3 Ways We’re Streamlining And Saving On Christmas

The Christmas season is fully upon us.  We have finished our decorating and are getting ready for all the shopping, family gatherings, and seasonal activities.  A big part of Christmas has become gift giving.  This is true for us, especially with younger children.  Although we have our Christmas gift fully funded, we came up with some ideas to save us time and money.  Here are thee ways that we’re streamlining and saving on Christmas this year.

Saving Time And Money On A Gift Exchange

On my wife’s side, there are six adults that exchange gifts.  Traditionally, we had a budget and list for both of my in-laws, plus my sister-in-law, as well as her boyfriend.  That was four people to buy for.  This year, we all agreed to a system where we drew names and each person will buy for one other person out of the four people not in our household.  This means that between my wife and I, we’ll only have two people to shop for instead of four.  This is also less gifts to wrap.  We also put a cap on the budget, which will save us around $50 versus the budget we had previously in place to cover all four people.

Using Gift Cards

When we signed up for our new cell phone plan, we got lots of Best Buy gift cards as we traded old phones in and signed for new plans.  We used a lot of these up front, but still ended up with some left over.  We plan on using these for some stuff for each other that Santa might get.  This will basically be allowing us to buy gifts using money we’ve already spent!  This will probably save us around $100.

Cutting Back On Each Other

My wife and I always joke about couples that have been married a long time who don’t get each other anything.  It

The holidays are here.  We're saving on Christmas putting time and money back in our court. Image from Morguefiles courtesy jzlomek
The holidays are here. We’re saving on Christmas putting time and money back in our court.
Image from Morguefiles courtesy jzlomek

always seems to happen, but so far, we have stuck to buying each other a number of gifts.  Although we’re not giving up all gifts, we decided to both scale back.  This will allow us to start setting money aside for other long term goals.  It’s nice to give each other gifts, but we’re both realizing that having the money ready for other things is just as fulfilling.  This should save us at least $200.

Saving On Christmas: Time And Money!

We’re looking forward to just these three things making a difference on Christmas.  Together, this would save at least $350, and maybe more.  It’s also less time spent on looking for gifts, wrapping gifts, and tracking the gift buying list.  That’s less stress, more money, and extra time.  For my money, those are some pretty worthwhile benefits.

Readers, are you doing anything different this year to save money or time?  How have your shopping and gift giving habits evolved?  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Christmas Checklist: The Early Edition

Christmas is, well, not right around the corner, but you would never know that from watching TV or going out to most national stores.  Even though we give Halloween and Thanksgiving their proper due, there are always things that are just unavoidable.  Here’s a quick Christmas checklist for our house.  I hope things are going well (but not too well *lol*) for you!

Mid-November Christmas Checklist

  •  Indoor Decorations Put Up: Zero. Although we sometimes put up our decorations the weekend before Thanksgiving, our calendar will keep us completely honest.  This year, we’ll be spending the days after Turkey Day getting the house full of festive cheer.
  • Outdoor Lights Put Up: All of Them!  November in Michigan is kind of the tipping point between good weather and cold weather.  I like to get my lights up when it’s warm, which it has been here.  So, I hung the lights over the last few days!  Don’t worry, they aren’t on and won’t be until after Thanksgiving.  Good thing I hung them, as temperatures look to dip into the 40’s this weekend.
  • Gifts Purchased: Two!  We bought our son and our daughter each a gift as we found sales that we couldn’t mb-2015-12-santapass up.  Not a bad start.  I know some people like to shop throughout the year, but we know wants can change, especially with kids.  We also like to make sure that anything we buy can be returned if it’s not liked or a duplicate.
  • Set Aside Money For Gifts: Complete!  Our monthly budget includes stashing money away, so that our budget is fully funded.  We pay for our gifts on credit cards.  This lets us take advantage of cash back rewards, but come January, they’ll be paid in full!
  • Listened To Music: Nope!  My wife is usually guilty of flipping on the radio when some of the stations flip as soon as November 1st.  Not this year!  Summer weather seemed to run late, which has made for an abbreviated fall season, and she’s taking the time to enjoy it.
  • Started Christmas Lists: Early For Us!  On our in-laws side, we’re taking a new approach to gift giving that will save a little money and make shopping a lot easier.  One of the stipulations is that we have to have our lists ready no later than Thanksgiving.  This is probably the earliest I’ve started my list!
  • Dropping Santa’s name: Here and there.  It’s never too early to start dropping Santa’s name to the 7 and 5 year old kids, is it?  🙂

That’s our Christmas checklist as of mid-November.  So far as I can tell, we haven’t gotten fully immersed, but have gotten our toes just wet enough.  I think we’re in good shape!

Readers, have you started holiday planning in earnest or are you taking a ‘one season at a time’ approach?  What’s your normal get-ready-for-the-holidays strategy?  Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How We Got Halloween Costumes Done Early This Year

Halloween is just about a month away, but I’m proud to say that our entire family is all set for costumes this year.  This never happens, so it feels really good that everyone has their Halloween costume at the ready.

I’d love to say that it was by great planning or trying to get ahead of the game, but it was really by circumstance and a few events that sort of made it happen.

A Birthday Party Led To The First Halloween Costume

Earlier this month, one of my daughter’s friends sent an invitation for a birthday party.  She loves super heroes and so the theme of the party was super heroes.  An idea was formed.  My daughter instantly said that she wanted to be Batgirl.  My wife found a few options, and asked her if she would also want to be Batgirl for Halloween.  This was met with an enthusiastic Yes!  Early September, and already one down, three to go!

That Started The Ball Rolling

Once she had her costume, my son immediately was impressed.  He wore the

Image courtesy of MorgueFile via Jillibean.
Image courtesy of MorgueFile via Jillibean.

same costume for both of the past two years (by choice) so we knew he’d want something different.  Since his sister was Batgirl, he thought about either being Batman or Superman.  We gave him a few days to think about it and he decided he wanted to be Batman.  He often changes his mind, so we gave a couple of more days to ‘think about it’, but he was firm, so we found a costume he liked and were all set.  Mid September, and two down, two to go.

Now That We Had A Theme, The Rest Was Simple!

Our favorite state park campground (as well as a bunch of others throhough the state) turn weekends in October into Halloween weekends.  It’s a great idea and it always means a full campground every weekend.  With this, everybody dresses up, so my wife and I also knew we needed costumes.  We figured since the kids were already in superhero mode, we’d go with the same theme.  Should we all be Bat people?  Well, I decided that I wanted to be Superman, and we found a really cool shirt that would fit the bill.  My wife found a matching shirt, and two days later (thank you, Amazon Prime), we both had our costumes in hand.  Late September, and we are done!

Getting our costumes early meant that we still had a lot of inventory to choose from, and we were all able to find sizes and colors that fit us well.

And, to think, it all started with a simple birthday party invitation in the mail.

Now, onto the candy and decorations….

Readers, how prepared are you get for the ever growing Halloween festivities?  How big do you go for the celebrations and such?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

6 Low Cost Ways We Have Family Holiday Fun

Holidays can be a stressful time.  They’re certainly busy and full of many activities.  So,it’s good to have some ideas for family holiday fun. After all, family is really the most important part of the holidays.

For our family, there are a few different things we’ve established that we really enjoy or plan on adopting as traditions:

Decorating

Now that the kids are old enough, we make them part of the decorating process.  We put up multiple trees, and they help with the decorations as much as they can, and they also look forward to certain elements that they know are coming, like mini trees in their room or the little Snoopy piano that they can press to make music from the TV special play.

Advent Calendar

Each year, my mother-in-law gets each of our kids an Advent calendar.  They look forward to getting their piece of candy each day, and it’s fun to see them progress with finding numbers on their own corresponding to the day of the month.

Stories

We have a collection of books that we look forward to reading.  As the kids get older, we add new mb-201011villagebooks here and there, but there are already some favorites that we look forward to reading, and our reading of course culminates with me reading ‘The Night Before Christmas’ to close out the season on Christmas Eve.

Elf on the Shelf

I know people have mixed feelings on these, but we have definitely enjoyed our Elf, whose name is Figgy, and the kids love waking up and going together to look for him each day.

Movies and shows

We have a variety of Christmas and holiday TV shows and movies that the kids look forward to watching, such as Rudolph, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and Frosty, while the adults always look forward to some of the classics like Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and of course Elf.

Making cookies

For years, my wife has organized a Saturday as ‘Cookie Day’.  This brings together some of the ladies, moms, aunts, sisters, friends, to get together and bake cookies.  This year, they’re going to shift that get together to a non-cookie making event.  Even so, we’re going to bring the kids into it and do cookies with our family.  They love making them and we all love eating them!

These are great because they are pretty low or no cost activities.  Plus, they’re great ways for us to do things together as a family.  We hope that these things will leave long lasting memories for all of us.  After all, great memories are one of the best things that can come out of the holidays.

Readers, what are some of your holiday traditions or activities that don’t cost a lot but bring your family together for lots of fun?

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