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!
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!
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.
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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.
Now, if you have a bigger family or like to go all out then just double the weekly amounts to have $2,000 saved.
Every year the cousins exchange an inexpensive gift between each other. This year is only our 2nd year for doing it, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite traditions. The first year my gifts were okay, but not stellar. I vowed to work hard this year and come up with a better stocking stuffer. I came across a few ideas for a Christmas photo ornament on Pinterest and thought to myself that it was perfect. I schemed with my mom to find a picture of my grandparents and then I scoured everyone’s facebook pages to find pictures.
I decided to do the picture of our grandparents for all the cousins and then personal pictures for their families. As we all get older, get married and are starting to have families of our own the cousin gift exchange is getting bigger and bigger. I have 5 cousins, 3 spouses and 2 kids to think about. I wanted each one to mean something and be personal. The ornaments were super easy to make once I had the perfect pictures.
Here’s what you need for the perfect DIY Christmas photo ornament:
clay or wooden ornaments (I found clay ones at Hobby Lobby for $1.47 and they were 50% off that week so they were only .73 cents each!)
First you want to trace the ornament on top of the picture to get the right size. I would recommend tracing on the back side of the picture so you don’t accidentally get any pen marks on the image. Then cut out the picture.
Second, dip your paint brush in the mod podge and paint over the ornament. Make sure you pay attention to the edges. Then place the picture on top.
Finally, paint a second coat of mod podge on top of the picture to seal it. Let it dry overnight.
That’s it. Simple, isn’t it? I love the idea of giving something meaningful. I even made one of J and I’s recent family picture to each grandma and my parents, too.
I took a different approach this year on our Christmas card.
I went a bit more personal. Some years I send just a card with our signatures, others a letter about what we’ve been up to that year, and some years it’s just a picture of the dogs. But this year I went a different route. I combined everything I wanted in a card and created a masterpiece. It’s simple, it has color, it has details, and it even has a family picture. I mean what else could you want from a holiday card?!? Seriously!
I designed them in Canva and then put 4 per page in Word. Sent them to my local printer and had them printed on cardstock. Easy-peasy!
They were the size of postcards when done and so pretty. Now grandparents can get an updated family pictures, cousins and friends know what we’ve been up and it shows a little of our personality.
Here is the final image.
Guys, I had never been to an actual Christmas tree farm before. Never. For all that is jolly and for my love of all things Christmas, I just can’t believe I had never been to one. I always pictured Christmas Vacation when I thought about going to pick out the annual Christmas tree. Chopping it down, lugging it down a snow-covered hill and securing it to the top of the car. My dreamed-up idea was perfect, but the reality was so much better!
We went to Meerts Family Tree Farm outside St. Louis this past weekend with J’s family. The weather was perfect – no jacket required and no snow boots. We rode a tractor-pulled trailer to the spot then walked around trying to hunt down the perfect tree. I was shocked that we actually got to cut it down! We walked up to the lady giving us directions and she just handed me a saw – me? I was never going to cut down the tree, but I felt pretty important carrying around the saw. When it came time to actually cut it down, I handed the saw over to my father-in-law.
J and I decided after we buy our own home then we will have a real tree in the main room. They are just so pretty and smell so good. I’m sure by then the puppy will not want to grab every low hanging ornament. Until then, we will have the artificial tree I purchased for a killer price three years ago from Garden Ridge on clearance. It’s barely 5 foot tall and kind of resembles Charlie Brown’s tree with missing branches and holes.
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? I think we might have to add a venture to the tree farm every year.
Merry Christmas to you and your family. May you enjoy every moment that brings you joy. I am excited that this year we will be celebrate Christmas with J’s family. We came up last year, but only for a few hours. There was an impending snow storm and J had to work the day after. This year, we live closer. Instead of a three hour drive we only have a 15-minute drive. To say I am super excited is an understatement. I can’t wait to see how J’s family does Christmas. It’s going to be good!
Christmas traditions are something that I see being passed down from generation to generation. At some point the story of why or how it got started gets blurred, but it’s all the same. Because that is how we do it.
It’s no surprising that my family has changed some over the past year. I’ve gotten married, which you can see the photos here. J and I moved from the town that I had called the last 7 years home, which you can read about here. And now we have two families that we would give anything to spend time with during the holidays.
On top of all of my changes, my family has gone through some adjustments over the past few years. My cousins have gotten married, had families, moved away to college, and even my sister has moved recently. It’s getting harder and harder for all of us to be together for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
However, there are ways to keep them with me even when we aren’t all together. Our Christmas traditions have become second nature to me. Some of them I can’t imagine NOT doing during Christmas. It would just be plain weird and wrong. I mean really wrong. But I realized that I have a husband and I’m sure not all of his Christmas traditions growing up were the same as mine. And I’m sure that we will create our own traditions over the years.
But there are a few holiday traditions that I want to keep alive from my family. Here are my favorites:
1) new set of PJs on Christmas Eve so we can wear them on Christmas morning
2) watching the new and old version of Miracle on 34th Street on Thanksgiving
3) filling our stockings with knick-knacks and favorite candies
4) mystery gift for one person each Christmas Eve
5) no bake, chocolate oatmeal with coconut cookies like my Grandma makes
6) Theme nights for Christmas Eve (as you can probably tell by the photo)
This year we spent Thanksgiving with my family and plan to spend Christmas with his. So these little Christmas traditions is how I am going to keep my family close to me even though I can’t be with them.
It’s a family tradition that the weekend following Thanksgiving that Mom and Dad break out the Christmas tree. One of my favorite moments out of each year is when we get to decorate the tree, hang the ornaments and then stand back in awe of our creation. Each year we choose a new theme for the tree, and then we go out to the stores to find the perfect ribbon or garland.
This year we chose bronze. It’s not so much a theme like winter wonderland, but it’s still a theme nonetheless. We found some pretty ribbon at Hobby Lobby and added that to our tree. The best part is when we get to hang ornaments on the tree. Hearing stories, laughing and spending time together is pretty special. Plus, we have one ornament that is always put on last. It’s a clip-on porcelain dove. Mom says she bought it years ago when my Mom and Dad were first married at Dillard’s in St. Louis. We’re not sure why we started hanging this one last or why the tradition has stuck around so long. This year to ensure that I could be the one to hang it up, I noticed it in the box, grabbed it and then hid it from everyone else. It may be a little childish to hide an ornament, but at the end of the day I am the one that gets to hang it! It’s good being the awnry little sister sometimes.
Can’t wait to celebrate Christmas this year!
Life is a ride. Simple phrase that explains so much.
I graduated from college with my Masters. Celebrated Christmas with my family and J’s family. Traveled over 8 hours in a car in less than 36 hours. Rang in the New Year with J and some great friends. Started living on my own again. survived what felt like a plague that lasted way too long.
I plan on sharing my New Year’s Resolutions with you in the next few days and to blog a bit more consistently in 2013.
Here’s to hoping and trying to develop better habits, spend more time laughing and less time stressing this year.