Holiday Dinner, Without the Fuss

By: Marla Bautista 

As families grow, seemingly, so does our holiday budget. It’s not enough to cook a regular meal during the holidays. We need an entire Holiday spread, to include (but not limited to), pre meal snacks (for the cook), appetizers, dinner, desserts, and specialty beverages. There are levels to the Holiday meal madness that we often inflict upon ourselves.  The effort that goes into making holiday meals shouldn’t cause you anxiety and exhaust your bank account. Want to prepare a Holiday meal that is not only amazing, but also stress free? In this article, you will learn how to do just that! 

Make a Plan 

Start your holiday meal planning with lists, Yes, Lists with an S. You will need a list of guests. This will help you know exactly how many people you’re expecting for the holiday. Make a list of proposed food items for your menu.  This may be tricky if you are planning on sharing dish obligations with other guests.  Have you heard of Sign Up Genius? This is a great place to create sign ups for any event.   You can also create a sign-up for Holiday Dishes and share it with your guests, so they too can sign up to make a dish! Best part about it, it’s free! 

Find Deals  

There are a lot of grocery stores offering coupons and other discounts on your holiday meal ingredients. If you have a grocery rewards card, you could score some awesome deals! Some stores honor the use of manufacture coupons and store coupons simultaneously. Check out your stores coupon policy to find out the best way to acquire a great deal. During the Holiday Season some stores offer discounts on side dish items when you purchase a turkey or vice versa.  If you don’t eat meat. Check out the local farmers markets and family farms.  Because it’s late in the season, many farms are trying to get rid of produce that may not survive during the winter months. There, you are sure to find deeply discounted veggies. 

Think Outside the Box

You don’t always have to make traditional dishes for the holiday.  Try making a few non traditional, items that will compliment the dishes you already make. Instead of mashed potatoes and gravy, try making a loaded mashed potato casserole or baked potatoes. Instead of making a Traditional Macaroni and Cheese, try another pasta dish filled with cranberries and other sweet and savory holiday flavors. Kid friendly dishes are always a hit when you have picky eaters. Check out www.recipes.com for a few simple, kid friendly holiday dishes.

Don’t Stress

Holiday meal planning is all fun and full of grandeur ideas until you have to shop, prep, and cook 10 dishes with one oven.  Give yourself some time. If there are items you can prep days ahead, do it! Chop your onions, celery, sweet potatoes, and anything else that can be refrigerated, a few days prior to the holiday. Relax, if you’re a planner, make a plan of action for your Holiday cooking times.  If you’re cooking a turkey, that’ll probably take the longest. Prep and cook it early on so that you can have oven space for your other items later in the day.  If you fry your turkey, even better! Less cook time and more oven space. Take breaks. If you have an item that requires a lengthy cooking time, use that time to catch up on your favorite TV show or book. If time allows, take a power nap.

No matter what your holiday plans, you can do it with ease by incorporating few of these tips. Make a plan for your holiday meal, find the best deals and discounts, and don’t sweat the small stuff. The season should be spent making positive memories with your loved ones. Don’t stress, everything will turn out fine, even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned. Be flexible and have fun! Best Wishes!

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Five Simple Ways to Save Money Right NOW

We all want to save money, especially at the beginning of the year, every single year. We set these goals, and we do good for a day or two, then fall off the wagon. The truth is that you can save a few simple ways.

Here are FIVE simple ways to save money right NOW:

  1. Set Savings Goals

The first step is to think about what and why you are putting money aside. It can be for a vacation, retirement, or just for a savings account. You need to really break down the purpose you are saving. The objective depends on where you are and where you want to be. Set yourself milestones and goals. Check in once a month or bi-weekly and see where you are and how far away you are from your goals. 

  1. Pay Yourself First

Set up an auto debit from your checking account to your savings account each time you get paid. This action is something referred to as “set it and forget it.” The number doesn’t need to be much, but take a look back at step one and see how much you need to save each month.  

  1. Stop Smoking

My husband smokes, eh. I hate it, but it has been SO hard for him to quit. We have tried so many different options. I often think about how much we could save if he stopped smoking. If you smoke a pack and a half every day, that amounts to nearly $3,000 a year. Imagine a nice vacation you could have with that money; that is a considerable chunk of change!

  1. Take a “Staycation”

The place doesn’t even need to be anywhere close or far away, but somewhere with a bit of distance so you can truly enjoy the trip. Not traveling too out-of-the-way will save you money, while you are still able to have a little fun. 

  1. Pack Your Lunch

I am pretty adamant when it comes to taking your lunch. To prevent spending $10+ a day on a meal, I pack my own and snacks. I do manage to treat myself at least once a week or bi-weekly. By saving that money, I can put it aside into a separate bank account to see exactly how much I saved from not eating out. 

One more quick way to save: Create an Interest-Bearing Account. Many banks have different interest rates or rewards. Invest in the one that will bring the most bang for your buck. When you have a savings account, you certainly want to ensure to get a high interest rate.

Once you get a savings account built up, open a CD or emergency fund with a larger investment rate so that you can let it sit and build cash. What are some ways that you save money? Prepare for your future by always setting aside a little bit at a time over a longer period!

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Ladies Fashion Under $40

Winter fashion calls for me being broke. Okay, all fashion does. I love fashion and being able to show off my personality for the different seasons. The really best part is that you can look good and still not be completely broke. I have found some of my favorite fashion items at amazing prices. Go get your shopping on!

Here’s Ladies Fashion Under $40

Fall Checked Ruana Poncho All over plaid checkered pattern, on a darling ruana poncho! This oversized, one-sized, cardigan is a perfect way to top off your winter styles. Complete with a tassel trim to add a bit of texture!

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Cherry Cordial Striped Sweater Color blocked, striped knit sweater with a statement sleeve and fitted cuffs!

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Peppered Coal Cowl Sweater Grab your favorite cup of coffee and head out for your weekend errands in cozy style this fall! This cowl keeps you classy, while the relaxed fit keeps you ultra comfortable! Who says you can’t have it all?

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Wheat Fields Textured High Low Sweater  Deep V-neck, and an oversized fit make this high-low sweater a favorite! The heavy texture, and cuffed sleeves add a texture and detail that set you apart!

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Round Neck Chenille Sweater | Ash Grey  Velvety soft, thick weave sweater with a high round neck and oversized fit, perfect for a cozy cold day!

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Thermal Stripe Drop Shoulder Top | Wine  Get into the fall spirit with this perfect transition piece! Show off your summer tan with the drop shoulder detail, but stay warm with the thermal soft fabric and long sleeves!

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Discover Frugal Ways to Save Money for the Holidays

I know the holidays scream money; trust me, I know. Here are some of my tips to save money during the holidays. Pick which ones work best for you and wisely save your money this holiday season. These are some of my tips that I have done first hand and really have helped me to save better.  

  1.  Christmas Cards.  I used to have to send them and create a fun and meaningful theme each year. I sent out more than I received. Each year, I got less and less. So now, I don’t do them. They took a LOT of time to do. Not to mention, they can cost a good amount of money. (Maybe around $50+ including stamps!)  We have actually decided to only send to immediate family members custom kid art work; they seem to appreciate that more.
  2. Holiday Dinner.  Potlucks or buffets are much less expensive than the traditional sit-down dinner. There is nothing worse than being the cook and not being able to interact with guests. The bigger thing though is saving money if you have ever hosted any holiday dinner you know how quick it all adds up. This cookbook has so many great ideas for a potluck so when people ask you what to bring, you can provide a great answer.
  3. Stick to cash.  I know how easy it is to bring out the plastic this time of the year. Figure out how much you spend each year, and start a dedicated Christmas savings account in CASH! (Remember those?) You will be happy; something about cash makes it easier to manage and budget cash flow. This is a great way to hold onto that cash!
  4. Family Fun.  I know you want to do many different activities (all of which cost money). Find one or two with expenses that you want to go to, and attend. Forget about the other items and have movie night from Netflix or Amazon.
  5. Have a cookie swap.  Each guest brings a favorite Christmas cookie, and you swap with others. This way you don’t have to bake all these cookies and do all the work, and of course spend all the money. You even have a variety to choose from now, so you can enjoy something different.

There are many other ways to save money this holiday season, but these are my five favorite practices that we do each year. Don’t forget to budget for gifts and stick to it. Happy Shopping!

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The Best Gifts For Aunts Under $30

Aunts hold a special place in my heart. I love getting my aunts gifts around the holidays. I always love finding such fun and creative gift ideas, in fact these are super affordable and frugal. I know you, and your aunt, will enjoy them! ;0

The Best Gifts For Aunts Under $30

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The Best Gifts For Sisters Under $30

I do not have a sister, just a wonderful sister in law. Sigh. I know that so many people are always on the hunt for great practical gifts for sisters! I have done the work for some great gifts to give to your sister so you can look like the hero ;).

The Best Gifts For Sisters Under $30

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Shop Smart This Holiday Season

How much money do you spend over the holidays? A LOT, right? I know we all try to be frugal, and yet we want to give good gifts. But there are many considerations to prevent you from breaking your bank. Trust me on this.

Here are my top things for frugal holiday shopping.

  1. Make a List

You need a list that has the person’s name with gift ideas and how much you want to spend. Stick to your list and shop around.

  1. Set a Budget

This step is one of the first items that I do. I create a budget per person, and then keep up with what that person wants so that I can look out for any sales or deals within a specific cost constraint.

  1. Research Online Deals

Use online resources to your advantage. Retailer websites, apps, and social media contacts, along with sites that track deals give you plenty of avenues to find great bargains. Search in the comfort of your own home without having to brave the winter weather (or a few thousand of your fellow consumers).

  1. Consider Homemade Presents

This element is something fun as long as you have the time and energy to follow through. Sometimes something as simple as a crocheted gift can be great, or even hand-crafted jewelry.

  1. Buy Previous Models of Electronics

You do not need the newest item. Save your money and purchase last year’s model. Retailers are always offering deals on the previous version to clear space for the new generations. Will your gift recipient really care if they receive the previous model? Think about it before you go ahead.

  1. Wait for Post-Holiday Clearance Sales

One of the biggest steps that I take! I stock up at the end of the holiday season with small stocking stuffers for Christmas and wait for the post-holiday steals! You don’t even need to be picky here.

  1. Start Earlier

I am a huge believer for getting ahead of the game. I always shop when I can. People always want items, but sometimes it’s nice to get something fun and different. I pick up gifts throughout the year so that I don’t have to worry about doing it all at once.

Have a great time and save money where you can. It is possible, and you can enjoy yourself despite spending this holiday season.
Shop Smart This Holiday Season

 

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Have a Frugal Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. I love gathering around with my near and dear friends and family, plus I love the food. We have hosted many, many times, and it adds up. Everything about the holidays costs money, and it stresses me out. But I want to have a good time and make sure it is ‘perfect.’

That said, you can still have a wonderful Thanksgiving by being frugal. Here are some wonderful tips:

  1.   Ask guests to bring something: People know how expensive holidays can be and most of the time they will offer to bring something. Cover the pieces that you can and ask them to make a dish. It’s that easy. If ten people attend, you have ten side dishes/desserts right there. Make sure to send out these super adorable notecards, too.

 

  1.  Take advantage of sales: You start to see Thanksgiving items go on sale about 2-3 weeks before Thanksgiving. You will even begin sighting coupons for those items, so take advantage of it. Price out, shop around and compare. Sometimes the deal might seem too good to be true! Check out our coupons.

 

  1.  Do homemade: Whenever possible, make elements yourself, especially if you price out how much it costs to make yourself versus buying. Some bits that we make ourselves: sweet potato casserole, crescent rolls, gravy, and stuffing. You will find all of these dishes are cheaper to make yourself.

 

  1. Keep decorations low: I love all the decorations, but I have to pull away from them. You don’t need a ton and if you already have some, reuse it! I tend to stock up on this after the holiday for the following year, so I don’t have to pay full price or their ‘sale’ price.

 

  1.  Choose off brands: You would be surprised to find that there isn’t much difference between name brands and store bought brands. Store brands tend to be cheaper, especially when there is a sale.

 

How do you manage to be frugal during the Thanksgiving season? There are so many options to keep it cost-effective and still enjoy yourself.

Have a Frugal Thanksgiving

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Frugal Holiday Activities

It’s hard to believe, but the holiday season is upon us. In just a little over a week, people will begin taking time off from work to spend it with friends and family. It’s the time of the year to enjoy yourself and those around you.

There is a myth that you need to spend lots of money to have fun. This false expectation is especially the case when it comes to the holidays. The good news is that there are plenty of frugal options to bring a little bit more joy into the season.

Here are some awesome, low-cost activities and gift ideas that you can enjoy:

 

  1. White Elephant Gift Exchange: If you have a large family or group of friends who like to exchange gifts, consider doing a White Elephant exchange. As a group, set a reasonable price limit that allows everyone involved to get a gift without the obligation to spend more; it’s super easy and fun.
  2. Judge Christmas Lights: Who doesn’t enjoy looking at Christmas lights? Add a twist to this by going to different areas around you, and picking a winner while viewing the lights. As a family, you can select different categories and judge the displays, for fun of course.
  3. Make Your Ornament: If your community has craft fairs, you can get some ornament ideas just by attending. Then, go to a craft store to get the supplies you need. If you’re crafty, this can be a nice way to create something nice yourself without spending as much.
  4. Host a Cook-off: Parties and get-togethers are popular this time of the year. Add a fun little spin by hosting a cook-off. The competition can be on anything you want: best soup, best chili, best apple cider and so on.

The holidays can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean they have to be. With a little creativity, you can enjoy time together with friends and family without breaking the bank.

Frugal Holiday Activities

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Frugal Thanksgiving Decorations

There is something about the holidays that make it so much fun, do you agree? I love being able to decorate and have so many fun options for my family and guests. People always compliment me on our decorations.

I just love to decorate and have things be so pretty in my house… I love adding new items to my house each year.

Check out some of favorite Thanksgiving items for this year

  •  Orange Wheat Mix Fall Wreath
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    There is something about the holidays that make it so much fun, do you agree? I love being able to decorate and have so many fun options for my family and guests. People always compliment me on our decorations.

    Natural and refined, this Orange Wheat Mix Fall Wreath shows off all of the brilliant colors of fall. You’ll love the way this wreath looks in your home.
    Wreath measures 14 in. in diameter, Crafted of foam and natural materials

  • Happy Fall Wreath Framed Wood Art
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    This simple Happy Fall Wreath Framed Wood Art piece is the perfect addition to your home this fall. Its delicate details bring this framed masterpiece to life. Framed print measures 19.5L x 0.75W x 19.5H in., Frame crafted of wood, Tan and white distressed wood frame
  • Happy Fall Y’all Double Sided Outdoor Pillow
    Give your outdoor seating a fun, fall update with our Happy Fall Y’all Double Sided Outdoor Pillow! You’ll love its buffalo check print and hint of southern twang! Pillow measures 18L x 18H in.
  • Hello Fall Buffalo Check Table Runner
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    Add a rustic touch to your harvest dinner table with this Hello Fall Buffalo Check Table Runner! It makes a great alternative to a table cloth on Thanksgiving. Runner measures 90L x 16W in.
  • Ceramic Pumpkins, Set of 3
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    A cornerstone of fall décor, the pumpkin is one of autumn’s most recognized symbols. Bring fall colors to your tabletop with this set of fun, ceramic pumpkins! Set of three (3) pumpkins Pumpkins measure 4.5H, 5.25H, and 5.5H in.
  • Natural Woven Orange Pumpkin
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    Our Natural Woven Orange Pumpkin will bring an earthy element to your fall décor. This piece has a homey feel that you’ll totally fall in love with.

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