Category Archives: Holidays

2016 Goals

unnamed (12)Last year, I discussed my take on resolutions.  It wasn’t anything earth-shattering–the typical annual list of goals; you can see a few listed in the picture to the left.

I didn’t accomplish some of them to the extent that I’d hoped (we only had a few families over, versus the six stated in the resolution, for instance), but others (like the Mama Time-Out) were quite successful.

Since sharing my goals with others holds me accountable, here are a few of my 2016 resolutions.  Not all are directly related to stewardship, but the trend does seem to be in the directions of being more mindful with my time–something that I want to improve upon in the new year.

Make one extra mortgage payment.  This would obviously cut down on what we owe on our home.  Not sure how we will get to this point, so please send me any tips you may have!

Journal and devotions daily.  Next month, I will discuss an experiment on early rising I have undertaken.  I hope to devote more time to journaling and time in quiet reflection during these early morning hours.

Screen time to four times daily.  I find myself heading to my phone to do mindless browsing of social media and websites a ridiculous amount of times each day.  I’d like to limit this to four times a day, for a maximum amount of 1 hour.

Invite six families to supper.  Although we didn’t get this completely accomplished in 2015, it is a goal that is both reasonable and challenging, so I am keeping it for 2016.

What goals do you have for the new year?

Amanda’s Christmas Secret

69681668-3243-45d2-8de0-15cd197bc0dfI have a secret to share with you.

I went into this holiday season without a set budget for Christmas gifts.

So now that the big secret is out, let me explain.

I’m not proud of this tidbit.  Initially, I had a budget lined up (if little else), but that was before the recipient list widened considerably.

Due to many factors, there wound up being seventeen people on our Christmas list this year, and three December birthdays to plan for.  That is a whole lot of dough to spend, particularly if one is an “average” American.  Let’s just say we didn’t have several hundred dollars at our disposal.  (In that respect, I suppose our budget was, “As cheap as possible.”)

I briefly considered going the craft/homemade gift route, but realized I did not have the time necessary to create a thoughtful and creative gift.  Instead I opted to do one of four things for each recipient on our list.

We had family pictures taken and ordered prints. With a coupon coupled with an amazing online sale, this turned out to be a really great idea.  The recipients of this gift (grandparents, etc.) are always appreciative of a personal gift…especially where our kiddos are involved. Bonus:  we got family pictures for ourselves as well, which were long overdue.

We gave a donation.  Using points sites, we were able to give charitable donations in the gift recipient’s honor.  Bonus:  it made us feel like we were contributing to something greater than ourselves.

We gave an experience.  Nothing says “Happy Birthday” like taking someone out to eat at a favorite restaurant.  Bonus:  the restaurant is a favorite of all in attendance!

We gave gift cards and cookies, or traditional gifts.  Although these were among the more expensive gifts on our list, for these recipients, gift cards were preferred gifts, and the cookies added a personal touch, as well as something to “unwrap.” We were able to choose our denomination for the gift cards, which helped keep costs down.

Our kids (and Riley) are the primary recipients of the traditional gifts.  To keep things simple, I adhered to the, “Something you want, something to read, something to wear, and something you need” gift-giving philosophy, so each kiddo is getting just four small gifts from us.  Bonus:  We get to see their little faces light up when they see their gifts. (Although they are very easy to please.  Peanut, for example, would be thrilled with just the wrapping paper.)

Each recipient has either already received their gift, or knows of it, or (as in the case of our kids) can’t read yet, so this post should not spoil anyone’s surprises. But I do want to share one more thing.

We spent around $250 total.

While certainly far below the national average, that is still a lot of money to spend in the span of just a few weeks, and I blame going into it without a Christmas budget.  Note:  there are a couple of gifts under the tree for me from Riley and the kids, and those are not factored into the total…because I have no idea what was spent (though Riley and I are on the same page as far as family finances are concerned, so I doubt it is a huge sum!).

Bonus:  now we know just how important budgeting is.  And this has also served as a great reminder of the true meaning of the season…and reminded me how important simplifying the holidays is.

No Waste Holidays

Thanksgiving tableAbout a year ago I was at a potluck event. Afterwards one of the attendees surveyed the nearly-empty buffet and said, “That was just perfect.”

Up until that point, I mindless followed our cultures belief that more food is better. Shouldn’t we want to have abundance left after we’re done? That sounds foolish now, but I hadn’t even thought to question it until that night. Of course it’s enough that everyone has their fill…what more could we want?

I’m new to the No Food Waste movement. I’m not particularly good at it, either, but I’m better than I was, which I count as a victory. It’s an area where I’m continually working.

One of the times that I think it’s most difficult to think about no food waste is the holidays. Food is such a big part of our traditions.

Being a no-food-waster doesn’t mean that I need to get rid of my traditions. But they, as all other areas of my life, need to be examined in light of my convictions.

If you’re new at it, too, would you consider a few things with me as you plan your holidays this year?

1. Stop serving dishes out of mere tradition. I’m not asking you to stop serving your family’s favorite dishes. But what about the dishes that we serve because we always have, but remain almost entirely untouched at the end of the meal?

Serving fewer dishes also means less work, so it’s a win-win.

2. Reconsider the amount you need of each dish. If you cook a larger turkey than your family and guests need because you save the rest for future meals, awesome. But what about dishes that aren’t as versatile as leftovers?

3. Consider who you can invite to your meal. One way not to have food waste is by sharing your bounty with others. Who do you know that might not receive another invitation? As a single woman who lives away from family, I’m thankful for the various people who have welcomed me to their Thanksgiving table.

Photo by Satya Murthy

Christmas Prep

156362_904223042779_1338120_nI don’t think there has ever been a year where I have waited so long to start planning for Christmas as this one.  (Yes, even a Striving Stewardess procrastinates.)

That is not to say I haven’t determined various aspects of the holidays–the logistics, for example, likely won’t deviate from holidays of the past.  We know where we will be and when.

No, I mean gifts.  Experience-based or not, I have dropped the ball in this arena.  About as far as I have gotten in this is the budget and a few ideas for each person on the list.

I have figured out a common gift for extended family that will serve the four of us as well; now I just need to execute my plan!  The challenge I am running up against is buying for those in my own household:  my husband, two children, and yes, budget permitting, the pets.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas–as noted above, I absolutely do–but the budget is pretty tight this year.  Saving a lot throughout the year was next to impossible for a variety of reasons, so the gift budget is coming in at a pretty small sum; I won’t disclose the amount here (yet), but suffice it to say that it is what most people would spend on one gift for one person…not several gifts for several people.

Stay tuned to see what we wind up doing for gifts.  Experience-based?  Traditional gifts under the tree?  Forgo gifts altogether?  We shall see!

Are you ready for the holiday season?

It’s Earth Day!

It may be flat--but the prairie found in my state still deserves some attention on Earth Day!
It may be flat, but the beautiful prairie found in my state still deserves some attention on Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

I don’t know about you, but despite seeing this holiday on my calendar year after year, I didn’t know much about it.  In doing the research this blog post necessarily required, I learned a great deal–I urge you to check out an in-depth history of this “hippie holiday” here.

Several ways to honor the Earth Day holiday are mentioned at the aforementioned site, including installing solar panels, or organizing a community event–neither of which is in my realm of possibility at the moment.

So what’s this Striving Stewardess going to do to celebrate?

First, I will probably take out the recycling, like I do every Wednesday.  Since the kids like to help, I will likely take the opportunity to impart a bit of environmentalist education–they are, after all, the future of earth care.  Weather permitting, I want us to spend as much time as possible outside, appreciating and learning about the earth we have been entrusted with.  (Bean has recently discovered earthworms, so observing them will likely feature in the festivities!).

If so moved, I may even send off a letter to a political representative, urging more environmental action.

Some food for thought, taken from earthday.org, as you prepare to roll up your own sleeves for Earth Day 2015:

Do something nice for the Earth, have fun, meet new people, and make a difference. But you needn’t wait for April 22! Earth Day is Every Day. To build a better future, we all must commit to protect our environment year-round.

File that under “Truer Words Were Never Spoken”!

A Year of Vegetables

assortment of vegetablesI have a not-so-secret interest in “a year of…” books and have probably read at least a half dozen. If I haven’t read it, chances are Amanda has (or one of us have it on our to-be-read list). There’s just something fascinating about watching someone commit to something and sharing the lessons they’ve learned.

For some time now I have tried to figure out my own “year of” project. So many good ones have been done, but I finally figured it out. And my project starts today.

A year of vegetables.

I’ve been wanting to eat more vegetables anyway, so this seems like a great way to kick start. Plus, it’s almost gardening time, so I’m going to have lots of fresh vegetables at my finger tips.

During my Buy Little Month, I learned that I really can make myself eat what I don’t want to. I’m going to put that knowledge to good use and revamp my diet.

So until March 31, 2016, I’m going to eat vegetables and herbs exclusively. Taking a look at this list from Wikipedia, and it’s clear that I’ll have plenty of variety of this next year. I’m sure I’ll be tempted to fall into new eating ruts, but I’m going to attempt to try every vegetable on that list that I can get my hands on.

I anticipate eating a lot of vegetable smoothies, salads and roasted vegetables. I can’t wait!

When I add in all the vegetables I’ll be able to grow, I’ll be able to shave $100 a month off my grocery budget (even more in the summer). I’ll also be able to eliminate my eating out budget…that’s $140/month I’ll be able to put towards my student loans (and soon, straight into savings)!

Have any vegetable recipes you like? Please share…I’m going to need them!

Or, you know, Happy April Fool’s!

Photo by thebittenword.com

Happy Valentine’s Day From the Frugals

Yesterday, Ronnica discussed what she’s looking for in a man, financially-speaking.

I’m in a different season of life in that I’ve already found my valentine, financially and otherwise, in her brother, Riley.

*cue sappy music*

So what are a couple of frugal folks doing to celebrate this holiday of love?

At this point, nothing.  We already went on an extended weekend, sans kids, to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary last month.  We opted to stay a little closer to home and visit the place where it all began:  KU.

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We took in a symphony concert, a basketball game, and ate a ton of nutritionally-questionable food, all in the name of romance and reconnecting, to say nothing of saving money–values we can both definitely get behind.  Going into debt to show each other our love and affection for each other just doesn’t make much sense.

This particular weekend really solidified for me the importance of experiences over things.  If you happen to be a parent, you can probably relate to the challenge that comes with nurturing your relationship with your partner as well as with your kids.  I can’t recommend a weekend away enough.  Such times also provide a great opportunity for little ones to get quality time in with their grandparents or other trusted adult!

All this to say, we don’t plan to do anything unique for Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes a smooch and an “I love you”, or a kind gesture (like emptying the dishwasher…HINT HINT!) is the best gift there is.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day everyone!