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  • Quest for a Simple(r) Christmas: Money Saving Mom’s 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge

    Simple(r) Christmas

    I’m trying to catch up on Money Saving Mom’s 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge. Crystal is offering a free copy of her e-book, 21 Days to a Simple Christmas, and inviting others to read it and act on the ideas in it together. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to catch up since Crystal’s a great writer and the chapters are short.

    Also, she starts the book out by talking about budget and keeping costs down, and I’m lucky that’s the least of my worries. I really don’t have that many people to buy for, and we don’t even get the kids big gifts since they get so much from the rest of the family and we spend more than enough money on them throughout the rest of the year.

    But what I’m looking for in this challenge – and already starting to get – is a reminder that things need not be stressful and complicated and super busy, just because of the season. I’ve already pared the gift list down to the bare minimum, and arranged for group gifts where appropriate. (For example, I’m going to bring in a large batch of cookies to the school office, instead of individual gifts for each staff member.)

    As I’ve mentioned on Facebook already, I’ve normally accomplished much more by this time of year, because I traditionally do my decorating during Thanksgiving week. But this year, with Thanksgiving being so late, Hanukkah being so early, and the kids having sports activities, the decorations never crossed my mind once last week!

    Now I’m trying to catch up on that, because I really do love my house being festive at this time of year. It’s not that I go all out with decorations . . . it’s just the reminder from seeing the (very small) tree, the stockings, and the Hallmark Singing Snowmen (I still have to get this year’s), that this is my favorite time of year.

    Today’s challenge is to organize a gift list, so I’ve been working on that.

    I have some gifts for the kids, teachers, friends, my husband, our parents, and our grandparents. But I need to take inventory and see what still needs to be purchased and made . . .

    How’s your Christmas planning/celebrating going? And are you planning on simplifying anything this year?

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by jannoon028.

    I’m Not Superwoman

    I wish I was Superwoman – in the sense that I wish I could accomplish everything I want to do, and do them all well. But especially at this time of year, I’m reminded that I’m not Superwoman, and that the best I can do is seek a healthy balance among my priorities.

    There’s just so much extra stuff this month – holiday and birthday parties, school performances, holiday gifts, and more. Not to mention the amazing deals that tend to crop up that I want to get posted for you – in fact, consider this fair warning: while I don’t usually post deals individually, if something particularly hot comes up, I will this month! More than likely, it will be an Amazon toy deal, as historically, Amazon has had amazing discounts in December.

    But overall, I’m feeling overwhelmed, as I so often do in December. Getting sick at the end of November into the beginning of December didn’t help – I’m finally getting my normal energy level back, which is exciting.

    There are a few things I’m doing that help me stay sane, and they work throughout the year when I actually do them. I’ve taken to making a detailed to-do list everyday, just to keep track of things (I knew this morning would be busy, so I actually included making the boys’ lunches on my list for today, even though I do it almost every day!).

    I also say “no” to some things, even though I would like to do them. We passed on a Christmas party this past weekend because it conflicted with other events – I probably could have gotten there for at least a half hour, but it would have been too stressful trying to get there, especially since it was a good distance away. And I’ll be missing a committee meeting at my son’s school because it was just one too many things to do that day.

    I take regular mental and physical breaks, which I learned to do from Flylady. It really helps me keep my energy level up so I don’t crash all of a sudden while in the middle of something.

    Another thing I’ve learned from Flylady is my new mantra: “Do It Now.” Making the extra effort not to procrastinate has helped my mental state a lot as well. When I was feeling unwell last week, one thing I could do was get my holiday cards together – they were just sitting under my desk, so I printed out my little note about the year on shipping labels, adhered them to the backs of the cards, printed out address labels for the recipients, and put them all together. It wasn’t very taxing, mentally or physically, so I got it done. And now my holiday cards are in the mail, so I don’t have any of that stress weighing on me.

    The list of things I know I won’t get to this month is long (starting with cleaning my carpets with my Hoover Steamvac). I’ll be lucky if my floors get mopped after they’re vacuumed. But that’s okay – I don’t have to be Superwoman to take care of my family and have a fabulous holiday season!

    (P.S. And neither do you.)

    Holiday Season Priorities

    There is so much going on right now that it’s no surprise I’ve come down with a cold amidst all the busyness of the season. It’s got me thinking about what’s really important right now:

    Sticking to our financial priorities – With all of the hot deals available at this time of year, it’s all too easy to overspend. But my husband and I are both pretty good at keeping our impulse purchases in check by keeping our eyes focused on the prize. Still, in a season of wants, it takes extra discipline to maintain that focus.

    Building memories – My boys are lucky in that they get lots of time and attention from both of their parents, but I find that at this time of year, it becomes especially important to give them experiences they’ll associate with the holidays. When they’re grown, I want them to remember decorating the house, baking cookies, Christmas music, and sweet potato latkes. It becomes a little harder every year to keep their focus off presents, but it helps that my husband and I don’t make a big deal out of what to get them (in fact, we hardly buy them anything since they get so much from their grandparents and other relatives). In spite of all the great gifts I received over the years, my own favorite memories center around decorating the tree every year, so I figure the gifts are pretty irrelevant in the (very) long run.

    Fulfilling obligations – Much as I’d like to be able to focus just on what I want to do and enjoy doing, there’s no getting around certain obligations. Most of them are thank you gifts, and that list is pretty long – teachers, secretaries, etc. To a certain degree, I do enjoy putting these gifts together, but they do add to my long to-do list.

    Fun gifts – These would be the gifts I derive a lot of pleasure in getting and giving, for those closest to me. Unfortunately, they’re also the hardest to come up with!

    Gratitude – Despite all of the stress this season can bring, I’m constantly reminded of how lucky I am. My children are happy and healthy, and I have the world’s greatest husband. I’m so grateful to be able to work at home, and to not be in an office doing a job I’d come to find very stressful. I love helping you create financial security for yourself and your family, and sharing tips to make your life easier and happier. I love the city I live in, and all of the opportunities it provides, and the tremendous freedom we’re blessed with in the United States. I couldn’t be luckier, and that’s what I’ll be thinking about as I prepare to send out our holiday cards now.

    How do you stay focused on what’s important during this super-busy season?

    Morning Coffee: Shopping deals at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls

    T.J. Maxx and Marshalls sent me a couple of gift cards to check out their stores. I didn’t have time to look for clothes for myself, but I did pick up some Star Wars action figures for the boys at 35% off regular retail price, and a boy’s winter jacket for almost half off regular retail. If you’re still looking for bargains, it’d be worth checking out these stores for discounted holiday gifts. You may also want to enter their “Carol-Oke” contest, which will give one lucky winner a $5,000 shopping spree, just for singing their favorite holiday carol (ends 12/20).

    Amazon’s Holiday Lightning Dealstoday include quite a few toys, DVDs and jewelry again. You can see all of the day’s Lightning Deals in Toys hereand Electronics here.

    Staples is offering $10 off any digital picture frame 7 inches or larger, today only. You can use this coupon in store or online.

    For most retailers, tomorrow is the last day for standard shipping orders to arrive by Christmas so many are offering free shipping. FreeShippingDay.com has a list of retailers who are offering free shipping tomorrow (minimums may apply).

    I got an email yesterday from P&G eSaver stating that starting January 1, 2010, their coupons will no longer be available for Kroger-affiliated shopper cards, including Ralphs. Although I rarely used the P&G eSaver coupons, I’m still a little disappointed. I do hope it doesn’t mean that P&G is going to start cutting back on coupons in general!

    For locals: The LA Times reports that through December 23, you can get a free cupcake when you donate a new, unwrapped toy at any SusieCakes.

    Being Frugal reminds us that the most important thing about holiday parties are the people, not the things. Having just attended the fifth annual Christmas party for what started out as a breastfeeding support group, I can attest to the truth of that! I am so grateful to still be in touch with women I first go to know when our oldest children were only weeks old.

    I love the message in this post at The Happiness Project: Let go of perfection and do it anyway. I struggle with perfectionism myself, so I could really relate. I too have found that life is still good even when things aren’t perfect.

    No Purchase Required is giving away a $25 American Express Gift Card. Ends 12/18.

    My Four Monkeys is giving away a $100 gift card to Kids Foot Locker. Ends 12/18.

    There are some fascinating ways of saving money. Over at Under $1000 per Month, they’ve stopped by buying soda and tonic water and instead are making their own “soda” using kefir.

    It’s illegal to throw batteries into the trash here (since 2006, I think), so I’ve been collecting the used alkaline batteries as we recover them from toys and such. Until recently, I’d planned to take them to IKEA, but I discovered that they no longer accept such batteries. However, it turns out that you can take them to these Jiffy Lube locations in Los Angeles. You can also search Earth911 for a disposal location in your area (though it may not include all locations; it didn’t list Jiffy Lube for me). (Hat tip: GovGab.)

    NYC Recession Diary is giving away $50 American Express Gift Cards. Ends 12/18.

    Kroger shopper card holders can load $6 in Huggies coupons onto their card from Softcoin.

    Get a printable coupon for $1.50 off 2 Rosetto frozen pasta (coupon link is at bottom right; expires in 30 days). (Via Printable Grocery Coupons and Deals.)

    MyPoints
    Banner via MySavings.com – Read my MyPoints review!

    Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and/or referral links, and may refer to items that were sent to me for review. However, all opinions are my own. You can read Chief Family Officer’s full disclaimer and disclosure policy here.

    Flashback: Halloween Safety Tips

    Here’s a post that ran one year ago – stay safe!

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission sent out these safety tips for a safe Halloween:

    Costumes

    • When purchasing costumes, masks, beards and wigs, look for flame-resistant fabrics such as nylon or polyester, or look for the label “Flame Resistant.” Flame-resistant fabrics will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. To minimize the risk of contact with candles and other fire sources, avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts.
    • Purchase or make costumes that are light, bright and clearly visible to motorists.
    • For greater visibility during dusk and darkness, decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car’s headlights. Bags or sacks also should be light-colored or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware, bicycle and sporting goods stores.
    • Children should carry flashlights to see and be seen.
    • Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Oversized high heels are not a good idea.
    • Tie hats and scarves securely to prevent them from slipping over children’s eyes and obstructing vision.
    • If your child wears a mask, make sure it fits securely, provides adequate ventilation, and has eye holes large enough to allow full vision.
    • Swords, knives and similar costume accessories should be made of soft, flexible materials.
    • Supervise pumpkin carvings to avoid lacerations.

    Treats

    • Warn children not to eat any treats until an adult has examined them carefully for evidence of tampering.
    • Carefully examine any toys or novelty items received by trick-or-treaters under three years of age. Do not allow young children to have any items that are small enough to present a choking hazard or that have small parts or components that could separate during use and present a choking hazard.

    Decorations

    • Keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame.
    • Indoors, keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from curtains, decorations and other combustibles that could catch fire. Do not leave burning candles unattended.
    • Remove obstacles from lawns, steps and porches when expecting trick-or-treaters.
    • Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, such as UL. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets.
    • Don’t overload extension cords.

    Image credit: Firefighter costume at Amazon.com.

    Children's Place
    Ads via MySavings.com

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