4 Frugal Ways to Keep Young Kids Busy During Christmas Vacation

During a typical year, children get two weeks off school during Christmas break, often a week or so before Christmas and a week after.  However, if Christmas falls on a weekend, and if your school scheduled vacation as my son’s did, you will see kids who don’t get out of school for Christmas vacation until December 23rd.  That leaves them with almost two weeks of vacation AFTER Christmas itself, a time that is pretty low on excitement.  (It is so much easier to have a week off before the holiday because there are so many activities for the kids to enjoy.)  You could very likely end up with bored children, especially because all of the activities of Christmas are over just a few days into vacation.

However, there are plenty of frugal ways to keep the kids, especially your preschool and elementary school kids, entertained during the Christmas vacation.  Consider the following activities:

  1. Have a family play.  Take out the dress up box and let the kids come up with a play to perform for the family.  If your children are old enough, you can largely stay out of the picture and let them decide on a story, props, stage directions (even if the stage is just your living room).  Smaller children may need a bit more direction and assistance from parents.  If the kids are stuck for story ideas, they may want to act out what happens in one of their favorite stories.
  2. Check out your local library.  Our local library has plenty of activities for kids during the holiday including a movie viewing night, family story hour, and a Lego building activity.  In addition to activities, most kids will enjoy spending an hour or two at the library reading books and choosing books to check out to read at home.
  3. Visit a public museum.  Many museums put up special holiday displays such as holidays around the world and Christmas decorations throughout the years.  Most kids love all of the lights and decorations that go with the holiday, so take the time to visit your local museum and enjoy the display.  Afterwards, at night, take the time to drive around and view all of the colorful holiday lights and decorations on neighborhood houses.  If you have a house in your area that goes all out with the decorations, make sure to visit that one.
  4. Let kids stay up late.  My kids need their sleep and have an early bed time.  However, during the holidays, we relax the rules a bit and let them stay up later one or two nights a week.  Perhaps they can stay up to watch a favorite show that they normally can’t view because it is past their bedtime or you could play games with them.  Either way, they will be delighted to stay up later than they are usually allowed to.

There are simple things you can do to entertain your young children without spending a lot of money.  Employ some of these tactics, and you will hopefully avoid the common vacation chant, “Mom, I am bored!”

The Walgreens Drugstore Game by Amanda Grossman – A Review

If one of your resolutions for the new year is to save money, you’ll want to check out Amanda Grossman’s new ebook, The Walgreens Drugstore Game:  Strategies to Turn Pocket Change Into Thousands of Dollars’ Worth of Free Stuff.

Grossman is a penny pincher who blogs at Frugal Confessions.  She and her husband knocked out student loan debt when they married and are now living debt free (except their mortgage).  She also quit her job and is now living the dream of working at home.  A look through her blog shows she knows how to save money and get the best deals.

Now, she wants to share those deals with others.

I’ll confess that a few years ago, I played the CVS drugstore game with a fair amount of success.  However, I never conquered the Walgreens drugstore game.  It was just too complicated for me.  In the years since I stopped playing the drugstore game at all, Walgreens has only gotten more complicated (or so it seemed to me) by adding in a new rewards incentive.

However, after reading Grossman’s book, even I feel like I could tackle Walgreens drugstore game.

If you’re paying full price for toiletries and personal care items, you’re simply paying too much.  Grossman will show you how to pay less than a few dollars to get $20 or more worth of merchandise.

A Primer For Those Who Don’t Use Coupons

If you’re not much of a couponer, don’t worry.  Grossman explains in detail the many different kinds of coupons that are available.  She also explains where to find them, including how to get a steep discount when buying the Sunday paper for the coupons and advertisements.

If you’re an experienced couponer, don’t worry.  Simply skip over this section.

Clear Explanations and Examples

Once you understand the basics about coupons, Grossman delves into how to find the best deals for the Walgreens drugstore game.  What I like most about this book is that Grossman doesn’t just explain how to score the deal, she also provides real life examples from her own shopping trips.

In fact, she makes the process seem so manageable, that even I registered for a Walgreens Balance Rewards Cards and signed up for discounted Sunday papers to be delivered to my house.  I’m tired of paying full price for toiletries, and even if I’m only half as successful as Grossman at the Walgreen’s game, I’ll be saving a lot of money.

Advanced Savings Strategies

If you already save a fair amount with coupons, don’t worry.  At the end of the book, Grossman includes advanced savings strategies.  Frankly, at my current coupon skill, these strategies went over my head, but for others who are used to couponing, they could be very helpful.

At only $4.99, Grossman’s book, The Walgreen’s Drugstore Game, should save you enough money that you’ll recoup the money you spent to buy the book on your first trip to Walgreens using her tips.  Everything you save after that in the weeks to come will be extra money in your pocket, which we all can appreciate.

Achieving Your Goals Takes Time: Remember This As We Head Toward the New Year

I loved to bake.  Muffins, homemade French bread, homemade sandwich bread, cakes, brownies, you name it, I made it.

And then I found out I was gluten and wheat intolerant.  I tried to bake gluten free items, but I didn’t understand how all of the different flours worked, and after making pan after pan of hard, tasteless gluten free baked goods, I gave up.

Just recently I tried again, and this time I hit upon success.  I learned how to make my own gluten free all purpose flour (thanks to the Internet), and I found a recipe for gluten free pumpkin bread.  I used that recipe and altered it to make a delicious, sugar free, GF banana bread.  But my daughter is egg intolerant, so, after I perfected the recipe, I experimented with making it egg free, and again, I came up with a good bread.

My love of baking is returning.

What does this have to do with personal finance?

Actually, quite a bit, especially as we enter the last few weeks of 2013 and head into 2014.

In just a few short weeks you’ll notice blog writers changing their focus from how to save on holiday gifts to setting goals for the new year and steps to achieving your goals, especially financial goals.

Maybe it’s that people drink too much during the holidays, or maybe it’s that people are unbelievably optimistic as they head into the new year, but many of us set ridiculously difficult New Year’s goals.  And then we’re disappointed with and hard on ourselves when we fail.  (And often we fail the first week of the new year.)

Change takes time

Change is a step-by-step processMaking any big change doesn’t happen overnight because the calendar turns to a new year and you’ve made a list of things you want to accomplish.

Change is a step-by-step process, and it can be a long, painful journey.

It took me a year to finally learn how to make a good gluten free bread and enjoy cooking again.

Likewise, my husband and I are 25 long months into our debt repayment journey, and we’re only now reaching the halfway point.

In those 25 months, though, we’ve learned how to wait to purchase things we want rather than rushing right out and buying them, and we’ve learned to stay within our budget.  Would I like to be debt free now?  You bet.  But I also appreciate the valuable lessons I’m learning along the way.  After all, those lessons will help us stay out of debt forever in the years to come.

As you enter this holiday season, go ahead and think about things in your life that you’d like to change.  Maybe you’d like to put more money in an emergency fund or add to your retirement account.  Set your financial goals, but don’t expect changes in your behavior to happen automatically.  Know that any good change in habit takes months, maybe years, to be cemented in as a permanent part of your fabric.  Be patient with yourself and know that each step you make in the right direction is a step that is getting you closer to your goal.

What steps do you take to make sure you are achieving your goals?