Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saving Money on Christmas

Definitely never thought I'd be writing this post, HOWEVER.

This year we actually started planning Christmas gifts in November, which although is probably late for most of you, is actually pretty early for us. Advent is a hectic time for Tom and I can get so swept up in it, that I get lost too. This year, however, we really needed to budget and so we had to plan ahead, and this is what we did...


Well, first we ogled pictures of Zuzu dressing up 'as Baby Moses.'

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Plan.
Don't roll your eyes! Planning helps. I bought Catholic Icing's Christmas and Advent Planner, which was seriously the best investment EVER. It's an entire binder of printables that helps you be organized and gives you things to do for the season, prayers, etc. She encourages you to pick and choose what works for your family and to NOT try to do it all.
Included in this binder is a gift planning section! It has a section for planning DIY gifts, budgeting, and the gift list itself. We used that and it was very, very helpful to keep us on track so I wasn't scrambling around for the scrap of paper that I wrote my ideas on. For $12, it's a complete lifesaver.

Other life savers: seeing how cute your child would be in winter clothes, but being thankful you don't have to go through the boots-hat-coat-mittens routine every day

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Shop around & Stack Discounts/Cash back Offers 
The big face-off is between brick and mortar and online: many discounts are only available online and others, only in store. I won't even consider online if I don't get free shipping, which most offer during the holidays anyway. The key to shopping around, though, is considering how you can get money back. For online shopping, you should ALWAYS have an eBates account (gives you money for going through their website to buy things at other websites - Dwija endorsed!!) and check to see if your credit card gives you money back too (Discover does).
I use Google shop to compare prices between big box stores like Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc. Also, since a lot of stores right now are offering $25 off of $200, etc., consider stacking presents at one store so that you can save overall. Even better? Use the website Cash Back Monitor to see where the greatest cash back offers come from, and see if you can get accounts/cards that offer the best ones, just to use for these gifts.

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DIY It
Don't shudder with terror - lots of DIYs are perfectly lovely gifts that aren't as time consuming as you'd think.
How about all those people you want to give gifts to, but can't afford to buy for? Like if you have 4 kids and a bajillion teachers? Mix up a big batch of salt scrub and place it in cute glass jars with a tag - a useful gift that's fun to make. I always do cookies for the neighbors - platters from the dollar store, plus some no-frosting Christmas cookies are very lovely and appreciated.
Have you given up sewing homemade gifts? My tried-and-true hand sewn gifts are lap duvets (just big pillow cases! no reason to be intimidated!) and table runners. Really, these are very easy gifts that can be dashed off in an evening - even for people without sewing experience! Although fabric can be expensive, I often look at table cloths/old sheets at Goodwill - some of them have very lovely patterns and are very inexpensive for the amount you need.

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Family Gifts
We simply can't afford to give a gift to everyone in our extended families, as much as we'd love to. But we can afford to do family gifts that can be enjoyed by everyone! We usually do a box of citrus (because we're the FL branch of Tom's family), boxes of our favorite chocolates (it's a Christmas tradition to have this around in my family), or a new board game.
If you feel you have to give gifts to individuals, but know you can't afford, just make this year the year to make a new tradition - send a nice Christmas card with your family gift, explaining how much you love everyone and hope this token lets them know you're thinking of them/missing them this Christmas season. Bite the bullet!


The Minnie and Mickey pictured are courtesy of my parents - as is her coat, hat, boots, the dress is from Tom's aunt and uncle, and the tights are from Tom's parents. Suffice it to say, we'd never be able to take care of our child without our families! 

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Pool Your Resources 
If there's a big gift you've been eyeing for one of your children or another family member, see if you can get everyone to go in on it. Jen's family all went in on her camera one year, enabling them to get her a great camera and great accessories to go with it (bag, strap, etc.). One year I had everyone go in on an eReader for my mom and a diamond bracelet for my sister - gifts that would've been out of reach for each of us individually, but that worked all of us together.

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Don't Give
We don't give Zuzu presents yet, really. There's not a reason to - her grandparents are very generous, as is the rest of her family, and how many presents does a 2 year old really need before she goes numb with toy overload? I usually buy one or two nice books that I've wanted to add to our collection - ones that I know we'll treasure for years and that are more expensive. Then I call it a day.
Make sure that the present you're considering buying is intentional and meaningful before you go in on it - there's no need to add to the materialist noise if you know it won't really make a difference for your family.


Grandparents spoil her in so many ways - in gifts and time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Slippin' Through My Fingers

A quick update from the frozen tundra of northwest Indiana...

Zuzu continues her love for all things musical (it comes to her naturally). She memorizes most all the songs we sing and knows all of the sung parts of Mass, with the Gloria being her favorite. Lately, however, her great love is Winnie the Pooh and the attendant theme song.

When she started to sing it, she would sing "A donkey named EEEE-yore was his friend!" Instead of going down on the "eee," she went up -WAY up! Shouting his name out of key. I loved it, it was precious, and we said to each other, we really ought to record that yes we should, as we went along with our days.

And then, just like that, she stopped and started singing it correctly. Even when I intentionally sing it in her old way, she sticks to the 'right' way. No amount of cajoling brings back that joyful abandoning of the written music. It breaks my heart a little - this smallest growing-up sign, this very tiny blip on her developmental phases. It's like this every second, learning something, learning it better, mastering it, moving on - and I'm just watching, trying to keep up with all the wonder and joy of her growing up.

This is the strained necessity of motherhood: the quiet witnessing and keeping in our hearts of all the beauty of our children, while also guiding the process of their leaving us. Sometimes I wonder that women are regarded as weak, when it takes such strength to raise these babies into big people who will walk humbly with God.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

5 (Possible) Favorites: Pregnancy Beauty Edition

Now hosted by Jenna at Call Her Happy!

Well everything is my draft box is S U P E R  H E A V Y and I'm not just not feeling it, so here's some beauty/fashion blather to get us all through.

I'm pregnant again - 20 weeks now - and unlike last time, I am not interested in disappearing into a cocoon for 9 months. No, really - there are all of five pictures of me pregnant with Zuzu and they are NOT PRETTY. I was bigger anyway and didn't really take care of myself during my pregnancy, so I just didn't feel very great which automatically = zero pictures. No maternity shoot, no 'bump dates' (thank goodness, #weird), and only one bump selfie on the Insta (which is now private after this total stranger liked EVERY SINGLE picture of Zuzu where she wasn't fully clothed - no seriously).

View my attempts this time around to not look slobish: makeup, blow dried hair, etc.

This time around I'm 30 pounds lighter and more interested in not being a hibernating Mama. I'm trying to be vaguely cute. But y'know what I realized? All the maternity clothes I bought last time reflected my disinterest in my image, or more accurately, my total self-loathing. Most of it is weird silhouettes that aren't flattering, poor quality fabrics, and styles I don't even like. Yup, sounds like the wardrobe of someone who has lost hope! So I'm trying to re-do things, slowly, and I have some better ideas about what I like...

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First things first, shape wear is my life and this sucker is on my major wants list: 


A lot of women seem to need it for support, but I'm mostly interested in uh, smoothing my silhouette. Read: everything cuts in weird places now making unsightly bulges. Clothing that actually fits is more flattering no matter your size, so I need this sucker even under regular tshirts, $68 price tag be hanged.

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Bodycon Maternity Dress
via Asos



I have always looked better in form fitting styles: pencil skirts, sheath dresses with plenty of lycra, etc. It shows off my curves. But I have no idea if the same will be true for my pregnant shape, since I've only ever been interested in hiding it. My deepest fear is that I will not look like the Swedish model goddess above and instead look like Kim Kardashian (it was bad, trust me). 

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Lovely Jubblies 
from Lush 



This cream is designed for stretch marks on the d├ęcolletage area, but I've heard several reports that it works elsewhere - amazingly well. The price tag is hefty, but honestly, I'm intrigued by people saying it has a delightful floral smell (I love all girly smells all the time in my personal products) and that it's incredibly effective.  My stretch marks aren't intense, but I hope to have many pregnancies to go, so I'd like to flatter my vanity while I can pretend it does any good. 

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Nursing tank tops



I didn't buy or register for any with Zuzu and I feel that was extremely foolish. I realize this is looked at mostly as a postpartum necessity, but as they are usually longer they can also double for maternity tanks - ever essential in the third trimester when you are constantly in danger of flashing your belly to all asunder. Although theoretically the Blanqi would also solve that problem, living in Florida means there will be plenty of winter days where a tank top and light cardigan will be plenty to ward off whatever 'chill' is in the air. 
I've heard the ones from Target are great, but I have no basis for comparison - anybody have a favorite they want to suggest? 

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Strong lip colors 



Deepest berry, bright pinks, candy apple reds...I am feeling LIPSTICK. It's a great way to add color and I love that I cannot wear lipstick without wearing concealer and mascara, i.e., it forces me to put my face on. Oof and if there's one thing that's been slipping since I came to southwest Florida, it's my  beauty routine! Gotta get it together girls...husbands don't inspire themselves. ;) 
Lately I've been all about Raisin Rage by Revlon - which, by the way, is one of two lip colors that my mother has worn for thirty years. It's either Raisin Rage or Toast of New York, forever. My go-to red is No. 34 by Sephora, but I'd like to have a good pink and a berry color too. If you have suggestions, again, I look forward to hearing all about it.