Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to Stay Within Budget at Christmas: 3 Tips to Avoid Holiday Debt

Ways to Save Money at Christmas - Photo by earl53
Although many people think of green trees and red holly berries during the holiday season, seasonal green dollar bills may seem to sprout wings, leaving one seeing red in the bank account. In a less than favorable economy, many people who worked full-time may find their job in jeopardy, and those who work part-time may suddenly find themselves scrambling to find additional jobs if hours are cut. With student loan interest on the rise, soaring costs of healthcare and childcare, and higher prices for other essentials, many people face hard decisions regarding extra spending during the holidays. According to the Department of Commerce, in 2011 the average household debt increased to $70,000.

Set a Christmas Budget

Want to stay out of debt for Christmas? First, determine how much money you can afford to spend. Most people can predict approximately how much money they will make in a given month. Next, determine predictable expenses for one's household each month. Decide what you can afford to spend that is over and above expected costs. Avoid planning to spend all money that does not go to essentials – unexpected expenses like car repairs or replacing a broken refrigerator in December can rapidly lead to added debt if you do not have cash reserve.

Planning ahead financially can lead to much more financial satisfaction. Some people find it helpful to set aside money each month throughout the year in order to stay within budget. Those who struggle with purchasing past the limit may find it helpful to only pay for gifts with cash. When the greenbacks run out, the Christmas shopping is over. However, one might consider additional gifts that do not cost money, such as a handmade gift, providing a service such as cleaning the house, offering to watch someone's kids for an evening, or a heartfelt letter.

Popular gifts for Christmas may have skyrocketing prices in the weeks before December 25. Looking for deals, sales, and coupons can be advantageous. One may find lower prices and a better selection at other times of the year. Avoid the temptation to buy all the latest trends – many of those begin to get "old" rather quickly. A thoughtful gift during hard financial times might translate to giving gifts of necessity rather than leisure.

If purchasing tickets for an event, ask if deals are available. I have saved as much as 50% for event tickets that do not have advertised specials. One might also ask if the salesperson can offer an unadvertised discount or price match for an item in a store. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Many low cost holiday decorations and items, from Christmas trees, ornaments, and wreaths to clothing and cards, may be found at thrift and consignment shops before and after Christmas. One can often find great deals on traditional holiday foods right after Thanksgiving. If you have freezer space, you might consider purchasing the Christmas turkey when prices drop after Thanksgiving.

Making a Christmas Gift List and Checking it Twice - Photo by ronnieb
Check the Christmas List

Although Christmas is a time that many people wish to spend together with family, many find it nearly impossible to purchase gifts for everyone in the family. Extended families of 50 or more people can turn into a huge burden for those who live on a tight budget, instead turning the days before Christmas into multiple hours trying to find meaningful gifts for everyone coming, leaving the person drained of the Christmas spirit and the pocketbook drained as well. Those who struggle financially may resort to avoiding family get-togethers because they cannot afford the multiple gifts expected by others and they may lack the funds for transportation.

Many families choose to limit gift giving. Some only purchase gifts for the children or draw names among those who wish to participate in gift giving. Families might exchange very inexpensive or silly gifts to offer a laugh.

Others do away with traditional gift giving altogether. Some families encourage one another to do volunteer work and share their experiences instead. Some family members may offer to cover the cost of transportation, making the gift the ability to be together for the holidays.

Carefully consider each person on the gift list and determine one's motives for doing so. Many people purchase gifts for people they do not know or do not particularly care to be around for various reasons. Many of those gifts that might be adding to one's debt end up being re-gifted or immediately donated to places like Goodwill.

Tips for Finding Low Cost Christmas Activities © Katrena
Consider Free and Low Cost Entertainment, Food, and Activities

As the holidays approach, many people eat at restaurants; however, one can save quite a bit of money by making the meals at home, and the food selections may be healthier. Meal preparation can involve the whole family. Those who live close to others might consider progressive meals in which various homes prepare one part of the meal while everyone travels from home to home to enjoy each part together with friends and/or family for an interesting twist and change of pace.

Many local towns and counties offer a wealth of free and low cost Christmas and holiday activities. Enjoying a parade together with the family or attending church services to celebrate the season offer opportunities to be with one another and enjoy quality and quantity time.

A staycation can be quite rewarding and less stressful for everyone. Staying at home and watching a Christmas movie or playing board games together can be memories more cherished than that expensive present under the tree. Playing scavenger hunts, reading library books, having a home holiday "spa," and playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark may keep the kids unplugged from electronic devices and engaged in enjoying family time together. Staying home does not necessarily mean being alone.

Most people would not have to look far to find others who are staying at home or may be alone. Homeless college students are often forced out of the dorms during winter break. Many people who live in assisted living facilities or long-term care facilities would love to share holidays with a friend. Inviting someone to enjoy the holidays with one's own family can prove to be a blessing for everyone.

How to Avoid Going Broke for the Holiday - Photo by Ladyheart
Additional Articles:
Find more of Katrena's articles, scavenger hunts, printables, and tips at the Wildflower Bouquets site map.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Katrena's Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt with Rhyming Riddles

Katrena's Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt
This Thanksgiving season, you can be thankful you don't have to create a fun activity to keep everyone from getting bored! Here is a scavenger hunt I designed with ten rhyming riddles incorporating a little history and some popular Thanksgiving traditions in the United States. I've included the answers on a separate page and also a word bank in case someone needs a little help!

While Players are in Another Room
  1. Click on the images below to enlarge.
  2. Print using file-print.
  3. Save the first clue and hide the other nine clues in the location for the answer for the previous clue and place the Thanksgiving printable inside a calendar or under the keyboard of a computer.
To Play
  1. Have the player(s) read the first clue.
  2. When the player correctly guesses the missing word, give directions for where to find the next clue and continue until all clues are found using the hints below.
  3. Have players to write or draw items for which they are thankful on the printable at the end.
  4. Enjoy!
Readers may also wish to read:
Find more of Katrena's scavenger hunts, printables, and articles at the Wildflower Bouquets site map.

Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt Clues

Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt Rhyming Clues by Katrena

Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt Answers

Answers to Katrena's Thanksgiving Rhyming Riddles Scavenger Hunt
Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt Word Bank
Word Bank for Katrena's Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt

Printable Prize for Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt

Thanksgiving Printable for End of Scavenger Hunt by Katrena

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to Keep Christmas Meaningful and Special for Your Family

How to Enjoy Christmas with the Family © Katrena
The Christmas season often ushers a flurry of activities and gifts along with a plethora of emotions, from sweet nostalgia to absolute nausea at the thought of facing the holiday for another year. Often lost in the shuffle cries that still, small voice that simply yet profoundly tells us to look to God and find meaningful ways to love one other. Below are a few Christmas ideas that perhaps will turn the holiday into a season of renewed hope and a time of peace and joy.
Inexpensive but Special Christmas Gift Ideas © Katrena
Consider Gifts Carefully

Many people dread Christmas because of the incredible financial hardships resulting from purchasing gift after gift. Countless people have told me that their most memorable and special Christmas memories were wrapped in times when money was tight but someone took the time to do something special for them. Gift giving can easily spiral out of control and leave people with unwanted debt and a home full of unnecessary gadgets. Many people find great rewards in making homemade gifts and helping others in tangible but simple ways.

Homemade gifts show others that you took the time to make something special for him or her. You might include a note explaining how you learned that particular type of craft and who taught you how to do it. If materials used have some sort of sentimental value, that would also be great information to include in the note.

Sharing one's time and talents with others can infuse the season with more meaning. You might try serving others alone or as a group, anonymously or coordinated with the recipient. It does not have to be elaborate. Here are a few examples:
  • Decorate someone's home and take down the decorations after the holiday.
  • Clean someone's home, yard, or vehicle.
  • Visit with someone who is lonely.
  • Write a personal letter to someone and send via snail mail.
  • Offer to transport someone to an appointment or evening out.
  • Cook a meal for someone (make sure to check about special dietary needs first).
  • Watch someone's children for an afternoon or evening before Christmas.
  • Provide respite care for someone who has a sick family member.
  • Help someone organize pictures or paperwork.
  • Ask someone what he/she would like for you to do for him/her (the response might surprise you yet give you a clear direction for meeting that person's needs)
December often seems to be full of volunteer opportunities; however, many needs for help continue throughout the year. Offering a gift of volunteer service, time, or kind words on a regular basis throughout the year might make the gift infinitely more meaningful to the recipients.

How to Enjoy the Christmas Season © Katrena
Choose Christmas Events Carefully

It is easy to get trapped into the "gotta do everything" mindset as Christmas approaches. If you have traditions, consider each one carefully. Some people do the same thing year after year because they assume that everyone expects them to do it. In reality, some folks simply go through the motions of those traditions because they are thinking the same thing of you. Discuss what works and identify what needs tweaking. Plan to assess each year to give yourself permission to try new and different things. Some ideas will work. If changes do not work well, you will have added knowledge and new opportunities for the next year.

Guard your down time. Rest and relaxation can be renewing and rejuvenating, but those empty spaces in the calendar can easily be ambushed by others. Consider turning off the cell phone, electronic devices, television, and computer. If the thought of doing so makes you cringe, that might be all the more reason to unplug for a while.

Consider celebrating on different days. Many family members end up missing being with the ones they love for the holidays because in-laws, outlaws, and others insist on celebrating on the same date. As more and more people find that they have to work on holidays or have blended homes, considering another day to celebrate is an option well worth considering. Some extended families celebrate Christmas before or after December 25 and have a blast doing so.

How to Make Christmas Special After the Loss of Someone You Love © Katrena
Find Ways to Honor Those Who are Gone

Many people find holidays to be painful because they cannot be with someone whom they hold dear. Finding ways to honor someone's memory may help you to focus your thoughts toward something that would have pleased that person whom you love. You might consider the person's interests or someone that the person or group of people held near to his or her heart.

Talking about that person can be a healing experience. Setting aside a special time during a family celebration to remember and honor that person might help younger generations to enjoy memories through other people's eyes.

Since Christmas is a Christian holiday, this season is a great time to learn about Jesus and His life and His gift of eternal life through reading scripture, attending services, listening to music, and more.

Ways to Celebrate Christmas to Create Special Memories © Katrena
Keeping Christmas Special and Full of Meaning

Finding meaningful ways to celebrate the season might be challenging and encourage one to move out of the comfort zone of stale and superficial celebrations, but the effort may be worth more than one could ever imagine!

Feel free to share your own special and unique Christmas traditions in the comment section below.

Readers may also wish to read:
Find additional articles by Katrena at the Wildflower Bouquets site map.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

More Free Printable Words of Thanks

Thank you notes to print for free © Katrena
These free printable words of thanks are bold, colorful, and simple. We often forget to thank others, so here's a chance to put a smile on someone else's face who might not be expecting a thank you. Simply print the images and keep them with you until you have an occasion to share with someone else.

  1. Click on the images below to enlarge.
  2. Select file-print.
Say Thank You With a Note © Katrena
Free Printable Colorful Words of Thanks © Katrena
Both images will fit on one page if you feed the paper back through to print on the other side.

I hope you enjoy these free printable words of thanks. I'd love to hear about how you used these images in the comments section below!

You may also wish to see:
Find additional printables, scavenger hunts, and articles at Katrena's Wildflower Bouquets site map.