Category Archives: Christmas

Our Favorite Time of Year

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Christmas is my favorite time of year. Something about the cold air, the bright lights on the Christmas tree, time with our family, and watching our son’s face light up on Christmas morning.

We love being with a family, eating good food and making new memories with our little guy. Last year, Dent was still so young that he passed out half-way through opening gifts and after an hour nap we could continue (ha!).  This year, he loved it. He was showered with way too many gifts, but he loved every second of opening them. J and I stuck to our Christmas budget and was able to buy Dent a few smaller gifts just from us, which meant a lot to us. 

This year I wanted to make a conscious effort to be more present. Sometimes I get so caught up in wanting to take pictures and video so that we never forget this moment, that I don’t actually enjoy myself. So this year was different. Of course I took some pictures, but I wanted to make sure I was right there with him when he opened some of his gifts.  I even asked J to snap a few so I could be in them this year.

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As Moms we get distracted by trying to be perfect – the perfect wrapping job, the perfect gift to be given, the perfect picture, the perfect everything.  And it’s to just be the organizer of everything and let Dad be the one in the pictures and the one helping your child open each present.  

But not this year!

This year, I wanted to be right along side him. Of course I still took a few pictures and J was nice enough to take a few of me with our son. I think there is a fine balance between having the pictures to remember those important memories and then making sure you’re apart of those memories, too.

Creating New Christmas Traditions

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I remember special moments from Christmas that my family did every year. My parents were amazing at making Christmas so magical for my sister and I. 

My Mom gave us pajamas each Christmas Eve to wear opening gifts on Christmas morning. I’m pretty sure I still have a lot of those pajamas in my drawers (well at least the ones that still fit! HA!).  

I love being able to make new traditions with J and our little boy. It’s a hard balance trying to keep traditions alive from when I was a little girl and from J’s family. And yet, we want to create our own traditions that are special to us. 

Since our little guy is only 20 months old, now is the perfect time to introduce them to him.

Here are some great Christmas traditions we love:

Singing Christmas songs around the house. I was not born with any musical talent, so we usually keep our Christmas singing to the house and car where no one else can hear us. But our son loves music. He loves dancing, clapping and even jumping to it. So we like to keep music playing around the house since he loves it so much. This time of year is perfect for us to keep our Alexa turned on to some holiday stations.

Looking at Christmas lights around town. There are a few subdivisions in our town that always go above for Christmas. Plus, there is a park near J’s family that you can drive through and they decorate for Christmas with lights, different scenes and even has music playing on a local radio station. We usually pile in the car, turn on some Christmas music and drive around.

PJs on Christmas Eve. Right now, my Mom actually still gets matching Christmas pajamas for everyone in the family. We head over to my Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve and then my Mom lets us open one gift early – surprise! It’s our PJs. 

Decorating cookies together. Even at 20 months having our little boy help in the kitchen is great. He makes a lot of messes, but he loves every second of it. 

Watching Christmas movies together. Every Thanksgiving day we watch Miracle on 34th Street to kick off the Christmas season.  Afterwards we make sure to include some of our other favorites. Now that our little boy is old enough to watch TV, but gets bored watching our movies we make sure to include some animated ones for him, too.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions to do with your family?

How To Afford Christmas on a Budget

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Christmas is a magical time. I have the best memories of Christmas morning from when I was a little girl. 

Santa’s gifts were in the stockings at our house growing up. My sister and I would each have our own stocking laid out in the family room. Because of being a working Mom, my Mom just ran out of time to wrap all the gifts.  So it became a thing to have Santa’s gifts unwrapped in our stockings.  Now as I get older I realize just how much work Christmas can be. I love how my Mom found a way to take the pressure off of her and made it so memorable for us! I can pretty much guarantee our son’s stocking probably will have only unwrapped gifts from Santa.

One year my Dad dressed as Santa and ran out our front door with us chasing after him. My Mom barely caught us and told us to hurry to get our shoes on. We couldn’t move fast enough! By the time we got outside we followed Santa’s footsteps until they disappeared at the end of our sidewalk. They literally disappeared! My Mom dragged us back inside and there was my Dad drinking his coffee wondering what had happened.  Years later we figured out Dad had jumped from the end of the sidewalk into the garage, quickly shut the door, threw the Santa suit in his trunk and ran back through the backdoor.  

Those are the memories I remember as a kid – not the gifts we received, but stuff we did together.  That’s what makes Christmas magical.  I love being able to make Christmas such an amazing memory for our son.

How To Create Christmas on a Budget

Create a budget before buying any gifts.  By creating a Christmas budget you’ll be able to determine, on paper, how much you want to spend before actually spending a dime. It’s important to have a plan for your money so it doesn’t control you. Take a few minutes to determine who you need to buy, what you want to get, and how much you want to spend.

Cut out everything that is sucking your time away from family. Your kids, your family and your friends would much rather spend time with you then have another gift under the tree. So try to be more present when you’re with them and carve our special time with each other.

Gifts for spouses. J and I don’t actually exchange any gifts between the two of us. In the past we set a $15 budget for gifts, but with J being back in school we decided it would be easier to just not do any gifts. It works. If we could spend $30 on ourselves or spend the same amount on our son then we always pick our boy. Always.

Shop smart. Make sure to activate your Ebates before doing any holiday shopping. This time of year is when we earn quite a bit of reward dollars. Ebates give you cash back for doing your usual online shopping and even a bigger bonus when you signup.

Sell anything you don’t use. A great trick to help create some extra cash flow is to go through your house and get rid of any unwanted items. You can easily sell items on Facebook Swap Shops, Craigslist, and Ebay. 

Don’t be afraid of DIY Christmas gifts. There are some great DIY gift ideas you can make. You might even have everything for a great gift at your house and it won’t cost you anything.

Bake your gifts for neighbors. I love the idea of being kind to our neighbors, trash men, and mailman. However, it doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. You can having a baking day with friends where each of you bake one or two different cookie recipes then at the end of the day you split the cookies. You can go to the dollar store and buy an inexpensive serving tray to deliver them to your neighbors. 

Plan to give back. One of the biggest gifts you can give to someone is by helping them out. This time of year is a great way to help local charities and churches. When I was little, I remember my Mom having us go through our toys to donate. We learned so much from doing that and it made us feel so great. You can easily get your kids involved by donating toys or volunteering to help create care packages. Anything so they can understand the bigger picture and the true meaning of Christmas.

For more tips on how to do a frugal Christmas check out my Youtube channel where I have plenty of holiday budget help.

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

Simple DIY Christmas Gifts On A Budget

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I love a good deal. I mean, that should come as no surprise since I am a budget strategist.  During the holidays budgets can kind of take a backseat with all the stress we put on ourselves. I love the idea of a few simple DIY projects to make for people. You can find a ton of great ideas over on Pinterest that can help take some of the financial stress off you this time of year. I usually make one to two different gifts by hand for family each year. That way I can make sure to give something with meaning all while sticking within my Christmas budget.

For us, especially with J back in school this year, Christmas is more about being present with family. It’s not about the presents we give or how much we spent of our family and friends. To be honest, this year has probably been the least stressful holiday yet. We know how much we can spend on Christmas gifts and that’s it. It has made justifying what we spend (or how little we spend) a lot easier in our heads. We’re able to treat everyone equal – from his family to my family. Everyone has the same budgeted amount based on our gift guide.

Here are a few of my favorite past DIY Christmas gifts:

Personalized Oven Mitts

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Easy Sharpie Mugs

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Personalized Photo Frame

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Front Door Wreath

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Personalized Wall Art

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Christmas Photo Ornaments

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What are some other DIY Christmas gifts that you love to make for family? Leave a comment below!

The 12 Days of Christmas Cleaning Schedule

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It’s Christmas time! Which means you are probably going to be super, super busy for the next few weeks. J and I switch our holidays between our families.  One year we’re with my family for Thanksgiving and then the next year we’re with them for Christmas.  And J’s family is on the opposite schedule.  That way we aren’t having to drive back and forth for each holiday.  This year we’re with J’s family for Christmas.  So we’ll be headed out of town to celebrate with them for the long Christmas weekend.

There are lots to do between now and Christmas, like buying gifts, wrapping them, visiting with family as they come into town, friends coming over, and so on.  So your household is going to be buzzing.  You might think it’s going to be hard to keep on top of everything, but with a little planning you can make it happen.  

One of the things that always seems to fall to the side during those busy weeks is cleaning. It’s just so easy to put off sweeping and dusting when you have more pressing things to get done.  But who doesn’t want a cleaner house during the holidays? 

It’s hard having dogs, a baby and a busy schedule to keep the house under control. You try to break it up so you do a little each night, but when you don’t get home until late after a long day the last thing you want to do is scrub the toilets (am I right?). So then you’re left with cleaning the whole house, catching up on laundry and running errands during the weekend.

This year, it’s going to be different.  Let’s vow to take the stress off our weekends.  ‘Let’s spend 15 minutes or less night for the next 12 nights to have your house and your Christmas gifts ready for the big day.

Are you ready for the plan? Start the 12 Days of Christmas Cleaning tonight and then each weeknight work on the assigned tasks.  This schedule should have you finished with everything on Friday, December 22nd. Perfect.

12 days of Christmas cleaning schedule

You’ll notice each day focuses on one room in your house.  So you don’t have to feel scattered going from room-to-room.  Just stick to your assigned room, get everything done on your list and then relax the rest of the night. You’ll notice the closer you get to Christmas is when you’re start working on the rooms where guests will be in.  For us, we want to make sure we clean our kitchen and family room last since that’s where people tend to congregate while there over. You can download your 12 Days of Christmas Schedule or click the image above.

Bonus Tip: Make a reminder in your calendar so you don’t forget after the little one goes to bed.

How We Stay Motivated, Chores For Our Toddler, and Budgeting for Christmas | November Budget Q&A

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Can you believe how close we are to Christmas? I have to admit I was feeling pretty proud of myself on Black Friday because of two things: One – I stayed home all day and didn’t step foot into one store.  And two – I finished 98% of my Christmas shopping while sitting on my couch.  

The best part of my Christmas shopping is I am way under on our budget for gifts, which is awesome! That means the money we saved on gifts can be put towards debt or savings or anything else we want/need.  It’s a good feeling to have a plan and stick to it.  Now I just have to sit back and wait for the gifts to start arriving.  

Once the gifts arrive I have a few craft projects in mind to make them even more personal, which is the whole goal of Christmas (in my opinion).  Don’t get me wrong, I love giving gifts, but I love the idea of giving something one-of-a-kind that actually means something to the recipient.

In this month’s Q&A video I’m going in depth on how we stay motivated with our budget – what our number one tip is for other couples. 

I’m also talking about chores for our little guy. At 19 months there are a few things we let him help us with around the house. It takes a lot of patience, which I talk about in the video below.  

Finally, I‘m talking even more about how we are budgeting for Christmas and just how I make it all possible.  You can watch the video online or down below:

Check out September’s Budget Q&A and October’s Q&A.

For more help with your budget check out these posts:

How To Create Your Budget

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What We Use Our Credit Card Rewards On

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How Much We Spend On Gifts

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Don’t Shop Black Friday

Friends! I am going to save you so much time and hassle this shopping season.  Make sure to watch today’s video before it’s too late.  I’m sharing all the reasons I HATE shopping on Black Friday and what I do to make sure I get the same great deals without the stress.

You can watch the video online or down below:

Let’s face it the stress and competition of going to the store on Black Friday is enough to send me running in the opposite direction.  Now by utilizing our Christmas Budget I can have a plan in place that helps me stay focused and I can do everything from home.

Before you do any shopping, make sure to create your plan.  You need to know who you are buying for, what you want to get them (even it’s just an idea of what you want), and a budget on how much you want to spend.  From there then you can look over your favorite online stores to come up with a plan on what you need to buy.

I gave up in-store Black Friday shopping years ago and I’ve never looked back.  Honestly, it was the best decision I made to keep my stress levels down during this time of year. To help with how overwhelming online shopping can be, we tend to only pick 2-3 stores to shop from for everyone.  Now we’re not always perfect sticking to only two to three stores, but it makes things a lot easier to narrow your list down.  Watch the video to see which stores I prefer to do all of my Christmas shopping at.

For more helpful tips check out these posts:

Why I Love Ebates

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Holiday Budgeting Help

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How Much We Spend on Gifts

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What We Use Our Credit Card Rewards On

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How to Make Gift Bags from Wrapping Paper

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It never fails – we’re running late and should have left the house 20 minutes earlier.  Our son has decided that he doesn’t want to wear shoes, our dogs know something is up and are following me through the house, I have a gift to wrap before we leave and I can’t find a big enough bag.  

Luckily there is a trick you can do to turn wrapping paper into a gift bag that is just the right size.  Plus, it only takes a few minutes, which is perfect for me since I’m almost always running late and never seems to come easy this time of year.  

I created a quick video you can watch online or below to see just how to make gift bags from wrapping paper.

This technique comes in super handy around Christmas time. I don’t know about you, but it seems that gift bags cost so much more than a simple roll of gift paper.  So to save money, just buy a few extra rolls of paper and make a few bags to have on hand for those last minute gifts.  The gifts will be unique and impressive, but at the same time you’ll be saving money!

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5 Frugal Holiday Tips | Help You Save The Most Money This Christmas

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I’m coming at you today with my top five frugal holiday tips to save you the most money this season.  I know this time of year can be hard.  Like, really, really hard. We have our normal, every day lives to manage and now we have to make sure we buy gifts for a lot of people, host dinners and attend parties.  Not to mention if you have school-aged kids the Christmas programs you have to help with.  This time of year can be stressful.  

To help you out, I’m sharing these top frugal holiday tips so that you don’t have to stress about money.  

You can watch the 5 Frugal Holiday Tips video online or down below:

The first tip is to create a Christmas Budget.  You can read this post from earlier in the week where I shared just how we create our budget, what we track and where we get an idea of how much to spend on every person in our lives.

Your second tip to saving money is DIY. I know this one might seem a little hard, especially if your pressed for time but you can easily find a simple project that takes hardly any time and costs hardly anything.  For me, I love the idea of making something for someone I love over buying a gift.  It seems so much more personal and shows just how much I care.

Here are a few DIY ideas:

  • ornaments
  • wreath
  • oven mitts
  • framed photo

A third frugal holiday tip is to host a potluck instead of exchanging gifts.  Let’s be honest, gift buying can get overwhelming and expensive. So get together with friends or neighbors and suggest a potluck instead of a gift exchange.  Have everyone bring a dish and then just spend time together.  I’m sure having a few hours laughing over a meal would mean more than a gift that will end up collecting dust.

The fourth tips is all about shopping smart.  You can find amazing deals online by using coupon codes and promotional discounts.  Always search on Google for a coupon code before checking out to make sure you’re getting the lowest price.  Another great way to shop smart is by going to the Dollar Tree, Big Lots and other discount stores.  If you’re willing to go earlier in the holiday season you can find some great items for a fraction of the cost as other retailers.

My final tip for racking up those holiday savings is host a cookie party. Invite a few friends over and each of you bake 1-2 cookie recipes, but make sure your batches are big enough to share.  Then at the end of the day you have about 6 different recipes you can split between you to pass out as gifts. 

How To Setup Your Christmas Budget

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The holiday season is upon us.  The moment Halloween is over, it seems that Christmas is in full swing.  I need time to slow down just a little, it’s going by way too fast.  I can’t believe it’s going to be our little guy’s second Christmas this year.  In a recent Budget Q&A I shared the concept of our Christmas Budget – what we include, how it works and what all I track.  Well in that post I promised I would bring a more in-depth tutorial on how you can setup your Christmas Budget to help you tame the chaos this year.  

You can watch the video online or below:

You need to create a simple spreadsheet in either your journal, Excel or you can even use Google Sheets to create one.  You need 7 columns to get you started:

  1. Who
  2. What
  3. Budget
  4. Spent
  5. Bought
  6. Received
  7. Wrapped

Who

This one is pretty self explanatory, who do you need to buy a gift for.  Make sure to include all of your family members, friends, co-workers, any hostess gifts for dinner parties, mailman, trash pick-up guys, etc.

What

The what category always takes you a little longer to complete.  This is where you will brainstorm a gift idea for everyone on your list.

Budget

Fill in how much you plan on spending for each person.  You can use this guide to help with gift limits.  

Spent

Once you buy a gift, fill in this section.  As I said in the video if you go over by a few dollars on one person’s gift – that’s okay.  Just make up for somewhere else. For instance, if I spend $5 more for my sister’s gift than I had budgeted, then I need to spend $5 less somewhere else.  It could be on one other gift or I could save a $1 or so on several different people to make up the difference.  

Bought, Received, Wrapped

Use the last three columns as a checklist.  Now you can look at your budget at any moment to know who you need to buy for still, what gifts you’re waiting on to get in and which ones still need to be wrapped.  These three additions to your budget are a game changer. I promise! No more waiting until the last minute to get a gift for someone because you forgot.  Now you will know exactly who you have left and about how much you still need to spend.  

For more tips and budget help, check out these great posts:

How We Use Our Credit Card Rewards

how to use credit card reward points, Credit Card Reward Points, using credit card cash back, budgeting for credit cards, how to use a credit card

Our Favorite Money Saving Apps

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How To Make Money Shopping Online

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