money-habits

Seven Money Habits You Want to Break in 2017

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How much money you have is often linked to your money habits. For instance, if you like to eat junk food, chances are you over-spend on fast food.

Here are seven bad money habits that you might not even realize you have and how to overcome them in 2017 or any year.

1. Going into debt for wants rather than needs

Lifestyle based purchases, such as luxury handbags or an expensive phone, force you into unnecessary debt if you have to pay for it on a payment plan. If your wants continually push you into debt, you have a habit that you need to get rid of.

Cure: Debt is for essential and strategic purchases only. Going into manageable debt to buy a house or pay for your children’s education is fine. It’s not OK when you use debt to fund a luxury lifestyle.

2. Postponing financial decisions

How many times have you told yourself, “I will start investing next month” only to continually push it back every month because you did not save any money? Postponing good financial decisions is worse than making bad ones. With time, good investments generate additional income for you, so the earlier you start, the more you make.

Cure: Start setting aside money every month to put towards investments. The longer you delay, the less you’ll make in the long run.

3. Gambling rather than investing

Many people tend to dabble in the stock market without knowing what they’re doing. Maybe you got a tip that a particular stock is a good bet, or someone told you that Options are a great way to make money. But, if you’re putting your money into investments that you don’t understand, you are gambling and not investing.

Cure: Investments should be based on your goals. If you don’t know how to invest, hire a professional to help you or take a course.

4. Spending more than what you make

This is the worst habit for your financial well-being, when you constantly spend beyond your means. When the money you spend exceeds your income at the end of the month, you are overspending.

Cure: Start monitoring your spending habits. Take a look at your expenses and separate them into two categories – needs and wants. Cut out what you don’t absolutely need. Create a budget to get your spending under control.

5. Paying your bills after the due date

If you are constantly making late payments on your credit cards and utility bills, you are paying more than you need to, and it adds up. In case of credit cards, late payments could potentially add up to hundreds, thanks to high interest rates.

Cure: Always pay your bills on time to avoid late fees. Set up auto pay for your bills to ensure you don’t pay them late.

6. Indulging in habits that are expensive

Smoking, drinking, and eating out too often are habits that come with a significant price tag. You might think these expenses as small, but over time, they add up to significant amounts.

Cure: If you have a habit that has a negative impact on your health and your wallet, it’s time to break it. Get help if you need to, but your body and your wallet will thank you in the long run..

7. Not saving regularly

Saving regularly can be difficult. Especially if you tend to spend first and save whatever is left over.

Cure: Decide on how much you can save on a regular basis and set it aside as soon as you get paid. This will ensure that saving becomes a habit.

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How to Eat Fresher and Cheaper on a Budget

How to Eat Fresher and Cheaper on a Budget

If one of your New Years’ resolutions is to cut your grocery costs while buying fresher groceries,  it can be done.  There are a number of strategies that you can use to save money every time you grocery shop.  I love heading to my local FRESHCO where I can definitely get fresher and cheaper on a budget.

 

Meal Plan

When you plan your meals before you head to the grocery store you know what you need.  You know what your meals will be for the week. You are not simply scanning the aisles for what looks good.

 

Make a List

Research has shown that if you can avoid impulse buying you can save at least 20% on your weekly grocery bill. Always shop with a list. I use an app to keep my list handy.

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Eat Your Veggies and Fruit too

You can save 25% by adding more fruits and vegetables to your cart. You can have a healthier and fresher grocery list simply by choosing fresh for snacks and the main event. Not only do you save money, but you are getting healthier as well! You have to love that!

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Shop Seasonal and Sales

If you know me, you know I love to shop seasonally and love a great deal.  Have a freezer? Stock up on meat when it is on sale. I love checking my local flyers on a flyer app. You can always find the FRESHCO weekly flyer here as well. It lets me know what sales I can find that week, as I meal plan I am often referring to this list.  Fruit and vegetables in season are always cheaper.  Choose fruit that is ripe and ready to eat and some that needs to ripen in a few days. That way there will be no waste.

 

When you stock up on staples like rice, beans, pasta you have them on hand to make great healthy meals. Watch for these when they are on sale as they do have a longer shelf life.

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Shop the Perimeter

 

I love shopping at my local FRESHCO. I walk into the produce section and from there I do 80 percent of my shopping around the perimeter. That is where I pick up my fruit, my vegetables, my meat, my eggs, my cheese, the basics for a healthy meal. When I shop the inside aisles I am looking for healthy staples like beans, nuts, and healthy whole grains. I am also looking for my spices.

Let me know, how you save at the grocery store.

 

*This post has been sponsored by FRESHCO, as always the opinions are my own.

 

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Don’t Let Fraud Ruin Your Holidays

If you are anything like me, the last month has been busy – and life doesn’t show signs of slowing down until after the holidays are through. When life is busy, it’s easy to be distracted and click “yes” on something you shouldn’t have and then boom! Your bank account is compromised and the holidays become even more stressful. Over half of Canadians say they plan to do all or part of their holiday shopping online this year, making them a target for ‘ishing’ scams that can compromise banking or credit cards and make them a target for identity theft.  (Currently, there are three types of ‘ishing’ scams differentiated by how they are sent. Smishing is via text message, phishing via email / online notification, and vishing is via the telephone) There is no one thing you can do to completely protect yourself from these scams but there are a couple of tips from TD Bank that can help you stay ahead of the scammers.

Be Vigilant Online and at Home

Don’t respond to emails or phone calls asking for details about your banking or credit card accounts. A popular telephone scam going around right now has someone claiming to be “from your credit card provider” – no company, and they cannot tell you which card when you ask. Your actual credit card company will KNOW the details of your account, and while they often ask a question to verify your identity when you call in, it won’t be your credit card number or the Credit Card Validation (CCV) number found on the back. NEVER give these numbers out over the phone. Similarly, if you get a text message or email from a bank, be wary. No bank will ask you for account details via email or text message. If you get a suspicious message, do not reply but do save it. You can forward the message to your bank and their fraud department will look into the details.When shopping online make sure that the address in the address bar of your browser matches the store that you are shopping at – especially if you have clicked a link from an email to get to the site. Any page that is asking for payment information should have a little padlock icon and start with https:// instead of the usual http://. This indicates that you are on a secure site.

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Work WITH Your Bank / Credit Card Provider

Banks like TD have Fraud Alerts in place to help protect their customers from having their card compromised. If you are a TD Canadian customer, all you need to do is add your mobile number to your account via Easyweb or in person at a branch. Once you’ve done this, if the bank detects unusual activity on your TD Access Card, they may temporarily block your account and will send you a free[1] text message with information about the suspicious activity. A unique feature with TD’s fraud alerts is that if you recognize the activity – like you made an unusually large debit purchase yourself – you can reply to the text with a “Y” and your card will be unblocked without you having to call the bank or go into the branch to have it unblocked. If you don’t recognize the activity, you simply reply with an “N” and your card will be blocked, and you can contact your bank for the next steps to take. It is important to note that TD will never ask you to reply to a Fraud Alert text with any personal information or ask you to click on any links in your reply. If you want to learn more about this really cool feature from TD, check out their video here: https://www.tdcanadatrust.com/products-services/banking/electronic-banking/access-card/access-card.jsp#tdfraudalerts

By staying vigilant and working with your bank / credit card provider, you can stay a step ahead of the fraudsters and keep your money as safe as possible this holiday season.

This post has been sponsored by TD Bank. All opinions are my own.

Minimize your risk: The information above is provided to help you protect yourself, but it’s not foolproof: it’s a fast paced and constantly changing world so make sure you are keeping up-to-date on and monitoring security features and preventative measures to minimize your risk of fraud.

 

[1] TD does not charge any fees for TD Fraud Alerts. However, standard wireless carrier message  rates may apply.

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Teach Your Kids to Give Back This Holiday Season

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Chances are, your family has participated in countless fundraising events through school, church, and other groups. Your kids probably even have a few ideas of their own about how they can help out in their community.

The key to nurturing a passion for giving back is for your kids to feel a connection to their cause and the ability to make it meaningful.

Here are 5 great ways your child can learn to give back this holiday season:

1. Visit a retirement home to read books to the residents. Seniors at assisted living homes are often lonely. Their families don’t visit them often enough. They love having kids around to fill the air with laughter. Encourage your child to spend some time playing games or reading books to residents. Your child will enjoy making a new friend too.

2. Help out your local food pantry. Encourage your kids to start a food drive in your neighborhood. Or, let them volunteer at the local food bank. They can help stock shelves and pack meals. They can also volunteer at a local soup kitchen feeding the homeless.

4. For my friends in the US, send cards to members of the military. Through the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program, kids can write and send cards to active service members and veterans. The Red Cross plans community events for making and addressing cards to members of the community. Get in touch with your local chapter for more information about participating. Here in Canada, we have a similar program but the deadline for sending cards in in October.

4. Create a special “pay it forward” day. Make it “Pay It Forward Sunday” and tell your child that they have to find a way to give back in their community or to someone who could use a little help every Sunday. This way they can choose for themselves what their good deed should be. And it will encourage them to keep thinking of new ideas.

5. Put together a care package for someone who is alone or sick. Is there someone in your neighborhood who could use some special attention? Possibly an elderly person who is sick or alone? Have your child put together a care package for them and hand deliver it. You can include small gifts like hot chocolate or tea, homemade goodies and magazines or a good book. Your child can even color a picture to add to the box.

Giving back can also mean giving their time or sharing a portion of their allowance for the causes they believe in. What others ideas can you and your child come up with to give back this holiday season?

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How to Talk to Teens About Building Credit

talking-to-teens-about-building-creditI remember well what it was like to be a teen starting out financially. I made some mistakes. I do not want my own teen to follow my footsteps.  The reality is I would not want that for any teen. By twenty-one, I had maxed out my credit cards and was figuring out what to do next. As a young person attending university, credit was thrown my way and I never understood interest, credit, or the long term ramifications. For this generation, for my daughter I want them to know how to build a great credit score, how to check it and the ramifications.  It’s important to teach our kids to be smart about money. So how do you talk to your teens about building credit?

Tip #1 – Take the time to explain what credit is, and how it’s used

A credit score is a number between 300 and 900, and indicates to providers who will loan you money or offer you credit, how responsible or “credit worthy” you are.
This number is decided based on secret algorithms by Canada’s credit bureaus – Equifax or TransUnion – based on a few factors:
  • Payment History — making payments on time
  • Amount owed — the amount of available credit you actually use impacts your score
  • Credit history — accounts you’ve had open for longer periods of time reflects better on your score
  • Types of credit — Having too few credit products may lower your score, a good mix (credit card, loan, mortgage) helps build good credit
  • New credit requests — applying for too many credit products in a short period of time is a red flag. Leave time between applications

 

Tip #2 – Tell them how it might impact them now, and in the future

In addition to having importance when they’re older and they might want to apply for a mortgage, it’s becoming more common to be asked to provide a score when applying for an apartment rental, or when being considered for employment. It’s becoming part of the full picture of responsibility.
Quick fact – You don’t have a credit profile before the age of 18
Quick fact – It takes six months to build a file after you’ve taken on your first credit product

 Tip #3 – Talk to your older teen about student credit cards

Student credit cards are easier to qualify for and can help younger Canadians start building a good credit profile – when managed properly –  making it easier to apply for more mature products later in life. Student cards are often low (or no) fee and can come with amazing perks like rewards or cash-back that are an added bonus for students managing a limited budget. If you want to check out some of the better student credit cards check this page on RateHub.
As well, once they start building credit they will want to check their credit score. Anyone can check their score for free here with RateHub: ratehub.ca/free-credit-score
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RESP Rules: Everything You Need to Know

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A Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) is a great way for your family to start planning for your child’s future. As tuition fees across Canada continues to rise, it’s a good idea for your family start preparing for the day when your child is ready for university or college. RESPs are not just valid at universities, all accredited post-secondary institutions (college, technical school, certificate program, etc.) are eligible.

As parents we should evaluate our expectations – how much do you want your child to pay towards their education? Do you want them to have a part-time job or work in the summer? There is no right answer, but consider your personal beliefs when setting an education savings goal.

It is important to note that money is increasingly becoming a barrier for students wanting to attend school. Over half a million Canadians have student-loans with the average degree holder incurring around $20,000. Student loan debt is a burden on young adults trying to start their lives, and prevents them from reaching life’s milestones such as owning a house and getting married.

If you feel that you want to ease the burden for your children you should consider a RESP – it’s one of the best ways to save for post-secondary education. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about RESPs.

How much can I contribute?

As of 2007 there is no limit to how much you can contribute on an annual basis. There is a $50,000 contribution limit for the lifetime of the RESP. In most cases, if you are financially able to, or if you feel like your child will need more resources, it pays off to still invest up to the $50,000 limit. There are tax implications for contributions over this amount. You should check with your RESP provider to see if they have a deposit minimum or a minimum month contribution amount.

How do I qualify for grants?

There are two main grants available for Canadians who start RESPs: The Canada Education Savings Grants (CESG) and the Canada Learning Board (CLB). The CESG matches your annual contribution by 20 per cent up to $2,500. CESG grants caps out at a total lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child. The CLB works differently and is available to each child who qualified for the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS). The CLB will provide $500 immediately when you start your RESP and $100 a year until your child turns 15 if you qualify. There are also provincial grants available to residents in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Quebec.

What if my child does not go to school?

Let’s break down the answer based on the three ‘pots’ of money in an RESP. First off, your contributions can be withdrawn with no penalty, and remain non-taxable. Each RESP provider will have different rules regarding the withdrawal of contributions, so it’s important to ask.

If your child does not go to school, you have the option to change beneficiary and transfer the grant money. Should you choose to close the RESPS, the grant money is returned to the government. Any money received from the CLB must be returned and cannot be transferred.

Any investment income remaining in the plan can be withdrawn as an Accumulated Income Payment or transferred to your RRSP, provided you have contribution room. It’s important to know that AIPs will be taxed at your current nominal tax rate plus an additional 20 per cent penalty.

Setting up an RESP does not have to be difficult but it’s always a good idea to speak with a professional at Knowledge First Financial who specializes in RESPs and can help get you started.

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Breaking News AIRMILES No Longer Expiring

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Back in February, I shared that AIRMILES older than five years would expire. As of today, that is no longer the case.

Loyalty One that is the company that ownsAir Miles has decided to cancel its plan to allow reward miles five years or older to expire amid blog posts like mine, lots of consumer complaints and new legislation that is in the works.

“There is uncertainty with provincial governments proposing or considering legislation across Canada, so we have decided to cancel the expiry policy so that all Collectors, regardless of location, can be confident that their balances will be protected,” said Bryan Pearson, President, and CEO, LoyaltyOne in a statement.

The change is effective immediately; this means if you collect AIRMILES you no longer have to worry about them expiring, and that is good news!

Had you cashed in your reward miles already or were you scrambling?

Personally, I am glad a brand listened to its consumers. I am also glad there is pending legislation that will protect consumers.

 

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One in Five Canadians Would Be Broke in a Week if They Lost a Job

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Ever wondered how long you would last without a job? What if you lost your biggest client if you are a freelancer? What would you do? Could you make it till you got your first EI cheque? Would you have to dip into emergency savings or do you even have savings?

The Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) recently did a study, and they found that four in 10 Canadians say they would run out of money in less than a month if they lost their job or main source of income.

I know first-hand how hard it can get. This summer I lost my biggest contract as a freelancer and then in September my ad network went bankrupt. It was a double whammy! Talk about tightening the belt! I was thankful I was smart and had a wee bit of savings, which helped me weather the storm. Did you know that one in five Canadians would last less than a week? A week. That is a scary fact.

These findings also concluded that more than two-thirds of Canadians believe the economy – and their own financial situation – has either stagnated or worsened over the past five years. Has yours? The survey also revealed that two out of every five Canadians worry about money at least once a day and about one in four say they worry “almost constantly.” How often do you worry about money? I have found by having a plan, a road map, I worry a bit less.

Less than half (41 percent) of Canadians feel they make more good financial decisions than bad ones. Have you ever thought of working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional? When you work with a qualified financial planner, you don’t have to do things on your own. You also get some sound advice. One of the best ways to worry less and reduce the stress is to work with a financial planning professional. I like to think of them as a financial coach. They help develop a great game plan and advise you on the steps you need to make to get that home run. You do not want to strike out when it comes to your money.

Personal finance expert and author Kelley Keehn has said: “Thanks to online tools like FPSC’s FindYourPlanner.ca website, it’s never been easier to find a CFP®professional who can help create a personalized strategy tailored to your individual needs and life goals – and help ease your money worries.” Kelley also suggests you ask a potential financial planner these 10 specific questions. You can find lots more information and advice to get a handle on your finances at FinancialPlanningForCanadians.ca.

Have you made your own road map? Your game plan? Let me know where you are at: are you worried about your finances? Scared they won’t last or do you have a game plan?

*This post is sponsored by the Financial Planning Standards Council, however, as always my opinions are always my own.

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Are You Worried About Making Your Retirement Funds Stretch?

Many retirees are just like my mom; she has been retired for over a decade and is worried about making her retirement funds last. Yes, she has lots of fun and has a great life. She is an active member of a Red Hat Society group, has joined a couple local seniors clubs, she travels, and she has a large extended family that she gets to spend time with.  I would say she is the typical Canadian senior. She is doing the best she can with the income she has but she worries about the future, maybe even saying no to some of the things she loves because she is worried about what the financial future might bring. Some might say she is underliving like many Canadian seniors today.

According to a recent Investors Group Survey, 59 per cent of Canadian retirees are worried about making their funds stretch. In that same survey, 4 out of 5 Canadian retirees said that retirement is living up to their expectations. I know for my mom, retirement is living up to her expectations, but many Canadian seniors are underliving and foregoing activities as they worry about their financial future.

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When I think of retirement, I think of the things I want to enjoy, the plans to travel and volunteer. The plans to read lots and spend time doing the things I love. I am not that far from retiring. Fifteen years is not a long time.  There are many things to think about when it comes to retiring and I am learning what to expect from watching my mom in her retirement.

The study also shows that a vast majority of recent retirees are enjoying their retirement, with 80 per cent stating that it meets their expectations.

  • An overwhelming majority of retirees (90 per cent) are spending more time with friends and loved ones.
  • 84 per cent are able to spend more time on the hobbies they enjoy.

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Have you started thinking about your retirement? I know I am starting to plan now, because it’s not that far away!  One of the most important things I am learning is to be reasonable in my expectations. I already know that as a late saver I am behind the eight ball.

Many Canadian retirees are like my mom. They are worried about making their funds last. Sometimes she has even avoided doing some of the things I know she loves out of a fear of spending too much money. Debbie Ammeter, Vice President, Advanced Financial Planning at Investors Group puts it this way: “You might give up on truly meaningful experiences out of the fear of overspending. But this is a risk, too – the risk of underliving.”

“While a smart retirement plan requires prioritization and some tough trade-offs, it shouldn’t be an exercise in self-sacrifice.

  • 64 per cent of retirees find it hard to strike a balance between enjoying retirement and making money last.
  • More than half (59 per cent) are worried about making their retirement fund stretch for their remaining years.
  • If retirees came into an unexpected sum of money, more than one third (33 per cent) say they would pay off debt and 16 per cent would invest it, suggesting that money is an overriding concern.”

One of the interesting findings of the Investors Group survey was that those Canadian seniors who planned with a financial advisor worried less about money. “Making plans based on professional advice can help you avoid overspending or underliving,” says Ammeter. “An advisor will support you in making decisions based on fact, not fear and ensure you have access to all the strategies you need to live an enjoyable and rewarding life in retirement.”

Are you using a financial advisor as you plan for retirement? Or as you enjoy retirement?

Remember, we want to be able to enjoy retirement without too many worries about our finances. We want to be able to do those things we dreamed of while we are still healthy and able to enjoy them. Perhaps, it is time to include a financial advisor in your retirement planning. Pre-retirement life is rich and varied and retirement should be the same.

For more information follow @Investors_Group on Twitter or connect on FacebookLinkedIn and check out the YouTube channel. You can also visit Investors Group on their website.

 

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5 Tips to Help New Moms Cope #ChurchandDwight

Do you remember what being a new mom was like? Life was a bit overwhelming. I can remember when I brought my child home, there was much to learn. Between trying to bond, trying to get my child to take to the breast I was a mom simply trying to cope.  During this time of learning, growing, bonding and coping there are some simple things you can do.  There are also great products that will ease this time of transition. Here are five tips along with their products that will help you cope.

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Stop Worrying About Messes

Spills, stains and messes are status quo with a little one on your hands. The hardest part of tackling the laundry is finding a detergent that’s right for baby’s clothes.

The makers of OxiClean™ stain removers have developed a 100 per cent dye and chlorine-free Multi-Purpose Baby Stain Remover Powder and Spray to be gentle on your baby’s washables while being tough on your messiest baby stains. You can pre-treat stains with the Spray and use Powder in every load to make your baby’s cloth diapers, bedding, clothes and accessories cleaner, whiter and brighter.

Schedule Some Down Time

Every day, do your best to carve out some time that’s just for you. Between feeding, changing diapers and lulling your baby to sleep, you may find yourself emotionally and physically exhausted. When your baby is sleeping or enjoying time in the swing or bouncy seat, give yourself a face mask, read a magazine or paint your nails. Even just 10 minutes for yourself will make a huge difference.  I found that even 3 minutes for myself; but more often throughout the day, really helped.  I would take my 3 minutes (when my baby was safe), I’d close my eyes, and breathe.

Gassy Tummy? No Problem!

If your baby is fussy for no apparent reason, it may be a gassy tummy. It’s widely accepted that keeping a baby upright for feedings, burping them often or massaging their belly may help to relieve gas pains. When your child has an uncomfortable gas pain that you cannot seem to soothe, try giving them infant gas relief drops like Ovol® Drops. They provide gentle and fast relief of colic, bloating or gas by helping to break up gas bubbles to relieve discomfort caused by trapped gas – making it easier for a baby to pass gas and burp at feeding time. The pleasant mint-flavoured drops make them easy for parents to administer.

Get Plenty of Rest

A shift in your sleeping pattern, or overall lack of sleep, can be one of the hardest parts of being a new mom. If your baby likes to nap in the morning, nap with them! House chores will always be there so stop using this time to try and get ahead. Even if you’re not actually sleeping, the downtime will give you a boost.  Before you know it you’ll have gone through this initial stage … cherish every moment (good and bad) because one day you’ll miss it.

Soothe Teething Gums

Crying, drooling and tears can make teething quite the ordeal for both moms and babies. Gently rubbing your baby’s gums can help to ease your baby’s discomfort as does a chilled washcloth or teething ring. If your baby is especially cranky, try using an homeopathic remedy like Baby Orajel™ Naturals Nighttime Teething Gel. With the soothing power of Chamomilla (commonly known as Chamomile) and passion flower, this product helps to relieve teething pain and discomfort and calm the restlessness that comes from teething so that your baby can get a good night’s rest.

Help Combat Dryness

Many women experience vaginal dryness after childbirth which can make intercourse uncomfortable for them. To help provide relief from vaginal dryness, try using Trojan™ H2O Water-Based Liquid Lubricants. These two water-based lubricants are made with hyaluronic moisturizer (which locks in up to 1000x more moisture and hydration), allowing you to enjoy comfortable intimate moments with your partner.

Some bonus tips:

To help make the transition easier, try:

  • enlisting helpers (friends, family) that can help around the house, go shopping, or even watch the baby while you nap
  • if you know your due date, perhaps make several crockpots of a variety of meals and freeze them so you can use during the first few weeks after bringing baby home
  • read, read, read …. read up on everything and anything you don’t know about baby
  • locate a new mother’s group to potentially attend … it’s the perfect way to keep social