Monday, December 30, 2013

Money Hip Chats: Clothes-Shopping Strategies

Lisa: Okay Lauren, my turn to pick the topic. Let’s talk about clothes.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Functional Bedroom Touches (On a Budget): Master Bedroom Makeover (Part 2/3)

Congratulations to Betty J for winning our giveaway! Look for your Amazon gift card in your email sometime in the next week!

For Part 2 of my Master Bedroom Makeover, I wanted to highlight a few things we did to save space and make our room a little more functional (Part 1 was about how we made it brighter).

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(1) Sconces

My husband and I like to read before bed, but hated how bulky lamps took up so much room on our bedside table. We decided sconces were the perfect solution. The layout of our bedroom only allows for one place to put the bed, so we weren't nervous about permanently wiring them into the walls. We just made sure to space the sconces far enough apart to allow for a king-sized headboard in case we ever upgrade.

I chose these sconces from Restoration Hardware (I know, I'm a little RH-obsessed), waited for a sale (I'm always on a budget), and then bought them. They are just as beautiful in person as they were in the catalog. I opted for the linen shade (for its classical element) and the polished nickel (for its modern touch).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Being My Own Consumer Advocate: How Allegiant, Hobby Lobby, and Target Responded

Don't forget to enter our holiday giveaway on this post (Ends end of day TODAY!)
I'm from a family of six kids. We're all different, but one thing we have in common is our easy-going, non-confrontational personalities. I can't speak for my siblings, but that has sometimes translated into me being a total doormat, afraid to "rock the boat" or ask for anything. I fell into that category for most of my life until two things happened: (1) I went to business school and (2) I became a stay-at-home mom. Both of these made me realize that being assertive is not only a good thing, but sometimes necessary. It's up to me to be my own (and my kids') advocate when it comes to health, safety, and (especially applicable to this blog) my... consumerism. Weird thing to be an advocate about, I know. But when you're a stay-at-home mom living on a budget, it's up to you to make sure you get what you pay for.

First of all, let me clarify, I'm not talking about being a total jerk and/or verbally assaulting retail clerks who are just trying to do their job. Anyone who's ever worked directly with customers can tell you acting like a jerk isn't going to get you nearly as far as being respectful and kind. Even if it did, who wants to live their life yelling at people to get what they want? Not me.

Here are a few examples of how I've taken a stand (without being a jerk):

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Functional Filing System: Part 1 of 2

Don't forget to enter our holiday giveaway on this post!

It seems like a lot of our readers are into organization, so I thought I'd throw out a few of the things that help me with my filing system. (Oh, the dreaded filing system.) Obviously, the best system is the one that works for you, so you may want to tweak/ignore/replace some of my suggestions. And since I don't want this to be the world's longest blog post, I'm going to split it into two parts: (1) physical filing and (2) digital filing and record retention (what to keep for how long).

In this part, we'll talk about the set-up of both your filing cabinet, as well as your inbox. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Huge Tax Tip: Bunching Itemized Deductions

As it nears year-end, we thought we'd revamp and re-run this post on bunching itemized deductions.

When your taxes are pretty simple, there aren't oodles and oodles of things you can do to save, but this is a tip that has literally saved my husband and I thousands of dollars (but I have used made up numbers in our example). It works primarily for people who don't already itemize (typically people who don't have a mortgage) and have large charitable contributions (like tithing, if you're a Mormon).

Font credit to

Before we start, it's probably best if you have a little background on how taxes work. I'd suggest checking out this riveting post and also this one (skim if you must) so we're on the same page.

All refreshed on how taxes work? Great.

So the basic premise is this.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How to Lock Your iPhone or iPad so Kids Have to Stay in an App (in 3 Easy Steps)

If I had a dollar for every time I complained to my sister that iPhones should have more parental controls, I might be as rich as the Woz himself. I desperately wanted my toddler to be able to FaceTime with his out-of-state grandparents without him constantly hanging up. Not to mention wanting to let him play his alphabet app without him calling people in my contact list (he's done that more times than I'd like to admit). Guess what--there is a way! And once you've set it up, it's takes about two seconds to do.

NOTE: it helps to lock the orientation of the phone/iPad. To do this: Swipe up from the bottom of the bottom of your screen to open the Control Center and tap on the Portrait Orientation Lock symbol.

How to lock your iPhone/iPad so your kids have to STAY IN AN APP


How to disable parts of the screen (e.g. So they can't hang up on FaceTime or click on ad bars).

My little guy using my iPhone. That OtterBox case has paid for itself MANY times. :)
(Note: If you're reading this on your phone, you can Pin this for later so you don't have to go back and forth between screens.)

Step (1):

Monday, December 2, 2013

What You Should (AND SHOULD NOT!) Insure

Check out our holiday giveaway on our Christmas wreath tutorial

Okay, we have officially left the realm of "What is absolutely the only correct way to do things" and entered the land of "What Lisa believes, due to what she was taught by her CPA dad, college personal finance professor, and a bunch of other really smart people." Meaning, this is my own personal opinion. What you decide to insure or not insure is your personal decision since you're the one who will have to live with the consequences so don't sue me. Seriously, don't. :)

So here is my take on what you should and should not insure. It can be summed up in one brief sentence: INSURE ONLY WHAT YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO LOSE.

What do I mean by that?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is bar-none my favorite holiday. And, I'll be honest, I've been listening to Christmas music since October. I just love how there's an entire Christmas season filled with food, traditions, and family. I always enjoy hearing other people share their traditions. Here are five of my favorites.

1. Twenty-four (or 12) Days of Books

One of my favorite wedding presents was from my cousin and his family.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Retirement: How Much to Save

Sometimes it's hard to figure out how much you "should" be saving for retirement when you're not out of school with a steady income, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence. Guidelines can feel unhelpful to say the least when you feel like you're not the typical target audience. Unfortunately, since I don't know each of you personally, guidelines are really the best we can do. But, here, at least, I'm going to attempt to break them out to address smaller groups of people.

But first things, first. It's time to "do the numbers" as Kai Ryssdal would say

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Holiday Shopping: Four Money-Saving Websites You Should Know About

It's that time of year again. In honor of Black Friday, let us show you how to do your holiday shopping, Money Hip Mamas style. :) Here are four money-saving website your should know about and how to use them to their full advantage.
1- Ebates - Get Extra Cash Back for Shopping Online

My tech-savvy husband first introduced me to

Monday, November 18, 2013

Money Hip Chat: Budgeting for Groceries

Lisa and I are starting a new monthly series on our blog called Money Hip Chats. It’s basically the transcript of an informal chat between the two of us. We write it together on a google doc and then post it for you! We thought it might be fun to occasionally switch things up and be a little more casual and fun.

For our first topic, I suggested budgeting. Lisa wisely wanted to be more specific and suggested grocery budgeting. To which I respond:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Favorite Children's Books

Just for fun, I thought I'd post some of my (and my son's) favorite children's books. After all, books are free from the library (and also fun to buy), and we're always scouting out new ones. Let's face it-- you can only read Sandra Boynton board books (cute though they are) so many times before you start to loose your sanity. There are three sections-- board books, picture books, and chapter books.

  • Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? written by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Bruce Degan. I probably love this book more than my child, but he certainly doesn't mind it. The rhythm of the words is great for a read-aloud book, and I love how we get to see different angles and rooms of the same house, so it feels like Carlstrom and Degan create a little world.  (Note, link is to paperback edition-- I can't seem to find it in a board book). 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kids' Savings Accounts

I think we can all agree that while the piggy bank is great at teaching the principle of saving, it's not so great at teaching the principle of interest. So where's a good place for little ones (or not-so-little little ones) to stash their cash and learn to how interest works?

You can have your kids "bank" their money with you, or with a commercial bank. And I think the ideal solution is to do a combination of the two.

1. The "Family Bank." The great thing about the family bank is you can offer a really great rate of interest (like 10 percent), that will show kids how it pays to save your money.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Write a Will in 6 EASY Steps

This has got to be one of those things that's on everyone's to-do list, but never "urgent" enough to get done. For some reason being pregnant always makes we want to tackle this type of nagging task (I guess I nest in a weird way), so this fall we finally got it done. And, guess what? It was super easy and cheap.
Why did I want a will? 
The primary reason was to assign guardianship of our son ourselves.

Monday, November 4, 2013

DIY Christmas Ornament Ball Wreath Tutorial - Cheap and Easy


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Although I was a little concerned about what kind of internet browsers would be brought to this page by labeling this tutorial "Cheap and easy," there is no other way to describe this project. A lot of Christmas Glass Ball Ornament Wreath tutorials are a little spotty on the details, so I thought I'd throw another one out there for people like me who need very specific shopping lists and instructions (basically, "Crafting for Dummies").

Note: The number and size of ornament balls depends on the look you're going for. These instructions are for a wreath like mine pictured below.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to Survive with a Toddler in a Cast

I'll be honest. October has not been a banner month for our household. Two emergency room visits in two days rendered me the last one standing (or at least walking with the ability to bend both my legs) in our beleaguered little family (Aaron dislocated his kneecap and C broke his leg). At least I've been honing my ability to drive in downtown Boston as I shuttle people to and from work and doctor and physical therapy appointments.

Here are some of the things that have gotten me through the past few weeks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Date Night Series: Dinner and a Movie for Cheap (Babysitting Included!)

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My sister-in-law once mentioned that she and my brother have made date night a priority. "It may be expensive, but it's cheaper than marriage counseling!" Seriously though, spending time together as a couple is important, especially when you have little munchkins. They say the best way to have happy, secure children is to have a happy, secure marriage. But really, for me, it's just nice to have a meal in which my table companion doesn't end the meal by dumping his bowl of Cheerios and milk all over himself and the floor. But what's a couple living on a tight budget to do? Enter Money Hip Mamas. We're starting a series of posts about how to do Date Night for cheap (subscribe by e-mail or like our Facebook page for updates). So let's start with the classic dinner and a movie. Here are some ways to save some of that precious moo-lah you've worked so hard to earn:



This is key. Where we live, babysitters run $

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Life Insurance: Term vs. Cash-Value

Remember how I tried to guilt you into getting at least some amount of life insurance in this post? (Sorry, I know, guilt is sort of a lame motivating tactic, but apparently I'm not above using it.) I briefly mentioned that we recommend "term" life insurance over "cash-value" life insurance, but thought that it would be worth addressing the differences between the two a little more in-depth.

There are two basic differences.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Brighten Up a Room in Three Easy (and Cheap!) Steps: Master Bedroom Makeover (Part 1/3)

Note: To check out how I made the headboard in our bedroom, check out my DIY Headboard post.

I've been painstakingly trying to figure out how to best capture our master bedroom makeover and then I realized (a) Nobody cares that much--I should probably chill out and (b) There's too much for one post. So I'm breaking it down into three posts, based on the three goals I had for this room--to infuse: (1) Light (2) Function and (3) Architectural detail.

Today I'm focusing on LIGHT! With just a few steps, my husband and I transformed our dark cave* of a bedroom into this bright and beautiful retreat (a must-have for happy, but often-very-tired parents).  
*This has become a bit of theme with our home renovations--taking dark and dowdy rooms and using light to make them seem bigger and brighter (see the bathroom makeover and living room makeover).

Let's take a look at what our bedroom looked like BEFORE:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Should I Give My Children an Allowance?

I'd like to start this post off by saying that you're the one best equipped to decide whether or not to give your child an allowance. Every kid and every situation is different. Plus my kid is not even two yet, so this is uncharted territory for us. That being said, I have stumbled across some words of advice regarding children and allowances that I really liked and wanted to share. Read and implement or ignore as you will.

I think Dave Ramsey* did a really great job of addressing the issue of how to "give" children money.

Here are his guidelines paraphrased and commentated by me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Arguing About Money? Two Things That Could Save Your Marriage

So I was reading this article about how arguments over finances are the #1 predictor of divorce. I think a lot of people suspected or assumed that was true, but this study proved it. The part of the article that got me excited was the researchers' suggestions for preventing and repairing those issues. They are two very simple things, yet so crucial, they could be the difference between making or breaking a marriage. And they're things anyone can do, financially-minded or not.

Marriage-Saver #1: Have a Fun Fund or "Mad Money" Account for Each Spouse

Our own MHM author Lauren addressed this issue months ago and she was dead-on. One of the first conclusions drawn by one of the study's co-author's Sonya Britt: "When one partner makes more money than the other partner, the couple has to decide if they each get to spend equal amounts of money on personal preference items." So how does a Fun Fund work?

Marriage-Saver #2: Have a Monthly Budget Meeting

To quote Sonya Britt again, "Couples should

Thursday, October 10, 2013

De-Mystifying the Mortgage Amortization Schedule

Every month you know you've got to make that pesky mortgage payment. Say it's $1,000. You hate seeing that money disappear from your bank account, but at least you know that you've just reduced your debt by $1,000, right? Wrong. Or, I guess I should say, mostly wrong.

When you make your mortgage payment, it's typically a fixed amount every month. But that whole amount is not reducing your debt. In fact,

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Favorite Things: Save on Diapers from Target, Power Salad Recipe, etc.

----------FOR MOMS----------  

1. Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound System ($25 From Amazon)

I've had this puppy for over a year now and I am a FAN. I bought this to replace my son’s nap/bedtime sound machine that was nosily hobbling along on its last leg. I decided to spring for one with a projector and boy was I glad. This thing is awesome. The projector is

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Excel Packing Lists

Congratulations to Rivka W. for winning our giveaway! Your $25 Amazon gift card will be emailed to you before the end of the week! And thanks to everyone who participated!

I happened to pick up this trick from another accountant, Katie, though it really has nothing to do with accounting, except that maybe most accountants like Excel and being efficient. And this little life-hack, my friends, is called Excel Packing Lists.

I think we all know that making a list helps make packing easier--

Monday, September 30, 2013

10 Money-Making Jobs for the Stay-At-Home Mom

About me: I met Lisa and Lauren in the Accounting program at BYU. After graduation I moved to Houston to work in audit for a large public accounting firm. I left my (good-paying,

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's Giveaway Time Again! ($25 Amazon Gift Card)

In case you missed it in Lisa's last post, we hit our first blog goal of 10,000 page views in a month! To celebrate, we decided to thank you all for reading by doing another giveaway. We are really into practicality over here, so it will be another $25 Amazon gift card (because, really, who can't use one of those?).

In case you are new to our blog, here's a quick introduction. (If you want to read the better written one Lisa did a while ago, click here.)

Lisa and I have maybe five pictures of the two of us together and like five billion of our kids together. Here's one of the few where we make an appearance. For some reason, we are each holding the other person's child. I think C loved Lisa more than me and so Lisa's kid was stuck with my lap on ye olde dragon ride. 
Lisa and I met while getting our bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting at Brigham Young University.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Welcoming my new Money Hip Baby! (My Favorite Things for Pregnancy, Labor, and Newborns)

Well, this blog just hit a couple milestones. We reached over 10,000 views per month (thanks everyone for reading!) and... I just had another Money Hip Baby!
A little over a week ago I had my second baby, my first totally natural birth (to a 9-pounder, no less). It has been a beautiful experience. I am about 1,000 times less stressed this time around than I was with my first. So in celebration of this beautiful new baby, I thought I'd throw together a list of the things that have helped me the most throughout my pregnancy, labor & delivery, and recovery with a newborn.
I hope you enjoy (and that you'll add your own tips in the comments section)! By the way, if you haven't already liked our Facebook Page, please do so now!
My new little sweetie @ 5 days old. As you can imagine, I am completely smitten


1. The Waiting Game

I know due dates are

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Credit Score: Part 2 of 2

We've already talked about what the credit score is and why it's important. Now let's get to the "what do I do about it?"

Notebook image from

Step 1: Get Your Credit Report

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Favorite Things (#7) -- Kitchen and Cooking Tips

1- Clean/Dirty Dishwasher Trick

Is one of your most commonly uttered household phrases, "Are these dishes clean or dirty?" Or, worse, have you ever emptied half of the dishwasher before realizing, ew, those were dirty. Nevermore. And you won't even have to put one of those homemade signs or kitschy magnets on the door of your dishwasher. I learned this trick from a college roommate, made my husband learn it when we got married, and my own parents even adopted it after visiting me a few years ago.
The trick: IMMEDIATELY after emptying a clean dishwasher, before closing the door again, put the dishwasher soap/tab in the dispenser and close it.
Think about it: If the dishwasher soap dispenser is closed, you always know the dishes are dirty because as soon as the dishwasher runs and cleans the dishes, it will open and remain open until the dishes are emptied and a new tab is added and the dispenser is closed again. It takes a week or two to get in the habit, but once you do, you always know:

2- Easy way to dispose of grease

Am I the only

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Credit Score: Part 1 of 2

And you thought just because you graduated you were done with grades? Enter the FICO score (aKa your credit score). I'm sure you've heard of it, but I thought I'd do a little mini-series to refresh you on the details. Part 1 is going to cover what it is, why it's important, and how it's calculated. Part 2 is going to cover how to optimize your score and keep an eye on it.

Notebook image from


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