Gift Exchanges: Really Crappy Gifts

wrapping paper

Two years ago my brother and I officially stopped giving each other gifts for Christmas. I can say without a bit of remorse that I’m glad we ended the exchange. Every year it became more difficult to decide on a gift and the added stress and cost just wasn’t worth it anymore. It was a mutual agreement; my brother was just as happy to end the swap as I was.

Honestly, I wish I could end the majority of my gift exchanges. I’d prefer Christmas to work like Thanksgiving where we drive to someone’s house, eat good food, spend quality time together and head home.

More often than not I spend a lot of time thinking about what people will like and find that I receive generic, thoughtless gifts in return. Last year I received a particularly crappy, five dollar present as part of a family exchange. (Before anyone jumps in and says “maybe the gift giver can’t afford more than that” I will say with absolutely certainty that they can.) This particular person had no problem providing more thoughtful, expensive gifts to other family members.

I spent a good deal of time and money buying gifts for that person, but as the calendar rolls into December I’m not certain that I want to get burned again. I’m not really sure how to handle the exchange of gifts this year.

Do I continue to spend energy searching for gifts when I know full well that I won’t get anything decent in return or do I throw in the towel and buy this particular person something equally crappy? Ninety-nine percent of me says do the right thing and buy a nice gift. The other one percent says forget that; put very little thought or money into it and call it a day.

Unfortunately I cannot envision a way to end the exchange all together. That would be my preferable solution to this problem, but I just don’t see a way to make it happen without a larger conflict arising.

So what do you think? Have you ever been faced with a terrible gift giver? Do you have advice on how to handle my situation?

Photo Credit

November 21, 2014 at 11:02 PM 11 comments

Maternity Clothes: Dreading Winter


My son was born in October, which means my belly didn’t start blossoming until late spring/early summer. That was a great time to be pregnant because I didn’t need to waste a lot of money on maternity clothes. I found a bunch of inexpensive summer dresses and billowy tops and wore them while I was pregnant. They still reside in my closet and I pull them out every summer when the weather turns warm.

This time around I’ll be pregnant in the midst of winter and I’m having a pickle of a time finding any clothes that work for me. I hate the feeling of maternity pants. I know some women don’t mind them, but I just can’t stand the feeling of that panel riding so high up over my stomach. They tend to run too tight or too loose, which means I either can’t breathe or I can’t keep my drawers from dropping to my knees.

It’s also ridiculously expensive and difficult to find tall maternity pants. It seems so strange to me that the fashion industry showcases clothes on tall women, yet in the real world it is nearly impossible to find pants that can fit a girl above six feet.

Last time around I simply avoided pants altogether. I wore a couple of stretchy capris, but otherwise stuck to skirts and dresses. Unfortunately, that’s a whole lot harder to do when the temperature dips into the twenties and thirties.

I did try my best to avoid pants again this time. I bought a bunch of long skirts with wide waist bands that can be worn after pregnancy and paired them with super soft leggings. When the temperature dipped this past week I decided this solution might not be practical. To put it mildly I was ridiculously cold.

So I shelled out some money and tried a few different brands only to find that none of them fit. I wasn’t willing to spend $45 for a pair of pants that sagged in the back or that I constantly found myself tugging on. After trying every type of tall pants from every company I could think of I gave up.

I place them all in boxes, applied shipping labels, dropped them off at UPS and drove to Ross. Of course, Ross doesn’t sell tall maternity pants, but they do sell maternity pants for less than $15. I bought two pairs of the longest ones I could find. (By the way they fit better than all of the other brands combined.) They are not even close to being long enough, but I decided my best option might be to buy a pair of comfortable black boots that can hide that flaw.

When I’m out and about no one will know that the pants inside my boots are too short and when I get home I’ll wear thick, tall, warm socks to keep me warm.

The best thing about buying boots is that I can wear them during my pregnancy and after the baby is born. Now the question is whether or not I can find a pair of comfortable boots with little to no heels. Hmmm…

Photo Credit

November 20, 2014 at 11:25 PM 5 comments

Free $10 Credit to Educents

educents banner

Get a free $10 credit when you join the website. New members will receive $10 worth of Edubucks, which can be put toward the purchase of ANYTHING on the Educents site. No minimums or catches!

Educents is an online daily deal site that offers affordable educational products for students, parents and educators by working with established educational suppliers. You will receive your code via email. Coupon expires in 6 months.

November 19, 2014 at 12:20 PM Leave a comment

Nesting Progress

baby baskets

As I clean out the house in preparation for our new little bundle of joy I am perpetually amazed by the sheer amount of stuff that exists within the confines of our walls. Every time I revisit the closets, dressers and drawers in my house I find something else that can be dragged off to the donation center.

Although I love reorganizing I absolutely hate seeing how much money I’ve wasted over the years. After moving things from room to room one too many times I finally decided to get rid of a box full of dishes, platters, plates, vases and candle holders. I hate to admit it, but most of these items were gifts from our wedding ten years ago. If I could go back in time I would definitely register differently.

In my mid-twenties I pictured entertaining quite frequently on all the fine serving pieces I selected. Now in my mid-thirties I cannot remember a single get-together that involved formal dinnerware. Most of our parties occur outside with disposable plates and party supplies. For the time being I kept the fine china, but everything else that hasn’t been used more than once in the last ten years was sent out the door. I cannot say for certain, but I believe I just piled hundreds of dollars worth of gifts into my car. For the record I cringed each time I pictured the sticker price of those items.

Some rooms have certainly been easier to organize than others. While the kitchen and dining room were relatively quick and painless; the craft bins have been a whole different story. What’s a girl to do with all that paint, gift wrapping supplies, thank you notes, colored pencils and a whole host of other miscellaneous stuff that seems to sit around in drawers just waiting to be used? I didn’t have the heart to get rid of any of it. It definitely feels like I will use these items some day and I like having some of these things on hand for last minute gifts bought and received. I got rid of a number of things, but kept quite a bit. I moved them to a new location, sorted and labeled everything.

Although I’m able to recycle my son’s artwork, (thank goodness he doesn’t get attached to those), I also gathered two plastic containers worth of play-doh, art projects, construction paper, markers and crayons. At least I know these will be used at some point in time. Then there are the bins of brand new toys I purchased for future birthday parties and baby showers. While I like saving the money for each event I hate storing everything for months on end. As our space becomes more limiting I believe the gift closet is officially coming to end. I’ve made similar statements in the past but this time I’m sticking through with it. Thanks to stores like Marshall’s and Ross nearby it’s always easy to find toys at bargain prices.

In digging through my son’s old baby clothes I was amazed by just how many little outfits I’d gotten rid of over the past three years. I gave two bags full of onesies and sleepers to a friend who delivered fourteen weeks earlier than expected and purged a few more things here and there along the way. The final count in the 0 to 6 month range is rather pathetic; just a handful of sleeping bags, onesies and sleepers. I certainly don’t regret giving those things away and since this child will be born in the opposite season, (spring versus fall), I have a feeling most items in the three to nine month range wouldn’t work anyway. My first child could wear the same outfit all day, which meant we didn’t much in the way of clothes. Let’s hope the second baby doesn’t get reflux either.

It wasn’t all bad news. I decided to return a few maternity items and unrelated office supplies. I found a number of maternity shirts on sale at Old Navy last week and decided to return the more expensive items I purchased at Kohl’s. I file the receipts to everything I buy so I just dug through my handy-dandy organizer and returned them to customer service this morning. I also found a bunch of unused pens and shipping labels that have been sitting in the drawer for a month or so. I located the receipt and returned them too; between the two transactions I recouped $75.

I still have a long list of nesting tasks I want to accomplish. There are quite a few closets, cubbies and plastic storage bins to process!

Photo Credit

November 18, 2014 at 9:04 PM 8 comments

Nesting: The Second Time Around

nursery shelves

I love second trimester nesting! I’m currently twenty-one weeks pregnant and suddenly feel a compulsive need to clean the house, remove all the clutter and organize everything. I started in the kitchen, moved to the dining room, tried my best to wrangle the chaos that is our living room and then moved upstairs.

I don’t feel as anxious about getting everything ready this time around. Before my son was born I wanted every little detail to be complete. I asked my husband to paint the nursery, I assembled the crib and dresser and applied jungle themed decals to the walls. Long before he arrived everything was washed, dried, folded and hanged. This time around I’m taking a much more relaxed attitude to preparing, especially as it pertains to the nursery.

The truth is my son didn’t sleep in his room for a full six months. Since he was exclusively breastfed I kept him in the same room with me. I didn’t see the value in keeping him in separate quarters when I could just walk three steps to lift and feed him. For the first month or so he slept in a co-sleeper, but after that his little body grew too long to fit comfortably in there. We disassembled the crib and reassembled in our room. It was a tight fit, but we managed to make it work. I couldn’t access my dresser for four months, so I moved everything I needed to a small nightstand.

My post-pregnancy wardrobe included a bunch of pull-down nursing tops. They are the kind that pull down in the front so you don’t have to lift your shirt to nurse. I added a couple pairs of pants, bras and underwear and had plenty of room to spare in those drawers. This time around I’m considering adding some of the baby clothes and blankets to that same dresser. That way everything we need will be in one general area. I might even toss the changing pad on to the top of my dresser so I don’t have to leave the room to change the baby.

I moved all of my pre-pregnancy clothes to the basement for the time being. I did this for two reasons. First, I don’t want to move them out of the way every time I reach for something to wear. Second, I figure it will give me the opportunity to further purge my wardrobe after the baby is born. Things that fit will come back upstairs; everything else will be gathered for donation. Pregnancy has forced me to revisit my wardrobe on more than one occasion. Whether I like it or not various parts of my body changed while I was pregnant and even after I delivered. I got rid of anything that didn’t fit well and decided not to hold on to things that might fit again one day.

My son is still sleeping in his crib, (converted to a toddler bed), and I’m not certain when he’ll give up the comfort of that cozy spot for a larger bed. I don’t need to rush him out of there for quite some time. We still have 19 weeks, (technically I think it’ll be closer to 17 or 18), until the baby arrives and then another two months of the new one using the co-sleeper.

We still own most of the baby equipment my son used, so we just need to find, assemble and figure out where on earth we are going to put it. With only one child in the house we seemed to have plenty of room for that giant baby swing, rock-and-play and bouncer. This time around my son’s toys can fill the entire living room floor, so I’m not quite sure how we’ll squeeze everything in.

Since I haven’t touched the nursery yet, the majority of my nesting seems to revolve around all the other stuff contained within the walls of our home. I’m taking a closer look at the items we actually use on a daily basis. When I cleaned out the kitchen cabinets I removed anything we don’t use regularly. In the past I would have moved it to some other location, but this time I dropped it off for donation. I was more hesitant than I would have preferred. I kept thinking “we might need that one day” and then decided we would just buy again if and when that time came. I got rid of a few storage containers that cannot be stacked even though they were in perfectly good condition and a couple of vases and pitchers that have barely been used.

Unfortunately, I find myself moving things around much more than actually disposing of them. My days of bargain shopping for office supplies are long over, but I couldn’t bear to get rid of all the printer paper in our home. A two foot stack has been moved to the hall closet where it waits to be turned into drawing paper and printable coupons. The same goes for a mound of thank-you notes, ribbons and wrapping supplies.

My hope is to corral all of these miscellaneous items into one place for the time being, then make a second pass through a few days or weeks from now. Everything other than clothing is getting stored away in labeled bins and drawers in one small room. I’d like to reduce the pile by half. I’ve also decided that anything that cannot fit into this space will be purged.

I feel like I have a long way to go to get everything sorted and organized, but I love that I have the energy and desire to make things better. The first step is to clean out the house, the last step will be to work on the nursery.

Photo Credit

November 13, 2014 at 5:12 PM 10 comments

Groupon Expands to Offer the Best of Both Worlds for Online Discount Deals

Once, Groupon offered shoppers only the opportunity to “buy into” destination and event discounts through direct email offerings and their online discount site. They have now expanded their offerings and joined the ranks of other major online coupon and discount code sites by allowing bargain hunters to use coupons and deal codes for purchases in a multitude of online stores.

Along with discount sites like retailmenot, couponcodeday and others, Groupon hopped on the merchandise bandwagon with valuable online discount coupons, codes and sales. Groupon clearly hopes the updated strategy will help it keep pace with the other deal sites in the face of increasingly stiff competition and a more internet and coupon-savvy shopping public. Groupon now features online store coupons good for over 7000 online retailers.

The discounts range from dollars or percent-off coupons to free shipping deals, discounts on specific items or special buys. Holiday sales are even beginning to show up online, and Groupon online coupon deals are keeping pace. In many cases, online Groupon partner stores have discount codes and coupons that “stack” or combine with other offers for truly amazing deals.

Other winners include codes and discounts from Groupon on items already on sale or in deeply discounted clearance categories. These off-season items may provide some of the best bargains for shoppers looking to prepare early for spring and summer.

Some of the new Groupon online store offerings do not even require codes or coupons. Users simply clock on the “Activate Online Sale” button to enable all available online store savings that apply. Online marketing giants and participate in these promotions. Other online retailers featured in the updated Groupon model include Walmart, Target and Macys.

Shoppers will find no shortage of merchandise available in every category imaginable. Combining the traditional Groupon model of direct email marketing for destination and events with the new online coupons and discounts, Groupon shoppers now have the best of both worlds available in their hunt for bargains and discounts.

November 13, 2014 at 12:48 PM Leave a comment

I Cannot Imagine a Scenario Where I Won’t Owe $3000

After publishing my last post about my insurance coverage I realized we will definitely max out next year’s medical deductible. I suppose all that worry over squeezing in prescriptions and doctor’s visits was rather pointless. According to the medical records my son’s birth cost $8,400. The hospital billed my insurance company $4000 and the obstetrician charged an additional $4,400.  It goes without saying that our $3000 deductible will most likely be met.

Back in 2011 our insurance covered the majority of these bills. I paid $1575 out of pocket, primarily in the form of co-pays and co-insurance, using the money set aside in my FSA fund. This time around I’ll have to pay the entire deductible before the insurance company will kick in any money.

I also realized that the addition of a new family member will increase our monthly premium by $171.64 a month. Did I mention that high insurance bills are the one really terrible thing about self-employment? That’ll add a hefty $2059.68 to our yearly bill.

Our deductible also applies to prescription drugs, so I’m pretty certain I’ll have to pay the full amount on all refills until our deductible is met. I transferred my prenatal vitamin to a new pharmacy in order to earn $25 in store credit. I’m not certain the transfer was really worth the effort.

I used a special money saving coupon with this particular vitamin and the new pharmacy couldn’t figure out how to apply the discount. It took thirty minutes of waiting around, a follow up phone call and ten minutes back in the store the following day to get everything sorted out. I thought the issue was with my insurance coverage, but it turns out that I spent all that time waiting around for a $20 coupon.

Unfortunately I got stuck in limbo waiting for the problem to be resolved. I couldn’t go back to the original pharmacy because the prescription had already been transferred and I couldn’t move forward with the new pharmacy because they couldn’t figure out the billing situation.

Although the issue was finally resolved I do wish it hadn’t taken so long to do so. When am I going to learn to stay away from coupons?

I used the store credit to buy four packs of diapers and two boxes of tissues. I paid $1.30 for all six items, but I’m still not sure it was worth all that extra effort.

November 11, 2014 at 10:19 PM 2 comments

How to Save Money on a New Baby: Wait to Find Out the Gender


I’ve been to quite a few baby showers in the past ten years. For the majority of those parties the mother-to-be already knew the baby’s gender. In the case of baby boys light blue invitations with sailboats and puppy dogs were mailed, for baby girls sparkly images of pink ribbons and sprinkled cupcakes.

As a guest at these events I’ve noticed an interesting trend. When the gender is known and revealed prior to the shower the number of baby outfits and clothes provided as gifts increases exponentially.

From my experience knowing the gender seems to increase the odds that guests will avoid more functional presents in favor of cute little clothes that make women oh and ah.

As I mentioned in my last post my husband and I chose not to find out the gender of our first born child in advance and will do the same this time around. At our baby shower we received a plethora of practical items from our registry and very few clothing related items.

In comparison I attended a baby shower last February where the mother-to-be was inundated with gift bags full of clothes. Other than a box or two of diapers and practical items from one or two family members she received very little from her registry.

It was a HUGE shower with a room full of guests and almost each and every one of them opted for something cute over something practical. As someone who is ridiculously prudent it pained my heart to see so much money wasted on teeny tiny baby clothes that would be outgrown within a matter of weeks.

I’ve witnessed similar scenarios time and time again particularly from moms expecting baby girls. When the mom is finished opening the gifts the room is overflowing with pink dresses, dainty shoes for a baby who won’t be old enough to walk in them and barrettes for a child who may not have hair.

From my personal experience it seems that the temptation to buy cute outfits is avoided when the gender is unknown. I’m not sure why that happens, perhaps it’s just harder to find clothes in gender neutral colors.

Of course, gender isn’t the only predictor of what types of gifts moms-to-be might receive. Some moms don’t take price into consideration when registering. If you choose too many high end items or too many inexpensive ones you won’t get what you want either. I wrote a post back in February explaining this in more detail. If you really want friends and family to buy what you want it’s important to consider price points and store locations carefully.

In our case we received play mats, strollers, nursery items and bath toys in neutral colors. Even the guests who chose to avoid the registry picked gender neutral items like sheets with jungle themed prints and sorting toys. Not a single gift was wasted and each one can be used the second time around regardless of whether baby two turns out to be a boy or a girl.

My son currently sleeps in a yellow room with green sheets. The next baby can easily move into that same room without changing a single thing in it. In fact, even at age three, with the exception of his Thomas trains, most of his toys are gender neutral.

I think having a boy first gives us an overall advantage in the clothing department. A little girl can wear blue much more easily than a little boy can wear pink. In general I find that the girls clothing is quite girly, while the boy’s clothing is much more gender neutral.

Most moms I know that had a daughter before a son agree with me. They said the majority of their little girls clothing was donated or sold and that whole new wardrobes had to be purchased or borrowed for their second child.

While we didn’t receive many clothes at our shower I did purchase quite a few in the span of that first year. I took a peek in the box today and found that the majority of clothing in 0 to 9 months can be worn by either gender. If my children were born at the same time of year I don’t think we would need to buy anything new for the first six to nine months. Of course that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t want to buy a few feminine outfits, but more importantly that the need wouldn’t exist.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this topic. If you knew the gender in advance of your baby shower did you receive a lot of clothing? If you waited did you find the majority of guests purchased practical items directly from your registry? Also, since girls can wear boys clothes do you think there is an economic advantage to having a boy before a girl?

Photo Credit

November 9, 2014 at 10:20 AM 12 comments

Your Coupon Salary: A Factor of Time and Money


I’ve written about coupons many different times over the past few years. I used to sing the praises of those little pieces of paper, but over time I’ve turned against them. At some point along the way I decided to kick them to the curb and cancelled my newspaper subscription to ensure I wouldn’t be tempted to continue clipping.

Every once in awhile my brain gives way to visions of saving and against my better judgement I try bargain shopping again. More often than not I fail miserably.

At the height of my couponing days I often wondered how much time and energy I spent trying to save money. I considered running the numbers more times than I can count, (I’m a numbers kind of girl), but often lost track of the few minutes of time spent here and there along the way.

A recent article in Parent’s magazine made me wish I kept tabs of both the time I spent and money I saved. The October 2014 issue contains an article titled “Is Couponing Really Worth It?” Beneath the title is a headline which reads, “Trolling for discounts can save your family money, but it’s not for everyone. See whether you’re better off clipping or skipping.”

The article provides a quiz to help you determine whether or not couponing will help you save money.  The seven questions are:

  1. How much free time can you devote to couponing?
  2. Do you have space?
  3. Are you willing to travel to multiple stores each week?
  4. Do you buy products that offer coupons?
  5. Are you up for reading the fine print?
  6. How do you feel about haggling?
  7. Are you organized?

Based on your answers you’ll be labeled a “a coupon catastrophe”, “coupon capable” or “a coupon champ in the making.” (You can find the quiz here.)

Although the test is all for fun I did love the “coupon salary calculator” at the end of the article, which suggests plugging in numbers to calculate your hourly coupon “wage.” In essence this little calculation will help you determine if saving money is worth the sacrifice of your time.

Here are the details:

  1. How much do you spend per week on groceries and drugstore items, excluding coupons?
  2. How much are you spending per week, including coupons?
  3. Subtract line 2 from line 1. What is your total weekly savings?
  4. Enter the amount you spend weekly on printed newspapers (if you use their coupons) and subscription coupon sites.
  5. How much money do you spend weekly on printer ink and paper? (Note: The average cost per black-ink is 5.5 cents; it’s 8.9 cents for color.)
  6. Subtract lines 4 and 5 from line 3. Enter the total.
  7. How many hours per week do you spend couponing?
  8. Divide line 6 by line 7. This is the amount you make per hour of couponing. (Note the federal minimum wage is $7.25.)

As I mentioned I’ve never written down how much time I spent clipping, traveling to various stores, waiting in line and haggling over non-working coupons, but in retrospect I sure wish I did. Back in the heydey I’d drive to two or three different stores first thing on a Sunday morning in search of drugstore bargains. I’d love to know how much time I actually spent preparing and shopping. I did save a ton of money on those early morning ventures, but back then I definitely valued money more than time. These days with a toddler at home and a baby on the way I value time so much more than money!

Photo Credit

November 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM 3 comments

The New Addition To Our Family

I can’t believe I’m typing up this post, but here it is, after nearly a year of trying to conceive I am happy to announce that our little family of three is expecting a new addition to the family. The new bundle of joy should arrive next March!

I’ve been hesitant to write about my pregnancy or tell people about it. I was the same way with my first. When I got pregnant with my son I waited until I was fourteen weeks to tell anyone other than my husband and massage therapist. This time around I told one or two people early on, but still waited to tell my family until the last possible minute. To be honest I only spilled the beans, because I was afraid my growing belly would reveal the truth on my behalf.


I had a few minor complications in the first trimester, but we have just reached the mid-way point in this pregnancy and everything is now looking great!

I do not plan to find out the gender of this baby until the day of his or her birth. We did the same thing three years ago when my son was born and it was so exciting to wait!

A lot of friends and family members think I want a girl this time around, but the truth is that I will be thrilled with either gender. I love my son with every single ounce of my being and I would be blessed beyond belief to receive another little boy into my life!

Photo Credit

November 7, 2014 at 10:00 AM 9 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts


onefrugalgirl AT gmail DOT com

Follow on Twitter

BlogHer Ads


DealSpotr - Fast Coupons. No Popups. Just Savings.