Boxing Day, Again

Boxing Day, Again

As we said back on the Feast of Stephen, Boxing Day is stated as the first weekday after Christmas. So, while Boxing Day is typically the day after Christmas, this year Christmas fell on a Friday so properly traditional Boxing Day would be the following Monday. Hey, that’s today!

Some more about Boxing Day

Boxing Day, Again Boxing Day used to be a day in which servants and tradesmen got their gifts. In earlier times, it was also a time for alms-giving and charitable deeds.

In more recent times, it’s a time for sales. Rather like Black Friday in the United States, Boxing Day is a huge shopping day in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Fourth Day of Christmas calls for Four Calling Birds, awww, sweet.
 

Four Calling Birds

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and National Roast Suckling Pig Day and Bake Cookies Day

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and National Roast Suckling Pig Day and Bake Cookies Day

As we close in on Christmas day, the celebrations get more and more awesome. Ugly sweaters, suckling pigs and cookies are on the docket today. It’s the Friday before Christmas, so kick off a wonderful weekend with some classic holiday treats!

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day


Admit it. You know you want one.
National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is celebrated on the third Friday of December each year to add some lighthearted fun to an already awesome holiday season.

What’s involved in celebrating this zany holiday? Just buy yourself the ugliest Christmas sweater you can find and wear it all day. Don’t forget to dare your friends to try to top you. It’s not a party if you’re the only one wearing one!

Want to add some meaning to the fun? Make a donation to Save the Children and their Make The World Better With A Sweater campaign.

Make The World Better With A Sweater

National Roast Suckling Pig Day

National Suckling Pig Day is a chance to have a super-retro medieval holiday dinner. A suckling pig is technically one that hasn’t been weaned from its mother’s milk, causing the meat to be extremely tender. Not everybody has the right kitchen or even the time and patience to prepare such a sumptuous meal, but some people are all about the BBQ pit. If you’ve got the time and the tools, this is a feast not to be missed. If you’d like to know how, ask Julia Child. National Suckling Pig Day

Bake Cookies Day

Sure, this is technically cheating, but boy do these look tasty!!! I’ve always wondered why if you bake cookies, you don’t call them bakies. Well, it turns out that the word cookie comes from the Dutch word koekje which means “little cake”.

It turns out that Dutch bakers used to check the temperature of their ovens by dropping a little cake batter in rather than risk losing the whole cake on an oven that wasn’t hot enough. Waste not, want not.

There are so many kinds of cookies and ways to make them. Since Christmas is next Friday, it’s time to get those batches cooking. Whether you make them from scratch with old family recipes or whether you just buy logs of pre-made dough at the store, baking cookies is a great family activity and makes a wonderful homemade gift for friends and relatives.

Make A Gift Day

Make A Gift Day

It’s December 3rd, so you still have enough time to make some personalized gifts. In fact, prior to the turn of the 20th Century, most gifts were personally made rather than store bought. Christmas wasn’t the big commercial event that it has become.

Harken back to the olden days and make gifts for your friends and loved ones. I’ve tracked down over 250 ideas for gifts that you can make yourself.

Some of my favorite homemade gifts are the cookie kits in a mason jar. It’s fun because you make it look like sand art and it’s practical because they can just dump out the contents and bake themselves a bit of holiday fun courtesy of you!

The absolutely best thing about making personal gifts for your loved ones is that you’re genuinely giving them a bit of yourself. Even if you’re not the handiest or craftiest person, the fact that you’ve taken the effort to make something special will make the gift that much more treasured. To this day, I still remember the presents that my Nana made for us all. When you make a gift yourself, you’re making memories that will last a lifetime.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

I think it’s fitting that this year, December begins with Giving Tuesday. In contrast to the mad commercialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is a chance for all of us to switch from consuming to giving.

The idea was proposed by the 92nd Street Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association and promoted by Mashable, Skype and Cisco. Over the last few years, it has been developing into a worldwide movement towards Effective Altruism.

Frankly, no matter how you go about it, Giving Tuesday is a great idea. It really puts us in the right frame of mind to start off the holiday season. Some things you can give are money for charity, canned or boxed goods to your local food pantry, your time as a volunteer or just random acts of kindness throughout the day. It is definitely more blessed to give than to receive.

Classic Christmas Toys Available Today

Toyland Tuesday

Classic Christmas Toys Available Today

Oh, sure, you can go into mounds of debt to pay for the holiday extravaganza of buying the latest electronic gizmos only to see them strewn about the house while the kids are yelling about how bored they are.  Isn’t that a fun family tradition?  Well, once upon a time children had imaginations and toys that helped to fire that creativity. Here are some great suggestions to return to those simpler days.

Board games are classic crowd pleasers. Favorites include MonopolyMonopoly, Hi Ho Cherry-OHi Ho Cherry-O, LifeLife, Trivial PursuitTrivial Pursuit, ChessChess or CheckersCheckers. There are also great card games like Old Maid, Go Fish, Crazy 8’s, Matching, Slap Jack, MemoryOld Maid, Go Fish, Crazy 8's, Matching, Slap Jack, Memory or UnoUno.

Puzzles are great for developing minds and hand-eye coordination.  You can find puzzles that are made from many different materials: wood, cardboard, or plastic. They can also be flat, round, square or 3 dimensional. My son really enjoys the Perplexus maze ball.

Train sets are a real treat for the whole family.  They come in all sizes and for any age group. You can find a set to fit any budget.

Wooden toys are great because they are kid powered by muscle and imagination.  In the same vein, imagination driven toys also fall into the categories of dress up, play kitchens and playhouses, puppets, and books.

Get $10 Off Orders of $50+ at Magic Cabin when you use Code: LSMCTENOFF

Get $10 Off Orders of $50+ at Magic Cabin when you use Code: LSMCTENOFF

If you have older kids, crafts are always a big hit. There are some wonderful craft clubs where your gift will be appreciated all year. You can also make up your own kits by looking through craft magazines or books, copying down the instructions, making a list of the materials needed and then go shopping for what you need. Make up 12 crafts and then put each one in its own separate box. Wrap each box and put the name of a month on each box. Put all the boxes in one huge wrapped box and Tada! A perfect Christmas gift that will last all year.

Here’s a list of places to find Safe Toys for your family’s needs:

Magic Cabin, Childhood’s Purest Treasures
This is a wonderland of classic toys and activities that will fire your child’s imagination.  You can save $10 off orders of $50 or more when you use code: LSMCTENOFF

Babesta, for trendsetting tots
You will find all kinds of gift ideas besides toys here.  You can also find clothes, accessories, crib decorations, books, CDs, DVDs and gift sets.

e-Beanstalk, Expert-Selected Toys Matched to a Child’s Development
They have developmental toys categorized by age. These educational and learning toys are hand picked by child development experts following both American and European safety standards.

Heirloom Wooden Toys
You can find toys here that are top quality and safe for kids. They also have games, furniture and kids decor. You can also search specifically for toys made here in the USA.

Focalprice.com

I also wanted to give you some tips for buying toys on a budget:

Explore auction sites like eBay for great buys (used and new). You can check out the Daily Deals for gift ideas for the whole family.

You can also search on Google using the key words “wholesale toys“, or “closeout toys” or “discount toys“. You will find a variety of companies that do not require a minimum order.

Another way to save on Christmas shopping is to hit the stores right after the holidays to take advantage of clearance sales.  Doing this will make it easier for the following Christmas, but if it’s later in the year you may wish to check the outlets and thrift stores for savings on your gifts.

Only 200 Shopping Days Until Christmas 2014!!!

carolers5

Only 200 Shopping Days Until Christmas 2014!!!

There are only 200 shopping days remaining until Christmas this year. We’re almost halfway through the year at this point and Summer is coming very soon.

Have you thought about how to make the holidays the best they’ve ever been?

Here are some quick tips on how to keep Christmas in your heart even though it’s sunny and warm out:

  • Sing Jingle Bells while you jog
  • Use Egg Nog as creamer for your coffee
  • Watch your favorite holiday specials at random intervals throughout the year
  • Have some punch flavored candy canes as a summer picnic treat
  • Keep an attitude of gratitude for all the good things in life and be mindful of now, that’s why it’s called the present.

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Flowers For Mom

Flowers For Mom

 Flowers For Mom

What is a holiday household without Mom?  She shops, she wraps, she hides. She makes sure everybody has their fair share. She makes it all better when something goes wrong. Mom is the engine of any family and when her special day comes around, it’s only fair to show our appreciation. Flowers For Mom

Let The Woman Sit Down!

What kind of heartless Philistine are you?  Take over the chores without complaint.  Get her breakfast in bed.  Let her watch her favorite shows.  Calm down and take a big family breather. Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the most important gift you’ve ever gotten. Life!  She gave you life.  If she’s your wife, she gave you your kids.  Isn’t that enough of a chore to thank her for?  Some people…

Oh Yeah, Don’t Forget The Flowers

One of the great things about Mother’s Day being in May is that there are any number of pretty flowers blooming. My darling wife isn’t quite as fond of cut flowers as she is of living ones.  She’d rather have a potted plant that she can sit on the counter for a few days and enjoy the aroma and then take that thing outside and give it a place to live.  However, she won’t say no to a lovely bouquet in a pretty vase. I’m pretty sure your Mom is about the same.  If you want to get some really spectacular flower arrangements, there are florists locally and online who know just how to wow. Flowers For Mom

 The Best Gift For Mom Is You

When all is said and done, what Mom really wants is to be with her family.  She’s a sentimental softy and a natural nurturer.  Give her what she really wants and just be with her on her special day.  She spent nine months carrying you around!  Can’t you spend the day letting her know how much she means to you?  Just this once?
Flowers for Mom

Happy Mother’s Day from Christmas All The Time!

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

5 Reasons Why You Should Start Your Christmas Shopping Early

Christmas_Shopping,_1910

5 Reasons Why You Should Start Your Christmas Shopping Early

Okay, so some of us are inveterate shopaholics and some of us are just not.  Regardless of which camp you fall into, there are distinct benefits to getting started early with your Christmas shopping.

5) The Best Deals Are Right After Christmas

For the frugal and downright cheap among us, going shopping for Christmas stuff immediately after Christmas is an absolute goldmine.  The markdowns for post-holiday goods is usually significant, particularly for perishables like candy, cookies and other holiday treats.  You can stock up on ornaments, stocking stuffers, low cost Secret Santa items and holiday themed toys to give out at holiday play dates between Christmas and New Year’s or even hold onto them until the following year.

The 12 Days of Christmas

Along with the notion of rampaging through the holiday closeout deals, the 12 Days of Christmas is an opportunity for you to celebrate the liturgical season of Christmas (that being the 12 days from Christmas Day through January 5th, the day before Epiphany) in secular shopaholic style.  If you’re thrifty, you can hold off to buy presents until the post-holiday sales kick in and still technically be giving holiday gifts in this 12 day festivity.  If you want to get all of the gifts mentioned in the song, the current estimated retail value is $114, 000.  I’d be happy with a box of chocolate covered cherries, personally.

Port of Entry Christmas Shop at Islands of Adventure courtesy of Ryaninc on Flickr.com

4) New Year’s Bonanza

A common New Year’s Resolution is to get one’s finances in order, particularly if you have been spending like an elf jacked up on cocoa with double marshmallows.  The New Year can provide a clean slate to get ahead of the curve and spread your holiday purchases out over the course of the year.

Christmas Club

For those who enjoy the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping at Christmastime, the option to open a Christmas Club Savings Account is a choice move.  You can deposit small amounts from each paycheck until you’ve accumulated a holiday binge fund for the end of the year.

Use Your Tax Return

If you customarily get a sizable tax return and you’re not using it to pay down your debt from last Christmas, this can provide a bit of seed capital to get your Christmas shopping off to an early start.  Buy key items for your family and friends now and hide them someplace you won’t forget or invest in a short term CD that will fatten your shopping wallet a few months down the line when it matures in time for your holiday gifting needs.

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3) Spread Purchases Out Over The Year

Keep an eye out for gifts throughout the year.  When something jumps out at you as the perfect gift for that hard to buy for relative or friend, go ahead and grab it!  There’s no reason to wait until Christmastime if you see the right thing.  That’s what gift wrap and closets are for, right?

Special Keepsakes

Did you take the kids someplace special this year on vacation or even just the occasional weekend road trip?  Get an ornament or a small memento from the tourist destination that can be used as a stocking stuffer.  You could even get a sweatshirt, jacket or even a knit cap from that vacation spot that can be given as a gift and tuck in some printed pictures from your excursion to rekindle the special time you had with your family.

More Time To Get The Perfect Gift

Do you have that one friend or relative whose signature interest is something seasonal like gardening, fishing, running or camping?  You can find special deals right at the beginning and after the end of these particular seasons that will let you be their hero when they see your customized treasure under the tree.

Back to School Sales

Typically, you will find Back to School sales on clothes and electronics between college semesters around New Years and in late Summer.  These are a great way to spread your holiday shopping dollars out over a wider span of the year.

Christmas Stockings Courtesy of Jim Hammer (hammer51012 on Flickr.com)

2) Christmas Is Coming

So, we’ve talked about the benefits of really early sales and spreading things out.  If you’re in the camp of those who are really juiced about shopping during the holiday time frame, there are still options for getting ahead of the game.

As Soon As The Tinsel Hits The Store

In years gone by, Christmas shopping season didn’t start until after Halloween or in some cases even after Thanksgiving.  These days, however, you’re lucky if they wait until after Labor Day to start hanging decorations and playing Christmas music.  Well, their fervor works in your favor.  If you start early like the stores, you will find that you aren’t left in the lurch on this year’s hot toy or gizmo.  As soon as the bells start jingling, keep an eye out for the top picks and grab yours while they’re still available.

Black Friday

Personally, I’m both an introvert and a fan of sleeping late after a big Thanksgiving dinner.  Black Friday is a big draw for my kids.  They love to hit the malls with their aunt and shop, shop, shop til they drop!  Black Friday (which, as of 2013 seems to begin right after supper on Thanksgiving Thursday) is a massively orchestrated sales effort by bricks and mortar merchants to kick off the holiday shopping season and get those annual books in the black before closing out the year.  You can keep an eye on what the special offers will be this year and strategically shop for just those special items because you’ve been doing the bulk of your shopping throughout the year.  While others are hustling and tussling, you can be a highly targeted shopping ninja making a beeline to those special deals you’ve been tracking.

Cyber Monday

If you’re like me and you can’t be bothered to go to the store regardless of the reason or season, the virtual merchants have established Cyber Monday as the online alternative to Black Friday.  Didn’t get the hot items on Black Friday because the frothing mobs had already torn through the stores like a plague of locusts? Let your fingers do the clicking.  The online merchants have held their stock in reserve for the unfortunate shoppers who didn’t score the choice gifts.  In most cases, they will be able to have your goods delivered well before Christmas.  Some sites will even provide gift wrapping for a small fee.

Online Christmas shopping

1) Stress Free Holidays

Let’s face it, the holidays are meant to be a joyous time to spend with family and friends.  By employing some of the strategies involved in shopping early and often, you will be in a much better mood than a lot of your less prepared counterparts and in a better frame of mind to enjoy the holidays.

Avoid The Crowds

You no longer need to brave the elbows and shopping carts of the inconsiderate, frazzled denizens of the holiday shopping world.  You’ve done your best and gotten prepared ahead of time.  Don’t get caught up in the mob mentality.  You can kick back and watch your favorite Christmas specials and bake some cookies.

Avoid Bad Weather

Snow? Ice? Blinding sleet? Yow! Who the heck needs all that drama?  Let Jack Frost do his worst while you stay safe and snug at home with your cleverly stashed horde of holiday gifts.  Shop while the sun shines and stay home when Old Man Winter comes calling.  You’ll be one less statistic for the DOT to tally this year.

Enjoy The Season

Christmas is the time for wrapping up the year on a high note.  With a modicum of preparation and strategic shopping, you will be far less stressed about the demands of holiday gift giving and more likely to soak up some holiday cheer.  This is the time to celebrate!

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Circus Ring from Playmobil

Circus Ring from Playmobil

Circus Ring from PlaymobilCircus Ring from Playmobil

Is there anything as fun as when the circus comes to town? You can see elephants, tigers, prancing horses, daring acrobats and silly clowns all in one place while you enjoy some delicious popcorn and cotton candy. A visit to the circus brings memories that last a lifetime.  In most places, the circus only comes to town once a year if at all.  Now the fun doesn’t have to end when the circus moves on.

With Circus Ring from Playmobil, your children can capture the magic by holding their own circus. The Playmobil Circus includes everything needed to run a classic circus: the signature Big Top tent with ticket booths and a lighted entrance, a ringmaster, trapeze artists and much more.

The best feature is that it’s a large set, so small hands won’t have trouble playing with the pieces. They’re big enough for little hands to grab and have plenty of room to move around.

Children can play as the ringmaster with the Circus Ring from Playmobil, conducting the show as  trapeze artists do their death-defying stunts through the air.

With Circus Ring from Playmobil, your children can even serve refreshments to the spectators. There is room for lots of spectators! Your children can add their favorite figures from other Playmobil sets to create an audience for their circus acts!

Everything your children need to create a spectacular circus from their imaginations comes with Circus Ring from Playmobil.

Playmobil also provides additional circus themed sets and accessories that can help your children expand their circus to include tight rope actsPlaymobil Circus Tightrope Artists, prancing horsesPlaymobil Circus Horse Act, elephantsPlaymobil Circus Baby Elephants, big catsPlaymobil Circus Animal Trainer and cloPlaymobil Circus Clown with FlowerwnsPLAYMOBIL Clown with Dog Show. These are some great options when you find that your child is looking to expand their circus fun with the Circus Ring from Playmobil.

If you want to really bring their circus to life, there is also a Playmobil Circus game for WiiPlaymobil: Circus - Nintendo Wii that is rated E for Everyone.

4 Easy Ways To Avoid Holiday Credit Card Debt

When the holiday season has arrived, it is time to celebrate, be merry and have fun. Travel plans are made, gifts for family and friends have been listed and arrangements for parties are in full gear. 'Tis the season to be jolly, but it's also the season when spending runs amok.

4 Easy Ways To Avoid Holiday Credit Card Debt

Businesses usually depend on the holiday season to top off their annual sales and profits. They stock up, price up and hope to smile all the way to the bank. They know that people will be less frugal in their spending than at other times of the year. You may be among those who have suffered financial woes after the holiday season.  If so, you want to make sure it does not happen again. Your success depends on how well you control three crucial factors:

  1. Your rate of spending
  2. How you finance that spending
  3. The heavy financial burden that can follow

Financing With Plastic

Financing With PlasticWith the holidays coming around so quickly, people might find they have not saved enough for their needs. Anymore, budgeting has become an alien concept to most people and spending tends to spiral out of control.  Since most people don’t save and don’t have enough cash on hand, they will resort to credit cards to cover the shortfall. There are some advantages to using the card to finance your expenditure if you use them wisely:

i) It gives you free access to about a month’s credit.

ii) It gives you the temporary ability to spend beyond your current means.

iii) It allows you to track your expenditure.

iv) You do not have to carry lots of cash around with you.

On the other hand, using credit cards carry significant dangers if their use is not prudently managed. Research shows that spending can increase as much as 35% when using a credit card in lieu of cash. Use these easy tips to save you from running into trouble with credit card debt.

Plan Your Spending

1. Plan Your Spending

Forewarned is forearmed.  You should draw up your spending plan well in advance. If your spending is going to exceed your income for the holidays or any time of the year, consider trimming and containing yuletide expenditures to stay within your limits. That’s where a credit card comes to the rescue. It might not be obvious, but your credit card usage can upset the management of your finances. Unless you are watching your spending in both cash and credit closely, there is a danger that you will be lose track of whether or not you are living within your means. It is unwise to begin using your credit card if you do not have a spending plan to adhere to.  With a spending plan in place, you can remain in control of your finances.

2. Debt to Income Ratio

Be aware that use of a credit card adds to your indebtedness. When managing your finances, one of the important flags to keep an eye on is your debt-to-income ratio. The debt-to-income ratio is the monthly debt repayment as a percentage of your monthly after-tax income.  It raises a red flag when you incur too much debt. A ratio that is over 20% is skirting danger. If you already have credit card debt that is overdue, be sure not add to it.

Bridging Finance

3. Bridging Finance

Use of a credit card is ideally a means of short-term financing of your needs. That means settling any debt incurred using your card within a matter of days. Paying the minimum balance will not suffice. If you are not confident that you can pay it off entirely, you can do yourself a huge favor by not using a credit card. If you decide to use your credit card anyway, you will incur the extra costs in interest and penalties associated with extended credit. This adds to your expenses in a compounding fashion.  You must be ready to reduce other expenses to overcome these additional costs.  Otherwise, you run the risk of creating inescapable recurring debt.

4. Net Worth

Credit card debt incurred during the holiday season is usually for consumer spending.  Paying for your festivities, buying gifts and travel expenses creates consumer debt. This kind of debt adds to your liabilities, but contributes nothing to your assets. Your net worth is reduced by the amount of consumer debt incurred.  Shrinking your net worth is bad for your financial health.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, but be smart and finance it in a way that gives you the comfort that you won’t be buried in debt in the following months.

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