6 Ways To Ensure The Holidays Are Merry And Bright

Tips for Happy Holidays

This post is part of the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® 2014 program by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. and The Motherhood, who sent me a box of products and compensated me for my time. Opinions, experiences and photos shared here are all my own. Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll take some of these tips to make the holiday brighter.

Winter and “the holidays” start to take over our conversations as the year comes to a close. There’s lots of talk about food, activities, decorating, more food, ugly sweaters, cookies, lots more food, and the inevitable cancellation because someone is sick. Every year I vow not to get so stressed, and I learned a big lesson about that in 2013. So as winter and “the holidays’ come around for 2014 I want to share with you some healthy essentials to making this time of year more merry, happy, and bright.

1. Eat Breakfast – We all know what happens when mama is sick. Add to it trying to get everyone to wear matching clothes, having to bake 12 dozen cookies for the cookie swap, wrapping a present or two, and keep the kids busy while they’re off from school and there’s just no time in the schedule. I can go on and on about eating healthy and avoiding this food or that. But, how about we just eat. Something. Other than the cookies we’re baking. Starting with a real breakfast – whether it’s a power smoothie, a quick scramble, or even leftovers – is really what we need. Sure, grabbing a muffin on the go works in a pinch, but we’re worth that few minutes to have a real meal.

2. Go to bed at a decent time – See, I didn’t say at 8pm or 10pm. Just a decent time. I’m terrible about staying up late and trying to get all the things done that didn’t get done during the day. Then I’m dragging in the morning. We hustle to get the kids in bed so they get enough sleep, so they don’t get sick, so the jam-packed schedule isn’t sent into disarray. Yet we stay up. I tell you, that’s no way to keep things merry and bright (although some good concealer would help with the bright). Go to bed and if something has to give, then so be it. Chances are, though, you’ll be better prepared to take on the day when you’re rested. Think about it. Santa pulls ONE, JUST ONE, all-nighter a year and he manages to get everything done. The guy’s not up late 365. Embrace your inner Santa and go to bed!

3. Meditate – I’m not talking about communing with the monks or ohming yourself into a trance. I meditate every day. I’ve been doing this for most of 2014 and I find that my 20 minutes of guided meditation make a huge difference. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or rushed it’s nice to pop in the headphone, go to a quiet place, and tune out the world and all its busy-ness for a short time. Sure, locking yourself in the bathroom so you can check your email or just get away for a few minutes sounds great. But, let’s not kid ourselves. No one leaves us alone in there.

4. Be present – Invite friends over, turn off the tech and have a game night, snuggle up and watch a favorite movie, pile in the car and go look at holiday lights. Forget the list of things that have to be done, stop the multi-tasking, don’t keep checking Facebook to see what everyone else is doing. Be present. Being present is a gift to ourselves just as much as it is for the people we’re with. It’s so much fun to take photos and share them immediately, but sharing photos isn’t really all that fun if when you look back on them and you don’t have the 1,000 words to go with them.

5. Make memories – During the holidays we talk a lot about memories. I grew up with big latke parties, huge gatherings at the synagogue, singing, and every night rushing to light the menorah and say the prayers. Memories are what connect us to our past and keep us doing all the things we do for our kids (or grandkids). So we have to help them make their own memories. And when I think about it, rarely are the memories about specific items. They’re about feelings and emotions from shared experiences.

6. Give to others – While giving is a message we hear a lot during the holiday and winter seasons, it’s one of the easiest ways to incorporate good things for us, our family, and others all in one. The best thing is that it doesn’t have to be anything huge or elaborate. Drop a few coins in a donation bucket, take the kids to buy a gift from one of the angel tress at the mall, make cards to drop at a nearby senior center, tuck a positive note where someone will find it, or use your love of technology and Donate a Photo. Giving to others is such an amazing way to boost your own spirit. And it’s a wonderful teaching opportunity for our kids.

None of that seems too hard, does it? Sometimes we just need to see these things and realize we’re worth it. As a way to help you enjoy the holidays more, Johnson & Johnson wants to help you stock up on Healthy Essentials – or create a gift to donate – by helping you save up to $35 on your favorite products (like those Frozen Band-Aid bandages you know would make most any little girl squeal with delight!). Just visit the HealthyEssentials website to grab fantastic savings on those everyday essentials to keep your family healthy.

Sara

Stein Mart Black Friday Ad 2013

Black Friday plans and strategies are already underway for many people. So start planning your savings today!

The Stein Mart Black Friday Ad 2013 has been leaked!

One of my favorite discount stores is Stein Mart, and Black Friday definitely brings out some of their best deals all year. They have great quality on-trend and classic clothing for men and women, as well as housewares, shoes, and accessories that keep you looking good without breaking the bank.

Stein Mart stores open at 7am on Black Friday.

Make sure you take the ad with you to have an associate scratch off the token for your additional savings (up to $100!) between 7am and noon. Also, don’t forget the coupon on the back of the ad for an additional 50% off Red-Dot merchandise.

Friday-Only In-Store Specials

Peck & Peck Cashmere Polo Sweaters $39.98 ea

Isotoner and Dearfoams Slippers $7.98 ea

Ladies Coats 50% Off

Peck & Peck Ladies 100% Cashmere Scarves $17.98 ea

Boxed 24K gold or Silver Plated Hoop Earrings $8.98 ea

Boxed Sterling Silver Cubic Zirconia Jewelry $8.98 ea

Aigner Designer 100% Leather Gloves $17.98 ea

Leather Handbags $29.98 ea

Big Buddha Pashminas $6.98 ea

Ladies Boxed Fashion Watches $7.98 ea

Pajama Separates $7.98 ea

Crockpot 4Qt $17.98 ea

Double Beverage Dispenser $16.98 ea

Paisley and Solid Quilts, Queen-size $12.48 ea

Hotel Collection Sheet Sets $9.98 ea

Embossed Plush/Sherpa Throws $9.98 ea

Entire Stock of Holiday Décor 50% Off

Hart, Schaffner & Marx Sportswear, Shirts & Pants for Men $17.98 ea

Men’s Watches $7.98 ea

Men’s Neckwear $5.98 ea

Alan Flusser Cashmere Scarves $17.98 ea

Alan Flusser Cashmere Crew & V-Neck Sweaters $59.98 ea

Nike Sweatshirts and Hoodies for Men $12.98 ea

If you’re looking for Black Friday Deals at any other stores, check out the complete list of 2013 Black Friday Deals I’ve put together with some of my blogger friends. Nearly 50 stores with all their HUGE SAVINGS DEALS are ready for you to help maximize your savings on Black Friday!

 

Sara

2013 Black Friday Deals

 

Black Friday 2013

Whether you’re a camp-out-and-be-ready-for-the-midnight-rush Black Friday shopper or more casual one who will hit a few stores as long as you don’t have to hunt for parking, 2013 is supposed to be one of the best Black Friday shopping days we’ve had in quite a few years.

Because there are so many stores with fantastic deals, I’ve teamed up with a number of bloggers to bring you ALL the stores so you can find what you’re looking for. Just click on the store deals you’re looking for to be taken to the best deals for that store.

Remember that this year we’re going to see more stores opening up late Thursday (Thanksgiving Day!) to get a jump-start on the holiday shopping season. Happy Shopping!

 The Most Comprehensive List of 2013 Black Friday Deals

(Note: Bookmark this page and as bloggers get their lists completed I will link to them)

Thank you for checking out this list and a big thanks to my many blogger friends who came together to help make this list possible for Black Friday 2013!

Sara

10 Must Have Holiday Gifts For Tween Girls

 

I’m not always a fan of these “gift guides” because they are often filled with products that people get “free” and I don’t feel I really get a true sense of what’s what. Also, many of these guides are generalization or geared toward boys. I’m the mom of one tween daughter. Girl stuff holds my house together. If it’s pink and sparkly we probably own it. But she also loves math and science and reading. She makes her own movies and knows her way around lots of tech.

BabyGirl and many of her tween girl friends have shared with me the things they hope to get this holiday season. I was surprised at the range of products they’ve researched on their own so they can prioritize their lists. It’s an eclectic list but really has something for all tween girls with a variety of interests.

10 Must Have Holiday Gifts For Tween Girls

1. Sony Bloggie Touch Camcorder – for under $100 this is an easy to use and fun way for girls to make movies. It’s easy to use and very intuitive for kids. My daughter makes movies with her bears, ponies and LPS and having an easy to use and dedicated camera means she can work on her own (or with her friends) and I don’t have to worry about where my video recorder is at.

 

 

Pattern Duct Tape

2. Duct Tape – yes, you read that right. Duct tape. But not your grandpa’s duct tape. We’re talking about all the fun patterns and cool colors. Duct take isn’t for fixing things as much as it is for crafting and making cool things. I’m not sure what’s the big deal but colorful and patterned duct tape is all the rage and the fun things kids are making are creative and will definitely keep them busy during their off time.

 

 

Make Your Own Chocolate Kit

3. Make Your Own Chocolate Kit – not all girls are as much into science as BabyGirl, but this kit is so much fun. It’s pretty easy to use, but may require adult supervision using the stove. For under $15 the kit comes with information on fair trade products as well as including organic cocoa powder. All the ingredients needed to make about 8oz of chocolate are included. Science plus chocolate? What’s not to love!

 

 

Etymotic Etykids

4. Ety-Kids Headphones – designed specifically for children, these headphones are not only the right size for their ears but also incorporate technology that limits the decibels so their hearing is not compromised. BabyGirl has 2 pairs of the Ety-Kids Headphones and she loves them. They incorporate technology that blocks background noise so using them at school when they’re doing computer work allows her to more fully concentrate on her work. BabyGirl received her first pair of Ety-Kids about a year ago and doesn’t use any other headphones.

 

 

5. Nail Polish Sheets – at about $10, these are awesome! They are fun, long-lasting and not very messy. BabyGirl and her friends love these! I like that they’re not messy or smelly. It’s real nail polish and lasts about 10 days, which is about 10 days longer than regular nail polish that gets messed up in about a minute thirty eight after it’s put on. It comes off easily with nail polish remover. As much as she and her friends love science and technology and playing outside, they also like trying out nail polish and being girly.

 

Bath and Body Works Shower Gel

6. Warm Vanilla Sugar Shower Gel – in our pre-kid life, we lived in Columbus, OH when CycleGuy worked at Bath & Body Works Corporate. All these years later our love for BBW products continues. BabyGirl has been a frequent shopper at Bath & Body Works for many years and she has seasonal favorites, although Warm Vanilla Sugar is her all time fave. During the holidays the stores have great sales and getting the shower gel and lotion makes bath time less of a challenge. And, because she has hers I don’t have to worry about her using mine up. It’s a win-win!

 

 

 

7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid – When I first heard of the series I wasn’t all that keen on it because of the word “wimpy”. But after reading the first one, I realized just how fun and funny they are for kids. Greg Heffley is a sweet kid who has experiences that your girls can definitely relate to. If your child reads these then you know how much of a “must have” these are.

 

 

8. Kindle Fire HD – sure it’s about $200 but  they’re so worth it! BabyGirl has had one since they first came out and loves the portability. I search with Swagbucks so I can earn Amazon cards for her to buy books. And we have Amazon Prime so when we travel we have access to an entire library of free movies and TV shows to break up the monotony. Also, it allows her to text me. She also uses it for schoolwork and it makes doing research so much easier for her. I like that it’s more than just an eReader and it gives me more flexibility in how it’s used. If the tween girl in your life loves to read as much as BabyGirl this will be their new BFF.

9. The Daring Book for Girls – I bought this book when it first came out in 2007, partly because it was at Costco and I’m a sucker for their book deals. But, truly, this is a wonderful book. It teaches girls about self confidence and how to do things all girls should know. It’s not a girly book by any means. It’s one of those books that even I, as a grown woman, look at and wish I’d had as a young girl. Even now I’ll flip it open and learn something new. At less than $20, any young girl on your list will get years of use from this book.

10. iTunes Gift Cards – I know, I know! Gift cards are kind of lame. But, honestly, with all the apps these girls want it’s better to get them their own iTunes gift card and not have to deal with having to shell out money and losing track only to realize you’ve spent $63 on apps in the past few months. Not that I have any experience with that. *insert shifty eyes* These can be purchased at grocery stores, drug stores or online and delivered electronically. Another win-win!

So there you have it! The 10 Must Have Holiday Gifts for Tween Girls. I’m sure there are others, so please share them. These little ladies aren’t easy to shop for any more. Gone are the days of princess this or pony that and you knew you’d be good to go. These young ladies are smart, tech-savvy and in-the-know. And from what I’ve been told by friends with older girls, we only have a few years until they won’t talk to us and think that anything we do is lame and any gift is even more lame. We have few precious years to convince them of our ability to be great gift-givers.

What’s on your tween girl’s gift list this year?

Disclosure: I have purchased or used these items without compensation. This is not a sponsored post. Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you purchase through my link I may receive a small commission. For that I’m thankful. I appreciate your support for this site. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sara

The Need For Speed … Another Someday Becomes A Real Day

Stock Car Ride Along

I was probably 7 when I went to my first car derby. It wasn’t something I was dying to go to, but family friends offered to take me so off I went to sit on metal bleacher stands watching jalopy vehicles drive around a dirt track. To this day I’m not sure what the point was, but I think it had to do with crashing into other cars. It was like real-life bumper cars.

As a girly-girl, it wasn’t something I would have thought to go to on my own. Over the years of my youth I went to these smash-up derby car things about 10 or 15 times. Most of the time I just sat there being the well-behaved child I was. A few times, though, I realized that there were women drivers so after the event I’d go down to the pit area and ask a few questions of the ladies. I don’t remember a lot about what I asked or what was said, but it was one of those times that got filed away under “girls can do anything”.

Car racing isn’t my thing and never has been. I’ve never attended a live NASCAR even, despite it being in my own backyard and it being so well attended by women. I’ve watched the news reports about the few women who have broken into car racing, whether NASCAR or Formula-1. But both are dominated by men. So why would I have put down anything related to either of these on my “someday list”? Actually, on my Someday List is that I’d like to meet Danica Patrick and thank her for being a role model for young girls. So, why do I mention this “need for speed” thing?

On December 9th, I’m heading to Phoenix International Raceway, as a guest of Cloud-9 Living, to do a Ride-Along in a NASCAR-style vehicle on an official NASCAR track. I’ll go 3-laps at an average speed of 180mph while being fully suited up and having taken my seat only after climbing through the car’s window like a real driver would. I won’t be driving; I know my limitations right now. But for this gal who’s been stopped by a highway patrol officer for going 98 in a 75, this is going to be THRILLING beyond belief!

I’ll be sharing details and photos too, so you’ll have to come back and, if you’re on Twitter follow me there for the tweets of that day. Until then, you can enter to win your own experience, even if it’s not on your bucket list! Until December 15th you can enter to win one of 9 prizes to enjoy experiences such as learning to fly, a spa experience, golfing with a PGA pro or even your own stock car experience! Working with the people at Cloud-9 Living has been so easy and they’ve been so excited to help create the stock car ride-along experience.

So, GO ENTER! I hope you win one of these experiences. Also, if you’re looking for a gift that would be something they’ll be talking about for years, check out all the experiences available from Cloud-9 Living. They are located across the country so you can arrange the experience even if you can’t be there.

Images courtesy of Cloud-9 Living

Cloud-9 Living is providing me with a stock car ride-along experience. All liability waivers will be signed by me and my resulting helmet head is not their responsibility. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sara

Black Friday Creep

 

Years ago I’d brave the darkness, cold, and cut-throat shoppers and head out to the mall for Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving has been a significant shopping day for decades, despite Black Friday having such a negative origin. Sure, many people believe Black Friday is more about retail accounting and is the weekend when retailers finally get in the black but that’s just the pretty definition. Sadly, though, the origins of Black Friday have been played out year after year as more and more people go in search of the season’s best deals. Black Friday at some stores are more like gridiron madness than casual shopping.

About 5 years ago I stopped going out for Black Friday and instead did a Boobies and Breakfast with my best friend. It’s not a creepy as it sounds, really. Then again, willing going out at 8am for a mammogram the day after Thanksgiving isn’t all that normal, is it? Anyway, why waste a day when Black Friday has such a buzz about it and the woman running the Mobile Onsite Mammography trailer are quick and efficient.

But, not it seems like my Black Friday Boobie Bonanza isn’t all that cool any more. Black Friday is becoming just another shopping day as retailers move up their sales. Used to be that Thursday was spent surrounded by all the ads from the over-sized newspaper deciding who’s going where and what the plan of attack would be. It’s all about military-level precision when you’re trying to score a $99 tablet or eReader or the $60 Keurig. But who needs that newspaper nonsense, or even waiting until the triptophan-induced coma wears off before you can start saving money on things you likely don’t really need in the first place.

Black Friday creep is what I call it. Some retailers are even holding ‘Grey Friday’ sales today, the week before the traditional Black Friday. Grey Friday? Do we really need this? The sales before the sale is what it’s billed as. And then we have all the major retailer who will open their doors on Thanksgiving Day to kick off Black Friday a little early. WooHoo! Not!

I realize that there are many people who don’t observe Thanksgiving. There are employees who really need the hours and would be willing to work. And, there are many, many people in other professions who work on Thanksgiving and just deal with it. The medial profession keeps going since hospitals aren’t shut down, many in the IT industry work around the clock, movie theaters are open, gas stations, convenience stores and pharmacies, too, have employees clocking in instead of sitting down with their family for their gratitude grub.

Does that mean, though, that major retailers should be open? Do we really need to get our $10 turtleneck sweaters and bonus bucks on every wad of cash we spend that much earlier? Truly, I don’t get the point. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that needs to be purchased 8 or 10 or 24  hours earlier that’s going to make my life more awesome.

We already live in an uber-connected 24/7 news-cycle kind of world. The thought of disconnecting would send some into cardiac arrest. I get that people love a good deal (hence this website!). I understand that we’ve put so much pressure on retailers to give us better and more Black Friday deals. And we’re not even talking about Cyber Monday, which has also started the creep, too, and is more like Cyber Thursday this year.

I can’t help but think, though, that we really can wait until the day after Thanksgiving to go shopping. I honestly believe that we gain nothing by pushing up the Black Friday shopping frenzy. We’ve already extended it by creating Cyber Monday. If it’s just about ‘the deal’ then why have one day where the best and greatest deals descend from corporate heaven like manna that will sustain us until Christmas (or Hanukkah).

I love a good deal. I’m just not willing to give in to yet another gimmick from retailers. We’re all busy people and we deserve one day to stay home and just ‘be’. Black Friday Creep, is it really worth it?

Sara

Year of the Gift Card

Gif Card

The other day I was at the grocery store and a mom and her teen daughter were in front of me. They had a small bag of chips and a bunch of gift cards. I think the chips were a bribe for the teen! Their conversation was mostly the mom justifying buying gift cards for everyone and the daughter trying to convince her mom that gift cards are lame and for lazy people.

Their conversation involved much eye rolling and sighs from the teen. And I just looked around as if I couldn’t hear them. The mom kept trying to make eye contact with me, but I couldn’t do it. I know it’s a sign of sisterhood, but I just couldn’t bring myself to get in the middle of that debate.

While, in general, I don’t think gift cards are lame they can be. And sometimes it’s not so much that it’s a gift card. But how it’s given or the feeling you get when you are the recipient. I think we’ve all been on the receiving end of a gift card that we know was not really intended for us, a last minute gift of whatever is at the check out stand or one of the ‘I didn’t want to just give you cash so you’ll get this totally worthless gift card’ kind of gifts.

I love giving gift cards. They’re easy, flexible and allows the recipient to get exactly what they want. Some stores facilitate that much more easily. These days, unless you know someone is dying for specific CD it’s just easier to let them download what they want to whatever device they want. And sure you can pay for someone’s coffee if you’re with them at Starbucks but how does that translate to being a gift for the holidays?

Some people think gift cards are a cop-out. Besides being super easy to transport, especially if you’re traveling and taking gifts with you, there’s nothing they’ll need to return. For people who travel, it’s often nice to have a gift card for those little conveniences or indulgences. For moms who won’t splurge on themselves gift cards somewhat force them to do something for themselves.

And while that $19 drill set seems awesome and like a great deal, if dad doesn’t really want it or it’s not really all that useful, or if it’s not even worth the money you spent because it’s a cheap products I’d have to say a $20 gift card would be better received. Even a $15 gift card to the home improvement store would make him happier. And being creative with the wrapping allows you to show that you really do understand his need for more power tools.

These days there are gift cards for pretty much everything. Got someone on your list that plays online games, chances are there’s a card for the site they use. Tech gadget geek? I’ve seen those type too. Restaurant? From fast food to fine dining all the choices would be enough to make you need a cocktail.

Years ago, I’d have told you giving gift certificates was lame and stupid. You were basically telling the person you didn’t really want to shop for them. Fast forward 20 years with smart phones, online shopping with one-touch buying, guaranteed super-fast shipping and I’m a convert to the gift card.

The recipient uses it when they want, to get what they want. And if they’re like me, they’ll probably have a coupon and will stretch that $20 gift card pretty far. So if you’re late to the holiday gift buying game, grab some gift cards and use your creativity to wrap them. Welcome to the Year of the Gift Card!

Image credit:Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sara

No Matter How You Spell It, There’s A Hanukkah Card For You!

Every year I look forward to the array of holiday cards that arrive. Photo cards, handmade, fancy, funny and oversized, they all seem to be perfect for the people that send them. And every year I spend months thinking about what we’ll send.

For years I’d make custom handmade cards and an ornament. A few years ago it just got to be too much for the 200+ people on the list. Then, of course, there was the Hanukkah thing. We don’t really do ornaments for the Festival of Lights, so I’d create something ‘Jewish-y’ for my tribal friends.

Growing up, my grandparents received hundreds of holiday cards. I was always interested in the Hanukkah cards though because I was eager to see how many duplicates they’d get. I thought that was normal.

When I was on my own and began the tradition of sending our holiday cards, I was faced with the Hanukkah card dilemma. Besides it seeming like they were the exact same ones year to year, the selection was, well, lacking. This was long before the internet and access to a multitude of card sources. Even if it were still the boxed cards, if I ordered them from Florida I had a good chance of not having the same cards as everyone else.

Fast forward to about 6 years ago when custom photo cards came to the market. No longer left with 3 choices, I had 5 or 6! Double the selection as my local Judaica shop!! Imagine the possibilities.

So this year, when I met the team from Snapfish by HP at Blogher and conversation turned toward holiday greetings I immediately started lamenting the options for Hanukkah cards. Christmas and general ‘holiday’ cards were displayed on page after page with literally hundreds of choices. Still, I was happy to now have 8 or 10 options for Hanukkah.

As holiday card season descended up on us, the Snapfish by HP team remembered me and sent me a link to over 200 options for Hanukkah cards offered on their site. It was a miracle! Options! Choices! And different spellings! You spell it with a C? You can now get cards that do too. You do one k? They have cards for you too! Yes, I know it is weird to be so excited over Hanukkah cards. But, you know that feeling you get when you finally get to move from the kid table to the grown up table? That’s kinda how I feel.

For once I understood the dilemma of holiday card choice. Sure, I’d gone through it with our general holiday greeting cards but never Hanukkah. This year, though, I had to page forward. Several times!

While Hanukkah isn’t a “big holiday” for Jews, it’s actually just a festival, in recent years it’s taken on more of that holiday-bonanza feel. With that, more and more people are sending out cards. And for the first time ever I’m giddy with excitement that I may not receive any duplicate cards because there is so much choice.

I know most of you don’t celebrate Hanukkah. But if you do, or if you know someone who does, I highly recommend Snapfish by HP. Not only did I have so many design choices, they were reasonably priced and arrived quickly. They also have a great program where you can send them to a local store for next-day printing!

Disclosure: Snapfish provided me with complimentary Hanukkah cards. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sara

5 Ways to be Realistic About Holiday Shopping

As you likely know, I suck at shopping for me. But when it comes to gift giving, I am in heaven. I love buying things for other people. I like asking questions to find out about things they like, don’t like, want to try, place to go and all that double-knot spy kind of stuff. I most enjoy seeing or hearing their reaction when they open their gift to find something that is really meaningful to them.

Let’s just all admit that we’ve received gifts that are meaningless to us but hold a great deal of meaning or importance to the giver. I’m not talking about the ugly necklace from your aunt that was your grandmothers that you really don’t want, will never wear, but has sentimental value. I’m also not including gifts from little kids that they made for us (but really, gold spray painted macaroni necklaces are always at the top of every mom’s list!). What I’m talking about are those gifts from our mothers-in-law that are her favorite stinky, smelly lotion and will end up in the donation bin faster than Ozzy Osbourne can say the F-word. I’m thinking of those gifts from friends or family that are either a regifted something or were bought because it was cheap, on-sale, near the cash register, or shoved in the back of the closet from 3 years ago.

Now, don’t’ get me wrong. I think re-gifting is OK under some circumstances. But that’s another blog post. Today it’s about being realistic about our holiday shopping. We can’t all rush to Neiman Marcus to pick up their newest $19,000 must-have gift. But what we can do is take some time now, before the rush and the crush, and be mindful about the gifts we’re going to give.

5 Ways To Be Realistic About Holiday Shopping

1. Decide who gets and who doesn’t – this could be budget based or logistical, but decide now who you’ll be shopping for. Write it down and really think who’s going to make the list. Make the list, check it twice. Heck, check it 200 times! But only put people on the list that you really want to buy for. Don’t buy for people because you think you have to or they buy for you or you don’t want to look cheap. You’ll look cheap and the gift will be horrible because you won’t put the time into it. This isn’t about being mean or dissing anyone. It’s about being real and having focus.

2. Set a Budget – Maybe you did this before you made your list of people. If you did, then now you get to divvy it up among all the people on your list. If you didn’t set a budget, now’s the time to do it. Whether it’s a per-person limit or an overall total, determine up front what you’re comfortable spending. Write it down, engrave it in stone, write it on your hand in sharpie, post sticky note in your house or your car or do whatever you need to remind you. If you have to take cash out of the bank, then so be it. Spend ONLY that cash. When it’s done, then so are you. And you’ll have to figure out something else. But don’t over-spend just because you’re stressed out and just pick up anything. It’s not easy to stick to a budget, but you’ll feel better if you do. Most importantly, make the budget realistic. If you don’t think spending $10 on Aunt Ella is realistic either spend more (only if you have it! Aunt Ella doesn’t want you to go into debt for her) or just give her a lovely card. If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it. Work within your means and your budget! Stay tuned here for great holiday gifts that won’t break the bank!

3. Plan ahead – what do you want that person to get from you? Have they mentioned a book or restaurant they’re looking forward to? Do they have a hobby or a passion for something that you can support? Do they need a new scarf, sweater, mug, backpack, or set of knives? Have they dropped hints? Can you go in on a bigger gift with someone else? Think about their gift for more than 62 seconds while you’re speeding through Target at 9:46pm on Christmas Eve.

4. Get Them Something THEY Want – you may think that the Dice-o-matic is awesome, but not everyone will. So don’t get it for your nephew who just got his first apartment. He won’t care and you’ll become that aunt. You may love yoga but your BFF may not want the yoga mat DVD combo you think is so great – especially since she’s never once gone to ‘bring a friend night’ even though you’ve asked her every week for the past 2 years. You may hate that your brother in law spends 3 hours a night playing Farmville but giving him a $10 gift card to play his game might make him stop sending you requests to plant corn or support his pig farm. Think about this like a business – It’s not what YOU want, it’s what the CONSUMER wants!

5. Have Fun – holiday shopping can be a drag some times. But the whole point of giving gifts is to show your love, appreciation, kindness toward others. You want them to know you care. So have fun! Think outside the box, mix things us, step outside your comfort zone. Gift recipients aren’t stupid, they know when we just get any ol’ thing for them. We give gifts because we want to (or, that’s why we should), not because we are obligated. Have fun seeing their perspective, have fun wrapping it, have fun in giving it! Think about how much fun kids have buying gifts for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. They could buy grandpa a can of WD-40 because they know he is always fixing things, and the child is so filled with joy and excitement for this seemingly boring gift.

Whatever winter holiday you observe, regardless of whether it’s a major gift giving one or not, it’s on the calendar well in advance. There’s no ned to pretend it sneaks up on us. So let’s all get started so we can get finished and sit back and enjoy relaxing and enjoying all those other events that will take place.

I don’t profess that these 5 tips will save you time or money or sanity. But what I do believe is that being prepared goes a long way to allowing us to make better decisions. And better decision is how we save time, money and sanity!

If you have other tips, please share them! Can’t have too many tips to get us all through what is sure to be a busy time.

Sara

When a Printed Invitation or Announcement is How You Roll

It’s been awhile since I’ve needed printed invitations or announcements, but that doesn’t stop me from looking at all the new designs. You can do so much with them, and they really just take the coolness factor up a notch. At Social Soiree, Storkie created post cards for the attendees so they could send to their families. It was a really unique idea and all of our guest thought it was great. I know BabyGirl was so excited when she received the one I sent to her.

I’ve never used Storkie, but Alecia at Savings and Stewardship swears by them. Personally, I think she’s talking about having another baby just so she can order birth announcement from Storkie. I could be wrong, but …. Anyway, Alecia has very nice taste in such things (I hope she doesn’t read this because it will just inflate her ego).

So if you’re in the market for quality printed invitations and announcements, try Storkie. It’s a hands-on company that will help you if you need it. I know how it is when buying something so important online. Knowing there is someone on the other end of the line really gives peace of mind.

 

Disclosure: Storkie sponsored Social Soiree. I received no compensation. As a hostess of the event I did agree to tell you about them. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

image credit: Storkie

Sara