Keeping your sanity during the holidays

This past month has been a whirlwind of activity in my world. I can’t believe how quickly it has flown by! Work, home, family, friends… oh my! The next month is going to get even busier. How are you going to handle the craziness?

I have mentioned in previous posts about ramping up for the Christmas season early. Have you finished your holiday shopping yet? (I’m SO CLOSE to being done. I have one person on my list that I’m still struggling to find the perfect gift for. I’ll figure it out, hopefully sooner than later.) Getting the majority of your shopping done earlier in the year can help take stress out of the season. The pressure isn’t there. You’ve already purchased your gifts (I’m hoping at a great bargain), and now all that’s left to do is wrap them up. I’m telling you, frantically running all over town on Christmas Eve, along with half of the population of my city, DOES NOT sound like fun to me. That scenario stresses me out just thinking about it!

Reuse, reuse, reuse!

Oh so lovely, and easy!

 

Wrapping presents is one of my favorite things about Christmas. I love making my initial present look just as lovely as what’s inside. I know I’m a weirdo, but I LOVE it. I also love finding the perfect box, wrapping paper, and ribbon. Yes, I’m a perfectionist on this subject. Cell phone boxes are one of my favorite boxes. Many of them have magnetic closures, and they’re really easy to wrap. Chip containers also make excellent gift boxes. Clean them out with a Lysol wipe, use wrapping paper or scrap-booking paper on the outside, and some ribbon, and you’re done!  You don’t have to use them just for foodie gifts… use your imagination here! I once log-rolled fuzzy pajamas into a Fritos can for my daughter. I was pretty proud of myself for that one, and she was impressed at my creativity. She had no idea what was in there.

 

Little items, like jewelry, wrap nicely in cute little boxes

 

 

This little metal box was actually a container filled with staples. It’s perfect for jewelry, or other little things.

I am also a big fan of using old Christmas cards and calendar pages for gift boxes. Gift cards would fit nicely in some of these, as well as jewelry. Add some ribbon to these little babies, and you’re good to go!

 

 

 

 

Instead of throwing cards away, repurpose into gift boxes

 

If you want to get really creative, you can make your boxes from scratch. There is an endless amount of gift box patterns available online. Poster board is one of my best friends for this. I have made some adorable boxes using poster board and gluing fabric to the outside. Like I said before… Get creative!

WHEN I AM PREPARED, I FEEL RELAXED.

Poster board and fabric… the possibilities are endless!

There’s a lot going on in here!

 

I’m pretty sure we all do. That’s what it’s all about for me. I have my stash, and my presents acquired. Crank up the Christmas music, and let’s get to wrapping! By the time Christmas Eve is here, all you’ll need to do is curl up with some hot cocoa, a blanket, and enjoy the fire in your fireplace (if you have one).

 

 

 

I’m not saying you have to be a hoarder of all things boxes, but it totally takes the panic out of wrapping when you have items on hand to choose from.

 

 

Let’s ENJOY the holiday season. Enjoy spending time with your family and friends. Think ahead, and have the time to do the really important things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding balance: How I get more out of my personal time

I’m a busy woman. I have a husband. I work a full time job, and I have a multitude of hobbies and interests. By the time dinner is done, there doesn’t seem to be much time left for ME. How do I find time for myself and all those things that I enjoy so much? I refuse to get up any earlier. I am so very NOT a morning person. Waking up earlier will not do anything for me. I’ve made multiple attempts, and it just doesn’t work for me. I can’t stay up too late either… 5:30 comes too quick as it is. I require a lot of sleep. When am I supposed to have time for my hubby, my job, housework, writing music, doing photo shoots, photo/video editing, blog posts, exercising, taking online classes, doing my craft projects, meeting with my girls…. Oh my gosh, just looking at the list here is stressing me out!

It is so hard for me to find balance!

I’ll admit, there used to be days that I didn’t do much of anything when I got home from work… at least nothing that requires much moving around. We all have those days. I’m just too tired. I’d sit on the couch and watch tv, or play games on my tablet. There I’d sit until bedtime. It still happens on occasion, but not nearly as often as it used to.

I found some motivation.

I want more out of life. I’m tired of spinning my wheels and seemingly not moving forward. In order for me to get more, I have to do more. That’s pretty obvious.

I started making to do lists. This worked… kind of. I had an impossibly unrealistic list of all the things I wanted to get done. I would do great at three or four, and then I would get sidetracked. At the end of the day, my list was still incredibly long. I was frustrated. All I could focus on was all the things I didn’t get done instead of the things I DID get done. It was so depressing. I decided to come up with a different angle…

Doing more example #1:

My friends talked me into take some free online classes. (My girls really are the best!) They have the best “sales pitch”! Honestly, I’m really excited about it. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to do it before. After all, I love learning. I always have.

Summer is just around the corner. My daughter is getting married in August. I also have a class reunion coming up. I started up my treadmill routine again. I don’t need to lose weight, but I would like to tone up.

My solution to #1:

I can take my online classes while I workout. I use my tablet to take my classes, and I can still do my walking and my free weights all at the same time. I get around 45 minutes of exercise AND get my courses done. Success!

Doing more example #2:

Music is my passion. I love playing music… as in playing the piano, among other instruments. I love writing music. It relaxes me. It excites me. Music speaks to me.

I thoroughly enjoy photography. I love the challenge of that perfect shot. I have recently branched out into the video end of shooting too. I love the art of editing my photos and videos. (I really do enjoy not having to edit them at all though!)

My solution to #2:

I started a YouTube channel (thank you, my friends, for yet another suggestion), and have incorporated my music together with my videos and photos for the world to see. Not only is learning how to edit video interesting and challenging, but it has given me a different, eye opening perspective on my music, and how to meld the two together. It has also helped me to step out of my comfort zone. Brand new territory for me!

When I get home from work, dinner and chores are first priorities. If I do some preplanning, (think menus!), I can have dinner over, chores done, and dogs fed by 7:00. Then I go upstairs with my tablet, and start up the treadmill. I’m done with my online classes and my workout by 8:00. Next I go to my computer room and power up my computer. I get to work on my music and/or photography. By 9:30, I’m trying to button things up and start getting ready for bed. 10:00 is bedtime. (My schedule varies from day to day.)

My weekday schedule looks something like this:

Get organized!

This definitely isn’t an exact science, but the routine works well for me. When I try to stick with my schedule, I seem to get a lot accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. At the end of the day, I am satisfied with what I’ve done. That is honestly what makes this worthwhile to me… being happy with what I’ve done with my day.

 

My weekends vary a bit, but they usually look something like this:

Get more out of your weekend!

You may have noticed that I wake up pretty late on the weekend. Hey, I mentioned before that I’m not a morning person. It takes me a while to wake up and get ready to face the day!

This may all seem like a lot, but as I said before, it works for me. Yes, life happens, and things don’t always work out like I plan them to, but having the routine helps me stay on track. I get so much more done when I have at least an outline to go by. I may not get everything done on my schedule that I have planned, but it helps to keep me focused. Sometimes I set a timer. It is so easy for me to get side tracked. (Squirrel!)  My friends know all too well how distracted I can get. I find it embarrassing, but they find it hilarious.

 

Whichever way you decide to plan your time is fine… as long as it works for you! Make your list of things you want to get done and do it! It’s such a satisfying feeling when you reflect on your days and see all the things that have been accomplished.

 

Make the time you have work for you.  You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish

Plan out your days and get more out of life. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!

Goals: Baby steps to achievement

I’m going to be brutally honest. I despise making goals. It stresses me out. It forces me to sit down and think about my life… every aspect of it. It makes me realize how many things I want to do, and how much I should’ve done already. Here’s the thing about me: I have VERY high expectations of myself. I am also very easily distracted. I have too many things I want to do, and delusional ideas about how I think I’m going to succeed. In the end, you guessed it… Nothing, or very close to nothing seems to get done. It can be so discouraging.

I have done years of soul searching on this subject. It is so easy to just NOT do it. I think one of the things that has maybe, quite possibly, changed my perspective on this, is my job. One of the things they ask of me every year is to set some goals. Short term ones that could be completed within 1 year, mid-term ones that could be accomplished in around 3 years, and long term ones… 5 years or longer. I moaned, groaned, and procrastinated. Like I said before, I despise making goals.

Keep looking forward, but don’t forget where you’ve been.

When they ask me to set goals, they’re not just asking for work goals, they’re asking for a combination of work and personal ones. I know, some of you may think it isn’t any of their business, and you’re probably right, HOWEVER, I’m glad that was included. It forced me to become accountable, and motivate me to get to work.

You know what? I accomplished my goals. Not all of them, but more than half. More than I would have if I hadn’t been “forced” to. I am proud to say that I have published my very own children’s book. I wrote the story ages ago. I had been dreaming about it for years, and had done nothing about it. Fear had taken over…  Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of putting myself out there.  I made it one of my goals to get the illustrations figured out and get it up on Kindle. Quite frankly, the illustrations was one of the biggest obstacles. Originally, my grandmother was going to do the artwork. She was a wonderful artist. I procrastinated, my grandma passed away, and that opportunity was gone. How special that would have been to have her handiwork included with mine. So, with my deadline approaching, I made the decision to do several different things to make the artwork a reality. I “cartoonized” a few pictures I had taken, and attempted to draw the rest. Mind you, I DID NOT inherit my grandma’s drawing talent, but I was determined to reach this goal.  AND I DID IT!  It was hard. It was frustrating. But it happened.

Accomplishing your goals feels amazing!

Amazing how making that goal has changed my outlook on so many things! I’m not completely over the fear, but that book changed me. Watching something important come to life is exhilarating. It opens your eyes to all the possibilities that lie before you. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS MAKE IT HAPPEN. Things don’t magically happen on their own. It sure would be nice if they did, wouldn’t it? It takes effort, accountability, and dedication.

Here’s what I want to ask of you. I want you to make some REALISTIC goals for yourselves. Take some time to contemplate things that you really want. Do some research if you need to. Figure out what it will take to make them happen. Short term, mid-term, and long term. 3 in each category. Write them down. Share them with your family and friends. Let them help keep you accountable. Let them cheer you on. Let them help you celebrate when you accomplish them.  Making goals and seeing them on paper makes them real. It makes them important. Reading those goals every day motivates you. Spend a little time every day getting closer to your end game. Baby steps… Five minutes here, ten minutes there… Before you know it, the end is in sight.

You can do this! Get ready to change your life!  LET’S MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Resources! Save time and money

First off, let me announce if you didn’t know already, that today is Wednesday, and Fred Meyer’s weekly ad is now being run Wednesday through Tuesday instead of Sunday through Saturday. That being said, MILK IS ON SALE THIS WEEK in the Willamette Valley. Half gallons for .99 – limit 10. Just thought you should all be as excited about this as I am!

I have quite the collection of apps and websites that I use to help guide me to sales, coupons, and overall deals. Some of them I sift through, other ones I let them do the work for me. My essential apps that I use the most are shown below. I try to use them as often as possible.

I love loyalty cards. Nearly every store has one, and I have quite a few. One of the best apps that I have found is called Key Ring. This app lets you take a photo of your loyalty cards, front and back. You can then take all those cards out of your wallet, or off your key chain, and let your helpful cashier scan the bar code that comes up directly from your phone.  It is awesome! (You can usually enter your phone number as an alternative, but I feel very “techie” when I use the app. Ha!)  Not only do I use it for loyalty cards, I use it for my library card, my Bi Mart card… the possibilities are endless. It helps keep me organized AND clutter free.

Fred Meyer is my main store with a loyalty card, and app. I seem to find the best deals for my household here. They issue a rebate coupon quarterly, based on my total purchases during that time period. Free money! I love that I get gas rewards as well. I’m all about that little extra savings. There is a time limit on the rewards, but I try to let the savings build up a bit to make sure I’m getting the best deal possible. When I know it’s going to be an extra big discount on gas (in .10 increments off/gallon, with $1 discount max/ gallon I believe), I’ll have the hubby go down and fill up his truck, since his gas tank is much bigger than my little Mazda. Safeway has a good user friendly app. They also have gas rewards, which is great!

Flipp is another great app to have at your disposal. It enables me to see all the weekly ads in one handy place without having to purchase the paper. I can see all the deals as soon as I get up in the morning.  A nice perk to Flipp is being able to enter specific items in the search box and the app will show you which stores have sales currently. You can create a shopping list in this app by clicking on the items within the chosen store. I, however, have the Our Groceries app that I love. This lovely app lets you create shopping lists by store. You can list all your items, categorize them by department, add the amount of products needed, etc. Very handy! What I like most though, is that multiple people on multiple devices can log in and add to your grocery list. The syncing is incredibly fast and very user friendly. (Thanks bro for the suggestion!)

The Target app now has their Cartwheel portion built in to their program. If you have a list for Target, check the app and search for your items. You can find coupons, percentages off, or gift cards for purchases, making your shopping trip cost a bit less. Unadvertised specials are also posted throughout the store. Text a specific word to their dedicated # and get a coupon. This comes in VERY handy around Christmas!

Checkout 51, Ibotta, and SavingStar are apps that give back to you after your purchase. They have advertised items on their apps. You highlight them, buy your product, (not necessarily in that order) and in most circumstances, take a photo of your receipt. The app verifies that the products you purchased are the ones from their list, and you get rewarded. It’s a simple process. SavingStar is a newer app that I just started using about 2 months ago, and I have made $5.25. It’s not a ton of cash, but I’ll take free money! I started using Ibotta in 2013. My lifetime earnings are $66.82. Sometimes there will be a few months where there’s nothing in there I want or need. Other times there’s multiples. The cash you earn doesn’t expire, but, for the most part, there is a $20 minimum before you can “cash out” your savings. The majority is paid with digital gift cards, but they also offer PayPal and Venmo options. (Also, think Christmas!)  Checkout 51 will send you a check once you have reached $20.00. I’ve had this account for about 6 months, and have earned $16.51. All in all, between the three, I’ve made $88.58 for buying items that are already on my shopping list… and doing nothing but punching a few icons on my phone and taking a couple of pictures.  Woo hoo!

I have a decent amount of websites, some of which are also apps, that I subscribe to. I have a designated email strictly for these subscriptions. It’s much easier to sift through! Fabulously Frugal is one of my favorites. Not only do they email me info on deals that are free, or heavily discounted, they tell me exactly what I need, where to go, and what to do to get the deal. See? They do the work FOR me! I don’t always have every coupon, because I don’t get the Sunday paper with the coupons, BUT I don’t have a mountain of clutter and recycling to go through and dispose of.

Krazy Coupon Lady is another one of my favorites. They have an amazing coupon database that takes the hassle out of searching for specifics.

Raise (discounted gift cards) is a great app/website for purchasing store gift cards at discount prices. I love using this site around the holidays. It is a great way to get more bang for your buck.

Coupon Mom, Ebates,  RetailMeNot, Coupon Cabin, and Smart Source are also great for finding printable and online coupons and coupon codes. (And if you’re going to buy online, go thru the Ebates website. Yet once again, free money back in many instances, at websites you were going to buy from anyway!)

Honestly, I could go on and on for days about all the different websites and apps. It amazes me how much information is out there! The older I get, the more respect I have for my parents and grandparents clipping all those coupons to get a deal all those years ago. Granted, driving all over the San Gabriel/Pasadena, CA area to save .50 doesn’t amount to much considering the cost of gas, BUT it’s the principle of it all, right??  There’s not a lot that gets me as excited as getting an incredible deal on something… just ask my daughter, she usually benefits from my money saving adventures. I’m sure there are so many more I have missed. If you have any to suggest, please comment! I would love to get the word out!  HAPPY SAVING!

 

Apps that rock