Christmas is Coming: Children’s Gift Ideas

Most people have a least one child on their Christmas list, perhaps even many. Here are a few favorites from our house that might help you with ideas for those young ones you plan to buy for this year.

1. Melissa and Doug Products  – we have several Melissa and Doug puzzles and the boys love them. They are study and attractive looking. They also have quite a few educational items. I have found that Kohl’s is good place to purchase these products. The often have sales on their toys, and by combining the sale with a percent off coupon I can usually get them cheaper than on Amazon.

2. Trio Blocks – we were introduced to these last year and our boys have spent endless hours playing with these. They build all sorts of things…but mostly guns and swords. 🙂

3. Books – we love books at our house! Here are just a few of our favorites: books by Lois Lenski,  My First Little House books, Snapshot Picture Library book series, Curious George books, “The Jesus Storybook Bible“, “Mighty Machines“, “Caps for Sale“, “Things that Go“, “Where’s the Dragon?” and of course Dr. Seuss books.

4. Little Einstein DVD’s – these DVD’s are fun for little ones to watch and I love how they teach them about music and are also interactive. My boys have learned quite a lot about music and instruments by watching these.

Do you have any great kids gift ideas to add? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

If you missed the first three posts in this series you can read them here, here, and here.

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Free 8 x 10 photo collage with free shipping at Snapfish

Through tomorrow, August 17th, you can get a free 8 x 10 photo collage with free shipping at snapfish.com. After creating your 8 x 10  collage print add it to your cart, then use the code GRANDSHIP to receive the collage print and shipping free.

Restaurant.com Certificates 80% off

In my previous post I mentioned Restaurant.com was a great place to save money on dining out. Right now, through Monday the 16th, the $25 certificates are only $2 each when you enter the code BIG at checkout. Be sure to read the stipulations and fine print before ordering. Also, if you shop through Shopathome.com they offer 25% cash back!

Christmas is Coming: Frugal Gift Ideas

Christmas shopping does not have to send you to the poor house. Here are a few tips to saving some cash this holiday season.

1. Shop Online

Amazon.com is one of our favorite places to shop. We purchase quite a lot of books on Amazon, but they carry just about anything else you can imagine. The prices are usually better than in the store and I can shop when it’s convenient. Best of all I can shop in my pajamas. 🙂  They also offer free shipping on their products on orders over $25. We have found that Amazon is easy to work with and has very fast shipping. Monergism Books is also a good site for ordering books. Their prices are very competitive with Amazon and the also offer free shipping on orders over $25.

Restaurant.com is a super place to purchase restaurant gift certificates for those on your list that love to eat out. They sell $25 certificates for $10 regularly, but often have far better sales than that. A few months ago we bought some $25 certificates for $2.50 each. There are a few stipulations, so be sure to read the fine print before ordering. This can be a great way to save money while giving a nice gift to someone.

2. Cash Back Sites

If you do any shopping online, be sure to register with one or more cash back sites like Shopathome.com or ebates.com. When you shop online, go through these sites and you can earn a percentage of your purchase back in cash for many stores. For example, a few months ago when we purchased gift certificates from Restaurant.com I shopped through Shopathome.com. I payed $2.50 for each certificate, but received 25% back from Shopathome. So we actually spent less than $2.oo per certificate. This is a great way to save on purchases you make online. Some of these sites also offer coupons and discount codes, so be sure to check those out before shopping!

3. Swagbucks

Swagbucks is a internet search engine. It is free to join and you can earn “swagbucks” while searching. You don’t have to do anything extra, just search as you normally do and you will randomly be awarded with these swagbucks. You can use these to “purchase” gifts from the swagbucks store. I always purchase Amazon.com gift cards.  It’s not a way to get rich or pay your bills, but every little bit helps. And you could use your swagbucks to purchase Christmas gifts!

4. Photo Sites

I find it rather hard to shop for my grandparents. They never want anything and always say they have everything they need. So I have gone to sentimental type gifts for our grandparents, usually something with pictures. And so far each year they have loved them. Last year each of our grandparents received a photo book.  The original prices on these photo sites can be a bit high, but if you wait for the promotions you can snag some fabulous deals. I was able to buy three photo books last year for FREE! I just had to pay shipping, around $8, for each book.

My favorite photo sites are Shutterfly and Snapfish. A few other good sites are ArtsCow, Vista Print and SeeHere. If you create an account with these sites sometimes they will send you special promotional codes just for you. It is also helpful to follow MoneySavingMom who often posts promotions being offered by these companies. When a really stellar deal comes up I usually try to post it on here as well.

And, of course, don’t forget to shop through a cash back site when ordering to sweeten the deals even more!

5. Paperbackswap

I posted a few months ago about my love of paperbackswapPaperbackswap is a free site where you can exchange used books for just the cost of shipping. While I probably wouldn’t give used books as a gift to many on my Christmas list, we certainly don’t mind them here in our house. This year we are ordering several books for Isaac and Hudson through paperbackswap. They will love them and won’t even notice that they are not brand new. Besides, after a reading them a few times they would look used anyway! 🙂 Plus it is saving us quite a bit of money!

6. Gift Baskets

If you coupon and shop the drug stores then you most likely have a stockpile of personal care items. You can use these to put together a very nice and useful gift basket for someone on your Christmas list. I found some  clearance baby items at Walgreens the other day. I plan to use those, along with a few things I already have on hand, to put together a small gift basket for my new nephew or niece due to be born shortly after the new year. (Jenn, sorry to spoil the surprise!) These items are worth much more than I paid for them, so the receiver will be happy and I will be saving money!

7. Homemade Items

If you talented and crafty, then you could even make some gifts. I’m not a gifted sewer, but in years past I have made aprons and dinner napkins as gifts. I have also made handmade cards and baked breads and special treats. There are so many possibilities. And homemade gifts are usually appreciated and loved even more than something store-bought.

These are just a few ideas that can help you in your quest for that perfect gift without spending a fortune. If you have any helpful ideas please be sure to share them in the comments!

Christmas is Coming: Have a Plan

Having a plan can makes things go smoother. If you are going on vacation you plan ahead so that you can enjoy your trip and not lose precious time, if you are having a baby you make plans as to where you wan to give birth and who you want to be your doctor, if you are having a dinner party you plan your menu and guest list. Planning for Christmas is no different! Here are a few ways our family plans ahead for Christmas.

1. Have a budget

You and your husband must decided for yourselves what works for you. Every one has a different financial and family situation. But make a plan. Have a list of who you need to buy for and set a dollar amount that you will spend for each person(the amount for each person may vary depending on your relationship and the situation). And remember, this is not a popularity contest. Don’t worry about what your sister-in-law is going to spend on your mom. You choose an amount that works for you. Don’t let your pride send you into debt or starvation. 🙂

2. Save for Christmas

Not only does setting a budget help you while shopping for your gifts, but it can also help you plan all year long. We set aside a certain amount from our pay check each week to go into our “gift fund”. We also are sometimes blessed with extra jobs or love gifts from others, and we sometimes put portions of that in our gift fund. This year all the money that we made at our garage sale went into the gift fund. This fund is what pays for birthday gifts, shower gifts, and yes, Christmas gifts. By planning ahead we don’t have to stress over how we are going to pay for Christmas when December rolls around. We also don’t have to worry about credit card bills overwhelming us when January comes knocking. Less stress means a more enjoyable holiday season.

3. Buy all year long

The last couple years I have been pretty much done with our Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. Part of that is due to the fact that I shop year round. When you have a gift fund in place it is easy to pick up gifts here and there when you find something on a great sale or see that “perfect” gift for someone on your list. By buying all year long you have more opportunity to take advantage of  those sales and clearances. I also usually go shopping the day after Christmas each year when the sales are really great and pick up several gifts for the next year.

4. Make a list

Making a Christmas list can help keep your organized. I have a list on my computer, and each year I add another page and start that year’s list. Not only do I stay better organized when I can quickly look and see who I still to need to buy for, but I also can look back at the previous years to see what gifts we gave in the past. It’s nice to know that you gave Great Grandpa Fred a red sweater last Christmas so that you don’t give him a red sweater again this year.

On my list I have each person that we need to buy for. Then I have “ideas” by their name in green. This way if I have a great idea one day, or some one gives me a wish list, I can have that right in one spot. When I actually purchase something, then I write that next to their name in red. This color coding system is something that works well for me and helps sat on top of things. You might find something else works better for you. Whatever system you use, keeping a list of those you need to buy for can help you stay organized, not purchase more than you need, and not forget someone (which of course leads to last minute stress, which is of course what we are trying to avoid! 🙂 ).

And don’t forget, the purpose of gift giving is for the enjoyment of both the giver AND the receiver. Choosing a thoughtful and useful gift will bring more pleasure than an over the top expensive gift that you give because you felt obligated. Remember, Christmas is a time to celebrate with others the GREATEST GIFT ever given, our Lord Jesus Christ. Being a good steward of our time and finances is one way we can bring honor to Him and enjoy this season of celebration!

*Be looking  tomorrow for my next post in this series “Christmas is Coming: Frugal Gift Ideas”.

Christmas is Coming: Preparing to Enjoy!

Christmas is just around the corner! That might be hard to believe while we are enjoying these warm sunny days of summer, but it’s just a little over four months away.

Our family loves the Christmas season. After Thanksgiving we put up the Christmas tree and decorations around the house, turn up the Christmas music and make sugar cookies with the boys(and try not to put on five pounds!). The one thing we do not want to do is stress out and  rush around buying christmas gifts at the last minute. So around here we try to have our Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. This allows us to really relax and enjoy the holidays. No stressing out here!

With that in mind I am going to do a series of posts on being prepared, gift ideas, and enjoying the Christmas season!  Let’s remember that Christmas is not about the hustle and bustle, but about the Baby who came to die. Christmas should be a time of celebration and memory making for your family. So let’s prepare to enjoy!

July Book Reviews

“Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God”  by Lisa Tatlock and Pat Ennis

Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God: A Guide to Developing Your Biblical Potential

Very Biblical and practical, this book is a great read for any woman. Even those who are single. While much of it deals with marriage or family, there is specific parts dedicated to the unmarried woman. The authors tackle various subjects  related to womanhood, all in a very practical manner. This would be especially great for a woman who is engaged or newly married.

Some of the topics include various aspects of home management, Biblical stewardship,  Biblical hospitality, contentment, our position in the Body of Christ, developing a proper worldview, and discipling and mentoring other women.

I very much enjoyed reading this book, and have already lent it out to my sister who is soon to be married.

“Survivor” by Tania Kauppila

Survivor: A woman's search for peace

I love autobiographies, and this one I couldn’t put down. The author was a young russian girl during World War I. At the age of twelve she was forced to leave her family and go labor in a German work camp. She recounts her time in the work camp, and the horrifying conditions and hardships she endured. She was from a Christian family, but she herself did not know God at this point in her life. Her story continues after the war, and she writes of moving to the United States and of her conversion to Christ.

This was a sad but beautiful story. The sad part came from the sin of man, the beautiful part from God who “meant it for good” in her life. Truly an enjoyable book to read.

Ingredients for a Perfect Morning

 The Park. A beautiful cool morning. Breezy and Sunny. Two little boys playing their hearts out.

Now that’s a great start to the day!

This Kid Cracks Me Up!

Last night Isaac was listening to a conversation Adam and I were having with Katie and Aaron during dinner. We were  talking about my Grandma and her friend, Cathy. Isaac asked who Cathy was. I wasn’t sure if he would recall  her, but was trying to explain to him who she was. He was a little frustrated that he couldn’t remember her. With an exsasperated sigh he said, “Let’s just go see her on facebook!” 🙂

Weekend Celebrations

This past weekend we celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. (Our anniversary was actually the end of June, but we were waiting for life to slow down bit.) My sister Katie took our boys over night, and had a fun time planned for them. Adam and I went to a very fancy restaurant and had a wonderful meal together. Alone. With a harpist playing in the background. Very romantic. And then we spent a fun and relaxing evening together. And the next morning??? We slept in until we woke up! Now that was a real treat! You mom’s know what I mean! The best part of the weekend? Knowing that I love this man more now than I did eight years ago on our wedding day.

And then Saturday afternoon we went and picked our two boys up. And then everything was right again. It was fun to spend some alone time together. But we sure missed our boys. 🙂