Top 3 tips for saving money on kids’ Christmas gifts

Warning: This post is not suitable for Santa believers. 😉 

Hello friends! Christmas is right around the corner (as if you didn’t know). If you’re anything like me, I’ll bet you’re already thinking about the three Ws: Wallet, Waistline and Watching Hallmark movies …

Today I wanted to give you my top three tips on how to save BIG money on Christmas gifts for the kids.

I know our family tends to overspend in this area, even if we go into the season with the best intentions to stick to a budget. We blow it every.single.year.

But not this year! We are committed to being smart with our money and making good gift-buying decisions, so we can start the new year off right, in a healthy financial place.

Are you ready? Lets do this!

1. Don’t have the kids make a list of what they want.

Say whaaaaa? No list? What will we do? How will we survive without THE LIST?

Well, you will, I promise, because THE LIST creates a couple problems:

  • It guilts us into getting every.single.thing (or close to it) on THE LIST, and invokes a sense of loss in our kids when they don’t get a particular thing on it.
  • It prompts our kids to think materialistically and brainstorm more stuff that they don’t need, just to create THE LIST. Is that really a value we’re trying to promote? “Hmmmm. Let me think of some more stuff I would really like … well, I have a lot of stuff already, but this is my chance, so I’d better come up with something or I’ll be left with coal in my stocking … what does little Johnny down the street have that I should have, too?” 
  • It does not factor in a spending limit. Kids just rattle off what they want without particular thought to price, quantity, space in the house, etc. What’s a loving parent supposed to do with that? Cave in and go over budget, right? Or get something completely impractical because it is the only thing left on THE LIST that is reasonably priced. This may not be the best formula for Christmas-buying success.

2. Set a spending limit.

Yes. I know. This is probably an obvious one. The hard part is sticking to it! Consider setting a spending limit (or gift limit) for each child as well as an overall limit for family and friends in general.

This allows us to exercise our creative muscles. It can actually be fun to brainstorm ideas for gifts that don’t cost a lot, but are meaningful. These thoughtful, lower-cost/handmade gifts can often become the most cherished ones by extended family members and friends.

3. Don’t start buying gifts too early.

If I didn’t tick you off by killing THE LIST, I’m probably going to do it with this one …

There have been years when I worked really hard to get out ahead of the Christmas firestorm by buying a lot of gifts ahead of time … like way ahead of time.

The problem with getting gifts early is that, by Black Friday, I’ve lost the memory of the spending I’ve already done. I’m cranked up and ready.to.shop! … even though I don’t have much left that I need to buy.

So what’s a girl to do in that situation? BUY MORE!

I have this sneaking suspicion that early-bird shopping causes us to spend more overall. Check out this article with the statistics.

Regardless of what Christmas gift-buying strategy we choose, I hope this holiday season, we all remember to cherish what’s important … to cling to our faith and our family, and to help elevate all that’s good in the world.

Let me leave you with a link to this hilarious video of kids getting some unexpected gifts at Christmastime and their unlikely reactions …

Thankful kids react to ridiculous gifts

Have a blessed holiday season!

Meet the ‘Micro Flip’ (before and after)

Hello friends. I’m happy to report I’ve completed another flip house! #happydance

This one was a little different in that we only did a very small amount of work to the property, to keep it uber-affordable for the buyers, which are dear friends of ours.

We actually had the buyers for the property before we ever bought it ourselves, so it was an interesting set of circumstances.

Now the new family can continue the rehab journey, putting their own stamp on this beautiful home as they see fit.

Meet Micro Flip!

This adorable Craftsman-style home has beautiful space and features, like hardwood flooring throughout (although some is still under the carpets), and some key updates, like vinyl replacement windows and siding. We purchased it through a foreclosure auction site. It was in pretty sad shape, but the bones were good.

Notice the American flag … it’s becoming my signature on all the properties I flip.

Our friends needed to finance the property, but some key things needed to be accomplished to make it through a strict loan process.

We took care of those things, along with a lot of help from the new homeowners. We also added our own stamp on the place by doing a quick cosmetic update in the master bath and kitchen. We had to be VERY cognizant of budget on this one and keep the rehab low key, as affordability was the main factor for the buyers.

Some of the items accomplished at this home included:

  • Replacing frozen/damaged plumbing
  • Changing the front door hardware
  • Power-washing the front of the home
  • Scraping and painting the front porch ceiling
  • Sealing the porch foundation
  • Removing the dilapidated fence in the backyard
  • Jack-hammering out a set of concrete “stairs to nowhere” in the backyard
  • Scraping, patching and painting the master bathroom ceiling and walls
  • Installing new bath and shower hardware
  • Installing a new toilet in the main bathroom
  • Stripping wallpaper, scraping walls and sanding and priming the master closet
  • Priming the walls and fixing the ceiling in one of the bedrooms
  • Scraping and priming the attic walls
  • Updating the kitchen with a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling, walls and cabinetry
  • Installing beadboard molding wallpaper and trim in the kitchen
  • Sanding and refinishing the kitchen floors
  • Repairing the main systems (HVAC, water, electrical, roof, foundation) as necessary, confirming they’re functional and passed inspection
  • Scraping and painting the basement walls
  • Cleaning.

I’m sure I’ve missed something but these were the main squeeze. Now for the before and after pics!

KITCHEN BEFORE

KITCHEN AFTER

Walls are a custom mix of Sherwin Williams Anew Gray and Oatlands Subtle Taupe. Cabinets are Sherwin Williams Keystone Gray. Floors are Kona stain and clear satin finish. We kept the existing countertops and hardware.

The art is mostly from Hobby Lobby (and my basement lol). I sewed a quick set of curtains from inexpensive Hobby Lobby fabric.

The rug is from Target.

MASTER BATHROOM BEFORE

I can’t show you the “before” of the other side of the master bath because it would give you nightmares. #nokidding

Check out the color of that soapy water!

MASTER BATHROOM AFTER

MASTER CLOSET BEFORE

MASTER CLOSET AFTER

And here’s a little peek at the downstairs living and dining rooms. We didn’t really do much but clean in there.

The cool, inspiring thing about this particular project was that the buyers rolled up their sleeves and helped out, so we could keep the selling price affordable for them. It was truly an amazing – albeit exhausting – experience for all of us.

I’m confident this amazing family is now buying a move-in ready home with fantastic equity that is safe, clean and super cute! I look forward to seeing how they put their own stamp on the place.

I was so blessed to be part of such a meaningful project and to help well-deserving, hard-working folks buy their first home together, where they can raise their beautiful children. This is what fuels me! Here’s a pic of us after we got done with everything … all smiles.

Meet the Lewises! (Me on the left, Lewises on the right)

I’m so happy with how things turned out. This certainly wasn’t an easy project (which one has been?) and there were a lot of hurdles to jump, but it was well worth the effort.

Here’s the crazy part … Although there are certainly other expenses associated with a flip (buying/selling costs, holding costs, insurance etc.) I was able to do the work here with under $1,700 in rehab funds. I’ll likely never be able to accomplish something like this again, and the homeowners chipped in as well. We put in some serious sweat equity for a truly successful project that will bless the Lewises for years to come.

What do you think of our “micro flip?”

2018 Word of the Year

Hello friends! I hope you are excited for an adventurous 2018. I certainly am.

I always like to start each new year by designating a Word of the Year. It helps clarify my goals and intentions and provides a good foundation for my actions in the coming year.

Over the holidays, I like to take time to ruminate about what I want the next year to look like and what I’d like to accomplish.

I ask myself such questions as:

  1. What am I most proud of from 2017?
  2. What disappointments did I experience?
  3. What personal obstacle do I need to overcome or make significant progress on to reach next year’s goals?

After much introspection, this usually allows a theme or word to surface that will serve as a guide – a compass of sorts – over the next year.

In 2018, my word is:

Prepare.

As a creative, focus-challenged adrenaline junkie, I’ve always struggled with creating time to do careful preparation for events, projects, etc. I have often overlooked or procrastinated on the planning phase, opting instead for the thrill of reaction-based, last-minute scrambling. I can’t really explain why I do this. I think I must take pride in coming up with just-in-time solutions that work … that whole “I work best under pressure” claim.

But as I gain wisdom with age, I’m finding that careful preparation will almost always offer the most successful, professional and prosperous results in the end. And it certainly will reduce stress and anxiety.

So this year my word is designed to help me focus on the necessity of careful, proper planning in every area of my life.

Can I plan or anticipate every single thing that will happen this year? Of course not.

Do I need to allow room in my schedule for flexibility, fun and adaptation? Certainly!

This is simply me recognizing that being prepared whenever possible will help create the margin I need to have more flexibility and fun in my life.

Some of you “born organized” people have long understood the need for good preparation and planning. Bear with me on this … this has been a long journey for me. But I’m making good progress and am excited for what this discipline will make possible for me in my personal and professional life.

So now I’ll turn it over to you.

What is your 2018 Word of the Year?