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Free DIY Thanksgiving Centerpieces

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For those of our American friends, are you all ready for the big Thanksgiving holiday? Whats on the menu at your houses?

We’re going very low-key this year. Typically, we either go to someone’s house or we have family or friends over to ours. This year it’s just the 4 of us and we’re planning to enjoy some sleeping in, possible naps (children willing), family walks, and just general laziness. Sounds glorious to me!

To keep costs low, our Thanksgiving dinner is going to be pretty minimal. Last year (yes – an entire YEAR ago) I got a BOGO turkey, but we only cooked one. I’ve had the second turkey in the freezer for an entire YEAR. I’d always intended to cook it at some point, but there was really never a reason to cook an entire huge turkey. Sooooo, I busted it out and it’s been thawing in the fridge the past couple days. No cost incurred there.

For sides we’re doing green beans (fresh – not the canned/casserole-type dish), homemade rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing. Lots of carbs (isn’t that how it always goes with Turkey Day?), but not a lot of volume. In the past we’ve always had the potato struggle (mashed vs. sweet), but last year I realized that I was the only person who even ate the sweet potato casserole! As much as I love it, it’s a LOT of work and if no one else even enjoys it, I don’t want to do it just for myself.

Since we’re only cooking for 4, we didn’t have to go out and buy a ton of food. And the foods we’re having are extremely cheap (homemade rolls – dough is basically free since we have flour, yeast, etc. on-hand; potatoes were super cheap at the store for mashed potatoes; stuffing is also super cheap; etc.)

When I was first planning our meal, I asked the girls what they wanted for Thanksgiving. Funny little kiddos, the first thing they said was, “CENTERPIECES!” No, silly – I meant food! But they had a point. They’ve read story books and seen cartoons and all Thanksgivings seem to be characterized by these big, elaborate, gorgeous displays on the center of the table. The problem is, we don’t have the money to be splurging on table centerpieces or unnecessary decorations. So I did a little google search for “Free DIY Thanksgiving Centerpieces” and got a ton of fun and cute ideas (PS: I found this fun free printable with kids’ activities for Thanksgiving day that I’m planning to do with the kids, too!)

In the end, I picked to have the kiddos do a Thankful Turkey. I loved that they came up with things they are thankful for and it allowed them to practice their penmanship by writing their own thankful lists (with help from mom & dad with dictating the spelling). It was pretty funny and cute to see some of the things they came up with (e.g., “Thankful for MYSELF” got a good chuckle). I just love spending the holidays with our kiddos – as they grow, it truly becomes more and more fun!!!

So for anyone else out there looking for cheap/free last-minute Thanksgiving Centerpiece ideas, I wanted to share ours. All supplies were things we already had on-hand so it cost us $0 to make, plus it was some fun family time and a great opportunity to share the different things we’re thankful for in our lives.

From our family to yours, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!


Competition Season is Upon Us

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All the months of training, all the months of driving hours back and forth to practice, all the blog debate on the cost of my kids’ activities (that is supposed to make you smile,) today is the day we have been preparing for! The competition season is upon us! Gymnast and I drove about 3 1/2 hours last night to be ready for his first gymnastics meet of the season today.  Woot, woot. I cannot wait to watch him fly!

Pictures of Gymnast competing a couple of years ago.

Now before you jump on me for the cost of this endeavor, it is built into my budget, Gymnast’s training cost $240 per month during the season (less in the summer when he comes less often.) I have $350 per month in the budget to cover the costs of attending meets and meet fees.  Financially, I have planned for this.

With that being said, and with my goal of getting rid of some debts before the end of the calendar year, I am doing my best to squeeze every single cent out of my budget. I thought I would share some of my tips and tricks I have learned over the last 7 years of having a child in a competitive sport (and now two children in competitive sports.)

Tips for Managing and Controlling the Expense of Competitive Sports

  1. Barter – you know this is my go to trick. I bartered for 4 years of Tae Kwon Do training, culminating with Princess getting a internationally recognized Black Belt. I also bartered for 4 years of gymnastics training. (And I am working on bartering for volleyball right now.) I have provided tech support, website design and general admin work in return for the monthly cost of training.
  2. Used Equipment – all the teams we have participated in have at least yearly “used equipment/uniform sales.” Taking advantage of these can literally save you hundreds of dollars a year. This year Gymnast uniform package cost me $200 dollars! I would have happily bought used if he weren’t the biggest boy on the team, alas, all new for him this year.  But you get my point, right?
  3. Car Pool – when we first started gymnastics, another little boy on our street did as well. We traded off driving every week, it was fantastic! It gave me some of my time back AND saved me some gas money. That is not an option where we are now, but if it were, I would jump at it!  I’m just grateful that now both kids will be in sports within a couple of miles of each other rather than states and counties away.  That will save me some time and money compared to the spring.
  4. Travel – If your sport requires travel with overnights, those hotels can quickly add up, especially with one or more competitions per month during the season. If at all possible, we have driven up and back on the same day, but sometimes, you just can’t do that (especially when there is only one driver who needs to sleep sometimes.) I have found three tricks for saving on hotels outside of the typical bargain hunting as far in advance as you can.
    1. Share a room with another teammate and their family. This is pretty uncomfortable to me, being a single mom, so not one we really do. But I know others who do this regularly.
    2. Use credit card points for hotel stays. Now this one I do ALL the time, and was probably the reason I was no opposed to giving up my credit card use. I have one card I use, that I use like a rolling line of credit, use it and pay it. The points add up quickly that way. That is how I paid for Gymnast and my room last night.
    3. Join hotel points programs, and save them up. I am a member of two Hotel programs, both free to join. Any time we travel, I look for those hotels first. Every dollar spent, we get points. Every night spent, we get points. You get the picture. (Most of them also have credit cards that allow you to earn more points. As tempted as I am at times, I know that is not a wise choice for me.) Those points add up. And we use them for stays.
  5. Food – Nuts, granola bars, jerky. I keep some of each in my car, all the time. It helps quench the “I’m dying of hunger” needs without stopping at the most convenient drive thru or convenient store. This is especially key after practice when we are still an hour away from home.In addition, all our hotel choices when we travel, offer FREE breakfast and most of the time have a free fruit snack for kids i.e. apples. When we travel, we pack the meal for the ride there. Typically sandwiches and chips. This typically leaves us with 1 maybe 2 meals that I must pay for. In all cases, we drink water, depending on how many of us go, this can save me up to $15.

These are just a few of the tips I have learned over the years. There are as natural as breathing to me. My kids are also well versed in our frugal-ness when traveling.

One thing we like to do when we are in a new place, as we will be a lot this year, is try things unique to those places (within reason.) Typically, one child gets on Yelp to find the restaurant.  We LOVE Yelp in that we can find things based on food type, cost and location. If they choose something that is a bit more pricey, not all the way pricey, they know as soon as we sit down and I eyeball the menu, they will get a budget for their meal. It’s fun to watch them barter and share things to try more, get more.


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