The Parent’s Quick Guide to Penny Pinching


I have learned many things being a parent, some of which I wish I hadn’t, and others that have been a blessing and helped me to get by. If there is one thing I have learned the most about it is being frugal. I have learned the hard way how to stretch a buck. I can cook a dinner for four for under $10, I can get clothes for the whole familyfor around $50. I can operate on less than anyone should ever have to and can get creative in order to make it through the month.

English: ceramic piggy bank

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With the world the way it is today we all know what it is like to suffer. Often times, no matter what our income, our accounts never seem to hold enough funds. I figure everyone enjoys getting a great deal, or saving a dime (or ten) so I’m gonna share a few of my frugal ideas with you today i n the hopes that it helps another family that is struggling to get by.

Cooking

To save money on cooking and feeding your family there are a few tips I have always found helpful. First is to stock up on the basics. Items such as, bread, eggs, rice, potatoes, tomato sauce, ground beef (or any ground meat), and noodles are great to have on hand when you’re in a bind. Any of these basic items can be easily added to a small purchase to make a meal and save your self some cash. When I have the basics on hand I find that I can go to a grocery store and grab whatever is on sale to work with. I have bought pork chops on sale and cooked them in tomato sauce over rice, I have added stuffing mix to ground beef and egg for a tasty meatloaf meal. Having the staples is so important to frugal family cooking. Many of these items are cheap, can be frozen, or last for a long time in the pantry. When you see them on sale grab a few of each.

Lets be honest, meat is expensive and buying enough meat to feed a family of four or more can cost a pretty penny, to save yourself some money buy in bulk. Many grocery stores have family size packs, even if you don’t need that much, buy it, the price per pound usually works out to be a lot cheaper. Another tip is to stretch your sides, by filling your families plates with bigger side portions like extra potatoes, noodles and veggies you can get by with less meat overall. I some times make a few different sides when I am short on meat, that way my family is full, and the meal is still healthy. One more idea for stretching your meat is to mix it in. By cutting up bigger chunks of meat and mixing it into rice or noodles you can use less and make more. Stir-fry’s are a great way to feed a family when you haven’t got a lot to go around.

Clothing

The number one tip I have for parents trying to save money is to embrace thrift store shopping. If you take the time to look, you can save hundreds of dollars on name brand clothes for your family. To save even more watch for the ‘big sale’ days that many thrift stores have, stores like Value Village and Goodwill hold 50% off days once a month which will help you save even more money. You have to be persistent though, returning regularly to scour the shelves, thrift stores get in new items daily so keep an eye out for a great deal.

If thrift stores aren’t your thing than shop big box stores. Big department stores have an ample amount of inventory, duplicates of the same items mean a savings in price. Watch these stores for sale items as well, and don’t forget to shop off-season. Buying summer clothes in the fall and winter clothes in the summer can save you some serious cash.

Pass it on. Clothing swaps, hand-me-downs, and free-cycling are great ways to get the goods you need without spending a penny. Get a group of friends together for a swap or organize one in your community. Utilize sites like Freecycle or your local classifieds to find clothing items free or cheap, and remember to pass the favor along.

You could also learn to sew, if you are gifted with a needle and thread your clothing possibilities are endless. This talent will allow you to take any item of clothing and turn it into something new. Seriously, I can’t sew personally (no hand-eye co-ordination) but if I could I would twist and stitch every item I had to create new items of clothing as required. Note: Even if you can’t sew you can hem a pair of pants, the dollar store sells iron on/stick on hem tape that makes tailoring your thrift store finds a breeze.

Around the House

One of the biggest cash consumers is our home. We all want our house to look nice, but we don’t need to spend lavish to live lavish. To save your self some cash around the house I have a few tips.

When it comes to decorating the best advice I can give is to get creative. This is where thrift stores can come in handy yet again. Furniture, accessories and artwork can be found relatively cheap at your local thrift shop or flea market. Pick up a cheap print with a great frame and swap it out for one of your own family photos, or better yet a collage. You could even create your own water painting to frame if your feeling really creative. There are all sorts of tutorials online for creating custom artwork on a dime. The same goes for furniture, don’t be afraid to take that hand-me-down dresser and spruce it up. One of my favorite ideas for fixing up an old dresser is to wallpaper the drawer fronts and change the hardware. Again there are ample examples online of ways to make old furniture look new.

Embrace the power of paint. Paint is relatively inexpensive given the impact in can have on a room. If you want a change but don’t have the cash, grab yourself a can of paint and slap it on a wall or two. It is an instant change for a small amount of cash.

Most parents have that one cleaningcabinet that is full of products for every thing imaginable. There is the toilet scrubber, the shower wall cleaner, the Swiffer refills, the tilex, the kitchen cleaner, floor cleaner, mirror cleaner, and the all-purpose cleaner. All these different products add up to one thing… A lot of wasted cash. I learned long ago that the best thing you can do is find one or two products that work well and do-it-all. By using a good all-purpose cleaner instead of 12 different ones you will save a ton of cash over time. The same goes for that swiffe

, those wet pads you are paying a fortune for are sold at the dollar store, and the solution for the inside is a silly scam, pour your own product in there. In fact, for fast spot mopping attach a baby wipe to the bottom of the thing and get it done for under 1 cent.

Baby wipes are actually fantastic for so many different things around the house and I highly suggest you keep them on hand even if you down have little ones. They clean mirrors, tables, doors, walls and floors. They are cheap (no-name is fine) and simple to grab in a stitch.

Invest wisely, would be the other major around the house tip. It is fine to purchase something extravagant that you truly, really, completely want, but be sure it is a wise choice. A new sofa is a fine investment so long as you are not buying a pure white one when you have two toddlers loose around the house. Often times it is important to remember that just because you can afford something now, does not mean now is the time to buy it. Double think any big buys, and be sure to take the time to shop around. If your reading this then odds are it is not a one of a kind custom piece that can’t be found anywhere else, and can probably be found somewhere else at least marginally cheaper. (and when your being frugal, every penny counts.)

General Money Saving Tips

  • Learn your unit sizes. Some times a deal isn’t a deal at all, learn to break it down. For unit calculation advice click Here
  • Plan ahead. If you drive you know that the cost of gas can literally kill you, plan all your errands for the same outing when possible to save multiple trips and cut back on gas costs.
  • Think Frugally. Why pay for something when you can get it free? Make this your mantra and live it as much as you can. Don’t be ashamed to save money.
  • Check your coffee consumption. Even one $2 cup off coffee a day adds up to $60+ a month. Brew your own where you can and save that cash for something more important. The same goes for smoking, the costs of lighting up are enormous, cut back and quit today. It won’t only benefit your health, but it will help your wallet as well.
  • Calculate your daily costs and cut back where you can. Things like lunches, beverages, transit and other small daily details add up over time. Keep track of all these little things and find ways to save on them. Perhaps buying a monthly bus pass would work out cheaper than paying per fare, packing a lunch is always better than buying one, and cutting back on the number of coffee’s you purchase can save you are ton of cash.
  • Find Free Family Fun. Parks, picnics, or hikes are great FREE ways to have fun as a family. Find other exciting things to do for free Here and save your self some serious money on family entertainment.
  • Cut Coupons. With all the hype around the reality coupon shows why wouldn’t you want to cut coupons? You can save a major chunk of change on your grocery bills and even earn things for free. The same goes for free grocery club cards, gather those points and get yourself some great deals. What have you got to lose?

These are only a few simple ideas for saving money, the list could go on and on. The point is to save where you can, whenever you can, because every cent adds up as a parent. Your level of frugality is up to you, perhaps your simply want to cut some costs, or maybe you want to save a ton, either way there are endless ideas to help you cut costs and put cash back in your pocket. Look online for more ideas and share your own tips in the comments section below.

Until Next Time…

Live on a Dime.

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To Give or Not to Give? Best and Worst Gifts for Teachers


Today was the last day of school for many kids around the world, for some the year is ending tomorrow. Depending on where you live and which school board you deal with, this often means pizza parties and games, summer vacation and family fun, it also means good-bye and, gifts?To give the teacher a gift or not to? That is a question a lot of parents ponder. For many, a teachers gift on the last day is a small way of saying thank-you, showing appreciation, and saying good-bye. Ultimately the choice is yours, this has always been tradition in my household, if you do decide to give a gift to your child‘s teacher there are a few tips you should keep in mind.

The Best and Worst Gifts for Teachers:

Gifts to Avoid Teachers, like all of us love getting presents but after a few years of teaching 20 children per class there are a few things they ‘don’t’ want to be given. Mugs, best teacher ornaments, and framed photo’s of your child are gifts to avoid. Look in any teachers cabinet and I am sure you will find an abundance of mugs declaring that they are #1 Teacher, or Teacher of the Year, mugs are great but 100 mugs are useless and impersonal. If you choose to give a gift at least put in some thought. Homemade or personalized T-Shirts are another gift to avoid, remember there is a large chance that you will get the wrong size, and who actually wears those things anyway… I am willing to bet it will end up on the rack at Goodwill before the summer break is over! More top gifts to avoid; live animals, stuffed animals, candles and liquor… just don’t do it!

Gifts Worth GivingIf you are going to give a gift, be sure you put some thought into it. No one needs 1000 candles, scented soaps or notepad sets, avoid the obvious and be creative. Homemade gifts might seem like a great idea, but teaching a child is different from ‘loving’ a child, your daughters artwork is only precious to ‘you’. Some great gifts to give the teacher include;

  • A charitable donation: avoid re-gifting with the gift of giving Plan Canada has some excellent gift options available that help provide education for under-privileged children around the world. Plan Canada will provide classroom education for one child when you give a donation of $15.00, Library in a Box for $60.00 and many other gift options to help educate children in third-world countries. They give you a printable gift receipt, and the donation can be made in another person’s name. It is a great way to help others and show your child’s teacher that you appreciate what they do. Another great option is to purchase a book for the school library and dedicate it to the teacher you are gifting, this not only shows your appreciation but helps children in the years to come. The school librarian will probably be able to inform you of any books on the school wish list so you can purchase one that they really need.
  • Homemade Options (if you must go there): If you simply must do a homemade gift for financial or other personal reasons, than do it with care. Children’s art work and lopsided bowls should be avoided at all costs, but potted plants and baked goods (if you can actually bake well) are acceptable. If you are opting for a homemade gift keep in mind that you usually don’t know the decor of the person’s home, and they usually have an abundance of artwork from their students already. Keep it simple, yet unique. Baked goods and food work because they are actually usable and can be enjoyed.
  • Create Memories: A great group gift option is a school year scrapbook. Get together with the other parents and put together a scrapbook of the year for the teacher to help the teacher remember the wonderful time she had teaching the students. Get creative, it’s a great way to share memories of the year without the teacher having to always have it on display. Quilting or sewing a blanket full of memories is another great gift option if you have that talent.
  • School Supplies: Teachers are always in need of school supplies for the year ahead. Put together a gift basket full of supplies to get the teacher ahead in the year to come.
  • Gift Certificates: Gift certificates are a great way to show your appreciation when you don’t know the person on a personal level. Restaurant, bookstore and movie certificates will allow the user to purchase what they like most, or simply enjoy a night out over the holiday.
  • Say it with Words: Sometimes the best gift is the most simple words. A card or hand written note thanking the teacher for educating your child can touch a soul and say more than a gift. If you are tight on cash, but want to show you care pick up a card at your local dollar store, or create a hand-written letter telling them you appreciate their work. Teachers don’t ‘expect’ gifts, so any thought at all is going to be appreciated.

Your child’s teacher has worked hard to provide the best education they can throughout the year. Whether you decide to give a gift, or opt not to, a simple Thank-you is always a great way to show you care.

Do you send gifts to the teacher? If so, What kind of gifts do you give?

Why? Because This Is My House….


Call me Crazy, but there are rules in my house. Rules, regulations, and strict guidelines that I expect others (a.k.a children) to follow in detail. No, I don’t run my home like a boot-camp (although I sometimes put the idea into consideration) but there are basic rules that I have put in place in order to save everyone’s (a.k.a my own) sanity.

Now these rules have not always been in place, in fact, with my first child I made a number of mistakes in the discipline department. Being just the two of us for most of his life, he basically had free roam of the household (excluding anything that could cause him bodily harm) He was always a loving, affectionate boy, who stuck to me like glue, but as he has grown (though still stuck to my side throughout most of the day) I have noticed the impact that this ‘lack of structure’ approach has had on his life.

I can thank my BF for opening my eyes to the parenting mistakes I have made with my son over the last 7 years. Discipline is a constant battle in our household, as we both have very different parenting styles. (and he has an attention for detail that I just do not hold) Allowing my son free roam without any set routine, rules, or basic structure has led to a 7 year-old who has no problem solving abilities what-so-ever!!! Instead of thinking for himself, it is easier for my son to wait for me to tell him what to do, and of course I do so on a regular basis. Why?? because it is easier for me as well. It is a bad habit that is slowly being broken around here. I have just began noticing how much I actually do for my son since the birth of my daughter last year. When someone questions what C is doing I often answer for him, (this has led to countless argument between my BF and I because it causes my son to under-mind what he is saying, and lowers the level of respect my son has for my BF.. and THAT is a problem) I get his breakfast, (even though the kid is more than capable of pouring a bowel of cereal himself without a mess of any kind) I make, and pack, his school lunch daily, (which is for the most part another one of those things he could do on his own) and I constantly do other little things for him that he is more than able to complete on his own…. I do these things subconsciously, without any thought to what I am doing, but I want to stop because it truly has produced a LAZY little boy who has no idea how to think, or act, by his own devices.

So, I came up with some rules, and much to my sons dismay, these rules are expected to be followed… They are posted clearly in sight beside his bed and throughout other areas of the house in order to remind him daily (so that I don’t verbally have to, although I still have to remind him to actually read the list in the first place) and also to help remind me that positive discipline, and effective parenting begins with consistency. These rules consist of such items as;

  • Get dressed before you leave your bedroom – I set out clothes the night before because, left to his own devices, my son would most definitely get beat up for his mismatched clothing choices, or opt to wear army camouflage every single day!
  • Make your bed. – Although this one needs perfecting, because the lumps and bumps drive me nuts and I usually end up going in and fixing it when he leaves the room anyway, it still teaches him that there are basic responsibilities, and routines, he has to complete daily.
  • Tidy your room – He does well with this rule, and thankfully I don’t have one of those kids that tries to hide everything under his bed, but I swear to GOD my son has the potential to become a hoarder in the future. The amount of strange little items I find collected among his toys is absurd, why does anyone need a thousand pieces of shredded paper?? He needs to work on his organizational skills, but he is improving rapidly in the cleaning department.
  • Eat breakfast – Pretty straight forward. Yes, I pour the cereal for him, more out of habit than need, but he is expected to sit straight, eat with proper manners and clean up the table and his dishes when he is finished.
  • Pack your lunch – I will make the lunch, just to ensure that it consists of something healthy, and does not contain only chocolate and potato chips, but he is to pack it up and put it in his bag. If he forgets it… well then I guess he will be really hungry after school!!
  • Brush teeth – It seems that no matter how many places I write this rule it is just a forgettable act! If he actually does do it than it is a battle for him to do it right!!! I can’t win with this one and it drives me CRAZY! Having suffered with bad teeth my whole life I try to drill this rule into his head, but he just doesn’t seem to get it, or just doesn’t care, that it is the most important rule listed.
  • Get ready for school – This means your bag is packed, your homework is done, and you are dressed and at the door. Period!

Along with these listed rules are the times they should be completed (e.g. 7:30 wake up, 8:00 eat breakfast) We have a list for morning routines, and evening routines. We also have a sign that lists proper table manners, the proper way to brush your teeth (complete with a 2 minute timer) and set places for toys, books, and art items…. We have lists of weekly chores, with a reward system, and daily chores, all constructed with appropriate sized boxes for checking off when they have been completed. There is structure, organization, and routine. (Things that do not come to me naturally, but since being incorporated are slowly making a difference…. Very slowly!!!)

I do not want to be a drill sergeant, in fact, I have a difficult time being strict, and often feel mean. I am also realistic, I do not expect perfection, and I know that these rules will not change his behavior over-night, but I do know that with structure, routine, affection, and discipline children are more likely to grow into responsible adults. I am careful to show praise for a job well done, and punish bad behavior appropriately, I am clear about both my expectations and the consequences if they are not met. I keep all chores age appropriate, and I ensure that my child is not feeling overwhelmed. It may sound harsh to you but children truly require discipline in order to grow and learn what is, and is not, acceptable, in order to become healthy, happy adults, and our routine works for us!

I wish more people took the time to create structure and routine in their children’s lives, I know that I personally wish I had done it years earlier, it would have saved me a ton of stress and many arguments, and it would have made my son a more well-rounded person, but I have taken the steps to improve my parenting now, and better late than never. Almost any bad behavior can be corrected it just takes time and effort on the part of the parents to make the change a reality. I am not an expert, in fact I am far from it, but I am witnessing change first hand and it is a wonderful feeling!

Pack It Up!


This post a day thing might get difficult over the next few days as I am busy preparing to move. Things around this house are hectic there is stuff everywhere, no co-ordination what-so-ever, and I am running on empty. I am bitchy, miserable, and most of all tired…. So I will keep it short and sweet today with some tips on packing to move…. in others words here is some advice for NOT doing what I did;

  • Make a list – you should have a list of everything and anything that needs done before, during, and after the move. Things that need packed, things that need thrown away, and things that need something done and you don’t have any clue what it is. Make a list of the lists if you must….
  • Use sturdy boxes for fragile items – and mark the FRAGILE in big bold writing, Twice!! Three times even, if possible attach a big flashing sign.
  • Utilize bubble wrap – if bubble wrap is not available, or your wonderful family has popped it all before you have had a chance to use it, than you can use newspaper or sheets, but for the love of god use something, there is nothing worse than reaching in to unpack a box of broken glass..
  • Heavy items should be packed in small boxes – using a big box for heavy things just makes it even heavier. It might seem like a practical choice to pack all the books together in one big box, but if you have ever tried lifting a big box of books…. well lets just say it is not actually practical at all!!
  • Label your boxes – Again with the big bold writing. Another option is to color co-ordinate, eg: red sticker = livingroom, green = bathroom, etc…. You are sure to end up with some green in the red, or blue in the green, but for the most part it makes placement of the boxes easier and saves you moving them all out of one room later to unpack.
  • Start packing as early as possible – by packing a little at a time you will save yourself the stress, and actually be more organized. Doing a small section each day is easier than packing an entire house over the weekend…. hmmmmm… who would have thought???
  • Be sure you book the movers – It is best to book the truck or movers early. Then you must confirm the date and time, and confirm it again, if you are really paranoid confirm a third time the evening before, or the day of… there is nothing more stressful than arriving to pick-up your moving truck to discover that Pablo the rental guy has sent it out to someone else….. be cautious and on top of the movers at all times!!!!

Well that’s it for tips from me.. I am now going to shove everything I own into 2 boxes and be done with it…. ciao!

Moving Out….Of My Mind That Is!!!


Oh the joys of moving! Recently accepting an apartment in the city on a whim, after experiencing some major difficulties with my current landlord means that it is going to be moving time very soon. As I said I do things on the fly, usually without much thought in the process… I am an act first think later kind of person. Upon returning home from the new apartment today where I spent a few quick hours cleaning in preparation for our move I looked around my small 2 bedroom apartment, that currently houses; 2 adults, 2 children and a large dog, and I was overwhelmed with the thought of packing. A quick glance of my apartment reveals that I have been living on the border of hoarding for quite some time now… I don’t actually hoard things I just have more space than room at this point in my life. I am not a hoarder because; unlike those sad people you see on A&E crying over a piece of garbage, I have NO SENTIMENTAL ATTACHMENT TO MY STUFF WHAT-SO-EVER!!! I could trash pretty much everything today and not feel two ways about it. (excluding pictures, and items of memorabilia)

Because of the delicacy of the situation we have found ourselves in, we have decided that the sooner we can move the better, and so I decided that tonight would be as good a time as any for me to start making lists. Some people live off lists, I am not one of those people… I don’t stick to lists, in fact I make grocery lists that I either forget at home, or ignore altogether once I arrive at the store. I make To Do lists that hang on the fridge untouched for decades. Lists just aren’t my thing. But due to the need for at least minor organization (mostly for a mildly less stressful move) I have to create a few lists at least.

The first list, I decided, should be the list of things I am NOT keeping. Among those items were; Two dressers, a stereo stand, a table, two T.V’s, a bed, two toy boxes, and a futon…. to name a few! Besides the ‘big’ items I am sure there will be many smaller objects to add to this list in the following days. I figure that I will post them online for free and what is not taken that way can go out to the curb with the trash on moving day, easy as pie!

The next list is compiled with items that ARE being kept, such as; one dresser, a crib, one toy box, two bookshelves, a bed, and two T.V’s… not much different than the NOT keep list I suppose, except that instead of a short trip to the curb these items will have an hour long journey in the back of a truck from our current home to our new one in the city.

Next is a list of items we need to BUY for the new house. Items like; Shelves, a shoe-rack, bath mats, broom/mop/dust pan, welcome mats, curtains, bedding, etc… The basics of a new place.

Finally is a list of items that we need to get in the LONG-RUN, for example; New light fixtures, (the ones already there are ugly) Tiles for the kitchen/bathroom floor, (again very ugly) Two folding closet doors, and new kitchen items. These things can be added overtime as we find them, and there is no rush involved in purchasing them at this point.

Besides the lists the rest of the process seems to be going smoothly, I enjoy the house itself, and although it is not much bigger than my current residence, the layout is more functional and the space itself is in more livable condition. The area is better and more accessible, and I am just happier in general there. After spending the better part of the morning cleaning the space, it is starting to feel like home already. I can see myself there, picture my life there, and imagine my stuff arranged perfectly in the rooms.

Now if I could only go to sleep tonight and have Mary Poppins come and pack this house for me so that I can wake up and get on with it, life would be great!!!

But no such luck , so in the meantime here are a few tips to remember when you are getting ready to move, and perhaps lighten the mood while you do at least;

  • Don’t pack the dog and the cat in the same box.
  • Wear plenty of deodorant on moving day.
  • It’s okay to curse at heavy or awkwardly shaped furniture.
  • Make lots of friends before you move.
  • Resist the urge to pop all the bubble wrap before packing the fragile items.
  • Beer has the amazing ability to persuade people into doing things they don’t actually want to do.
  • Make lists, even if you don’t use them it makes you feel productive. In fact make a list of the lists you need to make.
  • It may be a better option to just dispose of everything you own, and buy all new stuff upon arrival. Weigh the pros and cons.
  • Purge, purge, purge… if you don’t know what it is, what it does, where it came from, or when you last used it, TRASH IT!
  • Packing tape is not an acceptable form of daycare.
  • Packing boxes are not designed for shipping children, you must ensure you add air holes first.

Honestly, not to come across as lazy, even though I am, but the best advice about moving is to hire a moving company to do it for you. In fact if possible you should shell out the extra dough and they will even pack for you. It is the only way to ensure a ‘less’ stressful move. (Until you open your boxes and discover that Pedro the mexican moving boy have broken every single thing you own… but, at least it got there without you having to carry it all, right?)

There’s the doorbell, hopefully that’s Mary Poppins now… Hell I’d even settle for Pedro at this point, or a big garbage truck. Cross your fingers and wish me luck.. I need it, because truthfully…. I quit already!!!!

Holy Crap! You Survived! Well, So Far Anyway…..


If you are reading this post I must congratulate you on surviving Christmas!!!

Way to go!!! Woo Hoo!! You did it!!!

Wether you have a ‘perfect’ family tradition that seems to flow smoothly and freely, with little effort at all (which would mean your name is either Mary Poppins, or Martha Stewart, and you can go straight to hell!) or you were subjected to a ‘less than desirable’ family affair, you know how difficult the holidays can be! So, give yourself a pat on the back, you managed to make it through in one piece! (although for some the hangover you are suffering may be part of a bittersweet accomplishment)

In-laws, and cousins, sisters and step-parents, the gatherings of the holiday season can be overwhelming at times. (to say the least) With deep-fried turkeys, baked, boiled, and burnt. Potatoes, presents, pizza, and pie… you survived, and that is another reason to celebrate!!

Granted, you probably consumed a minimum of 3,000 calories, according to Diet Bites. That is with less than the sites listed amount of food, some of which consists of; 1 cup of stuffing, 1 cup of gravy, 6 ounces of turkey, 1 cup of mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup of Cranberry sauce, 2 buttered rolls, and 2 glasses of wine. (click the link above to see the entire list of foods and calories)

If the fact that you consumed more calories in one meal than some people do in an entire day is not stress enough, there are often presents that need to be returned. Oh don’t act so innocent… you know you hate that ugly sweater Aunt Betty got you, or that grill from Grandma Genie, you know, the exact-same grill she gave you last Christmas, you also know where they came from, and what you would rather have received. Returning these unwanted, less than thoughtful, gifts means; long lines, tired mothers with candy-high children who are eager to get their spoiled butt home to the plethora of new toys, games, and gadgets Santa left for them under the tree, grumpy, tired, and obnoxious customers arguing over return policies, and even grumpier customer services clerks arguing right back. It means congested roads, stupid drivers, and over packed malls with ‘over priced’ sales. It means not only returning the improper item, but often going out in search of something to replace it with. This also means thinking up a lie for when the ‘gifter’ arrives for a visit and asks, (while suspiciously looking around your home) “Did you like the (snot green,ugly, or useless) crystal bowl we got you for Christmas?” While you sit, sweating on the couch trying to look innocent as you figure out how to hide the new T.V. mounted on your wall in plain sight!

There is always the option of re-gifting those undesirable items that (obviously thoughtless) family members chose to present you with. If you are a re-gifter it is important that you take note, and remember ‘who gave you what gift.’ I once witnessed a very awkward moment where a re-gifter friend of mine, re-gifted a gift to the original gifter!!! Ummm… Awkward!!! With re-gifting you run the risk of looking like the ‘thoughtless gifter’ yourself as well, so it may be best to only re-gift ‘unwanted’ or ‘tasteless’ items to those which you don’t value their opinion. Also be sure you check for, and remove, any old tags from the item you are re-gifting. Another awkward situation can arise if the gift receiver opens their gift to find a tag reading ‘To: Shelly From: Jane’ and their name is Amanda! So be very careful when choosing to re-gift, it can be more tasteless and tacky than the original gift itself.

If all these thoughts don’t cause you to down a very large bottle of wine, very quickly, as you sit crying in the bathroom, door locked, and sappy music blaring, there is also the added stress of the boxing day sales, everywhere!! I could never figure out why anyone thinks shopping on boxing day is a good idea. Sure, you can sometimes find great items at alow price, but the real bargains are often found at the end of the ‘boxing week.’ For me, fighting through the crowds is not worth the couple of bucks I can save on most items. For bigger items you may decide it is worth the savings, and opt to face the fury, if choosing to shop on boxing day it is important that you are prepared for anything, because all that is crazy, out-of-control, and just plain ludicrous, can, and will, be seen while out shopping on boxing day. If you thought Christmas shopping at Walmart was bad, be prepared for the same cart ramming, fist fighting, profanity shouting chaos, times 100!! You must bring your patience when shopping on or around boxing day, it is usually best to hire a babysitter and leave the kids at home if at all possible. Strollers and large crowds are not a good combination, and it will only lead to elevated stress levels in all aspects, on all involved. You must also remember to consider how much of a deal you are actually getting before you purchase an item, be sure you know the regular price of the item, and how much you will save if you are buying it during a boxing week sale. Through years of working, and shopping retail I learned that there are many ways a store can create the illusion of savings that are not actually there. One of the most common ways of doing this is to advertise a large percentage sale (Such as 50% off) and then add the words “the original price.” When you are taking a percentage off a ‘sale’ item (or the lowest ticketed price) you are clearly saving money, but when you remove a percentage off the ‘original price’ often times it turns out that the amount you are saving is very minor, especially after you factor in taxes, and the time you spent awaiting the purchase itself. The other important factors in boxing day shopping are 1) to plan your shopping route ahead of time. There is nothing worse than driving back and forth in boxing day traffic, in the exact fashion that driving in Christmas traffic is terrible, as is driving here-and-there in boxing day traffic (perhaps worse when you factor in all the young drivers who just got cash for Christmas and are now out driving around looking to spend it) and 2) the longer you wait to shop the lower the price will be! Retail stores ‘need’ to move inventory after Christmas to make room for the new seasons items, they will do this by first listing a sale price that seems to be a good deal to quickly sell off as many items as possible on the busiest shopping day which is boxing day itself. They will then proceed to lower this sale price repeatedly until the items are sold out, and there is room for the new stock to hit the sales floor. (This is the sole reason I choose to shop at the end of boxing week. I save more money, and I don’t have the stress of miserable people, long lines, and insane crowds in tight spaces!)

The snowball of stress comes to a peak with the New Year fast approaching. If Christmas with the family, gift returns with disgruntled customer service reps, and boxing day shopping chaos wasn’t enough to drive you mad, you have one last chance of winning an all expenses paid vacation at the local loony bin with New Years Eve’s extravaganza! The beauty of this event is that you don’t have to go anywhere to feel stress unless you choose to. Opting to stay home often effects no one but you! Your friends and family will ‘understand’ that you decided to stay in and enjoy a quiet night, they will still be able to venture out enjoy the party without you… In fact, by staying in you probably provided them with hours of entertainment, and deep discussion on how much of a loner, loser, snob, baby, geek, suck, and/or bitch, you are for not showing up to start the New Year with a bang! If you do decide to go out for the night you will pay too much money for any venue you plan to attend, any daycare you may require, any dress you decide to purchase, and any beverage you choose to drink. If you opt to attend a house party, rather than a orgainized event, it is almost guaranteed that either you, your date, or one of your friends, will get way too drunk, kiss a stranger at midnight, or ring in the new year on the bathroom floor. The stress then increases with the size of your hangover New Years Day, the realisation that you are out of Aspirin and everything is closed, and the number of children who require your care and attention first thing in the morning.  

The good news is, you survived Christmas with all the chaos and the drama it entails! That is a victory you should be proud of, and once you make it through the anarchy that is the beginning of the New Year you will be set and ready for a fresh start…. Then all you have to do is choose, and stick to, those New Years resolutions!

How hard could that be, right?

After all you are a survivor!!!

 

Christmas…One Way, or Another……


Well the count down to Christmas is running full speed ahead, despite my desperate pleas to put it off just a little longer, my plot to hijack Santa’s sleigh, my insistent tears, and my constant attempts at bargaining with the Gods to end the world NOW before I have to go back to Walmart!

I would love to be able to say I am ready… but that would not only be a lie, it would be a HUGE lie. I am not even close to ready, in fact, I am not even ready to prepare to be ready!!! I would love to say that I got everything that everyone asked for, and all at a fair and reasonable price, but that would be a lie as well, I would love to say that I have the decorations up, the tree lit, and Christmas cookies baking in the oven, but again it would be a big, fat, complete, outright lie!!!

What do I have you ask???????

Nada, nothing, zip, zero, nil, nix, zilch…….

OK that is not completely true…. it’s another lie…I am a big fat liar today!!! I do have a few things. On my latest shopping excursion I did manage to purchase 4 gifts, two for L, and two for C…. you might say ‘that’s great!’ but it’s not great… they are not great gifts, actually they are kinda stupid… well 2 of the 4 are anyway….. not so much stupid, as just blah. I don’t know if it is just that I am in a Ba-hum-bug mood this year, or that the anxiety of shopping causes me to just grab the first thing I see that has some kind of use at a decent price, but when I got home I felt drained, and looking at the 4 sad little presents I had managed to purchase, I realised just how useless they really were….

So whats a girl to do???

Shop some more obviously… What choice do I have.  Usually the thought of shopping would excite me to no end. Any other day planning a shopping trip would send a thrill rushing through my body. I LOVE shopping at any other time of year, but this year, at this time, I just HATE it!!! I psyche myself up and head out with high hopes, but the minute I see the disorganization, chaos, and other bustling shoppers…I panic, grab at something, and run. Pathetic I know. I really have to get over this recent fear of shopping…QUICK!!!

So whats my plan???

Well truthfully I don’t have a plan I am just going to keep heading out nd hoping for the best, eventually I will grab something great I figure, and by process of elimination Christmas will come together dammit!!!!

Keep your fingers crossed, and wish me luck…. Lord knows I need it!!!!

I Woke Up In The Arctic!


Today was one of those bitterly cold days, you know those days when you skin aches and threatens to peel off in the wind? That was today… But of course, no one told me it was one of those days….

I woke up in an excellent mood this morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, raring to go. I had a big plan to go to the mall, just me and my daughter ‘L’, and get the Christmas shopping done. I got ‘C’ dressed and off to school without a hitch, got ‘L’ dressed without too much of a fight and even managed to pull myself together in a somewhat respectable manner. We were off to a good start. Coats, boots and I was headed out the door…. I made it to the corner!

Now, I am not completely moronic, I am aware that it’s December and I did not expect daisies and daffodils, but -25 temperatures were not what I was expecting either! By the time I reached the corner at the end of the street (probably 20 steps away) I had extensive frost bite on my face, had lost all feeling in my fingers, and had tears frozen to my cheeks! (No, I am not being dramatic! WTF???)  ‘L’ of course was fine. Bundled tight in blankets, winter clothing, and a plastic protective shield, she sat in her stroller and gleefully giggled as her Mama swore, stomped, and basically threw a fit at the bus stop, in public, on a busy street. Apparently to her 9 month-old mind, my freezing fit was comical.

I managed to get on the bus without turning around and running back home, (mostly due to the fact that home was the exact direction from which the harsh icy wind was blowing) but my mood for shopping had long since dissipated. I simply refused to get off this bus, on to another bus, and then walk from that bus stop in to the mall at least 30 feet away in this horrid weather. I just would not, could not, do it!!!!

Instead, I took the bus to the station, walked up the block to my parents house for a visit, (which turned out to be further and more difficult than the walk from the bus to the mall would have been) and took a taxi home. Yes, I am a wimp! I don’t care! I am honestly not made for this weather. I could wear; 3 pairs of pants, 6 shirts, 8 pairs of gloves, 4 extra socks, and an Eskimo jacket and still be cold…I was meant to bask in the sun dammit!!!

The day was not a total waste though, I did end up getting some great clothes (hand-me-downs, but very nice ones) from my Grandmother, I managed to make it to the grocery store (Via Taxi) and I got the house cleaned up pretty well… so it was still productive at least.

As for Christmas shopping, well I guess next time I make the attempt (tomorrow?) I will be sure to watch the weather network first!!!

Stop Trimming the Trimmings…..Get over Getting Thin!


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‘Tis the season for turkey and trimmings, for cookies and cakes, for pies and presents….and unsuccessful attempts at dieting!

This time of year it seems that every where you turn there is another ad, commercial, or story claiming to burn off those extra pounds, help you get fit, or curb you holiday appetite.

Everyone you run into is on a diet, is counting calories, or is in one way or another obsessed with the food they eat, or fight not to eat.

You know what I say….

SCREW IT!!!

Yup, that’s right… I just said that! Why did I say that? Because honestly, who really cares.

I think that it is time for us to face the facts. The truth is your body is going to do whatever it chooses to do, and as you age those choices usually differ from your own preference. If you are going to gain weight because you like junk food, than forcing yourself not to eat what you like is not going to work…. or maybe it will, for a while, but in the long run diets are crap.

No, I am not saying that you should run wild and stuff yourself with cookies and cakes until you have to be rolled out of Aunt Elma’s house like Vercua Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Of course not, that would be silly…. and probably somewhat traumatic to your brothers new girlfriend. What I am saying is that you should not deprive yourself of the things you love just to fit some unnatural image you are holding of yourself in your head…

What exactly is an unnatural image, you ask…. Well, If you are over the age of 25 and you are not currently, or naturally, a size two, chances are you are not going to be. (No matter how many Big Mac‘s you avoid) Sure eating healthy is a great way to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, and it is just plain good for you, but forcing yourself to avoid what you crave is not!

The key to a happy healthy life is to fuel your body with healthy foods, and treat yourself to the junk you love. It’s all about moderation my friends, and positive thinking if you really want to get technical. But moderation is the real key…

If you force yourself to fill up on things that you don’t actually want to be eating, all of the time, then one of those times you are just going to snap…. this is where the real problem lies. You can not, no matter how hard you try, completely change the person you are and expect those changes to stick, and last forever. Trying to change everything you eat all the time is like trying to change your personality forever. It is just not possible, and eventually you will become unhappy with yourself.

This is not to say ‘accept your weight just the way you are’, that ‘obesity is OK’, or ‘who cares if you are on the verge of heart failure because you can’t even make it up your front steps’… NO! There are some situations where losing weight in excess is the only” real” option, and that’s fine. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to lose a little weight just to “feel” good, but creating some unrealistic image of yourself in a size 2 dress when you haven’t been a size 2 since grade 6 is wrong. Not only is it a sure-fire way to set yourself up for disappointment, but it is a guaranteed way to beat down your self-esteem. You need to be realistic in your goals, conscience of what you eat, and in tune with your bodies cravings, not deprive yourself of food you love just for the sake of losing a few pounds.

Instead of skipping on the deserts this season, decide to take an extra walk tomorrow, fit in another trip to the gym on the weekend, or play a round of tennis with your girlfriends. Give yourself the gift of the pleasure good food gives, and accept that although that extra helping of turkey might make your size 2 image blur, the image of who you are now with a satisfied smile on your face is what is truly important.