Christmas on a Budget

Since I was jobless most of the year, I have been coming up with creative ways to still have Christmas. I mean, Husband and I aren’t getting any presents but it’s important to both of us that Daughter and nieces and nephews still get something from us and have a nice Christmas. Luckily for us, I am a shopping expert and have come up with some ways to save some cash this holiday season.

Who has change just hanging around? Since the penny has been taken out of circulation, I think most of us aren’t sure what to do when we find them and we all have a stash. I took all our change to St. Vital Centre. They have a change counter there, near Customer Service, that counts your loose change and exchanges it for a gift certificate for almost anywhere in the mall. I tried this a couple of weeks ago and got almost $50! It was super easy and the change counter doesn’t charge you for counting your money, the way most other change counters that I’ve seen do (anywhere from 5-10%).

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Here is my stash of coins in the counter. I actually filled it too much and had to take some out and then put them through.

Most every store has a free points card and I’ve signed up for pretty much all of them. When you find yourself strapped for cash at holiday time, check the balances on all of those cards. They can rack up balances quickly, especially if you had them for awhile. Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Points, Hudson’s Bay Rewards, Airmiles, Superstore PC Plus, Chapters iRewards, The Lego Store VIP Card, Canadian Tire Money Card… these are just a few of the points cards that are helpful to get either dollars off of products or free products to help make Christmas a little cheaper. Note: purchasing products on Airmiles requires 4-6 weeks of possible shipping time so this option may not work for Christmas gifts.

Another great tip is to look for add-ons when you are buying things. For example, when you buy a $40 Cineplex giftcard, you get a Holiday Bundle that also includes a Free Popcorn, BOGO Free Admission, Free Premium Ticket Upgrade, Extra 100 Scene Points, and $6.99 Wednesday Admission. Keep them for yourself or include some of them in a card for someone else. Sephora is another place that has some great free gifts you can add onto your purchase when you buy online – check the Beauty Deals section or sign up for their emails.

One of my favourite things is the one-day sales around this time of year. Joe Fresh was doing some in the week leading up to Black Friday and Hudson’s Bay is doing their holiday ones now. The idea is that one or two specific items are on sale for a bargain-basement price and/or a category of specific items are on deep discount (40% or higher).  I love getting Hudson’s Bay’s emails every morning telling me what’s on sale today. In fact, I got a really nice pair of gloves there the other day, on sale for 50% off as outerwear was the deal-of-the-day.

If you shop online, stop reading this and go sign up for Ebates IMMEDIATELY! (If you would like to support my shopping addiction, please use my affiliate code to sign up here.) Ebates is similar to using AirmilesShops.com in that you go to the website first and then search for the storefront that you would like to shop at. Click on it and continue shopping as you normally would. Shops can return anywhere from 1% to 10% of your purchase amount (minus shipping and taxes) in an account. Three or four times per year, Ebates sends you a cheque in the mail for the balance of your account. I’m assuming they are data-mining your shopping trips and purchases and selling the information but Amazon does that and doesn’t give you anything. I collected $32 from Ebates this year, just from buying things I would normally buy.

Well, those are my tips for helping with the cash crunch during the holiday season. Do you have any other tips? I’d love to hear them. Happy Shopping!

*Note: While there is one affiliate link, it is clearly marked for your information.

My Thoughts on Christmas Shopping

My SIL posted an article on Facebook entitled, “Ten Things Our Kids Don’t Need for Christmas This Year.” Of course I read it, I’m always open for new suggestions on how to buy experiences and not stuff. This was a little different. It talked about the Christian perspective of Christmas but most importantly, it talked about not being perfect. Not buying everything on your kids’ list. Not staying awake at night to Pinterest the heck out of your house so it looks perfect and everything is homemade. And that really resonated with me.

I write a shopping blog. Some would think that this would make me a blatant consumerist and this blog would be propagating the idea that “More is Better.” But that’s not why I write the blog or shop for others. I do this to buy less. To buy more meaningful. To buy things that will be loved and cherished, played with, and worn. Not things that are forgotten in a closet or a basement. Chances are, if you are reading my blog, you have too much stuff already and so does just about everyone you know.

So heading into this holiday season, I just wanted to say a few things: Don’t Buy Everything. Whether that means you make a gift, get loved ones one nice thing instead of 100 stocking stuffers, or donate some money or time to someone less fortunate. Don’t get sucked into the phenomenon that “More is Better” or “Give Your Kids Everything They Want So They Don’t Hate You.” Buy what you can afford. Feel good about what you give. A gift means that you took time and money to think about someone in your life. It should not be an overwhelmingly guilt-ridden obligation. Take whatever is your “Reason for the Season” and hold onto it. I plan on doing exactly that. And I hope that my attitude about doing things together will make each Christmas the best one that my daughter remembers.

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Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays or whatever greeting you prefer this time of year. I wish the best for you and wonderful times with family and friends. And, as always, Happy Shopping!

Advent Calendars 2016 – Toy Edition

Happy Thanksgiving to any American readers. To my fellow Canadians, Happy Thursday before Black Friday. I hope folks on both sides of the border score some really great deals!

With December 1st approaching, it’s time to talk about Advent Calendars. I really love the idea of Advent Calendars – the opening something everyday in the countdown to Christmas. Both Daughter and I are allergic to chocolate (serious hives and eczema) so here’s a round up of some non-chocolate, toy-based Advent Calendars that I’ve seen. Obviously this isn’t a comprehensive list so be sure to add any that I’ve missed in the comments.

I’ve been seeing Advent Calendars since September, which always seems so ridiculously early to me. In the past, the really popular ones like Lego and PlayMobil sold out really quickly but now they are clearly making more as I saw them both in multiple places while I was shopping yesterday.

Lego has three varieties of Advent Calendars. Friends, Star Wars and Lego City. I could’ve sworn there was a fourth so if you see another, let me know. I’ve linked the ToysRUs website but I’ve seen them at Chapters, The Lego Store and Kite and Kaboodle as well (same price).

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All three images courtesy of ToysRUs.ca

PlayMobil is the other really popular one that usually sells out pretty quickly.  This year they have five sets: NHL Advent Calendar ‘Rivalry on the Pond’1.2.3. Advent Calendar Christmas (for toddlers), Fire Resuce OperationChristmas on the Farm, and Dress Up Party. Again, here I’ve linked ToysRUs but I’ve seen them at Chapters, Toad Hall Toys, Kite and Kaboodle, and Hudson’s Bay.

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All images courtesy of ToysRUs.ca

MegaBloks does two calendars: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Monster High. Strangely, ToysRUs doesn’t have pics of the box for the TMNT one, only what’s inside. *shrug*

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mega Bloks Advent Calendar

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Images courtesy of ToysRUs.ca

Barbie does an Advent Calendar that includes shoes, purses, necklaces and even one outfit. I would’ve LOVED this as a kid. Daughter is still a couple of years from Barbies yet but I’m super excited when she gets there.

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Image courtesy of ToysRUs.ca

Preschoolers will get a kick out of any of these Advent Calendars: Go! Go! Smart Wheels Advent Calendar (both English and French available), Crayola Christmas Countdown Activity Advent Calendar, and Play-Doh Advent Calendar.

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Images courtesy of ToysRUs.ca

As of publishing time, all of these were still available but act quickly, they tend to sell out fast. Happy Shopping!

My Christmas Wishlist 2015

Hey folks! Sorry I haven’t been posting lately, both Daughter and I got that terrible flu and it’s been busy at work plus all the Christmas shopping I have been doing. Actually, it’s been a mixture of birthday and Christmas shopping as I realized I have five family birthdays in December – craziness!

Anyways, in honour of Black Friday, I thought I would post my Christmas wish list. My real wish list, the one I will also be sending to my husband and my mother. If only I could have everything off of it…..

Apple Watch, starts at $449 CAD

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Now this is definitely the item I will not be getting for Christmas. Especially since I “need” a new iPhone more than an Apple Watch. But aren’t they pretty to look at?

MAC brush 196, $42

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I saw this foundation brush at a MAC counter and have been lusting after it ever since. But my family constantly complains that I buy everything and don’t leave them anything to buy me, so it’s on my list. [See mom, I listen… sometimes…..]

Paderno spiralizer ($40 for three blade model shown)

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I bought the Inspiralized cookbook earlier this year and realized it’s made so much better by buying a spiralizer. This isn’t the exact one they use in the book but I think it’s close and Paderno is a great brand. Pretty excited for all the low carb meals I’ll be able to make with this baby! The link above is to Amazon.ca but I think it’s also available at Home Outfitters.

Foldio (large, $90; small ~$50)

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I just found this earlier this week but I WANT WANT WANT it! It’s a fold-up light box that quickly sets up for an instant studio in your home. As someone who has no dedicated blogging space and is in desperate need of some bright lights to take pictures for her blog, this is perfect.

Mukluks, $180

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I have asked for these mukluks (from Manitobah Mukluks) for about four years in a row. I’m not sure why I don’t just buy them myself. They are gorgeous and warm and are exactly what you need for surviving winters in Manitoba.

Matt and Nat Tia in Petal, $168

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I know I posted this briefcase earlier this year in the Grape colour but once I saw this pale pink, I knew I needed this colour instead.

What’s on your wish list? I’d love to hear, please leave me a comment. Happy Shopping!

How to Organize Your Christmas List

A couple of weeks ago the Sears Christmas Wish catalogue arrived in the mail and I felt a flood of memories coming back. I loved writing my Christmas wish list. I would spend hours looking through the catalogue and writing down the things I wanted.

Now that I’m an adult, my Christmas wish list is a little faster to write but it’s my gift list that I spend the most time working on before the holidays. I buy presents for nine nieces and nephews and six of those have birthdays between August 30 and Dec 25th. Add in my husband, Daughter, parents, siblings, in-laws and Great Grandma and my gift-giving list is exceptionally long. Of course, I also shop for clients and help my MIL and Great Grandma buy presents for the assortment of grand- and great-grandchildren. That’s a lot of presents!

Over the years I have created what I think is the close-to-perfect list. It has everyone’s name on it, the budgeted amount I spend on them, ideas for that year, the actual gift once I’ve bought it, the actual amount I’ve paid and a catalogue of everything I’ve bought for Christmas in the last four years so I don’t buy repeat gifts.

Here’s the jpeg version of my Excel worksheet:

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Once someone’s been crossed off the list and I’ve finished shopping for them, I highlight their gift. I’ve always toyed with the idea of putting some kind of symbol when it’s wrapped but I never get around to it.

I like to keep a total of what we spent each year so I know if we are spending more than the budget.  In 2011 we got married and there wasn’t much money leftover for gifts so everyone got framed photos of the wedding. The next year we added Daughter to our family so we spent quite a bit more. 🙂

If I feel this list isn’t going very well or I’m forgetting to work on it, I write up a list of people’s names that I put in a conspicuous place in my house. It also helps to remind my husband how many more gifts there are to buy and that he can help with the list too. It definitely helps with the feeling of accomplishment when you get to cross names off of that list!

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My goal is always to be done shopping or at least have everything ordered by Dec 1. The theory is so that I can deal with any last minute client crises and have plenty of time to wrap too. Plus it’s always nice to be shopping during December and not feel that panicked feeling that’s clear on everyone else’s faces. Inevitably tho, I’m still picking up one last gift on Dec 24.

Does that help you feel more ready to conquer the Christmas season? What tips do you use to help you feel more organized during this busy time? Happy Shopping!

Totally Random Friday – Nov 6

Hey folks! Sorry for the lack of Fashion Friday again this week but it’s been raining for almost two weeks straight which is unheard of here in the Prairies. Everywhere you go someone is commenting on how we’re having Vancouver weather, all rainy and gray. I’m still working out how I’m going to do Fashion Fridays in the winter as -30 isn’t exactly conducive to wearing cute outfits but I’ll figure something out.

So, a couple of fun things this week:

It seems to be some kind of toy sale conspiracy this weekend here in Winnipeg. Mastermind Toys is opening their first Winnipeg location on Kenaston and mailed out a 25% off coupon for any purchases made this weekend. The Disney Store is also having a 25% off sale this weekend. Print this coupon or show it to the cashier on your mobile device. Chapters is having 25% off Friends and Family event (instore only and it looks like you must print the coupon). Toys R Us has launched their Big Holiday Toy Book with many top Christmas toys discounted. Even Sears has offered a large selection of toys from 15 – 40% off. Retailers know that parents are starting to look at buying Christmas presents and are eager to get a piece of that action.

My niece came to Bring Your Kid to Work Day this week. Of course i wanted her to get the full experience of what it’s like to work, so we went to Starbucks at lunch and got our red cups.

 

Both Teavana and David’s Tea unveiled their holiday collections. I picked up Snow Day and Mulled Wine in cute 50g tins from David’s Tea.

 

And lots of Joy tea from Teavana in this beautiful limited edition holiday tin.

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Inside Out was released this week. If you haven’t seen this latest Pixar movie, you should definitely put it on your list. While it was a little above my toddler’s head, she enjoyed it and there were so many jokes aimed at adults, I can guarantee you’ll chuckle at least a few times. I bought one copy for our house and one for another niece having a birthday soon.

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What did you get up to this week? I’d love to hear about it. Happy Shopping!

2015 Advent Calendars

Hey folks! How was your Halloween? Ours was so great. Since Daughter is now 3, she actually understands what trick-or-treating is all about. We went out with another mom and daughter. The other toddler was 2 and kept trying to eat the candy while we were walking around. Needless to say, they were both adorable.

November seems to signal the beginning of the Christmas season. Decorations have been lurking in the corners of stores for a week or two already, hidden slightly behind the Halloween decorations. Now they are front and centre or were being unpacked by staff. I went shopping yesterday and was surprised/impressed by the quick change over that stores were making into the biggest holiday season of the year.

I have been debating getting Daughter an advent calendar over the last couple of years. It seems fun to have something she would be able to open each day to count down to Christmas. However, being that she is still small, I haven’t been crazy about feeding her a chocolate every day. Yesterday I found several non-chocolate advent calendars and thought I would share them with you.

  1. First of all is the coveted Lego advent calendars. I saw both the Lego City and Lego Friends calendars and Google assures me there is also a Lego Star Wars one out there too although I haven’t seen it with my own eyes. (ToysRUs.ca, $39.99 for Friends and City, $49.99 for Star Wars)LegoFriendsAC LegoCityAD
  2.  Playmobil advent calendars seem to be as equally popular and hard to find as the Lego ones once the season gets underway. Toys R Us has five sets: Christmas Room; Santa’s Workshop; Fire Rescue Operation: Unicorn Fairyland; and Playmobil 1.2.3 Advent Calendar. (ToysRUs.ca, $29.99)PlaymobilGirlACPlaymobilAD
  3. I had no idea that Play-Doh did advent calendars until I found this one yesterday. It comes with five small cans of Play-Doh and several stampers and cutters and lots of other small items needed to make Christmas cookie-like shapes and patterns. Super cute! (ToysRUs.ca, $21.99)PlayDohAC
  4. Not to be out-done, Mega Bloks makes an advent calendar as well. This year, the theme is Minions/Despicable Me. It doesn’t seem to be based on one particular movie or theme but just randomly mixing Minions and Christmas. Which I’m sure will be fine for the Minion-maniac in your house. (ToysRUs.ca, $39.99)DespicableMeAD
  5. The last toy one, the Little People advent calendar, was the one I was most interested in for Daughter. It seems to be the only one specifically geared towards toddlers. And while it is super cute, it doesn’t seem to coordinate with any of the other sets that you can buy regularly, which is a bummer in my opinion. (ToysRUs.ca, $49.99)LittlePeopleAC
  6. If you aren’t interested in giving your kids a bunch of stuff to countdown to the holidays, you might like this one by Melissa and Doug. The sturdy wood Christmas cutout allows you place the ornament of your choice on each day until you have a fully decorated tree on Christmas. (Chapters, $24.99)MelissaandDougAC
  7. And no Advent Calendar list would be complete without mentioning the David’s Tea advent calendar. This 24 piece tea gift has cute, gold tins hidden behind each door. Each tin holds enough tea for 2 cups and includes both seasonal and everyday teas such as Snow Day, Hot Chocolate, Cardamom French Toast, Mulled Wine, Sweet Almond Green, Santa’s Secret, Sleigh Ride, and Gingerbread Cookie. This one does sell out quickly so if you are thinking about buying it, I would get your hands on one soon. (DavidsTea.ca, $40)DavidsTeaAC

Those are the ones I felt were worth mentioning here. I know there are also some makeup ones but there either wasn’t enough information on them at this point or you couldn’t buy them in Canada yet. (Head over to see Julie’s sneak peeks of some at Swatch and Review). Starbucks has one (and it is gorgeous) but it’s filled with just chocolate, so I didn’t include it.

Any other that I missed? Leave me a comment. Happy Shopping!

Mani Monday: Fall 2015 Jamberry Styles

My lovely friend and Jamberry consultant, Tara Jordan, always let’s me know when the new season’s Jamberry catalogue arrives so I can check out the new fall styles. I thought I’d share some of my favourites. Note: all links are to Tara’s consultant page and each style is $17.50.

Halloween

DoubleTrouble EerieNights DemBones

Christmas

Runrunrun ChristmasElves SeasonBright ChristmasSocks

New Year’s Eve

SilverChevron Gatsy Enchanted

Winter

PolarPals SnowDay

Fall and florals

Patchwork Palette FlowerGirl ButterflyBliss Trellis Wakiki RibbonDance HintofMarsala

And this is only a sampling of the many fabulous styles that Jamberry sells.

I’m working on a video (my first!) of the best way to put on Jamberrys so they last a week or more. I’m cheap thrifty and I think I’ve figured out all the tricks to get the most wear out of your Jamberry manicure.

Tried Jamberry? What are your thoughts? Happy Shopping!

Totally Random Friday – Jan 9th

Hi! Did you miss me? I missed you. Had a great Christmas but now on the other side, it really hits me how truly crazy the season is. Shopping, wrapping, preparing food, remembering other people you should have added to your list, shopping again, wrapping more, eating food, shopping again, even more wrapping and attending parties. So much fun but I’m glad it’s only once per year!

January is one of my favourite months since it’s my birthday month! I am definitely one of those people who celebrate their birthdays for about a week or so. This year, I am super excited because my husband and I are headed (with my SIL and her husband) to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!! I am so pumped! It’s supposedly to celebrate my husband’s birthday (he’s turning 35 and never been on a hot vacation) but we leave the day after my birthday so…. it’s really my our birthday present. Well, on to the randomness!

1. David’s Tea has launched a new line for the new year and I’m really excited to try a bunch of the flavours.

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I’m all about black teas (except Earl Grey – bleh!) and fruity teas so this collection definitely speaks to me.

2. Courtney from La Belle Sirene shared on her Instagram that Target is having a spring collab with Lilly Pulitzer.

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Lilly Pulitzer founded her namesake line in sunny Palm Beach, Fla., in 1959, introducing a new genre of fashion – American resort wear – that to this day celebrates bold individuality and encourages women everywhere to embrace colour and fearlessness in every area of their lives.

Lilly Pulitzer for Target features 15 lively and modern prints inspired by archival artwork across 250 items, including apparel, shoes and accessories for women and girls, home goods and cosmetics. The collection ranges in price from $2-$150, and will be available exclusively at all Target stores in the U.S. and Canada beginning April 19.

Looking forward to the sneak peeks of what I’m sure will be a very interesting collection!

3. Banana Republic has come out with a new line of denim for 2015:

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The four different fits come in a variety of washes and colours with the Skinny Ankle, Skinny and Legging styles in mid-rise and the Boyfriend style in low-rise. They range in price from $110 – 124. I’ll probably try these on next time I’m in BR but they don’t seem earth shattering enough for me to run-down-there-this-instance. I’ll let you know what I think.

4. And finally, I want to leave you with some pics from my Instagram (in case you don’t follow me) 

 

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How was your Christmas? Happy Shopping!

Christmas price list

Hey folks! Sorry it’s been a while since I posted. I was very caught up in planning my daughter’s first birthday party and getting back into the groove of full-time employment since my maternity leave ended.

I just wanted to let you know that I’ve put together a price list for services including the Christmas package! I know many of you hate Christmas shopping. For a nominal fee, I can make the holiday season a whole lot less stressful. The package comes with gift wrapping options or gift wrapping only that’s the part that stresses you out. Either way, gimme a call/text/email and together we can figure out how to make the season a whole lot more jolly for you! Happy Shopping!

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