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Birth and Labor Class – Finding the Right One

newborn baby class

In our quest to be prepared as parents (we know you’re never fully prepared) we signed up for a birth and labor class with the hospital we plan on having the baby in. There was no shortage on opinions and feedback with family and friends on what class we should take, how we should give birth (natural vs pain free), and where to give birth.

We decided we need to find a class that could get a solid overview and then make our decisions and birth plan based on the information we received.

Finding the Right Class for You

There are several reasons why people want to sign up and you two need to take the time and figure out which ones are important to you.

  • Kind of Birth: Some couples go for a pain free birth and some go for a drug free birth.
  • Knowledge: A lot of anxiety that many people carry is the fear of the unknown.
  • Options: I find comfort in knowing what my options are in a given situation. We hadn’t made a decision on many things, so we wanted a class that covered it all.
  • Teaching Method: Being aware of how you learn best is important. Ask the instructor and past participants how much of the class is dedicated hands on, workbook oriented, and/or discussion activities.

It’s vital that you find the right class for you as a couple. A great labor/birth class will help you feel more knowledgeable and confident.When should you sign up for class? It depends on which one you choose since they vary in length. For our class we were encourage to sign up around 14-20 weeks so we could be scheduled during the last trimester.

What are some of your options? Here are three of the most popular that I’ve found – Lamaze, Bradley, and Alexander.

Lamaze

This method is a very popular one. Our birth and labor class through the hospital incorporates Lamaze into the curriculum.The focus is on preparing for labor process with breathing techniques, relaxation, and positions to help the mother work through it. Learning what to expect with labor, including possible complications and medical invention options.

It also covers  breastfeeding and bonding your baby. Each class has its own particular curriculum, but it does include the general guidelines.

To find a Lamaze class near you, please visit their site.

Bradley

The Bradley method is another popular choice for parents. The method encourages natural birth and includes information on learning to work with your body throughout the pregnancy.

Curriculum

This is a much longer program with 12 weeks of lessons. It’s also more extensive, covering in much more detail the preparation parents can make during pregnancy. The official curriculum includes:

  • Introduction to The Bradley Method®
  • Nutrition in Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy
  • The Coach’s Role
  • Introduction to First Stage Labor
  • Introduction to Second Stage Labor
  • Planning Your Birth
  • Variations and Complications / Postpartum Preparation
  • Advanced First Stage Techniques
  • Advanced Second Stage Techniques
  • Being a Great Coach / Are You Ready?
  • Preparing for Your New Family

To find a Bradley class near you, please visit their site.

Alexander

The method focuses on everyday movements and releasing tension. It’s not a posture class per se, but from the material I found it’s helpful for those who have developed bad habits. It wasn’t designed as a pregnancy/labor method, but it has been adapted to help women cope with pregnancy and help them prepare physically for labor.

To find a Alexander class or instructor near you, please visit their site.

Other Methods

I’ve only mentioned the 3 methods I kept hearing about, but there are so many options out there. If you’re curious about finding what’s out there in your area, The Bump has a local guide.

Our Birth and Labor Class

Before we attended the class, we received a welcome letter, information packet, and our course workbook.

Curriculum

With the first class we received our syllabus for the course. Here’s the plan for the course:

Class #1

  • Introductions
  • Anatomy and Physiology of Pregnancy
  • Discomforts and Warning Signs
  • Contractions
  • Introduction to Relaxations

Class #2

  • True vs. False Labor
  • First Stage of Labor
  • Relaxation and Breathing
  • Back Labor

Class #3

  • Positions for Labor
  • Second Stage of Labor
  • Hospital Tour

Class #4

  • Second Stage Practice
  • Medical Procedures and Options
  • Labor Bag
  • Birth Plan

Class #5

  • Cesarean Birth
  • Postpartum

We meet up once a week in the evenings for a couple of hours for a total of 12 hours. That’s not counting the time we spend for reading, reviewing, and homework (massages!). It’s spread over 5 weeks – there’s an intensive weekend options, but that didn’t feel right for us. I wasn’t looking for an information dump.

Thoughts on Birth and Labor Classes

Did you take a class when you were expecting? How did you find your class? Were the classes worth it?

Join In the Baby Expenses Series

Are you a parent or a parent to be with some helpful advice or stories? Please go ahead and join in on the Baby Expense Series, there are 4 ways you can be a part of it:

  1. Leave your tips in the comment section. I  love reviewing thoughtful comments from readers. Some topics have several ‘right’ answers and I think sharing different view points can be helpful.
  2. Submit your stories for future posts. As you know, baby and expenses can cover a variety of topics. If you have a short story or some tips you want to share, please submit them. If you’re a blogger, please share your site’s address with the email so I can credit you if you want.
  3. Write a blog post about your experience. Please include a link in your bio for your site and if you have a relevant post on your site, please link to it in your post.
  4. Share you favorite posts with friends. If you have a favorite post, please share them with your friends who are expecting. I’ve included share buttons for Facebook and Twitter to make it easier and you can always email them your favorite posts as well. If you think it’s a great for them, please encourage your friends to sign up and receive updates through RSS or directly to their inbox. It’s free and an easy way for them to keep up with the latest posts on Couple Money.

 

Photo Credit: limaoscarjuliet

Marrying into Debt: Handling Your New Spouse’s Debt

marriage and finances

The wedding was beautiful. The honeymoon created lifelong memories. Now, you return home to settle in to your new life and into your new reality. Before you took the walk down the aisle to wed your new spouse, you were debt-free. You had low or even no credit card balances, and you were on the right path financially.

Things are a lot different now. You’ve married into debt: Credit cards, student loans, the debt you didn’t have, your spouse does have. How do you handle your new spouse’s debt, and how does it affect you?

Marriage and Debt: Mine, Yours, or Ours?

One of the first questions newlyweds who marry into debt ask is: Am I responsible for my new spouse’s debt? It all depends on the state in which you live, whether it is a community state, and whether the debt was incurred during your marriage.

In community property states – Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin – you may be liable for your spouse’s debt if the debt was incurred during the marriage. In non-community states and when you did not sign for the debt, you won’t be liable for the debt. Check your state’s laws to find out where your liability – or non-liability – lies.

But, even if you aren’t legally liable for your spouse’s debt, how can you handle it? Will you help pay for it, or do you believe that it’s your spouse’s responsibility to pay off debt incurred before you married on his or her own?

Note: My personal feelings with debt and marriage now is handling it together. My husband was completely debt free when we married and I was ready to work to my car and student loans by myself, but he was encouraged me to tackle it as a team. -Elle

Combining Debts and Income

If you decide to help your spouse pay off his or her debt, you can work together toward financial stability. You have several options for making the debt more manageable. If you have a significant amount of credit card debt, you may want to consolidate your debt. Be sure you work with a reputable debt consolidation company. Credit card companies are often willing to work with consumers to help make their monthly payments more affordable, another option for handling and paying down your debt.

While some companies, like Sallie Mae, no longer offer student loan consolidation, you can still consolidate your student loan debt through federal programs. If your spouse has significant student loan debt, consolidation may be able to save you a lot of money each month.

In addition to consolidating debt, create a budget, cutting costs where feasible. For example, you may be able to turn off the landline in lieu of using only your cell phone, or you can cancel your cable until your debt is more manageable.

Separating Finances

If you believe the latter, you have several options for ensuring that your spouse pays his or her debt alone. (Your spouse may also want to consider debt consolidation and living with a budget, too.) Avoid opening a joint account until the debt is paid off; that way, you don’t have to worry about paying money toward the debt.

You may also want to split the bills to ensure both spouses are contributing equally. Some spouses opt for paying for the rent or mortgage while the other spouse pays utilities. Find a happy medium that works for both of you.

Ideally, whether you believe your spouse should pay for his or her own debt or you believe teamwork is the best solution, your best bet is to come up with how you’re going to deal with your spouse’s debt before you walk down the aisle.

George Gallagher is a personal finance and education blogger.  He works with cuStudentLoans and is committed to helping students find affordable private student loans.

Photo Credit: giumaiolini


Baby Shower Fun

baby playpen

Baby Shower and Thank You Cards

Last weekend was a blast; we had the baby shower and family came in town to help us celebrate. We were so grateful to have our family and friends come together for the special occasion. We’re also grateful for the generosity of everyone and their gifts. It lifts a bit of the burden to have some of the baby gear bought for us.

Besides a few minor things, I believe we have the essentials with the exception of the car seat. We’ll pick that up in a couple of weeks. This weekend will be more laid back. We’re now trying to get our thank you cards done and sent out. It’s not too bad – we just focus on doing 10 each sit down. We hope to be finished by the end of this week.

How about you? What was the favorite part of your baby’s shower?

Personal Finance Carnivals

Personal Finance Posts to Catch Up On

If you have some free time this weekend and want some tips and information for your finances, be sure to read some of these wonderful posts. There are some handy tips this week to help you out.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. I also recommend checking out my blogroll to pick up some great personal finance blogs to follow. Please also let me know what are some of your favorite blogs that you enjoy reading on a regular basis.

Have a wonderful weekend with your family!

Options to Reverse Mortgages

reverse mortgage calculations

On the surface a reverse mortgage seems like a good idea.  And it is for some people.  Before anyone gets one they should make sure all options are explored.

What are Reverse Mortgages ?

A reverse mortgage is an option for homeowners age 62 and older to convert their home equity into cash.  There are no loan payments required until the owner no longer lives in the home or stops meeting the requirements of the mortgage.

In addition to the standard loan fees (appraisal, closing costs, etc.), this type of loan requires the borrower pay for mortgage insurance.   The home must also be in very good condition and repairs will be required for any deficiencies.

Alternatives to Reverse Mortgages

My father-in-law could no longer make ends meet after the loss of his wife and her social security income a few years ago.  He opted to get a reverse mortgage, but I don’t think he seriously considered any of these options below.

Shared Housing

Many people moved to shared housing during the recession, but it is also a good way for seniors to decrease living costs and still remain in their own home.  Renting out a bedroom or two would have easily replaced my mother-in-law’s social security check.

For those that don’t want to share living space their home may accommodate converting the basements or one floor to an apartment or in-law suite.

Downsizing

Often seniors can get the financial breathing room needed by selling their home.   They no longer need the space of the family home and it may require more upkeep.  Renting or buying a smaller home would have eliminated the costs my father-in-law occurs keeping up a yard and repair on a 60 year old home.

Other Deferred Payment Loans

Some state and local governments offer deferred payment loans to low-to-moderate income homeowners.  These can usually be used for specific home repairs and modifications.   In California, the CalHome program distributes money through local agencies.

There are programs for property tax deferral although many state and county governments have suspended them since the economic crisis began.  These were generally available to seniors and/or handicapped homeowners and deferred the property tax bills until the home was sold.

After evaluation some homeowners and/or their families will come to the conclusion that a reverse mortgage is the best option to give them extra funds during retirement.  It is recommended to put off getting this type of loan until needed to reduce the interest rate charged and qualify for larger advances.

Would you recommend a reverse mortgage to your senior friends and family?

Photo Credit: bgilliard

How To Budget Successfully As A Couple

happy couples creating a budget
As individuals we all have our strengths, weaknesses, passions and different outlooks on life. This especially is true when dealing with finances as we usually prioritise our expenses according to our needs. It is because of our different needs that couples so very often find it difficult to manage their finances together. 

Proper budgeting will lead to successful financial management regardless if you are doing it for yourself or with a partner. But how do couples get to budget successfully?

Be Honest with Each Other

For a relationship to prosper it should be based on honesty and trust. Without these important principles the relationship will not last. When couples become serious in a relationship it is important to be open on all aspects of life, especially finances.

For some this might be a small stepping stone where for others this is a sensitive subject. Perhaps this is because one partner does not work or where poor financial decisions in the past have left the individual with allot of debt. Feeling ashamed, many would rather withhold the information from their partner so to avoid judgment.

Regardless if you do not financially contribute to the relationship, it is very important to be a part of the budgeting process every month. This will help both partners to form an understanding platform, and where different tasks could be allocated to form a well balanced relationship.

Determine Your Individual Financial Status

It is therefore very important that couples declare their current financial positions to their partners before tying the knot or when living together. It will ensure that couples don’t blame each other later in life should their relationship be going through a rough financial patch. It is each individual’s right to know how their partner has managed their own finances in the past. Some individuals will prefer to combine their finances while others want to keep their own accounts separate. Financial transparency in a relationship is therefore important to ensure that proper budgeting is done each month as a couple.

3 Real Life Scenarios

The following three examples are based on true stories and just highlight the importance of honesty and budgeting in a relationship.
The first example is about a very close friend who got herself into short term debt over a couple of years, and before she knew it she could not handle the repayments anymore. She made the right decision to swallow her pride and seek debt counselling. A proactive step in my opinion, and she will soon regain her financial freedom with sacrifices she had to make. She had been honest with her partner when the relationship became serious and together they are working towards settling both their debt before marriage. 

The second true story is regarding a friend who finally met and married the woman of his dreams. She is a successful individual in the corporate world, but too has managed to get herself into short term debt over a couple of years. Because their financial status was not discussed in depth, he only realised the severity of her debt after marriage. He felt cheated as he too was now responsible for helping to settle her debt. As you can imagine, this is the basis of their arguments as he blames her for their financial problems.

The third example is of someone I know who had been married for nearly 15 years. It has recently surfaced to only a few close individuals, excluding her husband, that she has committed fraud later in their marriage in order to have some financial relief each month. Finances and budgeting became her sole responsibility after so many years, and she could not bear tell him the truth of her financial problems. Instead she is trying to hang onto her marriage and avoid judgement from him but now has gotten herself deeper into trouble.

In order to ensure a healthy relationship with your partner you will need to be frank and upfront about your current financial status. If the partner judges you more than providing the necessary support then the relationship is doomed in anyway.

Determine Goals Together

When a couple’s financial status has been declared, both individuals should advise on their financial goals, both long and short term. With this in mind individuals can try to accommodate and work towards achieving their goals. This might include deciding on how to settle current debt, obtaining a student loan, purchasing a home, vehicle etc.

Set Priorities as a Team

List your financial priorities and goals from most important to least. If there is current debt that needs to be settled, do a little more investigation and determine which debt has the highest interest and which debt is the least. You will save money in the long run by settling high interest debt first, but if this is a large amount and you have smaller debt elsewhere, it might be better to settle the smaller debt first. When the smaller debt is paid, ensure you add this monthly saving to the repayment of high interest debt.

There will definitely be a difference in what you deem as important compared to your partner, but this is where negotiation and compromise are important.

There are, however, certain aspects that one needs to prioritise even though it may seem as a grudge purchase. Insurance is deemed a grudge purchase because you pay for something you might not benefit from for a long period of time. However, should the inevitable occur, having insurance, whether life insurance or asset insurance will provide peace of mind by providing financial relief.

Compromise

As with any aspect in a relationship, compromising in the financial arena is just as important. We know we all have different needs and operate on different reward bases. You might find it satisfying to save most of your income each month where your partner might feel that he/she simply needs to spend money more frequently on entertainment or retail shopping. Negotiate and discuss on how you both can compromise on the matter in order to attain a happy medium. Respect each other’s opinions.

Share The Burden

Debt will be settled sooner rather than later when both partners are motivated and committed to repay it. Not all debt is unmanageable, but if you realise that it has become too much, it might be a good time to see a financial adviser or a debt counsellor. This is a refiner’s fire process and when working as a team will only strengthen your relationship.

Compile a Budget

The information provided above is the start to successful financial planning. Now you need to draw up an official budget on paper or a computer spreadsheet. Excel works well for this purpose and can be adjusted accordingly without having to start over each time. On the left of the spreadsheet list your income on top and financial obligations beneath it.

In the next few columns list the current and following few months next to each other. From here, under each month put the totals of your monthly expenses next to each category on your left. After this is done you can add up your expenses and deduct it from the income in order to determine your net financial status.

It is a fact that individuals with such spreadsheets better manage their finances because it is visually compiled into an organised layout. Discipline in compiling and discussing each month’s budget is the next important step.

Thoughts on Couples and Budgets

In order to budget successfully as a couple, each partner needs to respects each other’s views open-minded. Compromise is key, including discipline to draft and discuss a monthly budget each month. Here is to the success of proper financial management! 

This article was written by Timothy Ng. You can read more of his work at http://www.creditcardfinder.com.au/ where he has a number of comprehensive guides including a guide to joint credit cards.

Photo Credit: Juliana Coutinho