Month: June 2016

Budget Guide: Evaluating Housing, Bills and Expenses

Budget Guide: Evaluating Housing, Bills and Expenses

In the first post of our Budget Guide series, we shared the importance of knowing your monthly income and having a bill schedule. It is hard to set a budget without a clear understanding of how much you bring in every month and when bills are due.

Today we are taking it one step further. We are going to be evaluating our housing costs, monthly bills, and additional expenses. By doing this, we can see where we might be spending too much and what we might be able to cut back.

Affordable Housing

One of the most importance decisions you can make is where to live and how much you can afford. You need to take into consideration your work commute, safety of the location, and any needs that you cannot live without.

Many financial experts recommend that your monthly housing cost should not exceed 20-25% of your monthly income. If you can find a place that costs less, then that is more money you can save!

Unfortunately, many of us are limited in our housing options, and local housing costs can very widely across the country. Sometimes we may have to make sacrifices to be able to live within our means if we are stuck in an area with a very high cost of living or we may have to make the hard choice of moving somewhere more affordable, though this is not always feasible.

My suggestion for anyone looking for affording housing is to be patient, constantly re-evaluate what is on your priorities and housing “must haves” list, and shop around.

Re-evaluate Your Monthly Bills

Another way you can save money is to re-evaluate your monthly bills.

First, determine what you need and what you can live without. I decided a long time ago that I did not need cable or satellite television. I am able to get local channels for free (digital), I share a Netflix account, and I can get any news I may want online. As a web developer, however, I cannot live without Internet and so I opted for high-speed Internet instead. Still, choose just internet over an internet/tv bundled package has saved me on average $40+ dollars a month for over three years. That is a minimum savings of $1440!

For those bills that everyone must have, such as utilities, figure out ways to keep your costs low. When I was renting an apartment, I did not use the heat in the winter because all four of the apartments that shared walls with mine ran their heaters. As a result, my small one-bedroom maintained a nice temperature as long as I wore slippers and a light sweater on the coldest days.

To lower your electricity bill, consider keeping the air conditioning off in the spring/summer/autumn for as long as you possibly can stand it and turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use. To save on your water bill, fix any leaky facets or running toilets, take shorter showers, turn off the water between rinses, and don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth.

Nowadays mobile phones are the primary mode of communication, and most homes no longer have landlines. However, is it absolutely necessary to have the latest iPhone on an expensive and hard to break two-year contract with all these bells and whistles that you may never even use? Carefully determine what you actually need from a mobile device and service provider. Then find a phone, carrier, plan, and price tag that is affordable.

Lower Your Monthly Expenses

Once you have determined what housing you can afford and re-evaluated your monthly bills, it is time to look at your additional expenses. This includes purchases such as groceries/food, gas, clothing/household necessities, discretionary spending money, etc. I recommend tracking your expenses for a few months to get an average of what you are spending. You can use the spreadsheet from the first post as a guide and add a new table beneath the income for expenses.

Once you have an idea of how much you are spending each month, give yourself a reasonable budget and force yourself to adhere to it for the next month to test how realistic it is for you.

I have certain food allergies and sensitivities that mean that many of my food “staples” (like bread, pasta, butter, milk) are extremely expensive compared to the average person’s staples. For a while, I knew I was spending far too much on far too little so my husband and I began shopping around to find better deals. We now get the bulk of our groceries from the 99 Store, Fry’s (with their card, we save on average $10-$15 dollars each time we shop), and occasionally Target or Wal-Mart instead of paying more for the same items at a fancy store.

By limiting our grocery shopping to every two weeks, being more picky on choosing my high-price specialty food items, and finding the best prices for the items we purchase regularly, we have been able to save $200 a month on groceries without having to do any time-consuming couponing or price comparisons that neither one of us have time for. If you do have the time and patience to take it one step further and master the art of couponing, I say go for it!

Another way we have saved money is that, before I became pregnant, I biked to work. Yes, it is five miles one way, but it saved us a lot of money on gas and parking fees. If walking or biking is not possible, look into public transportation and see if it is cost effective for your area. (It is not always.) Once I was pregnant, I saved money by parking a mile away from my office at the church we are members of because I can park there for free. I then either walk the mile in or hop a free campus shuttle. Sure, there are annoyances and inconveniences with using public transit, but it saved us a lot of money each month. Or maybe carpooling is an option for you.

After looking at all of the options available to you, you may end up determining that driving and paying the parking fees is the most affordable and/or realistic. That is okay. At least you did your due diligence and looked into it!

Tip: Curb the Spontaneous Shopping

Give yourself a very modest “discretionary” budget for those little impulse buys to help curb any spontaneous shopping. A water or soda from a soda machine one day, a bag of chips another, too many lunches/dinners out instead of preparing meals ahead of time, and you can quickly blow your budget without even realizing it. These little purchases are often more expensive then you realize at the time, especially vending machines and corner stores that market themselves as convenient but sell items at a higher than normal price.

I am also trying to implement in my own life the phrase: “One thing in, one thing out.” If I see something that I really want, I force myself to take time to think it over: Do I need it? Can I use it? Am I replacing something with it?

Tithes and Donations

Each month, I set aside a tenth of my income for tithes and offerings. Not everyone tithes, so for those who do not, this also refers to donations to charitable organizations or non-profits. Donating to trustworthy organizations is a good way to help your community and others in need, and if you track your donations you may be eligible for discounts or refunds on your state and federal taxes.

Conclusion

If you take the time now to evaluate your housing costs, bills, and additional expenses, you may discover areas that are draining your money. Saving a little money on your monthly expenses will add up over the course of a full year or two.

Next time, we’ll take a closer look at savings.

Project: Organization – Office progress and night stands

Project: Organization – Office progress and night stands

It has been a little while since our last Project: Organization update, and I’d thought I write a few lines. We have been extremely busy over the last week and a half. We volunteered with the Vacation Bible School at our church every evening from Sunday through Thursday, and Friday morning we left for a weekend trip to San Diego to help support my parents’ Lesson Book Ministries.

Therefore, not as much was done around the house as we would have liked. However, I like to tell Bradley that as long as we get a little bit done every day or every few days, we are making progress! With that type of a positive mindset, we were able to accomplish a few things in spite of our very busy schedule.

We were able to go through most of the storage bins that were crowding up our office. We put books we are keeping on the bookshelves in no particular order yet (that will come later) and set aside others for donation. We got rid of quite a bit of recycling and trash, and ended up with a few empty bins that we can now use to store more important things! One day while I was at work, Bradley neatly stacked the remaining bins against the far wall and now the office feels more open and you are not afraid of running into things. We still have a lot to do in there, but this was a huge step in the right direction!

Bradley took quite a bit of things to a thrift store and also surprised me with finishing tidying up our back patio, which we had started a few weeks ago when we cleaned out the shed. He moved our patio chairs up to the folding table and straightened some things. It looks much better!

We are nearly done with the re-organizing of the master bedroom. After doing a lot of hunting at thrift stores and box stores for decent beside tables and not finding anything that fit our needs and were in our price range, we stumbled upon a cute end table at Target. I went online and discovered that they were having a sale so we purchased two. We ended up taking advantage of two discounts (a 15% off and a 10% off) and free shipping, which saved us so much money. The end tables arrived earlier than we were expecting last week and so we had the boxes sitting in our living room while we did VBS and went to San Diego.

Last night while watching an old western movie, we assembled the first end table. It was very sturdily built and easy to put together, though it took awhile as we kept pausing to watch parts of the movie. So one table is done and nicely located beside the bed. It is the perfect size and color, and I cannot wait to organize the drawer and lower shelf. We are hoping to assemble the second one tonight or tomorrow tonight.

We have not had time to make much progress in the nursery yet, but we have some time. We did find the perfect curtains at Ross and some artwork for the walls. We just need to paint before we start hanging things ups. Some of the old decor (artwork, etc.) that we purchased second-hand in the last two years when the room was being used as a guest room, will be re-donated to thrift stores for someone else to enjoy.

That reminds me! We need to finish putting together our baby registries and start sending out the Baby Shower invites.

 

Our “Project: Organization” list:

Dining Room

  • move dining room table
  • organize china cabinet
  • organize overflow pantry cabinets
  • buy six dining room chairs

Living Room

  • move exercise bike
  • find rocking chair or loveseat (ON HOLD)

Master Bedroom

  • find a chest of drawers (4-6 drawers)
  • toss broken drawers
  • hang curtains
  • find two bedside tables Purchased and delivered! One bedside table has been assembled. One more to go!
  • finish cleaning out / organizing the closet

Nursery

  • go through everything: keep, toss, or donate
  • move any storage bins to the shed
  • paint walls
  • hang curtains
  • find low dresser with flat top for baby things
  • find rug
  • get crib from my parents
  • hang pictures/artwork and accessorize
  • organize baby things (after baby shower)

Office

  • sort all books: keep or donate – progress: 40%
  • organize bookshelves
  • stain second desk and move my tablet onto it
  • return glass breakfast table to my parents
  • find some curtains
  • find a rug
Budget Guide: Monthly Income and Bill Schedule

Budget Guide: Monthly Income and Bill Schedule

I believe I had been modestly frugal for most, if not all, of my life. I am the type of person that really dislikes seeing hard earned money leave my bank account, unless it is for something that I have planned for. I might, on rare occasion, do a spontaneous purchase, but then I usually tighten my belt for weeks afterward to not just make up for it but to save double the amount.

I just dislike spending money unless it is absolutely necessary. I have been keeping track of my income, expenses, and savings – in one form or another – since I moved out on my own and became solely responsible for my own rent, bills, and day-to-day expenses. I have been intentionally putting money away into my savings all of my adult life, and though by no means am I an expert or even exceptional, I feel that I have learned quite a bit from my experiences.

The next few posts will be about finances, specifically how to set a budget and build up a savings for the future. If you do not already have a budget or method for tracking your expenses, feel free to use this as a guide.

Average Monthly Income

The place to start this journey is to understand your total monthly income, whether you are paid weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Do you have one source of income or multiple sources? Do you have a steady income that is about the same every paycheck or does your pay fluctuate from paycheck to paycheck? All of this information is very important to understand, because it is difficult to set a budget without knowing how much money you bring in on a monthly basis.

I recommend tracking your income for a few months using a basic spreadsheet. If you are in a hurry to set your budget and your income is somewhat steady, you can fill in the spreadsheet retrospectively. However, I find it easier to track moving forward. Three months is a good sample size.

Also about what time of the month do you receive your paycheck(s)? For example, I am paid biweekly so I usually have two paychecks a month — one near the beginning and one around the middle of the month. Every once in a while I receive three paychecks in a month. It sounds great at first because you think: “Oh! A whole extra paycheck to play with!” Unfortunately, this extra paycheck tends to throw my bill paying schedule for the following month out of whack.

How you deposit your paycheck(s) is up to you. Some businesses still only hand out paper checks which require you to physically go to your local bank to deposit it. Others allow a direct deposit option where the money is sent directly to your bank account. I have chosen direct deposit as my bank does not have any branch offices within a thirty minute drive so it is near impossible to get to an office before it closes without taking time off of work.

Bill Schedule

Once you have a clear idea of your monthly income, take a look at all of the bills you pay on a monthly basis and mark down when they are due and when you usually pay the bills.

Since I have a biweekly paycheck, I divide my bills into two groups: those that are paid using the first paycheck of the month and those that are paid from the second paycheck.

The first group of bills paid are rent, since it is due on the first of every month, and insurance, as it is usually due in the first week of the month.

The second group of bills include utilities, electricity, internet and mobile phone as all of these are due towards the second half of the month (usually all after the 15th of a month).

Dividing up my bill paying like this works very well as the rent is usually a huge chunk of money that is taken out at one time. I use a Google calendar to keep track of when bills are due and which ones have been paid and on what day.

How you pay your bills is your choice. Quite a few years ago, I decided to go the paperless route. This allows me to pay my bills the day my paycheck becomes available in my account and mark them as paid in my calendar without having to wait for mail and sort through papers.

Resources

To start on your budget journey, I recommend setting up a calendar for scheduling your monthly bills and a spreadsheet for tracking your monthly income. These can be a physical calendar and spreadsheet or digital. Some people really like the feel of paper and writing by hand.

For convenience sake, I have chosen to utilize Google Drive with its calendar and spreadsheets. I already have a Google account so it made sense to use its built-in features. This allows me access to my information from anywhere I have Internet access.

In the calendar, I create an “event” for each bill and have chosen a color to represent bills so I can see when all are due at a quick glance. I usually label the bills: BILL – utilities ($xx.xx) so I can easily see which bill it is and how much without having to open the “event”. After a bill has been paid, I modify the label to reflect that: PAID 6/17 – Utilities ($xx.xx).

For the spreadsheet, I created a very simple table with a column for deposits and one for each month of the year. In the rows beneath, I mark what type of deposit it is (paycheck, dividend, other) and how much is received. Using the basic formula =sum() to total the cells in a column, I gather the total for each month and then for the whole year.

Below is a sample of the spreadsheet. Scroll to the right to see all of the months.

Conclusion

Today we talked about the importance of knowing your average monthly income and having a bill schedule. Both are important when it comes to setting a budget and making plans to save more. In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at ways to lower your monthly living expenses.

Make Happiness Your Habit

Make Happiness Your Habit

Make happiness your habit, nurture it daily.
Happiness.

Some believe that happiness is merely an emotion, a feeling, that can be easily influenced by outside factors. What if it can be a conscious state of being instead? What if we could nurture a happy, joyful, contented mindset?

Sure, there are times when we cannot help but be swayed by the things that are going on around us. Maybe you had a bad day. Perhaps your boss yelled at you or a project you worked extremely hard on was rejected. Maybe the kids are rowdy and not listening to you. Even in the midst of “life”, we can choose to stay angry, depressed, or moody or we can say: “No, not today. I’m not going to let this ruin my whole day and sour my attitude.”

It will not always be easy. The apostle Paul wrote: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Philippians 4:11) Even when we face challenges and trials, we can overcome by not allowing these experiences to drag us down emotionally or render us anxious.

Isaiah 26:3-4 encourages us: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” And Jeremiah 29:11 promises: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

What a beautiful promise to hold on it! No matter what your life may look like to you right at this moment, if you trust in the Lord, He will take control and guide you to a future and hope. So what do we actually do?

There are many ways that we turn happiness from an emotional response into a habit. Here are just a few simple ones that we can start putting into practice right now:

1. Keep a journal and make a note of what makes you happy so you can see what events in your life are influencing your emotions. If certain things make you happy, try to do them more often. If certain things give you stress or anxiety, try to limit or avoid exposure to them.

2. Eat healthy and exercise. Following a nutritional diet, drinking plenty of water, getting fresh air, and doing moderate exercise on a daily or weekly basis helps our bodies and minds stay balanced. When our minds are balanced, we can handle stressful or difficulty situations more calmly and rationally.

3. Spend time with God every day to help fulfill your spiritual needs and desires. Doing a devotional, reading the Bible, and praying are all calming experiences that can ease tension, fear, and worry. When you relinquish the control and allow God to work in your life, not only will He change you but He may guide you in new ways you did not anticipate.

4. Help others by volunteering your time and talents. Many have realized that helping others cultivates compassion, but it also prevents the development of selfishness, which is often a major source of unhappiness!

Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” I choose to make happiness my habit and nurture it every day. How about you?

Project: Organization

Project: Organization

For the last month, Bradley and I have been working hard (with some help from family) to get our home ready for the arrival of our dear little boy. In just two years of marriage, we had somehow collected enough stuff to overrun a three bedroom home even with the purchase of a nice shed for the backyard. Mostly, the problem was lack of proper organization, but there is no denying we also had too much stuff! Thus “Project: Organization” was put into action.

It began with moving the gorgeous dining room table my parents found for us a year ago into it’s proper place in the dining room. (Shocking!) We had been using it as a temporary desk in our office, but it was far too large from that bedroom. Also I was envisioning a grown up dining room and realized, after seeing so many houses during our months of house hunting, that our dining room is actually quite spacious. Dad helped Bradley move the table into the dining room, and Mom helped me figure out how to arrange the other furniture. We ended up moving a buffet table from the living room to the dining room and it is now the home of half of our house plants under the window. It really opens up the space and gives it a wonderful feel.

That same day, Dad and Bradley built framed screens for the windows along the back of the house. None of the windows in this house have screens and the landlord would not put them in, but with mosquito season upon us and Zika a worry, we knew we had to get screens in. Now the back of the house is protected from the little buggers, which is important since most of the breeze we get comes from the back. At the same time, my parents helped put up some outside shade screens for the corner of the patio that is scorched by the blazing Arizona summer sun in the late afternoons.

The living room is almost completed. We just need have to find a comfortable rocking chair.

Last week, we worked very hard clearing everything out of the shed in our backyard. It needed a good sweep and wash to get the bugs and spiders out. While the shed was drying, we sorted through the mountain of stuff on our patio. We ended up getting rid of some things and when we put the rest back in the shed, we were surprised with how much room there is. That will come in handy as we move some items from inside the house to the shed in the next month.

Yesterday Bradley and I were able to put curtains up in the master bedroom. It has only taken two and a half years! The curtains and rod we had the whole time, but we kept thinking: why go through all the trouble if we are moving? Once we decided not to move for at least another year (possibly two), we decided it was time to finish all of the little unfinished things like putting up curtains in our bedroom. Hahaha! Anyway, the curtains and sheers really polish the room and look great. We should have done that the week I moved in years ago. *face palm*

And we will be doubling down on the nursery now. We plan to paint the room next Friday so we have a week and a half to get all the stuff currently stored in there cleared out. And next week is VBS at our church so our evenings are completely unavailable. Hmm…

So what is left on our massive “Project: Organization” list?

Dining Room

  • move dining room table
  • organize china cabinet
  • organize overflow pantry cabinets
  • buy six dining room chairs

Living Room

  • move exercise bike
  • find rocking chair or loveseat

Master Bedroom

  • find a chest of drawers (4-6 drawers)
  • toss broken drawers
  • hang curtains
  • find two bedside tables
  • finish cleaning out / organizing the closet

Nursery

  • go through everything: keep, toss, or donate
  • move any storage bins to the shed
  • paint
  • hang curtains
  • find low dresser with flat top for baby things
  • find rug
  • get crib from my parents
  • hang pictures/artwork and accessorize
  • organize baby things (after baby shower)

Office

  • sort all books: keep or donate
  • organize bookshelves
  • stain second desk and move my tablet
  • return glass breakfast table to my parents
  • find some curtains
  • find a rug
26 Weeks

26 Weeks

It is hard to believe, but we are about 26 Weeks along now! Since I was a bit neglectful over the last month, I thought I would do a more thorough update.

Cravings: I am not really experiencing cravings, at least not like cravings have been described to me by other women who have had them. Every once in a while, I might enjoy a few spoonfuls of a coconut milk-based mint chocolate chip ice cream, but I did that before I was pregnant. Sometimes I might grab a few salt potato chips and scoop up some delicious hummus, but I also would do that before I was pregnant. I have not really been craving anything nor have my eating habits been out-of-the-ordinary.

At work, to force myself to drink more water, I am using ice again (after about two years without usually ice regularly) and sometimes I’ll munch a little on the tiny ice pieces that are left after I drink all the water from the cup. I’m not an ice-eater usually, but it is kind of fun to crunch down on the little melty pieces. However, I do not do that often, just every once in a while so I don’t think it is that ice craving I’ve heard that some women get.

I find myself eating a little less than usual, especially in the evenings, but that is about it.

Baby’s Gender: At our Gender Reveal Party for family and friends on Sunday, May 15, we revealed that we are having a little boy! On Thursday, May 25, we had our second ultrasound and our little guy was far more cooperative so they were able to finish getting all of the measurements and data that they were unable to get at the first one. The tech was very nice and quick, and she was even able to get a pretty amazing 3D picture of his little face (after he finally moved his hands).

Our baby boy at 25 Weeks!

Name: As previous mentioned, we have had five names picked out since over a year ago and so we were ready for a boy or a girl! Though we shared this with our family and friends on Facebook, I will probably decide not to disclose the baby’s full name in a public forum like this blog. So for now we will refer to him as Baby V.

Weight Gain: At the ultrasound, the tech told us that Baby V is about 1 pound and 10 ounces, and I snuck a peak at the scale when I was weighed in. I have gained about four pounds in the last month. Since all of my pants are still fitting great and my hip measurements are still regular, I suspect it is mostly belly: baby, placenta, fluids, etc. That is good!

Aches and Pains: Towards the end of a long day, my lower back tends to be a bit stiff, and earlier this week, the calf muscle on one of my legs was a little sore. Sometimes my belly, because Baby V sits sooo looooow, feels super heavy and huge in the evenings, and I have to lie down to re-distribute his weight away from the bladder. Other than that, I have been doing pretty good!

Sleep: My sleep has gotten better over the last few weeks. I wake up a few times less at night to use the restroom or to shift position, so I am able to get a more satisfying sleep. Finding comfortable positions is still the hardest thing, especially since I am a natural belly-sleeper and now I cannot sleep on my stomach at all. My sides end up hurting from sleeping too long on either the right or left side, and all of the pregnancy sites warn against sleeping on your back (which is hard for me to do anyway).

Nesting: I may be experiencing some of the nesting instincts that are talked about, but I prefer calling it: “Preparing for baby!” We had quite a few organizational projects around our house that we had put off, but now that Baby V will be joining us in about three months, no more procrastination! This week, we cleared out the shed in the backyard, swept it, washed it down inside and out, and then re-organized everything so we’ll have room to move some items from the house out there. Next on our list is clearing stuff out of the nursery to paint and make room for new furniture, and then we’ll be focusing on getting the office functional again.

Baby Purchases: So far we have not made any large baby-related purchases. We have bought curtains, artwork, and picture frames as we begin to assemble accessories and nail down the color palette. As for creating a registry, we have an account at Baby List that I am only now starting to add items to. Baby List is awesome in that you can add items from multiple stores and online sites instead of creating individual registries at all of those places. It saves so much time and energy on our part as we assemble our list and our family and friends are shown the price of the item at different locations so they can save money!

We may also do a registry at Target to accommodate certain individuals who complained about the Baby List idea when I was excitedly explaining it to them, but that would mean double the work to make sure that the two lists do not contain duplicated items. I’m still on the fence. I may just say: “Use Baby List or just get whatever you want.” I’m still working full time, doing part-time work for my parents’ new company, trying to finish up church obligations before I stop that, re-organize the house, schedule doctor appointments and labs, June’s weekends are filled with three out-of-town trips, and now I need to start scheduling birthing classes and getting prepped for the hospital visit. I don’t have TIME to hand-hold adults!

Sorry for the rant, but I’m getting a little tired of trying to make things a little more convenient for others when I am extremely busy trying to get our house and lives ready for Baby V’s arrival. I have not even started on a birth/delivery plan nor meal plans!

Preparing for an Arizona Summer

Preparing for an Arizona Summer

With a due date at the beginning of September, I will be experiencing my last trimester during the peak of a blistering Arizona summer. Though a little early, this weekend is forecasted to reach high triple digits! It will probably be anywhere between 114°-116° degrees just Saturday alone. Though we, hopefully, will have a dip in temperatures towards the middle of next week, I am not looking forward to the rest of the summer.

To survive the summer heat, I am trying to prepare myself — both mentally and physically.

Water and lots of it!

Here in Arizona, especially in the summer, it is highly encouraged for everyone to carry water with them whenever they go out. My husband is always so diligent in never leaving the house without both of us having a bottle of water. Now that I am pregnant, staying hydrated is even more important.

I found that it was especially difficult to drink enough water while at work until I discovered that our break room now has an ice machine. I have not used ice on a regular basis in about two years, but being pregnant and being a little hotter than usual, I was having a hard time drinking room temperature or even slightly chilled water. Now I keep a plastic cup on my desk filled with ice, and I just refill it from my water bottle whenever it needs. I also refill the ice any time it is all gone, which gives me an excellent reason to leave the desk and walk around the entire floor.

Two bonus points for finding little ways to exercise throughout the day! 😉

Sun Protection

I also plan to wear a big floppy hat and/or use an old parasol when going out into the sun. The floppy hat was given to me years ago by my mom, and I love it! I might need to get a more formal looking floppy hat for work purposes, though. The parasol is quite old, not that pretty, and was given to me just recently by my mother-in-law. Since I tend to have meetings on the other side of campus a few times a week that require me to walk anywhere between a quarter mile to a mile, I am keeping the parasol under my desk at work. It may look hideous, but it does its job go keeping the sun off of me perfectly. (I tested it out Tuesday!)

Warm in the office, cool outside.

When it comes to choosing the proper clothes for an Arizona summer, I unfortunately have to face a dilemma that many Arizonians can relate to. Our offices are kept at barely 70°, and if the AC vent blows the cold air down on you (as it does me), then you will be very cold for about eight hours a day. You will have to dress in either pants or longer skirts and mid-length sleeves, perhaps even a cardigan or light sweater, just to not freeze. Then the moment you exit your office building, you are blasted with 110° or more heat! You would prefer to be in shorts or a knee-length skirt and a light, sleeveless top.

Now think about adding to this dramatic temperature fluctuation the fact that you are very pregnant, run a little hotter than usual, and maternity clothes tend to have a lot of additional fabric and layers that normal clothes do not: belly panels, low-cut V necklines that require a camisole underneath. With some of my maternity tops and bottoms, I have 3 thick layers of fabric around my middle. No wonder I end up feeling overheated some evenings!

So the problem I face over the next three months as the thermometer creeps over and stays above the three digit mark is finding maternity clothes that are:

  • warm enough for the cool office
  • cool enough for the hot outdoors
  • professional enough for the office
  • comfortable enough for… Well, you know. I am pregnant!

I have a feeling I’ll be wearing cotton shirts with dress pants and a sweater at work, dresses and loose skirts to church and events, and exercise shorts and baggy T-shirts when at home. I must admit that I am dreading the heat.

I already have a little hand fan that I carry in my purse and have used quite often over the last few months. I think I will also start carrying a bandana that I can soak in water and wrap around my neck if I get too hot.

Comfortable footwear

I have been able to continue wearing my usual footwear up until this week. Last Wednesday, I had an unexpected meeting come up that required me to walk about a mile in shoes that are not meant for walking long distances. If the meeting had been properly scheduled ahead of time, I would have worn appropriate shoes, but I was intending to be at my desk all day and wanted shoes that looked “cute” with my outfit. I ended up with a very bad and painful blister on my pinky toe that made the next couple of days miserable.

This week, I have switched to wearing tennis shoes every day. It looks extremely dorky, especially with the knee-length skirt I wore yesterday, but comfort is more important than fashion. Over the next few weeks, I might go shopping for a more office-appropriate flat walking shoe, but a part of me does not want to spend the money on new shoes when my tennis shoes (old and gray and not professional-looking in the least) will do.

If you are a mother, were you pregnant during the summer? If so, how did you survive the heat?