21 Days to a Simple Christmas: Day 4 {Update}

Join the 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge

Today’s project was to read Chapter 3 of Celebrating & Savoring a Simple Christmas (Did you sign up for your free copy yet? If not, click here and fill out the form to be emailed a copy.) and to figure out what you’re buying/making for those on your Christmas gift list.

Unfortunately, I’m going to have sit this project out… because just about everyone on our Christmas gift list knows about my blog. So I don’t want to risk ruining their Christmas gifts by sharing my list publicly. :)

But I did sit down and finish the list today — and assign days and dates to when I needed to have the gifts finished. And it feels so good to have that all planned out!

Did you figure out your Christmas gift list? I’d love to hear what you’re doing — especially if it’s something creative or a little outside the norm. And if you’re blogging about this challenge, I’d love it if you left a link to your blog post, too. Let’s encourage each other to simplify and savor this season more!

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21 Days to a Simple Christmas: Day 3 {Update}

Join the 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge

Today’s project was to read Chapter 2 of Celebrating & Savoring a Simple Christmas (Did you sign up for your free copy yet? If not, click here and fill out the form to be emailed a copy.) and to figure out your Christmas gift list.

Our Christmas Gift List

As I mentioned, we pared down our list this year. Here’s my list:

  • Immediate family: gifts + stocking stuffers
  • Extended family: Names we drew + a few family gifts
  • Our team members
  • White Elephant gifts for upcoming Christmas parties
  • Service workers: mail people, library staff, etc.
  • Kids’ friends

And I think that’s it. If I get inspired to do more, I might. But I’m giving myself grace this year to not have to do a bunch of gifts for a bunch of different people. And it feels good. :)

Did you figure out your Christmas gift list? Share it with us in the comments. And if you’re blogging about this challenge, I’d love it if you left a link to your blog post, too. Let’s encourage each other to simplify and savor this season more.

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21 Days to a Simple Christmas: Day 3

Join the 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge

It’s Day 3 of the 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge! Now that you’ve got your Christmas budget in place, it’s time to figure out your Christmas gift list.

Some of you probably had this done ages ago — and that’s fantastic. The rest of us admire you. :)

If you haven’t had time to write down a gift list, today’s the day to do it!

Free_Printable_Christmas_gift_list-copy

Think of everyone you need/want to buy gifts for and then make a master list. You can use one of these free printable gift list spreadsheets, if you’d like.

Once you have your list written, step back and evaluate it. Do you need to be buying for everyone on that list? Can you afford to buy something for everyone on the list? If not, do you have time to make something for them?

Pare down your list, if need be, based upon the answers to these questions. This is not because you are not generous or cold-hearted, but because sometimes you just have to face the reality that you can’t do it all.

Streamlining and simplifying your gift list so that you have breathing room and aren’t exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed all December could be one of the best gifts you could give those closest to you — the gift of your presence!

Day 2 Project

1. Read chapter 2 from Celebrating & Savoring a Simple Christmas. (Did you sign up for your free copy yet? If not, click here and fill out the form to be emailed a copy.)

2. Make a list of everyone you’ll be buying gifts for this Christmas. Evaluate each recipient to make sure they are someone that should be on your list.

3. Come back at around 9 p.m. EST tonight and I’ll have a follow-up post sharing about our Christmas gift list and encouraging you to share about yours, too!

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Present Not Perfect

Bread & Wine

I loved reading Bread & Wine. In fact, I’m pretty sure the book is making it on my Top 20 Books Read in 2013 list.

It moved me. It inspired me. It challenged me. And it made me want to spend more time in the kitchen and around the table.

However, the phrase that stuck out to me most was: Present Not Perfect. Shauna shares how we can get so wrapped up in trying to make life perfect — to get all our ducks in a row and keep them that way — that we miss the present.

We rush through life with our plans, our goals, and our lists. We check things off. We pat ourselves on the back for being a powerhouse of productivity.

And we forget to breathe. To slow down. To soak up the moments. To savor the here and now.

Instead of pursuing a life of perfection, I want to pursue a life of being present…

…listening to the child who is excited to tell me about their latest LEGO creation.

…taking a few minutes to call that friend who is struggling.

…stopping to look into the eyes of the person at the checkout lane at the grocery store and smile and ask how they are doing.

…inviting the friend who stops by to stay for coffee — even if there are piles of laundry in my living room.

Present not perfect. That’s how I want to live.

photo credit: DaySpring

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52 Different Ways to Save at Least $100 Per Year: Cut Your Fuel Costs {Week 38}

52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year

Every week in 2013, I’ll be sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

One simple way to save $100 per year is by lowering your fuel costs. If you shave off just $3 in gasoline costs every week, that’s well over $100 in savings per year.

Here are some practical ways to consider lowering your fuel costs:

1. Have a cash budget for gas.

We used to always pay for gas with our debit card, but while we tried to stick with our allotted budget, we found it was easy to go a little over every month — especially with fluctuating gas prices. We switched to using cash only for gas last year and we’ve seen a decrease in our gas budget. Why? Because we are more mindful of our gas usage and because cash forces us to stick with our budget.

2. Buy lower-grade fuel.

Unless your vehicle requires higher grade fuel, there’s no need to spend the extra cents on it per gallon. While it might not seem like much, those extra cents add up quickly!

3. Observe the speed limit.

Each vehicle is different, but typically gas mileage plummets when you drive over 60 miles per hour. In fact, it’s estimated that for each five miles over 60 miles per hour you drive, it’s the equivalent of paying an additional $0.24 per gallon!

4. Combine errands.

Have a general rule of thumb that you won’t go out shopping or running errands unless you have at least three stops to make. Before you go, map out the most efficient route. Not only will this save you time, it will also lower your gasoline expenses. Plus, you’ll likely carefully consider whether or not that quick trip to the store for milk or bread is worth it or whether you can make-do with what you have on hand.

I’ve also found it helpful to limit errands and shopping to one or two days per week and to work errands or shopping trips into driving I’m already planning to do. For instance, if I’m going somewhere close to the health food store, I’m going to try and work in a stop there to save me making an extra trip later in the week. It only takes a little bit extra time and it costs me almost nothing in fuel since I’m already going to be driving by.

5. Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle.

If you have more than one vehicle in your household, use the vehicle with the highest miles per gallon as often as you can. According to FuelEconomy.gov:

A vehicle that gets 30 MPG will cost you $903 less to fuel each year than one that gets 20 MPG (assuming 15,000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $3.61).

Over a period of 5 years, the 30-MPG vehicle will save you $4,515.

Planning to buy a car in the near future? Aid your decision-making by using the Fuel Cost Comparison Calculator.

6. Travel during non-peak hours.

As much as you possibly can, plan your trips when it’s non rush-hour traffic. You’ll get to your destination(s) more quickly and you’ll conserve gas.

7. Consider using public transportation.

While public transportation might not seem feasible for you, if gas is eating your budget alive, it’s worth checking into. According to a study by the American Public Transportation Association, you can save over $9,000 per year by using public transportation.

Of course, this number is going to be inflated for you if you don’t work outside the home and have a regular commute, however, it’s important to note that this figure was based on a $2.75 per gallon price. With most of us paying at least $3 to $4 per gallon, if you have a daily commute, the savings could even be higher than $9,000 per year if you use public transportation!

Find more ways to save on gasoline in this post.

How do you save money on gas?

photo credit; photo credit

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Less Television, More Reading

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During the month of October, I’m following along with Edie & Ruth on their 31 Days of Less & More journey. I’d love for you to join in by reading the posts and completing the projects, or just sit back and read along each day.

Less Television

According to statistics, the average American watches over 30 hours of television per week. That’s a LOT of time!

Stop to think what you could do with that time. You could keep your house in amazing shape. You could exercise more. You could cook from scratch. You could have a profitable side business. You could write a book. You could invest in some close relationships.

The sky is the limit with what you could do with 30 hours per week!

I think we’d all agree that, in most cases, there are more productive things to do than to spend hours and hours each week sitting in front of a black box. But we have to be intentional in setting up our days so that television-watching doesn’t become our default.

Here are three practices that have helped us:

1. Turn It Off!

Okay, so this seems like a no-brainer, but how often do you have the TV on in the background as you go about your day? Try just turning it off. It will mean less distraction and less noise in your day — which doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me!

2. Don’t Pay for Cable

This is another simplistic tip, but it really works! If you can’t get that many shows on your TV, there’s a lot less temptation to turn it on or channel surf.

2. Have Set Times for Watching

We don’t watch a lot of TV, but we do have Movie Time at 5 p.m. every day. Establishing a specific time for having the TV on at our house has been so beneficial as then I don’t have to field questions all day on “when can we watch a movie”? And also, it provides a lot of motivation for our kids to get their school and chores done by 5 p.m.! :)

More Reading

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of reading. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I sometimes put it as a higher priority than sleep (which I don’t recommend!).

Making good books a part of your life isn’t something that will just naturally happen. Again, it’s something you need to be intentional about — especially if you’re not much of a reader.

Challenge yourself to read for 15 minutes when you get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night. Listen to audiobooks while you’re driving or working around the house. Read aloud as a family.

Set small goals to make reading a part of your everyday life. I promise it will be worth the effort!

For more ideas, check out my post on 15 Ways to Fit More Reading Into Your Day.

For more on this topic, check out Ruth’s post on Less Television and Edie’s post on More Gratitude. I promise you’ll be inspired and blessed!

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