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

How to create your Christmas budget. Sit down with a hot drink and create your Christmas budget with these tips! #Christmasbudget #budgettips

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 to you!

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!

Related: How to Have a Merry Christmas Without Spending a Dime

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, these suggestions are 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 spend money on half of these things this year. Also, in my mind, the more planning you do, the more money you will save and the saner you will feel. 🙂

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”. Of course, I search for deals too. I will probably buy a few inexpensive Christmas decorations this year. This year, I’m toying with the idea of having a cookie decorating party with the girls’ friends. I think that would be fun! As for any party that we are invited to, I like to bring some baking along.

But 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 to you, but the recipient as well. When I was 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 an 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?

Sign up for the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas newsletter to receive a FREE Christmas Dinner Checklist!  This checklist is quite detailed and will help you remember all the details needed for a memory filled dinner with family and friends. You’ll also receive a weekly email with each week’s “task”.

Not only do I want a more organized Christmas season of my own, I'm hoping I can help you as well! Introducing... the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas series!

How to Save Money When You Don’t have Much to Save

How to start saving money quickly

When it comes to budgeting, the common excuse I hear from people is that they don’t have the extra money to set aside to grow their savings account. Once they get paid, and take care of all of their important bills, there is simply nothing left for them to put into savings. Does this sound like you?

If so, I have a few suggestions for you that will get you saving in no time.

Tip #1 – Always pay yourself first

What do you consider to be an “important bill”? Your mortgage/rent? Your car payment? Insurance? Of course, these are all bills that absolutely must be paid each and every month, but what about the bill of YOU? Aren’t you important?

Growing your savings is so very important for your financial future and you need to make this a priority. Do so by treating your savings as one of those “important bills” that absolutely must be paid each month. Ideally, it should be the very first “bill” you pay so that your brain knows that this bill is important. To make it easy on yourself, set up an automatic withdrawal from your chequing account each month (or week), so that a pre-determined amount of cash goes into your savings account without you having to lift a finger.How to save money, when you don't have much to save in the first place. These helpful suggestions will have you saving money in no time!

Tip #2 – It doesn’t matter how much you save (in the beginning)

The hardest part about saving money is simply getting started. How much should you save will depend greatly on your life goals, but also, on your current financial situation. If you are only working part time, or you are a one-income family, you may not have very much money to save each month. Don’t get discouraged and whatever you do, do NOT say you will “start saving when I make more money”. Save money right now, regardless of how much you make.

Even if you are only saving $5 each week, that’s still $240 a year that normally would have just slipped through your fingers. As you start to bring in more money, you can increase your savings amount, but in the beginning, start small if you have to. Don’t dismiss saving money just because you have a low income.

Tip #3 – Eliminate all unnecessary expenses

This is obvious, but I feel I should mention it anyway, because I know so many people who complain about having no money to save, yet they go out to the movies every weekend, buy new clothes with each paycheck and have a $300 monthly cable bill when they rarely even watch television.

Stop paying for things that are not necessary and save that money instead. Don’t buy new clothes if you already have a closet that is bursting at the seams. You don’t need to completely eliminate cable (unless you want to), but at least scale back on the cable package that you have – why pay for something you’re not using? As for entertainment, stop over-spending. Consider frugal entertainment ideas instead (or in combination), or commit to only going out once or twice per month.

Tip #4 – Make more money

Again, this is obvious, but if you really want to start saving money, you need to seriously consider if it’s worth it for you to start bringing more money home. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to take on a second job (although that will help, of course), though.

There are many ways that you can make extra money. If you’re looking for a few ideas, check out this article that I wrote recently: 7 Ways to Earn More Money.

Just because you don’t have a lot of money, doesn’t mean that savings is something you should ignore. You need to start saving money as soon as you start earning it (however young that may be when you start working!). The golden rule is to save a minimum of 10% of your gross income every month, but like I said in tip #2, you don’t have to start saving this much initially.

Start saving whatever you can and gradually increase the amount. The key is to never give up. Never stop saving, no matter what your circumstances may be.

9 Excellent Black Friday Shopping Tips

Excellent Black Friday shopping tips

The biggest shopping day of the year is about to happen in a few weeks. I’m pretty sure it now rivals and perhaps beats out Boxing Day sales in Canada. Black Friday can be a fantastic time to score great deals on Christmas gifts. It can especially be a great time to shop if you know a few tips and tricks to make your shopping successful.

Here are 9 useful Black Friday shopping tips:

Bookmark my giant Black Friday post

Coming up next week, I will have my annual list (it’s giant!) of Canadian Black Friday deals. Simply peruse the list to find the stores that interest you, click the links, then start shopping from the comfort of your own home!

Buy discounted cards for the stores you will be shopping at.

Go shopping with discounted gift cards instead of cash to save yourself some moolah! There are many stores like Real Canadian Superstore/Loblaws, Rexall and Shoppers Drug Mart that offer discounts on gift cards for stores such as Old Navy and Gap during their weekly sales. You might also want to take a look at CardSwap.ca for discounted gift cards.

Ditch the big shopping cart if you’re shopping in-store.

Just don’t even think about getting one of those large cumbersome shopping carts if you plan on shopping in-store. Grab a basket or bring a large reusable shopping bag (IKEA bag anyone?) to avoid collisions or getting stuck in an aisle when you just want to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible.

Make your shopping list in order of importance.

Is Santa promising to bring a Lego set this year? You better put that first on your shopping list! By making your shopping list in order of importance, you’re really helping yourself to not forget that all important gift.Black Friday. Perhaps the biggest shopping day of the year is nearly upon us. Be prepared and find excellent Black Friday Shopping tips here!

Sign up for emails for the stores you will be shopping at.

Whether you’re shopping in-store or online it can be extremely valuable to sign up for the email list of the stores you will be shopping at. Almost certainly, they will include coupon codes or coupons you can print/show on your phone for an extra discount. Often times email subscribers can also start shopping the sales earlier online.

Shop online.

The same sales are typically available online too, save for the extreme doorbusters. Save yourself some time and energy by shopping from the comfort of your own home. (This is my preferred method ;))

Join loyalty programs

Might as well join the loyalty programs for the stores you will be shopping at if you haven’t already! Collect points that can translate into free items or even extend certain perks. (I’m thinking the TJX card from Winners.)

Shop online at Amazon.

Because I’m such a fan of online shopping, I usually check Amazon first. Black Friday will be no different because I find that they usually have some great one day deals. Another Amazon tip: Use Honey to track Amazon prices so you can see how today’s Amazon price compares to the last 30 days. You can even use the Droplist feature which allows you to save items you’re interested in and once Honey detects a lower price, they’ll let you know.

Set a budget and stick to it.

You’re really not getting any deals per say, if you put yourself into debt trying to get the latest and greatest thing. If you’ve created a shopping list, it should be easy to stay within budget because you have an idea of the price of each item. Don’t ruin your holidays worrying about debt! There’s rarely any deal that is worth that amount of stress.

Do you shop on Black Friday? I’d love to hear your Black Friday Shopping tips in the comments below.

Frugal Stocking Stuffers

Amazing Frugal Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Stocking stuffers can be so much fun!  My husband and I really only exchange stockings each year rather than big gifts. I like to fill his up with a mix of practical things and fun goodies. However, it’s quite easy to get carried away buying all sorts of fun little things to add to the stockings, so I’ve compiled a list of frugal stocking stuffers to make shopping easier. I think you’re going to love the list!

  1. Toothpaste  (get some cheap with coupons!)
  2. Toothbrush
  3. Candy/Chocolate
  4. Homemade CD
  5. Homemade cookies
  6. Candy Fun Books
  7. Travel sized toiletries
  8. Gift cards (give a $10 Starbucks card you’ve earned free with Swagbucks!)
  9. USB Flash drive
  10. Deck of cards
  11. Hot Wheels
  12. UNO card game
  13. Christmas is the only time of the year when I have fun with a Scratch Ticket or two!Find 40+ fun and frugal stocking stuffers! You are sure to find budget friendly stocking stuffer ideas for the whole family!
  14. Gum
  15. Crayons, Pencils, Pencil Crayons, Felt pens
  16. Tape (what is with kids and their love of tape? haha)
  17. Adult Coloring Book
  18. Notebooks
  19. Nail polish
  20. Kitchen tools
  21. Makeup (This eye shadow pallet is neat!)
  22. Socks
  23. Hair accessories
  24. Tea or coffee (those Starbucks VIA or Nescafe individual packages might be great!)
  25. Tea Infuser
  26. Little games/toys (Kaleidoscope, Barrel of Monkeys, Slinky)
  27. Homemade slime
  28. Bath crayons
  29. Homemade Sock Puppet
  30. Mandarin oranges
  31. Craft supplies
  32. Chocolate coins
  33. Back Scratchers
  34. DIY Flower Magnets
  35. Unicorn Scratch & Sparkle Activity Book
  36. Cool Animals Sticker Activity Book
  37. Christmas Fun Mad Libs
  38. Facial Face Masks
  39. Working Hands Hand Cream
  40. Smartphone Stand Holder
  41. HotHands Hand Warmers
  42. 4-in-1 Pen Tool

Have you got any other ideas?  What do you normally add to stockings?

More Frugal Gift Ideas:

3 Easy Ways to Save on Baby Stuff

How to save on baby stuff

Are you looking for ways to save on baby stuff? If you’re like most parents, it’s likely that you are!

Here are 3 easy ways to save money on items for your new baby:

Save on baby stuff

Buy Used

Purchase used for as many baby items as you can.

You can find fantastic bargains on clothing, toys and even strollers and play pens at yard sales and thrift stores. Facebook marketplace is another great resource for used goods and the way I find most of my used purchases.

The only items you may not want to buy used are a car seat and crib. Those are things you want to invest some money in, since they will be used heavily and safety is a priority.

Borrow

Do you know someone with kids? If so, there’s a good chance they have baby items that they no longer need! Ask if you can borrow those items until your child(ren) no longer need them.

Great items to borrow include play mats, change tables, bassinet, bouncy seat and crib mobile.

Be sure to pay it forward the next time a friend or family member needs baby items!

 If you're like most parents, it's likely that you are wanting to save on baby stuff! Here are 3 easy ways to save money on items for your new baby.

Buy in Bulk

When it comes to things like diapers, wipes and formula, a great way to save is to purchase these items in bulk.

Consider shopping at a wholesale store, such as Costco, to pick up these items.

In addition, watch the sales at your regular grocery and drug stores. There are always coupons available for baby items and when matched with a sale, you can often get these necessities inexpensively.

These are 3 simple ways that you can save money on baby items.

Don’t believe the myth that babies cost you thousands of dollars every year. By being frugal with your purchases, you can easily save quite a bit of cash on the things you need to buy for your child.

I’d love to hear your tips for saving on baby stuff! Let us know in the comments below.

Our Favorite Toy Purchase during the Pandemic

Today, I was looking at what my daughters were playing with and I realized that they have consistently been playing with this purchase since March. That doesn’t happen often around here! However, I have been trying to be way more intentional with the toy purchases that I make this year. My main criteria has been toys that have open ended play capabilities and toys that appeal to both girls. (Ages 4 and 8.)

This toy that I purchased in March meets the criteria and has been the most loved purchase!

Magnetic tiles for the win! These have been by far our favorite toy purchase!

In the picture above, they are currently being used as a house for Peppa Pig and Calico Critter toys. (also favorites!) The particular tiles I bought are PicassoTiles. If you can snag the set for less than $60, you’re getting a great deal!

We also own Magformer tiles, but the girls love this style way more because they can create floors so their little toys don’t fall through.

I’d love to know, what has been your favorite toy purchase lately?