How to Easily Build an Emergency Fund

How to Easily Build an Emergency Fund

How to Easily Build an Emergency Fund

Does it concern you that you don’t have an emergency fund? If so, it’s not too late to change that! Building an emergency fund can offer you peace of mind as well as the cash you need for a rainy day. You can quickly be on your way to building an emergency fund when you give these easy tips a try. Here is how to get started:

1. Set your goals.

Write down what your goal is for your emergency fund. Start low so it feels like something within reach. For example, choose an amount like $500. This would be enough to cover the cost of an appliance if one were to die on you or an unexpected bill.

2. Start with “small change.”

Start your fund by collecting your change. Every time you make a purchase and have change from the transaction, save it. If you find change around the house, store it away and save it. After 30 days, take your change and cash it in. Take the cash and add it to your emergency savings.

3. Go on a week long spending fast.

For one week, vow not to spend money. Instead, pack your lunch. Make your own coffee. Don’t buy any new clothing or entertainment items. Then, take the estimated cost of these items and put it in your fund. For example, if you spend $30 a week on lattes, take that $30 instead and place it in the fund.

4. Set aside 10 – 15% of your weekly income.

When you deposit your paycheck, take 10 – 15% off the top and put it in your emergency fund. It will be easier not to spend it if you don’t even see it in the first place. As you get comfortable with this amount, you can bump it up to 20% or more.

5. Sell what you don’t need.

Do you have a bunch of items around the home you don’t use anymore? Sell them! Ebay, Facebook Buy & Sell groups, Kijiji and Craigslist are a great way to unload unnecessary items. Take the money you make from your sales and add it to your emergency fund.

When you give these tips a try, you can quickly and easily build your emergency fund! Having an emergency fund on hand can help you feel more secure and prepared for the future as well. Give these tips a try and see what you can save. You are sure to be amazed!

What are your tried and true ways to building an emergency fund?

52 Ways to Save: Stay Home More Often

Every Monday in 2015, I’ll be sharing a different idea to help you save money! Add all of these tips to your frugal repertoire and you’ll be able to save a lot of money this year! I hope you’ll gather a few new ideas or at least some inspiration from this series. 

Stay Home More Often

Staying home more often is one of the simplest ways to have more time, spend less money, accumulate less clutter, and to simply live a less busy lifestyle!

Staying home used to be so hard for me. I’d go out to the mall or even drive over to the next city over for some ‘better shopping’, way more than I needed to. These trips would always result in money spent on lunch out, deals I may have thought I needed, and probably takeout for dinner because I was too tired to cook! Totally not worth it.

Staying Home means I have More Time, More Money, Less Clutter and a Simpler Lifestyle!

I’m amazed at how much I can get done at home when I limit my time out in town. I actually enjoy my twice a week grocery shopping trips because I have had time to plan the grocery list and meals. (and actually create the meals that I bought the groceries for!) I’m also somewhat impressed at what I can get accomplished around the house by staying home more often. I also have more time to play with my daughter one on one.

Another perk to spending more time at home is that I do less unnecessary spending. So I’m keeping more money in my bank account and bringing home less clutter. Win win!

Since having Sienna, I’ve found myself needing to be out more often. (For sanity reasons ;)) But I have also consciously chosen activities for us that don’t cost much or any money at all. We’ve gone to the library for story time, joined a Mother Goose program and gone for playdates at friends’ homes. We recently started going to a drop-in gymnastics class that costs only $5.  As for me, I have a bi-weekly date with a couple of longtime girlfriends at my one girlfriend’s home. We bring snacks, but the conversations we have, no money can buy!

So as you can see, I don’t cut out every activity because I do value time spent with others in the community and my friends and family.  But staying home more often really allows me to focus on what I value most and allows me to become refreshed so I can be a blessing to those I see when we do go out.

Staying home more often really works for me!

Here are some ideas to be happier at home:

  • Invite friends or family over for a movie/dinner night
  • Buy/pick some inexpensive flowers such as daffodils
  • Read a good book
  • Take a nice bath
  • Enjoy a dinner by candlelight
  • Clear out as much clutter as possible, clean off the kitchen countertops, get rid of at least one pile of papers
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Listen to your favorite music LOUD when you’re cleaning
  • Surround yourself with the things you love, allow no room for things that don’t make you feel happy
  • Take time to enjoy your favorite hot or cold beverage in the mornings (or evenings)
  • Keep your favorite candle burning
  • Play hard with your children
  • Bake: it tastes great and smells wonderful
  • Try a new recipe that you found on Pinterest or another recipe site
  • Work at wanting what you have rather than having what you want
  • Play board games with family or friends
  • Stop resenting what your house isn’t and start appreciating what it is.
  • Display family photos

How does staying home save you more money? Please share in the comments!

52 Ways to Save: Use Those Cash-Back Apps

52 Ways to Save: Use Those Cash Back Apps

Use Cash Back Apps to Save

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m not a huge coupon user for various reasons.  But one thing that I can really get on board with is all these cash-back apps that are available!  I get quite a bit of use out of Checkout 51, Snap, Zweet, Cartsmart and Save.ca’s app.

Here is how I make these apps work for our lifestyle:

  1. I don’t make a shopping list based on the rebates they have available
  2. After I’m finished shopping I peruse the list of rebates and if there are items I have purchased on the lists, I go ahead with filing my receipt.

This way, I’m not buying (or getting really cheap) stuff that we won’t use or eat. Every nickel adds up when I’m buying things that will just get wasted in the end!

What I especially love is the rebates for fresh produce!  It’s not often you see a coupon for that!  I’ve also taken advantage of the recent rebates for wine which we’ve bought for gifts.

For this week’s post on 52 Ways to Save, I wanted to create an Ultimate Guide to the Cash-Back Apps we have available to us in Canada.  Sound good?  Lets get started!

Checkout 51

checkout51

In a nutshell:

Every Thursday morning, Checkout 51 updates with a new list of offers. All you have to do is pick the ones you like, purchase them at any store, and upload a photo of your receipt through our mobile app or website. When your account reaches $20, we send you a check.

How Checkout 51 works

  1. Browse your offers and buy products at any store in Canada. (excluding Quebec)
  2. Upload your receipt using Checkout 51. Photos must be clear and readable. You must send a photo of the entire receipt. If you have a long receipt, you can add “sections”.
  3. They’ll confirm your purchase and credit your account.
  4. When your account balance reaches $20, you can choose to cash out and they’ll mail you a check.

Other Key Guidelines

  • Anyone can use Checkout 51. They have an app for smartphones and you can even use it on your computer.
  • Offers go live on Thursdays at 12:00 AM in each time zone. They expire the following Wednesday at 11:59 PM in each time zone. You must upload your receipts while the offers are live.
  • Offers are available in limited quantities. Be sure to check your offer list before you go shopping to ensure that the offer is still available. Make sure to upload your receipt immediately after purchase to avoid disappointment!
  • A quantity of one of each rebate offer is eligible for Cash Back per member.
  • Each receipt can only be used once.
  • You can only earn Cash Back for the exact product listed, so please read carefully.
  • Products must be purchased in your country of registration. We currently support the United States (the 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and Overseas US Military Bases) and Canada (excluding Quebec).
  • Receipts uploaded must be in English.
  • Items purchased from online retailers are eligible for Cash Back. Itemized packing slips are accepted as proof of purchase. Online purchases are subject to the same upload timelines as receipts.

Can I use a Coupon with my Rebate offer?

Yes! You can earn Checkout 51 Cash Back in combination with any other coupon or discount unless otherwise stated. This is a great way to get free or nearly free items each week!

When Will I get my Cash Back?

You are able to cash out and receive a cheque once your account reaches $20 or more. Cheques are sent out via snail mail within 7 business days.

Snap by Groupon

Snap-by-Groupon

In a Nutshell:

Groupon created Snap to help shoppers everywhere get a great deal at the grocery store.

We partner directly with top brands to bring you cash-back offers on the products you need and love, from fruits and vegetables to beauty supplies and household cleaners.

Snap is like having grocery coupons on your mobile phone, but even better. Our offers work at any store, and you never have to hassle with clipping or redeeming paper coupons.

How Snap Works

To get started, download the Snap app for iPhone or Android (or log into the Snap website). Using Snap is simple:

  1. Before each shopping trip, browse the list of cash-back offers
  2. Purchase promoted products at any store
  3. Snap a photo of your receipt and get cash in your account!

Where can I redeem Snap offers?

At any store! To get your cash back, simply use the ‘Snap Receipt’ feature to upload your receipt. We don’t care where you shop – we just need proof that you purchased one or more promoted products so that we can add cash to your account.

Can I redeem multiple offers on one receipt?

Yes! Once you snap a photo of your receipt, you will be able to select all cash-back offers you’ve purchased.

Can I redeem each offer more than once?

Sometimes! We try to have as few restrictions as possible on our offers, so you can often multiply your cash-back by purchasing several units of the promoted product. Each offer’s redemption limit is clearly noted on its details page.

How long does it take for my receipt to be approved?

We strive to approve all receipts within 48 hours. However, due to the number of receipts being uploaded, we are currently taking longer to process receipts. We appreciate your patience and encourage you to contact customer support with any concerns.

How do I get paid?

When you have earned $20 or more in cash back, you can request payment. Go to ‘My Account’ page and select ‘Cash Out’.

What devices can I use Snap on?

Snap can be used on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer – just download our app for iOS or Android, or visit us online at snap.groupon.com.

How do I upload a long receipt?

When uploading long receipts, take multiple photos of your receipt to ensure you capture all data – top to bottom.

When do offers expire?

Offers expire either when the maximum number of redemptions has been reached or the product program has concluded. Expired offers will either be hidden or clearly marked as unavailable.

When will my payment arrive?

Typically, payments are sent within two weeks of request but may take up to sixty days.

How do I share Snap with friends?

Go to the ‘Refer A Friend‘ section of the app and invite your friends. You’ll get paid $1.00 for each friend who joins Snap through your Referral Link and redeems their first eligible offer!

Zweet

zweet-blog-1920x1080-people-en

In a Nutshell:

Zweet is a mobile app on iOS and on Android that makes it simple and easy to save on your favorite products without the hassle of finding, cutting and bringing coupons to the store. Zweet is currently available in Canada and will launch in the US in 2015.

How does Zweet work?

  • Browse & Buy – Browse the Zweet offers and purchase the products at any store.
  • Scan Your Receipt – Use the Zweet App to snap a picture of your receipt.
  • Get Cash Back – Yep, cash! And points for future rewards

Other Key Guidelines:

  • You can combine a Zweet offer with any other in-store promotion or coupon, unless otherwise specified
  • Some offers are limited to one unit item per user and some may specify that the product can be bought and claimed several times during the valid period.
  • There is a limit of 1 account per person and 2 accounts per household.
  • New offers are released every Wednesday and must be claimed before the following Tuesday at midnight.
  • You will receive an email within 24 hours after submitting a receipt, letting you know whether or not it has been accepted.
  • Each receipt can only be claimed once.
  • You must earn at least $20 in cash back before you can request to be paid by cheque. Paypal will be offered in the future.
  • Check payments should arrive within a 10-15 day delay.
  • If your account becomes inactive after 12 months (i.e. you haven’t uploaded at least one receipt within a 12-month period), they will deduct $2 per month from your balance, up to the total amount in your account.

CartSmart

cartsmart

In a Nutshell:

No need to print, clip, or file. CartSmart does all the work for you. The more you use CartSmart, the better the deals will become. You don’t want your mailbox full of lousy deals, and neither do we.

How to Use CartSmart:

  1. Plan – Add SmartDeals, sale items, and other things you need in your list. You can have multiple lists if you’re a super-planner, or just one if you like to keep it simple.
  2. Shop – The SmartList keeps you organized and on-track in the store. While you shop, CartSmart finds even more deals for you on items in your list.
  3. Get Paid – Take a photo of your receipt as proof of purchase. Your trip earnings will show up in your SmartAccount*: you can decide what to do from there.

Other Key Guidelines:

  • Available in the iTunes app store and Google Play
  • The the other cash back apps, all you have to do is purchase participating products, take a photo of your receipt, send it in, and earn cash back.
  • Quebec residents can use this app (Though some offers are not available in Quebec).
  • New offers go live every Friday
  • Offers are limited in quantity.
  • You can cash out with as little as $5, but, you have to cash out with Paypal. Cheques are not an option.

Save.ca Cash Back

Save-mobile-mock-for-Paypal

In a Nutshell:

Save.ca is excited to introduce our new Mobile Cash-Back feature! Download the app and start getting cash back by purchasing the brands and products you already love – it’s like you’re getting paid to do your shopping!

How Does it Work?

  1. Browse offers on the list – Our app will be updated regularly with new offers, so check back often!
  2. Buy products at any store – Select the offers you like, and make sure you buy the right item and size in store.
  3. Upload Your Receipt – Take a legible photo of your receipt and submit through the app.
  4. Earn $ and cash out to your PayPal account – When your receipt is processed, your account will be credited within a few days. Once you have $5, you can instantly cash out to your PayPal account.
I don’t have a PayPal account, can I still get cash back?

Save.ca has the only cash-back app that uses PayPal to get you money back. It’s the easiest, quickest and most reliable method to get you spending less and saving more!

How do I connect my PayPal account to the Save app?

Connect your PayPal account by selecting the burger menu on the top left corner of the app and choosing ‘My Account’. From here, go to ‘Profile’ and then ‘View PayPal’ where you can connect the app to your PayPal account.

When will I get reimbursed?

Once your total savings equal $5, you can opt to cash out and the funds will be deposited to your PayPal account will within minutes. Don’t want to cash out right away? No problem. Keep saving and cash out whenever you would like!

How do I cash out?

Once you’ve reached $5 in savings, you can cash out in the ‘My Account’ section of the app under the ‘Balance’ tab. Simply select ‘Cash Out’ located at the bottom of this screen and verify your PayPal email address before confirming your submission.

How will I be notified that my purchase(s) was validated?

You will be notified via email.

How long do I have to submit a receipt?

You can submit a receipt for as long as the coupon is available on the Save.ca app or until it is sold out. After it is no longer available, you will not be able to submit your purchase so act quick!

How long do I have to wait for my receipt to be validated?

Please allow 3-5 business days for your purchase to be validated.

Can I use my existing Save.ca account to login to the app?

Absolutely! Simply select the burger menu on the top left corner of the app. Here you will see a Login/Signup option.

Can I see which offers I have submitted?

Yes. You can see the claims you have previously submitted in the ‘My Account’ section of the app. Here you can select ‘View Claims’ to view ‘All’ claims, ‘Processed’ claims and claims that are ‘Pending.’

Do you use any of these Cash-Back apps to save? Which one is your favourite?  What offers are your favourite?

7 Steps to Organize Your Coupons for Ultimate Savings

Ultimate Savings

Are you looking to save more money this year? Whether you are an occasional couponer or an avid one, take a peek below at 7 steps to organize your coupons for ultimate savings. By making a few changes to your organization, you can make sure your coupons work for you and get you the most bang for your buck. Here is how you can get started organizing your coupons and saving more!

1. Step One: Utilize a binder.

Head to your local dollar store for a simple three ring binder. You can then decorate it to your liking or just keep it clean and plain. Make sure it is sturdy and will last being handled often during the year.

2. Step Two: Divide your binder contents.

Now, divide your binder into sections. Your sections can be as follows: Dairy, Produce, Breads, Meat, Desserts, Breakfast, Toiletries, Cleaning, Soon to Expire. Place plastic sheets into each section which can then be used to hold the coupons for that section.  (I like these ones.)

3. Step Three: Print off coupon policies.

Print off the coupon policies to your favorite store and add them to the back of your binder. This way you always have them for easy reference should you need them.

4. Step Four: Make a flyer pocket.

At the front of your binder, make a pocket for flyers. This way, you also have those to easily reference should you need them when shopping.

5. Step five: Do a weekly expiration check.

At the start of each week, do a check of the coupons to remove any that may have expired. If any are soon to expire, remove them and place them in a ‘soon to expire” file so you can use them before they become worthless.

6. Step Six: Bundle double coupon scenarios.

For stores like Target that let you stack coupons, bundle those coupons together before filing them. For example if Target has a store coupon for Dove soap and you have a manufacturer coupon for it as well, clip them together before filing. This way you won’t have to dig and can figure your savings out easily.

7. Step Seven: Track your savings.

Keep a running tally in the back of your binder of how much you have saved. You can do this by storing your receipts or simply jot down the date and the amount of coupon savings you earned. At the end of the month add up your savings and use it as a goal and motivator for next month.

You can make the most of your coupons and really save at the checkout! Give these tips a try and see how they work for you!

52 Ways to Save: Make Your Own Homemade Mixes (Week 1)

Every Monday in 2015, I’ll be sharing a different idea to help you save money! Add all of these tips to your frugal repertoire and you’ll be able to save a lot of money this year! I hope you’ll gather a few new ideas or at least some inspiration from this series.

Make your own homemade mixes

Make Your Own Homemade Mixes

I love making my own homemade mixes. In fact, I love making them so much I devoted the entire month of March a couple of years ago to homemade mixes. Not only are they friendly on the wallet, they’re more healthy than their store bought counterparts. The convenience factor is also something to be noted. I love knowing that I most likely have all the ingredients on hand to whip up a giant batch of pancake mix (Or taco seasoning. Or oatmeal. The list is endless.) for when the mood strikes on the weekend.

This money saving tip might not save you much if you regularly get mixes for pennies with coupons. But if you’re in the habit of buying expensive baking mixes, seasonings, pancake mixes and individual sized oatmeal packs, you’ll save a ton.

Homemade mixes will not only save you money because it’s more economical than buying them pre-made at the store, but they can also save you money by encouraging you to eat at home. If you have pancake mix already made or pizza dough in the freezer, you have fewer excuses to go out for breakfast or order pizza.

How to Get Started Making Your Own Homemade Mixes

First of all, you can check out my March Mixes series for recipes or inspiration. You could first try something that you regularly purchase at the grocery store. Pinterest is also a wealth of information for homemade mixes. Experiment often. When you find a great recipe, keep it on file! Pretty soon you’ll have a nice collection of tried and true recipes, plus, a stockpile of mixes in your pantry or freezer!

Here are some of my favourite Homemade Mixes:

Top 12 Posts of 2014

Top posts of 2014

I thought it would be fun to have a look back at what the top 12 posts for 2014 were on Simply Frugal!  Some of these posts were not written in 2014, but thanks to Pinterest, they’re still popular!

free apron patterns

1. Free Apron Patterns

container gardening mistakes to avoid

2. 5 Container Gardening Mistakes to Avoid

oatmeal

3. Easy Breakfast Refrigerator Oatmeal

how to grow potatoes in a container

4. How to Grow Potatoes in a Container

get started container gardening

5. How to Get Started Container Gardening

20 Ways to Refashion your Clothes

6. 20 Ways to Refashion your Clothes

banana-muffins

7. My Favourite Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

delicious puffed wheat squares

8. Delicious Puffed Wheat Squares

Budget Friendly Meals

9. 5 Budget Friendly Meals to Save Your Grocery Budget

slow cooker freezer cooking verticle

10. Slow Cooker Freezer Meals: 9 Meals in about 3 Hours

menu planning tricks

11. Menu Planning Tricks

saving & making money as a stay at home mom

12. Saving and Making Money as a Stay at Home Mom

What were your favourite Simply Frugal posts in 2014?

25 Stocking Stuffers You Can Get from the Dollar Store

Dollar store stocking stuffers

The dollar store is a great place to get many practical, quirky and fun things. Household goods, decorations, gifts, you name it , you can probably find it at a dollar store!  Because there is so much to find at dollar stores, it only makes sense that you can find some pretty great stocking stuffer ideas!  Best of all, most things cost only $1.00!

Here are 25 Dollar Store Stocking Stuffer Ideas:

  1. Hand Sanitizer
  2. Travel Size Tissue
  3. Chewing Gum
  4. Mini Notebook
  5. Holiday Pencils
  6. Holiday Erasers
  7. Travel Size Lotion
  8. Coloring Books
  9. Candy Bars
  10. Lip balm
  11. Socks
  12. Hair accessories
  13. Nail Polish
  14. Nail Files
  15. Miniature Toy Cars
  16. Playing Cards
  17. Mini Washi Tape Rolls
  18. Crayons
  19. Chalk
  20. Bubbles
  21. Stickers
  22. Key Chains
  23. Snack Size Chips, Crackers, Cookies
  24. Assorted Kid’s Craft Supplies
  25. Night Lights

What are some other dollar store stocking stuffer ideas?  Share them in the comments!

7 Inexpensive Gift Basket Ideas

7 Inexpensive Gift Basket Ideas

Giving gift baskets is a fun way to include a little variety in your gift giving. And, if you coupon, you probably have a lot of extra things that you got for free or very cheap that you can place in these baskets as well. Even if you don’t, doing a themed gift basket can make it easy for you to gift things this holiday season. It’s possible to create a gift basket that is so personalized, the receiver will love it! If you are stumped on what to put together, that also won’t cost you an arm and a leg, here are 7 Inexpensive Gift Basket ideas to get you started.

7 Inexpensive Gift Basket Ideas

Movie Night – Give the gift of a movie night!  This basket simply requires microwave popcorn, some dollar store candy, a $5 movie from the cheap bin at Walmart and maybe some cozy socks. All of this can be purchase for less than $10! If you’re making this one for a teen or pre-teen, maybe add in a gift card for a movie ticket to the local theater.

Manicure basket – Some simple nail polish, a patterned file (can often be bought at Bath & Body Works for cheap!), a small bottle (such as travel size) of lotion or cream and some nice nail decals. This one is perfect for teens and tweens and can cost less than $10. You can also throw in a gift card to a beauty supply shop if desired.

Baker’s Delight – Do you know someone who loves to bake? Buy them some fun patterned cupcake liners, paper straws, cupcake toppers, a new oven mitt and a small spatula and you have a great gift. You could even skip the basket and just place everything in the mitt and tie off with a ribbon. This gift costs less than $15 to throw together.

Homemade Hot Cocoa – Hot cocoa can be made with just a few simple ingredients and packaged nicely in a mason jar. Add in a bag of marshmallows and some dollar store mugs for a finishing touch. This basket costs less than $10 to make and in many cases, less than $5.

Sporty Basket – If you have a sports fan on your gift list, try this one! Place some snacks like sunflower seeds, jerky or popcorn in a basket. Add a small trinket of their favorite sport team such as a key chain, bottle opener or lanyard and finish it off with a set of tickets to watch a minor league team in your area. This basket costs less than $20 to put together.

Pasta Heaven – Got a carb addict in your life? Place some fancy pasta (this can often be bought at a discount at outlet stores or a store like Winners), pasta sauce (homemade or bought), shelf stable Parmesan cheese, and a pasta server into the basket for a great fast dinner. This basket costs less than $15 to make in most cases.

Bookworm Gift Basket – Everyone knows someone who loves to read. This gift basket will delight them! Get a $5 Amazon Gift card (to buy a book or an e-book), a cheap fleece throw blanket, a coffee mug, some tea and a low cost clip-on reading light. This basket costs less than $20 to make.

I hope there were some ideas there to help inspire your gift basket building endeavors!  Do you have any other themed gift basket ideas that you could share in the comments?

8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas: Create Your Holiday Budget

8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas
Are you excited to work your way to a more organized Christmas?  Today marks the first day and task in the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas series that I hope will be super helpful!

Before we get started, I have a whole bunch of printables and checklists for you to print out to help you along:

Alright, on to the first task, an important one. :) This week, if you haven’t already, sit down with a hot cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate… and create your holiday budget.  This is what you think your holiday season will cost and will allow you to put limits on your holiday spending to keep you from shopping regrets if a credit card bill comes your way!

Here is an extensive list of things you should keep in mind when you create your holiday budget:

Gifts:

  • spouse
  • kids
  • parents
  • siblings
  • nieces/nephews
  • grandparents
  • neighbors
  • coworkers
  • friends
  • secret Santa gift exchanges

Activities/Events/Parties:

  • tickets
  • dining out
  • clothing

Food (not including regular groceries):

  • baking ingredients
  • dessert ingredients
  • Christmas eve
  • Christmas dinner/brunch
  • Boxing day
  • parties

Cards:

  • stamps
  • cards/envelopes
  • stationary for family newsletter
  • photos

Clothing:

  • outfits for photos
  • parties
  • Christmas day outfit

Decorations:

  • tree
  • lights
  • ornaments/candles/wreath/etc.
  • craft supplies

Giving:

  • charities
  • volunteering

Now, those suggestions were just a guideline.  Every family is different and has different needs.  My intent is to bring to mind every possible thing that could incur an expense during the holiday season.  I’m sure many of you won’t even see half of these things on your list.   Also, in my mind, a more organized, more stress-free Christmas means not only less stuff, but a simpler season.

As for my family, we only buy gifts for immediate family and a couple of close friends.  My husband and I only exchange stockings. I make some homemade gifts as well as collect credits throughout the year so I can do some online shopping for “free”.  We most likely won’t be putting up a tree this year since we spend Christmas day away from home and I’m afraid of what Sienna will do to it. I stopped buying Christmas decorations a few years ago and will make do with what we have.   The only outfit we’ll buy is for Sienna since she’s constantly growing.  We won’t be hosting any parties, but I like to bring some baking along to parties we’re invited to.  I intend on handing out Christmas cards to a few friends and the grandparents.  (You can find great deals on Christmas cards every year from various places!)

Enough about us.  :)

If after writing down your expenses, you’re scared of the number you see, you have two options:  Decrease your expenses or increase your income.

Decrease your expenses

To make a happy holiday season, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money.  In fact, I’m daring to say, that being extravagant in your spending can be overwhelming not only for you, but the recipient as well.  As a child, one set of grandparents used to be quite extreme in their gift giving.  It was SO exciting, but I remember being quite overwhelmed with all the gifts once Christmas was over.

Gift giving is probably the easiest expense to cut back on.  If you have a large extended family, consider drawing names so each member is only responsible for one gift.  Or do what our family does and only give gifts to the children.  My parents have also started to set a $20 limit on each other in recent years.  Jesse and I exchange stockings.

Setting a price limit on each gift will allow you to shop within that budget.  If your limit on sister Sue is $30, then that $50 purse is off limits.

It’s possible to decrease your food budget too by shopping the sales and limiting the baking and Christmas dishes you prepare.

When it comes to decorations, why not create some memories by making some homemade decorations?  (I’ll be featuring some ideas in a few weeks)  Or read my Fond, Frugal Christmas Memory post for a fun Christmas tree idea.

Increase your Income

If decreasing your holiday expenses is not an option, then consider increasing your income.  Many retailers hire for the holiday season (and may offer and employee discount!).

A couple of other ideas are to:

  • sell extra baking to those that may not have much time to create their own.
  • sell unwanted household items for cash (make room for new stuff too!)

What are your tips for staying on budget at Christmas time?

30 Things You Should Stop Buying and Start Making

If you’re wanting to save some big bucks, it’s time to start thinking about making your own pantry staples and household essentials.  Not only does creating your own stuff keep more money in your wallet, often times it’s better for your health!  I mean how many times are you stuck reading a label in the store wondering what half of the ingredients are?  By making your own essentials, you’re ensuring that you know each and every ingredient involved.

Creating your own products from scratch is simple.  But to make it even easier for you, I’ve rounded up a list of 30 things you should stop buying and start making:

stop buying start making

  1. Homemade Flavoured Coffee Cream | SimplyFrugal.ca
  2. Homemade Peanut Butter | MrsJanuary.com
  3. Homemade Yogurt | Baking Beauties
  4. Homemade Mayonnaise (video) | Simple Bites
  5. Homemade Bisquick | SimplyFrugal.ca
  6. Homemade Ketchup | Cupcakes and Kale Chips
  7. Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packs | SimplyFrugal.ca
  8. Homemade Butter | Unsophisticook.com
  9. Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup | Buns in my Oven
  10. Homemade BBQ Sauce | Simply Scratch
  11. Homemade Bread Crumbs | Make and Takes
  12. Homemade Taco Seasoning | SimplyFrugal.ca
  13. Homemade Ranch Dressing | SimplyFrugal.ca
  14. Homemade Cream Cheese | She Simmers
  15. Homemade Bouillon Cubes | A Return to Simplicity
  16. Homemade Alfredo Sauce | Food.com
  17. Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk | Cooking with Books
  18. Homemade Brown Sugar | Nourishing Joy
  19. Homemade Sour Cream | Oh Lardy
  20. Homemade Powdered Sugar | Mom with a Prep
  21. Homemade Vanilla Extract | SimplyFrugal.ca
  22. Homemade Pizza Dough | SimplyFrugal.ca
  23. Homemade Baking Powder | Mommypotamus
  24. Homemade Refried Beans | Simply Scratch
  25. Homemade Tomato Sauce | Food 52
  26. Homemade Apple Sauce | Beard and Bonnet
  27. Homemade Pop Tarts | Smitten Kitchen
  28. Homemade Worcestershire Sauce | Little House Living
  29. Homemade Laundry Detergent | DIY Natural
  30. Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner | SimplyFrugal.ca

How many of these have you tried?  Do you have any other recipes you can share?

If you’re wanting more ideas for things to make from scratch, you might want to try this book, The Homemade Pantry.  It features 101 recipes that you can try!

homemade pantry