It’s the Most Modest Time of the Year

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. The holidays were simple. Great! But, simple. My mom and dad always did their best, and we always had good gifts.

It wasn’t just Christmastime that it was like that. We ate simply, and I argued with my mom every single year when it was time to get back-to-school clothes. But, the hot pink dress flats! All the girls in my class will have them!

We have a lot more money than my parents did. But, I want to raise my sons to know there’s more to life than possessions. I feel like I grew up with an appreciation for things. With the ability to wait and save up for things I really wanted. How to tell the difference between something I wanted and something I needed. I know the value of a dollar.

In today’s world, this is an all but forgotten concept. Especially in the United States, kids are raised to think they can have anything they want, and be surrounded with stuff. Hardly anyone tries to raise their kids to be happy with what they have, and to be happy with less.

We keep the toy box half empty. They don’t need every single toy they see on TV. And they don’t need 1,000 different things to keep them happy. A set of blocks, a few Matchbox cars, a train set, some art supplies. This fosters creativity, and a true appreciation when we do introduce a new toy. After a while of getting all the toys they want all the time, receiving a gift begins to lose its meaning.

It’s not that I don’t want to shower them with a ton of gifts. I love my children with all my heart, and want them to have more than I did when I was younger. But, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a balance. Good, nice gifts, but not every toy on the shelf. More presents than I got as a kid, but not a gigantic pile under the tree.

What’s your philosophy? Do you get your kids new stuff all the time? If you can’t afford to do that, are you sad that you can’t get more? How do you talk to your kids about money/consumerism?

A Very Bloggy Christmas

Our holiday consisted of a Christmas Eve with friends, appetizers and plenty of beer and wine, followed by a Christmas day with family and friends, more appetizers and tons of champagne. Also, an amazing, fantastic Boxing Day crab feast, provided by my sister-in-law.

Bowie got some (i.e. 50) Hot Wheels cars and a cool race track with a “hoopty-hoop”(how he says “loopty-loop”) which he played with all morning long.

Hope your holidays were/are filled with all the love, joy and priceless memories they should be.

10 tips for smarter holiday shopping and gifting

This time of year, it’s very easy to get sucked into the drama and the stress of holiday shopping. I’ve been there! Here are my ten tips on making things a little easier.

1. Shop year-round. You heard me. Have those feelers out 364 days a year. Watch for sales, clearance racks and other deals, and just keep an eye out for gifts that you knew a certain someone would love, or just gifts you know just about anyone would love and store them away in your closet. I’m not talking Hoarders-style here, just a few things you see that are perfect. You can always fill in the gaps come November and December.

2. If you get gift cards, be absolutely certain that the recipient enjoys regularly shopping or eating at the establishment that you choose. There are some striking statistics out there on how many gift cards go completely unused (i.e. wasted). If you’re at all unsure, skip it. A small gift you know they will enjoy goes a lot further.

3. Clothing isn’t a great gift option, so just skip it if you can. Unless you are privy to someone’s sizes (and most of us are not, not even our spouses) it can be awkward for them if it doesn’t fit, and difficult to exchange or return. Save yourself the stress of “what size? WHAT SIZE?!” and opt for a handbag or a nice scarf instead.

4. If you’re a big giver, set aside a little money each month in a special account that you can use toward holiday purchases. It certainly helps to have that money in place when the time comes, and it’s SO much better than maxing out all your credit cards and trying to deal with it in January.

5. Handmade gifts are often the best gifts. Make some homemade cookies or jams, decorate a wooden picture frame, have children color pictures, make a simple sewing project or put together a scrapbook of a favorite memory. Not only are handmade gifts completely unique, but they come straight from the heart, and that’s what a recipient really wants.

6. With some people, I find it fun to have a gift-giving tradition. Each year, buy each other the same thing: an ornament, funky earrings, garden seeds, coffee mugs, whatever it is that you share an interest in. It takes the thinking out of a gift, and in the end you each will have a fun collection.

7. For children, if you find yourself in the toy aisle, head swirling, head to the games and puzzles. They are much more enjoyable and educational. Just find something age-appropriate.

8. Save yourself some money and only send holiday cards to close friends and family. Cut out friends you haven’t spoken to in forever, old bosses, obscure 5th cousins, anyone you wouldn’t mind not getting a card from yourself. You can save a bundle on cards and postage.

9. If you really don’t know what to get someone, just ask. Better you feel like a fool for a few minutes, not knowing what to get, than feel unsure forever that you’re getting the right gift. The recipient usually appreciates being asked rather than you doing some quick guess work.

10. Consider spending money to “adopt a family” instead of exchanging gifts. My mom’s family has been doing this recently, and it’s so great. For one, it completely eliminates the stress of buying gifts, and you’re also helping a family in need, which feels so great. Another great gift is making a charitable donation in your recipient’s name. They will feel honored, and you will have put your money to good use.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Office Depot blogging program, making me eligible to get a $40 Office Depot gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Beth’s Picks: Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again! And there’s nothing I love more than browsing lists of gift ideas online and in magazines, to get great ideas for the people in my life. Here’s a tiny little OpenSky gift guide from me to you and yours. Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!

Intemperantia Chocolates Mini Assorted Truffles: A delicious 9 piece sampler set of these great bit sized truffles. They come in a variety of flavors (dark, milk, white, etc.) Best of all, they are gluten free and all natural–perfect for any chocolate lover! ($15)

Custom Initial Onsies: About as personalized as it can get! You choose your color and your initial and a custom onsie is sent right to you and your baby! Great gift for new little ones in the family. They also come in long sleeved (for $1.50 extra), because it is winter after all! ($11)

Blue Sandtimer Cufflinks: For the gentleman who has everything, some cool cufflinks! A conversation starter, a classy addition to any suit and a unique gift he’ll remember forever. Chrome plated. ($25)

Marx Foods Truffle Salt: A special treat for the foodie in your life! Truffle salt can be added to foods like regular salt, but adds the earthy flavor of black truffles. A delightful treat and a special addition to your cooking. 3.5 ounces. ($26)

Groovy Peace Bronze Necklace: For the hippie in your life. Funky, fun, eclectic and sends a positive message. My high school self would be drooling over this fantastic necklace. ($75)

Three Bar Bacon Soap Set: Know someone who REALLY likes bacon? This soap would be the perfect stocking stuffer! Just be sure to tell them it’s soap before they take a bite, haha. ($18)

Picnic Time Tool Kit: A handy, compact (12.5″ x 3.5″ x 17″) and durable tool kit for anyone you think could use it, from the kid going off to college to that neighbor who is constantly borrowing your tools. ($36)

Love and Kindness 8oz Soy Candle: An all-natural, clean-burning soy candle in a reusable glass jar with 50 to 70 hours of burn time. Comes in a wide variety of scents, and supports American farmers. You really can’t go wrong with these great candles! ($12)

Food Groups: For the kiddos, a great wooden food toy set to teach them all about their food groups. Durable and non-toxic.  ($18)

Stickr Black Frame Kit: Genius idea! Frames that stick to the wall, but won’t damage it when removed! And they can be moved around over and over. Set includes Doiley 5×7”; Queen Elizabeth 8×10”; Broadway 4×6”; Gumdrops 4×6”; Gumdrops 4×4”; Grandma’s Tiara 5×7”; Grandma’s Tiara 4×6”; Doiley 4×6”. ($20)

Ultra Moisturizing Cream Gift Set: A fantastic moisturizer that I have sung the praises of previously on Very Bloggy. This gift set comes with four 2 oz. jars, in the Fresh Lemongrass, Coconut Lime, Almond Vanilla, and Vanilla Fig scents. Great gift for a friend, or stocking stuffers for lots of friends! ($40)

Cookie Treat Cuatro Gift Set: For the doggie lovers. A gift pack of four different yummy organic and all-natural dog treats, with no wheat, corn or soy. A yummy holiday treat for any pooch! ($33)