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Posts tagged with: gift giving

Money Down The Drain


First, thanks for the responses, comments, and helpful feedback on my last post.

Edited update: I did type up a full proposal and email but, after thinking better of it, I never sent it. Instead, I sent an email asking for a brief meeting sometime in the next couple weeks and already received a reply that we’ll meet on the 20th. Further out than I’d like, but better than nothing. Then we can discuss the changes in roles/responsibilities and the mis-alignment between contract and current duties in person. One commenter suggested asking for the changes to be implemented in the next financial cycle (like future planning) instead of insisting on immediate change. I think that it makes sense for me to be flexible and open to that, if thats what’s necessary. Ultimately, though, all this will be discussed in person. Not via email. I’ll keep you updated. I sincerely thank you for your suggestions!


Today I just wanted to tell you a little story of how being more aware can save you money (or, rather, how failing to be aware COST me money).


One of my friends is due with a second child in October. She had a baby shower over Labor Day that I had to miss since I was in Austin. I still wanted to get her a gift so I decided to shop Target.com since 1) she is registered there, and 2) I have a Target card so I get free shipping and 5% off all purchases.


So I log in and pick out a couple things for her baby (a book for big brother and a 3-pack of onesies for the new baby). I thought it was a nice touch to throw in the “big brother” book. I try to stay around $15-25 for most gift-giving occasions (weddings, baby showers, birthdays, etc.) and the total cost of the gift was right at $25, so I was in that range.


I have another friend who is organizing a big Lego drive for kids with cancer being treated at our local children’s hospital. One of her friends (an acquaintance of mine) has a son who has been battling cancer for 3 years (after 3 relapses at only 4 years old). I generally don’t do “Go Fund Me” or similar such things, but I felt moved to donate to this Lego drive for kids fighting cancer. So I added two $12 Lego sets to my Target.com order. My idea was to let my girls help wrap them up and go to drop them off at the Lego drive (they’d each have one to give).

With the legos added to my cart, my total was now right around $50. The Legos, alone, were about half of the total amount.

After placing my order I received the standard email from Target (I order from Target.com for most of my gift-giving occasions, so I have an account with them, etc.). The order looked correct, I saw the dates things would ship, and all was good.

Then a few days later…

I get a text from my friend with a ‘thank you’ and a picture of her son playing with one of the Lego sets I bought!!!


It turns out that since I ordered off her registry, it automatically shipped my order to her house. I didn’t even notice!!! Because I have an account with target.com I never have to enter my shipping information (it’s all saved), so I didn’t even realize that the gift wasn’t coming to me as I’d intended!

I immediately texted that I was so embarrassed it had gone straight to her – I thought it would come to me so I’d have an opportunity to wrap it, etc. She lol-ed and that was basically it. But because her initial photo was of her son playing with the open Legos package, I didn’t feel like I could ask for the other one back to give to the kids with cancer. And she didn’t inquire about why I sent 2 identical Lego packages (clearly not intended for a newborn baby). Left it at that.

Lesson learned.

Failing to pay more attention to what was going on caused me to spend an extra $25 (basically doubling the price of my “gift”) AND means that my donation didn’t happen. Not sure what to do about that one, as I feel guilty not donating to the cancer kids, but I also didn’t have planned to donate an additional $25 worth of stuff. Thoughts on that one?

Have you ever experienced a similar shipping snafu? If it were you, would you have asked for the other Lego package back, or just chalk it up as a lesson learned?

Using Found Items to Make Gifts


I can’t wait to share with you some of my gifts I’m making.  But I’m really enjoying the process of finding things around the house, mostly things we would normally trash or recycle and seeing what I can make out of them that would be both practical and a craft worth giving.

So I’ve got these 1/2 gallon milk jars, glass, that I’ve been trying to find something to do with.  For this I have LOVED Pinterest.  So I’m stuck between painting them and making them – gratefulness jars – you know where you write little notes of praises or compliments and drop them in the jar.  I thought if I did one for each child, then on Christmas they’d get a decorated bottle full of notes to read.  Or doing some kind of recipe in a jar of some sort for teacher gifts.  I see lots of these with the smaller jars, but not sure it would work with this size.

My other thought is to take some plain clipboards which I have around from homeschooling and decorate them with paint, paper and other stuff for teachers at the co op.  I’ve actually done this in the past, but we’ve got lots of new teachers, and more importantly I’ve got ALL the supplies on hand to make them.

I’m also making a ton of homemade soap.  This was more of  a practical way to save some money.  I buy the supplies in bulk and have made my own for years due to the kids sensitive and dry skin.  So I’m thinking I can maybe wrap some of it up nicely as gifts too.

So I’m really working on this…it takes my time and attention off the difficulties at hand, uses up supplies I have on hand, and most importantly gets me set up for what could be a nice Christmas.

Two questions…

  1. Have any great craft, gift ideas I could do with 1/2 gallon glass milk jugs?
  2. What are your go to crafty gifts that you are proud to give?

I am thankful for this season in my life.  I get to spend every moment with my children. I continue to make improvements to how I manage my “stuff” and my money, learning more every day.  And I’m super excited on what is coming right around the corner for us!

Father’s Day Recap


Our Father’s Day this year was really low-key. Unfortunately (or fortunately, considering our no-income month of May!!!), hubs had to work the entire weekend, including a full day on Sunday.

Also, my recent travel last week made it feel like Father’s Day really snuck up on me this year. I’ve gotten pretty good with frugal gift-giving, but I hadn’t adequately planned or prepared for anything this year so I was left scrambling at the end of the week to figure something out.

Just one of the many, many reasons I’m grateful for this blog!

I blatantly stole –ahem- “borrowed” Matt’s idea and decided to do something that I knew my husband would really appreciate, but wouldn’t take a lot of time or money. I made him a bag of his favorite things!

I went to the store pretty last minute (cough, Sunday morning, cough) and got all kinds of goodies that I would never normally splurge on at the grocery store (e.g., expensive nuts, cereals, pudding snacks, etc.). All in, I spent less than $30 for a bag full of stuff that hubs loves.

Plus, this was my third annual Father’s Day D-A-D picture! I think this is the best year yet!



See last year’s pictures here

For the other Fathers in our lives, I did my usual thing – I made the girls do a craft! It was a little more low-key than some of our other crafts simply because I was out of time! I didn’t even get our cards into the mail until Friday afternoon so I knew they were going to be late and I really just needed to get the project done! I had the girls color on some white paper and then I cut the paper into rectangles. I glued the rectangles onto heavy cardstock to give it a more “finished” look, and tucked it into the card envelope along with a couple recent pictures of the girls. Easy-peasy, DONE!

I’ve said it before, but one of the biggest changes I’ve made since starting to blog here has been in scaling WAY BACK on the amount I spend on gift giving. When my sister and I were visiting my Dad we talked about what our plans were for Father’s Day. My sister took her hubs to a hotel on the San Antonio River Walk and was contemplating whether she could swing his “dream gift”: An Xbox One. AN XBOX ONE!!!!! We’re talking a $350 gaming console. Add the hotel, eating out, and they’re looking at about a $500+ Father’s Day. I love my sister and am saying this not to pick on her, but because I would have been in the same boat! Before blogging here I would have thought nothing of spending a couple hundred on a Father’s Day gift for hubs ($500 would have still been a little pricey for me, but I could definitely see spending in the $150-200ish range!). For his first Father’s Day (pre-blogging days) I bought him 6-week long golfing lessons! I know he enjoyed it, but talk about pricey!

Cutting back on the amount we spend on gift-giving was a little scary at first. I know its silly, but I was kind of worried at first. It’s like we equate dollars spent to love. If I went from spending $50-$100 on gifts down to $15-20, would people be mad? Offended? Upset?

You know what? Overwhelmingly I feel like they don’t even notice! Many of these gift-giving occasions are bulk gift-giving things (like weddings and baby showers). Recipients write down the gift so they can write a thank you card, and then promptly forget who gave what and how much it might have cost. Also, I’ve gotten a lot better about writing personal and heart-felt notes. Instead of just sending a $50 gift card with a generic “Congratulations” card, I send a much cheaper gift (but one that I actually put thought into to make sure the recipient will enjoy/use), and a really nice card. I’ve even taken time to think up little rhyming poems that are funny and sweet and match the occasion.

So if anyone is reading that’s just starting the debt-reduction journey, might I humbly suggest really taking a knife to your gift-giving budget? I’m not suggesting you be stingy or cheap. But I AM suggesting that you could spend more time actually thinking about a meaningful (and less expensive) gift and writing a really nice card. It’s made a huge difference in our budget! I hope it can make a difference in yours, too!

What did you do for Father’s Day? Do you send gifts to all the fathers (or grandfathers) in your life?

Friend’s Birthdays (and their kid’s birthdays)


Hi friends!

I’m back for a quick third post today!

I’d like to ask your thoughts about birthday gifts. Since I’ve started this debt reduction journey I really haven’t done anything for friends’ birthdays. Not that I’d go overboard in the past either, but it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to take a friend out for dinner or drinks or to a movie or something. Since starting the debt-reduction mission – I’ve really done nothing. (Note:  this has really been limited to friends only, as I still do something small for parents’ and siblings’ birthdays).

At the beginning of the month I was looking at my calendar and trying to budget and figure out all my gift-giving occasions for the month. I noticed that I have 2 friends’ birthdays in my calendar and one friends’ kid’s birthday.

I’m kind of at a loss. I have two other gift-giving obligations this month:  a gift for my step-brother’s wedding, plus one of our preschool teachers is leaving and I’d like to give her a small gift. I try to keep gifts in the $15-$20 range as a rule of thumb, but I’d like to give a little more for the wedding gift (maybe $25), and if I add in those birthday gifts, it’s just too much. It simply doesn’t fit in the budget to spend nearly $100 on gift-giving (I’m figuring $15 per birthday x 3; + $15 for teacher + $25 for step-brother).

Soooo, what do you do about friends’ birthdays?

Would it be weird to just send a card by itself (no gift or gift card inside) or would you still consider it to be thoughtful?

I will say that both of these people are very good friends and I received small birthday gifts from each of them this past December (my birthday is December 31st).

And…where do we stand on the gift for the friend’s kid’s birthday?

In the past, I’ve usually bought a small gift for a baby shower (again – in the $15-$20 range) and sometimes another small gift when the baby is born. But do you start then buying gifts for the friends’ kid’s birthday every year?

One more aspect of this is that 2 of the birthday gifts for this month are in the same household. It’s one of my long-time best friend’s (friends from when I was 10 years old through today!) AND her son’s birthday in the same month. So maybe I could send one little gift that has a couple small things for both of them (spending maybe $20ish total between the two)?

Really this is just an opinion-gathering post.

I don’t want to feel like a social loafer if I receive presents from friends and never return the sentiment or birthday well wishes.

But its also so strange as an adult. It doesn’t feel like birthday gift-giving should be a mandatory thing, right? So would a card be enough? Or is that just me being super cheap? (And there’s a difference between frugal and cheap!)

Tell me what you think and tell me what you do! I’d love to hear some different opinions on the matter!


Gift-Giving (Second Try)


Editor’s Note: Sorry guys! I had intended for this to be published on Friday! I goofed and accidentally set it to publish on Thursday. I pulled it immediately when I discovered my error so I apologize to Stephannie (for hijacking her day!) and to you for the confusion! I still value any discussion surrounding this topic, so please feel free to comment! For those of you who commented yesterday, I did see your comments (and THANKS!!! for your suggestions). I just wanted to let you know they didn’t fall on deaf ears! When I pulled the post they were deleted but I DID see them!!

On Monday I’m going to do a full budget update so you can see how I did for the month of April (I already told you here that I went over budget in one specific category).

Something came up in the comments that I’d love to get readers’ opinions on…..


I had told myself that we were only going to do cards right now (from the Dollar Store – 2 for $1), until we get out of credit card debt. I’ll probably spend a little on Christmas, but not on regular birthdays and other special occasions.

Well, I’ll just admit….that didn’t go so well last month.

I’ll spill the beans and say the category I went “over” on in my budget was…miscellaneous. Shocker.

One of the reasons is I went out and got a couple gifts for people! I spent $15 each on 2 separate people (so $30 total) for birthday gift cards to tuck inside the cards. These are close friends of mine that have sent me things for my birthday and I feel indebted to each of them for going above-and-beyond to help me out when Chris was sick at the end of last year. We don’t live in the same city, but they sent care packages and cards and were just beyond sweet. All of this to “justify” (I know, there’s no justification!) why I spent the money.

Well, then May rolls around.

I check out the calendar and – to my dismay – realize that we have FOUR family birthdays this month: My Dad, my husband’s Mom, and both of husband’s brothers. Plus, there’s Mother’s Day.

If we were to spend $15 per person per event (birthday/mothers’ day), we’re looking at $90!!! Just so you know, my “other” budget only allots $125 per month, so $90 basically wipes it out!

What should we do??

The only answer is to NOT send gifts. I am struggling with it.

I know our parents want us to be out of debt more than they’d want some little trinket or something for $15 or less, but there’s an emotional aspect to a gift, too. It says, “I love you! I am thankful for and appreciative of all you do! I wish we were spending Mother’s Day/Birthday together! We miss you!!”

I feel like it’d be easier if we lived in the same place because we could cook for our Moms and have them over, or same thing for the birthdays. But we don’t. So……yeah. I’m at a loss.

What do you do for loved one’s birthdays/Mother’s Day/special occasions?

I’m leaning toward maybe sending some pictures for Mother’s Day inside a card (the cost would be less than $2 each for both cards & pictures). But what about the birthdays? I know my Dad and husband’s Mom don’t care about gifts (maybe I can send more pictures?), but the husband’s brothers probably expect some sort of gift. Ugh! This is one part of budgeting that is no fun! Surely everyone will understand in the end, but I still want to do more than just send a card with a couple pictures. I just don’t have the funds to do so! : (


Since this post is a repeat for those who saw it yesterday, I wanted to ask one additional “Bonus” question for your opinions.

Here in Tucson it is already H.O.T. Really hot. We had hit the mid-90s almost 3 weeks ago. This weekend was a bit cooler (mid-80s), but now we’re right back into the mid-90s.

I had been holding out on turning on the A/C for as long as possible. But when its in the mid-90s and upper-90s its too hot to not have air conditioning running.

So my question to you is…..At what point do you turn on your air conditioning? And what temperature do you have yours set at?

I have our A/C set to 82 degrees when it runs during the day (and turn it down to 78 at night), and I try to not turn it on for as long as possible in the Spring but I cave and turn it on when the outdoor-temperatures hit 90 or higher. What about you?

Free Traditions…


I know I brought this up last year but I love it so much, I think it’s important to mention again.

More than 15 years ago, my parents decided to dedicate Christmas Eve to spending time with the family. Just after the sun came up that Christmas Eve morning, we all piled into the family Suburban, went out to breakfast (a rare treat), walked around the big Christmas decorated mall in downtown San Diego, saw a movie (another rare treat), and went to dinner at a family friendly Chinese restaurant (yet another rare treat). Even though there were seven of us kids, I don’t remember fighting that day. That night, I crawled into bed and stared out my window at the Christmas lights, feeling as though life couldn’t get any better. For years afterward, I couldn’t sleep on the night of the 23rd because I was so excited about Christmas Eve.

Over the years, not much has changed. We shift around the plan a little on the lean years, skipping meals or picking cheap spots. Marriages and kids added to the happy crowd. Christmas slowly turned from a holiday where we looked forward to the gifts to one where we looked forward to spending that day together.

I encourage you to find that ‘sweet spot’ with your kids this holiday. The one that makes them forget they want the latest iPad or PlayStation. The one that makes them remember that when the day is over, it’s the people not the things that make you happy. When I say I’m not buying gifts this year, it’s because that’s not what Christmas is to me. It’s not about spending money – it’s about spending time.

This Christmas, if you see a massive hoard of folks young and old with smiles that would make the Cleaver family jealous, it’s probably us.

Start planning your day now, and have a Merry Christmas.

No Food, No Cash, and No Active Accounts…


Even though we promised not to, my husband occasionally surprises me with a gift on our anniversary. He’ll usually save a small amount of cash from his second job and buy something really thoughtful and sweet. This year, he purchased something but was unable to pay cash for it since it was out of state. He didn’t want me to see where the gift was coming from so he went to Western Union and put it on our debit card.

What he didn’t know? Transactions from Western Union automatically shut down our account for possible fraudulent activity – even though the charge was less than $100. No charges, no cash out, AND no online access. I didn’t know why the account was shut down and I couldn’t check the transactions online.

Being the naturally calm, level-headed person I am, I called my hubby to tell him our identities were stolen, we were destined for a life of poverty because of a thief, we wouldn’t be able to buy food for weeks, and we’ll die from slow starvation.

Accustomed to my overreacting downward spirals, he hung up on me, called the bank, and had the whole thing sorted out in less than 5 minutes. BUT, it would take them 24 hours to turn the cards back on and enable online access. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal but since this week is payday, our cash grocery fund has about 12 cents and the fridge is empty.

Dinner tonight? Pita bread and tomato soup. Breakfast tomorrow? Pita bread and tomato soup. Lunch tomorrow? Pita bread and tomato soup.

It’s going to be a long 24 hours.

Lesson learned? No more Western Union.