Category Archives: Christmas

Stocking Stuffers That Won’t Break the Bank

Stocking Stuffers that won't break the bank

It’s that time of year again. It seems to come so fast and without warning. I mean, you think Thanksgiving would be a fair warning, but it never is. Last year I did so good shopping for Christmas presents for our family and friends on a budget. I decided this year to do it again. I’m going to stick to last year’s plan, which you can read about here. I was really able to come in golden on our holiday spending. All it took was a little planning and a little Black Friday shopping.

This year with it being the baby’s first Christmas and all, we’re going to break out the stockings. Nothing too crazy because the baby isn’t even a year old yet. I’m not that mom… yet!

Every other year we switch holidays with my family and J’s family. This year is time for Christmas with my family. My Mom always goes above and beyond on stocking stuffers every year. Most of the time the items are too big to fit in the actual stocking, so we each just get a spot on the couch and out stocking is laid on top of everything.

When it’s our turn to be with my family I usually like to help my Dad out by getting stocking stuffers for my Mom. Let’s be honest, he’s not the best at what to get her and never knows if he has enough or too little. So my sister and I usually tag team it and take care of it for him.

This year, I wanted to get some awesome stocking stuffers that won’t the bank. So I’m doing what I do best… coming up with a plan!

The best plan is to be thinking ahead all year long. Whenever you’re out and spot something for a good deal (like a really, really good deal) then go ahead and buy it. But for me that’s hard. If I buy too early then I have to find a place to store the items and actually remember where they are before Christmas. That doesn’t happen too well in my house.

So I like to hit up a few key stores to get some good deals on stocking stuffers.

Dollar Stores

You can get some really great pieces for only $1. You can be creative and think outside the box at these type of stores.

For little ones look for toys and games – chalk, bubbles, little figurines. Let’s face it kids are rough on toys and there are probably some really great items under the tree so stocking stuffers don’t have to be anything too expensive.

For adults you can find some items that are sure to catch your eye. For women I usually go to the nail care aisle. I can grab some nail files and little mani/pedi kit. They also have some cute coffee mugs that make great stuffers. For the men in your life most dollar stores sell car cleaning pieces. They aren’t the highest quality, but the rags and sponges work just fine.

Big Lots

In our small(ish) town Big Lots is the place. You can find just about anything at Big Lots. I like to grab favorite candy and throw that in the stockings. Sometimes you can get lucky and find name brand items that are really discounted. So again, be creative and you can find some great stuffers.

Target $1 Bins

This is another favorite. Those bins are magical! You never know what they are going to have and some of those pieces are really neat. You can find great stuffers for any age.

I’m a huge fan of notepads. I know my Mom likes them to make lists on them and most people can always find a need for a notepad and pen set. You can sometimes find some great kitchen utensils too that are colorful. Those make great stocking stuffers!

Amazon Add-Ons

I use Amazon a lot for our dogs. Yes, I buy stocking stuffers for our dogs because I’m that lady. I’m okay with it too! I like to shop on Amazon for some of our household items. Amazon has really inexpensive add-on items. I like to go through their dog toy sections to find some good quality, inexpensive toys.

I also use the Amazon add-on feature for smaller gifts for friends, co-workers and even my family’s pets.

Christmas Clearance

If you are someone that can buy in advance and then not lose your stocking stuffers, I would recommend stocking up during Christmas Clearance. You can find some great deals at some really great prices. You just have to remember where you store everything before next Christmas!

You can find some great quality pieces at Wal-Mart, Target and even department stores like DIllard’s and Macy’s. You just have to keep your eyes peeled.

Words of Advice: Just because something is inexpensive doesn’t mean it would make a great stocking stuffer. Really think about whether or not you want to gift the item. I like to think about each person I’m buying for – what they like, their hobbies, etc and then try to find stocking stuffers that fit them. I’m also a stickler for quality. Just because something is only $1 doesn’t mean it’s worth $1.

Handmade Items

If you’re feeling crafty then you could always make stocking stuffers.  I did a small gift exchange with my cousins a few years back where each gift had to be under $3.  So I crafted a DIY ornament.  They turned out great.

So what are your go-to stocking stuffers that won’t break the bank?

DIY Wreath {The Perfect Christmas Present}

DIY Wreath, DIY Christmas present, how to make a wreath

Last year I DIY’d this cute wreath for my sister.  I wanted to share about how I made it and was able to stay within our Christmas budget, but I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.  So I tucked this away to share this Christmas.  This gift is seriously the cutest and easiest to put together.  You can really customize it to fit the personality of who is receiving it.  My sister lives in this cute house in this sweet neighborhood.  You know the type of neighborhood where everyone waves to each other, you can easily borrow your neighbors leaf blower and you attend each others’ birthday parties.  I wanted to make her the perfect wreath that would fit her and her house.  

I headed to my local Hobby Lobby to pick everything up.  I started with just a basic wreath, it was brown and pretty boring.  Then I picked up the greenery to add some color.   

Here’s what you need for the easiest DIY wreath:

wreath base
greenery
floral wire
hot glue gun
wooden letter
spray paint
ribbon (optional)
flowers (optional)

Pretty much every piece of this wreath is optional.  You can really mix it up.  

DIY wreath

The first thing you want to do is lay the greenery over the wreath.  Then once it’s in the perfect position you can grab your wire to attach it to the wreath.  Just wrap it through the brown pieces to secure it.  I also used my hot glue gun to fill any missing spaces and to ensure the greenery would cover what I wanted to cover.  

DIY green wreath  

I wasn’t the best at taking pictures last year since I was trying to get like 5 other DIY projects done that day.  But I had a wooden B for her last name.  I took it outside and spray painted it with a color I had on hand.  It was a glossy maroon color.  Super pretty.  It took about 3 coats to get it to my liking.  Then after it was dried I glued it to the wreath.  At this point you can add more colors with any flowers or a nice big ribbon.  I used the ribbon to make it easier to hang on the door.  

DIY twig and greenery wreath

I was able to use a 40% off one item coupon so it made the whole project very affordable.  The wreath was on sale for 50% off and so was the wooden letter. The only item that was full price was the greenery.  So I purchased one using a 40% off coupon then returned later in the week to get the second piece of greenery using another 40% off coupon.  I already had the ribbon, spray paint and hot glue so that was pretty handy.  I really think this wreath made a statement and it was great to give something handcrafted to my sister.  

A DIY wreath doesn’t have to be that difficult! 

 

I’m Back

im-back

Whew! How did you like my disappearing act? I had not intent to just fall off, but life happens. We have been so busy between our son, work, traveling to see family and trying to get things done around the house. This little blog of mine has taken the back seat.

But I’m happy to say I’m back. I’ve got a few posts in the works and am going to try harder to stay on top of everything.

denton-playing

Let’s be honest though when it’s 10 at night and I’m exhausted from being up since 4am with our little guy and he just laid down for the night… I’m going to bed. That’s just how it’s going to be.

I think every Mom (or most Moms) would feel the same way. It’s hard to accomplish everything. It’s hard to always be ‘on’. I had to take something off my plate and this blog was it.

Now that life has calmed down a bit, or at least for now, I’m ready to jump back in. So thank you for sticking around and not giving up on me!
christmas-tree

We decorated for Christmas the other day.  I decided to take a less is more thought process this year.  We put up our tree then J decorated outside, but kept it minimal.  No stockings (mainly because I need to order our personalized ones), no other decorations around the house.  Just one tree and a little boy who loves crashing his walker into it.  

Tips for Hosting Family This Holiday Season

tips for hosting family during the holidays

I sent these tips on hosting family to my VIP list a few weeks ago, but I thought they were just too good not to share with everyone. So if you’re on my VIP list then you are lucky because you received these way ahead of any holiday gathering prep.

The Holidays are almost here.  The hustle and bustle of holiday dinners and get-togethers is upon us.  With a little bit of planning you can have a stress-free dinner party that is filled with making memories.

J and I split our time between his family and my family during the holiday season. One year we spend with my family on Thanksgiving and then his family during Christmas. Then we switch the next year. That way we aren’t driving all over trying to make both families’ dinners. We did that one year and we ended up leaving at 1am to make it back home before the snow hit. It was miserable!

Now we get to spend uninterrupted time with each of our families. We aren’t rushed and it makes time together so much better.

Holidays can be a time for stress, but with a little prep you can really stop any anxiety to enjoy the time when hosting family and friends. As we approach Thanksgiving dinner and the Christmas Holiday there are a few things you can do to ease the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Prepare some space

More than likely it will be chilly. People will be wearing coats and winter scarves, so by having a designated coat area in a back room or a hall closet can help decrease clutter. I don’t know about you, but when my main living room is full of stuff it makes me stress out a little. I instantly feel like my whole house is a pit and I can’t focus until it’s cleaned. So by having a space specifically for coats, then you can keep them nice and neat, and out of eye sight.

Childproof Your Home

Even if you don’t have little ones, you should take a few minutes to childproof your home.  Take a look around and figure out what needs to be changed or picked up to make it a little more kid-friendly.  I recommend picking up an knick-knacks you don’t want to be played with. Also, make sure cabinets are closed and outlets are covered. A few simple steps can really help your guest feel comfortable and ensure little hands aren’t getting into something they shouldn’t.

Smell is Everything

Give off a warm environment by using scented candles or room sprays. I like to make sure I have a scented candle burning in the bathroom as well as the family room. Typically, I pick the same candle so there aren’t conflicting scents through out the whole house. If you’re preparing dinner then I like to put any candles away from the kitchen so I’m not mixing too many smells. A smell overload can make the whole house a bit unappetizing.

Easy Finger Foods

Having a few easy finger foods on hand will help guests feel more at home. Sure you can prepare mini quiches or wraps, but I like to have a few that don’t need any cook time. That way if any of your guests have small children they can be appeased by a few chips or crackers and cheese until dinner is ready. My favorite go to is a veggie and fruit tray. That way you can snack on a few things without ruining dinner.

Keep it Simple

Remember the most important detail is spending time together. Try not to overwhelm yourself with these grand ideas of what Thanksgiving dinner should be like. Sure you see these amazing tables and dinners on TV, but that’s TV. Keep dinner easy to prepare, ask for help, and try not to over plan too much. Just remember everything will be okay and you need to enjoy your time as well.

Join the VIP list!



 


Quick Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress

tips to avoid holiday stress

It’s hard to imagine how it’s already the middle of October.  I feel like it was just yesterday I was putting away my jackets and pulling out my shorts for summer weather.  Now here I am pulling them back out.

Funny story about yours truly.  I had misplaced my house key months ago.  I had tore apart my house, looked through purses, cleaned out drawers, even searched my in-laws home thinking I had left it during a visit.  I seriously could not find it anywhere.  Which wasn’t a huge deal because our house has an electronic keypad through our garage so I didn’t really need it.  But it was driving me crazy because I never lose anything.  Sure, I may misplace something for a short time, but I never actually lose anything.

Fast forward to last weekend and it was a bit chilly in the morning.  I pulled out my jacket and tossed it on.  About an hour later I reached my hand in the pocket and you know what I found? Yep! My house key!  I couldn’t believe it.  After months of searching I had found it.  It never occurred to me to look in my jacket pocket.

I placed my jacket up about the time our little guy was born so I guess between the commotion of having a newborn I forgot.  I hate to lose things and feeling stressed about things, that’s why I am such a planner.  

I love saving time, which also means saving money.  Because if you can plan way ahead then you’re sure to find good deals and save up the money you need.

It might seem pretty early to start thinking about the holidays, the reality is that most of us are too busy and it will be here before we know it.

Now, I’m not the local hobby store and I’m not recommending pulling out those decorations just yet.  But I have created a few quick tips on how to avoid holiday stress.  If you do these now then it will really save you later on when the holiday season is in full swing.  These tips will only take an hour or two at most and it will be well worth it!

Prioritize Your Yes

Sit down with your spouse and get on the same page about holidays.  If you plan now and know what’s important to you and your family then you will avoid holiday burnout.  Now is the time to know what Thanksgiving or Christmas will look like, who’s house are you going to be at, etc.  That way when invitations start rolling in then you and your spouse will know if it’s a “yes” or a “sorry we can’t.”

Establish Your Budget

Sit down and write out every event, gift, and upcoming expense you’re going to have that is out of the ordinary.  I create a spreadsheet in Google Sheets to help narrow down who, what, and how much.  That way I can keep an eye out for sales.  Plus, having a budget really helps keep you accountable.  You can check out my process on how I do Christmas on budget.

Make Your Gift List

This goes with the budget section up above.  By creating your gift list now then you can have more time to buy what you need.  I created my list last week and it has been a life saver.  J and I sat down decided a good idea of what we wanted to get everyone then I created my budget from my list.  

Plan Your Holiday Menu

I’m not saying it’s time to make the pie or Christmas cookies, yet.  Most grocery stores will advertise items at ridiculously low prices to get you to come in. So if you have an idea of what you need to get for November and December then you can add it to your normal grocery shopping.  By breaking down your holiday grocery shopping way in advance then you’ll be able to save money and not have a huge bill later down the road.

What do you think?  What else would you add to avoid holiday stress?  

How to do Christmas on a Budget

Christmas on a budget

Christmas always comes quick around here.  I’m always caught off guard and end up running around like a crazy lady trying to get everything done.  Plus, with a baby on the way I really wanted to be conscious of just how much we were spending.  Money can get tight from time-to-time, like I’m sure most families can be.  I wanted this year to be memorable with some surprises, but I didn’t want it to break the bank.  

So I planned ahead.  A few weeks before Thanksgiving I came up with a list of what to get everyone in my family and J’s family, plus I added in my work gifts that we exchange.  Then I decided on a budget per gift, which was really helpful when it came to sticking to it.  Last year and in years past, I just decided on an overall budget for everyone.  But that never seemed to work.  I always ended up going over.  So this year, I went about it a little different.  Each person had their own budget.  If I went over on one then I had to cut from someone else.  It’s rough and cold, but it had to be done.  

I was really frugal with everyone’s budget.  I tried hard to think of gifts that were reasonable and that people would really love.  Then I did a bit of research before assigning their budget.  That way I was educated when it came to creating my overall savings goal.

Then I shopped smart.  I used ebates.com*, which I talked about the other day (check out how I make money shopping).

I enlisted my saved total from my Walmart Savings Catcher, I shopped Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, used free shipping coupon codes and found gift packages that I could use for multiple gifts.

Once I purchased a gift, I immediately updated my spreadsheet.  I kept my Christmas List handy by using Google Sheets, which I love.  I could pull it up anywhere, no matter what device I was using.  I would add what I purchased, highlight the person showing they were done and then entered in the actual amount I spent.  

I went over on my father-in-law’s gift, but luckily my cousin gift exchange present wasn’t as much as I was planning.  So in the end it evened out and no one had to suffer.  But without using a budget-per-person I wouldn’t have been able to see it.  I would have kept spending money like it was coming from a tree and by Christmas-time we would have been hurting.

Also, by using my $70 from my Savings Catcher I was able to cut down a huge portion of our Christmas budget, which really helped us!  We ended up coming in $100 under budget this year!  I was pretty impressed with it.

Here are my top tips for doing Christmas on a budget:

  1. Make a list of everyone you have to shop for – include family, friends, and co-workers.
  2. Give each person their own budget and me strict with the budget you give.
  3. Shop deals like Black Friday and Cyber Monday
  4. Search for Coupon Codes before shopping.  I use Coupon Sherpa on my phone when I’m in store and just Google any other place while shopping online.
  5. Don’t use credit cards to purchase any gifts – use cash!
  6. Take advantage of money saving apps and websites – ebates.com* is my favorite and the Walmart Savings Catcher app.
  7. Create inexpensive gift baskets that really mean a lot.  You can find items for a gift basket that don’t cost too much, but can be really personalized.  The DIY Mommy has some really great gift basket ideas that are super easy and really impressive!
  8. Don’t be afraid to make something.  I did this last year with homemade Christmas ornaments and they went over great.  Check out my tutorial here.  

DIY Christmas photo ornament how to

*referral links.

My Christmas Wish List

I’ve been dreaming of Christmas for awhile now.  Nothing beats waking up on Christmas morning in my new Christmas pajamas and seeing what Santa brought.  Now that I’m older, it’s not so much what I am receiving, but so much more about our little cousins and our nephews.  I love spending time with our family and getting to share the day with everyone.  

J and I alternate between his family and mine each year.  This year we’re spending it with his family, which will be great.  His nephews are at the perfect age and are a blast to be around.  Not to leave my family out, we spent last weekend together at my Grandma’s.  Most of my cousins came into town, we had a huge feast and opened a few presents.  It was a blast.

Now it’s time to get thinking on what J could have possibly gotten me for Christmas this year.  I do know at least one thing I am for sure getting of my Christmas wish list.  That’s a robe.  I’ve been wanting a new one so I finally ordered it and told him he could wrap it for me! HA! Sometimes you just have to do it.

I wanted to share what’s top on my Christmas wish list.  Now some of these are in my wildest dreams and I’m okay with that, but a girl can dream! My Christmas Wish List

1. area rug  2. robe  3. massage  4. watch  5. purse/diaper bag  6. candle  7. new blog design  8. desk set  9. cardigan  10. Maskcara palette

What’s really on the top of my Christmas wish list is just spending time with my family.  Getting to spoil my new cousin, seeing the rest of my cousins and their little ones and laughing until it hurts.  We might even throw in a game or two. Merry Christmas!

Why We Didn’t Decorate for Christmas

Why We Didn't Decorate for Christmas

I’m a huge Christmas fan – HUGE! But I wasn’t in the festive spirit this year.  I don’t know what it was, but I just couldn’t get into the swing of things this year.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been so sick with this pregnancy that I’ve had zero energy.  Maybe it’s because I realized that from now on we’re going to be going all out for Christmas for the little one and the thought of doing it this year just didn’t seem as important.

No matter the reason, J and I agreed together to not decorate for Christmas.  And you know what?  I’m 100% okay with it.  

I’m the girl that would decorate my apartment when I lived by myself.  I know I’m the only one that enjoyed those decorations, but I would still go out all – a tree, wreaths, stockings (for me and the pup), and lights.  This year the only Christmas task I’ve accomplished is hanging my Christmas wreath outside, but I didn’t even get that done until mid-December.  So bad!

To be fair, I’ve been putting in extra time at work, studying and trying to stay focused on spending time with my family.  Plus, having to put a lot of energy into getting ready for a baby has been a lot.  This year we’re spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with his family out of town.  So that was another reason to not drag out the boxes.

One thing I know for sure is we’ve saved money this year by not decorating.  We always find some light, decoration or blow-up figurine that we just HAVE TO HAVE.  So this year, by not decorating, we weren’t tempted.

J and I know this time next year our house will be fully lit up every day in December.  We’ll have our brand new tree (that was bought on sale after Christmas last year) up and decorated.  We will even have our stockings hanging.  We want the baby’s first Christmas to be great, even if he won’t remember it!  We watched the Christmas Light Fight on TV the other night and J is already dreaming up designs for our front yard.  So we might be making up for the time and money we saved this year by doing double next year!

 

Christmas Wish List for Him – Under $25

We all need a little inspiration this time of year to find the perfect gift for the hardest guys in our lives.  I am so lucky because I have two really difficult men to shop for – J and my Dad.  

J is horrible at giving hints and Dad always just buys whatever he wants/needs.  So, this year I came up with a little Christmas wish list to help me stick my budget and surprise them.  The biggest priority to me (besides getting everyone something nice) was not wasting money.  So I have scoured sale racks online to find some of the best deals.  Each of these gifts are under $25 a piece while on sale!  

Men's Christmas Wish List

1. slippers  2. button down shirt  3. picture frame  4. pocket knife  5. holiday socks

J, if you’re reading this post then don’t think I don’t have a few surprises for you this year.  

 

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive income if you make a purchase using this link.

25 Week Christmas Savings Plan

25 week Christmas savings plan

 

Did you know Christmas is less than 8 months away?!

I know, I know.  It’s crazy to start thinking about Christmas already.  I mean, how early are stores putting out their decorations now?  It may almost be June, but I’m sure we’re going to start seeing decorations soon! HA!

I’m a planner.  I think everyone should be planners because it would just help everything run more efficiently.  Okay, I’m not that much of a control freak that I think everyone should be just like me.  BUT I do think we should plan ahead somewhat.

Every year Christmas sneaks up on me and I’m never ready.  I never know what to get at least one person in my family until the week before (if not a few days before).  I also never seem to have enough money to go around.  I’m frugal by nature.  I like using my cash envelope system so I don’t overspend and I love coupons so I can get more bang for my buck.  Also, make sure you’re using money saving apps to get rewards points and money back for your purchases.  With that being said, I figured this year I would get off on the right foot.  Yes, that foot is months early, but it’s never too early to be prepared.

I created a 25 week Christmas savings plan to help keep us on track for the holidays.  It’s pretty easy to follow.  Starting Monday until the week of Thanksgiving we’re going to put aside $40.  That $40 will add up to $1,000.  Just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales!  I like to do most of my shopping online on Cyber Monday.  Now I will have money saved up and all I have to do is decide what color sweater to get my Mom.

TIP: Print this FREE Christmas savings plan out to check off each week you save.  I plan on keeping this bad boy next to me at my desk so I can check off each week I transfer $40 into my savings.  I included an image for you to do the same with.  Just open it up, print it off and check off when you’re done.  

25 week Christmas savings plan

Simple!

Now, if you have a bigger family or like to go all out then just double the weekly amounts to have $2,000 saved.