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Hello, all! Alyssa here. Week five of me and my child pretending we have any idea what we’re doing and obviously we are loving it, but really miss you guys! Fortunately, for both myself and for my readers, I have some awesome female friends who love money just as much as we do and they’ve willingly shared some of their favourite blog posts. This week, the truly hilarious Amanda, from Dumpster Dog Blog has lovingly shared her always-controversial but extremely-important opinions about how ridiculous beauty standards are and what the financial implications mean for women.

If you’d like to still chat with me (even though I’m not as cool as Amanda), you can join me on Twitter or Instagram for small life updates and cute pics XOXO. Now let’s get to the good stuff.

About five years ago, I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants. It came at a time when I was already feeling perturbed about how expensive and ridiculous it can sometimes feel to be a woman, and hearing Fey’s retrospection of growing up a woman felt like vindication to me. I’d never felt more heard than by her summary of the body parts women feel obligated to own, buy, or reverse engineer: “Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, Michelle Obama’s arms, and doll tits.”

In one chapter, Fey parodies beauty standards and their accompanying treatments, referring to them as her “Rules of Beauty.” In Rule #11, “Aging Naturally Without Looking Like Time-Lapse Photography of a Rotting Sparrow,” Fey bestows upon us commoner potato humans a few *insider tips* on how to fight back the bodily decay that sets in at around age 40: “You may need to “pluck your patchy beard daily. Your big toe may start to turn jauntily inward. Overnight you may grow one long straight white pubic hair. Not that this has happened to me because every six months I get a very expensive Japanese treatment that turns my pubic hair clear like rice noodles!”

I remember reading this and thinking: Huh. Wow. The expectations for pubic hair removal for women are so God-damn ridiculous that this very well may be the perfect joke. While Fey’s process is utterly farfetched, it is equally as ludicrous to think about what women actually do with their pubes. If you’re not hip to the latest in lady-muff maintenance, allow me: Many, many women spend $50 to $100 every month or so to have broiling candle wax poured all over the most sensitive skin on the human body—including the butthole—to then rip each thick-headed hair straight out from the root. It is more twisted than a pubic hair, and this poll states that almost 60% of women are going bare.

With each passing year, my patience for beauty standards grows thinner. Part of it is because I now really, really consider how I spend my money. Part of it is because I’m growin’ up and looking older myself. Part of it is because I’m so tired of social media. Part of it was reading How to Be a Woman, another comedy memoir and feminist manifesto by the delightful Caitlin Moran. (If you can’t already tell, everything I know about being a woman I learned from female comedians, so there’s that. Comedians tend to sniff out the shit piles before everyone else.)

Moran’s delicious rant on Brazilian waxing sums it up: “I can’t believe we’ve got to the point where it’s basically costing us money to have a vagina. They’re making us pay for maintenance and upkeep of our lulus like they’re a communal garden. It’s a stealth tax. Muff excised. This is money we should be spending on the ELECTRICITY BILL and CHEESE and BERETS. Instead, we’re wasting it on making our Chihuahuas look like a skanky chicken breast. God DAMN you, mores of pornography that have made it into my underwear. GOD DAMN YOU.”

It’s not just about pubic hair!

Although I’m pickin’ on hair removal today, ‘tis but one bitsy fragment of what is an ever-expanding cosmos of unnecessary beauty treatments/surgeries/systems that many women feel are an “essential” part of a beauty or weight loss routine. We rarely question them, yet there is nothing normal or inevitable about American beauty standards. Thigh gaps? Pantene Pro-V hair that’s thick as an Afghan hound’s and shiny as an oil slick? Having to look like you’re Dakota Fanning when you’re actually 54 years old?

And while American beauty standards are unachievable for 99% of woman, they’re particularly perverse for women of colour. Not only must women be skinny and youthful, but also white or look beautiful “in a white way.” Eurocentric beauty standards have deep and racist roots and worst of all, are legitimate grounds for discrimination of women and girls of colour. (Want to get woke on the subject? Read this.)

Never, ever forget, this nonsense is manufactured by businesses to sell products, period. Insecurity is a major business play and yields big money results. Beauty, fashion, and weight-loss are multi-billion dollar industries; industries that thrive only when normal women get stuck in the hamster wheel of spending money to chase some image of what they’re not. (The cosmetics industry alone is worth $460 billion.)

Fashion magazines, which are really just 150-page advertisement digests, aren’t the only ones to blame here. Standards of beauty are enforced by Hollywood and by pornography, and then perpetuated by the culture of capitalism and advertising, social media, men, and of course, women: In particular, women who “buy-in” and far worse, women who encourage other women to adhere to the same standards—whether or not they’re doing it on purpose. I’m guilty as anyone. And I don’t feel bad admitting it because it’s hard not to be complicit in what is such a pervasive system of values!

Okay, back to pubes

Of the beauty standards, hair-free errrythang does strike as particularly sinister. Bald cooch really took off within the porn industry, which isn’t itself necessarily troubling until you consider what happens further downstream. As Moran points out, hardcore pornography is now where every young boy learns about sex. So we’ve got preteen boys who have never seen a woman with pubic hair and preteen girls so terrified of rejection they’re getting their lil’ baby vaginas waxed—seriously, this happens!—resulting in “a combination that—with its overtones of infantilization and impetus in hardcore pornography—is pretty creepy, whichever way you look at it.” (This is to say nothing of the fact that porn is an industry designed by and for men, with scant consideration of what women want. This is a heady topic; we’ll save it for another day.)

Every young woman remembers the moment she first learned that her naturally-occurring vagina is appalling even to those who will never see it. For me, it was in eighth grade. I sat at a lunch table, eating my ham and cheese Lunchables like the friggin child I was when one of the tall, popular boys claimed he could tell “just by looking at a girl” whether she shaved her pubes or not. One by one, he marked each girl, exclaiming his diagnosis for all to hear. Internally, I panicked. My goofy, underdeveloped ass had been so consumed with neon gel pens, living in the dELiA*s catalogue (which by the way, was completely whitewashed) and looking up instruments of the world on Microsoft Encarta (that didgeridoo was so dope), I had never even considered such a thing. His methodology for determining the pubic hair maintenance habits of his subjects was simple to decipher: The pretty girls must shave their pubes, and that the less pretty girls—including me—must not.

The message was clear: If I wanted to come close to competing with the much prettier girls in my middle school class, I would have to be a bare crotch vigilante, no matter the cost.

From middle school on, I never really questioned the tenets of pubic hair removal. Like lots of women, I don’t want to bungle a chance at true love because of an improperly-maintained muff. This is a legitimate threat, considering that 56% of men in a Cosmopolitan survey said they prefer a woman to be hair-free and 40% have asked their partner to change their “style.” 30% of men would dump someone with pubic hair. That’s right; one-third of dudes in the world has a zero-tolerance policy on something that grows—naturally—every single fucking day, on every single woman, EVER. Jeezus. Might as well have a zero-tolerance policy on the seasons, or death. THEY HAPPEN, YO.

While I am deeply sympathetic to the unique pressures boys and men deal with (can we please teach boys that they don’t need to win everything?), it rankles to think of both the legitimate pain—fiery, itchy pain!—and the money and time women feel obligated to spend on beauty treatments as compared to men. I am not arguing that some women legitimately like the look and feel of a fresh wax, but I don’t know too many women would get the fur peeled from her vaginal lips for $80 a session if she believed that men truly didn’t care.

My real concern

I do not care what people want to do with their bodies and time. I wish I never had to write a blog post about friggin’ minge and please don’t take this as a judgment of your personal decisions. It’s not. It’s this and only this: Unattainable beauty standards put women at a huge financial disadvantage. If you’re getting a $50 wax every month for your adult lifetime, you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars. That’s just on bikini waxes. And do we really want our girls growing up feeling like they need to spend all of their monies on depilation services? As an alternative, Moran suggests we “save enough money from not waxing to bugger off to Finland and watch aurora borealis from a five-star hotel while shit-faced on vintage brandy.” Don’t know ‘bout you, but that sounds a helluva lot more fun than gettin’ the lettuce ripped off my taco.

This is hardly a new topic, yet very few folks in the finance industry talk of hegemonic beauty standards in terms of money. First and foremost, those in charge have historically been men who are juusssst fine with the existing flow of money and power structure. That is changing, slowly. But even within enlightened financial circles the conversation often starts and stops at “spend money only on what makes you truly happy!” And while I agree with this in theory, the advice assumes a pretty Pollyanna view of decision-making in a complicated world. Our culture is omnipresent with influences welcome and unwelcome, detectable and undetectable. Concluding that decision-making is always straightforward or easy does an absolute disservice to the unique pressures some women feel to spend money.

I write this because I personally know what it’s like to spend money in order to inch my way closer to some mindfuck image of a supermodel in a magazine or worse, every fourth woman I see in a bikini hashtag throwback on the Explore page on Instagram. I feel caught in an eternal tug-of-war between a) worrying about my tummy or pale skin or thin lips because sadly, I do believe that even moderate improvements in these domains would increase my chances of getting “hit on” and b) saying FUCK IT ALL because I don’t ACTUALLY dislike these things about myself! Society just tricks me into not liking ‘em, so that I rush to empty my pockets at the altars of insecurity.So while I am NOT promising that I won’t get a wax ever again and I DON’T have plans to set ablaze my mascara, razors, and military-strength Victorian corset (j/k), I would like to throw my hat in the ring as someone that supports women who are tired of unachievable beauty standards. I offer my support not as someone with a solution wrapped up in a big pink bow, but as someone willing to have an honest discussion about how we avoid letting systemic pressures jeopardize our financial success. It is simply no secret that existing power structures thrive in silence, so let’s talk.

And as I’ve said before, I mostly care to discuss financial success in the terms of how it allows us to be free: Freedom from having to work forever and with the time to pursue whatever it is that gets our rocks off. I care only about our precious time.

The post The Financial Harm of Beauty Standards appeared first on Mixed Up Money.

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Hello, all! Alyssa here. As you know, I’m currently taking a six-week hiatus to spend time with my newborn baby whom you’d all obviously love. Fortunately, for both myself and for my readers, I have some awesome female friends who love money just as much as we do and they’ve willingly shared some of their favourite blog posts. This week, my squirrelfran Des from Half Banked, has generously shared her personal story about debt and how she changed her expectations.

If you’d like to still chat with me (even though I’m not as cool as Des), you can join me on Twitter or Instagram for small life updates and cute pics XOXO. Now let’s get to the good stuff.

I have debt.

A few years ago that sentence would have sent me into a total tailspin. I was always so adamant about not carrying credit card debt (still am, btw) and I even bought my first car in cash. Debt was not a part of my financial life.

But right now, it is.

I’ve always avoided writing about debt before now. As someone who never had it, I much preferred to let other people tell their stories, and I didn’t feel like I had anything to add (…because I didn’t). Not to mention, every debt story I heard was a bad one, and the people telling them were so, so, so excited to be out of debt. I wasn’t going to contribute from my “I’ve never had debt” perspective, but I was happy to listen and learn from them.

Of course, going into debt, I assumed I’d feel the same way as my personal finance friends, and want to prioritize paying down debt above all else. This was my chance to experience what paying down debt was like! I was going to crush it! I was so prepared!

Paying off debt isn’t what I expected

I could never have predicted that I would be totally chill about my debt, especially given that I am an aggressively un-chill person in general, and especially when it comes to money. But against all odds, that’s been my reaction more than anything.

Having debt kind of feels the same as not having debt, which is a bit unnerving. It made me feel like maybe I was doing money wrong like maybe I missed some crucial memo that I should be panicked about this.

But the more I thought about my reaction, the more I realized that I wouldn’t be reacting this way in every situation involving debt.

The first type of debt: unplanned

For example, if I found myself with a credit card balance that was going up every month, I would not be calm about it. It would be a sign to me that something had to change ASAP, and would serve as a clear warning sign that the balance between “money coming in” and “money going out” needed to shift.

That type of debt—unplanned debt—I wouldn’t be chill about, and I think that’s most of the debt people write about trying to get out of. It makes sense, because having the support of an online community as you make those changes, and adjust your money systems, is huge.

And controversial opinion coming in hot: I think most student debt falls into this category as well.

Say what you will, but I don’t think any 18-year-old really understands what it’ll feel like to start paying off $25,000 (or more, or much more) on an entry-level salary. I think that realization, when your debt repayment kicks in after school, is definitely unplanned—as is the impact it’ll have on your money while you repay it.

So if you’re hustling to pay down credit card debt, or student loan debt, my reaction probably feels an unnerving chill, like I very much did miss a memo somewhere.

The second type of debt: planned

But not all debt happens to you. Debt is a financial product, and just like any financial product, it can get you into trouble if you use it poorly—but that doesn’t mean it’s inherently evil.

Right now, my debt is a car loan I’m sharing with The Fiance, and I feel really comfortable with our choice to use this particular financial product. We went into it with a clear, short-term payoff plan, and we’ll have the car paid off in under three years. We made sure to pay attention to the total cost first, and then figure out how that amount worked with our monthly budget and our payoff timeline.

Basically, this was an informed, planned decision to use a financial product, with a full understanding of the cost.

Do I think you can get yourself into trouble with planned debt? Yes, of course.

It’s far too easy to look at your monthly payments and think adding just one more isn’t a big deal and end up stretched beyond your limit for years thanks to long payoff periods and rising interest rates. This is not carte blanche to take on whatever debt you want as long as you plan it.

But if you plan it well, make an intentional choice to use this financial product, and stay within your means… I don’t think debt needs to be a total panic emergency.

Exactly how I’m handling my debt

That doesn’t mean I’m not excited to pay off this debt, though. I’d love to get the $500 a month back in our shared budget, and throw that towards retirement savings in my RRSPinstead—but I’m not abandoning my other goals to do it.

We made the choice to keep our payoff timeline short (and strict) as part of our debt payoff plan, and in most months, I’m comfortable with our payments being a good and realistic portion of our budget to put towards the goal of being debt free. We could have gone with much lower payments over a longer timeframe, but we didn’t—so most months, that’s all we do about the debt.

On top of that, when I have “extra” money, I put a portion of it towards the debt to accelerate our progress, save money on interest, and move up our debt-free date. For example, about 30% of my tax refund is going straight to the car loan—but notably, and obviously, that’s not 100%.

I still have other goals, and the biggest one is to build up my personal emergency fund. That’s where the bulk of my tax refund is going this year, and for the first time ever, I’ll have a fully funded emergency fund. Sure, that money could go towards debt if I wanted it to… but I don’t. Debt payoff doesn’t always have to be your sole and only priority, especially if you’re not comfortable abandoning your other financial goals.

You might be! Which is just as legitimate a choice, but it’s always going to be a personal choice.

There’s no single right way to pay off debt

Even when you’re talking about the two really standard methods of getting out of debt, the debt snowball and the debt avalanche, there’s no single “best” way or “only” way to pay off debt. Sure, mathematically, you can find the most cost-effective way, but to do that ignores that we’re human beings who feel things and have thoughts that aren’t “maximize efficiency at all costs.”

Could I potentially save some money if I threw all my savings efforts at paying off the car loan, since the interest rate on it is higher than I’ll earn on my emergency fund savings? Sure. Would I be comfortable with the plan? Heck no.

It turns out, every wishy-washy email I’ve ever sent to readers who ask me how to tackle their debt is really what I would do in real life: “It depends, and I think you should do what makes you most comfortable, while still paying it off in a reasonable-to-fast way. Oh and don’t cut out your entire fun budget.”

Sure, there are some basics, with unplanned or planned debt, including:

  • Understand how much your debt is going to cost you, and adjusting accordingly (high-interest debt is much more urgent than a line of credit with a reasonable rate, for example)
  • Figure out how it fits into your financial priorities
  • Make a plan to pay it off, and stick to it
  • Understand how much you’ll save by paying it off early, and do that when you can

But if you’re doing all those things, and feeling like you missed the “panic” memo?

Don’t. It is possible to have debt, manage it, pay it off on a reasonable timeline, and not let it become your sole financial focus.

The post Paying Off Debt — Did I Miss The Panic Memo? appeared first on Mixed Up Money.

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Hello, all! Alyssa again. Are you sick of this prelude yet? Good. Because you don’t have a choice. It’s now week three of my hiatus from blogging and I’m sure future me is embracing every bump in the road that is motherhood. Fortunately, for both myself and for my readers, I have some awesome female friends who love money just as much as we do and they’ve willingly shared some of their favourite blog posts. This week, one of my best friends and inspirations, Bridget from Money After Graduation, has generously shared her personal story about the cost of motherhood and how it affects women so deeply.

If you’d like to still chat with me (even though I’m not as sassy as Bridget), you can join me on Twitter or Instagram for small life updates and cute pics XOXO. Now let’s get to the good stuff.

Children are expensive. But what may surprise you is children are far and away more expensive for women than men.

How much does it cost to be a mother?

The cost to raise a child from birth to age 18 is pegged at $250,000, but this number represents only out of pocket costs — food, clothing, extra-curricular activities, and so on. It doesn’t reflect the hidden costs and sacrifices parents make in lost income by switching to less demanding jobs, declining promotions, switching to part-time work, or even withdrawing from the workforce, temporarily or permanently.

But these costs are not borne by each parent equally.

Mothers disproportionately shoulder the financial, as well as physical and emotional, burden of raising children because they are almost always the primary caregiver. Their role is reinforced by cultural stereotypes, societal expectations, and our own biases.

The Motherhood Tax

The “Motherhood Tax” or the “Motherhood Penalty” is used to describe the financial penalty women experience for having children. It encompasses everything from being passed over for a job to being perceived as less competent in the workplace. For women, having a child is singlehandedly the largest financial risk they can take in their lifetime.

The best predictor as to whether a woman will file for bankruptcy is motherhood. – Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me

In fact, motherhood appears to be at the heart of the gender wage gap. Women and men actually enjoy similar pay for their work throughout their 20’s, then women experience a sharp drop in their earnings that coincides with the birth of their first child, from which they never recover. To add insult to injury, men actually enjoy slightly higher earnings when they become fathers.

This chart from a study in Denmark pretty much sums it up (https://t.co/27MMCAysng)

Having even one child will permanently cripple a woman's long-term earning potential, whereas it often has a slightly positive affect on a man's pic.twitter.com/IQFIRkiZVE

— Bridget Casey (@moneyaftergrad) February 12, 2018

It’s worth noting is that the Motherhood Penalty affects women who don’t even have children. In the workplace, even the perception that you might someday go on maternity leave makes you less likely to be promoted or paid fairly. As a woman, you may never want kids, but you’ll end up paying part of the motherhood tax anyway because people do not respect, believe, or understand your choice.

In other words, the lack of support for mothers is bad for everyone.

Whether or not to have children is an individual choice, but it is not a national one

We need people to have babies. I first blogged about this in early 2014 in my post Declining Fertility and Contracting Populations: Money, Markets, and Myths.

The short of it is a country needs to have a fertility rate (number of children born per woman) of at least 2.1 in order to maintain their population. However, most first-world countries are far below that and their populations are growing by immigration alone. Immigration isn’t bad, but it maintains a consistently ageing population, and a healthy society needs a young workforce to be productive and profitable, and take care of the old! However, if we make having children unaffordable, we can’t raise that younger generation to sustain our society.

When I’ve suggested things like government or employer-sponsored childcare in discussions with my childless friends, I’ve experienced ignorant protests like, “but it was your choice to have a kid!” and “I don’t want to pay for your kids’ daycare!”.

But the reality is you actually need my child much more than my child needs you.

You need my baby to grow up and get a part-time job serving you coffee. You need her to get an education so she becomes a working professional that contributes to technology, science, medicine, engineering, law, or art. You need her to be your doctor or your real estate agent or your car mechanic. You need her to pay taxes so you have access to healthcare, public parks, and roads. You need her to pay employment insurance so you are protected from a layoff. You need her to contribute to the national pension plan so you have income in retirement.

You, as a citizen that enjoys the benefits of living where you do, need women to have children in order for those benefits to continue. So why, if women are the bedrock of our society, do we treat them so poorly?

If you have 15 minutes to spare, there’s an excellent TEDTalk that laments how a lack of support for mothers is a national issue.

The American Case for Paid Maternity Leave | Jessica Shortall | TEDxSMU - YouTube

The primary focus of that TEDTalk is a lack of paid maternity leave, but her points can be easily applied to the sky-high financial costs that run right alongside it: childcare.

I think affordable childcare is a woman’s issue, with a priority second only to a woman’s right to choose. It seems an extreme position, until you break it down.

Before we get into it, I do want to acknowledge that there are plenty of financial and non-financial reasons to stay home with your children, just like there are plenty of financial and non-financial reasons to go back to work. We’re not discussing the non-financial reasons here. This is a financial blog and we talk about financial things. If you want to leave a comment about how the emotional benefits of leaving work to raise babies is the best ever, I’m just going to assume you didn’t read this post in its entirety. The reality is most mothers will work in some capacity, by choice or otherwise, and we need to find ways to support them.

Children have two parents, and both parents are responsible for their care

When you read that above statement, it makes sense. Why then do we say nonsense like, “so much of my salary was going to childcare, it just made more sense for me to stay home”

A woman’s salary goes no more to selectively pay the whole childcare bill as it does to selectively pay anything else. Imagine giving a friend a tour of your home and saying your salary paid for only the livingroom and the guest bathroom. You wouldn’t, because that’s ridiculous.

It is equally ridiculous for a woman to claim her income alone pays for childcare.

Children are the responsibility of both parents, financially and otherwise. If your partner makes twice as much as you do, when splitting the daycare bill, you should think of 2/3’s of it being paid by your partner and 1/3 being paid by you.

Men do not get to pay $0 in childcare costs. Part of their wage goes towards childcare, just as it goes towards the mortgage or the grocery bill, or whatever other household expenses you have.

But it’s hard to change our perspective. Women are almost always the primary caregiver for children, and this role is continuously reinforced by familial, cultural, and societal expectations. This is something that that needs to be remedied so fathers can become more equal parents, but in the meantime, it creates an extraordinarily unfair connection between the financial cost of childcare and women:

Lack of affordable, accessible childcare is anti-feminist,because women disproportionately bear the brunt of childcare costs.

90% of stay-at-home parents are women. They are the ones that withdraw from the workforce to raise their children, sacrificing their careers to do so. As indicated in the graphs I shared above, their income never recovers. Those that go back to work, do so part-time or in less competitive and demanding (and therefore, high-paying) jobs. But when we bring this up, it makes people so uncomfortable they feel the need to immediately justify their lost wages as “worth it” because they got to have children.

But let’s not forget that men get to have children AND high incomes.

How to support working parents

Honestly, the first thing everyone should do is recognize that parents are holding up the entire future of our society and deserve our praise, respect, and encouragement. They are literally keeping the next generation alive and there is no recognition for that. But on a more practical level, there are a few things we can do:

“Use it or lose it” paternity leave of at least 3 months. Designated paternity leave, instead of simple parental leave that can be taken by either parent, will accomplish a few different things to help make things easier for both men and women. First, it will make it easier for dads to take leave to care for their newborn and better support their partner. After I gave birth, I likened the first few weeks post-partum akin to recovering from a traumatic car accident. You need someone there to help you. But aside from supporting the mother, providing fathers with paternity leave also helps them. They, too, are adjusting to becoming a new parent. They’re also sleep deprived. They also want to cuddle and care for the new member of their family. Paternity leave is a way for us to value fathers, and to support and empower them to take a larger role in the care of their children.

Flexible choices in paid time off. I personally felt physically and emotionally ready for longer stretches away from my baby by the time she was 6 months old. Some mothers are ready to go back to work sooner, others need more time. Canada offers up to 18 months of partly-subsidized parental leave, which is great but lacks flexibility. Parents can take either 12 months or 18 months. They cannot take 6 months or 15 months or any alternative time span. While overall a minor issue when compared to the complete lack of paid parental leave in the USA, it is still something that could be adjusted with positive results for parents and employers.

Reduced hours, part-time work, flex days, and work-from-home options.The ridiculousness of the 8-hour workday deserves its own post entirely, but we’ll save that for another day. I’m going to assume most employers have an inkling their employees are not productive every minute of every work day. Furthermore, a sleep-deprived stressed out new parent missing their child is NOT at their working best. Rather than trying to force parents to adhere that serves their childless colleagues, you’re like to see more success if you cater to moms & dads instead. Let moms return to work 10 or 15 hours per week for a few months before they jump right back into 40. Give parents flex days that they can use to pick their child up from school or take them to a doctor’s appointment. Let parents work from home when possible, so they can avoid the hassles of commuting or have a shot at conquering the neverending mound of laundry.

This is the point childless people will start crying that parents are getting more “free time”. Anyone that thinks parenting is a “vacation” or “time off” can come babysit while I go into the office.

On-site, employer-sponsored childcare. If you don’t want your employee to work from home 2 days per week and you do believe you can squeeze more productivity out of them by chaining them to their desk more hours of each day, one of the easiest ways to do that would be to put a daycare in your office building. This would also help women return to work sooner after having a baby because it would shorten the time they have to spend away from their infant, as well as make it easier to do things like breastfeeding. I have yet to have an 8-hour workday since having a baby, but that’s only because it’s logistically, emotionally, and financially challenging to be apart from my child for that long. If I had affordable care in my office building, it would be easier for me to sit down at my desk for the whole workday, popping down to the daycare to breastfeed or to take a break and spend some time with her before returning to work. I’d be happier, she’d be happier, and I’d also be able to get way more work done.

It’s true that children are 100% worth their exorbitant price tag. But maybe we should start making people other than mothers pay the entire bill.

The post The Impossible Price Of The Motherhood Tax appeared first on Mixed Up Money.

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Hello, all! Alyssa here, just living life as a mother circa week number two. As you know, I’m currently taking a six-week hiatus to embrace my child and enjoy these special moments with my husband. Fortunately, for both myself and for my readers, I have some awesome female friends who love money just as much as we do and they’ve willingly shared some of their favourite blog posts. This week, two badass babes, Piggy & Kitty from Bitches Get Riches, have generously shared their insight about how small savings habits can add up — fast.

If you’d like to still chat with me (even though I’m not as cool as these ladies), you can join me on Twitter or Instagram for small life updates and cute pics XOXO. Now let’s get to the good stuff.

“If you don’t start saving your money when you’re young, you’re going to die impoverished, overworked, and alone!” says every personal finance blogger ever to young people just starting out in the world.

And while it’s only a slight exaggeration, this kind of enormous pressure can be overwhelming and demoralizing when you’re just starting to get your financial life under control and barely bringing in enough money to make ends meet.

So what’s a young, financially inexperienced person to do? What’s anyone with bills and debt to do with the spectre of an empty savings account looming and no solution in sight?

The answer, as with most personal finance, is to start small. Because when saving, your little savings really do add up.

What we talk about when we talk about saving

When you get down to it, there is really only one way to “save” money: by not spending it. You can be creative in your method of non-spending. You can cancel memberships and subscriptions, you can clip coupons, you can walk or bike instead of driving, you can reduce your spending in general or look for discounts and freebies in particular. And at the end of this labour-intensive process, you will have “saved.” Congrats, you’re a responsible adult!

But if you then turn around and spend those savings on something else, then, well… they’re not really savings, are they? Even if you just ignore your savings and let them sit in the same bank account as the money you spend on all your expenses, they’ll eventually get used up or forgotten.

So the trick is to actually save your savings.

Every time you save money, put it in your savings account (or your mattress, depending on your personal level of paranoia and/or facility with online banking). Literally, save it. You just got a free coffee with your frequent buyer card at the coffee shop? Awesome! Transfer the money that coffee would have cost you into your savings account. You just saved $8 on parking by taking the bus instead? Way to go, you splendid phoenix of fiscal and environmental responsibility! Put it into savings.

These kinds of small, single-digit savings occur all the time if you’re paying attention and putting at least a little effort into reducing your spending. And by themselves, they’re minuscule. But if you’re starting at the stage where moths fly cartoonishly out of your pockets any time you look for a little extra cash to put away for the future, it’s huge.

These kinds of small, single digit savings occur all the time if you’re paying attention and putting at least a little effort into reducing your spending. And by themselves, they’re miniscule. But if you’re starting at the stage where moths fly cartoonishly out of your pockets any time you look for a little extra cash to put away for the future, it’s huge.

Yesterday I saved $10 on my grocery bill between coupons and my Kroger membership, an amount helpfully pointed out on my receipt. Ten whole dollars! Yippee! Three cheers and a tiger!

I could’ve taken that to mean that I was justified in treating myself to a refreshingly cold beer or two at the brewery after work. But instead, I thought about my dreams to travel abroad… and transferred it into savings. It’s not enough to buy a plane ticket to Argentina, but multiply it by my weekly grocery bill for an entire year and I can practically taste the grass-fed beef and locally sourced Malbec from here!

It really does add up, you sparkling diamond of creative thrift

I’ll be honest: I get a little fed up with friends who express a desperate need to build up their savings but then wave off the monthly cost of a Spotify membership or nightly take-out as not a big deal because it’s only a small amount of money. “It’s only $10 a month!” they say. Because while it’s totally fine to pay $10 a month to not have one’s music constantly interrupted by commercials that must have been specifically engineered for maximum irritation, it’s willfully ignorant to pass up every such small opportunity to save money.

Making multiple efforts to save small amounts of money can and does lead to a substantial lump sum in your savings account. But you have to actually take those opportunities for small savings when they arise. Biking instead of driving? Buying generic instead of name brand? Cutting conveniences and subscriptions? Using coupons? You can’t dismiss them all just because they seem like a pittance in isolation.

A few years ago I took a good hard look at my spending to see where I could eliminate multiple small expenses in order to save money. I thought I’d maybe save a couple hundred annually. To my delight (and consternation at Past Me for taking on such expendable costs in the first place) I was able to save over a grand. Take a look:

Gym membership $30 $360
Barnes & Noble membership $25
Name brand prescription $10 $120
Eating lunch out during work week $45 $540
Driving more than 4 days a week $11 $132

Some of it was simple—canceling my gym membership involved a single phone call and the willingness to run outside. Changing my prescription medication from name brand to generic involved a few more phone calls and made me appreciate my insurance plan. Just not eating lunch out only required the extra effort to not be lazy and make sure I packed a lunch every single day and it made the biggest impact!

Some was a little more complicated. I calculated the daily cost of commuting a total of 40 miles between my home and office and realized that if I was able to work from home one day per week not only would I save money, but I’d save a life because it was only a matter of time before I murdered someone in a fit of rush hour road rage. Well worth it. So I talked to my boss and got work-from-home Fridays written into my contract. Money, time, and sanity saved.

BOOM. $1,177 in the bank. That’s three round-trip flights home to visit the parental units! That’s a new computer! That’s a great start to a down payment on a car or a house!

Just keep swimming

And if you factor in all those other little savings—grocery store coupons, biking instead of driving, using the library instead of buying books and media, buying something on sale or off the clearance rack, rounding up to the nearest dollar—it adds up even more. It’s the same theory as putting all your coins in a change jar: add to it little by little, watch it grow, and with patience you suddenly have that safety net of savings that felt so impossible before.

It’s not easy, it’s not fast, but along the way, you will develop habits and thrifty muscles you didn’t even know you had. You can save, because you are a bad-ass, super-human, money-saving angel and it’s time you accepted this truth about yourself, goddammit.

The post It Really Does Add Up: On Saving Your Little Savings appeared first on Mixed Up Money.

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Hello, all! Alyssa here. As you know, I’m currently taking a six-week hiatus to learn how to be a mother to my new child. Fortunately, for both myself and for my readers, I have some awesome female friends who love money just as much as we do and they’ve willingly shared some of their favourite blog posts. This week, Kara from Bravely Go has generously shared her personal story about financial anxiety and the effects it can have on someone’s life. 

If you’d like to still chat with me (even though I’m not as cool as Kara), you can join me on Twitter or Instagram for small life updates and cute pics XOXO. Now let’s get to the good stuff.

Last night my financial anxiety woke me up at 4:00am and WOULDN’T LET ME GO BACK TO SLEEP. Anxiety, you’re a son of a bitch. I’m sorry for yelling, but I’ve been up since 4:00.

Financial anxiety has been a constant companion of mine for the last three years. And it’s kind of weird, because I’ve been crushing the last three years. I paid off all my debt. I’ve been investing consistently. My net worth has grown by over 100%, and I own my own damn business.

So why don’t I feel like a financial Wonder Woman? 

What Is Financial Anxiety?

Financial anxiety is a feeling of stress, concern, or worry around your finances. Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten a knot in your stomach, or your heart started racing when you thought about money. (It happens to me at 4:00 friggen am).

This was not the first time I’ve been abruptly woken from my beauty sleep by financial anxiety. Sometimes I get the feeling of a cold hand wrapping itself around my heart when I think about just how much money I need to save for retirement, or the fact that as a freelancer if I get sick I can’t earn any money. And I am not alone in feeling this way. Here are some statistics to bum you out!

Y’all, I just came up with anxiety’s new motto…”Anxiety! It’s everywhere, all the time!”

But why do I, a personal finance professional and money nerd, feel so anxious? Don’t I know how to be good with my money?

My Personal Money Shit

First and foremost, let’s remember that no one is inherently good with money. I’ve accomplished a lot in the last few years, but I carry financial scars from my childhood. I’ve had to unlearn bad financial habits and educate myself on good ones.

I grew up pretty low income. I don’t have exact numbers on what we lived on, but I grew up in a single parent household with three children. My mom was sitting on a boatload of debt from her divorce, and for the earlier part of my childhood we were on food stamps for several years.

Money wasn’t ever discussed. It wasn’t like my mom, in between working multiple jobs and getting her Master’s in education ever sat us all down and said ‘hey, fyi you’re gonna want to avoid debt, invest early and often, and really pay attention to what you can deduct on your taxes.’

All I was aware of was that we didn’t have that much money and it stressed my family out. We were a leftovers for dinner, hand me downs for outfits, take the bus to school kind of family. We were never destitute, but we were never balling out.

I remember one time in middle school when I wanted to go on a school skiing trip. The price tag of $500 made me feel sick to my stomach. I didn’t even bring the trip up to my mom because I knew we didn’t have that kind of money.

I assumed the identity of ‘broke’ as a child and I haven’t shed it yet.

There was no reason to shed it. I paid for college with a combination of student loans, scholarships and family contributions from my grandparents. I worked all of my college career, holding three jobs my senior year. Work paid for all my school books and booze, but there was not much to put away. And besides, I didn’t think that saving more than $500 was really possible. Money was hard to earn, and I would never have any of it anyway, and that was that.

Post graduation I struggled to find a full time job, which further reinforced my identity as someone who had a hard time accessing money. This, plus my student loan debt and low income created a cocktail of anxiety that I’m still sipping on. The ups and downs of freelancing haven’t helped anything either.

What to Do About Financial Anxiety

I share all this because I believe that there is power in transparency around finances. It’s a core belief of mine, right up there with the fact that climate change is real and the cake is better than pie.

Voicing your fears and your anxiety helps you take power back from them. It also might help someone else who feels alone in the same fight.

I’ve dipped in and out of therapy to deal with my anxiety, and that has also been tremendously helpful. If for some reason you can’t get into therapy, here are a few other things I do to help with my financial anxiety.

  1. Track my money. Looking at the numbers can be really hard, but it’s the single most powerful thing you can do. (I’m sort of sick of hearing myself say that but it just continues to be the TRUTH.) Understanding what you have coming in and what you have going out is the first step to controlling your money, and adhering to values-based spending as a lifestyle choice.
  2. Exercise. Y’all, this is another thing that so many people preach. I want to hate it, I really do. But it feels so good! I always feel much better after I exercise. For me, my anxiety manifests as things speeding up around me. Pushing myself to a physical limit, getting away from computer screens, and forcing myself to focus on only my body helps me back away from an anxiety cliff I may otherwise fall off of.
  3. Talk it out. Share your feelings with friends or family, or shoot me an email! My inbox is always open. (info_at_bravelygo.co) Like I said, there is a lot of power in naming things, and you can work through a lot just chatting things out with a friend.

Anxiety ain’t easy. It doesn’t have to control your life though.

The post I’m a Finance Professional and I Have Hella Financial Anxiety appeared first on Mixed Up Money.

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Budgeting your money can be, hm, what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh right. Awful. It can be awful. Budgeting your money for a baby? Way less awful. Mostly because it’s exciting to start your planning and preparation to enjoy a financially successful time as new parents. But also because you know exactly how long you’ll have to achieve the perfect budget and savings goal. Although most people will tell you it’s impossible to predict how much a baby will cost or all that will be required during your pregnancy and first few months, the best thing you can do is to try everything possible to prepare.

Three weeks ago I announced my pregnancy, two weeks ago I touched on why we kept it a secret for eight months, and last week I gave you a list of every single thing we have bought before the baby arrives. I’m now just five days away from my due date and totally and completely unprepared to be a mother. Well, except for financially. Financially, I feel confident — and that’s because we made the perfect budget for our baby.

What did we budget for?

Initially, when my husband and I sat down, I made the most generic list of everything I thought we’d need at that point. When I did this, I was about 14 weeks pregnant and still digesting the news. I went back to check out the spreadsheet just five months later so that I could start to develop my full list of items we bought for our newborn, and I was shockingly pretty impressed. Although the actual products included and the estimated costs were random guesses, I only managed to be off by a couple hundred dollars.

Based on that chart, I decided to be on the safe side that we should assume we’d spend $5,000 before the baby arrived and that it would be ideal to save $10,000 for the entire first year as new parents, to supplement diaper needs and also support any necessary purchases that we’d otherwise be stressed about due to the decrease in income. Fortunately, I am able to take a full year of financially-supported maternity leave that is covered by the Canadian government.

During that time, my husband will continue to work. However, we also lucked out in the fact that he has June 15th to mid-August off of his current contract before signing on as a permanent employee. Therefore, we’ll be able to enjoy the first three months of parenthood as a team — which is very rare. But what this great news also meant is that because we would both be off for the summer, we’d also need to save an additional amount to supplement a lack of income. To do so, we also saved for this expense over the past eight months. Our grand total savings goal was approximately $25,000 — because we are seriously becoming overachievers.

In other words, we had three separate savings accounts and financial goals to hit by May. In total, we planned to save around 27% of our combined income towards becoming parents, while still saving for our other financial goals such as retirement, a down payment and travel. We had from October to November to complete these goals.

How did we save the money?

The first thing we did was open a high-interest joint savings account. Every paycheck, we would pay our bills, wait for our automatic transfers to go towards other financial goals, and then we’d see what was left. Basically, whatever was left went directly into the family fund. During this time, my husband was working two jobs at around 60 hours per week and I was also working two jobs at around 50 hours per week. No, this is not me bragging about how hard-working us gosh-darn millennials are. This is me saying that we were willing to sacrifice a lot of time and freedom to achieve our financial goals and to explain how we could save such a vast amount of money in such a short amount of time. We were very fortunate to be able to find two jobs a piece. Does this type of lifestyle work for everyone? No. Is this type of lifestyle an option for everyone? No.

However, there are three things we did to save this money that might work for you:

1. Stop saving for other goals that are no longer important

I was saving a lot of money towards future trips and plans that were no longer going to be possible due to my pregnancy — such as bachelorette parties and an upcoming trip to Costa Rica — that we, unfortunately, had to cancel. However, on the bright side of things, this meant that I could put any of those savings towards the baby fund and save a ton of money and time. Having a baby dramatically changes your life and although you may think you’re not financially equipped to prepare for such a new event, you’ll also be surprised to see a quick change in your priorities. Perhaps you had $1,000 saved for a trip over the summer that you might now be able to put towards your baby budget instead.

2. Flip your typical spending habits to reflect newer needs

The not-so-great part of pregnancy is that you are suddenly required to avoid some of your favourite things. However, those not-so-great parts can become extremely great for your bank account. Rather than spend a ton of money on drinks with friends, on fancy dinners with food you “shouldn’t” eat and on a women’s soccer team fee that won’t be used — you suddenly use that money for other costs. Turns out, prenatal vitamins are pretty costly considering how often you run out. You may also need to splurge on some maternity clothes and health classes. Don’t forget that it’s not just the baby that you’re saving for. By using the money you usually spent on entertainment on your pregnancy, you avoid having to go over budget and continue to live almost the same lifestyle throughout the next nine months.

3. Don’t buy anything until after your baby shower

To avoid spending the full estimated $5,000 we figured we’d need before the baby came, we decided to wait until after the baby shower before buying all the gear. I knew everything that I would need for baby and want for the baby because I threw everything onto the registry long before we sent out invitations. Then, once a week I would go and check for sales to see if there was anything I should go ahead and purchase before the day arrived. Otherwise, I would leave the list there and hold my breath — which was honestly the hardest part of my entire pregnancy. I wanted to know what I needed and I wanted to see it right now. However, the wait was worth it. We received plenty of great items and hand-me-downs at our baby shower, and the next day I went through my registry and purchased everything that was left. For anyone wondering, I decided to use Babylist for my registry as you could put items from multiple stores on your list and they also had an awesome tool where you could add directly from any website to your registry.

To create the perfect budget for your baby, I recommend deciding your goals and then determining how best to save for those goals. But — every single person’s situation and needs will be different. The only thing that’s constant is that it’s expensive. According to Money Sense, It costs roughly $14,350 per year to raise a child in Canada. But I’ll have to get back to you on the reality of an Albertan personal finance nerd who seriously hates spending money before I can determine the facts.

5 financial tasks to complete before the arrival of your baby - YouTube

I’m ready to take a mini-maternity leave from blogging

At the end of the day, pregnancy has been great. But it’s also been exhausting. During the past nine months, I started a new job, tried my best to work at my side job, and also continued to blog. I finally burnt out about well, right now — as I write this last and final blog post until I take a six-week hiatus from writing. To be honest, I know I’m going to miss my job and my boss — who has been extremely supportive throughout the entire pregnancy — however, I’m sure these next 12 months spent with my bigger-little family will be absolutely wonderful.

If you’re wondering whether the blog will still have content and posts coming out each week you have nothing to fear. Some of my amazing female blogging friends have jumped on board to help out and supplied me with some of their favourite and always-empowering financial content that I’m sure you’ll love. As of now, I plan to be back with a life update and some, I’m sure, hilarious stories by July 3rd. Until then, I’ll still be on Twitter with some occasional 140-character updates and on Instagram with some super-adorable pictures. Feel free to follow along.

Let me know if you have any advice or stories to share in the comments. XOXO! See you in six weeks.

The post How Much Did We Budget For Our Baby? appeared first on Mixed Up Money.

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As soon as I found out that I was pregnant, the first thing I started reading was what we needed to buy for our future newborn. My spreadsheet was put together before I had even visited the doctor and I had already started a high-interest savings account to get the ball rolling on paying off all of these purchases. It turns out that people charge a hella-lot-of-money for baby products and accessories. Therefore, I assumed that if I had the financial side of the parenting life figured out that I would have a lot less to worry about down the road. And you know what? I was right.

You already know that having a child is expensive. People love to rub it in, tell you all about the fact that you won’t be able to buy yourself anything ever again and that you can kiss early retirement goodbye. Well — jokes on you, folks! I still saved a vacation fund for myself the entire time I saved for my baby and I don’t even want to retire early. So, there! *winks and flips hair*

But in all honesty, for the past six months, my husband and I have both been putting around 40% of our income towards our “family fund.” It’s been pretty crazy for us to see how fast we can achieve a goal if we seriously focus on it, and it’s opened our eyes to how responsible we can be if necessary. After doing my research, I had originally planned to save $10,000 by our newborn’s arrival date — and estimated that we would spend $5,000 before then to buy everything we could possibly need.

What did we buy and how much did we actually spend?

The amount of lists on the internet that tell you how many things you’ll need before your baby comes is quite overwhelming. I did a ton of reading, clicking and asking before I put together my list of items. I asked family and friends who had recently had babies if I was missing anything or if they felt any of the items I had chosen should be swapped and they graciously obliged. To be honest, people who already have children are more than willing to help, and it’s made the entire pregnancy seem a lot less hectic than it otherwise could be.

In total, we have already spent $3,324. Friends and family contributed an additional $1,570 of gifts and gear.

*Neither of these dollar amounts includes clothing. Why? Because having a girl means that you’ll likely get a ton of adorable outfits your child may or may not get the chance to wear. If this is a concern for you, I recommend asking friends and family to avoid purchasing clothing in your baby shower invitation. If not, enjoy. I tried to go through all of the clothes we were bought or were given as hand-me-downs, but instead, I’ll estimate that we have roughly $2,000 worth of clothes, which range from size newborn to 24-months. I assume we’ll have more than enough for the first two years, but what do I know?

For those of you who checked out the list and think I went overkill, sometimes I feel the same way. But considering I don’t have my baby yet, I can’t even tell you if every single one of these purchases was necessary. Some of them didn’t need to happen until much later — but I figured that since we had the savings and time, it was best to get them out of the way as soon as possible. I also had to resolve my anxiety in one way or another and buying literally everything I could think of helped with that feeling immensely. The last thing I’ll say about this list is that you do not need to spend what we spent on your child. We chose to buy the majority of items new — but there are a TON of amazing places that you can go to buy used baby gear at a reasonable price.

In short, for those that don’t want to check out exactly what we purchased, here is what we spent in each category of what you may need as new parents:

  • Post-partum for mom = $242
  • Baby gear and transportation = $1,295
  • Nursing and feeding = $662
  • Nursery and furniture = $1,526
  • Diapering = $147
  • Safety, cleaning and health = $603
  • Toys and books = $418
Every parent can decide how costly their pregnancy and child will be

Although we found that most items are expensive when it comes to shopping for a newborn, what we also found was that the amount of variety and options were vast. Not only that, but it helped to search several different websites for the same product to ensure that you were receiving the best possible price. Some of my favourite places to do online shopping (because yes, I literally bought everything online) were Babies R Us (sorry American friends), Well.ca, Best Buy and Wal-Mart. However, for those of you who aren’t interested in buying new, I’ve heard there are a ton of great buy and sell pages on Facebook for baby supplies and that Kijiji also has some great finds. Fortunately for us, my brother recently had a baby girl and my husband’s co-workers were also very generous in donating some used gear that we are truly thankful for.

If you are struggling to financially plan for your baby, I’d highly recommend only buying what you need and slowly collecting other items as you need them. Otherwise, here is an awesome post from Money After Graduation about how to manage your money during this stressful period.

There is no rule book on parenting. However, there are way too many opinions. 

What were the top ten items suggested to us by other parents?
  1. NoseFreeda Snot Sucker
  2. Medela Electronic Breast Pump
  3. Avent Infant Bottle Starter Set
  4. Baby K’tan Carrier
  5. Perineal Spray
  6. Tendercare Lanolin Nipple Cream
  7. Jolly Jumper Nursing Cushion
  8. Wipes Warmer
  9. Carseat Cover & Nursing Top
  10. Vitamin D Drops

*none of these links are affiliates because I’m not a super famous and super cool mom blogger — yet*

In the end, buying baby supplies can be seriously overwhelming and requires a ton of patience and research. I probably spent well over 60 hours hunting for the perfect items and trying to feel like I was a good mother. I realized it’s become a challenge to be a parent before the newborn is even here and I already fear the future of being mom-shamed. However, all that truly matters is that my child is happy and healthy. And also that I tried to buy literally every single item on our list on sale. 

Next week, my husband and I will share exactly how much money we saved for our “family fund” and how we plan to spend our maternity and paternity leave. Until then, let me know what your favourite baby items are, how much you spent on your child and whether or not you even have a child. Apologies for those of you who aren’t planning to have a baby or cannot relate to my current situation. However, I still appreciate having you in my corner and as a reader. XO!

The post Everything We Bought For Our Newborn (Before Her Arrival) appeared first on Mixed Up Money.

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I know what you’re thinking. It’s Wednesday. Which means I’m posting on the wrong day and also way too much. Twice a week? Alyssa, we can barely handle you the one day. And you’re so right. I apologize. However, I really needed to get some things off of my chest before leaving for a short maternity leave, and I didn’t want to shift my already beautiful schedule to do so. Therefore, here we are. On a Wednesday. Mentally preparing ourselves for a rant.

First of all, let me say that if you’re not a blogger or really hella-deep-into-the-world-of-personal-finance-blogs, this entire post will mean absolutely nothing to you. However, I can’t stop you from reading on if you choose to.

Oh, wow, really? Are you still here? Alrighty then.

First of all, let me say that Rockstar Finance truly helped launch my blog. It put me on the map in front of a ton of readers (both happy and mad) that I would have otherwise never had a chance to connect with online. They — for some reason — chose to acknowledge one of my very first blog posts about three years back and threw my website analytics into a full-on panic attack. It was the first time I had felt heard on the internet. It gave me that extra bit of motivation to keep on writing when most bloggers begin to taper off. To that point, I am eternally grateful for the old Rockstar Finance.

However, just a few months ago my opinion changed. And fast.

I think one of the reasons so many people loved Rockstar Finance was because it was run by two very well-connected bloggers who appealed to a wide audience and demographics. J$ wrote with personality and often made you feel like you were his best friend with his witty and unique style. Cait Flanders made you think and made you feel like you could be and do anything you put your mind to — financially and otherwise. Both of these two still make me feel this way and I was reading their blogs before I even started my own, which means they’re still pretty much the greatest.

That’s when the Rockstar Finance takeover happened

I remember it like it was yesterday. Probably because it basically was. I logged on to Twitter, to start my usual morning routine scroll, and saw that the entire personal finance community was shooketh. J$ had sold Rockstar Finance to someone who (sorry if this makes me sound like a jerk) I had never heard of. Personally, as someone who felt a strong connection to Rockstar Finance, this transition came as a shock. To me, it lacked that connection I so wildly desired from the site.

How selfish of me, though, I thought. It’s a good time for J$ and Cait to step back, and I completely understand why they would. I immediately felt that I should become acquainted with the new owners of Rockstar Finance, so I found the new owner on Twitter. I then read that the Twitter would now be run by someone new — so I was looking forward to seeing this exciting social media game on my feed.

For the first month or so, it was obvious that J$ and Cait were still quite heavily involved in the post choosing and general vibe of the site. However, as soon as they started to step back, it was beyond obvious. Rather than being run by an impartial team that connected with every type of blogger and writing style, I noticed that the site was being taken over by bloggers who appeal to only one type of reader and one category of content. It was obvious that this change was going to be a big adjustment for a lot of us. But — as they say — change is good. Change brings in opportunities for new and powerful ideas. So, I kept a positive outlook. However, that didn’t last long.

There are many reasons that the new Rockstar Finance site has me feeling the need to speak out. I debated whether I should write this post at all knowing that in comparison to a shark like them, I am a minnow. But last week my newsfeed was plagued with upset readers, writers and viewers due to a sexist and otherwise inappropriate tweet. It started to also bring forth many other concerns about the entire world that Rockstar Finance had become.

It’s a boys club, and only a few have the password

For those of you who missed last weeks tweet that was a quote saying: “There is only three ways a smart person can go broke: liquor, ladies, and leverage.” If you’re here to defend this tweet for whatever you think you can sauce up — just don’t. In fact, for anyone who works with social media, if you ever have to question whether something you’re about to post is appropriate, just probably don’t post it. The amount of personal finance quotes out there is RIDICULOUS. So, I can’t imagine this was the best choice.

People immediately spoke their concern for this type of language. A lot of people. Mostly just women, though. Thankfully (for them), Rockstar Finance obliged by deleting the tweet and putting out this sentence: “Hi all – yes, this quote went against our better judgment, and we will remove it.”

Which to me, says a couple of things:

  1. I’m not sorry, but you seem upset.
  2. It went against our better judgement but we don’t care to understand why

What’s most concerning to me is that the website owner had not but one thing to say. He must have missed how upset people were. Too bad. If you hadn’t been labelled a boys club prior to this mishap — you most certainly are now.

I have a concern that content is chosen by payment rather than by merit

The second reason that my affection for the site that shares curated content has changed is that the content they share has dramatically shifted. On January 31st, I received a newsletter from the site sharing information about a new program. The VIB — or “Very Important Blogger” program. To be fair, this program existed prior to the takeover. However, I had honestly never heard of it. So, hearing of it now sparked my interest.

“I want to be very important,” I thought, as I read the email. That was until I realized that to be very important I had to pay.

The reason I loved the old Rockstar Finance so much was that I knew that the content they were sharing was well-written, chosen unbiasedly and from writers displaying stories and information through a wide array of income levels. Now it’s more like: “Hey millennials, where do you guys get off thinking you deserve anything? Psh — maybe if you pay for it. But don’t think just because you spent hours researching, writing and publishing an extremely strong blog post that you’re going to get noticed. Instead, you can check out a more detailed description of our VIB program here.”

I could honestly go on for hours picking apart all of my concerns with this program, but I won’t. At the end of the day, any site that asks for up to $150/month — yeah, A MONTH — so that you can be featured more prevalently does not have it’s users best interests at heart.

Name change suggestion: Rockstar Firenance

Speaking of content, has anyone noticed the dramatic change in how little variation there is in the category coverage that is shared? I mean, just one day this week, this is how many articles were featured that have to do with retirement:

To be honest, idgaf about FIRE. And neither does 95% of the readers who used to frequent Rockstar Finance. Sure, it’s cool and important to talk about retirement. But what about all of the other conversations that need to be had? Such as low-income households, the wage gap, mental health and your money, and literally everything else. This one isn’t even funny anymore. It started off where people were all “Hey have you noticed the increase in FIRE posts?” and now it’s like:

People don’t feel heard

And a lot of people are afraid to be. At the end of the day, Rockstar Finance holds a ton of power in this community — and it should. J$ did an excellent job creating a website for anyone and everyone who loved personal finance. I’m just upset that it no longer feels this way. For those of you who are here to pick holes in every single thing that my blog post has said to paint Rockstar Finance in a negative light — I’m sorry that you feel this way.

However, I feel so strongly about these findings, that I’ve simply unfollowed the Rockstar Finance accounts so I don’t have to see or read them anymore. If you feel the same strength towards me and my blogging style, I encourage you to do the same with mine.

I hope that one day I am able to jump back on the Rockstar Finance train for great, curated content. There are many reasons that I love the old Rockstar Finance — that sparked inclusivity and helped bloggers see different sides of the coin (so to speak). I’m hoping that one day the new Rockstar Finance will shed the same light on the personal finance community once again. It can be difficult to please everyone — yes. However, it can also be too easy to ignore the reality that you aren’t pleasing enough.

The post Dear Rockstar Finance appeared first on Mixed Up Money.

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If you read last weeks post, you would have heard our very amazing life update! If you didn’t, you’re in for one hell of a ride today, folks. We’re expecting! And we’re not like the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” version but more like, “The Baby Owner’s Manual” version. AKA — we are greener than a banana when it comes to knowing the ins and outs of childcare. However, we are thrilled!

As you know, (or see) pregnancy is an exciting time for couples

But it can also be an overwhelming time as well. Most people assume that there couldn’t be any reason to keep such a large life-changing moment a secret. However, our family and friends weren’t too surprised when we asked them to avoid posting anything online until we were ready.

You see, although I spend a lot of time on the internet and writing about my personal experiences, I’m actually not very open with most details of my life. I like to have my privacy and I love to share intimate parts of myself with only those closest to me. So, when we surprised our friends and family with the news, they were a little bit let down when we mentioned we wanted to keep yet another life update offline. Weeks went by before my mom asked for some exceptions, like telling aunts and uncles the news. Months went by before my friends asked if they’d ever see anything pop up on my Instagram. To be honest, I think it was harder for them to keep secret than it was for Nic and I. We felt it was comfortable and natural to only have to worry about pleasing ourselves.

At first, we thought we’d wait until after Christmas. But once Christmas passed we realized the more honest timeline that worked for us was “as long as possible.” If I didn’t plan to take some time off from blogging, I probably wouldn’t have even announced this news as early as we are. And I’m sure some of you are wondering the obvious question… Why?

It was nice to share this time with just ourselves and our family

I miss the days when the only people who wished you happy birthday were the ones you saw or that phoned you. I miss the days when only the people you wanted to know, knew that you were getting married. So, rather than miss those feelings yet again — we decided not to. We shared this special time without anyone else, and it felt so much more intimate and stress-free. We were able to do things on our schedule, to our own agenda and without any unwanted advice. It has been truly beautiful.

The social media avoidance removed all expectations

I swear that every pregnancy comes with a social media manual. But, unfortunately, mine must have gotten lost in the mail. Either that or my nurse forgot to give me mine with the government-mandated baby books.

Step one — post an ultrasound photo revealing the pregnancy as soon as you hit the second trimester
Step two — reveal the gender in the most over-the-top and outrageous way you can imagine
Step three — get maternity photos once your belly reaches the ideal size that makes no one (particularly men) uncomfortable

The instant we decided we were going to keep the majority of our pregnancy offline, an instant relief lifted directly off of my shoulders. These days, social media expectations are enough to give any millennial, tween or teen an ulcer. So, not having to worry about looking like Blake Lively in all of my pregnancy Instagram pictures saved me a ton of stress. Although for anyone who is still wondering, there wouldn’t have been many adorable baby bump photos given that I was able to hide my belly from everyone up until 8 months hit. Seriously, I was a bellyless pregnant woman.

People ask way too many questions and expect way too much information

In much the same fashion as our wedding, we kept details and plans between just the two of us mostly to avoid all of the questions. As someone who avoids being the centre of attention, anxiety is almost too much to handle when people are constantly asking you how you’re feeling or what you’re craving. By the way, are those the only questions we ask pregnant women? Is it because we assume that’s the only things they must have going on in their life? As someone who didn’t really have any severe pregnancy symptoms, it almost felt as though I was stuck on repeat every single time I had to say “good” and “veggie subs, but that’s my normal craving.”

I love my friends and I love my family — but what I truly hate is being asked personal questions about my body. What many people forget is that you are not entitled to any of this information. No one has the right to know who my doctor is, whether we plan to use a midwife or doula and how we feel about sleep training. If we choose to share that information, fair game. However, if we do not, there is, unfortunately, nothing you can do about that. I often think people we know better online than we do in real life might forget that it’s normal for them not to know this information. Because if social media didn’t exist, you wouldn’t. And still, for many, you don’t.

I don’t appreciate being treated as though I’m incapable of doing things

As any pregnant woman knows — as soon as you tell someone you are carrying human life, you are suddenly treated as though you are unable to complete any normal day-to-day activities. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told not to carry a box, to stop working out or to make sure I’m doing “A” so that “B” doesn’t happen. Guess what? I am currently 37 weeks into my pregnancy and still carrying boxes, still going to the gym and still living my life as normally as possible. The only thing I actually listened to was my doctor begging me not to play soccer anymore. Which honestly — sucks. But hey, that one seemed pretty logical. It’s completely understandable that some women in pregnancy are unable to do certain things due to risk level, health or based on personal preference. However, I do not appreciate being tossed under that same umbrella when I’m already carrying my own. If I had to stop doing some of the things I love and risk losing an ounce of my independence, I would not have enjoyed this pregnancy as much as I have. And don’t worry — the baby seems to be enjoying it as well.

I love being pregnant and I love the way my body feels. I love the movement of the baby when I lay still at night and I love how honestly healthy I have felt — for the first time in a long time. I’ve been in better spirits since being pregnant and my stomach pains and health issues have been non-existent. For eight whole months. So, thanks, baby. For making my 2018 start so wonderfully.

And also, thank you so much to everyone who submitted your questions. Now that we’re finally ready to share a bit more of our pregnancy story and experience so far, we loved answering each and every one of them. Next week, we’ll share our entire baby budget for anyone who is wondering how much we spent, saved and what you might need for a future child. Until then, ciao.

We answer your questions about our (my) pregnancy! - YouTube

The post Why We Chose To Keep Our Pregnancy Secret For 8 Months appeared first on Mixed Up Money.

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Me, again! Which, I guess you already know considering you came to my blog. If you haven’t figured out what this blog post will be about based on the title itself, SURPRISE! My husband and I are expecting! In one month, we will be welcoming a baby into the world and growing our family from two to three.

Yeah, you read that right. One month. I have been pulling a Kylie Jenner and completely hiding the news from the Internet. Last month, I tested the waters with one article that spoke about my college sports career and included a tiny announcement at the end. However, other than that my husband and I have been able to keep the news to our small circle of close friends and family.

Given that it’s getting closer and closer to the due date, it’s becoming difficult to keep the news secret and also to hide my belly from the world. Luckily, I was able to hide everything pretty well up until two weeks ago. So, I’ll consider myself lucky. Although right now we are choosing to keep many details between us and family, I wanted to provide my readers with an update before things got so busy and overwhelming there was no longer the time to sit down and write this post. Most of the information you might be looking for will be included in my announcement video which is at the very bottom. So, if you’d prefer that version — keep on scrolling.

How did we find out?

There is nothing unusual about our story as far as finding out that I was pregnant. I peed on a stick and the rest is history. Although Nic and I may seem like super dramatic and high energy people (lol jk), we literally sat at the kitchen table and started to make a budget the night we found out. I’m a little bit into planning, preparation and exploring all of my options before I start to get into the daydreaming and exciting aspect of things. Since October, we’ve been patiently awaiting the first day we’ll get to meet our baby girl. Also since October, I’ve been living an extremely glamorous life of leggings and sports bras.

How has pregnancy been?

My entire pregnancy has been extremely average, which as my boss pointed out is usually the only time in life anyone will ever strive to be just that — average. As someone who is completely superstitious, I will be knocking on wood throughout writing this entire paragraph so please bear with me. Thus far, I have not experienced any vomiting, severe pain, or any abnormal health issues — which is super great.

As for what I have experienced: a strong desire for smoothies, a need for afternoon naps and never sleeping through the night are all boxes checked yes. I’m also so excited to join the ranks of all of the new personal finance mom’s out there. It’s kind of wild we all are going through the same experiences in such a close timeframe. There must be something in the Twittersphere.

A special thank you to my amazing squirrelfran, Des from Half Banked for sending a lovely and instaworthy gift in the mail, to my beautiful boss babe, Bridget from Money After Graduation for the amazing gifts and advice throughout this entire pregnancy and to the always-funny, Amanda from Dumpster Dog for the most precious gift sent from one country to another. I feel so much love and support from the entire community.

We’ll be sure to force our baby and Bridget from Money After Graduations baby to be BFFs — don’t worry.

What is to come for this growing family?

We are currently in a one-bedroom apartment and will be moving into a townhouse the first week of May. If you think we’re completely crazy it’s because we are, but it’s also because we didn’t have a choice. Things will be a bit hectic for us over the next few weeks, but all of it is exciting and fun. Therefore, when it comes to the blog over the next few weeks, I promise to share our entire baby budget (including everything we bought and were gifted) as well as how much and how we saved for the baby before her arrival. I know that many of my readers are reaching this stage of their life soon (if they plan to at all) and are very interested to know. However, I totally and completely apologize if you’re only here for financial information that is child-free. There will still be many more of that to come mid-May.

Speaking of the blog, what’s happening?

Over the next three weeks, I’ll be sharing a ton of great information about the cost of having a baby — before the baby even arrives. During the six-weeks post birthing a child and trying to recover slash enjoy every moment, tear and challenge I will not personally be writing content. However, fear not! I have some awesome ladies in my life who have shared some of their best work for you to enjoy. Don’t worry, though as I will be back to you in July ready to update on my current life as a new mom who is just as obsessed with personal finance — if not more.

An exciting announcement! - YouTube

I know that you may be curious or have questions about this huge announcement because we have kept it under wraps for eight long months, and I fully expect it. So, I will definitely be filming a Q&A over the weekend to answer any of your questions. Please feel free to comment below, DM me on Twitter, shoot me an email or ignore this altogether. Before any more updates or information is thrown your way, feel free to check out my video announcing my pregnancy and giving a touch more information about what’s to come. Can’t wait to share more soon. XO!

The post Our Family Is Growing & So Is My Heart appeared first on Mixed Up Money.

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