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:
- secret Santa gift exchanges
- dining out
Food (not including regular groceries):
- baking ingredients
- dessert ingredients
- Christmas eve
- Christmas dinner/brunch
- Boxing day
- stationary for family newsletter
- outfits for photos
- Christmas day outfit
- craft supplies
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
Throughout these strange and uncertain world events as of late, I have been collecting links to activities and helpful articles. In my online world, I am always amazed to see amazing humans step out and share their knowledge to try to make these, perhaps uncomfortable, days a bit easier. Life is so much better when we can learn to come together, even in unconventional ways. (Separately, in our own homes. LOL)
In these coming weeks, I would highly encourage you to set yourself up to create positive memories to strengthen your relationships. In times of crisis or upheaval, fear and anxiety really don’t serve us well. Take the necessary precautions, find the happy moments, dream together and tell your family and friends how much you love and appreciate them.
With all that said, here is my list of free indoor activities and ideas that you can enjoy as a family or even virtually with others. Make a list of things you want to accomplish as a family or even some projects on your own.
Activities for Kids:
- 40 Best Indoor Activities for Kids – Busy Toddler
- Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems
- Kids cooking classes – $5 Dinners
- 25 Famous Landmarks Made Out of LEGO (you could try to recreate these too!)
- Homemade Marble Run (maybe you have some pool noodles on hand already?)
- Story Pirates Podcast – brings children’s most imaginative stories to life
- But Why Podcast – a podcast for curious kids
- Wow in the World Podcast – another podcast for curious kids
- 25 Day Reading Challenge for Kids
- Edible Play Dough Recipe – Natural Beach Living
- Make a Spy Decoder – Frugal Fun 4 Boys
- 25 Exercise Games and Indoor Activities to get Kids Moving
- Hello Kids – Drawing tutorials, colouring pages, crafts and more.
- Easy Origami for Kids – Easy Peasy and Fun
- Funniest Knock Knock Jokes for Kids
- Live Art Classes – Deep Space Sparkle
- Seussville – Read, play games, and watch shows with Dr. Seuss
- Storyline Online – Favourite kids books read by famous people
- All Kids Network – Thousands kids crafts, worksheets, coloring pages, printable mazes, dot to dot, hidden pictures and more
- Highlights Kids – Fun games, recipes, crafts and more.
- Stop Motion Kids Camp – Find details on Instagram
- Robert Munsch – Listen to Robert himself read his stories
- Download Free Coloring Books from 113 Museums
- Nomster Chef – Illustrated recipe picture books that get kid chefs excited about cooking
- Novel Effect – A voice driven storytelling app for kids and families
- Sworkit – Kids workouts
- Jigsaw Explorer – Online Jigsaw Puzzles
- 50+ Easy Indoor Activities for Kids – Hello Wonderful
- The Lone Leprechaun – Free Audio Story
- Art for Kids Hub – YouTube drawing videos
- Adventures n Odyssey – 4 week free trial
- Audible – Free stories for kids of all ages!
- Scholastic Learn at Home: Free Resources for School Closures
- Read With Anna – Free live reading lessons for grades 1 – 4
- ABCMouse – Use the code SCHOOL7771 or AOFLUNICEF
- Curio.ca – carefully curated collections that support the K-12 curriculum
- 12 famous museums that offer virtual tours
- Over 30 Virtual Field Trips
- A Principal’s List of Things to Do
- Prodigy – a free educational math website
- Funbrain – Online educational games for kids
- Fluency & Fitness – Helping students exercise their brains and bodies
- National Geographic Kids
- Smithsonian Kids
- Club SciKidz – Daily free science or cooking experiment to do at home
- 123homeschool4me – over 300,000+ FREE worksheets for toddler, preschool, and K-12
- NASA Kids Club
- How Stuff Works
- Discovery #Mindblown app
- PBS Kids
- Crash Course – Educational Youtube videos
- Raz-Kids – The award-winning website where K-5 students go to read — anytime, anywhere!
- Headsprout – Headsprout is the smartest kids’ reading program on the market today.
- Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens – Free Home Safari each day at 3pm EST.
- Switch Zoo – Play games and learn all about animals
- Starfall Education – Teaches kids how to read
- High school chemistry topics
- Walt Disney Imagineering in a Box – from Khan Academy
- CanFigureIt Geometry – A unique way to teach and learn geometric proofs.
- ClickSchooling – brings you daily recommendations by email for entertaining websites that help kids learn.
- Big History Project – Online history classes for ages preteen through adults
- Breakout EDU – Educational games for grades K-12
- Chrome Music Lab – makes learning music more accessible through fun, hands-on experiments.
- Country Reports – 35,000 pages of online content on the cultures and countries of the world
- Coursera – Tons of free classes from leading universities and colleges
- Curriculum Associates – Free printable K-8 Reading and Math activity packs
- Free Makers Stations – 3 Free Weeks of Maker Stations to keep your children creating at home!
- Dog on a Log Books – Printable board games, activities and more for phonics and reading
- Dreamscape – The most engaging reading game for Grades 2-8, and all for FREE!
- Khan Academy – Online education program for preschoolers through to high school
- Literacy with the Littles – Free Printables for PreK – 2nd Grade
- Next Gen Personal Finance – free resources, games, learning resources, and lesson plans for teaching personal finance
- Elemental Science – 80+ free Science Activities to Entertain your Kids
- Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool
- Free Relief Packs from Have Fun Teaching
Many churches offer a livestream of their service. Try a local church or perhaps something else from around the world for some encouragement.
I’m also noticing many local stores offering free delivery. Take advantage of this and support your local small businesses!
During this time, food may also be at the forefront of many of our thoughts. Here is another list with helpful articles relating to feeding our families:
And because many of you might be finding yourself a work at home parent now, here are some resources for you:
If you have come across some great free activities or helpful links, please let me know and I’ll get them added to the list!
Whether you’ve recently purchased a home or you’ve been living in it for years, you want it to be a space that is not only functional for your family, but also reflects your style. But remodeling your home can be a pricey thing to do. Luckily, there are several strategies you can implement to make sure your home remodel fits your budget and delivers the best return on investment.
It’s tempting to redo every room, but you’re better off focusing on the essentials. Kitchens and bathrooms can be expensive, but they’re also the best bet to ensure you see a return at the time of sale. (If you are selling.) However, if you have any glaring problems (like water stains on the ceiling) or out-of-place extras (like disco-era wallpaper or a stainless-steel counter top in a cottage-style home), deal with them first.
Keep what works.
You may hate the look of your cabinets, but if they are soundly constructed and meet your spatial needs, give them a cheap facelift with a coat of paint or some new fronts and handles to save hundreds of dollars on custom cabinets.
Recycled and reclaimed products (like flooring, cabinets, sinks, and tile) can be purchased for a fraction of the cost, so keep them in use and out of the landfill.
A little hardware goes a long way.
If your house came equipped with copper fittings and the look you crave for your faucets and drawer pulls is brushed nickel, you don’t necessarily have to toss the old ones and start from scratch. For some items, you can try spray-paint made specifically for use on metal. Otherwise, consider a swap. Take your older items (if the condition is good) to a local second hand store like ReStore and see if you can find something you like better. You could always try selling your old hardware to recoup some of the cost of brand new hardware, if you go that route.
Design on a dime.
Any fashion you see in a magazine has a cheap counterpart somewhere in the world, so before you buy a designer brand, look at discount stores and shop around online. You may even find the exact piece you’re wanting for less by checking sites like Craig’s List, eBay or even Facebook Marketplace.
A little common sense can go a long way towards cutting your home remodeling costs, so shop sales, do comparisons, and take time to find the right materials at a better cost. And don’t be afraid to request price-matching or haggle to get the price you want. After all, it is a vendor’s job to get the maximum amount of profit while you are solely responsible for sticking to your bottom line. It is possible to create your dream home for a lot less cash, and capitalize on your resourcefulness when it comes time to sell, if you follow these simple steps for frugal home remodeling.