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Family Photos


One thing we cut out of our family budget while in debt-reduction mode has been family photos. Last year for our holiday cards I used a photo I’d taken myself (see here). The last time we had professional photos taken (2 years ago), we’d used a groupon and went to the JC Penny Portrait Studio. But it was kind of a rip-off. The photos were just so-so, we felt rushed (had 15 minutes total), only a couple different poses, and then we were nickel and dimed for everything. I think we got to pick 2 prints and if we wanted more we had to pay extra. Plus the images we received were actual prints. If we wanted digital copies (for printing holiday cards), it cost extra. In all (portrait fee + prints + digital images) we paid $75 (I actually looked up our spending so this is a true figure). Apparently the price has gone up, because according to their website, a similar package (portraits + prints + digital images) will now run you $100-$150 depending on whether you use a coupon (See here).

Do we need new family photos?

No. Absolutely not. Professional photos are a want, not a need.

But toward the end of October (which happened to be a fantastic month financially for us; see budget update here), one of my good friends mentioned how her family was getting family photos, blah blah blah. Next thing you know, I was calling to schedule photos the same day/location, just an hour before my friend.


I am IN LOVE with the photos! The photographer did an amazing job, particularly since we had two sniffly/cold-striken toddlers (who, as I’m sure you can image, are not easy to work with).

But you know what I love just as much as the photos? The price.



We paid $150 for the photographer’s time, some prints (1 8×10, 2 5×7, 1 sheet of wallets), and access to ALL the digital images (over 100 images in total). Plus, we lucked out because my friend (who had referred us to the photographer) was late to her session. The package was only for 30 minutes of time, but when my friend was running late, the photographer just kept snapping away, in no hurry to be done with us. We ended up getting photographed for over an hour of her time!



And, I mean, LOOK at these!!! ((heart swoon))



Of course, as fate would have it, November is not shaping up to be nearly as lucrative financially as October was. So….dang.

Would I take back these photos?

Ehhhh, probably not. We’re a matter of months away from being consumer debt free. My heart longed for some real, professional quality family photos. And I’m blown away by these! I think a bi-annual family photography session seems pretty reasonable. Particularly in light of the fact that I don’t have any other great options for family photos (in the past people have suggested having a friend take our photo, but I’m not friends with any hobby photographers and my one friend that had a really nice quality camera moved away this summer).

So….yeah. I don’t mean for this to be somehow rubbing our fancy-pants photos in peoples’ faces. We’ve gone a long time without quality photos so this is certainly an exception rather than the norm for our family.

But I also didn’t want to lie or pretend like this never happened. I wasn’t sure how to categorize the spending of these photos (entertainment? Christmas spending?). I ended up using funds from our Christmas account since one of the primary purposes of the photos is to send out holiday cards. So you’ll see this in our November budget. Luckily, because we have a mini Capital One 360 savings account for Christmas-related spending, this expenditure shouldn’t have a big negative impact on our November budget.

Also, by reader request, here are a couple (very UNprofessional) photos of the girls in their $14 Costco Halloween costumes.


At a neighbor’s house. They had set up a Halloween-themed backdrop for photos!



Getting 2 toddlers to look at the camera at the same time = impossible. I have no idea how the professional photographer managed to do it!

Professional photos by E-Motions. Crappy iPhone camera photos by me. ; )

Happy Monday, y’all!

**Edited to add:

I mentioned getting family photos to my sister, who complained that she wanted new photos but couldn’t afford the cost. Her go-to photographer is $300/30-minute session (double the price of mine) and she said they’d easily spend another $200 on getting hair cut/colored and new clothes for the photos. At a whopping $500 cost, she couldn’t justify the expense in their family budget. 

But I totally disagree….it CAN be done, and for much cheaper than $500!

Our photographer was a steal. Hubs and I both wore clothes we already owned. I cut and colored my own hair, so no cost on any of that. The girls were wearing new tights and coats (I’d bought in October and mentioned in our budget post), but that’s because they needed new coats and tights (not specifically purchased for this photo). Everything else (boots, shoes, fluffy red skirts, shirts, etc.) were things they already owned. So, use what you have, go a cheaper route for hair care/maintenance, and shop around for a reasonably-priced photographer you like. If its important to you, it can be done on a budget. I promise!!!


  • Reply Kim |

    I love these pictures. When I was pregnant, my mom told me that the one thing she regretted was not having enough money to buy professional photos of us. To this day, she grieves over pictures she had taken off me when they were offering a few free. I say invest in your family!!

  • Reply Sarah |

    You will NEVER regret these photos!! I still swoon over the couple I had done of my children (they are all adults now) and if I could go back, would have done more. I surely don’t regret not doing more JC Penney ones in front of the fake backdrop. Yours are so wonderful and natural. And PRICELESS!!

  • Reply Chris |

    You budget so you can have money to spend on what is important which in your case is family. You will treasure these and I would encourage you to budget for it once a year – the days are long but the years are short. If you don’t have the money when the time comes around you can decide not to do it but I would think it is worth being just a bit later in debt payoff.

    Super cute!

  • Reply Joe |

    Beautiful photos! I’m similarly minded re: having nice family photos. But at $150/pop (a good deal to be sure), it’s dangerously easy for me justify my embarrassingly nice SLR and lenses setup. In fact, I’m getting an itch to go look over at B&H Photo & Video right now…

  • Reply Chantal |

    Have you ever considered starting an independent blog? This is such a moribund site although it used to be a good one. As for Hope –too much fiction here; she is dishonest and implausible . The other occasional contributors are not worth reading either.

    I know you can’t reply here; just putting the idea in your head.

    • Reply Hope |

      Wow, not sure how celebrating Ashley’s beautiful family pictures should result bashing me. I’m also not sure what is dishonest or implausible about me. But I do think if you want to address issues with me, you should do it on my posts rather than bringing negativity to Ashley’s — just my two cents.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Ouch! I echo Hope’s sentiment. The side-bash was not necessary. And, for what its worth, I’m friends with Hope on Facebook and can vouch for her 100% honesty and transparency in all of her blog posts.
      That issue aside, I’ve had other commenters suggest I start a blog before, too. Unfortunately, I really have no interest in it. They don’t pay well and require a lot of time and maintenance (and money for server fees, etc. etc. etc.). I like the format here because I benefit from lots of readers who provide me with valuable feedback and advice (in an independent blog you start from scratch). Plus, it allows me the flexibility to still work a full time + part time job, have a family, etc. With an independent blog much more time would need to go into the blog to keep readership up, etc. etc. Basically, a lot more goes into it than you might think and I really have no interest in doing so because the financial pay-out would not warrant the work it would take to make it feasible.

    • Reply Kili |

      Beautiful pictures, Ashley.
      Such a nice way of making and keeping memories.
      And that price really is a steal.none of the professional photographers I know would offer all this for a rate like that.
      And also thanks that you don’t intend on bailing on BAD.

      I really enjoy the diversity of the contributions.and while in most aspects I have more in common with Ashley and Matt, I absolutely root for Hope and am amazed by her strength and her passion for the things that are important to her. Hope, I am definitely glad you let the readers participate & share your story!

      • Reply Hope |

        Thank you, Kili! I appreciate the opportunity to blog here more than you can imagine. Even in the darkest hour, there are words here from stranger that encourage me to keep moving forward.

  • Reply Dimity |

    My sister has twins and got profession pics done when they were little. One would always smile while the other would not. It’s a never ending battle… 🙂

  • Reply Mary |

    Love the professional photos! They turned out great! Also, I know you mentioned that you color your own hair and I want to say that your hair looks great as well.

  • Reply Den |

    Chantal – totally uncalled for comment about Hope! Shame on you!

    Ashley – LOVE the photos! You won’t regret them ever – please keep getting them yearly – kids change so quickly.

    Hope – don’t let the haters win. You are an amazing person and I’m cheering for you! I enjoy your posts and look forward to hearing how you meet life’s challenges with such a positive attitude!

So, what do you think ?