Why We Simplified Christmas This Year

Less Under Our Tree

I was with a group of friends earlier this week and one of the gals asked me, “So, are you all ready for Christmas?”

She was referring to whether or not I have all our presents purchased and wrapped and whether the myriad of other Christmas details were taken care of.

I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. You see, we simplified Christmas so much this year that it almost feels like we cancelled Christmas.

Only we didn’t.

We just decided that the past few months have been full enough that instead of trying to pack our December full, we’d instead leave it really, really empty.

Our extended families had already asked if we could cut back and really simplify when it came to gifts this year and we’d already decided that we were going to keep our kids’ gifts super simple, too.

Then, we decided to just let the kids choose which Christmas decorations they wanted to put up. They opted for their little pink Christmas tree — which they had fun decorating themselves.

Next, we decided that we’d skip sending Christmas cards. And pretty soon, after we’d crossed off or nixed most of the usual Christmas obligations or activities we’d opted to do in the past, we were left with a wide open December.

And it has been bliss. Bliss, I tell you.

Why We Simplified Christmas This Year

We’ve hung out as a family more. We’ve read together more. We’ve snuggled together and watched Christmas movies together. We’ve listened to a lot of Christmas music. We’ve gone to bed early. We’ve slept in. And we’ve not felt rushed or stressed or exhausted or frantic.

For the most part, December has been one of the calmest and quietest months we’ve had in ages. And it’s freed up much-needed space to just breathe, listen, love, rest, and enjoy being together.

Do I think families who have opted for lots of beautiful decorations, lots of Christmas shopping, and lots of festive activities are doing it wrong? Not in the least.

We’ve had years in the past where the Christmas season has been bustling with a lot of fun and where I found so much fulfillment in spending hours and hours picking out the perfect gifts to bless others. I don’t regret those years or those memories one bit.

But I also don’t regret having a quiet and simple Christmas this year. Sometimes, your soul just needs to take a step back and breathe.

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Simple Ways We Saved This Week: Creating art, using the library, puzzles, and why you shouldn’t put egg whites in your coffee!

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The girls have been doing lots of painting and drawing this week — mostly abstract type art pieces. I love to see them being creative and having so much doing it!

Bonus: it’s such a frugal activity — especially when they use art supplies we already have on hand.

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My sweet friend, Victoria, sent me this Craft Night in a Box — complete with a Starbucks gift card! It made for a free night of entertainment and relaxation for me.

I had so much fun working on it last night and am planning to finish my project tonight. If all goes well, I’ll share the finished results tomorrow.

{Isn’t this SUCH a great gift idea? If you know a crafter or a wanna-be crafter, this might be a great last-minute gift idea!}

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The kids have been enjoying some books and this drawing DVD we got at the library last week. Have I mentioned how much we love the library?

If you haven’t visited yours recently, you should take some time to do so — it’s like having thousands of unexplored worlds and ideas at your fingertips, for free!

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I’m loving reading this Lynn Austin novel I requested used from PaperBackSwap, one of my favorite frugal sources for books!

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We’ve been making memories by working on this 2000-piece puzzle that we got from a White Elephant gift exchange earlier this week.

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I got a $5 iTunes gift card with my points on Recyclebank. And I spent it to get some songs from one of my favorite movie soundtracks.

{Oh yes, I know, you might think it’s a little kooky that I love Frozen as much as I do. But here’s the thing: the songs not only make me so happy when I listen to them, but I can relate to many of the themes in the movie because of my own personal journey with being more authentic to my true self in the past few years. So yes, it might be juvenile, but I don’t really care! :)}
Simple Ways We Saved This Week

One way I didn’t save: I could not figure out why the “cream” I was pouring in my coffee this morning looked so watered down. And then I actually read the box. Yikes… Clearly, not all brain cells were firing this morning. Needless to say, I had to pour that coffee down the drain and brew a new cup!

How did YOU save this week?

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How I paid for Christmas this year by selling on Facebook Yard Sale Groups

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Traci emailed in this reader tip:

I had been planning a yard sale for months but this summer I decided I didn’t have enough or valuable enough things to make it worthwhile.

About this time, I joined a handful of Yard Sale groups on Facebook and bought a few things through them. After purchasing a few things from others and realizing how easy it was to post things for sale also, I decided to list a few items around the house.

Within minutes — even seconds, sometimes — I had people interested!

I started cleaning out closets and found so many other things that I wanted to get rid of. It felt great to purge and makes some money, too. Items that I have sold so far have been: adult and children’s clothing, toys, kitchen items, furniture, books, and movies.

Money is tight this Christmas, but by selling items on the Facebook Yard Sale Groups, I was able to pay cash for Christmas for my entire Christmas for my family and even had some extra money leftover!
The best advice that I have for selling on local Facebook Yard Sale groups would be consider the time and gas you are spending to buy or sell an item. If you have to travel far, this could be eating your profit or savings.

Post that others need to pick up in your city. I like to try to arrange pickups or drop-offs either in the morning or evening as to not interrupt my daily work, school, and family routine.

I also don’t have strangers come to my home. Remember safety first and it is best to meet in a public place like a shopping center or, even better, the local police department parking lot.

Also remember that people have busy lives and things happen that they have to reschedule a transaction sometimes. With that said, if someone is not being respectful of your time or you are not comfortable with something, don’t meet with them.

I am not stressing about Christmas this year and have not put one thing on a credit card that I will regret having to pay for later! -Traci

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Reader Tip: How I Got Two Free Photo Calendars Shipped From Shutterfly!

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Rachel emailed in this reader tip:

Last night I ordered two 8 x 11 photo calendars from Shutterfly for Christmas gifts for Grandparents. The cost was $42.97 including shipping. However, I had received a code from my Kelloggs rewards account in my email for a free calendar from Shutterfly.

I then checked my Pampers rewards account. They have two systems there–the one where you use points to get gifts and the “grow on” program where if you enter a diapers or wipes code at least once a month for so many months in a row you are given a free gift. My free gift was a Shutterfly calendar. They also gave me a free shipping code with that calendar!

Between the two calendar codes and the shipping code, my order was absolutely free!!!!

I thought some people may need to be reminded to check their rewards accounts before purchasing gifts. Even if you have at least 800 points in your Pampers Gifts to Grow account you can get a calendar for free and just pay shipping. Yay! -Rachel

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We Paid Cash: A Month-Long European Family Vacation

We paid cash!
A testimony from Jessica who blogs at Life as MOM and Good Cheap Eats

My husband and I honeymooned in France and assumed we would return every year. Then life happened. Graduate school, unemployment, a baby, a house, miscarriages, more babies, more debt, more stuff got in the way of our newlywed dreams of travel.

After we paid off all our debts, we started dreaming big dreams again — a trip to France for a month with our six children to commemorate our 20th wedding anniversary was one of them.

Folks looked at us like we were crazy!

Not only had we dared to do something big like to travel with kids, we notched up the crazy by saving up the money to do it. It took two years, but we pulled it off.

Here’s what we did to make it happen:

1. We said it out loud.

Part of the success of a goal is to be brave enough to put it out there publicly. We talked about it enough that we would have been really embarrassed if we didn’t pull it off. Sometimes, pride is a good thing.

2. We envisioned our kids.

Just like when we did the really hard work of getting out of debt years earlier, we explained our plans to our children so that they would understand why we were making cuts to our spending or doing extra things to increase our income.

3. We created a budget.

I planned a hypothetical trip and calculated all the price quotes. The total was staggering, particularly when I added extra to allow for inflation and a weak dollar.

4. My husband worked overtime.

Getting up at 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday wasn’t his favorite thing to do, but my husband did it.

5. We opened a separate bank account.

I opened a dedicated account in a different bank from where we do our regular banking. I also chose not to get an ATM card. I wanted that money liquid but as inaccessible as possible.

6. We put all other vacations on hold.

We put off other travel plans, instead banking the money for France. Staycations and family visits were a great way to do family travel while we worked toward a bigger goal.

7. We socked away all extra income.

Even though we have two incomes, we choose to live on one. Any income that came in over our regular expenses went toward the France fund.

8. We deferred lots of “extras”.

There is a lot of excess in our lives, lots of things that are fun, but that we can certainly live without. We cut back so we could divert that money toward our vacation instead.

Now that we’re home and finally unpacked, it’s been so encouraging to look back at what we pulled off and the great memories we created as a family. It was an amazing trip, one we plan to do again in 2016!

Jessica Fisher is a happy wife and a homeschooling mom of six kids under 18. She loves French cheeses, sandy beaches, good books, and Jesus. Not in that order, of course. Catch up with her on her blogs, Life as MOM and Good Cheap Eats.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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5 Money-Making Ideas for Food Lovers

5 money-making ideas

Guest post from Holly of The Work at Home Woman

It’s no secret that Americans are foodies! In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spent an average of $6,602 a year on groceries and eating out alone (source).

If you’ve been looking to launch your own home-based business and you love to create culinary delights here are 5 different food careers to consider:

1. Teach Cooking Classes

Do people always rave about your cooking? Then perhaps you should launch a home-based cooking class business. Gather individuals or small groups of people in your home and teach them how to cook or bake like a pro.

Don’t want to mess with a business plan and all the logistics of setting up a business? Consider joining Healthy Hands Cooking. It’s a home-based franchise that certifies instructors to teach kids how to cook healthy meals and snacks. Start-up fees are minimal and include training, certification, marketing tools, business materials, as well as ongoing support.

2. Create Gourmet Goodies

Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Then consider starting your own gourmet food business. Foodies not only love to consume delicious goodies, they also make make great gifts! From fancy gourmet sauces and treats, to healthy and specialty snack items.

Set up your own website or use an e-commerce platform like Foodoro and you’re ready to start selling your custom treats.

3. Become a Direct Sales Consultant

Would you love to own your own cafe or bistro but don’t have the funds to invest in a brick and mortar storefront? No problem. The direct sales industry has made it easier than ever to have your very own home-based business within the food industry.

Companies like the Traveling Vineyard, Tastefully Simple, and Dove Chocolate Discoveries offer home-based business opportunities selling products like wine, gourmet mixes, spices, desserts, chocolates, and gift sets.

As a direct sales consultant you will be paid a commission on each product that you sell. Most direct sales companies will also pay you a small bonus commission from consultants who you refer into the program.

4. Start a Food Blog

Do you enjoy writing? Do you love to test out new recipes? Then join the ranks of Julie Powell, who set out to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Not only did Julie’s blog quickly generate a huge following, but she went on to the write the bestselling book Julie & Julia, which was later turned into a movie. While you can make money through book sales, bloggers can also make money through direct ad sales, affiliate marketing, as well as working with brands.

Tip: Read more on how to make money blogging here.

5. Food Stylist

Do you have an eye for detail? Then working as a food stylist may be your calling. Food Stylists prep and prepare food items for displays, cookbooks, photo shoots, advertisements, and menus. Becoming a Food Stylist requires knowledge of the culinary industry as well as additional training or apprenticeship.

Denise Vivaldo, a seasoned food professional with over 27 years of experience has created workshops and classes for those who are interested in this field. You can also check out her book on Amazon, The Food Stylist’s Handbook.

For more information on ways to make money, visit The Work at Home Woman, where you can read about topics like how to make money completing short tasks, selling your used stuff online, and businesses you can start with no money.

photo source

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