities! You should tag along for as many of the dress shopping appointments as you can. Take photos of the front and the back of every single dress the bride puts on (be sure to ask permission from the store because some bridal shops do not allow photography). Taking photos of every dress will be a HUGE help because by the end of shopping all of the dresses will start to blend together and it is easy to forget your favorites. It is also helpful because the bride will want to pick a dress that photographs well. 

Being kind yet honest is the best way to help a bride find the perfect dress. At the end of the day, the dress should be the one that SHE loves, not the crowd favorite. So it is best to first ask the bride what she thinks of the gowns and then share your opinion when she has narrowed it down to a few that she really likes. You can help by suggesting veil types or commenting on how the dress will look next to the bridesmaids dresses. You can also suggest before the dress shopping that the bride wear her hair up or down depending on how she would like it to be for the wedding. It will help her better visualize how the neckline of the dress will look against her hair. 

Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy on Pexels.com

Assist with the Bridal Shower

For the weddings that I have been in, the mother of the bride has taken the lead on the bridal shower. This doesn’t mean that you are off the hook, you should slide in as the assistant planner and share ideas for party games, offer to help prepare food, and be sure to write down the gifts and who they are from as the bride unwraps them so you can help with thank you cards.

For my sister’s shower, two of us bridesmaids made a bride and groom trivia challenge movie. We recorded clips as we asked the bride and groom a series of questions and then used iMovie to make it into a funny video. We played this video at the shower and it really helped get to know the couple and the joy they share!

Throw an Awesome Bachelorette Party

Getting a date on the calendar for an awesome Bachelorette party is one of the first things you should do when you are invited to be a maid of honor. It is important to ask the bride what type of party she wants. You should stick to her guidelines but make it as awesome as you can within her wishes. Some brides will not want a party, then you should look at spa days or art classes. Some brides will want a weekend getaway with their girls. Many brides will ask for no strippers and it is best to stick to their guidelines on these things because the day is for them!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I plan to write a separate post with great ideas for planning a bachelorette party, but in the meantime, I hope my travel posts will help if you’re planning a weekend getaway!

Help Select the Bridesmaid Dresses

This can often be very stressful for the bride because she wants everyone to feel comfortable in their dress but she also wants to create a beautiful color scheme for the event. You can help by making a Pinterest board of dresses you like. You can also help make appointments at a couple bridal shops and coordinate calendars with as many of the bridesmaids as you can so they can be there to try the dresses on in person. Lastly, you can help by collecting all of the measurements of the bridal party and potentially the groomsmen as well if the store you are purchasing from does not handle this on their own. Be sure to remind the wedding party to get their alterations done well in advance of the event.

Pack a Perfect Emergency Kit for the Big Day

You know how moms always have everything you could possibly need in their purse? It is time to channel your internal motherly instincts and pack the purse of everything! Bobby pins, tide to go pens, bleach pens, mascara, makeup wipes, advil, cold sore medicine, concealer, deodorant, hair spray, extra flip flops, dress tape, phone chargers, band aids, tissues, clear pony tails, tampons, a curling iron, a straightener, a hair dryer, mouthwash, perfume, snacks. What am I forgetting?

Make the Bride Feel Loved All the Way Up to the Big Day

Although most of the responsibility will fall on the groom for making the bride feel loved, I also believe the maid of honor can make the big day extra special for a bride. You can have the wedding party write letters to the bride and deliver them all to the bride’s hotel room the night before the wedding for her to read. For one wedding, I did a different twist on the movie making and I had all of the important women in her life record why they think the bride will be a good wife and their favorite qualities of the bride. I then combined them all into a movie she can keep forever. It was an awesome way to incorporate the groom’s sisters and mother into a loving gift for the bride as she becomes part of a new family.

Ensure the Bride Eats at the Reception

If you took a poll, I would bet you that the majority of brides would say that they didn’t even try the food at their own reception. This is often because they find themselves running around the party trying to get a chance to talk to everyone. When you see the bride chatting with friends or close family. Sneak her a plate of the easiest food to eat. She will thank you for it the next day even if she feels like it is a waste of time at the moment. Making it convenient for the bride to eat is the second best thing you can do for her at her reception.

Help the Bride go to the Bathroom

The number 1 BEST thing you can do for the bride during her reception is help her go to the bathroom. Have you ever tried to go pee in a tiny bathroom stall wearing a full-length, 15 pound dress that has 4 layers of tooling under it? It is not an easy task and it truly takes two people to master it! It may sound weird but here is the process you should follow. Step 1: Bride collects necessary toilet paper. Step 2: Maid of honor gathers all of the dresses layers in her arms behind the brides back. Step 3: Bride facing the wall behind the toilet straddles the toilet to pee. Yes, you read that correctly, the easiest way to pee in a wedding dress is to do it backwards and straddle the toilet like a horse with someone holding your dress behind you. You will thank me later

Assist with Thank You Cards

I think thank you cards are the most dreadful part of getting married. The more presents you get, the more thank you cards there are to be written. Throwing a thank you card writing party a few weeks after the honeymoon and inviting some of the wedding party can really help the process move faster. Design an assembly line and crank those suckers out. 

Another great way you can help is by making the bride and groom a custom stamp. This is always part of my gift to a new bride is a personalized ink stamp with the couples new name and address. You can buy these for cheap on Amazon, Etsy, and I have even seen Groupons for them. This way the bride doesn’t have to pay for custom envelopes or spend the time printing her own return stickers.

Photo by Fidel Hajj on Pexels.com

Cherish the Memory

It takes over a month to get wedding photos back but when they come, you should be so excited to go through them with the bride. You could help create a photo book or a scrapbook for her to keep for years to come. You should also put a calendar reminder in your phone for their 1-year wedding anniversary so you can be the first to congratulate them on making it through the first year of marriage.

When you get your maid of honor dress altered you can ask your seamstress to keep the scraps. With the scraps you can have them sew a mini version of your dress about the size of your forearm. If you really want to make it special you can collect scraps from the bride’s dress and the groom’s suit to do the same. Then, without storing massive gowns forever in their closet, the bride can have the memory of their wedding party and their color scheme in a miniature version. This idea has been passed down through my family. I remember as a child my mom showing me what her bridesmaids wore by pulling out this little tiny green dress she was gifted after her wedding from her mother.

3 Apps That Make Personal Finance Easy

The fundamentals of being financially responsible are pretty simple and straight-forward:

  1. Budget within your means
  2. Save anything extra
  3. Invest for the future

There are 3 apps that have helped me successfully do these things without applying a ton of time or energy:

Mint – Budget Within Your Means

Mint is my favorite finance app. First, I connected my bank accounts to Mint as well as my credit cards. Next, I built a budget. Mint is able to give you suggestions on how much you should expect to spend within each category based on your historical spending. This piece of the set up takes a bit of time because you want to be intentional about where you plan to have your money going and what income you can expect to receive.

Once your budget is set up and your bank accounts are connected, the app is completely effortless and FREE. It will notify you when you have over-spent in certain categories. It will also notify you when a large transaction hits one of your accounts.

Mint gives me insight into where my spending is getting out of control so I can immediately dial back in those areas. For instance, if I look at my budget for the month of February right now, I can see that I have already overspent on clothes by $113 for this month. That is pretty bad and tells me I should probably avoid shopping for a new outfit for a month or two.

Mint also shows you trends of your credit score so you can keep an eye on any changes to your credit health right on the home page. You can use Mint to manage your upcoming bills so you never miss a payment.

Acorns – Save Anything Extra

Acorns links to your bank accounts and then rounds your transactions up to the nearest dollar. That spare change is then invested in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) based on your preferred investment risk level for just $1 per month. An ETF is a compilation of other investment options all bundled together into one security. Investing in ETFs gives you the ability to diversify your investment within one security. There are different categories or risk-levels of ETFs, for example, you could buy an ETF of all tech companies stock or you could buy an ETF that is full of foreign stocks and bonds to put some of your money in the markets overseas. For $2 per month you could have Acorns set up retirement funds with your spare change which has tax benefits for your investments. 

I recommend setting up your 401K with your employer so some money is contributed from your salary each month and then additionally linking Acorns to your bank accounts to collect your spare change. This would create two savings methods for you and should ensure that you are saving responsibly for the future.

Robinhood – Invest for The Future

Although Acorns itself helps you invest in the future, there is another great tool for getting your feet wet in investing in the stock market, Robinhood. Robinhood is free for all of the basic functionalities you need for stock trading. I don’t put a large chunk of my savings into Robinhood because the stock market can be very volatile but it is neat to be able to follow the markets and start seeing the trends. 

Robinhood allows you to buy and sell stocks with your own cash. It provides you great portfolio analytics and you’re able to sell out and withdraw your cash back to your bank account within a few days for free if you need to so it can be a pretty liquid investing option. That being said, you will make the most profits from the stock market by doing your research, buying low and holding for a long period of time, so I don’t recommend getting tied up in day trading and using the stock market as a short-term investing tool.

I do recommend putting some money in a few Robinhood stocks that you have heavily researched and then watching the way the economy, news and markets fluctuate together. Robinhood pulls news articles about each stock so you can stay well-informed on the markets and you can listen to live earnings calls through the app. It is an awesome app for entry-level investors.

These apps are free to download and are easy to use. Your bank account will thank you for giving them a shot!

6 Steps to Feeling at Home in a New City

In the past 5 years I have moved to 6 new cities. This has allowed me to explore so much of the country but I constantly feel like I am starting over and having to make a new place feel like home. After 6 tries, I finally think I am getting this process down to a science. I would love to share my tips with anyone who has recently moved or has a new re-location in their near future!

Step 1: Get out and walk around. On your first weekend in your new city leave your house with your walking shoes on. Spend a full day exploring your new city by foot. This is the best way to learn your way around and there is always Uber if you get lost.

Step 2: Decorate your new home. This is something I skipped in my apartment in Austin. I didn’t immediately invest in decorations because we were so low on cash. This may be the case for you as well but as soon as you can I would encourage you to invest in decorations. It will make you want to show off your new place. It will make you feel ready to host guests. Decorating your home/apartment makes the place feel like yours and will speed up your acclimation to a new city. If you are low in cash here are the first things I would buy beyond furniture: Rugs, Bedding, and Throw Pillows.

Step 3: Utilize public transportation. Once you’ve spent a day exploring your neighborhood by foot, ride some of the public transportation lines. Even if you have a car and you may never need to use the trains, exploring this way helps you get comfortable with the layout of your new town.

Step 4: Try some local restaurants. You can’t earn the title of “local” to a city until you have defined your favorite restaurant for each of the following types of food: Chinese, Pizza, Sandwiches, and Burgers. Ask around to get some recommendations but start to define your favorite places to go out to eat or grab meals from to take home.

Step 5: Get involved. Find some classes to sign up for, a church to join or a non-profit to volunteer from. Having a hobby in your new town will help you feel at home and it will help you achieve step 6.

Step 6: Make some friends. This is the hardest of all of the steps on this list and it will only come with time. I plan to write a separate post about how I found some of my first friends in my new cities. It is going to feel awkward as you slowly make friends but in the meantime, be okay with exploring your new city alone. Friends will come as long as you are getting out of the house and trying new things. Having friends in your new city is the final piece of feeling at home.

3 Things Every Woman Wants on Valentine’s Day

  • Flowers – don’t spend a stupid amount of money on the flashy flower bouquet because really, we only care that you remembered to get flowers to show you love us, save your money for the rest of the day. Also, every man should send their mother flowers on Valentine’s Day, she was the first woman to love you. It is smart to give the flowers early in the day, that means right at the start of my day, I know its going to be a good Valentine’s day and I will be in a good mood all day long.
  • A Date – The most important thing you can give a woman on Valentine’s Day is your attention. Schedule a date with her in advance. If you have to work on this holiday, you should put in extra effort to make this day special for your lady because we really want to spend the whole day with you. Here are some ideas of fun Valentine’s dates:
    1. Go see a show – a play, concert, comedy show, or movie are all fun options. Austin and I are going to see a comedian live from a TV show we both loved!
    2. Dinner – You can never go wrong with a fancy dinner out but what I think every woman would like even more would be to come home to a clean house, dinner in the oven and her favorite person dressed nicely opening a bottle of wine for a romantic night at home.
    3. Rent bikes and tour around a new area and grab a dessert.
    4. Do something adventurous like a sunset cruise or go night skiing.
    5. Take a cooking class or a dance class.
    6. A couple’s spa treatment
  • Something Sentimental – You may not have a romantic bone in your body but every girl wants something sentimental on Valentine’s Day. One year I unwrapped a book that we filled out together of our favorite memories together and the things we love about one-another. It was unforgettable! Maybe your sentimental item is a homemade car with an extra sweet note, a framed photo of a memory you cherish, or a poem or song you wrote. Maybe you go outside and carve your initials in a tree. CHEESY IS GOOD ON VALENTINE’S DAY!

The Worst Possible Purchase in your Twenty-Somethings

Picture this: You’ve just graduated and you’re completely used to seeing $27 as the balance in your bank account but finally, after working endless hours at your new job you have enough saved up to feel comfortable. So what do you need? A new car.

I see my friends posting on social media all the time, “I did an adult thing today” or “Officially adulting” and it is a photo of them standing in front of a shiny new car and it makes me CRINGE. Allow me to share why buying a new car when you’re just getting started is cringe-worthy.

Let’s say you purchase a new car for $25,000. You likely have to take out a loan that you pay interest on. Let’s be generous and say you get a 5-year loan with 3.0% APR (Annual percentage rate) interest. This means you’ll pay about $450 a month for 5 years for your car. That is cash going out of your pocket. You may be thinking, I can resell the car though so I do not lose all of that money…

Research says that a car loses 20-30% of its value in its first year. That means that after just 1 year, your $25,000 car is worth just $17,500 to $20,000. A minimum of a $5,000 loss in just one year and that doesn’t include any of the interest cost of your loan. That is a massive loss of money for someone who is just getting their financial footing. Can you imagine if you invested your savings in the stock market just to lose $5000 in one year, you would be so disappointed and you would know that you made a poor investment.

Instead, I recommend purchasing a used car, one that is over 3 years old but has low mileage. Consider purchasing the dealerships warranty to protect you against any mechanical problems with the used vehicle. This year my used car had issues with its struts and having the warranty saved me $2000. Alternatively, if you can stick it out a little bit longer with your crappy car, if it is safe and driveable, there are much better places you can put your money than in a new car.

Personally, I share a car with Austin. Occasionally we have to uber places because we both need a vehicle but this is rare. If you think about the $6,000+ we would lose on purchasing, insuring and buying tags for a new car, we could spend $16 on ubers every day of the year and still come out ahead.

It takes money to make money, so as you gain cash, you should start thinking about investing it in ways that can make you money. Any large purchases you make should be an investment and your investments should make you money not burn a hole in your pocket.