Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Date Night--Have one weekly! (Plus Ideas for Cheap Dates)

Check out some great stay-at-home date night ideas here!

My husband's co-workers can't get over the fact that we go on a date EVERY week (alternating between at-home and going-out date nights). He gets comments like, "What do you DO week after week?"
Honestly, I understand their confusion because a couple years ago, I would've said the same thing. But since date night has morphed into this new and amazing thing--so different from what our date nights used to be--I don't know how we used to live without it.
My husband and I on a date
My husband and I had a few important realizations that led to making weekly date night a priority:
1. Our spouse is the most important human on the planet. Our relationship with them will affect every other aspect of our happiness, including our children and family as a whole. Our relationship thrives when we set aside time to communicate with each other.
2. We both need to unplug and get stress-free time away from our work, routines, technology, etc.
3. It's too easy to get caught in the thick of thin things and never take time out to evaluate our lives, goals, and dreams. What better time to discuss our "big-picture" plans than with our most trusted friend and advisor?

Why We Go Out

First of all, if doing date night at home is effective (or more affordable) for you, I FULLY support that. Own it. Discuss with your spouse how to make at-home date nights most meaningful.
Personally, I find that my mind and body are able to relax and rejuvenate more effectively when I leave my job site, which happens to be my home.


You know I'm a budgeter. Hard-core. But budgeting is NOT about spending as little as possible on everything, it's about putting your money towards whatever is most important to you and letting other things go. Date Night is a priority for me, so I am willing to give up other things (clothes, home decor, vacations, etc.).

Date Night Ideas

For cheap dates, we use gift cards and/or deal websites. Here's a few of our dates:

Hiking--my personal fav

Bowling (way more fun as a double-date)

Cheesy Arcade

Rock Climbing

For me, the most enjoyable dates are the ones that allow us plenty of time to talk while trying fun, new things together.

Finding a Babysitter

We do babysitting swaps sometimes, but we usually hire a babysitter. If you're new to a major metropolitan area and don't know any babysitters, check out UrbanSitter. Hiring a babysitter online seemed sketchy to me, but we used UrbanSitter last week and had a good experience with both the site and the babysitter. Here's what I liked most:
(1) These babysitters are background-checked AND vetted by other families. You can read reviews about them and/or link your social media accounts to see which babysitters your friends recommend.
(2) You can scroll through a list of babysitters and check out their profiles, including a video of them. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million.
(3) You can schedule online.
(4) YOU CAN PAY BY CREDIT CARD. As someone who lives for my 2% cash back, this was awesome.
If you're interested in trying out UrbanSitter, they're hooking up our MHM readers with a free month of membership--use the code FORFREETRIAL.

And that, my friends, is why I love date night. 

What's your idea of a perfect date night?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Choosing the Right Healthcare Plan--Let This Tool Do the Thinking For You

My friend Beth (who also wrote a post about making money as a stay-at-home-mom) has offered to share another brilliant idea with our awesome MHM readers. She, like many of us, was once struggling with health care enrollment season. What kind of coverage did she need? And which plan should she choose? No one can predict what the future holds, but even if you know about how much health care coverage you need, it's hard to tell which plan is the best value for you. Luckily for us, Beth is no ordinary woman--she's a spreadsheet pro. She created a tool for pricing out plans with the same coverage (for comparing apples to apples) and also included some advice about what questions to ask when researching different plans with different coverage (for comparing apples to oranges). I know I'll be coming back to this post whenever I'm choosing a health plan, so feel free to pin this post for later.       - Lisa



How it works:

You enter information into the pink boxes ONLY. The rest of the spreadsheet will populate from the information you enter there. Notice the spreadsheet has two tabs: (1) a blank tab and (2) an "example" tab with hypothetical inputs so you can get an idea of how to use the tool.

Once you've entered the information in the pink boxes, the result is a variety of possible medical cost scenarios in a year, from very low cost (a handful of doctor's visits in a year) to higher costs (like the need for some X-rays or something) to much higher, like pregnancy or surgery. You can play around with these assumptions if you want to. 

This spreadsheet is useful for comparing plans that differ SOLELY in terms of costs (monthly premiums, copayments, deductibles, etc.). If plans differ in terms of conditions covered then this won't help you choose between them, but the good news is that plans now seem to be required to cover pretty much the same stuff. People should have a good idea of what they personally need covered so before they buy a plan I would advise everyone make sure to get a detailed plan summary and look for the type of care they need and see what it covers.

The beauty of this thing is that when you're comparing plans that are substantially equal except in terms of cost, you can just plug in the pink box numbers and boom, you know which health plan is actually cheapest. I spent several hours making the spreadsheet earlier this year but my decision process took like 5 minutes.

Also, in my experience, the middle of the road plan is usually the best value. That's the one with the middle premiums and the middle deductibles. It seems to end up being cheaper overall because the low premium plans have higher deductibles (and the amount you save on premiums doesn't often make up for the higher deductible unless you know that you're going to go to the doctor just like once or twice a year) and the high premium plans with the low deductibles are usually so much more a year in premium payments that the lower deductible doesn't do you as much good as you think it might. But it's always good to run all the numbers to be sure.



The spreadsheet is only useful for comparing the cost of plans that are similar in regards to services covered. To determine if plans are comparable, you also need to:

(1) Request details of what the plan covers and what it does not cover. The company may not give you all of this information up-front, but when you read more details you may see that a plan that claims to have a $30 copay for a regular doctor's visit actually has a higher copay for certain other services. Or you may see that the emergency room copay is different or that there is a separate deductible for maternity. Or that the plan covers chiropractic services at the regular $30 copay but limits you to 12 visits a year. Each family should already have some idea of what services are going to be relevant to them, but some things to think about would be the coverage for emergency room, maternity, autism or other child development services, mental health, chiropractic, and prescription services. 

(2) If you take certain prescription drugs regularly (or anticipate needing to take certain drugs in the future, such as if you get pregnant), ask whether the plan covers those specific drugs. It doesn't do much good to buy a plan where prescriptions only cost you $10 if none of the drugs you take are included.

(3) If you are attached to the doctors you currently see, call their offices and ask if they accept an insurance plan you are thinking about buying. When I did that last December I found out that none of our regular doctors were going to accept any of the Marketplace ("Obamacare") plans.

Good luck!

Any questions? Post them in the comments!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Leprechaun Hunt--Clues and Treat Instructions Included

Pin this post for later here.

I've always loved St. Patrick's Day. Really--what's not to love? Just when I thought life couldn't get any better, I up and had my first son on St. Patrick's Day. Dream come true. For this last birthday, we invited all his little friends over for a St. Patrick's Day Leprechaun Hunt.
To find out how to make the rainbow balloon arch, here is a DIY Rainbow Arch Tutorial.
His birthday was combined with our "Toddler Time" play group that usually involves reading a book, so we started by reading a book about St. Patrick's Day. P.S. That intensity on my face is not feigned. I'm that serious about everyone loving St. Patrick's Day.

To find out how to make the rainbow balloon arch, here is a DIY Rainbow Arch Tutorial.

My little leprechaun.

Starting the Leprechaun Hunt

The book explained the tradition of leprechauns and how if you can catch them, they'll give you their pot of gold. We spotted our first clue and were off to find that leprechaun!

Great For All Ages

Our house is small, so I purposely alternated clues that brought us from one side of the house to the other, so it felt like more of an adventure than it really was. The best part about the leprechaun hunt is it's great for all ages. The big kids understood the clues and the thrill of the hunt. And even the tiniest toddler got caught up in the excitement and had fun running around, chasing after the big kids.
So into the hunt--searching for clues.

The Clues

You can make up your own clues like I did, but in case you'd rather copy and paste, these are the clues I came up with (pure poetry, I know).

 1. (Placed out in the open): "Come try to catch me, if you are able--I'm hiding underneath the kitchen table."
2. (Under the kitchen table): "I dance little jigs--I'm Irish, not French. Come try to find me under the piano bench."
3. (Under the piano bench): "I have a pot of gold, but I'm hiding it--so naughty! See if you can catch me. I'm on top of the potty!"

4. (On the wall above the toilet): "Isn't trying to find me such a chore? I'm hiding--it's cold! Look in the fridge door."

5. (In the fridge): "Did I tell you my name? I'm Leprechaun Stevie. I'm tired of running, come look by the tv."
6. (Hidden by the tv, next to the pot of gold and/or treats): "You're such a good leprechaun hunter--so fast as so bold. I went home now--you missed me--but I left you my GOLD!"

The kids were pretty jazzed about the individual treats.

The Treats--Gold Under the Rainbow

I'm seriously not crafty at all, but even I was able to handle this one (thank you, Our Best Bites!). Place Rolos in cellophane treat bags (I bought these bags). Place rainbow of Twizzlers (if you're striking out at finding them at Target, you can always get this 6-pack from Amazon. You'll need more than one bag anyway to make sure you get enough of all of the colors).

To find out how to make the rainbow balloon arch, here is a DIY Rainbow Arch Tutorial.

Good luck with your Leprechaun Hunt! Let me know if you have any questions and I'll get back to you ASAP.

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