Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Why I Love Our California Home (And How We Made It Happen)

When Lauren and I originally created this blog, a lot of readers wanted to hear about home buying. I haven't said much about the subject because, quite frankly, I feel like it's a miracle my husband and I were able to buy in the beautiful (aka PRICEY) Bay Area at all.

We started the house hunting process by creating a budget (you know I love budgets). Looking around at what was available for sale on our own, we thought we'd only be able to afford a small, two-bedroom condo at best. Luckily, we found a great REALTOR® who helped us figure out how we could get what we really wanted (a single family home) within our budget! He found a great neighborhood with no HOA fees, which increased the monthly amount we could put towards a mortgage. Our house is definitely a fixer-upper, but we've had fun putting in our own sweat-equity. (Details of our renovations here: bedroom, bathroom, and living room).
One of my favorite DIY upgrades to our home: our painted fireplace and mantel. (See the "before" picture here)
We still have a few more renovations to do, but we're enjoying the journey! And even though I'm not a native Californian, I'm loving it here.

My Favorite San Jose Spots

If you're ever in the San Jose area, check out some of my favorite spots:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Money Hip Chats: Husband Edition

To mix it up, this month's Money Hip Chat questions were fielded by Lauren's husband (Aaron) and my husband (Bryan). They're both pretty great so we're excited for them to make their blog debut.
Just so our readers can get to know you a little bit, what are your hobbies (past or present--since I know neither of you has much free time these days)?
Aaron: I like being outside and like to road bike, rock climb, and do triathlons. I'm also a big fan of Psych and also find myself watching mid-to-low grade action movies on Netflix when I want a bit of mindless entertainment. The latest version of "Red Dawn" was the latest movie I wasted a couple hours of my life watching.
Bryan:  I consider myself a technologist.  I love playing with and reading about technology.  Much to the frustration of my wife I could spend all day playing on my iPad or trying different apps with my Pebble Smartwatch.

How involved are you in the monthly budgeting?

How to dispose of an old computer

I was looking through our blog post schedule to see what I needed to write next, and saw that in our "fun post" category I had jotted down the topic, "how to dispose of an old computer." It's definitely not fun, at least in the sense that this post is going to explode on Pinterest anytime soon, but it is an oddly satisfying nagging task to cross off your to-do list. We wanted to switch over to a laptop from a desktop for our family computer primarily to cut down on clutter and available buttons for curious toddlers. I used a couple different tutorials to wipe our hard drive, but I've compiled all the steps here so hopefully someone can complete the task a little more easily. Here goes:

1. Back up all your files. If you have your new computer already, you could go ahead and transfer them to that one now. Some options include:

2. If you want to resell/give away your computer, make sure you have a CD/DVD version of your operating system you can reinstall after wiping your hard drive. If your computer didn't come with a physical CD, I think this article is pretty good. This article also says it has a free, legal way to get a copy of Windows 7 if you have a product key.

2. Use DBAN (Darik's Boot and Nuke) to permanently wipe your hard drive for security reasons. And when I say permanently, I mean permanently, so don't do this until you are good and ready. It writes over all of the data in your hard drive with random 0's and 1's several times so you're never going to get it back (but neither is any other nefarious character).

The software is good and the price (free) is right. I liked this tutorial. It includes the link for downloading the free DBAN .iso file.

Key points:
  • When they tell you to burn this to a CD, it's not just like burning your Napster downloads to a CD back in high school. You need to burn the "ISO image" to the CD. The tutorial includes a link to another tutorial on this process (which I ignored the first time... don't be like me-- do it right the first time).
  • This takes FOREVER. I think it took me about 8-9 hours to complete, and I did it twice (the second time may not be necessary, but I figured why not). 
4. Reinstall operating system using your DVD.

5. Decide how to dispose of your computer. You can resell it, donate it, or recycle it. Because computers have a lot of toxic chemicals in them, try using e-Stewards to find a proper recycling center for your old computer. Best Buy, Dell, and Apple also have recycling programs.

6. Congratulate yourself for getting this done.

Share: What other nagging tasks do you have on your "to do someday" list.

Credits: Fonts--'

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Favorite Pregnancy and Newborn Things

Back when Lisa had her second baby, she did this post about her favorite tips/things for pregnancy, labor, and the newborn phase. Now that I've just had my second, I want to share the things that were helpful for me. I'm skipping the tips for labor part, because while I did a lot of preparation for a natural hospital childbirth, I ended up having a SUPER precipitous labor (as in went from 10-minute mild contractions to transition in no time flat and delivered the baby standing in our bathroom, with paramedics arriving shortly thereafter) and therefore no useful tips for the labor experience. Except that hydrogen peroxide does miracles for getting blood out of grout in your bathroom.

Favorite Pregnancy Things

Grabber. Ummm... yes, I bought one of these. And, yes, it was amazing. Not only for pregnancy, when I found myself doing a mental net-benefit analysis before bending over to pick up any dropped object, but also when packing a newborn around either in my arms or in a baby carrier.

Baby sleep books. I remember with my first pregnancy I read a ton on pregnancy and nothing about babies. Big mistake. This time, I prepared myself by reading several baby sleep books. I liked having a few different perspectives to draw upon this time around.
Favorite Newborn Things

Baby Bjorn Bouncer. Granted this one does not come with a cheap price tag, but if you have room in your budget for it, can get one secondhand, or as a gift (thanks, Mom!), I highly recommend this. I love that

  • It's lightweight enough to carry from room to room so the baby can stay with us,
  • The bouncer can fold flat for storage,
  • It can be used longer than most bouncers since it converts to a toddler chair,
  • The baby can interact with it, and
  • The bouncer is soft against the back of the baby's head.

Exercise ball. Holy cow. I wish I had this with our colicky first child. I originally bought this ball for pregnancy exercises, but I have used it WAY more to bounce my newborn when she's fussy. Granted, bouncing a baby on a ball is less enjoyable than bouncing on a ball without a baby (it tends to hurt my back a bit), but it's still a great way to soothe her with motion without wearing myself out doing crazy standing knee-bends. It's especially great when your other child is already in bed and you can just bounce away and watch something on Netflix.

Rolls of crepe paper. You know that dreaded moment when you need to put the newborn down for a nap or feed her, but you can tell your toddler is going to get into some serious mischief in those 15 minutes? That's when you toss him a roll of crepe paper and let them go to town. For all the mass of crinkly fun, it's pretty clean since it's in one piece (unless of course, he decides to tear it into hundreds of small pieces), but more importantly, you know they're going to be safely occupied for a period of time.

Kindle books/Netflix movies. Nothing mollifies feelings of bitterness at night wakings like a good book or movie. Since night feedings burn through hours of movies faster than I can find new good ones to watch, I like watching movie adaptations of books and then reading the books to get even more mileage out of them (and it helps me not use up data on my phone so quickly because our wireless signal is pretty weak in our bedroom). And since works written over a hundred years ago typically have expired copyrights that you can get for free on the Kindle (or Kindle App if you don't have a Kindle), I tend to stick to the classics. My favorites have been
  • North and South 
  • Middlemarch 
  • Mansfield Park 
  • Sense and Sensibility 
Peapod. And last, but not least, after your first delivery from Peapod, you can use the coupon code "FREEDELIVERY" to get free delivery (or $6.95 off your delivery fees for each delivery) for 60 days. I just did our first order yesterday, and I am never going back to the grocery store with two kids unless it's absolutely necessary. Plus, I'm convinced it's easier to shop on a budget when you do one order a week, and can watch the cost add up as you put things in your virtual cart.

Share-- What are your favorite movies/shows to watch on Netflix?

Font credit:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Budget Boot Camp - To Do #4: Budget for Monthly Recurring Expenses

Give yourself a pat on the back for getting to this point-- the actual BUDGET part of the budget boot camp!

So far, you've
I know it took us a while to get to the point of actually creating a budget, but now that you've done those other three things,
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