The Parent Trap–Are You Buying Your Kids Too Much?

Is there even such a thing? My mother’s rule was four gifts per kid. And she tries desperately to impart that rule on me, as I now have my own children. But without fail, I go overboard every year. I wouldn’t consider my kids spoiled, but knowing how their little faces will light up at a roomful of toys gets me every year.

So, what do the experts say? Chiefly that Christmas is a good time to redefine your relationship with your kids, depending on age, of course. If your kids are aware that mom and dad are leaving gifts under the tree, it’s ok to take the opportunity to discuss cost, and how much is too much. Conversations that include, “We may not be able to afford that, so what is your second choice?” is a good place to understand to importance of money and how it is to be spend in your household. There maybe some compromises, like, “If you choose this, you will only get one other gift. Is that what you want?” Or, a lesson in compassion, like, “I’d love to get you that, but we can’t afford to buy you that, plus presents for your brother and sister. We want you all to have something you want.” These are important, real conversations to be had that will impact the way your kids see indulgences and understanding spending habits. You might also suggest that we save up cash gifts to buy it after Christmas–another important lesson.

This is sort of a moot point if your child still thinks Santa is bringing her gifts. You have nothing to do with that equation. However, you should manage those expectations early, saying things like, “Santa can’t make you everything you ask for, so what are the most important things?” Understanding early on that we don’t always get what we want will go a long way. And remember, if your child is a toddler, they will be overwhelmed and overstimulated by too many gifts. You’ll have to cajole them into even opening them.

The reality is, your kid doesn’t need that much stuff, nor will he care about that much stuff. If you feel that you’ve overindulged, put some gifts aside for a rainy day, special reward, or upcoming birthday. They will never know the difference.

Cheap & Easy Holiday Craft Ideas

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s a rather stressful time–worrying about money to buy gifts, actual time it takes to buy gifts, the time it takes to wrap them. Then there’s the parties–suddenly your weekend–your sacred time, has become about managing parties, baking, shopping, and get-togethers with friends who you only see at this time of year. And let’s not forget to mention that everybody is sick while doing it. When it’s all over, some of us feel…just relief. And that’s a little bit sad. The holiday season is about community, the joy of giving (and the joy of receiving), and cuddling with your loved ones on the couch while watching It’s A Wonderful Life.

And yet, we’re run ragged and exhausted by long hours for extra cash, shopping on the lunch hour and staying up late to bake six dozen cookies for a cookie swap you’re sorry you RSVP’d to. Even though we at PromoPro love spending and saving, we are reminded that there is more to life. Here are a few fun activities you can do with your families this holiday season that are cheap, easy, and fun. Because isn’t that what’s it about? Family and fun.

1. Santa’s Cookie Plate

This could not be easier! Pick up some ceramic plates at the dollar store, along with some colored sharpies. Color on your plates, or inscribe Christmas messages. Then, put it  in the oven on 350 for 30 minutes. Your messages will stay forever! Our favorite idea is a message for Santa that he’ll see once he finishes his cookies.

 

diy christmas crafts          45 Budget Friendly Final Minute DIY Christmas Decorations others

2. Reindeer Candy Holder

So easy! Again, your local dollar store should have pots of various sizes. The rest is up to you. Popsicle sticks, pom poms googly-eyes, paint and anything else your little hearts desire to make this reindeer smile.

 

3. Milk Jug Snowmen

This looks rather self-explanatory, which means it’s super cheap and easy. Add a hat and set it on the diy christmas crafts               45 Budget Friendly Final Minute DIY Christmas Decorations others table with a scarf wrapped around it. Best to use felt for the eyes and nose if you have it.

 

 

 

 

 

diy christmas crafts                                45 Budget Friendly Final Minute DIY Christmas Decorations others

 

4. Snowman Door

Again, very self-explanatory! Use materials already in your house. At the very least, you may need to  buy some felt and/or thick ribbon (for the scarf) at the craft store.

 

5. Button ornaments

This is so kid friendly, and they’ll be allowed to display their art proudly on the tree. You can buy colors of your choice, or you can use what you have around the house. String your buttons on a ribbon and tie at the top. Voila. diy christmas crafts                                             45 Budget Friendly Final Minute DIY Christmas Decorations others

Losing Holiday Pounds

The holidays are upon us…and that means parties, cocktails and cookies. How do you NOT gain a couple of pounds? Unless you have iron will, it’s impossible. We’ve put together a guide to avoiding holiday weight gain.

Avoiding the Gain

  • Never arrive to a party hungry. Have a healthy snack  before you go, so you’re not tempted to over do it. In addition, have a full glass of water to fill your belly before diving into calorie-laden appetizers.
  • Go slow. Instead of getting overzealous and filling your plate with all the good stuff, pace yourself. Take only a little at a time, and spend your time socializing, rather than focusing on eating. If you pace yourself, your brain will catch up to your belly to tell you that you might be full.
  • Fill your plate with decent food before getting to the chips. Stock up on shrimp or veggies. Leave less room for the dip, so you’re forced to reconsider it.
  • Bring something healthy. Offer to bring a healthy snack or dessert and don’t be afraid to sample your own work.
  • Walk. It’s cold out there, but the fresh air will do you well. Make it your habit to walk between meals. You’ll feel better, and look better. Reversing the Gain
  • Don’t starve yourself because you’re beating yourself up over eating too much. You must keep eating, or else you’ll crave and binge. Just make healthier choices. Focus on proteins and veggies.
  • Get rid of holiday leftovers.
  • Limit simple carbs. Initially it will help to cut out white bread completely. You can add it again later, but it should be enough to edge out those few pounds.
  • Put your goals on paper and visit them daily. Keep them positive.
  • Plan your meals. Eating on the go is a recipe for disaster.
  • Drink lots of water. It will help curve cravings and make you feel fuller.

Avoid and Recover from Holiday Debt

Generally our New Year’s resolutions consist of two things: losing weight and saving money. On Wednesday, we’ll discuss keys to holiday weight prevention and loss, but today, let’s talk about trimming the fat on your credit cards.

What to do now: 

  • If you find that you cannot avoid using a credit card this month (and who can), try making extra, smaller payments on your card. For example, if you put $200 on your credit card, try increasing your payment this month by about half that. You won’t feel it as hard when your next bill comes in.
  • Schedule multiple payments on your credit card bill. For example, instead of paying $100 upfront this month, pay $50 on the 1st and $50 on the 15th.
  • Return stuff. It’s really easy to carried away in the store (so many things!). Once you get home, take a step back and evaluate your receipt. Seeing it in black and white makes that back scratcher seem not so necessary.
  • Stop buying for yourself. You know you do. It’s not the time. Make a specific list for others if there are things you want. If no one is getting you gifts, then you may have to just go without!
  • Avoid post-holiday sales. You don’t need that stuff. You really don’t. You just went on a spending binge and should use January to recuperate, not increase your debt.
  • It’s no fun, but if you get cash as a gift, use it to pay debt immediately.

What to do next year: 

  • Put some money away each month to cover holiday spending. Open a second savings account and automatically put away $20 per month or more. You won’t miss it at all after a few months. By the end of the year, you’ll have a few extra hundred dollars to soften the blow.
  • Create a budget. No one likes to see how much money they can’t spend, but you need to know. You can download a holiday budget spreadsheet online.

Your Quick and Dirty Holiday Gift Guide

Christmas shopping is only fun when you have loads of time and money. Most of us don’t have either, and while yes, it does give us a certain amount of joy being able to shop for and give to others, it can be as stressful as it is joyful. This is only exacerbated by the fact that there is one less holiday weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Sure, we could have started our shopping on time, but who actually did? Conflicted now between shopping online and ensuring timely delivery and navigating thick holiday crowds, we put together a small guide to help you through the process. These gifts can work for just about anyone.

L.L. Bean Wicked Good Moccasins ($69)

 

1. Slippers

Who doesn’t love a great pair of slippers? We love LL Bean slippers of any style. They are high quality and substantial–able to worn outside. They can get pricey, but range from about $39-69. Plus, LL Bean has incredibly reliable shipping and an unbelievably flexible return policy. They have dozens of options and colors for both men and women. Probably the most comfortable pair you’ll find.

2. Catch-Alls

Saddle Leather Catchall
Pottery Barn $29

Everyone needs one of these, even those who don’t know they need one of these. No matter what your style, or status, a catch-all will find a place in the home. Some people use bowls or baskets, but there is no reason not to have one that’s stylish and even personalized. Check out this one from Pottery Barn. It’s a bit masculine, but they have other, more feminine options, as well. Add $10 for personalization. We like this one for its versatility (and it’s price).

 

Red Envelope $80

3. Story of a Lifetime album

Ok, this one is a bit pricey, but seriously worth a look. Your mother slash mother in law will love it. This leather bound book poses life questions for the owner to ponder and then pass down to the next generation. This is a memoir in a box, for the person who may be aging, or has newly hatched grand-children and wishes to preserve memories and life lessons. Personalize the cover to elicit more sentimental tears.

 

 

 

Amrita Singh $20

4. Trendy Jewelry

We’re looking at Amrita Singh for this category. She’s a personal favorite of mine for the price, if not the colorful and stylish creations. These earrings are hugely versatile (a chambray shirt to a cocktail dress) and can suit most women at nearly any age. Amrita Singh has thousands of options for well-priced stylish, up-to date jewelry trends. This jewelry is Indian-inspired in a way that feels cool and multi-cultural.

 

JAM, Amazon $29

5. Wireless Speakers

You can spend as little as $30 or as much as $300 on wireless speakers. There are tons of great options out there, and I have yet to hear one that’s terrible. We’re featuring the JAM speaker because of it’s price and cool color options. It got decent reviews on Amazon and it’s also been spotted at Bed, Bath, and Beyond (do you have a 20% coupon? Even better!).

Be Careful When Shopping at Deep Holiday Discounts

While researching this post, I came across a comment on a Black Friday article from a reputable news source. The comment was from a gentlemen who claims to have worked in retail for many years (selling technology). He warned people against buying big ticket items on Black Friday because often these items built using “spare or refurbished parts.” Being the overly optimistic person that I am, I scoffed at this. Brands I trust would never do this, I thought.  Then, I discovered this article posted at CNN.com. The report confirms what that anonymous man in cyberland claimed to be true about Black Friday “deals.”

We at PromoPro want our customers to save money and feel good about doing it, but certainly not at the cost of quality…and deception.

According the the CNN Money article, 93% of stores that were surveyed (sample size unknown) admitted that they were offering year old products at the same “discount” as last year. Obviously, this is an issue when it comes to electronics that age with each passing day. The product may not be outdated or of poorer quality than it’s brand new counterpart. Is this dishonest? Does the store ever actually claim that products are “brand new”? Probably not, simply because this is the assumption of the trusting consumer.

When the study (done by NerdWallet) analyzed Black Friday ads from this year and last year, they indeed found that at least 25 retailers the exact same products are being offered for the exact same prices, though a year older. When ads from throughout the year were analyzed, they found that the same prices were being offered at other times during the year.

Even more shocking, some retailers have products especially MADE for Black Friday (like Target and Walmart)–this means shortcuts and lower quality parts. This seems like the biggest deception of all to ensure that shoppers will be right back to where they started on Black Friday 2015.

For many of us, Black Friday is about the experience, but it may be worth spending a bit more post-Black Friday to ensure that you’re getting what you are actually paying for.

Perhaps Americans are catching on. Reports showed that crowds this year have been thinner than in previous years. The initial rush was there for many big retailers, but once the crowds thinned, most never saw another surge throughout the day. Shoppers are savvy enough to wait for Cyber Monday, it seems.

Speaking of which…don’t forget to check out our deals! Happy shopping!

Supporting Small Businesses

Small business are begging for your business. The question is, can they compete? 

Small Business Saturday is “Main Street’s” bid for holiday shopping. They can only hope that you’ve not exhausted your dollars on Black Friday. American Express hopes so. They launched the post-Thanksgiving shopping smack in the middle of a recession back in 2010, in hopes of bolstering much needed business. The credit card company offers small rebates to cardholders who buy from local business on that day. Americans who actually know about Small Business Saturday spent $5.7 billion in local business last year. Yet, that doesn’t mean the shoppers KNEW about Small Business Saturday–it may be coincidental that they just have their shopping shoes on.  

The question is–is Small Business Saturday enough to get small stores out of the red, as Black Friday is known to do (hence the name)? Based on research, it seems that many businesses not only don’t know about it, but certainly don’t rely it. If anything, they are more inclined to give coupons or extra discounts as a gesture, than an expectation to bolster business by huge numbers. And let’s face it, if the stores don’t even know it’s happening, the idea isn’t going to ever take off. Furthermore, in order to be really effective, several shops in one area would have to work together to create (and probably pay for) marketing campaigns to get people in the door. Small business owners just don’t have those extra advertising funds to pour into one weekend.

It would be nice to support your town’s local businesses–after all, it’s what makes home, home. But the reality is, most people are only as charitable as their budget allows. And when your budget is promised to holiday gifts, nobody is buying handcrafted leather bags, or vintage photos in niche stores.

So, what do you think? How important is it to your local community to support the local businesses, soon becoming a thing of the past? Let them go, or prop them up?

A Culture of Consumerism?

Black Friday is widely criticized for what it says about American culture–that at worst, Americans materialistic debt-hoarders with a limited sense of values.

 

Ouch.

Over the last ten years or so, Black Friday has become something of an American tradition. Some would argue that it’s less about the download (2)shopping and more about the “experience” of getting up in the wee hours, to beat other consumers out of the best prices, even if it means waiting in line outside in November for hours, or even all night. Sounds like fun, right? And as of the last few years, retailers are pulling their employees away from their Thanksgiving family meals to work.

This year, many retailers have vowed to close their doors on Thanksgiving, refusing to kowtow to consumers and profit. Some are even using it as (arguably) a marketing tool, in which they are closed as a form of protest on behalf of their employees.  Likewise, in response, many shoppers are posting pledges not to shop on Thanksgiving Day, in protest of rampant consumerism that they  believe are now eclipsing family values.

Some of the biggies that have announced that they are CLOSED on the big day are: Apple (perhaps the biggest surprise), BJs, Costco, TJX stores, Home Depot, and Nordstrom. Interestingly, there is an argument to be made that some of the stores mentioned have clientele with a generally higher income than Wal-mart, for example. Black Friday has come to be known as a “middle class” tradition by some critics–these stores may be responding to that. It may actually be more beneficial to their image to be closed. Conversely, studies show that 40% of Walmart shoppers have an income of under $35k. 

The flip side of this conversation is that Black Friday is less about the penny pinching and more about the competitive sport of bargain hunting. The sweet knowledge that you got the best deal you could is worth bitter temperatures and stampeding shoppers.It’s a rush.

And for those of us not cooking turkeys, it may be the simple element of time. Weekends in December are jammed with parties, cookie-swaps and friendly holiday get togethers. But this week, you have two days off! When was the last time you had time on a Thursday afternoon to go shopping?!

So, is it the need to save money, the neo family shopping tradition, or the simple lack of time that fosters the madness that is Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping? Or, if we look hard enough, are we simply a product of well-organized marketing campaigns that begin in October? You decide.

Can’t Miss Black Friday Tech Deals

Before you set out on Friday, know what you’re looking for, and be sure to read last week’s guide to Black Friday shopping. We’ve compiled a list of some of the hottest and most sought after deals at your favorite stores, so you’re armed and ready to go:

Best Buy

Click here for the complete flyer, featuring the following items: 

New Release DVDs  Brand new movies and popular DVDs are $9.99 each

Panasonic 50″ LED HDTV  is $199

Dell Touch Screen Laptop  is $299

HP Intel Celeron 15.6-inch Touch Laptop

 

Walmart

Click here for the complete flyer, featuring the following items: 

HP Intel Touch Screen Laptop for $249.0

RCA Google Play Wi-Fi Tablet for $29.00

XBox One Halo + $30 Gift Card  for $329.00

50″ LED HDTV for $218.00

 

Target

Click here for the complete flyer:

Element 40″ LED TV for $119.00

Beats by Dre Solo for $97.00

Apple IPad Air

XBox One 500GB Console Bundle with $50 gift card for $329 .99

Apple iPad Air 2  (16GB) with $140 gift card for $499.00

Westinghouse 48″ LED HDTV for $235.00

Playstation 4 500 GB Console Bundle for $399.00

GoPro HERO3+ w/ $50 Gift Card for $249.99

 

Chic and Cheap Holiday Decorating Tricks

The following are modified from a Reader’s Digest Article

1. DIY Advent Calendar Christmas Advent Calendar

Update your advent calendar! Use a metallic spray paint to cover an old frame, or find a n inexpensive bulletin board. Create tags using a an online template, or any creative way you wish and pin them on the board. Use your local craft store to find decorative pins. Then hang an ornament with ribbon, which you can remove and put on the tree at the end of each day.

 

2. DIY Bow Wreath

At your local craft store, pick up a styrofoam wreath and a bag of bows. If you don’t mind spending a little more, hand pick your  more glamorous bows to create your customized, eclectic look. Then, just glue to your styrofoam wreath! Christmas Bow Wreath

3. Pretty Pinecones

Dip pinecones (bought or gathered) in gold paint, OR spray paint. For a contemporary look, don’t dip all the way (to create an ombre look). You can then sprinkle with glitter to make them sparkle. Place the pinecones about your house or in your tree.

4. Candy Cane Vase

Glue your candy canes to a coffee can or something similar. Tie and glue a ribbon around it. Go traditional with red and white, or playful with colored candy canes.

Christmas Candy Cane Vase

5.Chair Bows

A ridiculously easy way to glam up your your dining room is to tie ribbons around the chairs. They don’t have to be expensive fabric
bows, but you can use burlap, or gift wrapping ribbon, as well. Hang an ornament from the bow for an even more festive look