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Things I Don't Buy at Christmas

December 9th, 2017 at 06:16 am

I watch a fair number of YouTube videos. There are several out there right now for which the them is what they do not buy at Christmas. I thought I'd throw my take on it. Join in if you want!

I do not buy ribbons, bows and gift tags.
I still have gallon size ziplock bag of bows that I bought easily ten years ago that we reuse for gifts here at our home. Gifts that are not for us, are usually being stuffed in a car or a box, thus do not hold up well with bows and ribbon. I'm currently using up some blank address labels and free gift tags stickers. I simply write the name and stick it to the back of the gift. When I run out of free options, I will simply write directly on the package. Old cards you receive can be turned into a gift tag. I've even used cards stock I have on hand.

I do not buy live Christmas trees I have two artificial Christmas trees. One is from when I was a child, bought in the mid 1980s. And the second one was bought at the end of season at Target about three years ago. I paid $20. I expect at some point we will downsize and pass one of the trees to someone else to use, but I have enjoyed having two trees while living in larger homes. The trees are our main decorations.

I do not buy holiday music or movies We own Polar Express and about 6 discs of music. We have owned those for years, but as things have gone digital and streaming is available online we simply use free options for our listening and viewing needs.

I do not buy new gift bags. Years ago when my girls were in elementary school I bought some classic red and green gift bags through a fundraiser. I use these gift bags, along with others we have received gifts in over and over. I tend to keep the ones that are just red and green, so they all coordinate. And when I buy gift wrap, I choose ones that can be for kids or adults and stay with the red and green theme. I probably only buy four rolls of gift wrap every three years. I did use up one roll this year, so I expect to hit the clearance sales and pick up one or two. I also limit the amount of tissue paper I use by taping the top of the gift bag. No tissue needed!

I do not buy Christmas themed items This one is a bit all encompassing. I don't buy Christmas jewelry, special outfits, napkins, tableware or plastic storage containers.

For the most part you can probably tell, we just reuse what we have purchased in the past. The stockings for the girls are the only ones they have ever owned. Picking a classic style helped, not feel the need to replace something that was dated.

A few other places where our Christmas spending is limited, is we only buy two new ornaments a year. These are for our girls. I usually buy those ones at World Market for $2.50 each. Or I find some on clearance the year before. I currently only send three Christmas cards. One to my parents, one to my mother in law and one to my oldest daughter at college. Next year I will send four since my youngest will be at college. I did run out of cards this year, so that is another item I will buy on clearance at the end of the season.

Tell me what you don't buy during the holiday season.

Combined Trips & More

December 4th, 2017 at 06:28 pm

I combined three errands together to save time and gas money. First I dropped off a large box of donations at Goodwill. I stopped by Walmart and picked up lotion that my daughter said I could give as a stocking stuffer. And then a quick trip to the military pharmacy to pick up a prescription. These were all within a mile of each other but about 15 minutes from my home, so it made sense to combine the errands for one outing.

The only fail is, I wish I knew I needed a lemon for the dinner we had tonight. I could have picked it up at Walmart, instead I had to run to the grocery store just before I started cooking. We had this [url=https://www.budgetbytes.com/2017/09/lemon-garlic-asparagus-pasta/]Lemon Garlic Asparagus Pasta[/url] from the Budget Bytes site. Yes, we still have fresh asparagus in our area! It was really good, the only thing we did different was add parmesan cheese on top after serving. I will be serving it again, it was that enjoyable to us.

My Amazon gift card ordered from Swagbucks arrived so I ordered the final gift I needed to purchase. It was no cost to me after the gift card!

I received $3 from Pinecone. I'm transferring it to my PayPal account. Another snowflake to go to the Big Goal.

Still no charge from JC Penney for the pillow! I wonder how long it could take?! That was $10.69, so if it doesn't show up on by the 15th I think I'll add that as a snowflake to the Big Goal too.

The Cost of Books

November 30th, 2017 at 07:04 am

My daughters wanted a series of books. There are 12 in the series. I was told I could skip purchase book two as it is a combination of two other books my youngest daughter already owns.

Each book retails for $20. Thus this expense could have cost me $220!! No way was I going to pay that much out of pocket.

I figured if I could at least pay half of retail I would be doing good. I started purchasing earlier this fall. Two initial purchases came from buying used on eBay. One book was $12.40 with shipping and another was $11.13.

I mentioned that I sold some things back to a used book store and was able to use a $13+ credit towards a new book they had listed at the $20 retail price. I paid $7.70 out of pocket for that one.

The deals get better because I found three ex-library versions on eBay from one seller for $21.40. Average about $7 each.

And I made two separate purchase on eBay using Amazon gift cards I earned from Swagbucks over the last couple months. The book prices offered on Amazon varied from $13.59 to $17.36. One purchase was completely covered by gift cards and the other cost me $2.30 out of pocket.

In the end new books that could have cost me $220 new plus tax, were just $54.93 out of pocket. An average of $4.99 a book. A savings of 75%!

No worries that my girls will be offended by used books. They are fans of the library and know that book costs add up. And the used ones that did arrive are in very good shape! The three ex library books do have tags and tape on the side but again in very good shape! They will be very pleased, and hopefully surprised that I found all of the ones requested.

I do sort of wish I started earning the Swagbucks a little earlier so I could have reduced the out of pocket cost, but it is what it is! Still a great deal.

Finishing Up Shopping

November 28th, 2017 at 11:04 am

I am so close to finishing my holiday shopping!

I should have done some of this shopping yesterday, as I'm sure I would have saved a few dollars more. Oh well, I'm still happy with my purchases.

Today I ordered a shirt and jeans for my husband. I also added a two pack of infinity scarves for a niece and the required christmas stocking stuffer of socks for my girls. I bought these from Kohl's using a 20% off coupon and a $5 Kohl's cash. I spent $65. The jeans were Levi's, so they didn't get a discount. Free shipping and I didn't have to browse through the store. I think I just saved myself a lot of time making those couple purchases online today!

I'm heading to Walmart to pick up an item I need for dinner, and will see if I can add a few stocking stuffers in my cart! Some are food items and would probably be less expensive at the commissary, so will wait on those and purchase next week.

After the stocking stuffers are complete, I just need to order a card/board game my daughter wants. It is $20 on Amazon. I'm going to earn more Swagbucks, then redeem for a gift card and make that purchase for free!

Right now, the Christmas category in the budget has $183 in it. I still need to make another $50 deposit in December, but will actually just send that to my mother in law. I also need to mail three packages using those funds. I think we may come in UNDER budget! I will do a detailed run down of gifts and cost once I have it all done.

Ibotta Rebates

November 27th, 2017 at 09:47 am

After grocery shopping and making a run to Walmart for things the commissary didn't have, I was able to redeem $3.20 with Ibotta. I have now met the $20 threshold to cash out. I have decided to wait until the end of the year to cash out. I expect December and even early January will bring more options for rebates. Once you cash out, you have start again to meet the $20 threshold.

My daughter said no on one of the Wii U games I thought I could sell. That is okay. I will get three of them listed later this week. I probably should try for today with it being Cyber Monday.

I did purchase a cardigan for my oldest daughter at Target.com today. Their entire site is 15% off and this sweater was already on sale. Plus free shipping and 5% off with my Red Card. I think except for stocking stuffers, I'm doing shopping for her!

I bought my husband some new athletic pants this weekend. He was with so he could try on. I was going to make them part of his gift, but he already wore them!! I guess not. I think a couple new shirts may be just what he would like instead. Or even a new pair of jeans.

I'd really like to wrap up the Christmas shopping this week. The more I'm in stores, the more I see the deals which make me think I need things. And the truth is I don't. The quicker I'm done shopping the better!

Payday is Friday. Except for Christmas purchases, I don't intend to buy anything!

Not Much Spending

November 22nd, 2017 at 01:27 pm

I personally haven't spent much of anything the last three days. I did buy one Christmas gift, but that was paid out of the Christmas budget.

My husband did get his hair cut. I just now sent him to the store to get three food items. While he is there he is picking up the alcohol he wants for the holiday weekend.

We don't have plans to shop in stores on Friday...or likely any other day this weekend. If I know of a deal on something we were going to buy anyway I would likely pick it up online. The crowds are just more than I'm interested in dealing with.

We are having very nice weather, so hope to get out and enjoy the weather and maybe attend a free event downtown on Friday night. Otherwise, I'm going to be very happy watching a couple football games, watching a movie and playing games as a family. Oh, and we will probably decorate for Christmas at some point as well. Who has time for shopping with all of those fun activities?!

It's is my first ever Thanksgiving that I haven't spent with my oldest daughter or my parents! Seems a bit strange, but I'm also glad not to be flying this year.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Used Miles For Airline Ticket

November 17th, 2017 at 10:55 am

I just bought my daughter's round trip ticket home for winter break on Southwest Airlines using the Rapid Rewards we accumulated this year on our Southwest Visa. The ticket was worth 20,520 points. Last years ticket cost me over 39,000 points. I think the difference was being able to purchase the ticket further in advance. She has been to a bowl game the last two years, and this year it doesn't look like it will happen. If it does it will be a miracle and I will need to change the ticket!

I still have 13,480 points. I may book her ticket home for spring break with those soon. Although right now the prices don't look so great! Probably too far out for the best deals.

I could redeem 13,000 point for $125 worth of gift cards, but considering I got a nearly $400 flight for 20K points, I think using them for flying is the better deal.

I did have to pay the Federal Airline fee of $11.20 and I did pay $30 for my daughter to get Early Bird check in. This is especially helpful for very early morning flights and when the time between flights is tight. Get a front seat on the first seat so you can get to your gate in time for boarding the second flight. I think she has just 40 minutes from landing to take off on one of the trips. That's worth the $30 cost to us.

Do you use airline miles for flights?

A Recipe and Update On College

November 15th, 2017 at 04:27 am

We had [url=https://www.budgetbytes.com/2014/09/snap-challenge-vegetable-stir-fry-noodles/]this[/url] for dinner last night. It was really good! Lots of chopping, but very healthy. I'm making two other recipes from the website later this week.

The VA Education department has continued to provide us a housing payment of $1112 per month for our oldest daughter. I just made a $200 deposit for next years housing contract. My daughter would like to move off campus, but is having a hard time finding a roommate. There are ways to find roommates, but she would like it to be someone she knows. If we go the on campus route again, she will get a discount for being a returning student. That discount for the fourth years is $1097. She packs her schedule full...18 hours on average, so living on campus saves a lot of time and hassle than living off campus.

Our youngest daughter applied and was accepted to her college of choice. She plans to major in Industrial Engineering. This is in our former midwest state that we are still residents of. We did however have to provide documentation to the school to get her classified as a resident. Luckily, we were approved. They do provide in state tuition for all military members, spouses and children. This college charges a flat fee for 12+ hours, rather than break it down by credit hour. Of course, as an engineering student she will have higher tuition in her junior and senior year.

Specifically tuition and fees for 12+ hours is $4,318 per semester, or $8,636 per year. She did receive two renewable four year scholarships. One is worth $8,000 ($2000 per year) and the other is worth $10,000 ($2,500 per year). Very reasonable in my opinion. It's the housing that adds up! I don't have the details on those costs yet, as we have not picked a housing option. I think housing will be less than we pay for our older daughter, so that is a plus! And she will be applying for more scholarships soon, so fingers crossed there is a little more money to assist.

Socks For Christmas

November 11th, 2017 at 05:03 am

Have you ever heard the story Socks for Christmas by Andy Andrews? I was given a copy of the audio version probably 15 years ago by a friend, along with a pair of socks. In fact, I think our entire family received socks from this friend. It made an impact, my girls still love to get socks for Christmas! As do I.

In my extended family, we adults have been known to exchange socks for Christmas. Smart Wool socks are a favorite. In the last couple years we have not been together on Christmas and have also ended our required gifts to each other. This year, however, I'm inspired once again to give socks for Christmas. These will go to my parents, sister and brother in law.

I got a very decent deal on socks at Kohl's last night. These are not our traditional Smart Wool socks, but a very nice Gold Toe dress pair for the men and a soft warm Cuddle Duds pair for the women. After three coupons applied, I paid $4.17 for the men's and $4.42 for the women's. I also picked up a new pair of slipper socks for myself for $5.21.

I plan to attach a tag with some words about socks and my memory of giving them socks in the past at Christmas. I told my husband my plan and he had a big smile on his face, because he knows how much fun we had giving each other socks in the past.

Small, simple gifts given from the heart often mean more than an expensive gift. What gift have you received that touched your heart?