Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season | Setting the ‘Ol Budget

Piggy Bank

Last week, we discussed how to write your list and why you need to do it so early (If you missed it, read this post).  I’m sure all of you have at least a partial list written, if not, take a few minutes today and jot down everyone you intend to purchase for this season.  Also include other holiday expenses, such as cards, postage, food, gift wrap, etc.  This should not take very long and will help with setting your budget.

Once you’ve gotten your list ready, it much easier to allocate your budget, but first, you must set an overall budget.  Your overall budget can either be the amount of actual cash you’d like to spend or the total retail value of all gifts.  I recommend using actual cash, so that you do not get caught up in deal shopping and exceed your budget. 

You also need to take a few other things into consideration:

  • Will you set an amount per family or per person?  If you have a sibling that’s married with 6 children and another with only 2, will you spend the same amount on each person or each family? 
  • Will your budgeted amount be for retail value or what you actually spent on it?  If you have a $25 budget for Cousin Joe and you find a $25 video game for $5, will you consider the game his only gift or will you keep shopping until you’ve physically spent $25? (I still recommend setting your overall budget as the maximum you hope to spend)
  • Do any of your gift exchanges impose limits?  If so, make sure you follow them!

Here’s an example of a very simple Christmas budget:

Person Each Overall Budget
Spouse $50 $50
Child (x3) $100 $300
Parents (x4) $25 $100
Siblings (x6) $20 $120
Nieces/Nephews (x8) $20 $140
Teachers (x2) $20 $40
Decorations/Tree $50 $50
Gift Wrap $30 $30
Cards/Postage $40 $40
Donations $100 $100
Food $140 $140
Total   $1,000

Let’s say that you have a $1,000 overall budget (for the sake of perfectly rounded numbers).  You may want to spend $100 one each of your kids, $25 on your parents, $20 on your siblings and their children, etc. (see above chart). 

It’s very important to figure in incidentals such as foods for parties, hostess gifts, Christmas dinner, stocking stuffers, etc.  

I’ve created a very simple Christmas budget Excel spreadsheet that will help you stay on budget.  Try to update it every time you purchase a gift!  You can download it here:

In the next post in the Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season, we’ll talk about super easy ways to sock away some extra cash to help combat that budget! 

I’m curious, what is your Christmas budget?  Overall or per family?  Leave a comment below!

Frugal Disaster Preparation Tips


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Disasters.  It seems that every year, we are met with even  more widespread devastation.  Whether it’s hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or severe cold, ice, and snow, it always pays to be prepared.  Here in Missouri, we have to prepare for all of the above!  Not only can preparing be tedious, but also expensive.  Preparing for a disaster is also very difficult if you’ve not been through one before.

In 2007, we were without power for 17 days due to an ice storm. While we thought out everything and assumed we had prepared accordingly, many preparations could not be made without having experienced such a disaster.  Disaster preparation can be very costly, especially if you are stuck purchasing items at inflated prices in the aftermath.

I wanted to share some things that I personally learned in hopes that you can utilize them, regardless of what type of disaster you may face.

Automotive Inverter1.  Buy an inverter for your car, which will allow you to run smaller wattage electronics from your car battery.  These are also handy for road trips, camping, or charging your laptop on the go.  You can order one here, or if time is limited, these can be found in many automotive or department stores.

Car Battery Adapter

2.  These battery clips with AC adapter will allow you to power your electronics with a car, boat, lawnmower, or ATV battery. You can bring the battery inside and run fans, coffee pots, laptops, portable DVD, etc. if you use it with an inverter (mentioned in above)  Don’t forget to charge the battery occasionally.

Board Game Deals3.  Stock up on some card games and board games. Our current favorites are 5 Second Rule, Speak Out, and Bounce Off.


4.  Take a trip to the library to check out some books.  Try some audio books- they can entertain the entire family.

5.  Purchase extra charcoal/firewood if you have a charcoal grill. You can keep a running fire in a charcoal grill with firewood to sterilize water and warm things up.

6.  If you use a charcoal grill and commonly use starter fluid, look into a ‘fire starter’.  This is an aluminum cylinder that you fill with your charcoal.  Just wad up a piece of newspaper and stick it in the bottom and light it.  Your charcoal will be ready in minutes- perfect every time.  These are less than $10 at Walmart and Lowes.

7.  Clean and fill your bathtubs with water just in case you run low on drinking water

8.  Don’t forget a manual can opener.

9.  Make sure every last piece of clothing is washed and put away.  If you’re without power for long, you’ll be wishing for clean underwear!

10. Kerosene lamps or lanterns (in addition to flashlights).  I recommend a rechargable LED lantern, as you can recharge them in your vehicle and won’t have to worry about costly fuel and fumes.  These make great outdoor lighting for other events, so you will be able to reuse it.

11. Make sure you have a couple of small flashlights for each child. They break and get lost easily. Walmart has some for $1 that come with extra batteries.  Also, look for headlamps for your children.  These will free up their hands to read and will provide entertainment for YEARS to come.

12. Avoid generic batteries.  Although they initially seem cheaper, you will find that they last about 1/10th the time as the more expensive ones (that only cost about 3x as much).  You’ll get more bang for your buck if you purchase name brand.

13. Buy large packages of glow sticks in the dollar section at Michael’s or your dollar store.  There are normally 20 to a package. Around Halloween, these pop up everywhere.  They will provide great entertainment for the kids and also allow you to keep your eyes on them in the dark.

14. Refill your prescriptions.  Ask your pharmacist for coupons, or keep your eye out for other promotions.  Many pharmacies accept competitor’s coupons (including CVS and Kroger).  Also, check out the medicine’s website and call your doctor to see if there are coupons available.  Many offer coupons that work in addition to your co-pay.

15. Take inventory of your kitchen gadgets.  Did you know that you can use a Pampered Chef stoneware bowl and a 9″ round pan to make a dutch oven that will bake bread on your grill?

16. Grab some paper plates and utensils.  This will help keep clutter under control and is much less expensive than running the dishwasher.

What types of preparations do you make when presented with a disaster?  Do you have any cost saving tips?

More Yard Sale Preparations

I sure didn’t get as far as I’d hoped on the yard sale yesterday.  I’ve found that I’m extremely jealous of my friends that are so organized.  I’m just running through the house throwing things into tubs and pricing them as I lay them out.  Everyone else has everything sorted by size, pre-priced, and laid out.  I’ve got my work cut out for me today!

However, I have added one super cool feature to our yard sale that makes me feel like a somewhat organized participant.  We now have an online photo album with pictures of our stuff!  We are constantly updating it, so check back frequently today to see what all we’ve added.

I’ll be there all day on Friday and will be booking workshops, so if you have any questions or would like to see available dates, come on over!

Frugal Easter Baskets

Photo credit

Easter is right around the corner and to be honest, I forgot all about the baskets!  I’ve got lots of plastic eggs, carrots, and other stuff from Target’s clearance 2 years ago, but the kids have seen it all.

Last year, they each got a Leapfrog Didj in their basket.  I picked them up for $10 each with coupons. I’m stuck this year!  They need nothing, especially nothing that would fit in a basket (such as a new swimming pool).  I don’t like to fill them with candy, because the little one eats her weight in it.

For the Mommas has a great post from a reader on how to make a basket out of a beach towel.  I love it! Stuff it with flip flops, sunscreen, a book, swimsuit, water bottle, and maybe a beach mat.

What are you going to put in yours?  Any fantastic ideas for an Easter basket that is either a.) purposeful, b.) cheap, or hopefully c.) All of the above?

It’s time to plant those taters!!!

In keeping true to the Old Wives Tale, it’s only 2 days until tater plantin’ time.  Are you ready?  I’m definitely not.  It’s been raining for days.  These aren’t hard rains followed by some dry time, just incessant drizzling.

We decided this year not to plant in our regular garden but to expand our raised beds.  We only have one small one (4×8), and it provided us with more last year than our 15 x 30 foot garden.  I would like to have a few more of those and forget the jungle issues we had last year.  I can remain all gung-ho towards the garden until about July.. then it turns into a small plot of land eerily similar to the Amazon Rain Forest.

One of the issues that we are facing with our raised beds is the cost of the dirt.  I had no clue it cost so much!  Somehow, we have really good dirt out here in the land of red clay and have never had to haul dirt in.  I’m not sure that I want to pay $200 for dirt to finish these beds.

I am going to get our current raised bed cleared out this week so I can at least plant my taters and onions.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to find some cheap dirt and finish the others by the end of the month.

I’d like to do a few more posts featuring inexpensive gardening.  Do you guys have any tips, tricks, or hints?

I’m done shopping!!!

OK- I just got hit in the head by a package of chicken.  Luckily, this was a package of deli chicken and not a 4 pound tray of frozen, bone-in chicken breasts.  My freezer is bursting at the seams.  Our refrigerator freezer has a big problem with freezer burning everything, so we try to keep stuff in the deep freeze- which is full.  I’m not sure how or why, but every time I take one thing out of the deep freeze, it seems to refill the space on it’s own.  Strange, huh?

I’ve not been shopping hard-core.  Actually, pretty much the opposite.  I’ve been so busy lately, that I’ve stopped by the local store to pick up staples and went on about my business.  I’ve hit some decent markdown there, and combine them with a $10 off of $50 coupon and a few others, but nothing over a couple of bags worth of stuff.

We have to do something- and the only thing I can think of is to eat our way through it all.  I am on a milk, eggs, and bread budget.  I will not be doing ANY couponing, because I have nowhere to put my stuff!  I even had to commandeer mom’s freezer to store my frozen pizzas last week!

I am working on a menu now- this week will be fried fish, shrimp, breakfast at dinner, and nachos.  I’m going to take a full inventory and plan a couple more weeks this afternoon.  Anyone feel like joining in on another pantry challenge?

*Disclaimer: No bloggers were harmed by falling chicken.  However, the frozen chicken was subjected to verbal abuse after falling three more times during the photo shoot.