Creative Christmas Card Ideas

Have you ever gotten one of those Christmas cards that makes your jaw drop?

Not because of what is written in it, but how it is written.

I have.

Some people just have a gift for creativity and writing.

creative Christmas card ideas

Honestly, to me it doesn’t even matter if you’re not a great writer, I still love getting your Christmas card. I love to hear how families are doing and see the kids growing.

There are many ways to approach writing your Christmas letter if you choose to do so, which you must have chosen, otherwise, why are you reading this?

You can write a simple letter about what each member of your family has been up to. It’s informative, but not necessarily the most creative. We sent this type of letter for several years.

Of course, if you are like me, you try to write the letter, so it is informative, but not bragging.

This can be a difficult thing to achieve because typically we want to share the highlights of our year. No one wants to read my letter if it’s depressing and talks about how horrible our year was.

There is a way to find that balance, if you’re willing to be a little more creative than the generic “what we’ve been up to letter.”

Creative Christmas Cards we’ve done:

Top Ten

We highlighted the top ten events from the year in 2013.

Christmas Letter 2013

A year recap in numbers

We used a template from Shutterfly and recapped 2014 using mostly numbers and short memories. This year’s card also included a QR code that when activated had the whole family wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

Christmas card 2014

From the perspective of our youngest

In 2015 Amelia was 1 ½, and I wrote the Christmas letter from her perspective with a little spin. She was telling our friends and family the “True Story of the Gerkens” not the version her parents were sharing with everyone.

Christmas letter 2015

Twitter style

I wrote our Christmas letter in multiple 140 character tweets including hashtags. We thought fully embracing modern technology in 2016 would be fun.

christmas card 2016

Other Creative Card Ideas we have not yet tried:

  • Write the letter from your pet’s perspective
  • Make the letter a quiz where the reader has to guess the family member who did each thing
  • Make the letter into a game (think life board game)
  • Top ten list of places you visited or things you’ve done
  • Use song lyrics or a famous book/story and change it around to your family’s story for the year
  • Make your letter the front page of a newspaper with important headlines
  • Write a poem
  • Use an acronym
  • Announce the year’s awards to different family members- make them funny, not pretentious
  • Write the letter with your child (think Mad libs)
  • Do a famous quotes letter. If you keep track of quotable things that your family says throughout the year use those.
  • Write it as a letter to Santa
  • Write the letter as if you are canceling Christmas and why
  • Make a crossword puzzle
  • Police mugshots with what the family member did to get into trouble, of course, they will be funny.
  • Write it as if each family member is a superhero and what their superpower is, who their enemy is, etc.
Christmas card
2016 Christmas Card

Ultimately, it does not matter how you write or design your letter as long as you enjoy doing it. It’s a great opportunity to share your creative side and share what your family has been up to for the last year as well.

 

Please share in the comments below what other creative Christmas card ideas you have.

Christmas Cards: Do You Send Them or Not?

Christmas cards and letters.

Do you send them?

Do you like to receive them?

Do you enjoy them or feel they are obligatory?

Christmas cards

Personally, I fall into the “LOVE” category.

I love sending them, and I love receiving them even more.

The picture cards with a letter are the best.

I don’t even care if your letter is braggadocious (it’s a word. It means bragging too much). I will still enjoy reading it.

Just know that I’m onto you and your life is not as perfect as the Christmas letter indicates.

I choose to send a picture card and letter, but mainly because I assume everyone else loves them as much as I do. I just love to see everyone’s families and hear what they are up to. The more creative the letter, the more I enjoy it.

My cousin, Janelle, has done the most creative letters for years. I know her husband does not love sending the letters, and it’s an argument in their house every year (Dave let it be known that many of us LOVE them. I’m just glad I make it on the “A” list, so I get the picture and letter.)

Perhaps, it’s because I’m a scrapbooker so naturally I love pictures more than the average person. As a scrapbooker, no picture is complete without a few words and maybe a story or two.

How to display/store the Christmas cards and letters you receive:

  • Hang around a large entryway. This is how we display ours. That way we can see them often, and the girls love to see who sends us cards. They often stop and ask who each person and family is and how we know them. The new cards that come in the mail are not hung up until everyone has seen them.
  • Put them in a basket on a coffee table or next to a favorite chair. My in-laws put theirs in a basket that they can easily pull out to look through and add more to. When we visit they usually share the photo cards, and letters from families we know.
  • Hang from a decorative display that you make or buy on Etsy. There are so many ideas on Etsy and Pinterest that you will be overwhelmed with the options.
  • Hang on your refrigerator. What better place to see the pictures and cards often.
  • Hang on your kitchen cabinets. A little ribbon and some clothespins can make even your kitchen cabinets festive with all of those Christmas cards.entryway christmas cards

After Christmas is over what do you do with the cards?

Given my “Love” of Christmas cards and letters, I bet it’s no surprise that mine do not get thrown away. If you too love receiving photo cards and have a hard time getting rid of them at the end of the year, I have a solution.

If you scrapbook or simply put pictures in albums, then you can put your cards in there too. Every year you can look back and see who sent you a card and how their family has changed over the years. (idea courtesy of my cousin Janelle)

scrapbook with christmas cards

If you do not scrapbook or put photos in albums, then you could get a simple photo album just for putting the cards in and then display that on your coffee table every Christmas season.

If you don’t love sending Christmas cards or photo cards or writing letters, then don’t do it.

Remember to think about why you’re doing what you do. Do not feel pressured to send them just because other people do. Those people may just be like me and enjoy sending them.  It might just be one of the non-negotiables from their simplify the holiday list.

And it is okay if your Christmas card list changes every year – ours does.

People come in and out of our lives, and so our list of card recipients changes. With the advent of social media, it almost feels like our list of “friends” is endless, that doesn’t mean all of those people NEED to receive a card.

Sit back and enjoy the cards you receive and wish those who send them well, but don’t feel obligated to reciprocate.  Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

 

Do you display your Christmas Cards during the season? What do you do with them after the holidays? Please share in the comments.

 

How to Simplify the Holidays

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Did you sing that? You should have.  Singing it immediately puts me into the holiday spirit.

I know, I can hardly believe it is already the holidays, but it is.

Do you ever feel exhausted and overwhelmed during and after the holidays?

Do you resent making cookies?

Then don’t.

Do you hate spending time and money figuring out and sending Christmas cards?

Then don’t.

Make this the year you take back Christmas (reference to Bad Moms 2= hilarious)

Last time I checked, Christmas was about celebrating Christ’s birth (even though he wasn’t born in December but off topic)

Don’t let the “I should’s” take control this Christmas.

Who cares what you should do? And seriously who says you should?

simplify the holidays

I am giving you permission to say NO.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can say no to everything because if you have kids, there are probably some things they want to do that you may not be interested in. There are times we have to sacrifice for our kids, but along with that, kids don’t need to get everything they want.

I’m betting as a kid you didn’t get to do everything you wanted either. Remember we’re raising kids who know disappointment and know how to deal with it.

You can simplify the holidays and it’s quite simple.

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9 Things that Simplified My Life This Year

In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share 9 things I am thankful for this year.

I have chosen these 9 things specifically because of how they have helped to simplify my life this year.

Do you ever feel like life is more stressful than not?

Can you never seem to find time to sit and relax?

Is your mind constantly running with things that need to be done?

Maybe one of my 9 things can help you simplify your life and provide relaxation in 2018.

Without further ado here they are!

simplify your life

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What to Buy on Black Friday

Everyone knows Black Friday is a big day for holiday shopping, but I bet you didn’t realize the variety of things you can get deals on.

This doesn’t mean I think you should spend all your money or go into debt because something is a deal. However, if you were in the market for any of these items, now is the time to buy.

what to buy on Black Friday

7 Things to buy on Black Friday

  • Vacations—Yes, there are some great deals on vacations on Black Friday. All you have to do is book the vacation on that day. If I had the disposable income right now, I’d be booking a nice beach vacation for the dead of winter for Brian and I. Maybe next year when we’re, fingers crossed, debt-free.

beach vacation

  • Pictures, Holiday Cards, Calendars – Typically, Snapfish and Shutterfly offer great deals on Black Friday. Bonus both are on Ebates. In years past, Snapfish has been as much as 20% cash back on Black Friday. Be sure to plan and have your Christmas cards ready, your calendars made and your pictures uploaded. Then all you need to do is order them on Black Friday. This is also a great time to order any holiday picture gifts such as ornaments, photo albums, calendars, etc. A family favorite picture gift that we gave one year was a puzzle that had the image of my parents and all of the grandkids. Everyone had a great time putting that together.

picture puzzle from snapfish

  • Toiletries and Medicine – Seriously, check the CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid ads. You can get free or deeply discounted items such as toothpaste, razors and over the counter medicines. If there is a rebate, don’t forget to submit them before the deadline. Check your coupons because you may even be able to make money on some of those things.
  • Household Items – You may not be thinking about items for your house, but Black Friday is a great time to replace old Tupperware, towels, dishes. If you like Zak kitchen items like I do, they are offering my readers a great Black Friday discount. Be sure to check it out. Several years in a row we got the huge Tupperware set at Wal-Mart. The price was amazing (less than $10), and we love it. It stores nicely in my drawer, and it’s easy to find a lid. At the great price, I don’t even mind replacing it every couple of years if need be.                                      rubbermaid tupperware
  • Wrapping Paper – The best deal I have found on wrapping paper is Black Friday at Walgreens. If I know I will need more wrapping paper for the holiday, I stop by there and pick it up. The price is always the cheapest. I also look over the paper designs. Some are generic enough to use for other holidays or birthdays. I have found generic roles most years.
    wrapping paper
    This was “holiday” wrapping paper that can be used any time of year.

    Appliances –Not many people think about buying appliances on Black Friday, but they are usually on sale. If you are remodeling, buying a new house, or just need a new appliance, this is a great time to consider making that purchase. This is both small kitchen appliances (mixers, blenders, crockpots, etc.) and big household appliances (washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, etc.). In fact, if an appliance is on its last leg and you can swing waiting until Black Friday, it’s not a bad idea.

  • Electronics – They are usually discounted very well on Black Friday. The products on the front page of the ads, the door buster sales, are not always the best purchase. They look the same as something that is good quality but they are low-quality. They are made cheaply so they can be sold cheaply to lure shoppers in on Black Friday. The better deal is the rest of the electronics that are on sale. One year we got a great deal on an iPads from Target online.

I hope this list has helped you to consider some new things you may want to buy on Black Friday. Buying now could save you a lot of money later. December is also a great time to save money all year on gift cards and certificates.

*Planning to shop on Black Friday, be sure to check out “7 Tips to Make the Most of Black Friday Shopping.

*Remember if you plan to shop online you MUST sign up for Ebates.  If you don’t, you are throwing money away.

What other things should bargain hunters buy on Black Friday?

For special discounts just for my readers check out my Black Friday and Cyber Monday page.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you; I will earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. Thank you for your support in this way!

 

 

7 Tips for Black Friday Shopping

Black and Friday

Two simple words that when put together cause much debate.

Whether you like Black Friday or not, you have to admit there are some good deals to be found.

I’m not saying that you “need” these deals, but they do exist.

The key to successful Black Friday shopping is to know what you want and not get sucked into spending on things you don’t need or want.

tips for Black Friday

Worse yet is buying something that isn’t in fact on sale, but retailers lead you to believe is a great sale.  To better help you prepare for Black Friday, I have six tips to make the most of your Black Friday shopping.

You could just go and shop, but following these tips could save you money, headaches and time.

Trust me Black Friday can even be fun, especially when you get free money afterward just for shopping on Black Friday (Ebates, Kohl’s cash, gift cards).

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What To Buy in December To Save Money All Year

Did you know there is one thing you need to buy for yourself in November and December that can save you money all year long?

I bet you didn’t because even the best of bargain shoppers overlook it.

Are you ready for it?

What to buy in December . . .

Gift Cards.

Yes, if you buy gift cards around the holidays you will likely receive free “money.”

Say what?!

Free money that can’t be right Megan.

How does that work?

Well, it’s easy and just requires a little extra cash. If you don’t have it now, plan for next year. You can save up just like you do for your regular Christmas savings.

Start to pay attention to the places you usually go to (i.e. restaurants, spas, car wash, stores).

This is how it usually works:

Chili’s offers you a free $5 gift card if you purchase $25 in gift cards.

Culvers offers you a free value basket if you purchase $25 in gift cards.

Maggiano’s offers you a $20 gift card if you purchase $100 in gift cards.

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My Fall Favorite Things

Autumn is in full force in the Midwest. The leaves are changing and falling. There is a crispness to the air, and our heat is already on. Fall is one of my favorite seasons because it is the most beautiful. Mother Nature shows off in the fall in the Midwest.

In honor of my favorite season, I wanted to share a few of my favorite things for this time of year.

And no it’s not going to be a list of pumpkin spice things, though there may be one pumpkin thing on the list.

Without further ado five of my favorite things are:

Cuddle Duds

How is it possible that I wasn’t introduced to the wonder of Cuddle Duds until December 2016? I’m fairly certain I would live in them if it were socially acceptable. They are not for my job, well at least the part of my job that isn’t work from home. Brian bought me a pair of Cuddle Duds for Christmas last year. I have never worn them under any other clothes on a cold day. I have turned them into my absolute favorite pajamas and lounge around the house. They are so comfortable and perfect for a good snuggle under a blanket on a chilly morning with a good book.


I will caution you that while Cuddle Duds are amazingly comfortable there is one downfall.

They are very forgiving.

Meaning if you have a little Thanksgiving dinner they won’t remind you to stop. If you are one of those people who monitor their weight/size by how their clothes fit, you cannot wear Cuddle Duds all the time. You may quickly realize that your jeans and button up dress pants no longer fit. However, in your world maybe that’s not a downfall. Put on your Cuddle Duds and head out for Thanksgiving. You can eat whatever you want and still feel comfortable in your pants.

These can be bought many places, but be sure to watch for sales on Black Friday. Then they will be on sale again as winter comes to an end.

 

Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Tea

I was introduced to this tea by one of the amazing women on “Sorta Awesome.” This is one of my all-time favorite Podcasts. I have been known to try many new things based on their recommendations. While I do not drink coffee, but in the fall and winter, I do enjoy a hot beverage. Sometimes it is hot chocolate, but that can have additional calories that I may not always want. I occasionally drink tea, but always the flavored ones.

When one of the Sorta Awesome ladies was raving about Harney and Sons hot cinnamon spice tea, I decided I should give it a shot. I ordered some online because I couldn’t find it at my local grocery store. It is delicious. If you like cinnamon – the taste and smell – you will love this. It was an experience for my taste buds and my nose. I don’t drink tea every day, so the large container lasted me an entire year.  Frugal hint: Use the same tea bag for multiple cups of tea, it is just as strong several cups later.

Pumpkin Fluff

I know, I know I’m fulfilling a stereotype here. I love fall because of something pumpkin flavored, but if you like pumpkin and haven’t tried this, you are missing out.  In fact, I never liked pumpkin (and I still don’t like pumpkin pie) until I tried this.

Pumpkin fluff is easy to make and involves three simple ingredients. You need to get one regular size container of cool whip, one box of instant vanilla pudding mix, and one 15 oz container of canned pumpkin.  It does not matter if you choose fat-free or sugar-free of the above ingredients. It works the same.  Let the cool whip thaw a little bit. Then dump these three ingredients into a bowl and mix. If you don’t want to eat it right away, refrigerate it. It will keep for several days.

Pumpkin fluff can be eaten alone with a spoon or serve it with graham crackers, vanilla wafers, pretzels, or ginger thins (a type of cookie found in the cookie aisle).  I prefer gluten-free pretzels (yes they are better than regular pretzels). (frugal note: you can find gluten free pretzels at a great price at Aldi

The pretzel with the pumpkin fluff is the perfect mix of sweet and salty.

 

Neti Pot

How is it possible I have not ever mentioned the Neti Pot to my readers? I am a HUGE supporter of Neti Pot and nasal irrigation, yes that’s right I said nasal irrigation – it’s a thing.

As a survivor of chronic sinus infections, I cannot rave about the glories of a Neti Pot enough.

I used to get several very bad sinus infections a year. They knocked me down for days and days – one time even five weeks. Brian introduced me to the Neti Pot couple of years ago, and I was skeptical. To watch someone use their Neti Pot is the most disgusting thing. It took a while for him to convince me that it was a good idea and worth the gross factor.

Once I got over the weird feeling, I appreciated the freedom to breathe it gave me. Yes, it allowed me to breathe through both nostrils (most times, if even for a few seconds), it got rid of a lot of built up junk in my sinuses and relieved some of the sinus pressure.

Every time I start to get congestion I start using my Neti Pot once a day. It has not eliminated sinus infections from my life, but it has greatly reduced the occurrence of them. A Neti Pot was the first recommendation my Ear, Nose, Throat doctor gave me when I first went to him, but at that time I was already using one.  So, yes it is doctor approved and in fact recommended.

When using a Neti Pot be sure to have your own- no sharing Neti Pots with family members. Ours are labeled with our names. You must use distilled water in them and make sure to dry them completely before putting away. You can purchase the sinus rinse packets or make your own.

If you ever suffer from nasal congestion or sinus infections, you owe it to yourself to try this out. I’m not going to lie, it is weird at first, but you will get over that when you see the benefits.

 

Scenery

I LOVE the scenery in the fall. It is the most beautiful season, in my opinion. I enjoy summer for all of the activities and the warm weather, but summer has nothing on the beauty of fall. There are so many opportunities for great pictures. Proof of God’s existence is in the beauty of fall.

 

 

 

Take a moment and enjoy fall. What are you favorite things about fall? Comment below, because I’d love to add things to my favorite season.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. Thank you for your support in this way!

How To Organize Games and Puzzles

How do you organize games and puzzles?

Wait, you’ve never thought about it?

Take a moment and imagine all the games and puzzles your kids have and the boxes them come in.

I bet you are thinking about all of the space they take up.

Now if you were to open the box of most kids games you will realize there is a lot of space.

 Did you know there is no rule that says you must keep those items in their original boxes?

Unless you are really worried about the resale value, then it’s time to think about repackaging puzzles and games so they can be organized better and take up less space.

Let’s start with puzzles.

At our house, the girls and I LOVE putting together puzzles and we have quite a few of them.

Our big, Melissa and Doug puzzles, get to stay in their boxes. They stay in their boxes because they are the huge floor puzzles and they store best in their boxes. If you haven’t tried a Melissa and Doug puzzle, you are really missing out. They are fun because of how big they are, and the quality is second to none. Seriously, I have never been disappointed with any Melissa and Doug product.

Smaller puzzles get put into Ziploc or Hefty zipper bags. (Side note: get a great price on these after Holidays) Then the small image is cut off the box and affixed with packing tape on the front. T

his allows me to put several puzzles into a Sterilite drawer, which fits nicely on a shelf in my daughter’s closet.

It’s much easier for kids to put the puzzles away, even easier if you go with slider bags. Have you ever watched a small child try to put the lid on a box for a game or puzzle? Inevitably, you end up having to tape and reconstruct the box because of how they try to shove the lid on and the corners break.

The puzzles also take up less room when put in bags and placed in drawers.

Alright onto games.

Some of our games do stay in their boxes because it makes sense. However, many do not.

We are a game family. Therefore the number of games we have on hand may be substantially larger than your collection.

 

Another option for storage is stackable baskets. With a simple label you can organize all of those different card games or small games (Barrel of Monkeys, Yahtzee, etc)

stackable baskets

Perhaps storage of games is not an issue in every home, but if it is I hope these ideas have helped you.

Take a couple of hours on a Saturday and get the kids to help and you can completely reorganize your kid’s games and puzzles. They will be easier for the kids to get out and they will take up less room.

Debt Snowball Progress – October 2017

debt snowball progress-interestDo you know how I got my husband on board to pay off our debt faster?

One word.

INTEREST

I sat down and showed him how much of our monthly payment was going towards interest every month and how much was going to principal. I also calculated how much interest we were paying every year. It was a crazy amount of money to pay for the convenience of lower payments.

At the point that I got him on board, we were paying $4,000 a year in interest. Two thirds of our payment was going towards interest.

YIKES

We have been working our debt snowball for so long that I have completely forgotten how comfortable we were just paying the minimum for years upon years.

I was reminded of this, this past week when I talked with a recent college graduate that I been her advisor. She asked a question about if her loans would still kick in (she was in the glorious 6-month window of not having to pay yet) if she took classes for her Master’s Degree.

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