Planners Ready?

Today’s post is a simple reminder of upcoming holiday happenings.  Many of these have been mentioned earlier on the Yule Log.  Beginning this weekend, you can fill every Saturday and Sunday with special and unique fun and outings for you and the family.  This is a short, and in no way complete, list.  Make time in your plans to go!

Maryland Christmas Show– HUGE, two-weekend event.  Hosted at the Frederick Fairgrounds, opens tomorrow!
Westview Tree Lighting– 7 PM on 11/17 the center welcomes the season.
Nutcracker on Ice– Get your tickets now for this local favorite at the Columbia Ice Rink.
Gaylord Ice Display– Gaylord resort opens its seasonal ICE! feature tomorrow.  This amazing indoor ice display is themed with Shrek this year- fun for children of all ages. 
Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland– Adventure Park USA in New Market, MD opens this drive-through lights display on Monday, 11/19


Countdown Podcast #4: 342 Days to Go!

Bills, Boxes, and Blues – Click to hear this week’s Podcast

This week our discussion focuses on holiday bills, boxing up your Christmas wears, and the post holiday blues.  We share thoughts on our own 2011 holiday budgets and plans for saving.  Storage ideas for containers and labeling come up, as well as where to put it all.  We begin our sharing of ideas for dealing with that long time from Christmas to spring (Ordinary Time seems like the best descriptor I can come up with, although it’s not my creation).  As always we want to hear your ideas and thoughts on the topics too.  Drop us an email or post a comment here.  You can also check us out on Twitter and Facebook and share there.  Get your snowmen all lined up for next week!


We have to start now!  Now is the time to budget for your Christmas 2012 spending.  As soon as you set your budget you can begin a savings plan.   I spent some time yesterday reviewing my 2011 finances and spending habits.  This include a close review of just how much I spent towards Christmas and the holiday season.  It really can add up!  I had Christmas expenses as far back as April (I really do buy the bargains when I see them).  So as you are still paying your bills from 2011, resolve now to not have bills after 2012.  Plan now to save all your money throughout the coming months to have the funds on hand.

So how do you do that?  First you must have an idea of the amount you plan to spend.  Let’s say you plan to have $1,000 to spend for Christmas fun and giving.  Whatever amount you decide, think about taking ten or eleven months to save.  If you want your money for Black Friday, you have less time to save than someone who plans to save until Christmas Eve.  Next you have to decide how often you plan to put money into your savings.  If you get paid every 2 weeks and you want to have your money for November, you would need to save about $50 each pay period.  I plan to start my saving with my next paycheck at the end of the month and to save until November, so I have 20 paychecks to pull my Christmas savings from.

Next up is to decide where to save.  You could just keep the money in a box.  You could just leave it in your checking account and “save” it for later.  We all know that these types of savings “plans” often derail since the money is so readily available to “borrow” with plans to put it back next month.  You could place it into your existing savings account and just pull out what you need later.  I am proposing that we all start a new account.  A special Christmas savings account- we can create our own version of the old-fashioned Christmas Club accounts.  There are many different options out there to set up a new online savings account.  I will be doing just that.  I have spent a good bit of time reading about the options and looking into which companies are a smart choice.  Here are the four I have narrowed my search down to include:  Sallie Mae High Yield Savings, Ally Online Savings Account,   Smarty Pig, and ING Direct Orange Savings Account.  This is where your help comes into play.  What advice do you have to share?  Recommendations? Experiences? I want to take it all in and then make my decision.  In the next week I’ll be blogging more about your input and my decision.  I admit I am currently leanING a little towards one in particular.

Three Ways to Save- Christmas 2012

If you really want Christmas 2012 to be awesome you really MUST start to think about things now!  If you meet any of the following criteria you can just skip this post: never decorate, spend money, give presents, travel, or in any way do something to celebrate the special day and season.  Ok, so you see that everyone really needs to read on.  In the coming months we plan to share tons of tips and ideas to make planning and prepping for the holidays easier, more affordable, and hopefully fun!

Today I want to start our discussions on saving money (as well as time and sanity) as part of your Christmas plans.  Remember this is just the introduction to these three ideas, we have so much more to come.  Here are three areas to take action to make your Christmas 2012 more frugal and financially wise.

Number 1- SAVE UP!  That’s right, save your money.  Plan ahead.  Save now.  Most of us have probably spent at least some time since Christmas 2011 opening bills and figuring out how to pay for the things we bought or did as part of the celebrations.  Too much of the time after the holidays is spent paying for the holidays.  Too often, especially at Christmas, we are guided by the “spend now and pay later” model of action.  Make 2012 the year that you shift that thinking to “save now, spend later”.  There are many ways to do just that.  To be able to save money you must have some type of plan.  You have to have an idea of how much money you will need to save.  It is simple to create a budget for Christmas 2012.  Take time in the next couple days to total what you spent in 2011.  This will give you a dollar amount for your saving plan.  (Some of you might for the first time discover just how much you really spend!)  Think of finding this budget amount as your homework assignment:)  Look for information in my next post a variety of online savings account options to create your own modern Christmas savings account.

Number 2- BUY NOW!  Another way to not be burdened with huge bills at the end of the year is to make purchases throughout the year.  There are so many ways to shop early and we will be going into many of them in-depth in the coming weeks and months. Just to give you a little taste here are a few ideas.  Shop sales on frames and photo albums in clearance at major department stores.  Check out yard sales and garage sales in the spring and summer to find great and inexpensive items.  After Valentine’s Day check out the discount sales and buy all kinds of red things to keep for use at Christmas.  Do the same after St. Patrick’s Day.  Having ideas of gifts for family and friends in mind can save you much money and stress.  Coming later in January we’ll share our tips for tracking your gift ideas and projects in 2012.

Number 3- MAKE IT!  We have all had that moment, usually around December 21st, where we wish we had found or started some great homemade present or craft idea earlier.  Something that our friends and family would have loved but there just isn’t time to do it now.  2012 is the year to end that tradition.  Learn that new craft now!  Start that project in February!  Practice baking the new cookie recipe for a friends Super Bowl party.  Both Natalie and I have hinted at some of the new things we will be starting early in the year to be set for Christmas.  Natalie has already mentioned her cookies and I am working on improving my candy making.  Another new idea I have for 2012 is to spend some time with my nieces and nephew building or making something that later will become a gift.  For example, at the 2011 after Christmas sales I bought a really cool unfinished wooden advent box in the shape of a tree.  I plan to paint it and decorate it this winter and then fill it with little items or remembrances from the kids for the year.  Won’t my sister be surprised as she opens the little drawers in December and finds treasures from the kids back in February?  More tips and ideas coming all year long.