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Christmas Planning Part IV: Paying for Christmas

While scaling back can take a big chunk out of the burden of paying for Christmas, the burden won't be completely gone. We still have to buy gifts or materials to make them, and we want to do fun things around Christmas that sometimes cost money. Since I don't advocate going into credit card debt for anything short of the most dire emergencies, here are a couple suggestions on how to pay for Christmas. One way we have done it in the past is to set up an extra savings account at our credit union and transfer $10-$20 a paycheck into it depending on what we can afford. If things are really tight, we sometimes only move over $5. If we have a windfall (such as a bonus or tax return) we will take a portion of that money and add it to the Christmas account as well. This Christmas account pays for both gifts AND activities thorough the Christmas season.

I know someone that insists that they are too poor to save even a few dollars a pay check, so they put everything they buy for Christm…
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Christmas Planning Part III: Emphasizing Traditions and Memories

We have all been brainwashed.  We have been taught by society at large that the most important things in our lives are, well, THINGS.  And that those THINGS make us happy.  This idea is promulgated more around Christmas time than any other time of the year.  So, in order to make a simpler, less expensive Christmas possible, we have to shift our focus from THINGS to something else.  What do we focus on instead? Traditions and Memories. This goes hand in hand with my life philosophy that experiences are more important than stuff.  Here are a few ideas for simple, inexpensive traditions, and a few ways to make Christmas memories with your families.  

Traditions
Our family acts out the Nativity each year at my mother's home, sometime the week before Christmas. My mother has a nice manger that we use, and we all dress in costume (think bathrobes, sheets, and towels) , read Luke II, and act it out. Since our family is smaller, we all get to take turns playing different roles. The boys oft…

Christmas Planning Part II: Our Christmas Gift Philosophy

It is very easy around the Holidays to get caught up in the "magic" of Christmas. And what could be more magical than a giant pile of presents under the tree, right? While this may paint a lovely picture, it can't always be the reality financially. And even if you can swing it for one year, it might set up an expectation or precedent for years to come. Years that might not be as abundant. In our family, we have decided to shift the focus as much as we can from getting and gifts, to giving, making memories, and traditions (more on that to come).  We still give gifts, but we have pared it down quite a bit to make it more manageable.

We have settled on giving our kids 4 presents each year, based around the following rhyme shared with me by a friend: "Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read." I can already hear your brains ticking, "Do you seriously only give your kids ONE TOY at Christmas?" Well, no. These are the fo…

Christmas Planning: A "Christmas" Miracle and Getting Started Early

This last Easter weekend we had snow. SNOW. On Easter Weekend. There was a lot of murmuring in our valley about what many saw as nature's cruel joke. That is, until everyone found out about Allanna, a six year old in our valley suffering with cancer. She isn't expected to live until next December, so her family decided to have her last Easter AND her last Christmas over Easter weekend. And we got snow. Isn't God good? You can see news story about Allana and her miracle snow here.
Along with sharing this heartwarming story with you, I thought maybe it is time to share some holiday tips that I use to help make the holidays more enjoyable, affordable, and doable at our house. So, over the course of this week, I will be sharing both our Christmas Philosophy, and some ideas about how to pay for it. I know it is early in the year, but I wanted to put them out there because a few require advanced planning, and the rest are worth mulling over! More to come!!

Up Next: Our Christmas G…

Tip For Peeling Eggs

The best part of having your own chickens is fresh eggs.  Since spring feels like it has arrived in our neck of the woods, our chickens have ramped up their egg production significantly in the last couple of weeks.  This occurred right after I bought a dozen and a half eggs from Costco since I wasn't expecting to have so many fresh ones on hand for a few weeks yet.  Oops.  So here I was with a huge amount of eggs, trying to figure out what to do with them.  Then I remembered a family pot luck we had coming up and decided it would be the perfect opportunity to use up a dozen or more eggs in hard-boiled form on a big batch of potato salad.  Since I was making hard boiled eggs, I though I'd share my little trick for peeling them.

I never realized that people have a hard time peeling hard boiled eggs until I got married and my husband was complaining one day about how he couldn't get the eggs peeled very easily.  Then I noticed one day my mother-in-law struggling to peel a …

Healthier Popcorn

We eat a lot of popcorn in our family.  And I mean a LOT.  We buy our popcorn kernels in bulk, by the 25 lb bag-full.  Yeah....we eat a lot of popcorn.  When we first got married, it was microwave popcorn. While it may taste pretty good, we figured out that microwave popcorn isn't the best for you.  Since moving more towards real food, we have found a happy place with our popcorn making, and I want to share our recipe and method with you, as well as some other options.

We use a stove top popcorn popper when we make popcorn at our house.  We were introduced to this method by my brother-in-law who would make us theater style popcorn whenever we would visit them.  He used the actual oil and popcorn salt that they used in movie theaters (purchased at Sam's Club) in his stove top popper.  That is originally how we used our popper as well, but then I started looking for healthier options.  This recipe is our favorite variation so far.

You'll need:

1. Stovetop popcorn popper (li…

Why I Keep Over-The-Counter Meds On-Hand

I love essential oils.  I also love tinctures and other herbal remedies.  But my kids aren't always thrilled with home remedies because of taste/smell/random finicky-ness, and *sometimes* I run through a few natural options and still can't solve a problem myself.  Case in point:  my 7-year-old has a nasty bug.  We had family come and visit this weekend, and someone was sick.  Sunday he started complaining of not feeling well and by Sunday night he was running a moderate fever (100-101 degrees Fahrenheit).  I rubbed some lavender oil on him to keep it moderate and put him to bed.  The next morning his fever was 101.8 when he got up. Still no big deal.  But within an hour it was up to 102.8.  Hmmm. Time to try something a little more potent.  Out came my glycerin tinctures, diluted in water.  He wouldn't take more than a sip and then refused more because it turned his already painful stomach. Out came the essential oils again. Within a half hour it was up to 103.5.  Now I w…