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Rewards and Celebrations


I have some good news to share today! I am about to receive the largest paycheck of my life!!!

I have been working on a writing-related project for a loooooong time (10 months) and finally finished last week. (No, it was not a book). I wasn’t smart setting up my contract and I had agreed to not get paid at all until project completion (in my defense, I thought it would take a fraction of the total time invested). Anyway, 10 months later I’m about to receive a paycheck for several thousand dollars (more than 5, less than 10…but that’s “gross,” so I’ll need to pay taxes), which is by far and away the largest single paycheck I have ever received.

Good news: This means we are going to knock it out of the park this month in terms of our income. Last month was the most we’d ever made (in life), and this month is going to be even better! I tell you this because we’ve just “met” and I really want you to understand how NOT TYPICAL these huge pay months are for us.

But, that aside, I want to celebrate. It feels like a HUGE weight off my shoulders to have this project complete; in the past we would have done something fun – gotten a ‘sitter and gone to dinner.

But we pay babysitters $13/hour (is this normal?? I used to make $5/hr when I babysat but that was 20 years ago), plus a dinner-for-two can be in the range of $50, so we’re talking roughly $80-$100+ if we were to throw a movie into the mix, too.

What do you do to reward yourself when you’ve hit a big milestone? Ours has ALWAYS been going out to eat, but we need something new (read = cheaper!) I want to celebrate a little!


  • Reply Nsheils |

    $100 doesn’t sound so bad for that kind of accomplishment! It’s been almost 1 year in the making. If you really don’t want to go out, you could do a romantic picnic in the living room/backyard once the kids have gone to bed.

  • Reply Mysti |


    We rarely went out when the kids needed a babysitter (they are going to be 12 this summer), and even now we don’t go out for the night. Sitters are expensive!!!

    You can still go out to “eat,” but you can change your idea of what that is. For example…get super dressed up for a night on the town, and go for dessert at a fancy place. Much less expensive.

    Other ideas…..is there somewhere you have been wanting to check out, like a museum, farmer’s market, etc? Do that!

    You could be a big kid….have a balloon release! Water balloon fight!

    Just enjoy the moment.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Sitters ARE super expensive! That’s also why I kind of asked “is this normal?” I just remember getting paid 4 or 5/hour and was happy with it! I realize that was forever ago, but it also seems like $10 over the course of 20 years is a bit extreme in terms of inflation (comparing $4 then to $13 now).

      • Reply Mysti |

        We paid our sitter $10 per hr. And always had plenty of snack foods available.

  • Reply Kili |

    Well done Ashley!
    Those are some fun ideas Mysti is suggesting.
    Or maybe there are some free concerts coming up in your area? or you could do a fun family picknick…
    Maybe also have a look at the Date Night section on thedatingdivas.com, they share all sorts of inexpensive date night ideas & lots of cheesy printables.

  • Reply Walnut |

    Can you swap childcare with a friend? If not, put the kids to sleep early and then get takeout from one of your favorite restaurants. Add a bottle of wine from the grocery store and set everything up up on nice plates.

    If you want to go out and splurge on child care, do your research on restaurants. Is anyone running a groupon or another type of discount? Perhaps the restaurant of your choosing has specials on Mon/Tue/Wed or a reverse happy hour special? If you enjoy getting a couple of drinks, it’s worth your while to set your reservation for about 20 minutes before happy hour ends. Let the waitress know you’d like to order your drinks at the happy hour price and then they’ll last through your meal.

    You’re knocking this so far out of the park, Ashley. I realize it might be a special set of events that has resulted in this extra cash flow, but it’s going to pay dividends that you’re focusing on debt payoff and not a beach vacation. Look at the interest you used to pay every month on the credit cards you paid off – that’s an expense you’ll NEVER incur again. It probably pays for your night of childcare!

    • Reply Ashley |

      That’s SO TRUE in terms of the interest paying for a night of childcare! I hadn’t really added it up until last month when I was doing the debt update and realized we had paid X amount toward debt, but the total amount owed didn’t match up (because of interest accrued to the tune of about 200-300…can’t remember exact number). Its awful!!! Can’t wait to get out of debt!!!

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    Do you have a friend you can swap babysitting with? In our church, there are a few couples who will send one spouse to your home after the kids are in bed so you can go out to a movie or something (how about a people-watching walk along your city’s prettiest tourist area?) It gives you a few hours of time with your spouse and then you return the favour on another night.

    For the babysitter, it is a chance to sit in quiet (cuz the kids are in bed) and just read or watch tv. So it becomes a win-win for all involved.

    (Note this idea only works if you have a spouse. Single mom’s who probably need it more than couples, have to come up with another idea.)

    • Reply Ashley |

      This is a great idea. I do have another couple who might be interested in this. They’re actually out of town right now, but this could be something we implement upon their return! Babysitters are SOOOO expensive!!! We could more easily afford a dinner out if paying a sitter weren’t part of the budget!

  • Reply Teri |

    Congrats! You need to celebrate your accomplishment–I love the “kids in bed date night at home w/wine and takeout” idea. 13$ isn’t an unusual rate–I pay at least $10 an hour–we have 3 children. I live in IA in the capitol city–could be less expensive in other smaller cities. Also, we generally hire older high schoolers or young adults–you need to make it worth their time. I think you’re being pretty fair.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Good to know we’re not over-paying, but it also feels like a ridiculous amount! I’ve worked jobs making $10/hr or $12/hr when I was in college and I was working my BUTT OFF!!!! Not saying childcare is a walk in the park (by any means!), but it definitely doesn’t seem “on par” with some of the things I had to do to make that wage. Of course, I’m a big proponent of not skimping on childcare! What’s more important than one’s offspring? I want them to be treated right!

  • Reply Mary from SC |

    Life and acheivements are meant to be celebrated so I say that you should take this opportunity and treat yourselves – your $100.00 budget sounds very reasonable. You have accomplished a long goal and it deserves to be recognized. I know how much you want to be out of debt but I have found out over this long haul that if we don’t allow ourselves a little treat now and then, it will get to you. Congratulations and keep up the great job of digging (and blogging) away debt.

  • Reply Kiki |

    Good news on the income! Wow, I can’t believe what babysitters make today. I’ll date myself when I say I made 50 cents an hour. I did have one mom who paid me 75 cents, though. (We needed child labor protection in those days!) Needless to say, our four kids are grown, so I don’t need sitters, but when my husband and I want a cheap date, we go to Costco. Yup, we each get a slice of pizza and a frozen yogurt, bring it home and watch a movie. That’s about 7 bucks out of pocket. 🙂

    • Reply Jamie |

      Kiki, as long as we’re dating ourselves … we made 35 cents an hour, 50 cents after midnight. And that was for 3-4 kids. Yep, no child labor laws for babysitters!

      • Reply Ashley |

        Oh man, ya’ll! That’s crazy!!! I also think the cost of childcare varies in different areas. In my area on fb groups this has been discussed and 10-12/hour seems normal for 1 child (since we have 2, I bump it up to $13). But, on another blog I read for a woman who lives in Utah, she talks about still paying $4 or $5/hour. Insane!! I guess there’s an abundance of available babysitters who are happy to do it at that rate! I can’t believe the difference!

        • Reply Julene |

          We’re in Washington and my daughters babysit for families and making $5 an hour is a good rate here. There are occasional families that pay upwards to the $10 an hour but those are rare and not the norm. I think it does have to do with your location and demand too. I’m with the group that says go out and have fun. That said, I know when you are working so hard towards a goal sometimes it’s hard to spend that money and you may find yourself not spending as much simply because you know what that is “really” costing you. But definitely do something to celebrate and enjoy the time with each other.

  • Reply Susan |

    This is just fantastic! Congratulations to you!

    I think, in the grand scheme of things, that spending $150 to celebrate is probably okay. You are disciplined enough that you will not be doing this every single week.

    Or, if spending that $150 is going to cause stress, do what others have suggested and put your children to bed and have a “date night in” with a movie and maybe some decadent snacks. Champagne and strawberries? Lobster tails? Belgian chocolate?

    I am so happy for you and your debt journey!

  • Reply Alexandria |

    Congrats! Just another idea – we mostly meet up for lunch dates. It is so much cheaper and then don’t have to worry about babysitting. I would personally do a celebratory lunch. Maybe even at a really nice restaurant, since only paying for 2.

    If we spent $100 or $150 every time we received a break or a windfall, we’d be broke, and we’ve never had any debt. That just sounds crazy to me. I would really work on thinking outside the box a little bit – you will get lots of other ideas I am sure. (I guess my 2 cents on spending $100-$150 to celebrate. I think these are the kind of habits you want to break – and clearly you seem to understand that since you asked).

    • Reply Ashley |

      Wow, I LOVE this idea! I also like the child-swapping others have suggested (though that won’t work for us on the immediate term since our closest couple-friends are currently out of town), and the at-home date (though that sounds like more of a “regular” date-night, as opposed to a celebratory occasion). I think the lunch date idea might just be my favorite yet!

    • Reply Sarah |

      Yes, I agree Alexandria. Part of getting out of debt is changing our money paradigm. If in the “old days” we rewarded ourselves with a rather expensive evening out, maybe it’s time to shift our thinking about this. Could a simple outing as a family be just as meaningful?

      I recall reading many books on child nutrition, and one said that we need to educate our children about what a “treat” is. Teach them that a bowl of grapes or other fruit is just as much a treat as candy or a cookie. I see the same correlation in our monetary rewards that we think we deserve! Maybe something a bit more healthy for the budget?

      • Reply Ashley |

        I love this analogy you’ve used (re-training what a “treat” is). This is really what I was thinking, too. I appreciate that so many have seemed “ok” with spending $100 for a night out, but I am really trying to avoid this. I want to shift our mindset of how to celebrate because – lets be honest – there’s always something to celebrate, right? I want to break our “going out” habit as a form of celebration. But I do think there are definitely cheaper ways to do it, too (with lots of helpful recommendations from commenters here)

  • Reply Eviva |

    I vote w/ the others who said $100 is reasonable given the amt of effort that went into this and the total amt of money involved. If you can arrange a childcare swap that’s even better, but this is a one time thing and you need to go OUT. There will be plenty of other nights staying home and this is a very special treat; we are human and need the (yes, occasional) splurge.

    You’ll have a lot of fun, plus something to look forward to: another of these nights when you’ve reached another huge goal.

    SO well done and congrats on completing that huge project. Now go make detailed plans to have fun!

  • Reply adam |

    go to a free park and throw a frisbee or play tennis. go to a free movie in the park. go to a free live music show or go to a restaurant with free live music. Take the kids on a hike or to a nature center. look at classes through your local parks and rec department, do some gardening, have a campfire, go to a farmers market, crash a wedding, go camping for a night, have a game night, go to a zoo, explore a historic site or museum, volunteer at a food bank. pack a picnic with a bottle of wine and go have picnic in the park. go to a high school or college sporting event. check out open mic night at the local comedy club.

    all of these are way cheaper and many can involve kids.

    $100 isnt too bad for a celebration but you can do it way cheaper if that’s important to you.

  • Reply Mary |

    Congrats on a job well done. As for the celebration, I’d make a nice table at home (tablecloth, crystal glasses, flowers and good dishes. I’d order in take out and then you could still celebrate so to speak with a toast and a great meal. Setting a beautiful table makes it seem more like a celebration and less like a regular day. I do that for all holidays too regardless of whether I have company over; I have learned that you need to celebrate in life. Most of the time that means a little nicer or special meal purchased at the grocery store though, lol. As for babysitters, I pay $10 an hour for my son (22) that is totally disabled and can’t move at all and needs total care so $13 sounds rather steep but I don’t know the area. Another idea, in our area, they have a wine and concert night at the Arboretum that is pretty reasonable. You might want to check out entertainment ideas in your area.

    A few things to thinks about-since your financial goal for 2014 is to pay off credit card debt, I’d save the celebration for hitting the financial goals (the above takeout in paragraph #1 is o.k.) not for hitting a larger paycheck. Essentially, you were simply paid in a lump sump versus being paid weekly or monthly so I am not sure the paycheck qualifies as a celebration if that makes any sense but getting a large project completed does so I think the takeout at around $30 is appropriate. During your takeout dinner, you might talk about what a celebration would look like when you hit your 2014 goal of paying off your credit cards. At that time, I think it would be appropriate to hire a sitter and go to dinner.

    Dave Ramsey also had a good point about deciding in advance where you want a larger paycheck to go. At this point, I think putting it all towards your credit card goal is appropriate but it may be something to think about for the future. Stay laser focused on your 2014 goal of paying off your credit cards. It will be a great feeling on New Year’s Eve to ring in the new year with no credit card debt.

    Congrats on getting the job done. You’re doing great!

  • Reply scarr |

    Congratulations on your hard work and big payday!!! I can’t wait to see what you do with it!

  • Reply DC - Kate |

    Congrats! This is cause for a celebration, and there are a lot of great ideas out there.

    Babysitters in our area are $15-$20/hr. There aren’t many high school kids around who are interested in sitting, so people usually find someone’s nanny who would like extra hours. We are in a babysitting co-op with 24 other families. It’s been a lifesaver, I think we’ve paid a sitter twice in the past year.

    Also, don’t forget to set aside some of that check for the IRS. As tempting as it is to throw it all at debt, it’s a lousy feeling to have to scramble to pay the taxes later.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Oh man! I can’t imagine $20/hour to babysit!?!? We would NEVER go out!
      And no worries about taxes. I actually have a separate account specifically for taxes and we pay estimated taxes quarterly (though, this past year we still got hit with a small tax bill because we hadn’t estimated enough). I prefer it this way, because I’d rather keep our money and owe a little in April rather than be giving the government an interest-free loan until tax-return time!

  • Reply Joe |

    Ashley, congratulations, that is really great. I know these longer projects can really cast a long shadow and finishing it will be one less thing you need to think about work-wise! Call it a “work snowball” if you will, analogous to a debt snowball.

    In terms of celebrating, I think there are a lot of great ideas in the comments above. Maybe have your husband choose, calling back to your he said/she said post from a couple weeks ago?

    Great job!

  • Reply Emily Becher |

    Congratulations Ashley! The income bump sounds hard earned and well deserved. Its ok to treat yourself (i.e. splurge a little)!

  • Reply Hannah |

    congrats Ashley, you deserve to celebrate! I lean more toward the people who suggested ordering takeout from a favorite restaurant.
    In fact that was a great idea for me too, as we need to celebrate finishing another semester with all As!
    Love the fancy table idea, it really does make a difference.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Love this list – thanks! I really like the idea of going someplace fancy for dessert only!

  • Reply Walnut |

    One more thought on childcare – since you work in a couple university settings, do you know any responsible students? While in college, I would babysit for one of my boss’s two kids. They would order us pizza and let me do all of my laundry while at their home. That night would go home with with clean laundry, leftover pizza, and usually $10 in cash for 4-5 hours of babysitting. It was a great deal for all of us involved. Perhaps you know a student who would be interested in a situation like this?

    • Reply Ashley |

      Whoa, for real? I do have a couple awesome students whom I’ve had babysit, but I’ve never gotten off that cheap!! It’s still in the $12-$13/hr range

  • Reply ND Chic |

    I think you should wait until your friends are back in town. There isn’t anything wrong with waiting a couple weeks for a celebratory night. It gives you something to look forward to.

    Every place I’ve lived in has had something like an outdoor concert in the park or local winery. There might be a small cover but this is an inexpensive way to have a date.

    • Reply Ashley |

      We do have a variety of free events, I just need to check them out and plan something. And I think you’re right about waiting until our friends get back. Might even make it better – more anticipation!

So, what do you think ?