No Longer Delaying Gratification: $164,000 Worth of Remodeling and Repairs!

Each month my husband dutifully records each and every financial transaction in GnuCash. He reconciles the checkbook and then documents the credits and debits associated with our four credit cards.

Every so often I run income and expense reports to provide a snapshot of where our money is going. I usually do this on a monthly or yearly basis, but yesterday I decided to run an expense report detailing costs for repairs and maintenance over the past fourteen years.

The total stands at a whopping $164,000!
Expense Report

After many years of focusing solely on long term plans for early retirement and purchasing a vacation home, my husband and I began hiring contractors to fix up our primary home. We started by replacing the windows, painting the house, installing a generator and remodeling our bathrooms.

This year we agreed to remodel our basement, which started out with a modest $20,000 estimate but will most likely cost $35,000 to $40,000 when all is said and done.

I must admit that I have changed my tune quite a bit from the early days of home ownership. There was a time when I was willing to live with windows that didn’t open, paint that was cracking and 1950s bathrooms.

My change of heart is a direct reflection of the change in our financial situation. As our retirement accounts continue to grow and the mortgages on our two homes shrink I no longer wish to delay gratification.

I no longer want to avoid the eye-sore we call a basement or force myself to use air conditioning because the screens in my windows can’t hold back the bugs.

While it is painful to part with such large sums of money it feels good to look around my home and see how much more comfortable, cozier and cleaner and it now feels.

For the record not all of the money was spent on upgrading our home. A good chunk of the cost involves big ticket items like replacing air conditioners and other household appliances. Certain things needed to be done whether we liked doling out the money to do them or not.

I also believe there is a good deal of bleed over of expenses from our beach house. I have a feeling a number of expenses were incorrectly categorized. In North Carolina a lot of the contractors require cash payments and those ATM withdrawals most likely showed up in the books from our primary house rather than our rental home.

Still $164,000 is a whole lot more than I would have guessed we spent over the last fourteen years. I would’ve ball parked that number about half that amount!

January 22, 2015 at 5:08 PM 2 comments

5 Easy Budget Tips for 2015

How are those 2015 New Year’s resolutions coming? If getting a better handle on your budget was one of your resolutions, don’t despair if you haven’t made a lot of headway. The year is young. By the time 2016 rolls around, your budget may end up in better shape if you concentrate on small, easy wins that add up over the course of the year. Here are some ideas to help you get started.

  1. Check your tax withholding. Are you expecting a big tax refund from 2014? It’s common to think of large tax refund as a good thing – but hold it right there. If you’re getting a lot of money back, it probably means you’re having too much withheld from your paycheck. That’s like giving the government an interest-free loan when you could be using that money as you earn it to improve your financial situation. If you usually get a large refund at tax time, consider getting in touch with your employer’s payroll department to fill out a new W-4 form. On the Internal Revenue website, you can find guidance on how to adjust your withholding so it will line up more closely with your yearly tax obligation. Reducing your withholding may mean you won’t get a big refund next year, but you’ll be able to put those extra take-home dollars toward something that will help you now – like paying down high interest debt, building an emergency fund, or contributing to your employer’s 401(k).                                             
  1. Change what you drink. There’s a good reason why soft drink companies, restaurants, and coffee shops want you to buy their drinks. Drinks are a high-profit business! By switching to a lower-cost option, you can turn the monetary odds in your favor. Make your coffee at home, pour it into a travel mug, and tote it to work. Instead of buying a vending machine drink, buy it at the grocery store on sale and carry it with you. Better still, switch to drinking tap water all the time. Despite what bottled water makers would like you to believe, 40 percent of bottled water comes from tap water anyway. Plus, local authorities responsible for the water that comes into U.S. homes are held to strict purification standards. If you’re not keen on the way your tap water tastes, invest in an inexpensive filter for your tap or squeeze a wedge of lemon or lime into your glass. Depending on what your current habits are, the savings can be substantial – and water is good for you! If you spend just $3 per day on coffee and soft drinks, you’ll save more than $1,000 over a year’s time.
  1. Comparison shop your credit card. What’s the rate on your credit card? If you haven’t thought about it lately, shopping around can save you some money. Websites like CreditKarma.com and Nerdwallet.com are a great place to start looking at how your card measures up to other credit cards. If you decide to switch, you may be able to get a temporary 0% rate on any balances you transfer. If you really don’t want to switch, try calling your credit card company and asking if they will reduce your rate.
  1. Give store brands a try. If you’re in the habit of buying certain brands, step out of your comfort zone for a bit and try store brands or generics. Chances are you’ll like some store brands enough to make a permanent switch – and the savings will add up. Start with items where you’re not likely to notice a difference. Over-the-counter medicines, cleaning products, and sugar are three safe bets. Branch out to coffee, cereal, canned goods, and more. Many store brands are processed in the very same manufacturing facilities where national brands are made. The biggest difference you notice may be how much less you’re paying for the store brand.
  1. Take new approaches to avoid impulse spending. For a New York Times article, Alina Tugend asked behavioral experts about why it’s so hard for people to keep New Year’s resolutions. Based on their observations, Tugend reported that willpower isn’t the answer. Instead, the key to changing habits is altering your behavior and environment so you won’t need willpower in the first place. If you struggle with recreational shopping or spending too much when you’re stressed, try changing the way you approach shopping. Don’t go out “just to window shop” and you won’t be tempted. If you spend too much on gifts because you tend to wait until the last minute, plan ahead. Buy cheap wrapping paper and cards at the dollar store and keep a supply on hand. Make a list of all gifts you need to buy during the course of the year (at least the ones you know about) and buy them as you find things on sale. That way you won’t be making a mad dash to the store at the last minute and spending too much because you’re stressed.

Big progress is often achieved through small, steady steps. Taking action on these five tips doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. Over time, though, they can open up wiggle room in your budget so you can build savings and achieve other financial goals. Here’s to a happy and frugal 2015!

Research and insights for this article were provided by Check ‘n Go.

January 21, 2015 at 4:47 PM Leave a comment

Could A Grocery Delivery Service Save Me Money?

groceries

A week or so ago my husband noticed a rip in a bag of chips that had been sitting on a shelf in our pantry. We couldn’t quite figure out what happened; did it snag while we were loading and unloading groceries, was it torn when I bought it? I wasn’t quite sure so I told him to toss it just to be safe. A few days later we found the cause: a mouse.

Yup. You read that right a mouse was sneaking into the pantry at night and feeding off of whatever he could tear his little teeth into. I found a torn bag of coconut flakes and sure enough there were mouse droppings just beside it. I don’t know how it got into the house, but my best guess is that snuck in an open door. We have contractors remodeling our basement and they certainly like to prop doors open while they cart materials in and out of the house. I don’t care how it got in, but I wanted him out and out quickly.

I moved all the food from the basement to the pantry a few weeks earlier as part of my nesting craze and here I was digging back through each and every item to ensure none of it was tainted by this furry little creature.

I dragged everything out of the cupboard and into plastic bins that could be sealed until the mouse was caught. As I was moving things around I was astounded by the number of duplicate items we had sitting in the pantry.

I used to believe in stocking the cupboard when items went on sale. If ketchup is half price we might as well buy three bottles. If buffalo sauce is buy-one-get-one I’d pick up four. In some cases this might make sense. We tend to cook from a standard repertoire of recipes and buffalo chicken has become a staple in our house, but other things just seemed a little bit crazy.

We make Chinese food about once a month. How on earth did I end up with three bottles of soy sauce in my pantry? Or how about that tasty mango dipping sauce? How many times did I make a recipe that needed it? Certainly not enough to warrant keeping four bottles stacked in the cupboard.

That little mouse taught me a very valuable lesson. I need to pay better attention to the ingredients we have on hand. It’s so easy for jars and bottles to get pushed to the back of the shelf. I arrive at the store, notice an item is on sale and assume we don’t have any at home. The problem is we already have more than enough sitting in the pantry.

It’s nice to know I have enough food on hand to reach into the cupboard and make a recipe, but how do I keep myself from buying things in excess? I don’t want to make french fries and realize I’m out of ketchup, but I don’t need three bottles collecting dust in the closet either.

I’d love to hear your ideas for helping with this problem. I certainly don’t want to run to the store last minute and pay full price for items, so I think menu planning might be a viable solution. If I can settle on at least three or four recipes I want to make before going to the grocery store then I can check the pantry for available ingredients before ever leaving.

Believe it or not I’m also considering a grocery delivery service. While I will certainly pay more in terms of delivery fees I will not be tempted by passing sales throughout the aisles. I think this would also cut back on unexpected expenses, like oh that doughnut looks particularly tasty or chocolate fudge ice cream is on sale, yummy!

Sticking to a list in the store would certainly help with this approach, but let’s face it tasty food and sales can be too tempting to resist.

I’d love to hear thoughts on grocery delivery services and saving money. Knowing I’ll pay more in upfront fees do you think it makes sense to see if a grocery delivery service might still save me money? I’ve considered shopping for the convenience, but I really do wonder if it might save me money over the long haul.

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January 15, 2015 at 5:25 PM 7 comments

4 Fun Activities that Your Kids Can Do at Home to Teach them to be Eco-minded

Besides having fun, teaching your kids eco-friendly activities helps them learn the three R’s of saving the environment – reduce, reuse and recycle. Here are 4 Eco-friendly activities that aim to reduce, reuse and recycle waste and turn them into finished projects that they can really enjoy, use and be proud of.

# 1 Bread beads summer jewelries

BeadsThis project calls for leftover white bread, craft glue, lemon juice, some paints for color, mini cutters, some beading wire or dental floss. Slices from 3 slice of white bread when mixed with craft glue will turn into breaded clay. Paint the bread clay beads with tempera or acrylic paint to make it colorful. Use mini cutter to cut or shape the beads and string them together using beads wiring or dental floss to create colorful necklaces, bracelets or even anklets. When summer comes, you and your kids would have enough summer jewelries to match your summer dress.

Image by 7onashoestring

# 2 Musical instruments such as matchbox guitar, shoebox banjo and soda pops’ caps

Guitar

Give your kids the taste and experience of making their own musical instruments, and learn to enjoy creating music together. All you need are some household wastes such as shoe box, matchbox, metal soda pop’s caps, stiff or hard paper plates, flat large rubber bands, pencil, mailing tube, craft clues, scissors for cutting, some ribbons and strings to make matchbox guitar, shoe box banjo and soda pop’s caps tambourine. You can take the task of flattening the metal pop’s caps, cutting and stretching flat rubber bands into the shoebox. When done, you can play your favorite nursery rhymes together as a band. Music is powerful and never fails to ignite the spirit. The project could also tap the music genius in your kids and help them start discovering their musical skill.

Image by Marthastewart

# 3 Create customized bingo cards for each occasion’s “family bingo”

Bingo

If you have plenty of vintage bingo cards, you can recycle them by creating customized bingo cards for every occasion. Allow your kids to join by asking them to design their own bingo cards for the “Easter Sunday family bingo” or “Thanksgiving Day” or “Grandparent’s Day” bingo games. Gather materials such as cutouts figures and animals, ribbons, felt papers, feathers, etc each representing a particular occasion.

Image by PGBingo

 

# 4 Recycled notebooks

Recycled Notebooks

Recycling papers into lovely notebook is not only a fun activity for kids at home but also a great way to teach them the value of recycling paper. They learn the big difference of recycling waste papers have on the environment. You will need scrap papers, paper cutter, card stock, binder clips, stapler, decorative craft paper (for cover), bone folder and double -sided tape. Guide your kids in gathering about 25 pieces of scrap papers cut into 8 ½ – 11-inch and in sandwiching them with binder clips. Cut decorative craft paper for cover, and use stock cards and bone folder to secure them. Let your kids make as many notebooks as your scrap papers will allow.

Image by Designsponge

With some household odds and ends, you and your kids can do fun activities that teach them the secret to being eco-minded, which is to reduce, reuse and recycle.

January 12, 2015 at 9:37 AM Leave a comment

Paying for Storage: Does This Seem Like a Good Idea?

storage

For the past three years I wondered if we’d ever have a second child and if we did how much baby stuff I should keep around between now and that time. We received a lot of gifts at my baby shower and in the beginning we used each and every piece of it. The baby swing, bouncer, bathtub, rock-n-play sleeper, jumperoo, highchair, stroller and infant car seat took up residence at various places in our house and stayed there for six to nine months.

There were boxes of swaddling blankets, socks and baby clothes and I wrestled with whether or not I should keep some of it, all of it or none of it. Storage space was not an issue. We don’t have a huge house, but we certainly had enough room to stow anything I wanted to use a few years down the road.

When I first packed everything away I didn’t think much about overall costs. I didn’t add up the price of this or that, but I knew that I didn’t want to shell out cash to buy everything all over again. All of the big ticket items were gifts from loving friends and family so technically I didn’t pay for any of it in the first place.

Over the past three years I’ve loaned out a number of items and given away piles of baby clothes, but with our second child due to arrive in just a couple of months I’m happy to say that we have everything we need back in our possession.

A friend, who lives in a much smaller house with less free space, recently told us of their plans to rent a storage space. They know they eventually want a second child, but simply don’t have the room to retain all of the items their child has already outgrown. The storage unit costs $125 a month.

They are not pregnant at this time, which sets the timeline for retaining this storage unit to a minimum of nine months to one year. If they keep the storage unit for one year they’ll pay $1500 in rental fees. This didn’t sound like a financially savvy plan to me.

As you can see by the list below I own a lot of baby equipment:

⁃    cosleeper
⁃    baby swing
⁃    bouncer
⁃    bathtub
⁃    rock-n-play sleeper
⁃    jumperoo
⁃    highchair
⁃    stroller
⁃    infant car seat

Despite the long list I know that all of these items added together would not cost $1500 for me to buy new. With nine months to wait for a baby you could set Amazon watches on all of the items you wish to buy and wait until the price drops to actually purchase any of them. You can also scour websites during Christmas and other times of year when baby items are deeply discounted.

If you really want to save money you could also look into buying used. There is a ton of used baby equipment available. I personally know a lot of moms these days who are finished having children. If you have access to a network of mothers you can always put out feelers for anyone willing to get rid of their used baby equipment. If you don’t have a wide network or the parents aren’t finished having children you still find a lot of good prices at swap meets and thrift stores.

In the best case scenario you are looking at retaining a storage unit for $1500, but what if you have trouble conceiving or decide to delay your next child a little bit longer. Every month socks on another $125, which is more than the cost of a new baby swing, bouncer or highchair.

This family didn’t ask for my advice, but I would suggest selling the items they are no longer using. They can set that money aside to buy items for the next child whenever he or she arrives. For that matter they can also set aside $125 each month rather than shelling it out to the storage unit company.

The next time around they may realize they need less equipment and if they decide they do need it they can try to buy it much cheaper second hand.

What do you think?

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January 10, 2015 at 11:12 AM 6 comments

My New Year’s Resolution: Focusing on Happiness

joy

For the past two years I’ve maintained one and only one resolution: to accept the things I cannot change. It is easy to hold this resolve in good times and much more difficult to press on in times of distress. When a dose of antibiotics unexpectedly induced neuropathy I had a hard time accepting the cards I was given and when I failed month after month to conceive another child I certainly let my emotions get the best of me.

Thankfully these major life hurdles feel like a distant memory. My second child is due early this year and for the time being my neuropathy symptoms have all but disappeared. While one hurdle may stand behind me I know that another is probably hiding just around the corner.

While acceptance is certainly a key to persevering so is trying to remain positive when life drops the wind from your sails. I have found my greatest cheerleader is my husband who cheers for my small victories and pick up the pieces of my emotional state when I am unable to pick them up myself.

This year though I hope to continue on my path to accept the things I cannot change, but I also hope to focus more on the joys and small victories around me.

One summer a few years ago I wrote down the happiest moments that occurred each week. It wasn’t elegant or elaborate, just a few words about happy events in my life. I came across that journal a few days ago and felt the love swell inside of me just by reading it. I want to remember those moments and use them to help me bridge the gaps that seem so dark and gloomy.

When my son was born three years ago my husband went through a deep depression. He wasn’t depressed about the birth of my son, but rather about the changes that occurred in our marriage and daily lives as a result of having had him. A year or so ago he began digging himself out of the darkness, but I know that having another baby will shake the foundation of our lives once again.

This year I want to focus on happiness. Though I know we may feel great stress I hope that we can keep sight of the joyful moments and carve out time to find joy together.

If anyone has suggestions on how to accomplish this goal please leave a comment below.

Photo Credit

January 1, 2015 at 3:42 PM 2 comments

Weighing the Time-Value of Clipping Coupons

Money Keys

A few months ago I transferred a prescription from CVS to Rite Aid. This seemed like a no-brainer since the drug store is slightly closer to my house, newly renovated and much cleaner and more efficient than our local CVS. I earned $25 in UP Rewards for that transfer, which I used to buy four packs of diapers. That purchase kicked out another $20 worth of UP Rewards which I promptly used a few days after Thanksgiving.

The drug stores know exactly how to rope customers into returning to their stores each week and I have certainly fallen victim to their game. I have been back to the store four times since filling that initial prescription, but haven’t spent more than $2 out of pocket any of those four times.

Since I’m not a fan of couponing I decided to weigh the time-value of each future transaction. I allowed myself no more than five minutes to look over the circular, search for deals and clip coupons each Sunday. If I didn’t see anything useful I skipped shopping all together that week. I refused to purchase unnecessary products just to roll my UP Rewards.

On average I spent five minutes searching for deals and clipping coupons.  It took another ten to fifteen minutes to drive to the store, shop and wait in line. Thankfully none of my transactions were held up by invalid coupons or other register errors. I shopped early in the morning after dropping my son off at preschool so I was often the only person in line.

My list of purchases included four spin toothbrushes, eight packs of Pampers diapers, four bottles of body wash, two packs of hair ties, two bottles of lotion, a pack of q-tips, four sticks of deodorant, four packs of disposable razors, tape, chocolate, laundry detergent and dish-washing liquid. There were a couple of other items thrown into this mix, but I can’t remember them off the top of my head. The total retail value for the items listed above totaled roughly $275.

Each trip to the store averaged fifteen minutes and preparation for each trip took an additional five minutes for a grand total of twenty minutes per trip. I shopped on four different occasions, which means I spent roughly 80 minutes all together and saved over $275 in total or $68 per trip. Based on my calculations I saved $206 for one hour’s worth of work.

While I tend to steer away from coupons these recent shopping ventures have fulfilled my need to stock up on basic necessities before the baby arrives. New moms often think of stocking up on baby necessities, but often overlook stocking up on other household items. After my son was born I found it extremely useful to reach in the cupboard and find whatever I needed. I liked the idea of being able to hunker down for a few months without the need to rush out to the store or pay full price for items when I clearly didn’t have the time or inclination to look for bargains.

I have ten dollars worth of UP rewards remaining and I believe this week I’ll use the last of them. I don’t plan to coupon or buy any more supplies after they are gone. Despite the subsequent problems that prescription caused I did save more money than I ever imagined on household supplies. Even better yet I fulfilled another one of my crazy nesting impulses.

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December 30, 2014 at 11:41 PM Leave a comment

A Few Things I Learned While Nesting, Purging and Streamlining

boxes

With my obsessive nesting nearly complete I stepped back last night to reflect on my decluttering, purging, streamlining process. I actually learned quite a bit about myself from this experience.

  1. Over the years we’ve bought a lot of stuff we just don’t need. The amount of wasted money made me sick to stomach. How many items did I find that were rarely if ever used? Way too many! I’ve gotten much better about not buying unnecessary stuff over the years, but this big dig was a great reminder that I don’t want ever want to revert to buying things that we won’t really use. I will be much more careful about future purchases!
  2. Unwanted gifts will no longer be kept in our house. I love all my friends and family, but I will not hold onto something just because someone else bought it for me. That sounds rather heartless but I don’t want to keep unwanted items just to spare a family member’s feelings.
  3. When I got married I registered incorrectly for a life I don’t have and don’t particularly want to live. Fine china, silver serving platters and glass vases are all taking up space in my very fancy china cabinet. China that has only been used two times in ten years!
  4. Having kids changed my priorities. These days the focus is on things that can’t be broken or destroyed when dropped or colored on. I don’t want to buy anything that doesn’t meet this criteria.
  5. What goes on sale today will probably go on sale again a day, week or month from now. Stocking up on clothes and toys is often unnecessary and an utter pain to store, organize and keep track of.
  6. Moving stuff to the basement is rarely a good idea. Odds are if I don’t need it right now I won’t need it at any point in the future. The majority of books, knickknacks and other items that made their way into the basement never returned to see the light of day. It was a waste of energy to move them from point A to point B only to remove them entirely from my home a few months or years later. Next time they head straight out the door.
  7. Books are a huge waste of money if I never find the time to read them. I am not allowed to bring any new books into the house until I read the ones I already own. After I read them I will pass them on to someone else. I almost never read the same book more than one time so why on earth am I putting them on a bookshelf for later.
  8. I shouldn’t be afraid to purge things I’m not using. Looking over the large bins of clothing in our basement I now wonder if our next child will wear any of the items I stored. Most people probably have better luck conceiving than I did, but given that our two children will be born in opposite seasons I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to pass down.
  9. Stocking up on pantry staples can be a good idea, but not if we don’t eat the items I purchase. One spare bottle of ketchup, salad dressing, mustard, etc. is plenty to keep on hand. If food in the pantry gets more than two layers deep I tend to lose track of what’s inside of it.
  10. I want to limit the amount of paperwork we retain. Other than handwritten notes everything else will be scanned and shredded. Goodbye, huge filing cabinet and good riddance!

I don’t need to purge everything from our house, but I do want to make sure the items we retain from this point forward are actually useful. I don’t want to waste any more time reorganizing!

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December 27, 2014 at 6:08 PM 4 comments

The Price of Nesting

colors

So it seems the start time for remodeling our basement has moved up by nearly two months. Rather than beginning in late February or early March the contractors may be able to squeeze us in the first week of January. That means stepping up my game and digging everything out of the basement much earlier than expected.

Today I tackled the pantry. We don’t keep a lot of food in the basement, but we do store two or three shelves of excess items like spare bottles of ketchup, salad dressing, sauces and seasonings. Our kitchen is incredibly small so we don’t have a whole lot of room for storing anything but the bare necessities. I managed to move things around ever so slightly in an upstairs closet to make room for the surplus. While we probably won’t need any of these items during construction I didn’t like the idea of leaving food in a place that is bound to fill with dust and debris.

I also carried up a box or two full of glass items that might have incurred damage during construction. I initially planned to migrate these upstairs, but after digging through everything I changed my mind and decided to donate them instead. We haven’t touched many of these things in years and it seems silly to find new storage places for things we simply aren’t using. Some of these items were rather expensive. I’m certain the priciest were cut glass vases and drinking cups that cost at least $100 when purchased new. It pained me to get rid of them, but I am hopeful they will find a new home where they can be used much more frequently.

My pregnancy is beginning to catch up with me. Last week I could have walked up and down the steps a hundred times. Today I was tired after just a few trips. I decided it’s probably not wise to haul too much more stuff out of the basement. Whatever is left down there will probably remain. I may place a few last things in plastic tubs, but after that I’m officially finished. At least for the time being. I know there are at least a few other toys I could donate without making a dent in our overall toy pile, but for now they will be boxed up. After the remodeling is complete I’ll probably pass them on to another family.

Upstairs I bought a new elfa shelf to further organize the little room we use for storage. I put it where the filing cabinet used to reside. It wasn’t cheap. I spent just over $175 for the shelves and corresponding parts, but that corner of our world is now neatly organized. We needed a more efficient way to store towels, sheets and other bedding so I bought an extra wide version, which serves its purpose quite perfectly.

I also bought a few square containers to corral toys. I bought three at $5.99 each. This still isn’t the best solution, but for now it freed up much needed floor space. My son is getting better about putting his toys away before heading upstairs so that’s definitely helping too.

We bought a new bed for our little guy with hopes that he’ll happily hand over his crib and a new dresser for the baby’s room. That added another $900 to the overall total.

As I mentioned in my last post I set a deadline of December 31st for all nesting, but it seems I only have four more days until we head out of town so I am clearly running out of time to do much more. As I look around the rooms I cannot believe all that I have organized and purged. I want to focus the next three months on spending time as a family of three. Removing the clutter from our lives will definitely help me make mental and physical space for that.

December 22, 2014 at 3:56 PM Leave a comment

The Christmas Rundown

lights

I spent so much time organizing the house that Christmas became a bit of an after thought. With the big day approaching I buckled down, bought gifts and checked off names on our rather short list. So far I’ve managed to keep the costs to a minimum. While I didn’t shop on Black Friday I did visit a local toy shop on Small Business Saturday to take advantage of the American Express $30 promotion. The toy shop offered a 20% discount and American Express provided up to three $10 statement credits for purchasing $10 or more from a local business on that day. I bought three toys, each at just over $10, and received an immediate email notification that all three purchases qualified. After tax I paid just $3.89 for three quality products and supported a small business in my community!

I also used a combination of coupons and Yes2You rewards from Kohl’s to purchase gifts for my niece and nephew. I bought five toys discounted at 50% off and beat even the lowest Amazon prices. A few of these gifts will be wrapped and saved as birthday gifts. Our baby is due right around the time of their birthdays and while I’m not sure we’ll attend the celebrations I do want to have gifts on hand for them. While I have a few months to purchase gifts I’m not certain I can beat the incredibly low holiday prices. Kohl’s has a killer return policy they’ll sill have plenty of time to return anything they don’t like.

For the past three years my husband and I have focused on experiences over presents and purchased just two Christmas gifts for my son. This year his primary gift will be a LeapFrog LeapReader that I purchased just after his birthday. It was on sale for $31.99 and included a free set of books that currently retails for $9.99.

I’m afraid to admit that the deeply discounted Amazon deals convinced me to buy a few additional items, but after coming to my senses I offered those gifts to my parents. My folks weren’t exactly sure what to buy our son so I decided to give them the ones I purchased. They refused to accept them for free and wrote me a check for the exact amount I spent. It was actually a great solution. They didn’t have to spend any time in stores searching for presents and I feel good knowing they bought the items at unbelievably good prices. In fact, this worked out so well I may do it for the next holiday season.

I’m happy to report that I also convinced my parents not to buy too many presents this year. I told them my son is just as thrilled with the idea of a gift than the gift itself and suggested wrapping snacks and bubble bath in favor of expensive items. They decided to contribute the money they would have spent to his 529 plan.

In general we cut back on giving gifts to the adults in our lives, which means we have fewer presents to buy. I made a free photo calendar for my grandmother and uncle thanks to the Pampers Gifts to Grow Program. I also used gift cards to buy a number of gifts for my mom as well as gifts for my son’s preschool teachers. Speaking of preschool teachers I spent a good deal of time writing quality thank you/holiday cards for them. Tears welled up in my eyes when I wrote of my son’s first few days of school and I hope that they enjoy reading those letters as much as I enjoyed writing them.

My Christmas shopping is now complete. I need to wrap a few remaining presents in holiday paper and a few more in brightly colored birthday designs. Then I can officially sit back and enjoy the holidays!

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December 20, 2014 at 12:49 AM 4 comments

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