Posts filed under ‘holiday’

A Breakdown of My Christmas Expenses

Gift

Did you set a holiday budget? Did you stick to it? I did really well this year.

  • Mom’s Gift – Purchased at Macy’s using a gift card I earned for completing online surveys. I actually purchased this in August. It was marked down significantly and I used a $10 coupon I received in the mail. Final cost: $28. Original price: $85.
  • Dad’s Gift – A BJ’s Membership and a $25 gift card. I earn $10 for every Groupon member that signs up and makes a purchase through this link and thanks to the generous Groupon referral program I earned enough credits to get this for free.
  • Son’s Gift – A used book purchased from Amazon. It cost one cent and shipping added another $3.99. I also bought him a used Lite Brite toy from eBay. I’m not sure if he’ll have the dexterity to use this yet, but if not I’ll put it back in the box until next year.
  • Niece’s Gift – $12 for a do-it-yourself craft that is currently listed on Amazon for $28 plus shipping.
  • Nephew’s Gift – $15 for a game currently listed on Amazon for $25.
  • Husband’s Gifts – Three main presents and one gag gift. Final cost just under $90.
  • Brother – No gift. (We decided not to buy each other presents anymore.)
  • Sister-In-Law #1 – No gift. (Ditto on the no gift rule.)
  • Sister-In-Law #2 – Gift card (received for taking surveys), beauty products (it was actually cheaper to buy a large set and then divide the products between us.), clothes (purchased on sale).

Total amount spent. Less than $200.

We didn’t spend a lot of money on gifts but we did spend a bit on experiences for the little guy.

  • $25 to see lighted displays at one location
  • $10 to see different displays somewhere else.
  • $20 worth of museum entrance fees.
  • $8 for a gingerbread house
  • Lots of time spent outdoors. Free!

Photo Credit

December 17, 2013 at 5:36 PM 3 comments

At This Stage It Is Not About the Toys

lights

My little tike turned two just before the holidays. He is at a glorious age. An age where Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with toys and everything to do with activities. We pile into the car on blustery nights to look at Christmas lights in the neighborhood. We spend half an hour decorating a gingerbread house and another hour dumping colored sugar onto cookies. We drive to various gardens and other locations to see lighted displays, we watch Santa fly in to the airport and visit museums to see miniature train displays.

It seems I had forgotten about the magic of Christmas. My mind was clouded with finding the perfect gift, spending hours online and in the mall, fighting big crowds and getting annoyed with drivers who can’t get in and out of parking spaces too slowly.

As I look at Christmas through the eyes of my son I see the excitement of walking around the Christmas tree farm, finding the perfect branch to hang ornaments, (typically in a clump at the bottom of the tree), peeking out of the windows at night to see the lights we hung on the bushes and counting the number of Santa Claus figurines sitting on top of the mantle.

He doesn’t have a Christmas wish list and could care less about the wrapped presents that are under the tree. I know I won’t be able to keep him this naive forever. Eventually he will circle toys in the catalog and tell me everything he wants Santa to bring, but for now I will treasure the moments we spend together. There is nothing I love more than seeing his red, runny nose and pink cheeks when we play outside in the cold together.

It has been an utter joy to experience all of the events and activities that make the holiday special. I have not wasted a single minute online or in stores. This winter we are enjoying every minute together.

Photo Credit

December 16, 2013 at 4:23 PM 1 comment

Unsubscribe, Delete and Remove Me From Your Mailing List

house

Temptation is probably the worst part of the holiday season for me. I am enticed by the scrumptious food displayed on holiday tables, seduced by the brightly colored boxes filled with decadent chocolates and lured to the deeply discounted promotions constantly appearing in my inbox.

Some time in early October the unsolicited catalogs began arriving. I seem to spend a couple of minutes every day contacting companies and politely asking for my address to be removed. They each tell me it will take 6 to 12 weeks to process my requests, which means I’ll continue receiving catalogs right up until Christmas.

These days I rip off the back page and immediately throw the paper in the recycle bin. If I don’t look inside those shiny pages I won’t be tempted to buy something I really don’t need. I unsubscribed from the majority of bargain blogs earlier this year, but since that time a few have crept back into my RSS feed. From Black Friday until now four blogs, (just four), have posted over three hundred times. I’m inundated with titles that read “buy this toy for $10″, “pick up children’s pajamas for $4.80″, “BOGO sales on this that and something else”.

I’m finding it difficult to keep my wallet in my pocket. I find myself thinking,  “That would make a great birthday gift for my son’s friend”, “I need to buy a baby gift for an upcoming shower” and “I’m almost certain the cat destroyed a couple of comforters.”

In reality I don’t need anything. In fact, my gift box, (a plastic bin where I store toys, baby gear and other bargains), is already overflowing in the basement and odds are that the cat will destroy another blanket, so I might as well just live with the one we already own.

It’s true that you can find remarkable bargains around the holidays, but in order to avoid the larger temptations I’m choosing to put my head in the sand. I am unsubscribing from bargain blogs and stopping all catalogs and other direct mailings. I’m no longer opening the email in my inbox either. If the sender is a manufacturer or store I simply click delete without ever reading the contents.

So far I’ve avoided buying anything we don’t need. Will I kick myself three months from now when I pay full price for a toy for little Johnny’s birthday? Perhaps, but I don’t think so.

Photo Credit

December 6, 2013 at 4:23 PM 2 comments

My Black Friday Tradition… It Doesn’t Involve Shopping

photo

While many people are out shopping the day after Thanksgiving, you can often find me at home, digging through my closets, bookshelves and drawers. The goal is simple: to find better homes for all of my unwanted items and to make room for any new items that might make their way into my home.

Since I can’t get loved ones to stop buying me presents I typically ask for experience related gifts or consumable products like food. While this works more often than not, it’s inevitable that I’ll wind up with a few new things that need space in already crowded closets and drawers.

Every black Friday I perform a major deep clean and try my best to reorganize everything. I know that charities are always on the look out for donated clothes this time of year so I do my best to get things packed up into boxes in anticipation of the holidays.

I start by digging through the back of my closets and drawers and trying on each and every item that I’m just not sure about anymore. Then I move on to the linen closets and sort through sheets, blankets and towels.

Next I take a stab at the overflowing shelves lined with freebies like razors, toothpaste and shampoo. I keep one or two of each item as backups and then bundle the rest up for donation drives in our area. Last year I also provided small baskets filled with these types of products to family members.

Once that’s all wrapped up I typically move on to the gift closet. I take stock of what’s inside and pile up Christmas gifts I purchased throughout the year.

Lastly I clear out the rest of the house. I walk around and remove unwanted magazines, which can also be donated, along with odds and ends that have made their way into the various spaces of my home.

I also look for any items that we haven’t used in awhile. I’m always surprised by the number of things in our home that go unused over time. This includes everything from books to kitchen utensils. Sometimes I just box up items and move them out of the way, other times I try to sell or donate the unwanted items.

It can take a few hours to organize all of the nooks and crannies of my home, but when I’m finished I typically find at least a few boxes worth of items that I no longer want. I always feel a little bit lighter when I clean out the house and I’m happy to send those items off to those in need.

These days decluttering on Thanksgiving Day or the day after is an annual ritual. It feels good to get rid of all that clutter, but it feels even better knowing that it’s helping other people who need it more than we do.

How about you? Do you plan to shop on Black Friday? If not what do you plan to do?

This post was originally published on November 25, 2010.

Photo Credit

November 27, 2013 at 2:44 PM 3 comments

Choosing This Year’s Christmas Card

Christmas Card

I got married in 2004 and swore I would send out Christmas cards when December rolled around. Did I do it? No. Every year after we were married I planned to ship out cards, but somehow or another I failed to do so. Some years I got very close to sending out cards. I picked out my favorite pictures and even thought about what I wanted to write inside of them. One year I even bought cards, but when the time came I couldn’t find the addresses I needed and never stamped or addressed them.

This all changed in 2011 when my son was born. I felt like I’d waited a lifetime for him to arrive. After a series of unfortunate medical problems my husband and I decided to wait to get pregnant. I always knew that I wanted children, but we both decided that it was best to let my body heal before attempting to carry a child. Of course, once I healed it took us another year of trying to conceive and nine months of pregnancy to make that wish come true.

As soon as he was born I decided to send out birth announcements. I was elated by his arrival and would have climbed to to the top of the tallest mountain if I could have. As soon as I selected a favorite picture I turned to the Internet in search of a website with baby related designs. I hate to admit this but I actually searched various sites for over two days. I wanted something simple and elegant, which can actually be quite difficult to find. A lot of baby designs are too cutesy for me.

When Christmas rolled around just two months after his birth I was bound and determined to send out Christmas cards. I vowed that this year would definitely be different and it was. After years of avoiding the camera I had taken more photos in two months of my son’s life than I had taken in over ten years! Every day I was capturing new moments. Looking back I’m so glad I picked up that camera. So much has changed in my son’s first two years of life and those photos instantly bring me back to the beginning.

In 2011 I actually had too many photographs to chose from. I settled on a Christmas card that let me include nine photos, because I simply couldn’t narrow my options. For some reason 2012 was an easier year. I fell in love with one particular photo and printed a card with my son’s beaming face on one side and a beautiful sentiment on the other.

This year I’m not sure what to select. My little guy is no longer a baby. His little face has started to thin out and he has lost that baby look almost entirely. As I look through the photos I cannot believe that another year has gone by. Looking at him makes me realize just how quickly time passes.

There are so many companies offering holiday photo cards that it’s definitely difficult to choose one. After searching a number of sites I’ve chosen to use minted. I absolutely love how you can alter the shape of them. Look how pretty this scallop shape looks.

Card 2

Now I just have to settle on a picture or pictures of the family.

How about you? Do you send out Christmas cards each year? Do you find it difficult to select the picture or pictures?

*The pictures are from the minted. site. They are not pictures of my family or son.

November 25, 2013 at 3:31 PM Leave a comment

An Update: That Involves Strawberries

On Wednesday I wrote about my husband’s decision to buy $400 worth of flowers for Valentine’s Day. My disappointment along with the extraordinary cost was that while flowers are pretty, they aren’t nearly as satisfying as a large box of chocolate covered strawberries.

 

strawberries

Well it turns out my husband knows me after all. Yesterday a dozen chocolate covered strawberries. We’ve known each other for seventeen years and been married for almost eight and a half and this is the first time he’s ever had strawberries delivered to my door. Now we’re getting somewhere!

My rule: Food over flowers. Homemade or store bought doesn’t matter, but I must say these were absolutely delicious. As you can see I’ve already devoured two.

February 15, 2013 at 2:57 PM 1 comment

My Two Gift Rule: How Long Can It Continue?

For the past two years my husband and I have given my son one gift each. He was born in October of 2011, so last year he was only two months old when Christmas rolled around and this year he was just a few days over 14 months.

At this age he doesn’t know the meaning of Christmas, he can’t tell us what games he really wants to play with and he certainly doesn’t know if he should receive two gifts or a room full of presents.

This year he received a bottle of Mr. Bubbles for extra special bath time fun and a toy that sings when he turns it’s pages. The toy was intended to distract him during long car trips to North Carolina. He opened those two gifts then helped my husband open the four gifts, (two each), that we bought for each other.

Some friends and family members seemed surprised by the lack of gifts under the tree, but for the time being I decided that my son simply has enough. Thanks to the generous hand-me-downs of friends and family members our living room already looks like the toy department at Target.

I’ll never forget some of the early Christmas’s for my niece and nephew. They received box after box of brightly wrapped paper and spent little more than a second or two looking at the gift before ripping into the next one.

I want my son to have time to reflect on the gifts he receives and to take the time to thank the gift givers for all that he receives.

This year my son received only one gift each from my grandmother, parents, brothers and sister-in-law. The rest of the money that would’ve been spent on gifts was funneled into his 529.

As my son ages I know he probably won’t be happy with my two gift rule (one from mommy and one from daddy). I’m sure he’ll circle pages of the circulars and provide long wish lists for us.

In fact, I wonder how long I can continue the two gift policy and I wonder if there are any parents out there that feel the same way I do?

December 28, 2012 at 8:00 PM 11 comments

All Ready for the Holidays

Tree

We’re on tap to cook a bunch of dishes this Christmas, so my husband and I prepared a roast, two batches of sweet potatoes and two batches of mashed potatoes. All of that is currently waiting in the fridge until the big heat up begins tomorrow.

Our presents are wrapped and delivered to our parents houses. On the big day we just have to get ourselves ready and drive. No need to load the car with gifts and no chance we’ll forget something important.

Last year Christmas was unbelievably hectic. We rushed from one location to the next with no time to relax and no time for ourselves. This year I hope we’ve prepared enough to kick back, drink some eggnog and enjoy the time with our families.

I’ll celebrate a quiet Christmas morning with my husband and son. We bought the little guy two presents. I think that’s the same number we purchased for him last year. He’s only fourteen months old, so honestly he’s happier with the wrapping paper and box then he is with the gift inside, but I’m still excited to see him rip into the wrapping paper.

I probably won’t jump online tomorrow, so I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas! I hope the new year brings you health, wealth and happiness. (Not necessarily in that order.)

December 23, 2012 at 11:04 PM 3 comments

The Art of Shaving: Pampering Gifts for Men

Over the years my Christmas wish lists have changed dramatically. One year I asked for practical gifts, one year I asked for fun gifts, one year I wanted to focus on consumable items, the next I concentrated on interesting experiences.

As much as my overall desires have changed one thing has remained steady. Every year, for the last ten years, I have without fail asked for one thing. It’s a simple, but very expensive request: a gift certificate to the spa. It’s a luxury I often feel guilty buying for myself, so I truly love it when someone else splurges for me.

There are so many products targeted at pampering women, but very few available for men, so when BlogHer contacted me and asked me to promote the Art of Shaving, (a site full of pampering shaving products for men), I jumped at the chance.

My husband and I recently took my son for his first hair cut. Well I should say hair trim, because I only let the barber trim his bangs and right above his ears. We walked into an old school barber shop where men line up and wait their turn in the big black chairs.

I’d never stepped foot into a barber shop before and I was quite fascinated by the old-school barbers who warmed towels, lathered up a man’s face with thick brushes and shaved his beard with a flat edged razor. When they finished the man’s skin looked as smooth as my fourteen month old son’s.

The Art of Shaving website helps men get this clean, pampered, professional feeling in their own home by focusing on 4 elements of the perfect shave. Those elements include preparing, lathering up, shaving and moisturizing. They sell shaving kits and shaving related products that help men achieve the perfect shave.

If you really want to pamper your husband consider buying him the ProGlide Power Shave Set for Christmas. This set includes a razor, battery, pre-shave oil, shaving cream pump, shaving brush and after-shave balm pump in an elegantly packaged gift box.

Right now the Art of Shaving is offering Free Ground Shipping and 10% off ProGlide Power Save Sets, through 12/30/12 when you use promo code 10PowerShave at checkout.

There are lots of gift sets available on the Art of Shaving website. The set above retails for $175, but there are much less expensive kits available starting at $25. If you are interested in pampering that special guy in your life this might be the gift for you.

Here are two other deals you might be interested in:

  1. Free Ground shipping and $15 off your purchase of any The Art of Shaving Full Size Kit, until 12/30/12 with Promo Code: 15offFSK at checkout
  2. Enjoy 20% off your purchase of The Perfect Shave Solution.  Valid unitl 12/30 No code needed.  Discount automatically applied at checkout when you purchase a full size Pre Shave, a full size Shaving Cream or soap and bowl, Shaving Brush, Razor and After Shave.

In all the years I’ve known my husband I don’t think I’ve ever bought him a pampering present. In fact, I typically buy his razors for free or close to free using a combination of coupons and drugstore deals.

Maybe I need to rethink my gift giving strategies. Have you ever splurged on pampering gifts for the men in your life and if so what did you buy?

December 17, 2012 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Saving Money on Christmas: I Kicked Butt This Year!

I just reviewed my Christmas expenses and couldn’t believe how little I spent this year. As I mentioned earlier this week my brother and I recently decided to stop exchanging gifts with one another. Instead we’ll focus solely on providing gifts for the children. That change resulted in two fewer gifts under the tree and $50 to $70 less to spend. Total cost for my brother and his wife = $0.

I bought my nephew’s gift from a local toy shop on Small Business Saturday. (A day I absolutely love by the way!) I paid $39.99 for the toy, but received a $25 credit back from American Express. Total cost = $14.99.

I purchased my niece’s gift from ecomom using a voucher I bought from plum district. I spent $20 on the voucher, but used it during ecomom’s green friday, which resulted in additional savings. I received $100 worth of stuff for $40.00. When you break down all of the purchases, (I bought a bunch of toys for toys-for-tots and to store as future birthday gifts), I paid roughly $5 for her gift. I also bought a set of $6 head bands on sale for $1. They are green, pink and purple and unbelievably sparkly. Total Cost: $6.

I bought two of my son’s presents using that ecomom deal. I spent less than $5 for each them. I also plan to wrap a bunch of boxes and fill them with tissue paper and bubble wrap. At this age he’s more interested in the box than the gift and we have a room full of toys already. Total cost: $10.

Some members of the family will receive specialty chocolates. I used a gift card I won in an online contest to pay for those purchases. Total out of pocket cost: $0. I also bought myself a box of candy. Yum, yum, delicious!

I bought my mom a gift from NOVICA using a gift certificate I received last year for blogging about their site. Total out of pocket cost: $0.

I also cashed in $200 worth of credit card rewards for gift cards. (Thank you Chase Freedom.) I thought about using the gift cards to buy gifts, but ultimately decided to lighten my load on Christmas day by just handing out the cards.

I’m also giving my aunt and uncle a gift card to Starbucks. My husband and I each earned e-gift cards for completing surveys related to our 401(k) provider. I combined them onto a physical card that was already worth $5. Total out of pocket cost = $0. By the way kudos to websites like Starbucks and Subway that you let you combine gift card balances. I love being able to move all the money onto one card so I don’t have to drag a bunch of cards around wherever I go.

I used a Hallmark coupon for $5 off a $10 purchase to buy an adorable little Christmas dish set for a friend of ours who loves to entertain for the holidays. Total cost = $5.

Finally I dug through my gift box. That magical box holds items I purchase on clearance or at deep discounts throughout the year. Included in the box was a beautiful $50 scarf I bought for $5 after sales and coupons and a gorgeous set of candle holders and candles that I bought for $7. Total cost = $12.

I did splurge on two items for my husband. I can’t say what they are because he reads my blog, but they cost roughly $125.

So how about you? Did you manage to save a lot of money this year? If so, what were your tricks for saving money?

December 14, 2012 at 11:18 PM 2 comments

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