Category: Holidays

Frugal Shopping: 4 Ways to Stay Within Your Holiday Budget

Most Americans will spend around $700 on Christmas gifts this holiday season. 

But, this season you don’t have to.

The holidays are supposed to be jolly, but sometimes they’re downright stressful. The expectation to purchase gifts for our loved ones can add to the holiday pressure. 

Not only are we tasked with cooking food and housing our loved ones. But, we also are expected to spend more money than we’re comfortable with. Bills and monthly expenses don’t take holidays either. 

We all want to make our loved ones happy. We want them to feel full of love on Christmas morning. 

So, how can we please our loved ones and not break the bank?

Read on to learn how to stay within your holiday budget and shop frugally this season. 

How To Stay Within Your Holiday Budget

1. Get Crafty

Homemade gifts for the extended family and adults are completely acceptable!

Going crafty this holiday season can also help you to save some serious cash.  

To start, select a tasteful craft that is either sentimental or useful. This could be a picture frame you decorate, a premade hot cocoa kit, or a bath and beauty product

To cut down on the costs of supplies and materials, aim to make different versions of the same craft. This allows your loved ones to feel like you made them especially with them in mind. 

2. Create a Budget

Select a maximum amount that you are willing to pay for gifts this season. It’s a good idea to come up with a number to spend on each family member in advance. 

For example, if your max budget is $400 and you’re buying gifts for 8 people, then stick to spending $50 on each person. Children’s gifts, however, may be more costly. If you decide to spend more on one family member, then always remember to stick to your maximum budget. 

3. Find the Best Deals

Shop online first to get a baseline for the cost of the gifts on your list. E-retailers have a variety of products and their costs all in one place. This will help you to compare prices before purchasing. 

Another great idea is to shop on Black Friday to find discounted items. Online stores also have sales before, on, or after Black Friday so stay in the know as to when their sales are. 

When shopping online also be sure to look for free shipping options. Many online stores will also have free coupons to save even more. 

For amazing deals online, check out this website!

4. Cut Expenses

Before and during the holidays, make an effort to cut expenses. Look at your bank statements and see what items you don’t need this month. 

For example, instead of getting expensive coffee from a coffee shop, make coffee at home. Attempt to cook at home instead of eating out. 

By cutting expenses and wants during the holiday season, you free up your budget putting you more at ease to enjoy the festivities. 

Ready To Save With Your Holiday?

Spending this season doesn’t need to be stressful if you stick to your holiday budget. The people who love you most will love your gifts and the effort you made. 

Check out our blog for more budgeting tips and tricks!

How to Survive This Holiday Season Without Blowing Your Budget

holiday budgetOne minute you have all your finances figured out and normalized, and then the holidays slam you.

If you have a history of blowing your holiday budget, you’re among the 74 percent of Americans who blew their Christmas budget in 2017, according to Forbes Magazine.

In January 2018, the majority of Americans were stuck with $1,054 in holiday debt, which was higher by five percent from 2016. You can avoid adding to that number and enjoy the holiday season by following these holiday budgeting tips.

Decide What Your Budget Actually Is

The easiest way to stay on budget for the holidays is to actually have one. An average of over $1,000 of credit card debt after the holidays is scary. And that doesn’t account for the cash purchases so many people make over the holidays before they even put a dent in their plastic.

In a post-holiday debt survey by Magnify Money, just half of the American respondents had a plan to pay off their holiday debt before March of the next calendar year.

Another 29 percent said it would take approximately six months. No wonder the holidays are so stressful!

By the time you pay off that debt, you have only a few more months until the holiday season begins. Then, the budget crunch begins all over again. This is not what the holidays are about.

Decide what your budget actually is, before that happens to you. Start by making a list of every single holiday expense you think you may have.

This includes events, the people you want to buy gifts for, travel expenses, and more. When you’re thinking of events, consider what gifts and attire you’ll need for them.

The biggest reason people go off budget is that they don’t have one. Don’t be embarrassed, nobody needs to know your budget but you.

Start Strategizing the Holiday Budget Early

Once you have your complete list of everything you need to buy this holiday season, be sure you know exactly how much you’ll have for the holidays. After that, you want to begin your strategy. It’s Operation Holiday Shopping time!

Do you really need that new dress or suit? If so, find a budget-friendly way to stay cute AND warm.

An easy way to stay on budget for the holidays is to start your shopping early. Plan that as one of your tactical approaches to Operation Holiday Shopping. The more you spend now, the less you spend later.

Be careful with this one though. Once you finish your shopping, you have to stop.

Look for Savings

Part of Operation Holiday Shopping needs to include realistic savings plans. This includes using things like Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday deals.

The American Marketing Association reports that Americans spent over $7.9 billion dollars on Black Friday in 2017. Of course, many Americans are using those funds on Christmas gifts.

But all too often the deals are so enticing that we spend a little bit on ourselves. Folks are walking out of Walmart or Best Buy with brand new televisions that they’re going to hang on their own walls.

It’s a good idea to start early on your mission to feed Christmas. But with retailers using Black Friday and Cyber Monday as their biggest cha-ching days of the year, it’s easy to blow your Christmas budget before the month of December even begins.

Use savings events wisely. There are a number of other ways to do so.

Handmade Christmas cards are another invaluable tip that should go on your holiday shopping tips list. You can also use points or cash from rewards programs at Christmas to help you save money.

When you’re making your Christmas budget, in the section where you’re adding up what you are spending, make a list of all of these types of rewards programs. Between cash back on credit cards or points programs, you could have hundreds of dollars of cash money sitting around to spend on the holidays.

That’s literally free money that will never leave your own pocket. Use it for a gift or two, or several!

Make a List and Check it Twice, or, Daily

It’s good to have a budget before you go into your holiday shopping, but it’s also important to stay on top of it every single day of the season. This will eliminate stress after the holidays when everybody is grumpy and feel like they have nothing to celebrate anymore.

Make the same list daily. Make note of what you’re buying today, how much you have to spend, where you’re going to shop and stick to this list. Have a plan on not just a total amount that you are going to spend, but even how much you’ll spend on each person.

Make the list, check it twice. Once before you head out and again when you get home. This keeps yourself accountable at the end of the day to make sure you stayed on point.

It’s okay to slip once in a while. Just be sure that you accommodate those slips the next day or….soon. Track all of it.

When You Can’t Decide What to Get Someone

Some of our biggest overspending occurs when we don’t have a plan. CNBC reported in November 2017 that an “alarming number” of Americans were still paying off holiday debt from the previous year.

This happens when folks don’t have a plan, which is the official term for, not knowing what you’re getting someone for Christmas.

When you make your budget, decide ahead of time what you’re going to spend on each person.

It’s very easy to have a holiday party and remember at the last minute you needed a secret Santa gift or a hostess gift. Then, you run into the mall on the way there and snag the first sparkly thing that you see. Unfortunately, it’s usually more than you would normally spend on that person.

But if you have a budget and include everything, you won’t have this problem.

We all have a group of people in our lives that aren’t in our immediate circle, that we desperately want to give a gift to.

The school bus drivers, dance teachers, pastors and priests, guitar lessons, mailmen – the list can go on and on.

When you don’t know what to get them, you’re going to overspend. Find ways to make large group gifts that you can hand out individually to these folks.

A case of wine can cost you less than $100 and covers all of these folks that touch your lives but don’t need a new television for Christmas like maybe your husband does. Little tins of baked goods wrapped in simple ties are even cheaper when you’re only spending money on the baking supplies.

Travel Budget Do’s and Don’ts

It’s difficult to make sure everybody that is special has a special gift, while still staying on budget. Then there’s the travel time and expense. In 2017, 107 million Americans spent Christmas away from home, which means that was a necessary line on their Christmas budget.

Put this in your budget early. From gas costs to hotels and food or flights, chances are you’re undergoing this expense at Christmas. This could be an area you want to check your rewards programs for.

It’s okay to be cheap here, but be wary of cheap deals with airlines at Christmas. Many airlines will offer cheap flights, then ding you an extra $100 for seat selection or an ounce over your luggage requirements.

If possible, plan your travel schedule with some flexibility. You just never know when a winter storm will ground your plane. Book your flights on the less expensive dates. Don’t complain when a storm grounds you, as you may be the first in line for a free hotel or free voucher for the next flight.

You also want to keep every single receipt when you’re undergoing delays at the airport. If you need to touch base with an airline after the fact, let them know the expenses you incurred during that delay. You could get some money back.

You also want to know the exact reason any flight is delayed, as this could help you with compensation issues after the fact as well.

Stop Spending and Enjoy the Season

Holidays are no fun when you’re worrying every single day about what your credit card debt is going to look like in January.

Create a budget, for every single person and gift. Know what you have and start shopping early. There is an abundance of ideas for awesome and affordable gifts for kids too.

Find every savings program or rewards program you can cash in on, and don’t use Cyber Monday events to refurnish the house. Those sales are going to be there after the holidays when retailers are looking to keep the shopping wave flowing.

Your holiday budget shouldn’t be weighing you down every day. Use these holiday shopping tips wisely, and you’ll be able to actually enjoy the season! That’s what it’s there for!

7 Star Wars Party Ideas for Real Jedi Masters

7 Star Wars Party Ideas for Real Jedi MastersAstonishingly, Star Wars: The Force Awakens made approximately $238 million during its opening weekend!

So it’s not surprising Star Wars is a favorite theme for parties! Whether you’re a die-hard fan, or you’re kids are- here are some fabulous star wars party ideas that we’re sure you’ll love.

Star Wars Invitation Ideas

It’s always best to start at the beginning, and there wouldn’t be a party unless you invited your guests!

If you have the time, we recommend making one of these fun star wars themed invites.

Lightsabers

For this design, all you need is an average size piece of white cardstock. Just cut it out into the shape of a lightsaber, and color the handle grey and the beam bright blue or green.

Then, print your party details using a silver marker on the beam. The silver stands out well against the bright colors and always fits in with sci-fi themes.

Picture Collage

Create a picture collage on a Word Document of your favorite Star Wars stills. On the second page insert, the details of your party.

Now, you can print your invites out- just make sure they’re double-sided.

This ensures your pictures are on the front and the party info is on the back!

Fun Masks

This one’s our favorite style of invite! Simply, punch a hole in the corner of your chosen form of invite and then attach it to a Star Wars-themed mask. This would also work for T-shirts.

For ideas, be sure to check out these t shirts for some inspiration!

Be sure to add on the invitations that your guests have to wear the masks to your party!

Star Wars Party Food Ideas

No party’s complete without food. Check out these on-theme delectables:

Edible Lightsabers

Grab a bag of large pretzel rods and cover three-quarters of each rod in either green, blue or red frosting. These look surprisingly authentic!

Jedi Jell-O

Make your favorite Jell-O flavor, once it’s cooled use Star Wars shaped cookie cutters to cut out your Jell-O. This treat always goes down well!

Ewok Food

This idea’s excellent if you’re short on time. Simply, rename trail mix as Ewok Food. Be sure to print out a label so your guests get it!

For more Star Wars party ideas, check this out!

Create Lightsaber Napkins

These are super easy to do, yet they’re really effective. All you need to do is to purchase block colored blue, green, and red napkins.

Then, Google ‘free lightsaber handle napkin printables’. When you find a design you like, print as many as you need. Cut them as required and wrap them around the napkin as necessary- secure with tape!

Then voila you have mini lightsaber napkins- super cute!

Did You Enjoy These Star Wars Party Ideas?

If you loved this article as much as we did writing it, then we’re confident you’ll enjoy the other features on my blog.

Be sure to type ‘party’ into the search bar, and then loads of other party ideas, hints, and tips will pop up.

Alternatively, if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please feel free to reach out and contact me. I love hearing from readers- speak soon!

How to Throw the Perfect Bowling Birthday Party

bowling birthday partyIf bowling’s your thing, why not throw yourself a bowling birthday party?

It was great fun when you were a kid. It can be even more fun as an adult!

And don’t think it has to cost a lot of money. It’s not uncommon for bowling party invitations to include a flat contribution to offset the cost of renting the lanes.

Will that reduce the fun? No. Like any party, it’s people having fun that makes it or breaks it.

With a bowling party, the key is to help party-goers know what to expect and feel comfortable. Especially anyone who hasn’t bowled in a while. Or ever.

All you need is a theme. The rest will fall into place. From the paper or electronic invitation, food served, recommended style of dress, and decorations, you’ll have an easy plan for throwing a memorable party.

To get you rolling, here are a few bowling birthday party ideas and tips.

Retro

What’s your favorite bowling era?

Is it the 1940s and 50s, which many people consider the golden age of bowling?

If so, asks guests to dress in poodle skirts and sweater sets (for the gals) or casual trousers and button-down shirts (for the guys). Serve burgers, soda in bottles, and traditional french fries. Offer yo-yos or hula hoops as prizes for a top score or player most likely to improve.

If the 70s are more your scene, break out the disco ball!

Encourage guests to wear their best spandex and platform shoes. See your favorite venue has a neon or psychedelic night, which would be perfect for your 70s bowling birthday party. Have prizes of pet rocks and macrame plant hangers.

Or maybe The Big Lebowski is more your style.

In that case, send invitations that incorporate The Dude. Ask everyone to wear their best (or rattiest) bathrobes. Make sure that canned tuna is the menu and beverage options include white Russians.

Milestone Birthdays

Will your bowling party be a celebration of a milestone like sweet 16 or the big 5-0? There are lots of ways to underscore the milestone.

If you’re throwing the party for someone else, give the guest of honor a bowling shirt with their age incorporated in name embroidered on the front.

Offer a prize to the first player to get the exact score that represents the age being celebrated.

Friendly Competition

An appealing aspect of bowling is that it can be a relaxed, friendly game or be fierce and competitive. A successful birthday bowling party strikes a balance between the two.

To keep things light and party-like, design the teams like you would seat people for a dinner party. Place couples or BFFs on different teams. Mix high-scorers with novices. If you have some intense players, don’t put them all one team.

Give prizes at the end of each game instead of a “best of” series.

Most people’s interest and energy wane after three games. Keep things lively by rearranging the teams after each game.

Don’t play elimination style. The point of a bowling birthday party is to bowl, not sit on the sidelines watching other people bowl. Nothing can make the party fall apart faster than dividing guests into camps of active and inactive participants.

At several points during play, remind people that it’s a friendly game. You know which of your guests is competitive. Do what you can, as host, to not let their intensity spoil the fun for others.

Special Rules

One way to take a birthday bowling party up a notch is to implement unusual rules. You can apply them to the whole game or specific frames. It’s a great way to break the ice and level the playing field if guests have different skill levels.

For the best outcome, keep special rules simple to understand and follow. A few suggestions are:

  • Odd frames are played right-handed while even frames are played left-handed
  • Players must dance, never walk, toward the foul line
  • Players predict which pins they’ll knock down before they throw the ball
  • Sitting at the foul line and pushing the ball down the lane (This one might work best toward the end of the party!)

Give them a try.

Make It Easy

You might be a bowling enthusiast with frequent shopper status with equipment retailers like BowlingShoes. But some of the people who want to go to your bowling birthday party might not be so familiar with the game.

Make it easy for newbies or the less confident among your guests to enjoy the game. Offer links to the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) page with video tutorials. Remind them to wear comfortable clothes and wear or bring socks to wear with rented bowling shoes.

At the start of the party, outline if you’ll be using any unique rules for the game. And offer all kinds of prizes to encourage skilled and novice players alike.

Give people time to find the right ball in terms of weight. Help newbies understand how their choice could affect speed and control, not to mention hand and arm muscles they probably didn’t know they had!

The Bowling Birthday Party Invitation

Invitations do more than tell people when and where the party is. They also set expectations.

With bowling parties, there are aspects that differ from your ordinary kind of party.

For example, make it clear on the invitation that guests don’t have to be expert bowlers to attend. Keep the tone light to reinforce that it’s about having fun, not perfecting one’s game.

There’s an additional way to reinforce the expectation that everyone is welcome. Ask people to state their bowling comfort level when RSVPing ‘yes’. Keep it fun and simple with three choices such as Total Beginner, Know My Way Around the Lane, Bowling Is My Life’s Purpose.

If you need contributions to make renting the venue affordable, say so in the invitation. Give people three options such as $10, $20, $30 per person to not exclude anyone.

Also, tell people how to get the money to you. Electronic transfers and cash at the event are the two most common ways.

At the Party

A final tip about bowling parties is to focus more on the people than the game. Mingling and chatting between frames doesn’t cost anything extra. Yet, it boosts the value of the experience for everyone.

Now that you know how to throw a great bowling party, there only one thing left to. Get ready to have fun!

For other frugal living ideas, check out more blog posts!

5 Tips to Better Organize Your Holiday Storage

holiday storageThe holidays are an exciting time to decorate the house and fill it with a little extra joy.

But, a poor organization can sometimes turn this into a stressful task.

Thankfully, there are few simple holiday storage tips every mom can master. These include the best-kept secrets for anything from messy wires to tricky trees.

Check out the top five ways to keep all your holiday decor in order.

1. Separate Your Storage

As you’re pulling things out, or packing them up, try to think about where to store them in your home.

Group all the big, outdoor decorations together. Do the same for tree decorations versus tabletop details. Lastly, make a separate group for stockings and trimmings you may have hanging around the house.

This takes a little extra time as you’re setting up or breaking down.

But, once you have everything separated, you’ll be saving plenty of effort in the years to come!

2. Cut Down on Packaging

There’s no reason to keep using the bulky packaging everything comes in when there are closet organizers and simple holiday hacks available.

This is as simple as wrapping lights around pieces of cardboard so they don’t tangle. It also means taking the time to wrap fragile ornaments in tissue paper, which is less bulky than bubble wrap.

Don’t forget to keep all the hooks in one place, either. Consider putting them in a small pencil case or makeup bag.

3. Get Rid of What Is Old and Broken

If an ornament is cracked or a set of lights isn’t working anymore, you won’t have a use for it next year.

Make a little trash pile as you take everything out at the start of the holidays, and when you’re going through it all again at the end.

This makes a significant difference in the amount of space decorations take up.

4. Go Green

Trade the old fake tree you have to pull out every year for a family outing to get a fresh tree.

Or, consider getting festive holiday flower arrangements instead of putting little reusable decorations everywhere. This is a bit pricier, but nothing is worth more than your time.

Getting fresh, natural decorations each year means there are fewer things to store.

5. Wrap with Care

The less you worry about holiday storage, the more you can focus on buying gifts and wrapping them! Unless your festive packaging materials aren’t organized.

Don’t leave this out of your cleaning process. Go through all the old wrapping paper you have, as well as tape, ribbons, and tissue paper.

Designate one drawer or bin to keep everything together – big families might need a little more space.

But, the point is to only keep wrapping materials you will actually use, and to keep them tidy in one place.

Holiday Storage, Hosting, and More: How to Relax This Holiday Season

Storage is just one thing to worry about when the holidays roll around.

Between cleaning the house to have guests over and preparing big, fancy meals, it can be hard to take everything in.

We know you want to create special memories for your family, but you should be able to enjoy them too!

Click here to discover how to relax during this year’s holidays.

5 Toy Storage Ideas and Tips to Prepare for Christmas

Are you ready for the Christmas season?

Worried you won’t have room for all of your child’s new toys?

It can be difficult finding room for new toys when your home is already full of them. While it may be time to donate or get rid of some of your child’s older toys, some toys may be difficult to get rid of.

If you’re trying to prepare for the Christmas season you’re going to want to improve the way you use your space. Luckily, these five tips will help you master the art of toy storage once and for all.

1. Love Those Labels to Improve Toy Storage

You may already have plenty of toy containers and boxes around your home. You may even sort different types of toys into different boxes. But are they labeled?

Labeling your storage boxes can really seal the deal and make things much easier for you and your children when it’s cleanup time. By clearly marking a box as “Legos” or as “Barbies” the process of cleanup will be much easier and simpler.

You may want to use printed labels, creative labels written with crayon, or simply a picture which signifies the category. Whatever you choose, a well-used labeling system can really help to facilitate the cleanup process and keep things more organized.

2. Don’t Leave Room for Monsters Under the Bed

If you find that you’re running out of room in the closet or other areas you may want to consider storing a few boxes under the bed.

While under the bed storage can often be a haphazard mess, you may consider getting a bit more organized with it.

Use DIY storage bins with wheels or add in a custom, short set of drawers to maximize your use of this space and keep it organized.

3. Dual-Purpose Furniture is Your Friend

When you find that you have too many toys around the house, it’s an excellent time to start looking around for new solutions.

Many types of furniture exist that can help with your storage needs. Dual-purpose furniture can provide extra storage space while also serving another needed function in your home.

Chairs that have hidden compartments or ottomans with storage space inside can all be lifesavers when it comes to decluttering your home.

4. Shelves Aren’t Just For Elves

You may also consider finding ways to display your toys on shelves. An entire bookshelf dedicated to your child’s books or to several types of toys can be a great addition to your child’s room or another area of the home.

With the proper setup, this can actually have a very stylish look and allow your child’s most popular toys to never be out of sight or too far out of reach.

If you have extra space on a normal bookshelf, you can also add a space for a few select toys or stuffed animals along with those encyclopedias and dictionaries.

5. Worst Case? Rent Some Extra Storage Space

If you simply don’t have enough space in your home, you may be in a really tight spot. You or your child may not be ready to part with some of those old favorites for good. In this case, you should consider using self storage services.

With your own storage space, you will have plenty of room for any toys you need to set aside for a while, without being forced into taking them to the thrift store before you or your child is ready.

Final Thoughts

Creating some new storage solutions in your home is an excellent idea and can be a big part of keeping a clean house. However, don’t forget that the best way to keep things tidy is to develop consistent toy storage habits and routines.

Your kids need to know to put their toys away when they’re done playing. They also need to know where everything goes.

By creating a good system and organizing things well on your end, things will be much easier for your child as well. They can easily follow in your organized, tidy footsteps.

Looking for more tips on making your home cleaner and more organized? Click here to read more of our cleaning tips and tricks.

How to Choose the Perfect Halloween Costumes for Your Kids

costumes for kidsIt’s that time of year again.

There’s a chill in the air. The days are growing shorter.

And everywhere you turn candy is available in industrial size bags.

There’s only one thing left to figure out — Halloween costumes for the kids.

The problem is there are so many choices!

For the past couple of years, Americans have spent nearly $3 billion annually on Halloween costumes and almost $8 billion total each year on the holiday.

That’s billion with a B.

Ready to join the masses on the hunt for the perfect Halloween costume?

Keep reading for a closer look at how to find the best Halloween costumes for kids.

Let Them Help

We’ve all been there.

You’ve picked out something for your kids, thinking they’ll love it–a toy they’ll love for life or an outfit they’ll never want to take off.

But their reaction was… somewhat different.

When looking for costumes for your kids, don’t forget that they have minds of their own.

If you don’t want to give them complete free-reign here, then give them a couple choices and let them decide.

Keep Them Safe

Many Halloween costumes for kids are made with somewhat questionable materials and quality–especially some of the choices at the lower end of the budget spectrum.

Make sure your kid’s costumes meet basic safety standards, like being flame-resistant and don’t present choking hazards.

It’s also a good idea to make sure costumes fit properly and are bright enough for your kids to be seen on dark streets and other areas.

Make sure your kids can see also and that no part of their costume blocks their eyes.

Be Smart When Picking Halloween Costumes for Kids

Like we saw above, the costume industry is doing quite well. It’s easy to spend a small fortune on a costume if you’re not careful.

Retailers know this.

That’s why they stock out their shelves with costumes months in advance.

So if you want a nice costume for your kids, start your shopping early and be sure to look online, especially if you want something popular like Star Wars costumes.

Because who doesn’t like to find a good deal?

Be Original

Halloween is such a fun season, why choose a boring costume?

This is the perfect time to really let your kid’s personality shine. Don’t be afraid to let them choose something a little outlandish.

Getting a little crafty and going with a DIY costume is always fun too, even if you just make part of it and buy the rest.

Don’t Throw Comfort Out the Window

Don’t forget that your kids actually have to wear the costume.

If it’s going to be cold, make sure your kids will be warm enough in the costume or can comfortably wear a coat with it.

Picking something that’s not too uncomfortable is a good idea also. If your kid is uncomfortable after 10 minutes, they’re not going to have a fun night.

Putting It All Together

Now that you’re an expert on Halloween costumes for kids, it’s time to get out there and find the right get-up (or get-ups).

Already have a costume picked out? Still looking for ideas?

Let us know what you’re doing for costumes in the comments.