All posts by AMartin

Sunday Nights for a Working Mom

Why is it so hard to shut your brain off on a Sunday night? Since returning to work I have found myself having a hard time meshing my two worlds. When I’m at school, I try to be all there. I give it all of my energy, patience, and attention.

Then when I get home, I give the same to my family. However, as I sit getting ready for bed Sunday night, the reality of both of my worlds collides together. I struggle with the thought of leaving my little man again. I feel the stress of school already bearing down on me.

I feel guilty for not doing schoolwork over the weekend. I feel as if I am somehow not prepared for the week ahead even though in reality I am. I guess I know that I will figure out this balance at some point, or perhaps I will just get better at giving things to God sooner. One thing is for certain though, tonight is one of those nights that I will pray myself to sleep.

Not A Bad Day

It’s funny how some days, life is just hard. There’s just so much to think about on a daily basis – I need to get my car fixed, I should call the garage, will Little man’s hemangioma need to be removed, will kids make fun of him later in life because of it, am I going to have to replace my whole front porch, I hope not, who’s going to be able to watch Hunter this afternoon, I need to give two assessments to about fifteen different kids this week, I better figure out when I can do that, I need to call that parent, actually two of them, I forgot to pull something out for dinner tonight – That’s just a few of them and it’s not even 9:00 AM yet!

My brain goes into this overload & shutdown function. Does anyone else have one of those?  I have so many things running through my brain that I actually can’t focus and complete any one of them. Journaling and to-do lists have always helped me work through that syndrome though. Writing things down helps my brain to slow down and process one thing at a time. Which is hard with this crazy spaghetti brain of mine!

Once I start writing all of my thoughts and worries out, so many of them seem trivial and it actually makes me want to stop, and write a list of all of the things I am grateful for instead. Life is life. There are always going to be things that we need to get done, but my son will not always be 1, my husband and I won’t always share good health, I won’t always get the opportunity to pour into kids’ lives like I do right now. Lately I have been learning so much about thriving rather than surviving. I am realizing more and more how much of a choice that is. I need to choose to not get into survival mode, which can be really easy to do this time of year when winter is still hanging on by a thread even though we’ve had glimpses of spring already. If I am choosing to thrive, I will naturally bring the people around me with me on that journey and that is certainly the kind of wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, teacher, and colleague that I want to be.

There is this careful balance between processing through something the best that we humanly can and actually turning that processing into worry. God doesn’t want us to worry though because worry kills our joy and robs us of our motivation. Trust me, I am constantly practically jumping off of that balance beam into the worry, but each time God reminds me why I don’t need to. It’s like He whispers, “I’ve got you” over and over again.


8 Ways to Save in Disney World

I know that some people prefer to really save up and then let loose on vacation. However, not everyone has that ability and not everyone chooses to do so. My personal philosophy is that I would rather take more vacations and have more experiences than take less trips, but spend more on each one of them. If that’s not really your forte, you might not like these ideas as much. If you’re trying to figure out if you can afford a Disney trip or just want to make one more economical, these are certainly for you!

*This post contains affiliate links. If you chose to purchase something from that link, I receive a small amount of money for that. I ONLY link to items I actually use!

  1. Pack lunches for the park

Disney days are long!  You will obviously need to eat. I know many people prefer the food packages, but I can’t say if those save you money or not because I haven’t tried them. We always packed sandwiches (lunchmeat, chicken salad, tuna, peanut butter and jelly, etc.), crackers, granola bars, chips, fruit snacks, cookies, and plenty of drinks!  We had kids with us so we were able to keep everything in the bottom of strollers, but my one aunt and cousin took an umbrella stroller some days just for their food. Whatever works!  This saves you so much money AND time!! We didn’t have to wait in any lines and it was always easy to eat on the go. If we did feel like taking a longer break, there were always places to sit. We also put money aside in case we wanted a special treat in the park like an ice cream cone or a slushy.

  1. Carpool to the park

Parking is $20 a day per car!!! That really adds up!  A lot of people go to Disney with some extended family. Try to fit more people per car (even if it means splitting up your immediate family) and then splitting the cost of parking. My brother and sister in law had a mini-van and my sister had a seven seater so even though we were with 4 other families, we were able to pile into those two cars and only pay half the price in parking! Win-win!

  1. Leave the park for a midday break

This is the best if you have small kids with you. Sometimes, a few of the adults would push through and stay all day, but to be honest even they were tired for the next morning. If you come home in the middle of the day, you can eat an early dinner before heading back to the park for the evening/night. We usually aimed to leave the park around 2:00 or 3:00 and then were back around 5:00 or 6:00. This gave the littles time to nap and the adults time to cool off in the pool and get an early dinner ready – or you know, nap too! I really feel like this saved us a lot of money because we were able to eat a bigger meal back at home and everyone got cooled off in the hottest part of the day so there was not begging for drinks or cold treats at the park. It also meant saved us from whining kids and frustrated adults! 

  1. Be okay with drinking water (and eating ice)

If you know that the special part of your trip is actually being in Walt Disney World, this becomes a bit easier. It’s similar to the mindset of number one because whatever expectations you put in place, your kids will certainly adapt to them. At every single park they offer water and ice for free. Most food stands or restaurants are happy to give you a cup of water or to fill up your water bottle for you. All you have to do is be willing to ask! We always had Capri Suns and Gatorade with us too so we would often mix the drinks for the kids to get them to drink more water. The Florida heat is no joke!  For my littlest man who was really only nursing at that point, we got a mesh baby food feeder (affiliate link) and let him crunch away. He loved it!

  1. Shop around if you’re going to get souvenirs

Not all the parks or shops have the same prices on souvenirs. Who would’ve thought?  I wouldn’t have!  So take your time and really choose the item that you want. One thing that helped us too, was that we set aside specific times for shopping so that it wasn’t looming over anyone’s heads. One thing I wouldn’t recommend, is waiting until the very last day of your trip to buy them though, because on that day, you just want to live in the magic. There’s also plenty of souvenir shops outside of the parks that have many of the same items so decide which ones you want from Disney World, and which ones you’re happy to have gotten during your trip. All of this also helps with the fact that kids can be fickle. One day they absolutely love that Minnie Mouse jewelry box and the next they can’t live without the Elsa doll that they’ve wanted forever. However, if you see them pick out the same item at several locations you’ll know they truly love it.

  1. Partake in the water activities

This one may seem silly, but really helped us save money while we were there. When you are hot, anything cool looks incredibly delicious! There were so many times that I was tempted to buy a frozen lemonade or splurge for that Disney themed Popsicle. However, all I really needed, was to be cooled off. At Magic Kingdom, there are surprisingly not many places to get wet. Splash Mountain will cool you off a bit, but there are two other hidden gems around too. One that we loved was Gaston’s fountain. You can’t go in it, but the little ones can sit on the edge and splash their feet a bit while the adults can use the water to splash their necks and faces. My husband even put our 7 month in up to his diaper and then dipped his hat in the water before putting it back on him. The baby loved it!  The other one is in the circus area. It was a great splash zone that even us adults ran through with the kids!  EPCOT has tons of water features so that’s just a matter of going into them – do it! Wild Kingdom has some misters throughout the park, that are helpful and the Khali River Rapids is a great one to cool off, even though only half of the boat gets wet. Side note to that ride…fast pass it!  The line was incredibly long and I don’t think we would have done it without a fast pass, but it is completely worth it! We were at Hollywood Studios the least amount of time, but most of their attractions are inside so you are in the air conditioning a lot. You do get a bit wet at The Rockin’ Roller Coaster and there are also misters around the park and in a lot of the lines that are outside.

  1. Bring your own stroller (or strollers)

I read a lot about people recommending for others to just rent strollers when they get to the park so I know this one depends on your priorities. Strollers at Disney are $15 a day for a single and $31 a day for a double. Even if you are only going for five days, that’s $75 for a single stroller!  That could be money for your Photo Pass or that fun money for inside the park!  The stroller of your own doesn’t have to be fancy, but I do recommend having the bin at the bottom (to store food and drinks, obviously). If you’re flying to Orlando, this might change a bit, but still you would be better off renting from an outside company if you can’t bring your stroller for free.

  1. Make a budget and stick to it!

This might seem like an odd way to save money, but when you budget your money, you don’t end up spending it in ways that you didn’t intend. There is also so much freedom in this. Probably the easiest way to keep track of your budget is to get cash out before you go and separate it into envelopes for each way that you will be spending money. For example, we had the following envelopes: Travel (to and from Florida and around Orlando), Parking, Fun in the Park, Groceries, Eating out, Souvenirs, and Bonus. We had paid for our Disney World tickets and our portion of the house months prior and we had also given ourselves a bit of money to spend on clothing or shoes prior to the trip. This way you know that everything you spend, you are comfortable with spending and you’ve already taken your drive home into consideration and won’t go over budget in order to get home.

As a side note… We found that on days off we enjoyed going out to eat at a sit down restaurant to relax a little. It was a great break from the hustle and bustle of the park.  CiCi’s for the win!  There’s one about 10 minutes from Disney and it’s an under $7 buffet!


It’s also great to get Disney shirts on Amazon or EBay prior to going to Disney World, that way you already have them and don’t need to buy them in the park.


Have a magical day!


We are NOT perfect

As my husband and I walked on a trail near our house with our 7 month old son, a stranger smiled at us and commented, “The perfect family,” as she passed us. A few steps later, my husband and I looked at each other, laughed, and both said, “Not quite!”

Why did we say that?  Not because we aren’t happy, not because our precious little man isn’t the best little guy in the world, and not even because we were having a bad day! We said it because of what we know that no stranger walking past us (or someone just looking at a picture on Facebook!) could know.

We know that we were only on our second day in a row of not fighting. We know that we had just set up a meeting with our pastor and his wife at church to talk about some of our marital struggles. We know that our wonderful, happy little baby, hasn’t wanted to sleep in his crib for about three weeks and his dad and I have had middle of the night fights about how to best handle it. We are NOT perfect!  That is for sure!

What this made me realize is just how easy it is to be hard on ourselves based on what we see from others. I know I have made comments to my husband like, “see how they’re holding hands?  I want that!” Well the truth is, my husband does hold my hand!  He doesn’t hold it every moment of every day, but he doesn’t need to. For all I know, that couple could have been holding hands simply to hold themselves together. They could have just gotten engaged, or found out they were pregnant, or…both of their love languages could be physical touch. It doesn’t really matter, but what does is that I put unnecessary stress on my relationship due to what I saw in someone else’s. Not cool, Ash, not cool.

How often do we do this exact same thing with money? We look at someone’s financial choices and somehow think that reflects on their actual financial status, reflects our own financial status. When we transcend the need to show others our financial status, we free ourselves to actually make good financial choices!

Do you buy the beautiful 2016 mini-van and take out a loan or do you buy the 2010 used mini-van that you can pay cash for?  Do you do all of your housing updates at one time and take a loan on your mortgage or do you do the projects one at a time so that you can pay for them as you go? Do you get the soda when you’re out to eat or do you get water and just have soda at home? Your priorities are up to you.

From one imperfect to another,

Christmas Comes Every Year?!

Christmas comes every December?!

Yes, it really does!  At the same exact time too! How many of us have ever allowed Christmas to sneak up on us?  I feel like each passing year goes by faster and faster and now that my son is here time seems to be passing exponentially fast. With that being said, there are ways to make sure we are ready for Christmas monetarily so that we can joyfully give to those we love and those we don’t know, but need love. So, here are some practical ways to make sure Christmas doesn’t sneak up on your bank account…

1. Put some of your tax return money away for Christmas as soon as you get it! I have talked before about having a short term savings (STS) account and that is where we choose to save for Christmas. So, when we get our tax return, the entire thing goes into short term savings and then we decide where it will be spent. We generally keep about $300 of it to go toward Christmas.

2. Save a little bit each month of the year. Again, the short term savings comes into play here. When we were living on two full-time incomes, we put $500 a month into our STS. Now that we are living on 1 full-time income and one part-time income, we only put $150 into it each month. We are careful to keep that account above $1,500 over the course of the year so that we have enough as backup Christmas money.
3. Use your extra paycheck! Okay, this is my favorite because it is the easiest one!! If you are living on a “four weeks in a month” budget, you will get two extra pays per year. One will be in May or June and the other will be in November or December. This happens because of those lovely 5 week months that sneak in on us. I call these “Bonus Pays”! For the November – December “Bonus Pay” mine usually goes toward the extra week of stuff – groceries, fun with friends and family, baby supplies, etc. (This is explained more in my post about envelopes). My husband’s pay goes toward, you guessed it, CHRISTMAS! This one paycheck covers most of our Christmas gifts and giving and the money we have saved from 1 and 2 are our backups.

4. Purge your home. This one can be the most time consuming and though I love it once it is done, I actually hate doing it! Something I realized just this year is that we have way too much STUFF! It started driving me insane actually. I think I only realized it once the toddler toys started taking over every room in the house and the baby toys needed somewhere to go. So, I started going through Hubby and I’s stuff to see what we could get rid of. There are some great Facebook pages for online yard sales which make it really easy to sell stuff. We generally just used this as extra fun for Nate and me with how busy this holiday season gets.

    If you have any other creative ways to save for Christmas, I would love to hear about them in the comments!



    Short Term Savings

    This is my favorite of our bank accounts! Over the years it has paid for new windows for our house, paid off my student loan debt, took us on yearly vacations, let us take weekend trips with friends, helped fund Christmas every year, and given us a cushion of financial comfort. I think this account was the original reason why I ended up loving the idea of saving, why I got excited every time I knew my money was transferring.

    Creating a short term savings is easy. Here’s the steps:

    1. Decide how much you can put into this account. When you are creating your budget, pick a specific amount that you want to go into this account. My general rule of thumb is that I want to be saving about 15% of my income. I put more into my long term savings (probably 9%) and a little bit less into my short term (the remaining 6%). I know, for some people this seems crazy! Who can put that much of their paycheck into savings?!  Trust me though, you can do it!  Think of it as paying yourself! If you have something specific you’re saving for, figure out how much it costs and divide that by how long you have before you need it. If you need specific help with this, email me! I’m happy to help you figure out your exact numbers!


    1. After that, it is literally just opening up another account to your already existing bank account. The benefit of having multiple accounts is that you can separate the different ways that your money gets spent (I’m going to be writing another post soon about setting up your different accounts. I’ll put a link here when I do).


    1. The next step in creating your short term savings is to start an automatic transfer into it. Usually this needs to be done in person at your bank. I suggest setting up a meeting with one of the bank managers because otherwise you might end up waiting awhile if you just walk in. You pick a day of the month and an amount of money that you want to transfer automatically and they put it in the system for you. I have my automatic transfers go through twice a month because we get paid bi-weekly. That way I know the money is always in the account for the transfers.


    1. Don’t touch the account!!! This is easily the most important. As you see that money start accruing, it’s going to be tempted to want to “reward yourself”, but remember that your reward comes when you are able to pay cash for some big ticket items that previously would have went on a credit card. Here’s to not paying any interest! Cheers!


    Happy saving!


    My Why

    Thank you for taking the time to stop by and check out my blog. My goal is to simply share my experiences with my family and finances and how I have found freedom in my life through those things as well as my faith. My faith and my family are what defines me. My finances are the tools that I use to create the life I want to live which includes blessing others, vacations, peace of mind, and spontaneity! I so often hear “money is the root of all evil”, but I truly don’t believe that. Money doesn’t have a spirit, it can’t be evil!  It is what we do with our money that shows the kind of spirit that we have inside us. So, incase you want to see my inspiration, here is my beautiful family.