Budget Friendly Christmas Pt. 2

I saved just over $600 towards Christmas using various savings apps and rewards programs.  I’m stretching this to cover eight people – primarily my two kids.  These are some deals I found this season:

Toys R Us

Of course their “site wide” 15% off sale didn’t cover anything I wanted.  I was looking for a specific Duplo set, but at $79.99 it was out of budget.  Then I found this exact set, brand new, sold by Toys R Us on Ebay for $49 shipped!  I also received 9% cash back for the purchase ($4.41.)  This is the 2 year olds “big” gift, and was recommended by his PT therapists to work on fine motor skills.


On Black Friday if you spent over $50 they gave you a 20% coupon to use the following week on your entire purchase.  We spent over $50 on some groceries and socks to get the coupon.

With the 20% coupon and $35 in gift cards, I purchased the Roku Ultra (reg. $99) and this dollhouse (reg ($129) for $147.40.  The Roku is DH and I’s gift to ourselves (our original one from 2013 finally died), the dollhouse is for our oldest son – it’s the #1 item on his list lol.  For his Disney figures!  I love the neutral color palate.  Nearly impossible to find a playhouse that isn’t bright pink!  I’ve been scouring Craigslist and local FB ads for dollhouses that I could just paint, but I was never quick enough to get one.

I also nabbed a clearance art easel for the boys playroom.  Regularly $40, it was on clearance for $11.98.  It comes with plenty of paper and accessories, I didn’t need to buy anything separately to “complete” that gift.


I stopped by to grab some ribbon (70% off!) for our Christmas tree.  I came across a nice selection of Discovery Kids items while there.  It was Black Friday and they were offering 60% off your entire purchase, including sale items, before 11am.  I was able to get a telescope/microscope lab kit that was $15 on sale (reg. $60!!), and final price came to $6 + tax!  My science obsessed 7 year old will love this.

The Children’s Place

My last good deal was on clothing for the kids.  I usually try to stock up at the local consignment sale each year, but the selection was slim pickings by the time I was able to stop by.  (Same week DS2 was hospitalized.)   The Children’s Place had a great Black Friday sale, and I took advantage of it.

Every thing was discounted 50-75%, plus rewards points were doubled, and you could early $20 TCP cash for every $20 spent.  It’s normally $10 TCP cash for every $20.  (Similar to Kohls cash.)  I already had a $10 rewards coupon to use as well.  I’m quite happy with my haul:

  • DS1: 4 pairs of jeans, 2 school uniform sweaters, 1 hoodie, 3 t-shirts, 2 pajama pants, 1 pair of shoes, underwear, socks.
  • DS2: 2 pairs of jeans, 4 t-shirts, 1 sweater, 1 hoodie, 3 pairs of footie pajamas, socks, 1 pair of sweatpants.

My total was $101 shipped, including tax.  I received $100 in TCP cash, which I’ll need to use by end of January.  I’ll probably split this with a friend, unless I just order larger sizes.  I was thinking of putting it towards school uniforms for next year, but I’ve never bought their uniform items before.  (Old Navy shrinks, Target’s Cat & Jack tears easily, GAP is great (pricey) – but the navy attracts every bit of lint.)

Overall I think I did well.  There is one more “big” thing I’d like to get – a set of Targets Pillowfort industrial kids chairs for the playroom.  Those chairs are quite sturdy, and could support even me while sitting to help or play with the kids.  The Ikea chairs are definitely cheap and flimsy.  I’ve been trying to snag the Target chairs for over a month now, but they mysteriously go out of stock every time I add them to my cart during a sale.  They’re not a must have.

All the above comes to $310.97 out of my $600 budget – and honestly, some of the clothing was a need and not necessarily Christmas-budget worthy.  Other than that, I just need to get a few stocking stuffers, and we’re done with the kids!  The remainder of the balance will go towards our moms and siblings.  I’m considering hosting a $5-$10 white elephant game night with friends.  I think it would be fun, but we have some bah-humbugs in the bunch.


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Budget Friendly Christmas Pt. 1

I’ve always kept Christmas minimal with my kids.  Growing up we had huge Christmas gatherings and hundreds of gifts.  I watched my cousins become ungrateful brats, and it carried into adulthood.  I knew I wanted to avoid the attitude of “gimme gimme gimme” with my family, and I’m happy to say  (so far), that I have.

This year we’re on a very tight Christmas budget, and it will be “small”.  My kids (2 & 7) won’t even notice!  I’m done with my shopping for the kids and very happy with what I spent and deals I have found.

This year I decided on a budget of $500 for Christmas, which isn’t that much once you start looking into things to buy!  This covers the kids, DH, myself, mother in law, my mother, and siblings.  I saved in little ways throughout the year and here’s what I’ve earned:

  • Wal-Mart GCs (Savings Catcher):  $154.17
  • Ibotta Paypal Cashouts: $29.25
  • Amazon GCs (Coke Rewards): $70.00
  • Target GCs (Coke Rewards): $35.00
  • Amazon GCs (Aetna Rewards): $20.00
  • Ebates Paypal Cashouts: $299.93
  • Total: $608.35 !!!

I didn’t have to put any cash aside on pay days!  I nabbed the Coke Rewards recently.  I stopped saving codes this summer when Coke announced they were ending the My Coke Rewards program.  Over the weekend I received an email that for 10 codes I could get $5 to Amazon, and also found $5 Target gift cards for 5 codes.  My MIL still saves these and I was able to accumulate quite a few gift cards!

Part 2 will be a list of the deals I’ve received this year and the gifts!  🙂

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Bills Going Up, Up, Up

I keep receiving notices that our prices are going up for various accounts.

Our internet was $39.99 and went up to $44.99 without notice about six months ago.  I called to complain, because I was in a 12-month contract at the $39.99 price.  They said since it was a company wide increase, they were allowed to raise contracted prices.  My friend with the same package deal for $39.99 never had the $44.99 increase.  Hmm!  But they wouldn’t budge and it’s still the cheapest option.

Well NOW it’s going up to $64.99 – again, no notice.  No email, no letter, nothing.  Just $64.99 on my December bill.  Ticked me off.  We called to see what could be done – nothing.  No deals for existing customers, only new.  The “customer service” agent actually told us “good luck with another provider”.  Why don’t companies want to keep long time customers?!  I don’t get it.

Netflix went from $7.99 to $8.99 to $9.99 in the last two years, and now, $10.99.  They did provide notice, and it’s still a very reasonable cost compared to cable.

Cellphone bill – the sharpest thorn in my side when it comes to monthly expenses.  It was already an outrageous $151 per month for 3 lines.  Now it’s $225 per month for 4 lines.  Why another line?  Oh, my mother in law decided to add her sister to our plan.  How she was able to do this without DH’s consent (he’s the primary account holder) is beyond me.  I understand she’ll pay for their portions, but it’s still money we’re paying up front, while awaiting reimbursement every month.

Natural gas – our gas company sent out a notice of increased rates beginning in January.  Unfortunately this is the city gas company and the only one that services our neighborhood, so I can’t even switch companies.  Which sucks, because there are much better rates available!

Plus health insurance.  Probably taxes, food, and gas.  

And how about the wages?  Ha. Ha. HA.  DH will be lucky if he gets his annual review in February.  The new manager skipped it this year, therefore no raise.  And if they do give a raise it probably won’t even make up for the insurance increase.

Adulting is overrated.  😉

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A Few Good Deals

Black Friday, the weekend, and Cyber Monday were huge letdowns in the savings department.  None of the items we want to get the kids were on sale.  Toys R Us had a misleading email campaign of 15% site wide, yet nothing we added to our cart were included in the sale.  Figures!  I didn’t buy a thing.

The one really good deal we got had to do with the truck repair.  DH hit it off with the lead mechanic over their shared interests.  The guy gave us $500 off!!!  Plus a free motor mount and thermostat, because they noticed it was broken while repairing the power steering issues.  Our final total was $3800!  That’s still a huge amount of money we didn’t have, but much better than $4500.  It pays to be friendly!

After going over all our options, we agreed doing the home equity loan made the most sense.  Unfortunately our bank informed us it would take 45-60 days to close (holiday season delays?!) and have access to the funds.  With maxed out credit cards, no savings, and a truck that barely steered – we couldn’t wait that long for the repairs.  My mother loaned us the money.  I can say this is the first – and only – time I have ever borrowed money from my mother.  She wants us to pay her back when we sell the rental house, but I hope to make payments biweekly (pay days) going forward, and paid in full when we get the loan.  We’re gathering documents for the home equity loan now, and expect to close beginning of January.

Anyone familiar with My Coke Rewards?  Coca Cola’s rewards program that supposedly went kaput last year?  We’re avid coke drinkers, terrible habit, and I’ve always saved the codes.  MCR was a fun little way to get freebies, such as gift cards or free 12-packs.  Then they discontinued MCR.  For some reason I still saved the codes, out of habit I suppose, and I have an entire kitchen drawer full of them.

I received an email from Coca Cola about redeeming 5 codes for a $5 Target gift card.  I went to the site, it’s new and no longer called MCR, and my login info was all the same.  I entered 5 codes and received $5 to Target right away.  I browsed their rewards catalog and found I could enter 10 codes for $5 to Amazon.  After doing this on my and DH’s accounts, I ended up with $20 to Target and $60 to Amazon!  That’s a “free” $80 to go towards Christmas!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!  I must say the Pioneer Woman’s turkey brine recipe worked out amazingly well for me.  The turkey was moist and delicious.  I impressed my family, and that’s a big task.  Now if only I could master mashed potatoes!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ll get back to the personal finance posts next week.  I took this week “off” to enjoy the holiday recover from the stomach flu.  Great timing lol.   On the mend and cooking a feast.  For the first time I am hosting Thanksgiving and responsible for cooking the turkey.  What an experience!  I used the Pioneer Woman’s brine recipe and herb butter.  Only because it’s what had the most positive reviews on Google.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and lots of good food!

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Repair Options

We’ve had a few days to mull it all over, and we’ve come up with three options regarding the needed truck repairs.  I’d love honest input here.  DH will do whatever, and I tend to overanalyze and stress out making all the decisions.

I know several people mentioned that we need to get multiple quotes.  We did.  $4500 was the average for three places.  The dealership and 2 local shops.  I know most people avoid dealerships, but I worked directly with them for a decade, and know everyone there, so I trusted their input on what really needed to be done.  Parts alone – for all three quotes – were exactly $3850.  It’s the labor that varied.

Option 1

Purchase newer truck, trade in current truck.  Trade in value will not cover remaining loan balance ($8600), so we’d have to roll the remainder into the new loan.  The loan details would be around $28k at 3% for 72 months, with a $457/mo car payment – that’s best case scenario.  😦  A huge jump from our current $257 payment.

Option 2

Borrow money from our mothers (they’ve both offered, repeatedly), and have the truck repaired for the $4500.  We’d pay them back either in installments, or in full once the rental house is sold (spring 2018 goal.)

Option 3

Take out a loan with our bank.  I’m not sure if we’d take out a personal loan or equity loan, it would depend on the interest rates available.  This option has a part A and B…

  • A.  Minimal loan to repair truck, pay off credit cards, and repair the rental house to get it market ready.
  • B. Larger loan to replace truck, pay off credit cards, and repair the rental house to get it market ready.  This would be a lower monthly payment than option 1.

We already know we’ll have to take our a loan to repair the rental house, but we were waiting until closer to renters move-out date.  Estimated repairs are about $15k at this point.  Hopefully I can trim this with some sweat equity.  Paying off credit cards would eliminate $450 a month in just minimum payments.

And that’s what we’ve come up with.  If there’s another option, throw it at me.  We need to get something done asap, this is our primary vehicle, and the one I have to drive hours away for specialists appts with my youngest.

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What Do We Do?

I had a post scheduled for 8am, entitled “No Spend November!”, but I accidentally selected pm.  It seems whenever I post about a “no spend” – something happens that requires a lot of spending.  Last time is was a week long hospital stay for the youngest child.

This time is car woes.  To the tune of $4500 in repairs.  Not including the $400 I spent for the brakes, rotors, and alignment.  Unfortunately these are must-have repairs – the power steering is failing and locking up.

Needs timing belt.  Needs power steering column and pump.  Various leaks throughout.


I don’t know where this money is going to come from!  And before you bring up our once bloated liquid savings, that is nearly gone.  Property taxes, new insurances, and medical bills slowly ate away at it over the last two months.

The credit cards are maxed out.


I don’t know what to do.  😦  The vehicle is worth $10k.  Our loan balance is now $8600.  I’m not sure I can justify $4500 to repair a truck that has been nothing but a problem.  We bought the damn thing in April!!  Not even a year of use and we’ve had to spend thousands on repairs.  I get that a used vehicle needs maintenance.  We keep up with that, and we did our due diligence with an inspection prior to purchase.  But come on, this is getting out of control expensive.

I just don’t know what to do.  Trade it in and roll over what they won’t cover into a new loan?  Borrow money?  Wait?  I’m at a loss.  The stress is just too much lately.  I can’t even enjoy the holiday season, because money – or lack thereof – makes life miserable.

$4500……….. ugh.

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