How to stay active when you hate exercise

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Nothing is more #onbrand for me than hating exercise. When I was four years old, my dad asked me if I wanted to sign up for T-ball like all my friends and I responded, “…Why?!” I was just never that girl who liked physical activity, and that pattern continued throughout my life. I dreaded P.E. every day of school. (Seriously, the only B I got in all of high school was in P.E. How does that even happen?) In college, I went to my campus gym a grand total of three times in four years.

Over the years I’ve battled a lot of anxiety, which has resulted in difficulty sleeping, stomach problems, low weight, and lack of energy. My husband was always encouraging me to get active, but I never really made a serious change. It wasn’t until I got pregnant that I had the motivation I needed. If my baby was going to be using my body as a home, I was going to make sure it was the healthiest body I could give her! Here are the ways I’ve introduced healthier habits I can stick with!

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  1. Get moving: You don’t have to sign up for a marathon to get off the couch. Set aside time in your day every day to move your body. Go for a walk around your neighborhood. Put on a playlist you love and dance around your kitchen. Stretch when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed at night. The more you choose movement instead of just sitting, the more you’ll realize how desperate your body was for a little activity.
  2. Do yoga: Yoga is the only form of exercise I’ve been able to stick with. I think yoga is a great starting point because you’re not going to be pouring sweat or doing intense cardio. You’re addressing fundamentals like good breathing and awareness of your muscles and joints in a way that feels very do-able for those of us who are fitness challenged. Find a local yoga class and invite a friend to go with you. Or, if classes scare you, there are tons of great yoga videos on Youtube that you can do in the privacy of your own home!
  3. Drink water: If hydration was a religion, my husband would be its greatest evangelist. Staying hydrated will do so much for your health. Dehydration causes low energy levels and tons of other health problems that make it that much harder to get active. Wondering if you might be dehydrated? Here’s a tip I’ve learned during pregnancy: you aren’t fully hydrated until your pee is almost clear like water. If you’re like me and have a hard time drinking enough water, cut up fresh fruit to add a little flavor. I also make unsweet, decaf iced tea and mix it with organic lemonade for a low-sugar Arnold Palmer. For me, anything I can do to add a bit of taste makes me more likely to drink. I also drink way more when I use a straw, so I try to keep a tumbler with a straw with me all the time. Find what works for you.
  4. Sleep tight: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night and that your sleep is routine. If you’re not sleeping well, there’s no way you’ll have the energy to get active. I once read that sleep isn’t a bank you can make deposits and withdrawals from…it’s something you have to give your body consistently. Even grownups need a bedtime. Wake up at a consistent time, too. Make sure the time you wake up on your days off is no more than an hour later than your regular routine, otherwise you’ll throw your body off track. I personally have always had trouble falling asleep and am deeply offended when my alarm goes off in the morning. These are the things that have worked for me to get the best quality sleep:
    • Set a cutoff time for screens. The blue light from our screens hinders sleep. About an hour before you go to bed, stop all screen time. And yes, this means your phone, too.
    • Have a bedtime routine. Every night when I climb into bed, I put on lip balm, put on hand lotion, and settle down with a book. I genuinely think I’ve trained myself like a dog to know that these steps mean it’s time to turn off my racing thoughts and get in sleep mode.
    • Write it down. If you struggle with turning your brain off at night, store a notebook and pen in your nightstand. If you can’t let a thought go, write it down. Whether it’s a list, reminders for the next day, or a prayer to give whatever is worrying you to the Lord, get those thoughts out of your head once and for all instead of lying there and dwelling on them.
  5. Don’t eat garbage: To this day I would eat out for every meal if I could. As far as I’m concerned, the drive thru is the greatest luxury every invented. But if you consistently feed your body with things that have no nutritional value, there simply is no way it can function properly. Pregnancy has caused me to eat the healthiest I’ve ever eaten, because my baby can’t grow a body out of french fries. Making better food choices has been a huge part of helping me feel motivated and capable to incorporate exercise into my routine. Summer is a great time to get in this habit because there are so many delicious fruits and veggies in season. If you’re into shopping local, let that translate into your grocery shopping. Support local farmers through co-ops or farmer’s markets in your area.
  6. Start small: The lifestyle I’m leading right now is pitiful compared to someone like my husband, who has prioritized fitness for many years. But it’s a huge victory for me! Take baby steps and celebrate your progress.

What are your favorite fitness tips for beginners? What habits have stuck with you? I’ll be on Instagram this week sharing some of the ways I incorporate these tips into my day-to-day life. Reach out on there or Facebook with any questions or comments!

Goodwill Shopping Tips

If you’ve been around me for any time at all, you know I’m an avid Goodwill shopper. Half of my wardrobe is from Goodwill, and that’s not to mention all the home decor I’ve scored there. This week I’m coming in hot with every single thing I know about shopping at Goodwill. Over the years I’ve found so many good deals, and I finally have my tactics down to a science. Keep reading to learn how you can snag high-quality items at Goodwill prices!

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Sale schedule:

Yes, even Goodwill has sales. Every week they choose a “color of the week,” and clothing items tagged in that color are marked 50% off. On Sundays, items marked that color are 99 cents. In my experience, those items get bought up very quickly. Sometimes it can feel like there’s nothing in the store that color. I think you’re better off to shop as you normally would and then tally your haul up at the end to see if you have any markdown tags. Let that help you make your final decisions. If you select items solely because they’re marked down, you’re more likely to buy something you won’t actually wear.

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When to shop:

Given the sale schedule, Sundays are a great time to shop because you can get items for 99 cents. Spring and summer are the best seasons because everyone is spring cleaning and having yard sales. Every Saturday throughout that season, you will see vehicles lined up at the donation door dropping off whatever didn’t sell at their yard sales. You can often find great deals on furniture as a result.

What to shop for:

This is really the key to making Goodwill work for you, and it’s also the most subjective tip I have. What you look for depends entirely on what you will get the most use out of. For example, I used to look for work clothes at Goodwill and I consistently found items from The Limited, Talbots, LOFT, Ann Taylor, Gap, and Old Navy. In the future I will likely look for kid’s clothes since they are so cheap and kids constantly outgrow their clothes. Here are the categories I look for most consistently:

-Brand names: I honestly couldn’t care less about what brand I’m wearing, but I do care about quality. The whole point of Goodwill shopping is to score quality items for cheap. I wouldn’t waste time on items from Walmart or Forever 21, because those items are already so cheap it defeats the purpose. In addition to the brands I listed above, I’ve found Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfigher, and department store brands like Chaps when shopping for men’s clothing at Goodwill. I also frequently find items from local boutiques. Don’t buy something just because it’s a certain brand, but always be mindful of the quality.

-Vintage items: My Goodwill white whale is a vintage pair of Levi’s that I can wear high-waisted and cut off into shorts. I honestly started daydreaming just typing that. If you’re like me and have a more eclectic style, you can find some great vintage pieces at Goodwill. Now that the 90’s are back, I’ve found some super comfy 90’s midi/maxi dresses. I’ve even found vintage Lily Pulitzer dresses and then kicked myself later for not buying them. You can also find pretty vintage dishware. Look for brands like Pyrex as well as patterns and color schemes that go with your kitchen.

-Books: Goodwill books can serve so many different purposes. You can look for vintage books in a color scheme you want to decorate with, a la Joanna Gaines. You can look for hardback classics to build your home library. I’ve also gotten several paperbacks to take to my neighborhood pool. That way if when I get splashed, I’m not ruining a library book or a book I paid full price for. Goodwill is great for children’s books, too. I’ve already found some kids’ classics for our little one for 99 cents each.

-Leather goods: Leather can always be doctored up, and a little wear just gives it character. Digging through belts, shoes, and purses can yield some genuine leather treasures.

-Home decor: I have the most success finding vases and baskets at my local Goodwill, but some stores have a wide decor selection.

The most important thing to remember about shopping at Goodwill is that it’s going to require some digging. You can’t walk in looking for something specific and expect to find it. Approach it like a treasure hunt, and you just might find some treasure!

It’s also imperative not to fall into the trap of buying things just because they’re cheap. You’ll end up spending more than you save that way. Trust me, I speak from experience! Be super realistic about whether you will actually wear or use what you’re buying.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve now completed my course, Goodwill Shopping 101. Consider yourself a certified bargain hunter. If you score something great at Goodwill, post it and tag me on Instagram or Facebook!

Transitional Maternity Style

I’m alive! I recently shared on Instagram that pregnancy has made it challenging for me to keep up with my blogging goals. I’ve been blessed with a healthy pregnancy so please know I’m not complaining! In the interest of keeping it real with y’all, my first trimester kicked my butt a little. I had fatigue like I’ve never experienced. I also had hormonal acne that I couldn’t treat because most acne products are unsafe for pregnancy. As you can imagine, being constantly fatigued with severe breakouts didn’t exactly encourage weekly photo shoots. I was so determined to be consistent in the beginning because I’ve heard from experienced bloggers that consistency is the best way to build a following.  The more weeks went by without me getting a post up, the more defeated I felt. I wanted to get back into blogging, but I felt like I had already blown it. BUT…the belief that you can’t do something just because you don’t do it perfectly is a LIE and I’m not letting it hold me back!

This week I’m sharing some ways you can build a maternity wardrobe that will transition past your pregnancy. Pregnancy is such an awkward time when it comes to clothes. You don’t want to get rid of things that don’t fit anymore because you don’t know whether they might fit again after baby. You also don’t want to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe for just nine months. Even if you hope to be pregnant again, that’s still a lot of clothes to buy to only wear a few times. To add another layer of struggle, your pregnant belly doesn’t appear overnight. You outgrow things gradually. What fit one day might look ridiculous the next. I’ve found the best way to combat these challenges is to find non-maternity options that work for pregnancy. That way I know I’ll continue to wear the items I’m buying long after baby arrives. These three categories have been my wardrobe staples throughout my first and second trimesters. I know in my third trimester I’ll need to rely more heavily on maternity clothes. But for now I’m getting the most bang for my buck (and the best fit) out of these pieces!

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Empire waist/loose-fitting tops

The first thing I bought when I found out I was pregnant was a bunch of these tops. I knew these styles would carry me through most of my pregnancy and be a welcome relief from tight-fitting shirts in those new mama days. These shirts have made me feel cute and comfortable…a huge win for anyone but especially those of us with a bun in the oven! The top I’m wearing was a Goodwill find so I can’t link this exact one for you, but I’ve linked a few options that are currently available:

Forever 21 Blush pink ruffle top (I love this tucked into something high-waisted for after pregnancy, or worn loose during!)

Target Knox Rose peasant top

Old Navy flowy floral top

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Flowy Dresses

Over the course of my pregnancy, I’ve attended a Derby event, two graduations, a banquet for my husband’s class, church on Sundays, and during my first trimester I was still working as a bridal consultant. That’s a LOT of dresses for one pregnant lady to wear. This is where opting for non-maternity styles has saved me. Anything that has a higher seam at the waist and a flowy skirt leaves enough room for my growing bump. Another great thing about dresses is they allow you to create an outfit with just one piece. When your body is changing every day, it’s so much easier to throw on a comfy dress than to put tops and bottoms together. Maternity dresses can be really cute, but your options are fairly limited in terms of style and price. Expanding your horizons to other styles will keep you from having to be a serial outfit repeater. (Honestly still not over that moment in the Lizzie McGuire movie.) The dress I’m wearing above is from TJ Maxx, but I’ve linked a similar one below along with other styles I love!

Off the shoulder floral dress

Old Navy Cami dress (I bought this in an ivory floral print and wore it to a graduation.)

Old Navy wrap dress (I have my eye on this one for 4th of July!)

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Elastic waist shorts

The day I walked into Aerie and found an endless supply of elastic-waist shorts, I think I heard angels sing. These have been a lifesaver since most of my pregnancy falls in the summer months. They will be so cute worn high-waisted with a shirt tucked in after baby comes. For now, they stretch comfortably around my bump and are so much more comfortable than maternity shorts. I’ve linked the two pairs I have along with another pair I’m eyeing.

White tie waist shorts

Frayed denim shorts

Striped guaze shorts

Other tips

Here are a few other rules I’ve learned as I’ve built my maternity wardrobe:

-Avoid buttons. Unless the top is super blouse-y, there will definitely come a day when those buttons are begging for mercy. And no one needs that weighing on their self esteem.

-Minimize layers. Choose tops you won’t need to wear with a cami. The less layers you have to put together, the better. Plus, camis trap heat and you will be plenty hot without their help! I was cold-natured before I got pregnant and now I feel like I’m in the midst of a nine-month hot flash!

-Size up. One of the simplest ways to make non-maternity styles work for you is just to size up one or two sizes to give you a little growing room.

-Watch your length. Make sure tops and dresses are long enough to accommodate your growing bump. Crop tops are such a huge trend right now and it’s not always obvious at a glance that a shirt is cropped. Unless you want your belly playing peek-a-boo, make sure you either try on or at least hold items up to you to check length.

Now you know everything I know about building a cute, comfortable maternity wardrobe! Everything I’ve talked about should also work for those who aren’t pregnant but prefer a more relaxed fit, especially for summer. Thank you so much to everyone who has continued to support and encourage me, even when I was MIA. Let me know if there are any other pregnancy topics you want me to cover!

 

Announcement: Baby Cude is on the way!

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It has been so hard to keep this news a secret! Andrew and I are expecting a baby in September 2019! We are so grateful and we don’t take it for granted that the Lord has blessed me with a healthy pregnancy thus far.

I hope this explains why I’ve been quiet on Instagram and the blog for the last couple months. Not only was I afraid I would accidentally spill the secret, but I also had pregnancy symptoms that made keeping up my blogging schedule difficult. Thanks to Kelsey Malicote for these gorgeous photos that give me some new things to share!

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Now, for the frequently asked questions:

How are you feeling?

I’ve been very fortunate to have had a relatively “easy” pregnancy. I only got morning sickness once! While I was so thankful to avoid being sick, I definitely had some symptoms that threw me for a loop. For several weeks in my first trimester, I had fatigue that made me feel like I literally could not get up off the couch. Over the weeks, my energy has gradually improved, but fatigue remains my number one symptom. I’ve just had to accept that I have limited energy for the day, and the rest of it is going toward building a healthy baby! My other main symptom has been hormonal acne. The rest has just been little odds and ends that can all be traced back to the miracle of pregnancy. The book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” has been my best friend as I navigate what’s normal for expectant mamas!

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Will you keep working?

When we originally thought we would be moving this summer with the military, I had given both my jobs an end date of April 30th, 2019. Over the months we spent walking through Andrew’s discharge, applying for other opportunities, and determining that we would be in Lexington for another year, we kept my job decisions on the back burner. Once all the dust had settled, it became clear that it was time for me to stop working every Saturday and look into something that would give me my weekends back as Andrew transitioned into a new role. Fun fact: jobs in the wedding industry are wonderful, but they take up every single Saturday. We had reached a point where that no longer made sense for us. Shortly after we made that determination, we found out Baby Cude was on the way! Taking all these factors into consideration, I’ve decided to keep my original end date of April 30th and stay home for the foreseeable future. I will have plenty to keep me busy this summer as Andrew graduates and starts a new job and we prepare for the arrival of our first child! Once the baby is here, I will rock the stay at home mom life while Andrew is in residency.

In addition to momming, I’ll still be blogging, too! Needless to say, extreme fatigue and perpetual acne are not exactly a recipe for blogging success. Either I was so tired it was all I could do to get up and go to work, or my skin was so bad I didn’t want to jump in front of a camera. Now that I’m getting a bit more energy, I’m excited to get back to connecting with everyone and sharing more about this exciting new season!

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Will you find out the gender?

Yes, we find out the gender very soon and I’ll be sharing it with you shortly after we know!

Do you have names picked out?

Yes, we’ve had baby names on reserve since we were dating (when two Type A’s get married, ha!). We will share this sweet baby’s name after we share their gender.

I think that covers the main topics people are curious about! We are so excited and truly feel so humbled by this blessing. At the risk of sounding cynical, there are just so many things that can go wrong when trying to grow a family, and thus far the Lord has been so merciful to us every step of the way. Thank you so much to all who have rejoiced with us over this news! I can’t wait to share more with you as we move further into this new chapter!

 

How to Spring Clean Your Closet

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We’ve finally enjoyed a few days of spring weather, and I feel like a new woman! I’ve lit my lemon-mint candle, I’ve painted my nails pastel, and I’m forging ahead with spring cleaning! One of the areas in my home that needs the most TLC is my closet. Opening your closet shouldn’t stress you out. You probably open it multiple times a day! Today I’m sharing how I go through my clothes and accessories to keep my wardrobe well-curated and my closet de-cluttered.

Eliminate Obstacles

This is my number one approach to getting rid of clothes. Every item in your closet should be something you can easily and comfortably wear. As you go through your clothes, note any obstacles that keep you from wearing them. Examples include:

-It’s itchy or uncomfortable. You’ll never wear it, and if you do, you’ll be miserable all day.

-You can only wear it with a certain bra. In my experience, that certain bra is usually uncomfortable and may require an engineering degree to put on. You’re never going to feel like going through the trouble to make it look just right and ensure no wardrobe malfunctions throughout the day.

-It only goes with one other thing in your closet (i.e. you can only make one outfit with it). I have a rule that every item in my closet has to be able to pull at least double duty. I have to be able to wear it two different places, wear it alone in summer and layered in winter, or be able to pair it with several other items in my wardrobe.

-It doesn’t fit. If something doesn’t fit, you can’t wear it. If you do wear it, you’re going to be self conscious. And every time you pass it up in your closet, it’s going to chip away at your self esteem. You’re clothes aren’t allowed to do that to you!

As you are going through and picking out your outfit for each day, if there is something you consistently skip over for any of those reasons or others, get rid of it. This will reduce so much stress in your every day routine.

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Don’t get sentimental

Clothes are for wearing, not for looking at. You may have had a wonderful time in that corset-back bridesmaid’s dress, but chances are you don’t have any hand-maidens to help you get dressed in the morning. I have to remind myself that I can keep the memories without keeping the physical item. If there are items in your wardrobe that you’re only keeping because of sentimentality but you never wear them, that’s called hoarding. Choose a select few that you will wear or pass down and let go of the rest.

Make the best of your space

Andrew and I have shared a closet since we got married. The closets in our townhouse are small, so we kept our out-of-season clothes in the guest closet. No matter what we did, our closet never looked clean and there never seemed to be enough space. This year we realized we weren’t using our space efficiently. We consolidated all my stuff into the master closet and Andrew took the guest closet. Now each of our clothes are in one place and we’re not elbow to elbow trying to get ready in the mornings. Whatever space you have, make it work for you. It doesn’t have to look like Pinterest, it just needs to be functional. For example, the trend in organizing right now is to have all matching hangers. But I found that the no-slip hangers stretch out some shirts, so I use a mix of no-slip and plastic hangers. No one would Pin this photo, but this is what works for me. List out the problems with your closet, list out how you need your closet to function and what you need storage for, and compare those two lists to find solutions.

Remember that you don’t have to clean your closet all at once. Curating my wardrobe is something I do continually throughout the year. So when it’s time for spring cleaning, it’s not such a huge undertaking. Have a spot for donations in your house where you can let things collect until you’re able to make a drop off. As you get ready each morning, make note of clothes you always pass up. If you wear a pair of shoes and you’re uncomfortable all day, don’t put them back in your closet. Toss them or take them to the donate pile. Life is too short, y’all!

I promise when you get your closet cleaned out you will feel such a weight lifted off your shoulders. Getting ready will be so much easier and you’ll be free of some clutter. If you take on the challenge, tag me in your before and after pictures on social media!

Hobby Lobby Shopping Tips from a Former Employee

Did you know I used to have someone on the inside feeding me information? That’s right, my brother worked at every woman’s happy place: Hobby Lobby. Much to his chagrin, my mom and I would pry him for shopping tips. There are several things that make Hobby Lobby unique, one being that their store stays pretty consistent over the years. So even though it’s been a little while since he worked there, I recently sat down with my brother to get a refresher course.  Today I’m sharing the best way to score your most-wanted items and save money at everyone’s favorite place to accidentally spend two hours.

The Weekly Ad: Cue the angel chorus. Every savvy Hobby Lobby shopper knows that the Ad is everything. You should almost never have to pay full price for something at Hobby Lobby, and the Weekly Ad is your guide. Here’s how to use the ad to figure out when to shop:

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  • The main categories that go on sale (50% off) alternate every other week. As a general rule, the same categories will be included on a bi-weekly basis. So, if a category goes 50% off and it’s not on sale, it will be on sale the following week.
  • The sales are grouped by what material the item is made of, so make sure that’s what you’re paying attention to. For example, glass decor may be on sale a different week that wood decor. The weekly ad will list the categories in detail. With this in mind, it is SO important to put your items back where they belong, as putting them in the wrong place can make it very difficult for other customers to determine what is on sale.
  • The custom framing department has sales in the weekly ad. This is a great thing to keep an eye on if you have a framing project, as custom frame jobs can get expensive.
  • Wedding items are marked 50% off every other week, so if you need wedding stuff, don’t pay full price. However, note that if an item doesn’t have the “His & Hers” logo, it’s not included in the wedding sale.

 

The 40% off coupon: Hobby Lobby always has a coupon available for 40% off one single item. You can cut the coupon out of a paper ad, print the coupon off their website and bring it in, or use your smartphone to pull up the coupon at the register. Here are the best ways to utilize your coupon:

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  • Arts and Crafts items normally only go on sale for 30% off. If you need a single item from these categories, shop on a week they’re not on sale and use your coupon. If you need multiple items, it would be better to shop during the sale so that all items will be 30% off.
  • Fabric goes on sale by sub-category for a maximum 30% off. If you only need one item, it would be better to shop on a week fabric is not on sale and use your coupon for a better discount.
  • If you have any non-sale item in your transaction, you should use your coupon on it, no matter how small. 40% off a small-ticket item is still 40% off.
  • Note that the coupon is only good for non-sale items. Any item marked on sale can’t have the coupon applied. Picture frames and furniture are considered “always on sale,” so they are not eligible for the coupon.
  • The coupon can only be used once per person, per transaction. If you have multiple non-sale items, use the coupon on the highest-priced item.

Seasonal decor: How else would we mark the seasons if not for Hobby Lobby’s holiday decor section? From Valentine’s Day to Christmas (which they roll out in mid-summer), Hobby Lobby has enough decor to fill every square inch of your home. Be advised that seasonal sales are not the best in terms of savings. Most seasonal items are marked up because they will spend so long at a 50% markdown. Eventually, seasonal items will get marked down further. However, seasonal items do tend to get bought up quickly, so if there’s a particular piece you have your eye on, it may be best to go ahead and snag it at 50% off. If you’re on the fence about it, wait it out and see if you can score it at a better discount.

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Items that never go on sale: There are two categories at Hobby Lobby that never go on sale: party items and greeting cards. You can use your 40% off coupon, but note that it is only good for one single item. If you need party supplies, consider ordering from somewhere that sells in larger quantities.

Avoid the crowds: The store tends to be fairly quite in the mornings before 11:00 am and on weekday evenings. If you’re interested in Christmas decor, make your selections during the fall. November-January is Hobby Lobby’s busiest time, so if you shop there during those months, expect a crowded store and a long wait at checkout.

Be patient: Remember, please be kind to employees regarding sales and coupons. Hobby Lobby is one of the few stores that doesn’t have a UPC (bar-code) system. This means employees don’t have the ability to just scan an item and have it ring up automatically on sale. Employees have to manually enter every item and check their sale ad to verify discounts. Combine that with the fact that many of the items purchased at Hobby Lobby are breakable and have to be wrapped, and you can expect to spend a few minutes in line. Knowing that going in can help you avoid frustration if you aren’t able to pop in and out of the store quickly.

Regarding returns, keep your receipt! Employees will have to verify the date of your purchase to confirm whether your item was on sale and therefore how much money you get back. Also, Hobby Lobby receipts do not print item numbers due to the lack of bar-codes. So the employee processing your return has to wade through each item by department and price. In short, Hobby Lobby is not the place to buy it all and just decide at home. If you need to fill a certain space, take measurements. If you need to match a certain color, bring swatches to compare. Save yourself as much time as you can by avoiding impulse buys, knowing the return process is not as simple as scanning a receipt.

There you have it, folks! Everything you could ever want to know about Hobby Lobby shopping! Was this post helpful for you? Are there other stores you’d like to see tips for? Let me know in the comments!

 

How I paid off my student loans in half the time

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Yes…you read that correctly. My student loans are completely paid off five years after graduation! For a girl who literally feels anxious just looking at numbers, this was a huge accomplishment. I’m no financial wizard…in fact, I could have paid my loans off even sooner if I had been more disciplined. But today I’m sharing with you what I DO know: that if I can pay off my loans, you can too! These are the main steps I took to achieve this goal!

Live below your means:

One of the basics of financial planning is that you should be living off about 80% of what you take home. For me, 10% gets tithed to my church, and another 10% goes to savings. The remaining 80% is used to pay expenses. I used Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps as a guide. Once I had saved up $1,000 for emergencies, I stopped saving and started putting that 10% toward debt. I have never skipped tithing a paycheck since Andrew and I have been married, and the Lord has always been faithful to provide. Having an emergency fund in savings ensures that if unforeseen expenses arise, you won’t have to go into credit card debt to cover those expenses.

Set a monthly budget:

I’ve found over the years that the best way to track my budget is by month rather than by paycheck. If I try to track it further than that, I get overwhelmed. But if I track it paycheck by paycheck, it doesn’t give me an accurate view of how far each paycheck needs to go. My natural tendency is to look at the balance in my bank account and think that all of it is spending money. (Yes, I realize that is idiotic but that’s just what we’re dealing with here.) To avoid overspending, I check in with my budget weekly. I am much more careful with my spending when I see each transaction coming out of my account versus going weeks without looking at my finances and then being shocked at my balance. I also save non-essential spending (anything I want but don’t need) for the end of the month so I can be sure everything has been paid. I personally don’t use the Dave Ramsey cash envelope system for two reasons: 1) I keep up with my banking better by being able to see every charge recorded online. 2) Heaven forbid if my wallet is stolen, I can cancel my debit card. I can’t replace all my cash.

Learn financial discipline:

This is the big one, and unfortunately no blog post can make you change your spending habits. I woke up at the beginning of 2018 and realized I was so tired of paying on a student loan for a degree that wasn’t giving me much return on investment. Don’t get me wrong, I loved college and I’m so glad I went. But in the five years since I graduated, I have not once gotten a job that required a bachelor’s degree. It just didn’t make sense for a large portion of my income to go toward something that wasn’t reaping me tangible benefits. That was the fire I needed to set a goal of paying my loan off within the year.

To make that happen, I took on a second part-time job and dedicated 100% of my income from that job to my loan. I realize that is not practical for most people, but bear in mind that prior to this I had a three-day-a-week part-time job. So if you have a full time job, you are definitely making more money than I was with both jobs combined. To make my income go farther toward debt, Andrew paid all fixed expenses (rent, bills, car insurance, etc.) out of his income. When he lost his job through the military, this got tricky, but we just kept doing our best. Each month, I would budget extra tight for each category, and then at the end of the month, I took everything left and put it toward my student loan. This was in addition to my regular monthly payments. There were months that were more difficult than others, but by staying consistent, I ended up paying off my loan over the course of 2018!

The biggest piece of advice I can give is that if you want to pay off a debt bad enough, you will sacrifice other things in order to do it. We canceled our cable. I didn’t buy clothes all year except with my Christmas money, after I already knew I would meet my goal. I didn’t buy any home decor. We didn’t go to the movies or do any major traveling. If there was something I wanted, I asked myself if I was willing to subtract that amount from what I would pay to my loan that month. The thought of having that loan paid off was so much more rewarding than buying whatever I wanted in that moment. I also worked my butt off, many times working six days a week juggling two jobs to make extra income. If you are a two-income household, see if you can possibly live off one income for a period of time and use the other income to pay entirely toward debt. That season of living small will be so worth it if you can eliminate some of your debt.

Obviously if you have children, this will look different for you. You can’t just not buy your kids clothes for a year. If you don’t have kids yet I would really encourage you to buckle down on debt before they arrive, because the expenses that come with kids are unavoidable.

Keep in mind that we are not a debt-free household. With Andrew’s salary loss last year and me working part time jobs, we definitely incurred debt for his education. But that didn’t discourage me from knocking out my education debt, and it motivated us to avoid any additional debt from credit cards. I’m going to stop there before this gets any longer. I know this post was really general, so let me know if you have any specific questions! The moral of the story is: with discipline you really can reach tough financial goals and come out celebrating on the other side!

My Favorite Valentine’s Day Traditions

Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. Now, lest you think that’s because I always had Cupid’s arrow pointed at me, let me assure you that I was single every Valentine’s Day until I met Andrew.  So why do I love it so much? Maybe it’s because pink is my favorite color. Maybe it’s because I’m super girly and love all things heart-shaped. Maybe it’s because I’m a 90’s kid and I have so many childhood memories of picking out my Valentines and painstakingly selecting the right one for each person in my class. (You had to play it cool and give your crush a really neutral one and make sure to give your best friend the cutest one.) Whatever the reason, I’ve always looked forward to February 14th. Today I’m sharing some of the traditions that have made this day fun whether I was single or in love.

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Exchanging small gifts

Every year until I was out of college, my mom would give us little presents on Valentine’s Day morning. It was something to look forward to, especially in high school when most of my friends were dating and I was team Forever Single. She continued the tradition by sending me care packages in college full of candy and other little treats. A gift doesn’t have to be expensive to brighten someone’s day and create a lasting memory!

Galentine’s Day

Some of the best Valentine’s Days I’ve ever spent have been with girl friends. One of my favorite days ever was in college when a floor-mate whose grandmother lived near campus opened her home to us on Valentine’s. We all got dressed up, she served us a home cooked meal, and we just hung out and talked late into the night about dating horror stories, what was going on in our lives, and everything else under the sun. Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to plan a girls’ night and get dressed up without any of the pressure of having plans with a significant other.

Rom-com marathons

I know this is super cheesy and cliche, but Valentine’s Day is all about embracing all that good stuff! Rom-coms are popular for a reason. They put you in a good mood. When so much of our entertainment is scary or stress-inducing, it’s nice to just sit and watch two people fall in love while hi-jinks ensue. Some of my favorites are 13 Going on 30, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, He’s Just Not That Into You, Legally Blonde (a rom com but also one of the greatest movies of our time), and 27 Dresses. For bonus points you can watch the rom-com Valentine’s Day if you really want to get festive!

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Heart-shaped donuts

If the phrase “heart-shaped donuts” doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what to do with you. This became a tradition for me a few years ago. Andrew and I had been dating for six months, which is kind of the turning point in a dating relationship if you ask me. We were on our way to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, where we got heart-shaped donuts. On the way home, we re-ignited a big argument that had been causing strain in our relationship. We realized that no matter how much we talked, we weren’t going to agree. I told Andrew that even though we disagreed, there was nothing that would make me break up with him. He realized in that moment that there was no reason he would break up with me either. That night he went home and started ring shopping. Ever since we got engaged and he told me his side of the story, I’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day with heart-shaped donuts. P.S. Despite my experience, if you’re trying to get a ring, I don’t recommend starting a fight.

Wearing a cute outfit

Real talk: I’m a grandma trapped in a 28 year old’s body. And just as Grandmas bedeck themselves in themed vests and sweaters every holiday season, I am never one to shy away from a festive outfit. 4th of July? I’m wearing red, white, and blue. Christmas? I’m gonna rock my red flannel at all the functions. And for Valentine’s Day? I’m sporting something pink, girly, and fun. I really believe that simple things, like putting together a cute outfit because you love holidays, go a long way in putting some joy in your life. Plus, if you look good, you feel good, and that affects your whole mindset for the day.

I hope these traditions will inspire you to celebrate Valentine’s Day, or at least not dread it. How are you celebrating this year? Do you love this holiday or hate it? Let me know in the comments!

What Quiet Times look like for me

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First of all, what is “quiet time?” When I use that term, I’m referring to time spent praying and reading the Bible. I was very involved in my youth group in middle school and high school, and that’s when I really started to put my faith into practice. My youth minister always taught me that as a Christian, it’s not enough to just go to church on Sundays. For your faith to really grow, it’s vital that you spend time with God on your own. Quiet time has looked different for me in different seasons. It’s also the area of my walk with the Lord where I have struggled the most. I wanted to share with you what has worked best for me through the years. If this is something you’ve never done but would like to start, I hope this post will give you an idea of where to begin. If you too have struggled in this area, I hope this post will be encouraging.

The Summer Project Quiet Time

In college, I was part of a student ministry called Cru. Through that organization, I went on a summer mission project where, removed from all distractions, I participated in bible studies, had a summer job, and met for discipleship with a mentor. I came back the following summer as a student staffer. In our schedule, we had times blocked off on many days where we would have “dates with Jesus.” We went somewhere and just got alone with God and prayed, journaled, listened, and read the Bible with no time crunch. Needless to say, those were some of the most profound quiet times I’ve ever had. I have such sweet, vivid memories of those times and it was in that stillness that God spoke to me through His word, through the voice of the Holy Spirit, and through other people I was around. There are two pieces of wisdom I’ve taken away from those experiences:

1) If you really want to hear God’s voice and cultivate the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life, you can’t expect him to shout through the noise. Sometimes you have to fight the busy-ness and carve out time to just be with him. When you seek out God’s presence, he will speak to you.

2) Not every quiet time is going to be profound. When you practice a discipline over a lifetime, not every single day is going to feel like your world is being rocked. I struggled for a long time feeling like my day-to-day quiet times were inadequate, and I ultimately let that discourage me from doing them at all. But the truth is, life is not a mission trip, even though we are on mission. There are going to be distractions and responsibilities that make time with the Lord something you have to fight for. But it’s those little moments that build up and create space in your life for the Holy Spirit to speak and work. Time with the Lord on the days you don’t “feel like it,” or the days that are busy, or the days where you don’t know what to pray…that is the spiritual discipline that sanctifies and builds a faith you can lean on during the hard days that will inevitably come.

Reading through the Bible

In seasons of my life where I have a bit more margin and can dedicate more time to Bible reading, I read through books of the Bible. I’ve found that for me personally, doing things like a Bible in a year reading plan are not as fruitful because they start to feel like homework. I get really discouraged and get so focused on getting all the material in that I’m not reflecting on what I’m reading. If you are a person who is motivated by a challenge, those types of plans may be just the thing you need to get excited about reading the Bible daily! For me, it works better if I just choose a book of the Bible to focus on and read through it without giving myself a time frame.

Devotionals

I am not a morning person AT. ALL. I have honestly tried and it’s just not the way I’m wired. With that being the case, there are seasons where the thought of diving deeply into the Word first thing in the morning feels very daunting. Some seasons are busier than others. This is where I have found devotionals to be helpful. I prefer devotionals that have a lot of substance and are more a commentary on the Scripture reading for the day rather than just a pithy little pep talk. In choosing a devotional, pay closer attention to the focus on the Bible rather than who the devotion is being marketed to. I’m not trying to read Chicken Soup for the 20-something-newlywed-cat mom’s Soul. I want something that really focuses my mind on God’s word and illuminates it in a way that gives me practical application.

Journaling

I know writing in a journal isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but I can honestly say that for me, journaling changed the game. My mind is always racing, and I battle a lot of anxiety. Writing out my prayers has helped me to stay focused, and it has been a sweet way to reflect on answered prayers. I also use my prayer journal to take sermon notes at church, so everything the Lord is teaching me is all in one place. What tends to work for me is to read and pray in the morning and then journal in the evening when my mind is more clear and I can reflect on the day.

I know that got a little long, but I hope this was helpful to those of you who are trying to cultivate this discipline in your own lives. If you fall into that category, what resources have been helpful to you? What has worked and what hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear from you here or on Instagram!

My Favorite Thrift Finds

I’ve always been drawn to things that had a life before me. I’d much rather search for something secondhand than go buy it brand new. Thrift shopping is like a treasure hunt. I love the feeling when you happen upon something that you know is a major score! Today, I’m sharing some of my favorite thrift shopping finds in hopes that they will inspire you to go on your own treasure hunt!

Tooled leather handbag

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I quite literally dug this bag off the very back shelf of a junk shop in Paducah, KY-my hometown. It’s worn around the edges, but that just adds to the character! Tooled leather is often created by hand, so you may need to be willing to pay a little more for finds like this than other items.

Pink cowboy boots

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These rare petal-pink Laredo boots are one of my favorite finds ever! These came from a junk shop in Bowling Green, KY. I went to school at WKU and my friends and I spent so many weekends out perusing all the amazing thrift stores Bowling Green has to offer. Anything that reminds me of something I used to have for my Barbie dolls makes me happy, and pink cowboy boots definitely fall into that category.

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Wooden dresser

I technically can’t take credit for this find. My husband pulled this cutie out of our neighbor’s trash. (We are but humble rednecks, after all.) One of the drawers was broken, but with a little elbow grease from Andrew and a little paint from me, we converted it into our entertainment center. I found these knobs at Hobby Lobby and I based our living room on this color palette. You know what they say…one man’s trash is another man’s living room furniture.

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Blue and white dishware

I decorated our kitchen in blue, white, and copper. Almost all of our decorative dishware has been thrifted or handed down by family. Keep in mind that if you’re looking for something specific while thrifting, you will likely have to collect it little by little. There are so many patterns of blue and white dishware, and your collection will look more cohesive if you choose a few similar styles. I tend to like floral motifs and scenic patterns, like Courier & Ives. There are also Oriental styles and fine china patterns. Remember that your colors won’t match exactly unless you find a whole set, but you can get very close!

Gap denim jacket (and other brand-name clothes)

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This Gap denim jacket is just one of the brand-name staples I’ve found at Goodwill. The key to shopping smart at Goodwill (probably a whole separate post) is to only buy something if you know you’ll get lots of wear out of it. Otherwise, it’s not really a great find. I’ve found Gap, Old Navy, LOFT, and great vintage pieces by searching Goodwill.

I hope seeing some of the treasures in my thrifting trove has inspired you to get out there and find the potential in something secondhand. Let me know if you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned! What are your favorite thrifting tips? Where do you have the best luck? Let me know in the comments!