Christmas Planning

If you’ve followed me for the past couple of years, you know Christmas is a time that sends me into a tizzy. You’d think after penning so many posts about my angst and always coming to the realization that gifts just need to be meaningful and thoughtful I’d finally have conquered the crazy.

Not quite but I’m getting there.

One of the big helps is that my side decided to only give gifts to each couple and put a firm limit. My parents went a step further and requested gift cards. I’ve gone from spending $50 per person to the same amount per couple. It’s a huge guilt-free savings.

Today I started truly Christmas shopping. I was feeling awful because I’m behind. Usually I start planning in May and keep an eye out for items.

ML and I hit Costco with a list and got most of the presents. It felt good to go with a list and know who we are giving gifts to and have strong ideas of the types of things we want to give them.

Leaving the gifts to a reasonable time frame and having a list of those who matter means that I will be under my usual budget and we’re giving thoughtful gifts.

Have you started thinking of the Holiday season and gift giving?

Gift Giving Angst

The Stewards recently did a fantastic and timely post on how to accept gifts graciously. A family member has shared what she’s spending on ML and I immediately felt like we’re not spending enough on her. My instinct was to go out and buy her a load of other things.

This year I’ve found myself counting more than I should and even set a bad example for my brother as he spent $50 on me so I made sure to spend $50 on him. His takeaway lesson was spend all the money…not what I was going for.

This is where the Stewards post and a conversation with ML helped steer me back on track. The Stewards reminded me that I should treat my gift giving just as graciously as I accept gifts. ML reminded me of how much thought I put into my gifts. I’ve adjusted that August list based on things people have requested so it’s no longer a true representation of what people received.

For me frugal gift giving means presenting things that people will enjoy without going into debt. My feelings of guilt come from the supposition that people who make less than us are spending more on us than we are spending on them. Now I have no proof of this and based on previous gift exchanges it seems that we all end up giving thoughtful and deeply appreciated gifts.

Now that I’ve worked that bit out I finally feel comfortable assessing my budget. I’ve been a bit terrified to look at it since my desire to buy any and everything has been at war with my desire to end the year in good financial standing without having to take money from my savings lines.

I’ve just gone through my budget and since I’ve completed my gift shopping I can say with a fair amount of certainty that if I behave myself for the next two weeks I shall be just dandy. My usual buffer has been eaten up by presents.

I opted to use my buffer and only top up from my dwindling gift line if necessary. This worked well as it gave me a lot of gift spending money. In the end I only had to dip into the gift line a bit so if any gift giving activities pop up in the January I won’t be left scrambling.




Budget Update: Christmas Gifts

Last year I did a pretty good job Christmas planning and shopping. I made a list and then tracked it to see if I had enough room in the budget. While I increased my gift budget this year based on my Christmas spending I quickly realized that I underestimated how many gift giving occasions currently occur in my life.

So once again I was in the position of using my budget loophole to ensure that I didn’t go into debt to afford the presents I wanted to give. I’m really glad that I considered my gift list in August so I was able to begin shopping in September. While the actual items varied in some cases the value of them was relativily consistent with the exception of one person who I opted to spend 3 times the budgeted amount on.

This decision is because this family member rarely asks for anything much less expensive things. I was given the option of purchasing 1 of 3 items but opted to purchase 2 of the 3 items on their wish list. The joy it gives me to treat this person is worth the overspending.

The interesting thing with Christmas 2016 presents is that I’m spending less than the amount I anticipated but because I dipped into the Gift budget line so often over the year I’m feeling the pinch.

My plan in 2017 is to maintain the amount I’m putting in this line as I suspect if I increase it I may just spend more. However, I will also plan to use any money that is not specifically allocated to a savings line in the latter part of the year to the gift line.

All this being said, the gifts that I’m really trying to give are these:


Image result for minimalist christmas to do list

What steps do you to take to give the gifts that you want to during the Holiday season?


photo from here

Crafty Christmas Cost

This year I decided early what my signature gift would be. While I’m sure it’ll be less expensive, more thoughtful and way more fun to give (and hopefully receive) than a bottle of wine the start up cost of this chocolate goodness wasn’t cheap.


Here’s how it breaks down:

  • $30 for a dozen jars
  • $10 for the labels to stick on top
  • $9 for milk
  • $16 for chocolate chips
  • $10 for cocoa powder
  • $5 for marshmallows
  • $2 for the sugar
  • $2 for the candy canes

That’s $84 in a week on Christmas gifts.  Making each gift worth $7 if one doesn’t count love and labour. I’m sure my unit price is lower if you take into account that the only materials I ran out of are the jars.

This post is a friendly reminder to myself that the start up costs of frugal gifts can be expensive. I’m hoping that by noting this I’ll be less likely to feel cheap when I go to a party and bring one of these beauties.

Also for someone who likes easy crafts I created the covers by cutting circles out of scrapbook paper and gluing them to sticker labels I found at Staples. Having the paper and glue on hand also served to lower my cost.Before giving these I’ll put on other labels that I have on hand with ingredients and instructions.

Here’s to me honouring my creativity and sharing chocolate joy at Christmas!

What are your favourite treats to receive?

Christmas is Coming

I’m always baffled and in awe of those folks who manage to send out Christmas cards never mind personalized ones. Having cards arrive at my home prior to December 25th generally means that I think you’ve got your stuff together.

Getting pictures taken, having them printed and still sending them out in early December means that I’m pretty certain you’re rocking life. So yesterday I pitched doing Bunny  Christmas cards to ML. His only question was, “Does Bunny have room in her fund?”

To which I responded,” She can find room!”

Bunny, though often willing to be model wasn’t feeling very co-operative last night. I’ve got a lot of photos of her knocking down Christmas cards or doing something impossibly cute with something not great in the background. In the end we got two usable shots.

I then spent some quality time on VistaPrint where I discovered a whole set of themes devoted to pets! We decided to do two types of cards and got a total of 20 cards for a little over $20.

Which of course had me wondering, “How can I claim frugality and spend this much mney on Christmas cards?” I’m the queen of boxes of cards for $5. In fact, I’m still working through a box from 2 Christmases ago. However, this blog is about Loving Life on a Budget and these cards are that.

Purchasing, and distributing, these cards help make me feel like I’ve got my act together. It functions as one of those little internal markers, like paying off debt, that lets me know that I’m becoming the type of adult that I admire.

On the frugal side: when I told ML that Bunny had room I wasn’t kidding, we made a wise food choice for her last month which means that she had a bit of space to afford the Christmas cards.

Planning Christmas II

Now that I’ve created my list it’s time to fill in the details. These are subject to change but I have noted the items that have already been purchased or made

I’m hoping that having it laid out like this  will help keep me on track.

  • 9 peppermint hot chocolates
  • Date night gift card
  • Tea cozy & ???
  • 2 shirts
  • Night in gift set: slippers, hot chocolate, cake in a mug (mostly purchased)
  • $50 gift card
  • Knit shawl (made)
  • Food gift pack  (purchased)
  • Girl’s night out/ craft kit
  • Baked good
  • Cake in a mug, kitchen tools, soap shaker and martini glass (purchased)
  • 2  other things tbd
  • Not sure for grandmothers
  • Family 1: food gift pack, tokens for kids
  • Family 2: whiskey & wine in knit gift bags; cookbook and ?; ?
  • Family 3: ???
  • Maximum $50 toy

ML has asked for a rather expensive present earlier this year so I’ve budgeted $250 for his gift.

What are some of your favourite presents?


Preparing for Christmas

Last Christmas I started saving in October for Christmas and quickly realized I had underestimated the amount of gift giving we do.

This year, I’ve created my list based on last year’s revelation that we purchase for about 30 people.

  • 3 colleagues
  • 3 – 6 parties
  • ML
  • My parents individually
  • My parents as a couple (this is the Bunny gift)
  • My sibling and partner
  • ML’s parents individually
  • ML’s sibling and partner
  • 3-5 friends I see around this time
  • ML’s grandmother
  • My grandmother
  • 3 families of 4 people
  • Favourite kid

I had intended to save a bit throughout the year towards this goal. That didn’t really pan out as I have spent all my gift savings so far. This was a blessing in disguise as it has highlighted for me that we aren’t cheap when it comes to gift giving.

While I was ambitious last year and focused on making a variety of gifts and treats, this year I’ve decided on a signature gift to be given to colleagues, as hostess gifts, and for those last minute folks that pop up. The family members and close friends will receive more personalized items.

My hope is that by choosing a signature gift for the season I won’t feel overwhelmed and end up purchasing last minute items. Choosing one item means that I also won’t be purchasing multiple ingredients.

I fell in love with this pretty peppermint hot chocolate.

Now to test it to see if it is as tasty as it looks!

What do you think of this gift?

December Week 3

I did my check on Sunday and I spent $16 more than anticipated. I’m feeling quite good since there were two items that popped up that I hadn’t been prepared for. The combined cost of those were ~$50 so $16 is a win!

When I did my monthly budget I gave every dollar a job but with my weekly breakdown I gave every job a dollar value. This means that there’s a bit of money that was not allocated so I would be able to indulge in impromptu get-togethers. Because I’ve gotten to know my lifestyle very well through tracking the ‘extra funds’ are mainly in the grocery and entertainment lines

I’m so glad I did this as my end of December is getting busy. I’m going to Star Wars, attending game night at a local cafe and we’re now hosting 2 small dinner parties.

Do you track your spending? What has it taught you about your lifestyle?

What’s it Worth?

I was the first one to take in holiday gifts to the office. Mostly because I didn’t want to miss anyone going on vacation. The lesser reason was that I was afraid that if I waited I may feel that my gift ideas weren’t good enough and end up spending lots in last minute shopping.

Yesterday I opened the presents that I got from 2 of my colleagues and I was very surprised. Both had purchased beautiful travel cups. In spite of these being very thoughtful gifts I had a moment where I thought, “My fudge must look so cheap!”

I gave into the feeling for a bit and then pulled myself together. Since they had received my gift 4 days prior to reciprocating they both had ample opportunity to purchase a smaller token. I also realized that I consistently undermine the value of my homemade items. As ML pointed out, they gave me items that they perceived to be of similar value. It was a little shake to remind me that I need to stop under-valuing my gifts when I make them at home.

Here’s how I undermine my talent:

  1. I know the cost of my supplies so I assume that is the cost of the gift
  2. I enjoy what I do so I don’t think of it as work
  3. Since I don’t think of it as work I don’t count the time it takes to create the items

When someone gives me a home made gift I am always thrilled because it means that they carved time out  to think of me. Every time someone gives me a gift they’re giving me a bit of themselves but this is especially true of those handmade items because they’re also giving me their talent. So why in the world do I think that others don’t feel the same way?

Here’s to hoping I remember this lesson throughout this season!