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!

Hot tub on a budget (plus how to install a paver patio)

Hello friends! I wanted to pop in today to let you know what’s going on around this pad. Since the flip house sold last month, we’ve been going crazy knocking out projects around our own house.

I painted the living room and kitchen and also painted about half of our front porch railing. We also installed a new kitchen floor and organized the garage. But my favorite project right now is the hot tub and paver patio we’re putting in!

A sweet friend from church mentioned she knew someone who wanted to get rid of a hot tub, and she asked if we were interested in it. We’ve always discussed how much we’d like to have a hot tub, but we didn’t want to spend a fortune on one. Well … long story short, we checked out the hot tub and bought it for $600!

Here’s a picture of it when we went to check it out before we bought it. Our little guy calls it the “hot pool.” 🙂

california-cooperage-hot-tub

It’s a 6-person California Cooperage®. After we agreed to buy it, we had to figure out where in the world we were going to put it! Matt really wanted to create a paver patio for it, which I was reluctant to try because it seemed like a very labor-intensive project. I was leaning toward a poured concrete pad. We agreed to go with Matt’s idea and began preparing the backyard.

How to install a paver patio

We leveled about a 13’x13′ section with a rototiller, shovels and rakes. I say “we,” but mostly Matt tackled this part (praise God).

preparing-hot-tub-base

After Matt had everything fairly level and framed out, we added about an inch of sand, and Matt and Eva “dragged” it to ensure a completely level spot that would be ready for the paver base panels.

leveling-hot-tub-base

We chose these paver base panels instead of a stone base, simply for ease of installation. Matt said the price of the panels was comparable to using the crushed paver stone.

hot-tub-base

After laying out the panels in the framed area, the base was ready for the pavers. We chose Newlineâ„¢ English Cobbleâ„¢ stones. We mixed and matched the Riverbed Beige and Fieldstone colors, and set them in a random pattern. We were able to get the entire patio laid in one evening with me, Matt and the kids all helping.

english-cobble-riverbed english-cobble-fieldstone

After laying the stones, we filled in the cracks with polymeric sand from Lowe’s. We brushed that out, then wet the patio with a hose to set the sand.

Here’s the hot tub on its new patio base.

hot-tub-before-stain

Whew. After that, it was on to the beautification process. As you can see, the hot tub was a bit faded, so I decided to stain the exterior cabinet. After much research, I decided on a ZAR® wood stain in Moorish Teak. For some very helpful information on how to stain fiberglass, plastic or other non-wood surfaces, click here.

hot-tub-stain

staining-hot-tub

You can see the dramatic transformation in progress. I stained the whole tub, and now I’m letting it “cure” for about a week. After that, I’ll go over it with a exterior-rated polyurethane with UV protectant built in.

While the stain dries, I’m landscaping around the new patio.

hot-tub-landscaping

I’ve chosen all evergreen bushes and plants because I want the hot tub area to feel like a woodland oasis. I’m using 2B river stone around the plants.

I can’t wait to show you the “after” pictures when everything is done! Total, we’ll probably have about $2,500 invested in the hot tub, patio and landscaping. This is a chunk of change for sure, but nowhere near what we would have paid for a new hot tub, or for someone else to install the patio.

What do you think of our progress so far? Stay tuned for the final reveal coming soon.

Flip house kitchen pics (plus a buyer!)

Hello friends! I realize it has been quite awhile since I’ve posted. I began this summer trying to juggle several balls in the air, then quickly became buried in what I’d compare to a McDonald’s Playland ball pit. I’m sure you can relate.

I believe ridiculously busy times in our lives like these are actually blessings in disguise, because they force us to prioritize what is really important. Am I right?

Anyway, dare I say that life is calming down a bit for me right now, and I can return to blogging more regularly again. Yay!

Today I am pumped to share the final reveal of the flip house kitchen with you. Later this week, I’ll be posting a complete recap of the flip house with all the befores and afters, so you can really grasp the magnitude of the transformation.

The best part of this whole endeavor was that, within five days of putting the house on the market, we had a buyer! We’re set to close this week. I won’t make much money on this project (to stick with a McDonald’s analogy, I could have made more flipping burgers). But the experience was priceless and will hopefully serve me well as I go on to tackle the next great project.

Now back to that kitchen … below is what we started with:

Kitchen before

Kitchen-before-3-LR Kitchen-before-7 Kitchen-before-8Kitchen-before-6

Kitchen-before-5

And here’s the part where it gets worse before it gets better:

Kitchen during

Kitchen-peninsula Kitchen-middle-low-res

I am so proud of my “brilliant” idea to drop the upper cabinet and turn it into a peninsula. My husband and dad got to execute that “brilliance,” which I’m sure they were thrilled about. 😉 It was heavy! After the drop, we had to carefully patch the ceiling tiles where the upper cabinets were removed and add a toe kick to the “new” peninsula, raising it off the floor to proper height. What was supposed to be an easy project was maybe not so easy. But in the end it was perfection.

Check out the kitchen now!

Kitchen after

Kitchen-1 Kitchen-2 Kitchen-peninsula

Kitchen-appliances
Kitchen-sink

I’ll try to give you the CliffsNotes version of what went on here. I kept the original cabinets, doors and drawers, because they were in great shape. I refinished them using the Rust-Oleum® Cabinet Transformations® light kit in the Pure White (unglazed) color. I also kept the original sink, but I added a new faucet.

I started by scrubbing the doors and drawers with the deglosser that comes in the transformations kit. Then I added some lattice molding to the edge of the doors (not the drawers) to give the doors more of an upscale, modern feel. The lattice was attached with Liquid Nails® adhesive, then clamped until the glue dried. I used caulk around the edges of the lattice to fill any holes and cracks. After that dried, it was time to add paint.

Cabinet-redo

I applied several coats of white paint in the kit using my HomeRight® Finish Max sprayer. I switched to the Finish Max Pro halfway through the job because it was such a large project and the pro seemed to handle the volume a little better.

After several coats of white paint, I sprayed on the protective topcoat that came in the kit. Done! Although this project turned out great, I will admit it was way more work than I anticipated, particularly the lattice part. #proceedwithcaution

I also replaced the cabinet hardware with shiny new chrome pieces I got at Lowe’s and online.

My dad installed new Formica brand laminate from Lowe’s to the countertops. I chose the Ouro Romano color.

I demoed the old backsplash and replaced it with affordable (yet gorgeous!) subway tile, grouted with a light gray grout.

Kitchen-counter-and-backsplash

I purchased new stainless steel appliances (the white fridge came with the house) and added new, modern track lighting and a pendant light above the sink.

Kitchen-floor

I installed groutable, luxury vinyl tile from Lowe’s in the Chateau color. I love this floor!

Of course, the whole room got fresh paint, including the ceiling. I added one accent wall in a chalkboard finish, which was a bit of a risk. But that chalkboard wall has been a huge hit with visitors and one of the first things they say they like about the house. So I guess it was a good choice. 🙂

Kitchen-chalkboard-wall

Overall, I spent about $1,300 updating this kitchen (including appliances). What do you think of the transformation? I’d love to hear your feedback!

Kitchen-1