What’s the cost of those 12 Days of Christmas?

12 Days D3I had a little extra time while working with a group of kids today. To finish up our time, groups were challenged to see who could list all the gifts of the classic song Twelve Days of Christmas first.  Funny enough none of the groups got the list just right- not sure about the ducks and the chickens that were suggested- HA! After reviewing all the correct gifts for each of the days, the groups were challenged to guess what the cost of the gifts might be.  Following a WILD set of guesses we went to the web and found this little gem: The PNC Christmas Price Index.

According to the website the index was started 31 years ago by one of the economists at PNC.  HE wanted to know what the cost would be for one set of each of the gifts listed in the song.  This initial quest for knowledge has become 30 years of looking at the adjustments and cost rise and fall over time. You can see trends in the US economy reflected in the Christmas Price Index.  The site is pretty cool. There is a lot of interesting financial info- you can look at the total price over time, the price of individual gifts over time, and look how things as varied as the internet and fuel cost have affected the prices.  There is a complete separate section of the site the provides educators with ways to use the information to implement some lesson on financial literacy (don’t be surprised in my classes if you see this round about the 22nd and 23rd).

Great CarolThe site also has lots of fun and clever parts to it.  There is a section dedicated to “updating” the song itself since it “has fallen to an all-time low in popularity”. The section is titled The Great Carol Comeback and features cool renditions of the song for each of the 12 gifts.  Future classics like “Milk Bucket Music”, “Golden Ring Orchestra”, “Bird Call Quartet” and “French Hen Hairband”.  Be sure to check out all twelve of the The Great Carol Comeback.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the 2014 price of one set of all gifts is $27,673.21.  Seems fair, right?

Time to Think $$$

christmas-moneyWe’re still getting our routine established for 2014 and Thursdays are my day!  I’ve planned my first Thursday post each month to be music and my second Thursday post to be about crafts, DIY, or home-made gift ideas.  This week, my third Thursday post, will be about money!   That’s right, money.  I might discuss how to get the most for your money.  Maybe it will be something about how to use your money? It could just be more hints on saving your money and planning for the holidays.  The Yule Log has had many posts about saving for the holidays and how to do it in a clever or fun way. Look back at one of our earliest posts from 2012- START NOW!  We’ve been thinking of ways to save since our beginning.   This week that’s exactly what I have for you another fun way to save.

52weekchallenge-lgToday’s idea you may have seen making the rounds on social media. It’s called the 52 week challenge.  The basic premise of the challenge is to set aside a specific amount of money EVERY week.  By taking the challenge you have almost $1,400 at the end of the year.  The popular version out there has you start the first week with putting aside $1.  The second week you put in $2, and so on through the end of the year.  This seems like a fun way to save.  Might be super fun for a family or a young couple to work in together.  I’m imagining a lot of excitement the first couple months as you put away just $5 or $10.  The struggle would be when you get to November and are putting away $45 or more a week.  Even the hardiest saver might find this to be a challenge and that fun-loving young couple will have moved on to new monetary pursuits.

52 week reverseHere’s the twist on the challenge that I support- reverse it!  Start the first week by putting away $52.  Then every week after you save a dollar less.  This means when you get to November you only have to sacrifice $5-$8 a week.  Anyone can do that!  You still end up with the same total at the end  but the “sacrifice” each week is not as high.  You might even decide to put in more that the required amount each week.  I’m going to try it as a new thing for 2014.  This saving coupled with my Christmas account and my $5 jar- I’ll be set for the whole holiday season!


Jay Frankston and A True Christmas Story

christmasEverything ties back to Christmas–sometimes in a neat little package.

Yesterday, I was listening to “This I Believe,” a “public dialogue about belief–one essay at a time.” This week’s featured essay, titled “Speak Up” is a personal statement about Jay Frankston’s youth, a Jewish child in Paris during the Holocaust.  He echoes what others have said about how violence and cruelty spreads.  It is the silence of the masses that allows the evil to grow.

The essay is beautiful, but stranger than his non-fiction, is the brief biography at the end–Jay Frankston spent most of his adult life portraying Santa Claus in New York City.  His book, “A Christmas Story:  A True Story” is easily accessible to read and/or purchase on the web.

I listened to the entire 20-minute autobiographical story last night.  Why a Jewish man would choose to portray and promote Christmas is curious indeed.  I won’t tell the whole story, but the part I liked best was when he met a little girl who said she didn’t receive Christmas presents because she was Jewish.  Frankston whispered, “I’m Jewish, too.”

I’m curious to find a photograph of him as Santa because he explains that he wore a rubberized mask, which must have been uncomfortable.

This sent me to the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.  (Jeremy mentioned this in our last podcast.)  Mr. Frankston has not yet been inducted, so I’m adding an official nomination to the list of Yule Log 2013 plans. . .

Out with the Old…

Weeks ago we alerted you to the possibility for exchanging your old strings of incandescent Christmas lights.  Stores would give you a coupon towards new energy-efficient LED lights.  Both Home Depot and Lowes have had deals in the last few years.  Home Depot has been running the program since November 1st and it ends on Wednesday, November 14th.  This is your warning to get out and take care of things now!  Check out your local circular for specifics at your neighborhood store.  You can read a little more about the specifics on the website www.freebiestodeal.com as well as other specials.

What are LED lights anyways?  Light-emitting diode (LED) Christmas lights are gaining popularity due to their low energy usage, very long lifetimes, and low maintenance. Colored LEDs are more efficient at producing light than colored incandescent bulbs.  LEDs use much less electricity (only 4 watts for a 70-light string) and have a much greater lifespan than incandescent. LEDs are also less likely to break from impact or rough handling.  The lights are more costly than incandescent, but save energy use and last longer.  Those savings over time make them worth the initial cost.  LED lights seem to have few complaints.  The only one I could find involved squirrels.  Yes, squirrels!  Seems they enjoy gnawing on the hard covers on the bulbs.  They didn’t chew old lights because they would have been shocked.  The low energy LED bulbs don’t have enough current to hurt them, so they chew away.  Solution?  Experts say leave some hard nuts on the ground around your light displays to distract the squirrels.  Problem solved.


Christmas Light Exchange

Today I did a little searching to find out more about LED Christmas lights.  I discovered that for the last three years Home Depot has offered an exchange program for new LED lights.  The program is designed to replace your old lights with new energy-efficient lights.  In 2011 Home Depot offered a $5 off new lights coupon in exchange for your old lights.  You could get up to 5 coupons, a $25 value.  Here’s the catch: the 2012 trade-in event only lasted for ten days (11/3-11/13)!  Home Depot hasn’t announced any details for a 2012 exchange yet.  Keep your eyes open on those flyers for the dates and specifics for an exchange this year.  Lowe’s is expected to have a similar offer this fall.  I don’t currently own any LED lights.  I am considering a trade, but we’ll have to see what the offers are.  Maybe we should use LED lights for our Festival of Trees entries too, hmm…

Back-to-School = Christmas Savings!

You’d have to be living under a rock to not notice all the sales and displays set up for the annual Back-to-School season.  Every retail store from Staples to CVS and including the big box sites of Wal-Mart and Target are targeting the needs of students and families for the return to the school routine.  If you are a savvy Christmas shopper and being prepared for all your needs these sales can be a great help.  Here at the Yule Log we see any saving and shopping season as a way to prepare for Christmas and these sales are no exception.  Check out some hints on how to shop now to support your successful Christmas efforts.

1.  Buy extra school supplies to use as gifts or stocking stuffers.  Small notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, and markers make great stocking stuffers.  Kids of all ages enjoy these supplies and the prices now can’t be beat.  Desk organizers, binders, and more can be made into great gifts for family and friends.

2.  Get some tape, glue, and scissors.  Buy these supplies cheap now to help with all your wrapping needs.  Safety scissors are a great get for the younger helpers and I have found there is no such thing as too much tape!

3.  Stock up for crafting.  All kinds of school items can help with your craft projects.  Consider brown lunch bags, sandwich bags, felt, glitter, stickers, poster paint, and more.  If you’ve been doing a good job planning your craft projects you should have a list ready to go.

4.  Bags and Packs.  Time to buy back packs, computer bags, and lunch boxes to use as gifts for the holidays.  Take advantage of sales to get these items now.  You might be able to find these even cheaper at clearance sales once school starts.

5.  Scoop up tax-free clothes.  Maryland and other states offer those tax-free clothing purchase days now.  Buy some gifts and hide them away until Christmas.  Maryland’s tax-free window begins tomorrow, August 12th and runs through the 18th.

Time is running out to get prepared for Christmas.  Avoid the rush and the high costs and take care of things early!

Five Dollar Jar Check

During Monday’s podcast, Jeremy suggested I might want to count what I’ve collected in my $5 jar.  We’ve talked about a Christmas Jar’s purpose.  Form some, it is a charitable venture, collecting change from each day’s spending. My goal is to put aside money for holiday shopping,  collecting every $5 bill.  In fact, most times I strategically pay with a $20 to get the $5 change.  Roger doesn’t say much about my crazy ideas, but I noticed that he asked for $5 bills in change when we went for ice cream the other night.

I read that this saving strategy could pay for all of the Christmas purchases come November and December.  Frankly, I don’t know what it would be like to have a Christmas paid for completely in cash!

We were watching the Olympics tonight (and the endless swimming events), so I decided to count the contents of the jar.  Drum roll, please:  $540.  And we still have three months before I will be in full Christmas spending mode.

Very pleased.  Oh, and I found an “IOU” note in the bottom for $80, so that brings my possible total to $620.

Patriotic Christmas Planning

It’s never too early to think of your holiday decoration and gifting plans.  Many people like to have a patriotic or Americana theme to their decor or gifts.  Now is the time to plan for your USA themed Christmas 2012!  Starting as early as tomorrow all those July 4th and Independence Day items will be super discounted or on clearance.  Places you might want to visit for your shopping spree include craft stores like Michael’s, A.C. Moore, and JoAnn’s.  There are also department stores like Wal-Mart and Target and don’t forget those drug stores like Rite Aid and CVS.  Crafty and thrifty readers probably already have a list of items to buy, but most of you are probably wondering “What on earth would I buy now for the holidays”.  Here is a short list of ideas:

  • Decorative items to make into ornaments for your Red, White, and Blue tree
  • Red, white, and blue ribbon to decorate patriotic gifts or use on America themes wreaths.
  • Patriotic or other summer themed scrap-booking materials on discount to use for those thoughtful gifts
  • Outdoor lights and favors to add to your party for the holidays
  • Patriotic fabrics to use in crafting that quilt to give as a gift
  • Anything red and white to use for Christmas (plates, napkins, cutlery, cups, etc)

So much to think about for the next 5 and a half months in preparation for your Christmas!  Get the bargains where and when you can.  I’m sure all of us have someone who would appreciate a hand crafted patriotic Christmas gift.  I think I will be crafting a tiny tree of Americana items for a friend.

Jar Check!

Tonight was the first Friday night of my summer schedule.  I spent lots of time today straightening things, clearing “to-do” piles, and emptying drawers.  Through all of these activities I continually found evidence of Christmas.  A bow saved to use for a gift, A card kept out with a special thought, ribbon, tiny ornament, a list of ideas, etc.  I decided to move all these things to one basket.  I suggest you start a basket or some type of bin to put all your Christmas “stuff” in as you move through the next 5 months.  But, what I spent the most time on today was my Christmas Jar.  It was time to roll up the change and make room in the jar for more money.  If you remember we have discussed a variety of jars related to Christmas.  I have two.  The small one gets all the silver coins and will be used to donate to a person or charity at the holidays.  This will be like in the story Christmas Jar.  The other is all my pennies.  It is a large jar.  I will be using this to buy Christmas presents for family.  Today was the day to count the silver.  I was surprised how much was there.  $186.40!! It has been so easy to collect for this jar.  Every time I come into the house I empty my pockets into the jar- no big deal.  This money has been from the last 5 months.  If it collects at the same rate there will be a nice amount of money to surprise a person with come December.  I hope you have been busy with your jars too.  Natalie will have to let us know how her $5 bill campaign is progressing.  I am sure that she has my total beat!

How are those flowers?

Time to check in on the poinsettia plants.  Those 2011 plants are coming along.  We are six months into this experiment.  I have to admit that in May I was losing hope on these things making it to Christmas 2o12.  In May it was time to cut the plants back way back and to repot them.  After that it was time to water regularly and bring back to the sun.  In June the care plan directs you to wait until you start to see new growth and then move the plants outside to warm and sunny locations.  After a few weeks you are supposed to cut back each sprout by about an inch.  This is to allow the plant to gain some width and not grow tall and spindly.  My challenge has been the move to outside.  We have had an oddly cool start to June and I have not moved the plants to the porch yet.  This next week is supposed to be a return to seasonal temps in the 80s.  Hopefully my 5 pots will make the move to their summer location soon.  I am really excited to see where they go from this point.  Let’s all hope for full and beautiful plants this winter.