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Posts tagged with: christmas gifts

Christmas on a Shoestring Budget

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Today we leave to stay at my grandmother’s in Georgia for a month.  I cannot wait! I get to sleep in a bed, have heat day and night and have indoor plumbing (have to go over to the trailer to use the bathroom where we are at now.)  It is going to be joyous.  These are things I will never take for granted again!

I have less income now than I’ve had all year with the cut in the twins’ adoption assistance and being informed yesterday that there would be no work hours until Dec. 14th and I didn’t have any the last two weeks either.  Needless to say, Christmas is going to be almost non-existent.  Almost…

Princess and I learned to knit in the last month.  This is something I have wanted to do for YEARS!  A new store opened up here locally and offered $10 beginning classes along with 10% off the supplies.  We’ve taken off like gang-busters.  She has become a whiz at making hats, teaching herself after learning the two basic stitches, and I’m quite adept at knitting straight lines now.  We’ve both been working on making presents for anyone we could think of who would enjoy them.

A couple of the hats Princess has knitted as presents.

A couple of the hats Princess has knitted as presents.

The little ones dad sent them both $50 at the end of September for the state fair, and both of them managed to save some of it.  Gymnast cleaned my car for another $10 this week, so I took him shopping last night.  He managed to buy thoughtful, practical gifts that I think everyone will enjoy staying within his budget.  (He shopped at $5 and Below and got some really great presents if I do say so myself.)  He has also gotten creative with reusing some canvases he had previously painted.  Painting over them and creating new masterpieces to give as gifts.

Original paintings that have now been repurposed to Christmas presents.

Original paintings that have now been re-purposed to Christmas presents.

I have not had quite as much luck in figuring out what to do for gifts for the kids, but at this point am planning to try and fill their stockings with goodies and that will be it. I’ve been collecting free samples of soaps (not hotel kinds, but more homemade stuff,) notebooks and anything else I can find. This is the first year that we will not be in our own space for Christmas. No Christmas decorations, no menu planning, no traditions from the past. I did dig out the stockings and will be taking them with us (the kids don’t know.) I think it will be nice to have something from our old life with this new Christmas. I have been thinking that I could create a certificate for a “mom and child” date so when I do have some money I could take each child out to eat at a favorite restaurant. Thought that might be kind of special and something to look forward to.

I’m not going to pretend and say it’s been easy to be so broke especially with the holidays here, but we have more than enough and in the end, it truly is being together that counts the most, not the material things. We are blessed that we don’t have needs, just wants. There are many who truly need.

Updated to add Amazon Wishlist…http://a.co/el2mc7W

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Christmas Time is Here

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Disclaimer: This post does contain a couple of affiliate links.  I wanted to share these ideas with you and decided there was no harm if I let you know up front that they were affiliate links.

Having a frugal Christmas is not hard for me.  Okay, I take that back because of course I want to see the look of complete and utter joy and shock on my kiddos faces when they open presents.  But let’s face it…One, we really don’t NEED a single thing; Two, there are so many other things I NEED to do with my money right now (ie debt;) Three, we don’t have ANY free space.

Therefore, my temptation to “shop til you drop” is extremely limited and my desires for my kids Christmas gifts are pretty limited as well.  Over the last few years, I have really steered clear of “stuff” and focused instead on making sure that each child got one thing from each of these categories:

  • Something to wear – this is one that kids would normally frown at, at least in my mind, but since my twins buy their own clothes, they love when mom kicks in and helps them out.  We are not a name brand kind of family but this gift is either something they really need or something they really want, so sometimes socks and underwear and sometimes a new pair of tennis shoes.
  • Something that makes them happy – my kids submit lists to me every year and over the years they know that mom is not going to be trendy toys or anything she would consider “junk.”  (I stopped buying video games, system two years ago so they don’t put those on their list at all.) I encourage them to put things on their list that they will really enjoy having and calling their own.  So to give you an example of this years lists, here are a couple of things that they listed: Loot Crate subscription, a $50 bill, a bottle of grape juice all to myself, art supplies and the best one in my book “a baby duck that I can imprint on.”  Go figure!
  • Something they need – let’s face it, we can always find things our kids need, and in our case, with homeschooling there are always things that are needs that can be made a bit special by making them a gift.  Most years they twins get a box full of personal hygiene stuff.  At first it was because they lost it so often and now it’s because I know they would rather spend their money on other things, so if they are responsible and keep up with the stuff, it frees up their personal money for other things throughout the year.  Sometimes it’s art supplies, gift card to a specific place for an upcoming event, etc.
  • An experience – my kids have never been “toy” players.  Anything they got, when the novelty wore off 5 minutes later, the toy was literally just a waste, so we stopped toys probably 4-5 years ago.  Instead they get experiences…camp money (summer camp,) classes or something associated with that (sewing machine and patterns,) girls day out (hand written gift certificate for lunch out, window shopping and pedicures.)  Whatever it is, this is typically their favorite gift.  And I’ve found, especially with summer camps that if you register at this time of year, you typically get a “double discount.”  My dad is paying the deposit for each child to attend a week of summer camp this year as a Christmas gift for them so not only do I get the double discount, but I don’t have to pay the registration fee which is applied to their tuition and gives me months to pay for camp (line item Kids Activities.)

Because we are so limited in space this year which has really affected our crafting and science space I was struggling to find that “wow” gift for the little ones, and then after hearing from my oldest that he would like the Loot Crate subscription (second year he’s asked for that) I began thinking there might be something like this for the littles.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • Tinker subscriptions – they describe it as a “Laboratory for Hands-on experiments delivered every month.”  How cool is that!  This is our first year trying it, but since Little Gymnast LOVES science I though this was the perfect way to surprise him and it’s the gift that keeps on giving since he will get one every month.  (We started with a three month subscription to try it out.)
  • Doodle subscriptions – they describe it as “Ready, Set, Make – fresh new DIY projects to make stuff that you’ll love.”  What a perfect gift for the budding DIY’er or artist.  Princess is getting a 3 month subscription to this which I hope will complement her current obsession with nail art and marker drawings.

This year I will round out the gifts with a magazine subscription for each child, cheap and educational – woohoo and probably a gift card to some entertainment…movie theatre or trampoline playground.  Great for winter entertainment when we just need a break from the apartment.

In the meantime, we have put up a six foot plastic crafting table in our living room and Santa’s Workshop is in full affect.  They have purchased supplies with their own money and are sculpting and painting, screwing together and hiding as they make their gifts for each other and our extended family.  Little Gymnast even bought a gingerbread house kit and has finally mastered putting them together…well, until he ran out of frosting from licking it off his fingers.

It truly is a wonderful time of the year!  Do you have any frugal gift ideas to share or a way you kept your family Christmas reasonable?


Teacher and Friend Gifts

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When I shared my holiday budget a few days ago I didn’t go into my budget for teachers, co-workers, neighbors and other friends.  Here’s another place where Pampered Chef has paid off.  In addition to the commission I earned that has nicely padded my emergency fund, I earned those “Pampered Chef Dollars.”  With $300 to spend I was able to get everyone a small something and able to keep $100 for later.  It’s nice to not have to touch my regular budget for these items!  I haven’t done much with PC this month for obvious reasons (the divorce, the holidays), but I look forward to jump starting my real food business in January.  I also woke up today with a fun idea to incorporate couples by having an event in February.  Many of my friends have been discussing how we can get their husbands and boyfriends involved so a couples’ event of cooking real food sounds perfect for Valentine’s Day.  I really do enjoy this real food stuff and to be making money at it is a complete bonus.

If I can get through the holiday season and just spend my kid budget I will be SO proud!


Living on Less is Harder Than it Looks…

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At 4AM on Saturday morning, my husband’s cell phone blared loudly, shocking me awake from my sleep.

Here’s my deal about middle of the night phone calls, my husband and I both work two jobs and he attends night school on top of it. Unless someone is dead, don’t call at 4AM on a weekend, otherwise, it will be your funeral I’m planning.

Fortunately, no one was dead. It was my in-laws calling to ask my husband for help fixing their water heater that had sprung a leak and flooded their basement. The water had long since been turned off but I’m guessing since they had been up since 2AM cleaning the mess, 4AM seemed like a semi-decent hour.

My husband went over to help fix their pipes and uncovered some other problems with the gas line while he was at it. Having gas line problems while using industrial heaters and fans to dry out a flooded area seemed a bit on the dangerous side, so he fixed those as well. He ended up working on their plumbing until 3PM.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal but we had already promised to move my brother’s father-in-law’s stuff out of his condo in exchange for some much needed furniture. Unable to postpone the move since the property closed on Monday, we worked until 11PM (with some great help from my brother-in-law’s) before finally giving in to sleep.

My husband spent Sunday morning re-piping the neighbor’s bathroom in exchange for helping us finish moving the furniture. The neighbor’s plumbing had problems too (surprise surprise) so we didn’t get started again until about 3PM. We finally finished moving, vacuuming, and sweeping around 8PM and made our way back home. After unloading and rearranging the furniture, we didn’t to sleep until after 10PM.

Monday morning, as our alarm clocks chimed at 4:30AM, my husband whispered, ‘I changed my mind. I don’t want tools for Christmas, I want a weekend of sleep.’

Can’t say I blame him.

But the weekend of hard work paid off with some furniture we could never afford to buy ourselves.


My Big Shopping Weekend…

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I burned 4 ½ hours at the mall this weekend. I wandered the stores with my budgeted cash in hand, searching for a reason to part with it. Signs marked ’40 – 50% Off’ gleamed in high gloss red paint, enticing me to spend, spend, spend.

I did spend…

$23.

Turns out, spending money on Christmas gifts for the first time in two years isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Given, it is hard to get into the Christmas spirit while shopping in a tank top and shorts.

Dear San Diego,

In case you missed it, we are in the month of DECEMBER, not July. Please adjust to more appropriate temperatures. Ninety degrees doesn’t exactly scream winter wonderland.

Oh well, there will always be next year.


Black Friday…

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Black Friday this year was particularly dangerous. In late 2008, I lost my job and had only recently picked up a new one. We were so busy putting our financial lives back together that Christmas gifts weren’t an option. In late 2009, my husband was laid off and didn’t have a job over the holidays. We skipped Christmas that year too. This year, not only are we both employed, my husband got a raise and things are looking good on my end too.

I was ready to shop this year.

But, crazy thing happened on Black Friday…

I had to work.

I think I heard the Hallelujah chorus blaring from my wallet the entire morning.

Oh well. There will always be next year.

Did you shop on Black Friday this year? Or did you have a moment of sanity and skip it?