Christmas Shopping on a Budget

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This time of year can be stressful for families as Christmas alone can create a bit of a financial burden. Even families like my own who keep things simple and work with a tight budget can feel that pinch. Every year my husband receives a bonus the second week of December and we use this bonus to not only help with Christmas expenditures but also to catch up on bills. This year the bonus has been delayed and at this point in time we are unsure if the bonus will be given out at all. This situation has definitely made things more difficult but I refuse to allow this bump in the road to derail my Christmas spirit.

I had to adjust my Christmas list a bit and I added a few more homespun gifts into the mix to help make our budget stretch. I hit my local Once Upon a Child ( children’s resale shop) where I found quite a few gifts for my little ones which has helped with my budget. If you are feeling the pinch this Christmas and you are worrying about how to make gifts happen for your kids I encourage you to check out your local resale shops. It is amazing what you can find when you dig a little, for instance, I found a beautiful doll chair for my daughter. This chair is  made from solid wood and after a quick swipe of furniture polish this second hand piece is like new and I know my daughter will enjoy it for many years to come. I found this chair on the back of a shelf covered in dust with a $10 price tag. I found similar chairs online priced for $90 so this was a great deal. I also found unopened packages of Shopkin sets for $2.00 which again is an amazing price.

I think that a lot of people overlook the value in secondhand stores for Christmas presents but you can find a lot of gently used items at great prices. Over the years my kids have received these items and they have loved them just as much as the brand new store items. Another great way to keep your Christmas budget on track is to make some of your gifts by hand. This year I am crocheting hats and scarves for my kids and I know they are going to love them. Over they years I have crocheted, sewed and put together gift baskets of baked goods and they have always been appreciated. In fact these gifts tend to be my favorite to give because so much love goes into making them just right.

Don’t let financial stress steal your Christmas spirit. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend or what fancy new toy is under the tree. In the end what matters most is sharing the true meaning of Christmas with the ones we love the most. It’s the memories we make with our friends and family that are the greatest gifts of all and the ones that will be the most treasured.

 

 

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How do you handle financial stress around the holidays?

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Cookie School

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I know that I have mentioned this before but one way to get kids excited about learning is to incorporate food. I love getting my kids in the kitchen because there are so many learning opportunities available. Reading, writing, and arithmetic can all be taught while preparing fun meals and/or baking scrumptious desserts. I have unofficially enrolled my kids in “Cookie School” without them being aware that our baking sessions have really been learning labs. Here is how “Cookie School” works for us…

•First I present a recipe for them to read and then I ask them to write down the ingredients required.

•Once the ingredients have been written down they work together to collect the ingredients and bring them to the table.

•I will present the kids with the measuring tools they will need but I never give them the exact measuring cup. Instead, I will give them a 1/3 cup and 1/4 tsp. The reason I do this is so they have to use their math skills to determine how to turn the 1/3 cup into a cup and the 1/4 tsp into a full tsp. ( I switch up the measurements with each recipe)

•Then they will prepare the recipe according to the written instructions and preheat the oven for the cookies.

•Now it’s time to bake our cookies while practicing kitchen safety.

Sometimes I will take these learning sessions a step farther by giving them an approximate value of each item used in the recipe and ask them to determine the cost of each cookie. This is a great way to get them to understand basic home economics which is a valuable skill for when they become independent adults.

“Cookie School” is not only a great way to learn but it is a lot of fun especially when you can celebrate the end of the lesson with a freshly baked cookie. If you haven’t gotten the kids into the kitchen yet this is a great time to do so and below you will find a link to some of my favorite cookies.

 

All Recipes- Peanut Butter Cookies

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/10275/classic-peanut-butter-cookies/

 

Sugar Spun Run- The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever (best cookies ever I promise and the article here is so fun to read)

https://sugarspunrun.com/worst-chocolate-chip-cookies/

 

My Sequined Life- Italian Anise Cookies

https://www.mysequinedlife.com/italian-anise-cookies/

 

 

 

Best way to start the day!

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We have all heard the old adage that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. I remember rolling my eyes when my mom used to announce this fact every morning.  While I may not have fully appreciated this when I was a child my mom was right and breakfast is definitely the most important meal of the day. Not only is it the best way to fire up your metabolism and create the energy you need to tackle the day but it also sets the tone for the day.

In my family, I have noticed that a quick breakfast of cereal leads to a lack of energy, chaos and emotional breakdowns all day long. Some days the quick breakfast of cereal can’t be helped but the majority of the time we slow down for a nice hot breakfast. Having a hot breakfast of waffles, eggs or even oatmeal sets the day up much better. We have the energy, the patience and the motivation to get through the day and we are much more productive individually and as a family. I am not sure if it is the food itself or that a hot breakfast sets a slower pace and allows everyone to wake up gently. Whatever it is I like starting the day off with a hot breakfast. One of our personal favorites happens to be the waffle recipe I share below.

If you are rushing through life and slinging bowls of cereal every morning and noticing the same thing I did with my kids then I challenge you to institute a hot breakfast. I know how busy and hectic life can be and the idea of waking up 15 mins early to make the hot breakfast seems like torture but I guarantee you will reap the benefits all day long.

 

Quick Tip:

The Waffle Recipe I share below calls for buttermilk and I rarely have this ingredient in my fridge. I learned that you can substitute by adding 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a 1 cup measuring cup and then filling it to the top with plain old milk.

If you’re out of milk you can substitute buttermilk for sour cream.

 

Super simple

Keeping Christmas Spirit

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Christmas should be a time of joy, happiness, and celebration but all too often it is a time of stress, financial burden, and chaos. Years ago I recognized that Christmas had become too stressful and I was losing my Christmas Spirit earlier and earlier every year. I decided to reevaluate what Christmas meant to me and how I wanted to spend this special time with my family. I wanted to avoid the commercialism of Christmas as much as possible and focus on building memories and traditions with my children. 

When I was little my favorite part of Christmas was gathering together at my grandparent’s house with the entire extended family. I will never forget the feelings of love and comfort that those gatherings brought me. Since my grandparents have both passed away we no longer gather together as we once did but I still make an effort every year to bring my family together for an annual Christmas Eve party. My kids enjoy these gatherings as much as I do and we always choose a fun theme for our party. This year we are hosting a pajama party which should be pretty silly. Our focus is less on gifts and more on time spent with family and this has made all the difference. 

This doesn’t mean we don’t partake in the giving part of Christmas because we absolutely do but we keep things simple and festive. The best gifts are the ones that are thoughtful and that is what we strive for and thoughtful doesn’t mean expensive. When it comes to gifts for the kids we keep the number of gifts to a minimum. They each get a big item from Santa and then a big item from mom and dad. We always include a few books, some art supplies, socks & underwear and a smaller item for them to unwrap. We usually get them one gift to share from us as well for instance last year they received a Karaoke machine and I think this year it will be a microscope. 

Keeping Christmas simple allows me to keep my Christmas Spirit all season long because I can focus on the things that matter. The memories that we build with our children will outlast any toy or doodad they might get under the tree. Christmas shouldn’t be a time of stress and chaos it should be a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and to celebrate the love and joy of family. 

 

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How do you keep the spirit of Christmas throughout the season?

Best Day Ever!

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If your kids are anything like mine you have heard them proclaim a fun or adventurous day as the “best day ever”. Today I was the one proclaiming today as the best day ever and it truly was. This morning we woke up early, bundled up with hats and gloves and headed to Downtown Toledo for their annual Holiday Parade. I have always wanted to attend a Thanksgiving parade and after 35 years I made that wish a reality. It was so much fun experiencing this first with my kids and after today I can feel the magic of the holidays zipping through me like electricity.

If you have never had the opportunity to attend a holiday parade I highly suggest you move it up on the list of things to do because it really is a wonderful experience. After enjoying the parade we moved over to one of our favorite restaurants for hot soup and sandwiches. We then decorated our front porch before moving inside to make holiday slime. Watching the kids bounce, squish and stretch their colorful slime was so much fun that I had to join in and make some for myself as well.

Sometimes you just have to let loose and have fun and nothing is more fun than being silly with your kids. As parents, we often plan fun adventures or activities for our kids but we let the planning take the fun out of it for ourselves. Try whenever possible to not just be an observer but an active participant because this is when the very best moments happen. Today I enjoyed myself and I truly felt like a kid again and sharing in the joy and laughter with my children made today the “best day ever”.

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$40 Thanksgiving Dinner

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The countdown to Thanksgiving has officially begun and there are only 8 days left! I love the holidays and I enjoy spending time with friends and family but it can get pretty stressful too. Let’s face it Thanksgiving dinner can be a headache especially if you are the one hosting the event. If your finances are already tight this time of year can be more than just a little stressful. According to Fortune, the average family spends approximately $100 on Thanksgiving dinner which is a hefty price tag for most families watching their budget. This year I want to share a few ideas to help you keep Thanksgiving fun and your budget on track.

The first thing I recommend is to sit down a week prior to Thanksgiving and plan your menu. Knowing what your menu is in advance will allow you to price shop and get the best deals. Snag as many grocery store ads as you can so you can compare prices and see who has the best deals. This year my local Kroger store has the best prices so that is where I will be shopping. Once you have your menu planned write down your list but before you hit the store take a look in your pantry first. You may be surprised to discover that you already have some of your ingredients on hand. If you do cross those off your list, grab your favorite cup of coffee and tackle the grocery store. Only buy the things that are on the list because even a few small add-ons can blow your budget.

I am able to keep my budget for turkey day under $40 by making things from scratch. It might be tempting to buy assembled dishes from the grocery store but you’re going to compromise on budget and quality. Keep your menu simple and enlist the help of your family to whip up affordable dishes. Sure you will have more dishes and flour will cover every surface of your kitchen but you will be making beautiful memories and this alone can reduce the stress of preparing a holiday meal. If you are interested in getting recipes for this menu stay tuned because I will be sharing recipes as well as additional holiday tips!

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http://fortune.com/2017/11/20/average-american-thanksgiving-spending/

A Creeper, a Witch and a Scarecrow

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It has been almost two weeks since we celebrated Halloween and as always life has been a chaotic rush of events. It always takes a few days to recoup after a holiday and Halloween is no exception. You see we have this tradition of not buying store bought costumes instead I handmake each and every costume. This tradition started years ago when money was very tight and I had to think outside of the box for costumes. I realized that while my sewing skills are not seamstress worthy I could make an outfit that could safely be worn for a few hours. In fact, some of the costumes I have made over the years have held up for a decent amount of time so the kids were able to enjoy playing dress up with them.

This year was no different I worked around the clock for several days whipping up a Minecraft creeper, a witch and a spooky scarecrow. Every year the kids pick costumes that are more and more challenging and every year I question my sanity but in the end, it is worth it because of the memories made. We had a wonderfully mild Halloween which is pretty uncommon for us here in the Midwest. A typical Halloween for us involves trick or treating in high winds, rain/snow mix or even full-on ice rain. This is why whenever I make costumes I make them large enough to fit over winter jackets and snow pants that way everyone stays nice and warm and still they are able to show off their costumes.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween and that you have enjoyed some rest and relaxation as we propel into the Christmas season.