Five Tips For Saving On Your Holiday Shopping!

Hi guys! Chantelle here, I must say, it’s been quite the summer. We camped, we swam, we vacationed, we rode roller coasters and we soaked up the sun! My kids have returned back to school this week and so for us summer is now the past. Are you still enjoying summer? I’d love to hear how your summer went or if you are still enjoying it, what will be your last “shabang” before school starts? Click here to let me know!

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With the transition to “Back To School”, and retail stores beginning to bring in Halloween costumes, sweaters and jackets for cold weather … I couldn’t help but think to myself that Christmas, my favorite time of year, will be here before we know it. Yeah sure it’s August, but in a blink of an eye … we will writing out our holiday to-do-list and shaking our heads on why we didn’t properly budget for the holiday season. So in this blog post, I will be giving you 5 tips on how you can save, plan and prepare for your holiday shopping! It’s never to early to get started! Here we go …

Tip #1: 

Lists & Strategy Planning for Each Month

If you are like our family and you have to stick to a budget each month, then you know making a list or putting a strategy together on how you will achieve everything you need to, starts with budgeting. If you split out holiday shopping from September through November, then you won’t feel like you wiped out your savings all in December! After your normal budget is complete, come up with 2-3 gifts you would like to purchase for that month. Put a specific dollar amount aside for those gifts. This may take some creativity if your normal budget doesn’t allow much wiggle room, but better 2-3 gifts or even 1-2, then 10 all at once.

Tip #2:

Be Resourceful, check your wallet for gift cards or coupons that are sitting and waiting to be used!

If you were gifted a gift card, but never used it – this can be a great way to save yourself the cash and use that gift card to purchase a gift for someone on your list. I know, it’s sort of re-gifting, but in a way, it’s smart. How many coffee mugs do you need from Starbucks? Instead, wouldn’t you be able to purchase your student’s teacher a nice coffee mug or use the balance of a Target gift card or Old Navy card towards your nieces and nephews or your own children? Movie tickets for a Secret Santa Exchange? Crate and Barrel for your sister-in-law? Take advantage of rewards points, Cartwheel coupons at Target, Promo sales where possible, but only where it fulfills the purpose, not for extra shopping! This is key! What’s in your wallet?

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Tip #3: 

Get Creative With Gift Giving!

This can mean a number of things, from being super crafty and making gifts, to deciding to bake something for someone. Making gifts are many times often less costly and are usually more personal. I tend to feel more special when people actually take the time to make or create something for me. If you have a gift of baking, bake a pie or cookies! If you crochet, make a blanket, beanie or scarf for a loved one! Own those God given talents and use it for good! My sister crocheted my two boys elf hats last year and I absolutely went crazy for them! These are gifts that can be done at home, meaning you don’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle and your material costs is really the main cost, some of which you might have already!

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Tip #4 

Consider Shopping Online For Loved Ones Far Away

I learned this the hard way. Last year I bought things in a store and then shipped them myself for my friend’s little boy. Big no no! The shipping cost was almost more than the gift itself! When gifting for those who are not local to you, it’s smart to utilize the convenience of online shopping. Shop on a Monday, and many online retailers have additional discounts. The best Monday to shop would be “Cyber Monday“, the Monday after Thanksgiving but retailers even have some discounts on any normal Monday as well. Retailers use the Cyber Monday idea to drive sales because typically it is a slow day for shopping in general as people shop more heavily on the weekends. You can find discounts from 30%-40% off usually! If you hit a certain dollar point, you can also score free shipping. If you are a Amazon Prime member then you know the free 2 day shipping feature and also Walmart also has the same benefit now too! Happy online shopping and again straight from your home without the hustle and bustle! Do not shop for yourself, stay focused and remember your purpose and budget!

Tip #5: 

Do Something for Humanity! 

Okay so this tip is a little bit different. I’m inspired this year to do something that gives back to the community! Volunteering doesn’t cost money so why not give your time to something that matters this holiday season? I recently volunteered for Open Heart Kitchen where I helped to serve food for the elderly. It felt good to give back. How have you volunteered lately? This year, I am inspired by a good friend of mine, my dear friend Lacey and owner of Pleasanton House Cleaning Co.  Lacey runs her business by day but her heart is truly with the homeless and giving back. Every holiday season, she partners with a local church, gathers up volunteers and feeds a large part of the local homeless community by providing a warm Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. It’s selfless, it shows the grace and love for others and I bet she makes an impact that lasts a lifetime on those families each year. So what will you do to make a difference this holiday season? I would love to hear! Shoot me a note here.

I hope you find these tips helpful! Now, let’s do some planning, saving and shopping! For tips on Back To School, click here. To read about my Christmas last year, click here. To read about Easter, click here. Thank you for reading my blog! Xo, Chantelle

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Back To School Frenzy!

Hi all,

Chantelle here! How are you all dealing with the fact that summer is ending? How are you all preparing for Back To School? As a Mom of two boys, a second grader and a TK-er, I thought it would be fun to give you my tips on how to deal with Back to School, summer work (what?!), back to school clothes, supplies, meal ideas and more!

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5 Tips for Dealing with “BTS” (Back To School)

Tip #1: Summer Work – First of all, it’s summer and why do we need to do any work? Let me explain. For children who are learning to read, it is important to make sure they keep up their reading during the summer break. Speak with your child’s teacher prior to the school year and ending and find out what DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) level they are at. Purchase books from an educational source or use your local library to help you find books that are at your child’s DRA level. Since it’s summer, pick just a few nights a week for your child to read. By reading over summer break, this helps keeps their brains active and they won’t have a slow re-start once school is back up.

Tip #2: School Shopping Prep – This is a fun one! As a child growing up, I really only remember school shopping as a teenager. I remember my mother taking my twin sister and I to our favorite clothing store, and letting us go wild on the cutest trends! As a parent myself, I tend to ask myself, is back to school shopping really necessary? Especially if you are on a budget? My answer to that is yes, but there is always a balance. For me, I tend to shop more for my oldest because of obvious reasons, they are biggest and the younger brother gets the hand-me-downs. So that’s where I start! There are multiple steps in this tip so bare with me as I break them down. I just did this in my household so I know this will be super helpful!

Steps to School Clothes Prep: 

  1. Clear out dresser and closet of clothes that do not fit, as a good rule of thumb, you should do this at least every six months, but ideally each season is good. If you can do it four times a year, you will eliminate clutter and you will function more efficiently.
  2. Make a list of what is needed to be replaced, basics like underwear, socks, then fashion like pants and shirts etc based on how much is being thrown out. Do this for each child.
  3. When ready to shop, put a budget together. Plan to shop during Back to School sales, or look up consignment shops (and sell your gently used clothing). Another good ideas for extra cash for new clothes shopping is to have a yard sale. If you live in a high traffic area, you can make a good dollar amount off clothing that is still in good shape!
  4. Be creative, for my boys, I cut their old jeans that are getting too short into shorts. The beginning of the year is still hot, so the extra pair of shorts carries them for a month at least until I really need to buy new pants. This is a big cost saving tip for the beginning of the year!

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Tip #3: Ask Questions at Enrollment or Email Teacher Prior

Ok so I had a parent failure on this one. My little one started Transitional Kinder this year and I didn’t THINK I needed to pack him a snack. I was wrong! My poor baby was the only child without a snack and though he was fine, he admitted to me he was a little sad. Though, the school and his teacher did not give out any information about providing a snack for your child, I take full responsibility for not asking. I should have assumed he needed one or just right out packed him a snack just in case. I apologized to my son and he forgave me. Never feel like you can’t ask a question, better to be over prepared than to have your child feel left out. Big lesson for me!!

Tip # 4: Get Information on Supplies Needed At enrollment, if the school has a supplies list, make sure to grab that for your child’s grade. I have two children and I spent about $30 on supplies. Keep in mind, one of my boys is in TK, so the amount of supplies needed goes up as your child gets older. It’s good to budget about $50 for supplies just for a little extra cushion. If you have extra from that amount, put it towards school clothes. At many schools, the supplies are asked as “donation” so each family does not need to feel pressured to purchase if it is not in their budget to. Your district may not have this at all, the key is, get the information ahead of time so you can donate or provide if you would like too! Extra Tip – check dollar stores first, then hit up the big retailers afterwards. 

Tip # 5: Save Money & Time By Participating In a Meal Train for Dinners

This is a great idea for both parents who work. If you gather up a few families and coordinate a meal train, you could have a wonderful cooked meal ready in minutes every night! The idea is, each family cooks on one night of the week in bulk. You hand out portions to the other families and in return, you get their portions of what they cooked. Then, freeze them! Each night you just defrost one of the meals, and voila! A yummy home cooked meal. And… if you live in a melting pot like I do, chances are you will have food from all over the world! It’s a pretty cool idea!

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Back To School prep includes so much more like coordination of schedules, pick ups, after school care, etc etc. I hope that these 5 tips help to ease some of the madness! To learn more about me or read about my Christmas and Easter, visit this page! 

Thanks for reading my blog! Xo, Chantelle

 

 

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Easter Is Coming!

With Christmas long gone away … and today the first day of Spring, I thought it would be fitting to write about something that has recently been on my mind. It’s the topic of the Easter Bunny and the connection to Jesus and his Resurrection. Is there really a correlation? Is is wrong as a Christian to do Easter egg hunts with our children? The church I currently go to does not have Easter egg hunts for the children but other Christian churches I’ve attended would have them. I began to wonder as a parent and as a Christian, was it wrong for me to be coloring eggs with my boys and doing egg hunts with them? I did a little research to try and find some insight on this subject …

The Egg Hunt

First, let’s look at Wikipedia’s definition of the egg hunt. It is simply described as a game that can be played indoors or outdoors where eggs are hidden for children to find. The eggs can be real eggs dyed or decorated, plastic eggs with treats inside of them or foil wrapped chocolate eggs. The egg can be looked at symbol of new life and represents the tomb of which Jesus breaks out of and comes to life … his resurrection. This makes total sense to me. After reading a few articles and seeing that most made this connection, it gives me peace in my heart to know that egg hunts are not a sin and participating in doing so with our kids are okay. I do think it is important that we speak to our children about the relation of the egg and what it symbolizes, so that for them, it’s not just about getting as many eggs and candy as they can get, but that there is a real true meaning behind the day of Easter. That being, Jesus rising from the dead. As a parent of a 6 year old and 4 year old, I have tried to do this but I definitely feel like I can do this even more. Growing up, Easter for me was more about our family gathering, the egg hunt and who would get the “Golden egg” with the five dollars inside. Honestly, I didn’t know the true meaning of Easter and did not know the true meaning until I converted to Christianity as an adult.

This video from the United Methodist Church is a great way for us to understand the symbolization of the egg representing new life. I love how they show the fun of the coloring of the eggs to represent this as a happy time as Christ has risen! We celebrate by decorating the eggs in all sorts of colors and in unique ways but all with the understanding that the egg represents new life!

The Easter Bunny

So how did the idea of a bunny make it’s way into this holiday that celebrates the rising of Christ? When thinking about it, bunnies do NOT lay eggs. So why not a chicken? I never really even noticed that as a child because it was so engraved in my brain that Easter was about bunnies and chocolates and treats. I’m not upset with my parents for not teaching me the true meaning of Easter, I’ve just decided that with my children, I want to make sure that I do. In my readings and research, the bunny pretty much came out because the hare back in the ancient world of Mesopotamia and Syria represented death and rebirth. It then shifted to “rabbits” really because hares and rabbits shared similar characteristics. The article in which I found that describes this, can be found on exploregod.com. It is also interesting and pointed out from the same article that back in ancient times, rabbits were looked at as symbols for lust and sexual excess. Which is why you see things today like the “Playboy Bunny”, or saying like “breed like rabbits”. This is because they frequently were mating and breeding. So why did it get connected to the Christian holiday? In pre-Christian Europe, the rabbit appeared as a symbol of fertility. So, connecting life to fertility is most likely how the rabbit came into play. Now, nearly two hundred or more years later … the bunny is so popularly used in the secular world to celebrate the holiday. In the end, as a Christian, I have learned that there is no direct link between the Easter Bunny and Jesus. Let me assure you, I will not be condemning anyone that celebrates the Easter Bunny. It is just something that our culture for so many years has accepted and practiced. It’s normal for so many people. But, because of this learning of mine, I will be limiting the highlighting of the Easter Bunny in anyway, shape or form, knowing that we can continue decorating eggs and celebrating that way. I have never made the Easter Bunny a big deal in our home, never taken my children to take pictures with the Easter Bunny and so I don’t think limiting the talk about it will be a big deal. But what I want to be a big deal in their lives is Jesus! You can surely bet that we will be having plenty of conversation about why Jesus died on the cross and story of Easter and his Resurrection! I understand now that I have done my research, that as a Christian to celebrate Easter, to do Egg hunts, is a personal matter. As long as your focus of Easter is about Jesus and his Resurrection, then I think you are on the right track! I hope you found this article interesting. To hear about our Christmas, click here.

To contact me with any questions or comments, click my contact page.

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Christmas on a Sunday

This year Christmas fell on a Sunday. It was the first year for my family (myself, my husband and my two little boys) to actually wake up in our home on Christmas morning. You see, every year we are usually waking up in my parent’s home, or my in-laws home or my sister’s home. This year we enjoyed for the first time ever since my husband and I were married to wake up in our home.  It was great to start new traditions and see the magic of Christmas come to life right before my eyes with my little boys who are six and four. Realizing Christmas fell on a Sunday … I had said to my husband, we should attend a Christmas service. Knowing that we usually go over to the in laws house first thing in the morning to open gifts, posed a little dilemma. Do we go to the Christmas service or not? As a Christian, I felt it was important to honor Jesus on his birthday and spend the morning worshiping him and praising him! I mean, it’s his birthday!!! The birth of our Lord, who we wouldn’t even have this holiday at all if we did not have him as our Savior. So we decided we would enjoy our morning doing gifts and then attend the second service at church. The magical morning started by waiting for the kids to wake up. My 4 year old was the first one awake and we heard the pitter patter of his feet. He saw that their elf “Elsa” had helped Santa set up gifts for them and that he filled their stockings! Little brother ran to wake up big brother so they could start opening gifts … also he wanted to show his big brother that Santa had eaten most of the cookies we left him and drank all the milk! (Next year we will leave carrots for the reindeer) Big brother gets up and the excitement begins!! The boys were good (for the most part) and got what they wanted from Santa!! Big brother got his big rainbow ball so he could play wall ball and little brother, a Mickey Mouse Lego set. Their stockings were also filled with lots of goodies that they love. Elf Elsa did a good job letting Santa know what the boys are into!!! After our magical morning, we got dressed in our “Christmas Best”, and went to church to celebrate the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ. We have everything to be thankful for, our health, our jobs, each other and just peace and joy in our hearts and our lives. This is all due to Jesus and we wanted to say “thank you” and Happy Birthday. After service, we did another first for our family … we had brunch at Black Bear Diner! I have never gone out to eat on Christmas day! It wasn’t as busy as I thought … and after a short wait, we enjoyed a lovely brunch with just the four of us. Then after brunch … another Christmas first … wait for it. I took a nap!!!!! Yes, I said nap! This Christmas was unlike others in so many ways and it really was because we spread out our celebrations to Christmas Eve and even New Years with my side of the family. Our families live in different cities and my family is a 12 hour drive away. Christmas Eve we celebrated with my in laws and did presents with that side of the family and it was magical as well!! So Christmas day … we had time to breath and relax before heading to the big family party back at my in laws house with the extended family. So all in all, Christmas was filled with happiness, joy, laughter and lots of lots of love!! There was definitely a little stress for me with the typical hustle and bustle of the holidays but I really soaked in every moment from picking out our tree, to making ornaments with my two little boys to baking our holiday cookies three days after Christmas. It was a Christmas I will never forget. Today, is the 3rd of January and we just got back into town from celebrating New Years Eve with my side of the family. So … a third Christmas for the boys basically. They got presents on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and also over New Years Eve weekend. We still have more family to visit and so they will get a fourth Christmas very soon!!!! I hope you all enjoyed your holiday and that you experienced some Christmas magic yourself. Now that it’s a new year I wish you many blessings to come and I already can’t wait for Christmas 2017!!

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Welcome!

Welcome to new website artificalchristmastreesworld.com. Check back for more content in the coming days! Just wanted to give a little “hello”.

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