Elf on a Budget: Staying on Track for the Holidays

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Christmas can be a budget buster for sure. In our materialistic society, its easy to think that you have to totally blow your budget treating everyone around you to everything their hearts desire. But that’s so not the case.

You know who makes you feel that way? Advertisers and people who make money selling things you don’t need. Especially the ones that advertise on kid’s channels and make your kids think that if they don’t have the new extra special XYZ, they’ll never have fun ever again, and no one will want to play with them.
Love those guys.
Not.

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Bailey Family Christmas 2015, after Santa Came

Social media does it’s fair share in blowing gift giving out of proportion too. It seems like every day I log on to Facebook or whatever, I see pictures of trees overflowing with gifts that dwarf the tree and spill put onto the floor, followed by comments about “how happy their lucky kids must be!”

What parent doesn’t want their kids to feel happy and loved on Christmas?

Spoiler Alert: Kids don’t need mountains of junk to experience a magical Christmas. And you don’t have to participate in the yearly Social Media Mom-Off.

The picture above is our living room last year after we put out all the Santa gifts. The gifts include both Sam and Abby, some for Ben who was’t born yet, me and Jeff, and our gifts to my mom, her boyfriend Mike (Rick), my sister, brother and both of their significant others. There’s nothing stuffed behind the tree or out of the shot. Some people would think its a paltry few.

Our kids were overjoyed.

They each got their one gift they’re allowed to ask for from Santa, plus two from mom and dad and a stocking full of mostly candy. And thats plenty. We stuck to our budget for that year (same as this year, $500 total) and put other efforts into the magic of Christmas. We read stories, made crafts, baked cookies, listened to music, went to see lights. Each of these are more memorable than any toy that will be broken and forgotten by Easter. And honestly? Sitting here thinking about it, I don’t recall a gift I got at Christmas. Or one that I wanted and did’t get. I do remember decorating the tree, making apple pies, driving around to see lights, listening to the same Bing Crosby record I still play.

So our family tips for staying on budget for Christmas start with:

The Mindset. Remind yourself, Christmas is not presents, and presents are not going to make or break a Christmas. Think of all of the things you remember about Christmas as a child. Is it the lights? Visiting family? The Music? Religious services? It will take some imagination for some of us, but you can make these special memories with your family.

Make a Budget and Stick to it. Every year on New Years Eve when we do our budget for the year we decide how much per month we want to put away in anticipation for birthday and Christmas gifts. When it comes to gift buying time, see how much money you have set aside and realistically how much you can spend. No credit cards. No special financing. Do this with cash if you have to. When the cash is gone its gone.

Luckily, though this might be the most expensive day of the year, Christmas comes on the same day every year. This means we can plan for it. Start as early as possible for minimum impact on your life.

Think Simple. Growing up, my mom always felt obligated to give a gift to all of her five sisters and her three in-laws, even though we were living paycheck to paycheck. One of her favorite, simple, cheap gifts that people loved getting were her breads. She would go to the dollar store, get a bunch of those little ceramic, Christmas decorated bread pans for $1, then make cranberry breads, cinnamon bread or my grandmother’s zucchini bread, wrap them in cellophane and colorful ribbon. Viola. Instant Christmas gift. $2.

This is still a great idea for kids teachers, bus drivers, extended family etc.

Pare Down the List. You don’t have to acknowledge every human being in your life on Christmas. If your budget is super tight, start paring off the list. Most people will understand and most likely even forget if they’re excluded. Immediate family, your own children, spouses are all important. Friends, neighbors, every aunt uncle and cousin, every  teacher or aide and coworker can all get cut.

Then remember to give yourself some grace. Remember why you tightened your belt and keep the bigger picture in mind.

And lastly, this is what I’m working on for this year. I call it “transcend.” Rise above all of the negative people grumbling about gifts and “bah humbugging” and complaining about gifts they didn’t get, parties they didn’t get to go to, family drama, arguments. Transcend. Recently someone wrote a bitchy comment on something I had posted on Facebook and almost instantly my mom texted me saying “can you believe what a B she is?”

Usually I would have gotten all grouchy, and then unleashed a slew of choice descriptions for this person and let it interrupt at least a portion of my day. Instead, my response was “Whatever, I transcend her negativity.” And that was it.

People can’t trample on your happiness and the joy of your season unless you let them.

 

 

 

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Mama Bailey Gets Fit (Again)

Almost 2 years ago I was in the best shape of my adult life. I lost 60 lbs and I was down to my teenage weight. Wow, 60 lbs. That seems so ridiculous typing it out. I was eating healthy and exercising multiple times a week.

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Before and after from two years ago. With baby Abby in the back!

Needless to say, I’ve gained it all back and am completely out of shape again.

A few weeks ago I had restarted Weight Watchers using my old paper slider and classroom books someone had given me years ago. I lost 9lbs really fast but then lost momentum and gave it up.

Not this time. I’m totally committed. I got out my old 30 Day Shred DVD, some new workout leggings and Weight Watchers friendly food. Today was Day 1 and I can honestly say, I forgot how hard this is lol.

It’s hard for me to make time for myself, whether planning out meals or taking time to work out. There always seems to be something more important that I should be doing instead. Shouldn’t I be cuddling the baby? Aren’t there dishes to put away? Have I swept the food off the floor in the kitchen today? I think that’s how a lot of moms feel. It’s so much easier just to shove a cookie in my face (with the baby on my hip, laundry in the dryer and a 3 and 5 year old asking me for things) than it is to actually make something nutritious.

But I also think I USE the fact that I’m a (semi) working mom to get out of doing things that I don’t want to. Especially diet and exercise. I can’t POSSIBLY work out because I’m far too busy right?

This time though, I have goals. And motivation. My next appointment with my doctor is in February, one year from Ben’s birth. I want him to see how hard I’ve worked and be proud of me. We know we want more children, so I know that to maintain my health in the long run, this is important stuff. I can’t be obese. I want to be around and active to take care of my children and grandchildren.

So here it is, accountability picture from after tonight’s workout. My face is red and sweaty and my glasses make my whole face look odd but. Its a start!

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Clutter

Clutter kills me.

When I look around my house and see things laying out of place, or an over cluttered counter or tabletop, it makes me insane. It makes my neck tense up.

It doesn’t even necessarily have to be at home. As soon as I get to work, after getting report on my patients, I start throwing things out. Empty bottles, cups, scribbled notes and stray papers all get immediately swept into the trash can. Then I can focus.

I even bang out the keyboard out onto the desk and then wipe the desk top.

With three kids in the house, the clutter adds up fast. I do my best every day to keep a handle on it, but every so often, I can feel it taking over. The toys spill out into the dining and living room, the craft cabinet overflows and starts pushing the curtain out of the way, the kitchen cabinets don’t quite close. We clean up overnight before bed, but there just doesn’t seem to be a place to put anything.

So with the dumpster already here for the basement clean out (not to mention that it’s free after the sale of my car), I thought “hey, why not clean out the whole house!”

I only wish I had more arms to carry stuff out with.

My first project is the kid’s playroom. With Abby’s 4th birthday and Christmas both coming up, I know its going to get out of control any minute.

Here are some unfiltered, cluttered up, uncleaned or put away or organized before images. The plan is to purge unused toys and junk then organize everything else into bins and baskets. Jeff is working on shelves and a reading bench for around the window.

Once upon a time this room was clean and neat and everything had a place. Pretty soon again it will be!

7 Years

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that yesterday was our 7th anniversary.

To my Husband,

Seven years ago, when we were just 21 and 22, I could see whispers of it, but I couldn’t see our future.

Through these first seven years, through ups and downs, hard times and wonderful times, I am so thankful of the man you are and the family we have.

I can’t wait to see where our next seven years, and beyond, lead us. I can’t see it any clearer than I could the day we both stood on the altar, but whatever it is I’m glad it will be with you.

I love you.

The Past Six Weeks

How is it already November 15th? I feel like I was just planning out October. I really wanted to be more active in this blog, even though it seems like its just for me. This whole wife/mother thing has really kept me super busy lately.

SO anyways, Operation October went very well. We officially have all the money we need to buy our brand new boiler saved up. And an unexpected blessing happened in the process.

After saving up all the money, we decided (with much urging from yours truly) to rent a huge dumpster and just totally purge almost everything in the basement. We had to do this anyways, but especially to make room to get the boiler in and for the guy to move around and work. After 7 years of marriage, 3 kids and 4 fast and unplanned moves, we never really had the chance to sort and purge things we didn’t need anymore, and boy does that stuff add up after a while.

Backstory: Until January Jeff and I both drove small compact sedans. With the impending arrival of baby Ben in February, we knew we needed room for the 3rd carseat, so Jeff traded in his fancy (stop smoking reward) car and we got the van for the same amount that was left on his car loan, less the $2000 down payment I had saved up. He inherited my car, a very basic model with power nothing that I had paid off years ago, leaving us with one car payment still.

In the spring, his grandmother said that she was getting a new car and asked if we wanted to buy her old one for $1200! Hers was newer than my old one, had a few options and about 50,000 less miles. Plus we had the cash saved up, so we jumped on it.

This of course left us with an extra car. And the extra insurance, excise tax, inspection and registration fees that go with it. So we tried a few different avenues to sell my old sedan. A few people looked, we tried a few dealership trade in deals, but we never got the price we wanted or were left with a really good feeling, so we just hung on to it and kept the faith.

Last Thursday Jeff took the day out of work to attend the kid’s Veterans Day show at school, so he had the dumpster delivered as he would have the rest of the day off for purging. We’ve rented a few and always use this one guy who does canisters as a side income.

Turns out, he was looking for a car! He came back Saturday and drove it around. It needed some work so he asked what we would take. We said $1200, making us even after buying Jeff’s grandmother’s. He offered $1000 and he wouldn’t charge for the dumpster. Deal of the century!!

I’m so relieved that we got a deal we were comfortable with. I’m hanging on to the money he gave us incase he changes his mind or finds something he really doesn’t like with the car. I’d hate to spend it and then have to take from our savings to give it back. Plus I watch way too much Judge Judy where all people do is sue over private car sales lol.

So thankful that car is gone and hoping that the transaction is over and everything comes up roses. Now we’re deciding whether to put the money towards paying off 2 of my ever lingering student loans or making a big payment on the van, but I feel like this is a good problem to have 🙂

A Resolution worth Keeping

 

Two years ago, we were the average American family. Two kids, a mortgage, thousands in credit card debt, student loans coming out of our ears and more.

New Year’s Eve 2013, my husband and I decided that we would take our finances over, make a budget, live within our means, work to pay down debt until we’re debt free.

We still have a long way to go but we’ve come so far! Here we hope to share our story, tips and tricks, to help out others who are where we were that New Year’s night.

Come along!