Simplify Your Life- Budgeting for Christmas

11 11 2012

I know it seems so far away and most people do not want to think about it, but no matter what, Christmas is on its way.  Since I have put my family on such a strict budget, I find it necessary that I am fully prepared going into this holiday season with an open mind and a manageable and realistic budget.  The first part of this two part post is about figuring out and setting a budget, the second will be about making Christmas more about traditions instead of gifts.

The first task I challenged myself with was to write down a list of all the people I would like to send a hello and Merry Christmas to.  This was the beginning of my list, and is fairly long.  This list will be used for one thing, to tell each and every person I care about, to have a Merry Christmas. These people will receive a Christmas card.  Now don’t get me wrong, I wish I could buy elaborate gifts for all of the people I can about, but it is just not feasible nor practical.  For my annual Christmas card ordering, I shop around as best as I can at online printing companies, trying to find the best bang for my buck.  For example I have used Shutterfly in the past and they are currently offering a deal of 40% off holiday cards.  My list usually consists of approximately 75 households.   Always make sure to include postage in your budget.  It is little necessary items that can really add up and throw your budget way off track.

Since all of my favorite people are on my Christmas card list, I look at this and start narrowing it down.  I start making a list of all the children I will be shopping for this holiday season.  Of course I include my nephews, very close family friends, and my “second children” aka, the children in my care on a daily basis.  Then I think about how much I would like to spend on each.  I know it sounds awful to put a dollar on each munchkin, but it is a necessary step to staying on budget.  Lastly, I make a short list of a few extra people in my life that have really gone out of their way to help me during the year.  These gifts are normally very small, but are just a way to say thanks.

In the past few years, since many of our close family members have also been strapped for extra cash, we have eliminated all adults out of the family gift giving and have turned the focus to the children.  This is their time to feel the joys of Christmas.  Since I still want to be able to provide those close loved ones with the spirit of Christmas, I often turn to kid pictures and yearly calendars that include pictures from the previous year.  It is a gift that we can afford and it gives back all year long.  Again, I search and search online printers to find the best available deals.

So I leave this to you:

  •  Figure out an amount you would like to spend on Christmas aka. Christmas Budget.
  •  Make a list for holiday cards, subtract that amount from budget
  •  Narrow the list to some very special ones who you would like give a gift to.
  •  Also add people who you would like to say Thank You to for their efforts during the year.
  •  Make sure to include a dollar limit for each child/person.
  •  If there is money to spare, think about giving some extra pictures or items to other loved ones.

Remember that a gift is just that a gift.  Don’t feel obligated to get the biggest and best for someone when you cannot afford the gift.  If you don’t remember in a year what you purchased for someone but still are paying for it within your monthly credit card payments, was it really worth it?

You may not be able to give them everything you want, but remember your presence is often more valuable than any present.

Look out for Part 2 of this segment on creating family traditions.


A Strong Family Works Together!

10 11 2012

Growing up my immediate family was very close.  We spent a lot of time together and were always there to help each other out whenever needed.   We worked on the household chores together as well as the yard work.  We were a family unit and that is how we functioned.

When people grow up and have their own children they begin choosing which part of childhood they would like to pass on to their children and which areas they would like to improve upon.  One thing I am very thankful for is that my parents did not raise me to be lazy, in turn I am trying to teach my boys the same.

In my last post I talked about giving children Responsibility Charts in order to help instill good values including personal accountability.  In addition to giving the kiddos tasks that they are responsible for, I also believe that parents should have the same accountability towards their children.  If children are expected to help out with adult tasks, then parents should help out with child tasks, aka. play.

What better time to show them this then an over night snowfall.

When the boys peaked their heads outside this morning, their thoughts were of snow play.  Our thoughts were of clearing the driveway.  So, we made a deal with them.  They boys needed to help out by clearing the snow from the driveway and in turn we will help them build a huge snowman.

So as a family we got right to work!

After that, we were hard at play!

And in the end, we were all very happy campers!

The fun Snowman Kit was a gift the boys received last Christmas.

So, the next time you have a large task to complete, have the kids help out.  In turn make sure you show them equal consideration by devoting some time to them.  Just another way to instill strong values while creating awesome family memories.

What are some childhood values you would like to pass on?

Simplify Your Life- Responsibility Charts

9 11 2012

In the past few months, I have set on a journey to Simplify My Life in order to meet all of the demands of my busy schedule.  I started by making a weekly schedule and have also been meal planning.  While both of these have helped tremendously, I am still in dire need of more simplicity.

Since most of you know I have two boys, ages 4 and 5, and also watch a crew full of friends on a daily basis; It comes as no surprise that my house is often presentable at best.  With the changes in weather this week we have been a little more confined to the house, and the mess has definitely taken its toll.

Since this is going to be an ongoing problem throughout the coming winter months I thought to myself, what a perfect time to make each of these little munchkins their very own responsibility charts.  Most of the items on the chart are already things my boys do on a daily basis, I believe they will set the ground work for more “chores” to be added as they get older.

I have listed several “chores” with pictures on their own chart and have allowed space to check mark each day of the week.  The Responsibility Charts are going to be laminated so we can use a dry erase marker to mark off each task when they have been completed.  At the end of the week it can been wiped away clean and reused.

First, I am going to start small, and with my own two children.

We have already started the process, and so far it is going great!

Responsibility Chart-Sylis

Responsibility Chart-Seth

Next, I plan on making similar charts for all of the other children; firstly so they don’t feel left out, and secondly, I always treat them as my own, so why not have them help as well.  These will be the very basic of tasks, making them responsible for their own personal belongings and messes.

Since I am not a fan of monetary allowances, but am a true believer in acknowledging good behavior, their reward system will include various awards I pick out on Monday.  If they are doing well, I might allow for extra books at reading times, a few extra minutes to play before nap or bed, or a special dessert type treat after lunch or dinner.

Since they will all with have similar charts, it allows them to understand that each friend is  accountable for their own messes and personal belongings.   All in all, I hope to teach these little ones more responsibility and personal accountability.

What types of “chores” are your little ones responsible for?

Supporting Your Local Community- Northern Nevada Children’s Museum

4 11 2012

During the colder months in Carson City I often frequent kid friendly locations.  It helps break up the monotony of the house and still allows the kids a lot of much needed adventure while keeping their little bodies from freezing in the winter weather.

One our favorite places, that is sure to not  disappoint, is the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada.

This little hot spot located on main street in Carson City offers an array of interactive fun for the entire family, keeping those kiddos busy for hours.   They also offer several scheduled events including story time, pottery painting, and special holiday events throughout the year.

I was able to purchase a family pass, also called a reciprocal pass aka “Traveling Pass”, that allows my family access to the Discovery Museum in Reno.  In addition, the “ACM and ASTC reciprocal admission programs which includes free or reduced admission to over 450 children’s museums and science-technology centers around the world.**”  

Click on the ACM and ASTC links above to view participating museums.

What an amazing deal for families trying to stay busy with the kids on a budget.

So when the weather turns bad, check it out, the kids will be happy you did!

Keeping Kids Busy on a Budget- Homemade Ball Maze

3 11 2012

With our recent Costco trips, we have accumulated a ton of random boxes around the house.  Instead of just throwing them away, my husband came up with a fun project for the kids. It took awhile to create, but for the kids it was well worth a  the work.

First, we started with an abundance of boxes, paper towel rolls, and pipe cleaners.

Next, we arranged the boxes and tied them together with pipe cleaners.

Lastly, the paper towel rolls were placed throughout the boxes in a strategic fashion.

Then we let our kids and their friends have at it.

This contraption held their attention for quite some time.


It was definitely a hit!

This just goes to show you that raising kids is not all about the newest and greatest toy on the market.  It is about spending quality time creating and building and nurturing their young minds with what ever you can.

What are some fun things you’ve built for your kids? I love to hear some new ideas!

Simplify Your Life- Traveling with Young Kids

30 10 2012

During a recent trip to the coast I put together a “Survival Guide” for parents traveling with young children.  I gathered all of the “tools” to create the perfect busy, interactive, learning kit to ensure your travels are whine free.  This concoction does not include any electronics or toys that need batteries; bringing young kids back to the basics of car travel and quality family time.

Kit has been tested and approved by a four and five year old!

For Busy Minds:

Interactive Fun:

  • Worksheets / Dry Erase Marker (Print out, laminate & reuse)
  1. My Personalized “I Spy” Worksheet
  2. Shapes Worksheet
  3. Alphabet Worksheet
  4. Letters Worksheet

Keeping Their Bodies Fueled:

Sleepy Heads:

  • Pillow
  • Special Lovie or Blanket

Clean Up / Safety:

  • Baby Wipes or Hand Cleaning Wipes (for all the sticky messes)
  • Bag for Trash or Sick Child
  • First Aid Kit

Tip: Keep the “Survival Kit” away from the kids and only get one item out at a time.  This way you have new and exciting stuff to bring out and challenge their minds the entire length of the trip. Happy Traveling!

Do you have any traveling tips you would like to share? Please comment in the section below!

Keeping Kids Busy on a Budget- Homemade Potato Stamps

28 10 2012

As we approach the holiday season, I always make a point to try and be as festive as possible in all of the activities I come up with.  While my monkeys were making a mess around the house this morning, I noticed I had several Halloween cookie cutters that I usually allow them to use while playing with My Homemade Playdough.  I also notice I had an abundance of large potatoes so I decided to make them Potato Stamps to keep them busy for a while.

What you will need:

Cookie Cutters

Large Potatoes


First, cut the potatoes, I cut them lengthwise because my cookie cutters were fairly big.

Place the cutters on top and push them down until they are in the potatoes about 3/4 inch.

Next, carefully use a knife to cut around the cookie cutter approximately 1/2 an inch from the top.  Remove the cutters.

Lastly, Enjoy!

Another fun way to keep the Kiddos busy on a budget.

Check out some of my others ideas for, “Keeping Kids Busy on a Budget“.

Have any idea you would like to share? Please share in the comment section below.

Teresa Chalmers

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