A Two-Step Approach to Preparing Kids for a Giving Holiday: Part One

While you may not want to think about it yet, the holidays are right around the corner.  The commercial machine is cranking into gear.  My local Costco already has rows upon rows of Christmas presents for kids and Christmas trees and wrapping paper. . .Soon, there will be endless Christmas ads on television for all the latest toys and electronics your kids will beg for.

Each year, Christmas seems to become more and more about spending money and over consuming.  If you’ve come to dread the holiday season and the gimmes that come with it, now is the time to plan a different type of holiday.  Now is the time to plan a giving holiday.  Make a plan now, before the holiday is in full swing.

You can take a two part approach to this.  Part one is to allow your children to have an opportunity to give.  Part two is to reduce your child’s expectations for the gifts they will receive at Christmas.

Preparing Kids for a Giving HolidayToday, we’ll be talking about part one.

Strategies to Allow Your Children to Give at Christmas

While it’s nice to get things for Christmas, giving is also nice.  Well before Christmas starts, sit down with your kids (if they are old enough) and discuss how you’d like to give of your time.  If they’re still young, say under 5, you can just start a new tradition of giving of yourselves during the holidays.  You’ll experience very little resistance from the little ones.

Put in time.  One way to give, especially if you’re on a tight budget, is to give of your time.  You could volunteer to work in a soup kitchen or to help assemble thanksgiving meal baskets at your local church.  You could go through your closets and donate excess clothes or other items.

Give your money.  If you have more money than time, you can give your money to help make the holidays better for another family.  You could pick a name from a giving tree that pops up in December.  (The post office often has one as does Whole Foods and other grocery stores.)  Take your child with you to buy a present for the child in need.

Or, you could donate to a charitable organization like World Vision.  Look through the catalog and either choose to sponsor a child or to make a one-time contribution.  Let your child know how the money will be used and help him to realize how much more he has than the family of the child who will be receiving the money.

Another organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has a giving project, Operation Christmas Child.  You fill a shoebox with simple toys and school materials for a needy child.  This is a nice project to do with your children, and you can give without spending a lot of money, if your money is tight.

If you want to get away from the consumer driven holiday season, know that you CAN have a different kind of holiday this year.  However, you’ll need to start now and take the first step–teaching your children the importance of giving at the holidays.  Next time we’ll talk about the next step, adjusting expectations.

What’s your favorite way to teach your kids the importance of giving during the holidays?

Original photo credit: Theresa Thompson, on Flickr

Get Yourself and the Kids in the Halloween Spirit for Less

Halloween is right around the corner.  While the stores seem to like to skip Halloween and Thanksgiving and shoot right to Christmas (in September!), the majority of us like to embrace each holiday as it comes.

Halloween is one of those holidays that is fun for both kids and adults.  However, it can also be an expensive holiday, if you’re not careful.  Kids’ costumes alone can run upwards of $50.  Here are some ways you can enjoy the holiday and get a little Halloween spirit for less:


Costumes don’t have to cost a fortune.  Using these tactics, you can get what you need for less than a Benjamin (or a Ulysses, as the case may be).

Halloween Spirit for Less1.  Shop resale stores.

National chains like Once Upon a Child or Goodwill have plenty of costumes for $10 or less.  At our local Once Upon a Child, costumes were about $6.50 each.  That beats paying $25 or more.

2.  Put out the word.

Let your friends and family know you’re looking for a costume.  When my son was 18 months old, we borrowed an adorable, homemade Robin Hood costume.  We paid nothing, and my son received many compliments while trick or treating.

3.  Check Craigslist.

Many parents also listed outgrown costumes on Craigslist.  Remember, you’re free to negotiate on Craigslist, so you may be able to haggle for a lower price.

4.  Make your own.

Pinterest is filled with adorable costumes for both those who sew and those who don’t.  You might be able to make a costume from items you have around the house or that you can buy cheaply.  Don’t forget that items can do double duty.  If your son has a fireman raincoat, there’s no reason that can’t be a costume.  Does your child have skeleton pajamas?  Great, there’s a costume.  Does your daughter take ballet?  Her recital costume or her dance leotard and tutu can be her costume.

How to Decorate on a Budget

Part of the fun of Halloween is not only dressing up the kids, but dressing up your home.  If you go all out, decorating your home can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be.  Try these tips.

1.  Buy on clearance.

As soon as Halloween is over, go to the stores.  You’ll find Halloween decor on sale for 50 to 80% off.  Now is the time to buy decorations for next year.  The same is true for next year’s Halloween costumes.

2.  Pinterest to the rescue again.

Pinterest (Beating Broke on Pinterest) has tons of low cost decor suggestions.  I saw a cute pumpkin decoration for a table top that used old canning jar bands.  If you have those around, your decoration is free.  You can also have the kids create Halloween themed crafts and decorate the house that way.

Halloween is a fabulous holiday for kids and adults.  Decorating and dressing up can be so much fun, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  By using these techniques and taking advantage of the many frugal crafts and ideas on the web, you can have a great Halloween while keeping your hard earned money where it belongs, in your wallet.

Save Money and Eat Healthy: Rent an Apple Tree

When my health began to suffer a few years ago thanks to stress, being overweight, and having some intestinal issues, I started taking much better care of myself.  That meant eating organic foods, following a Paleo diet, and losing over 70 pounds.

I used to always say I didn’t have money to buy organic foods, but my health issues weren’t cheap, so I decided in the long run, eating the best food I could was a priority, even if it was more expensive.  Over the years, though, I’ve found ways to cut costs on eating organic.  One way is renting an organic apple tree.

How Does Renting an Apple Tree Work?

I simply Googled “rent an apple tree” to find one near us.  Then, I rented one apple tree for $55.  All the apples on that tree were mine.  I paid in the spring, and the Paula Red apples were ready in August.

Rent an Apple Tree

The farm called me to tell me when the apples were ripe, and then I and my family headed out to the orchard to pick the apples.  It took less than 45 minutes, and we left with 94 pounds of organic apples.

What Did We Do With All Those Apples?

Paula Reds don’t stay good for long, so we turned them into applesauce.  (And we ate a lot of them fresh.)  We ended up with 28 quarts of applesauce, which I stored in the freezer.  It took me, my husband and son working together 7 hours to process all of the apples.

We didn’t have to add any sugar because they were naturally sweet.

How Much Did We Save?

The lowest price I have been able to find for organic applesauce is $2.50 for 16 ounces at Trader Joe’s.   Just like our applesauce, Trader Joe’s applesauce only contains organic apples.  There are 32 ounces in a quart, so one quart of Trader Joe’s applesauce is $5.00.

One quart of our homemade applesauce from apples on our rented tree is approximately $1.96.  Overall, we saved $85 and will have enough applesauce to last us through the winter.

We also signed up for another apple tree in October for apples that are suitable for storage.  We’ll be able to keep them in our refrigerator for several months and eat them fresh.  If we get another 94 pounds, we’ll be paying just 58 cents a pound, which will be a significant savings over the grocery stores where I can never seem to find organic apples for less than $1.99 a pound.

It’s Not Just About the Savings

Still, it’s not just about the savings.  What matters is that we know exactly where the apples came from and how they were processed.  In addition, they are local, in season, and organic, which is the best way to eat food.

If you want to feed your family healthier foods but feel that they are out of your budget, don’t despair.  There are several unique ways to feed your family organic food on a budget.  Renting an apple tree is just one of those ways.  We’ll be sure to do this again next year.

Have you done something like this? Do you buy food direct from the farmer?

Original Photo Credit:MetaphoricalPlatypus, on Flickr.