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Do You “Spend it if it’s there?”

by J. Money on Thursday, November 10, 2011

pocket contents paintingI’ve had a few people bring up that phrase lately, and it’s all rather fascinating to me.  Cuz in all honestly, I have no idea what that means! Haha… like, I just don’t get it?  If you have access to easy money, you have a better chance of spending it??  You can’t control buying things just to buy them?

Now maybe I’m a bit cuckoo over here (don’t answer that), but personally I only spend money when there’s something that a) I really want, AND b) comes across as a good value (to me).  Whether we’re talking about fancy cars or baseball bats.  I’m not gonna go out and buy a Benz just cuz I can.  Or a thousand sticks of gum since I have an extra $100 sitting in my pocket. I could be totally oversimplifying things here, but I think you get the point.  Which is that it’s weird for me to understand ;)

I’m trying to dig up the “old J. Money” to remember what HE used to do back in the day, but I can’t really recall spending more just cuz I had more in the bank.  I mean, I DID spend a lot more when I got raises or promotions, etc etc, but that’s more about lifestyle inflation (which SUCKS btw and keeps you in the rat race — increasing your spending as you increase your income, it’s not a pretty thing if you don’t manage it).  Is that what people mean when they say they’ll “spend it if they have it?”  If that’s the case, then yeah – I used to do that all the time!

It probably goes into that whole notion that you’ll spend more w/ a credit card than you would with cash too, I bet.  Which I still have yet to prove it’s false, haha… well, at least for me. I’m not gonna challenge the billions of data that says it IS worse for your cash flow…. I just gotta grow the balls and give it a shot myself once and for all!  I really think I’ll spend the same whether it’s in dollar bill form or fake credit card money ;) I’m just too comfortable w/ all my perks and conveniences those plastic little bastards give… but I dunno, maybe one day I’ll try it for real?

Anyways, what do you all think about this?  Do YOU fall into that category of spending more when you’re hanging on to more money?  Is this the same thing as lifestyle inflation?  Or am I a dick for saying “I don’t get it?”  Haha… It’s okay if you think so.  Sometimes I’m SO enveloped in this money stuff (both thinking about it AND blogging about it 24/7) that I tend to escape reality every so often. Every now and then I need my “reset” button pushed ;)  Now go and spill your thoughts!

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PS: There’s a good convo we’ve got going on at my Facebook page too if you want to join in.

(Painting by Elliot Stokes)


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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Paige November 10, 2011 at 7:21 am

I don’t think it’s the same thing as lifestyle inflation at all. I think that lifestyle inflation is when you spend more money with a raise because you feel like you are entitled to. Some people just don’t seem to be able to stop themselves from spending all of the money in their wallets (or even bank accounts!), but if they transfer some of it to a savings account, they won’t have any trouble staying away from it.

I live on a written budget all of the time, so the only way I would experience lifestyle inflation is if I wrote it into the budget!

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2 Daisy November 10, 2011 at 9:00 am

I suppose I did when I made more, to a small degree, but not really anything to put up a red flag about. I still have a 90′s box TV and an iPhone 3g. Plus, our couches were given to us and have a horrid floral print. We both do have money in emergency funds, but we don’t spend it just because it’s sitting there.

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3 Rich Uncle El November 10, 2011 at 9:14 am

I tend to save first and foremost, but if I see something that I need or want. I then find ways to get it after some extensive research. I like to search all of my daily websites first before making any purchase.

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4 Brian November 10, 2011 at 10:08 am

If I have cash in my pocket I am much more likely to spend it on small “impulse” like purchases. I do not do this with my credit cards. Its part of the reason I don’t carry cash (though I have an emergency stash in the house and in my vehicle).

I tend to get a lot of anxiety whenever I make a large purchase and I always seem to get a bit of buyers remorse right away, even when I need what I am purchasing (ie groceries).

I guess I’m just wired a little weird.

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5 Stephanie November 10, 2011 at 10:16 am

I think lifestyle inflation is probably a component of the “spend it if it’s there” mentality, but doesn’t necessarily define it. If you suddenly have more money being deposited into your bank account each paycheck and it’s there, there certainly is more of a temptation to spend it if you don’t have specific plans for that money.

That’s where I’m totally on board with what Paige says – It’s important to factor those raises into your budget! Each time I get a raise, I adjust my savings rate to account for it, but I do also budget some extra spending money in, just so I get a little bit of immediate gratification from that raise and don’t feel deprived. I find that in pretty much all aspects of my life (but most notably money and food) allowing small indulgences on a regular basis help prevent me from doing something stupid like going on a big spending spree or binging on junk food. ;-)

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6 J. Money November 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

@Paige – Yeah, I guess that makes sense. I wonder if these “things” people buy then when there’s extra money in their pockets is important to them then? Cuz if so, then at least they’re getting what they really want! :) If not, they’re just spending to get rid of those dollars faster?
@Daisy – iPhone 3gs, man that’s slow! Haha… crazy how fast technology goes eh? :) My wife is still holding hers while I ponied up the money to upgrade, and every time we’re together she steals it to use the internet… good for you on sticking to it though!
@Rich Uncle El – That’s a very smart way to do it, as long as you have the means to do so (and by that I mean computer or smart phone, not money. Though that’s important too :)).
@Brian – Awww I get that way too! ESP with bigger purchases, though even with some at $20 or $30 I get buyer’s remorse even while just waiting in LINE to by! Haha… it’s pathetic. It could be worse though, we could have a shopping addiction :)
@Stephanie – Agreed!! Very well said – regarding both budgeting in small indulgences, and increasing your savings when you get more money/raises/etc. Keep it up!

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7 Justin Wright November 10, 2011 at 10:59 am

I’m just like Brian and tend to get Anxiety when I think about making big purchases, I’ve been frugal for so long that it is sometimes difficult to spend money, even when it is there. I think this started awhile back when I realized that the high I get from impulse buys is only temporary. As soon as it wears off, the buys remorse kicks in and ends up making me feel worse than I did in the first place.

Regarding Lifestyle inflation, one thing that really helps me stay on track is using percentages (of income) for my savings goals instead of fixed amounts. Being self-employed usually results in sporadic paychecks, so this allows me to save more when I receive more than usual. Only downside is it makes it a bit harder to plan exactly when you will reach your goals since the amounts can vary.

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8 SmartAssetTeam November 10, 2011 at 11:02 am

For me, the question pertains to money you don’t have locked away, say in investments or savings accounts. If I keep a lot more money than I really need in my checking account, I think I am more inclined to spend it than if I kept all that wasn’t necessary in there. The same is true for my wallet. If I have a wad of cash at my fingertips, and I am starving and getting ready to commute home, I will spend that money on a snack as opposed to going home hungry and cooking something. That is what “Spend it if it’s there” means to me, and I think I do. I don’t go crazy and buy everything in sight, but if I am at a bar with friends and have only enough cash for two drinks, I will only get two drinks. If I have enough cash for five, well, I will probably have more than two… or I might get a fancy cocktail.

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9 bogofdebt November 10, 2011 at 11:39 am

I hate making big purchases for myself–even if I’ve saved up for them. For instance, needed new tires: my boyfriend had to pry the money out of my hands and this was something that was needed. Once in a while I will splurge, but that’s few and far between–I normally feel so guilty that I save twice as much the next time….

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10 Sierra November 10, 2011 at 11:51 am

I definitely spend more if I know the money is just sitting there. Unfortunately, my mother instilled her “It’s just money” philosophy on me. I got myself into way too much debt because I kept thinking, “Eh, I can buy this. It’s just money. Credit card field trip!”

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11 J. Money November 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm

@Justin Wright – Oh yeah, %’s can help for sure. Makes it super easy as every time you get paid $X, you know exactly what’s going where! Whether it’s money from a client, birthday gift, etc… though, usually for gifts I’ll spend 100% of it on ME as I know the gifter would appreciate that :) Plus, it’s the only time I can, personally, splurge w/out feeling bad! Haha… but I digress.
@SmartAssetTeam – Ahhhhh, now THAT is starting to make more sense to me. Yes, I can totally see that. So it’s still things you really *want* at that given point of time, but you’d survive w/out it too. I guess it’s more impulse and smaller stuff. Though for me I’d probably still buy the food or extra drinks if it’s really what I wanted, haha… but I account for all that in my budget so maybe it’s okay? ;)
@bogofdebt – Well it’s MUCH harder to spend large amounts on things you could care less about, like tires, than say, a new dress or laptop ;) I hate spending money on “maintenance” – and the only way I can figure out how to stop those payments is to get rid of the item altogether! Haha.. the car, the house, all of it… just not as practical then :)
@Sierra – Now THAT is interesting. And I’ve been in that same mindset too w/ the wife when things come up that we can’t avoid spending on (unexpected bills, etc). I literally told her the other day that “ther’s unlimited money in the world, don’t worry about it – we’ll be fine” haha… and that’s with us already having money saved up! I can def. see how it could work both ways, you might have just given me an idea for a new blog post – thanks! :)

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12 SmartAssetTeam November 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm

As long as you can account for your spending in your budget, you’re good to go. But the hard part about all of this is that you might find yourself with extra cash in your wallet at some point. Let’s just say a friend pays you back for something in cash, and suddenly you have a wad at your fingertips that you should put into savings or hide away. How do you keep yourself from spending it?

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13 bogofdebt November 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I published a post on how I hadn’t bought a pair of sneakers in 5 years–I had to be forced into as my current shoes were full of wholes and ..collapsing on themselves. And these were my sneakers for work…sadly, I hate spending money on myself. However…I’m much “better” at spending on others. (I’m not sure if that is good or bad…)

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14 Jen November 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm

My mom tried to save money for the end of year taxes. My dad would see lots of money in their account throughout the year and spend it. Yes, the fights were quite spectacular. He rebuilt a ’57 Chevy, so that’s where the money went, if you want to know details :)

I inherited the problem to a degree. I’d be proud of myself for saving up $500….then go out and buy something that I’d put off buying while I was saving. Completely self-defeating. I did the same thing this year with a large tax refund. Granted, the new computer was a necessity, as the old one barely got online and was over 8 years old. The wii I justified by using for Rock Band and exercise (yeah, totally just wanted it). Unfortunately, I also needed a car, but I bought used and got 2.9% APR, plus put down $3800.

No, my parents weren’t savers. I’m not a saver. I’m putting more into my retirement/savings plan at work pre-deposit so I never see the money. I have an escrow account for my end of year taxes. It’s a constant struggle to see a lot of money in the back and not want to spend it.

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15 Melissa November 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm

If I have cash in my pocket, I’ll spend it. Period. I am LOUSY with cash. (So I am the OPPOSITE of what everyone says!) And for that reason, I rarely keep it on hand. Like, seriously. I took $60 out of my account last weekend to pay for entry to an event, which I ended up putting on my credit card instead, and that $60 is now pretty much gone. Where the heck did it go? I have no idea. But if I was spending only on credit cards, I probably wouldn’t have spent it.

If the extra money is in an account, I don’t have a problem leaving it alone. Recently I went on a trip, which I put on my credit card, and that particular month I got a few freelance cheques in, so when I deposited them, instead of putting them right in savings, I left them in my chequing account, so I would have money easily available for my trip, and to pay off my credit card at the end of the month. I didn’t at all find myself tempted to spend extra money just because there was more in my account than usual.

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16 Kelsey @ Zero to One Million Challenge November 10, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I don’t spend money when it’s there, per say, unless paying down loans or investing is included in spending. I hate seeing money just sitting, but at least I make a good faith attempt at doing something positive with my money rather than frittering it away (like I used to). BUT if there is something that I really really want, but don’t really need, and the cash is sitting there, it’s a lot easier for me to justify that I can and should buy it. It gets a little harder to remember why that money is sitting there in the first place.

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17 Kelsey @ Zero to One Million Challenge November 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Also, another random comment I wanted to make after reading through some of the comments (particularly Justin Wright): It’s okay to spend money, and it’s okay to make big purchases. My boyfriend (who happens to be a personal trainer and glazes over when I talk about anything financial), made a very good point that I try my hardest to live by. “We don’t think twice about the little expenses that aren’t really important to us, and then we agonize over the big purchases that we want very badly.” It’s paraphrased, but it gets across the point that if it’s something important to you, and the money is there, you SHOULD spend the money. If it’s not that important, you have to remind yourself of what your money SHOULD be used for.

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18 Christa November 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I do think this has to do with lifestyle inflation. Now that I make less money, I certainly don’t go out to eat as much or stop for a daily latte. I had the money to do those things once, and I spent it then. I don’t have it now, so I don’t spend it.

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19 MommaStar November 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Yes and no. I can hold onto cash for awhile, that’s if I can only keep myself out of places such as malls. However once I’m there the impulse side of me comes out, and knowing I have a certain amount sitting in the bank it can get ugly fast. Same goes for my sister but worse she doesn’t believe in saving any of her money she spends them faster then they can come in. As soon as she has any available cash it would be gone in an instant. The worse part it’s spent on things she didn’t even plan on getting in the first place. She just spend for the sake of spending. I have tried to slap her silly but it’s not swift kicking sense into her. As long as she doesn’t use a credit card I will stay out of her business.

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20 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager November 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I think I’m slowly spending more money as my income grows, I get older and have more financial responsibilities. All seems very slow and in control though. Just cause I have it doesn’t mean I have to spend it.

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21 Leslie November 10, 2011 at 3:12 pm

I’m like Comment 4 (Brian), when I have money in my pocket/wallet/car, I’ll spend it on small stuff… like chocolate covered pretzels from the corner store. (homemade, and yummy!) I don’t spend money in the bank just because it’s there. This is part of why we use debit and credit cards for almost everything.

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22 Foxie November 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I think this could be taken in different ways….

If I have money left in the spending account, I tend to spend it. Mostly on food, but on other things too. It will disappear somehow.

For savings, it’s really hard for me to spend it. Right now we have a few thousand saved up for a trip to Disney World and I know it’s gonna suck spending the money but the trip will be totally worth it.

When we had a fair amount of income unallocated, we managed to make it disappear on nothing in particular. So I figured buying the brand new STi we did earlier this year was a better use of the money than wasting it on nothing. Expensive? Yes. Needed? Maybe. It was the right financial decision for us. Come the snow we’ll be having a lot of fun… >:3 And instead of watching the money just disappear, we’re closer to owning a car we both love. (And I’ve since decided to sell my two projects, so maybe eventually we’ll be back down to only two cars…. Can you tell what my financial priority is? ;))

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23 Dannielle @ Odd Cents November 10, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I’ve been scrunting for a while now. I cut out a post-paid cell plan, stopped relaxing my hair and I started taking lunch to work everyday, in an effort to cut my spending. I would love to get some extra money – to put towards my MBA funds. I can’t see myself splurging on clothing or shoes, the money would have to go towards something useful.

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24 Edward Antrobus November 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm

“Or a thousand sticks of gum since I have an extra $100 sitting in my pocket”

A bigger problem is buying a stick of gum every day until you’ve spent that $100…and you don’t regularly chew gum. If the money is in the bank, I’m stingy with it. But if it’s in my pocket, then I have to battle thoughts such as “I brought lunch, but I have the money and the time, so let me just get Arby’s.” Or, “Let me go get a second cup of coffee from 7-11.”

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25 Brad Moore November 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm

I used to have a problem with that….if I had it in cash, then I would spend it. Especially when I was a college student.

Maybe cause I am an old man now. But it’s not the problem it was. I think also has something to do with having wife and 3 kids now. I think I would feel guilty knowing I just blew 3 dollars and yet I didn’t give her that same opportunity.

I have had clients tell me, however, that spending the cash makes one more frugal – rather than simply swiping!

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26 J. Money November 11, 2011 at 12:47 am

@SmartAssetTeam – I keep from spending it, personally, until I Really want to buy something :) It doesn’t matter to me whether I have the cash in my hands or not — if I want something bad, I’m gonna go out and buy it either way. But if you’re asking how “others” do it, yeah – I don’t know. That’s the part I’m confused about ;)
@bogofdebt – Awww, I think that’s a wonderful quality to have :) Though you should probably get better about being good to yourself too!
@Jen – That’s def. tricky and the problem most people see to have unfortunately. I think you’re right on track w/ getting it OUT of your account and invested/deposited somewhere where it’s harder to touch! I read a book once on this guy who opened up an account on the other side of town, set up auto xfers to it every month, didn’t register for online access, and then tried to forget about it. Since it was too far away to just “stop in” and he didn’t have easy access online, it was a PAIN to ever go get it out so he just left it and lived his life for a few years, looking at the statements every few months. Maybe you can try that? It worked for him :)
@Melissa – At least you know yourself! It’s much easier to try and fix things when you KNOW how you operate :)
@Kelsey @ Zero to One Million Challenge – Agree! I hope to always be able to purchase things that are very important to me no matter if their big or small. Being financially secure like that is a huge blessing :)
@Christa – Thanks for sharing :)
@MommaStar – Haha… That’s the part that drives me crazy! Just spending cuz you have the money to do so! Not that I’ll ever tell another person how they should be using their money, but if I’m ever asked for advice you better believe I’m gonna whip it all out ;)
@Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager – Yes, that’s def. true — you DO end up paying more as you get older, at least from high school age up to your 30′s-40′s (then maybe it levels off?). But at the same time, you should be making more too so at least that’s comforting :)
@Leslie – Makes sense! Especially if you don’t *want* to spend money on those little things you enjoy.
@Foxie – Haha yes! Your financial priority is showing me a good time in those cars whenever it is we meet up :) I SOOO need to ride in them soon!
@Dannielle @ Odd Cents – It’s all about priorities, my friend! Some people value things none of us would imagine…. but that’s okay, since it’s their money ;)
@Edward Antrobus – Yeah, or you could do the whole “take out $100 in cash every paycheck and use that just for little random stupid things” deal :) Any money I have in my pocket is allowed to be spent anyway I desire. Oooooh, that should be another post of mine! Haha… I’m making a note.
@Brad Moore -That seems to be the consensus among some :) Guess it’s all about knowing yourself and what the best way to do things is!

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27 dojo November 11, 2011 at 5:30 am

It’s VERY easy to spend money, when you have it. I’ve done mistakes too, but weird enough, in the past months, though I earn 5 times more than 2 years ago, I spend LESS. Now I buy food and what’s needed and not splurge on stupid things anymore. once you get some discipline going on, you can keep that ‘inflation’ under control ;)

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28 Edward Antrobus November 11, 2011 at 7:52 am

J. The cash in my pocket is usually for that very purpose. But for some reason, it burns a hole in my pocket and I spend it on things I don’t need, like an extra cup of coffee or lunch when I’ve brown-bagged it.

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29 Donna Freedman November 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Here’s one suggestion: Automate your savings. You can’t spend it if it ISN’T there. If you tell Ally Bank or ING Direct to siphon $500 out of your checking account each month, you learn to live on what’s left.
Since it takes a few days to get the money back out, perhaps you’ll come to your senses before buying that new Benz. Or 1,000 sticks of gum.

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30 J. Money November 13, 2011 at 11:23 pm

@dojo – Yeah girl!!! You figured out how to rock it, well done! :)
@Edward Antrobus – Well, you may not “need” it exactly, but you obviously WANT it at those times ;) Which is fine, if that’s what the money is supposed to be for.
@Donna Freedman – True, but if you save first w/out knowing how much you can save, you’ll end up going in debt. So you’ll have $500 of debt while you have $500 in savings! haha…

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31 KC @ PsychoMoney November 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm

When I have cash in my pockets I tend to spend it on stupid little things. With credit cards I don’t spend it. There is something about keeping my bill as low and not having stupid little things show up on the bill or something.

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32 J. Money November 23, 2011 at 6:17 pm

That’s great you found something that works :) That’s the real key to the whole thing.

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33 Heather Stephens November 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Hi J.

My weakness in “spending it if it’s there,” is my family. Example: we just went into a skateboard shop for my daughter’s 10th birthday present today and dropped $175 on a skateboard, helmet, pads, and shoes. Because we shopped smart and the owner of the shop was just plain cool, we saved over $50 on the total bill, but we were planning on spending only $100 to just get the board, trucks, and wheels.

What happened is that the “mom” in me wouldn’t stop thinking, “Her old pads are probably too small now, and her bike helmet doesn’t cover as much of her head as the skateboard helmets do…and oh, yeah, I’ve got a $70 affiliate check from my personal blog I’ve been using as a bookmark all week because I didn’t have time to go to the bank. And it’s cheaper than an emergency room visit, and she’ll be safer, etc.” (All totally justifiable in my husband’s mind too.)

So instead of saving that money like we were planning on (for new tires ironically), we spent it today. If it wasn’t there I don’t think we would have spent it since we’ve lived without a credit card for 2 years now as we’re working to pay things down. I guess we did better than we would have in the past, but winter’s a-comin’ and mama needs new tires.

Great discussion you’ve got going on here! Thanks for the fun read and food for thought!

Heather

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34 J. Money November 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Awwww, haha, I’m sure I’ll be the same way too once I have kids! And as promised – you’ll be one of the first to know! ;) Thanks for sharing your experience here with us – all helps to get our minds thinkin’!

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