How to Save Money on Christmas Cards

I enjoy sending Christmas cards.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I find it a nice way to show people that while I’m not consistently in contact with them, I still think about them.  However, there can be no denying that mailing Christmas cards can add additional costs to the already expensive holiday season.

Over the last couple of years I’ve started to develop a system to decrease the cost of sending Christmas cards.  Keep in mind that I’m talking about mailing hard copies, not using an electronic version.  I know some people prefer to save money this way.  However, I know how much I like getting real mail (you know, something besides bills and credit card offers), so I try to continue to send out physical copies of Christmas cards.  If you don’t like getting personal letters in the mail, please let me know and I’ll cross you off my list.  :p

getting Christmas cards

Anyway, here is how I try to cut costs during Christmas card season:

Buy cards 11 months early:  Have you noticed how cheap Christmas supplies are after Christmas?  The weeks following December 25 is a great time to stock up on Christmas trimmings that aren’t perishable.  Either you can buy your cards for next Christmas or you can procrastinate and send your annual card after Christmas.  Either way, you can easily cut the cost of cards in half!  The cost of an individual card can be as low as $0.16.

Christmas shopping

Order basic prints for photos:  I got this idea from my mother.  Every year my mom would line my brother, sister, and me up around Thanksgiving, took our picture several times, and ordered multiples of the best one.  This has only become more cost effective with digital cameras.  For my Christmas card, I simply find a decent picture of my husband and me from the past year and order my prints.  Since prints typically cost $0.09-$0.15 apiece, this helps keep costs down.  This year I found a coupon for 50 free prints off from Shutterfly.com, so my cost for prints came out to be $0.12 apiece–most of that cost was for shipping.

prints

Keep the newsletter simple:  One of my favorite parts about receiving Christmas cards are the newsletters–I love catching up on what people have been doing over the past year!  However, I care more about the content than how the newsletter looks.  Consequently, I print our 1 page, black and white newsletter on plain paper at home.  I’m not sure how much this adds to the total cost, but I figure if my husband is starting to print entire books with our printer (long story), I can print 60 copies of our newsletter.  I estimate it costs about $0.10 apiece.

Plan ahead and save up for stamps:  Whenever we get an ad from USPS, I secretly hope that it’s a coupon for discounted stamps.  Since this has yet to happen, I try to spread out the cost of buying stamps over a couple of months.  This way spending $30 on stamps doesn’t seem like an unexpected blow to our budget.  Still, stamps are the most expensive aspect of Christmas cards, costing about $0.50 apiece.

With these techniques, I’ve found that I’m able to send out Christmas cards for about $0.88 apiece.  That’s not too shabby considering the number of things you can get for less than $1.00!

candy or card

Admittedly, sometimes the candy bar wins.

How do you save money on Christmas cards?  


Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

 

I am thankful for the gifts God has given me.


Life Choices

There are moments when I really question my life choices.  Last week’s moment came when I was sprinting through the yard while holding the baby at arm’s length because he just crawled through dog poop.

Good times. . .yeah. . .


Welcome, Kitties!

We’ve decided to adopt two of our farm kittens.  Meet Phantasma and Moonface:

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What It Takes For Us to Buy a New Printer

The “Why Do Today?” saga continues!

I got my first printer when I bought my computer in 2006.  It was a simple model without any fancy features.  It was AWESOME!  I printed numerous English papers and hundreds of pages of readings off of it in college.  My husband and I continued to use the printer after we got married.  I don’t think I could have chosen a better printer.

In the summer of 2012, my husband and I decided it was time to get a new computer before my trust desktop  from my college days had a chance to die (that computer was a good purchase as well).  We also decided we should replace our printer when we got a new computer.  It sounded like a good plan, but we never bought a computer that summer.

This past February, we finally pulled ourselves together and purchased a laptop.  “Great,” we said, “Now we can get a new printer!”  Weeks passed, we didn’t buy a new printer.

Then in April, my printer started to act up.  It would randomly decide not to communicate with my desktop and refused to print.  I had to restart the computer to get the printer to work.  After dealing with this a few times, I told my husband, “Maybe we should get a new printer before this one completely dies.”  Weeks passed, we didn’t buy a new printer.

In the beginning of summer, our ink cartiridge ran out.  When my husband found out I bought a new one, he suggested that we get a new printer the next time we ran out of ink.  I agreed that this sounded like an excellent plan since it would be after our move.  Sure enough, cartridge ran out in September.  We didn’t buy a new printer.

Later in September, we had a day that we declared that we were absolutely, positively going to buy a printer that week.  My husband found a model that fit our needs in the Best Buy ad and we said, “Yes, we are going to do this!!”  Saturday came and went and the sale expired.  We didn’t buy anew printer.

October came.  My husband started printing his confirmation worksheets and school papers at the school library.  I started printing coupons off at work (don’t worry, I was printing coupons for my employers’ shopping as well).  It took a little plan, but life withou a printer was working.

November arrived.  My husband realized that with the end of the quarter, he wouldn’t have easy access to the school library to print off his confirmation worksheets.  Ironically, my employers’ printer decided to quit communicating with the laptop, cutting me off from my coupons.  We realized that we needed to buy a printer.

Now I know that we could get by without a printer.  We could always pay to print at the public library.  But the money for a new printer had been sitting in our bank account for over a year–it would be silly to pay for printer use at the library.  So finally, almost 18 months after we initially decided to get a new printer, we went to Office Depot to purchase one.  It took less then 30 minutes to pick a printer.  We were $50 under budget.  It was painless.

I wonder why we waited so long?

printers


Shorter Holiday Season=Less Gifts to Buy?

I’m not much of a shopper to begin with, so I’ve never been shopping during the early morning on Black Friday.  It just sounds like one of my worst nightmares:  Crowded aisles, long lines, and certain folks who are ready to get in a fistfight over a Blue-ray player.  I might wander into a store in the afternoon on Black Friday, but I’m always snuggled in my bed during the early-bird specials.  It’s comfy and safe there.

However, over the last couple of years stores have begun pushing their Black Friday sales earlier and earlier.  First it was stores opening at Midnight.  Then it was stores opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  Now there are even stores staying open most of Thanksgiving Day and Kmart is opening at 6 a.m.  For a non-deal hunting, shopping hater, rather-sleep-and-do-without person like me, it’s a little flabbergasting.

I’m sure you’ve heard the arguments on both sides of the shopping line.  If you’re shopping on Thanksgiving, it might be because you don’t want to miss out on the deals (which I would argue isn’t worth it, but that’s a story for another day).  If you’re anti-shopping on Thanksgiving, you might talk about the workers who don’t get the day off or the rabid consumerism of our country.

However, I was reading this Huffington Post article today and heard a whole new argument that I don’t understand.

. . .but for retailers looking to squeeze as much as possible out of a holiday shopping season that’s six days shorter this year, staying closed on Thanksgiving could be risky. . .

I may be ignorant (again, not a savvy shopper here), but when I think “holiday shopping season”, I think of buying gifts.  It doesn’t matter how long the holiday shopping season is, I still have to buy the same amount of presents.  It’s not like with six less days I’m going to cut people off my gift-giving list.

Holiday Shopping

 

I don’t understand shopping at all. . .

 

When do you plan to do your holiday shopping? 


Sometimes I Feel So Loved That I Want Everyone to Leave Me Alone for 10 Minutes

When I’m at work, there are many times throughout the day when I have one dog trying to lay in my lap, another dog trying to get me to pet him, and the baby wanting me to play with him.

Loved

Admittedly, it can be a bit overwhelming to have so many creatures craving my attention.  On the other hand, I never question whether or not they want me around.


A Year Ago

Last year, October, November, and December were terrible months for me.  I struggled to adjust to our move.  I felt lonely.  I was diagnosed with anxiety and went on an anti-depressant.  It wasn’t a great time in my life, especially since I quit going to church during those months.

Thankfully, things eventually did get better.  I returned to church, a painful but necessary ordeal.  My panic attacks began to decline and finally stopped for the first time in three years.  I’m still on medication but it seems to help keep me in balance.  Most of all, I feel whole.  I didn’t realize it while it was happening, but a year ago I lived in a painful fog.  Most of the time I only felt apathy, sadness, or hopelessness.  Now I might have a stressful day at work or a chaotic weekend, but my base mood is contentment.  I can go to church again without trying to fight off uncontrollable panic.  Best of all, I feel like I can laugh again:  Laugh with my family and friends, laugh at what goes on around me, and laugh at myself.

However, while I am better, I am not healed.  The anxiety and depression is under control but it still lurks in my mind.  The past can haunt me.  Sometimes I’m unable to find a good answer to the question, “How was vicarage?”  It also scares me that things were so dark without me realizing it.  Likewise, the future frightens me.  I try not to think about the unknowns, but sometimes the old feeling of panic resurfaces when I think about having to face a new congregation this summer.  Then I know that while I’ve momentarily won the battle with anxiety, it still waits to resurface when I’m at my most vulnerable.

Yet I still have hope despite my worries.  I know now that even if my worst fears happen, I will survive.  I’m starting to formulate a preemptive strike against anxiety by preparing to find a counselor as soon as we know where we are moving.  And because now I know that I am not indestructible, my prayer to God is no longer “Lord, You must keep this from happening” but rather, “Lord, keep me faithful in my weakness, because I cannot.  Have mercy on me.”


On the Bright Side. . .

I’m a nanny.  I chase after a toddler, corral grade school children, and try to help keep the household afloat.  I cook, I clean, and I occasionally receive a face-full of snot from a dog or a baby.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful for my job.  I work for a good family and my employers have provided generously for me.  However, there are some days when I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not living up to my potential.  It’s my mostly my pride speaking because someone has to care for the children, and I’m not so wonderful that I’m above changing a dirty diaper or playing “knock down the block tower” over and over and over again.  Still, I have to resign myself that I feel a bit of embarrassment when I run into a high school classmate and I tell them that I’m “just a nanny”.

On the bright side:  Despite the firm warnings from high school and college career counselors that I would have to have a professional wardrobe someday, I still get to wear jeans to work every day.  I showed them!

jeans

Do you work a job where you don’t have to dress professionally?  Does this job meet your career expectations?

 


Ranking the Importance of Big Appliances

appliances

One of the frusterating  interesting things about waiting for a call is our unknown housing situation.  Will we live in a parsonage?  Will we rent a house?  Or will we go to a town so small that there aren’t any houses to rent so we’ll have to buy a house?  The final option creates a bit of panic for my husband and me, mostly because we have no idea how to buy a house.  The prospect of having a 6-weekish time-span to buy a house for the first time seems insane, but we’re trying to prepare ourselves for the possibility.

We realize that the cost of buying a house doesn’t simply include the down payment and a monthly mortgage.  It also includes homeowner’s insurance, upkeep expenses, and utilities.  Likewise, it includes the possibility that we will have to buy major appliances.

I first thought of the appliance situation almost 3 years ago and had a snit fit when I found how much refrigerators, washers, and dryers cost.  Then I proceeded to make a budget line for appliances and have been putting small amounts of money into it ever since.  Unfortunately, our limited saving for appliances has not met the cost expense of buying multiple appliances at one time, especially because I want to buy energy-efficient models.  Likewise, I’m completely against us purchasing appliances on a payment plan.  If we don’t have money in the bank for a certain model, we don’t buy it (at least that’s my idea.  I actually haven’t talked this over with my husband yet. . .).

Consequently, I’ve started making a mental list of the order we should buy appliances:

  1. Refrigerator
  2. Oven
  3. Washer
  4. Dishwasher
  5. Dryer

A refrigerator would be most important because I can think of no other alternatives for keeping food cold.  While cooking without an oven would be annoying, most foods can be cooked in the microwave.  I know oven-cooked chicken tastes way better than microwave-cooked chicken, but I’m thinking appliance-buying triage here!  To cover the lack of a stove top, we could buy a camping stove. We also have a grill to help with cooking.  However, I wouldn’t want to go too long without an oven, hence it’s rank in my appliance-buying list.

After a refrigerator and oven, I would like to buy a washer.  I’ve been spoiled the last three years by having a washer in our home, but I realize that I can do our laundry at a laundromat.  It just doesn’t sound very fun.

After the washer, I would want to buy a dishwasher.  Yes, that’s right,  I would want to buy a dishwasher before a dryer.  I hate, hate, HATE doing dishes.  Thankfully, my husband washes them most of the time but we both agree that we would be thrilled to have a dishwasher again.

Finally, I would buy a dryer. . .maybe.  Again, I’ve been spoiled by having a dryer in our home for the clothes I want to dry quickly or shrink, but I try to line-dry as much as I can.  Buying a few more drying racks would certainly be cheaper than purchasing a dryer.  Plus, clothes last longer when they are line-dried (at least that’s what I tell myself).

Of course, we may wind up in a parsonage that has all the major appliances, which means all this pondering has been for naught.

What appliance do you think is most necessary?  Have you gone without a major appliance for a long period of time?