The $20 Christmas Tree and a Compliment

Dad and I went out to get our Christmas Tree this weekend, expecting to spend around $30-$50. The place we were recommended to try did not open until 10am, and we were out at 8:30am. We decided not to wait for that place and drove down the road to another place we had passed that looked somewhat run-down but had a cute little log cabin on it.

When we got there, the old man that came out said we could take any tree and it’s only $20. So we saved around $30, and supported a nice old man, while still finding an awesome tree early in the morning.

I also got an email from my bank lender at Chase because they still haven’t registered my home owners insurance with my loan. I had asked him to look into the matter and he personally wrote-up a letter to send to the Insurance Processing Center for Chase which read:

..Please understand that this is an inconvenience to our good standing customers and can be a stressful situation. Ms. XXXXXX is extremely thorough and has sent this information once before via the website but unfortunately received a second letter.

Always nice to hear.

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Santa and Holiday Traditions

My friend Kim asks: “Do you remember when you first found out about Santa? What did you feel? What about your traditions?

Oh Lord, I’m not entirely sure I remember when I found out about Santa. I think it was elementary school…and I think it was just other school kids who found out, being mean. I don’t think I let on for a bit after that though, honestly it was embarrassing and disappointing as a kid.

As far as traditions, well they are nothing out of the ordinary. We always get a live tree the weekend before Christmas. We always leave it up till the end of January. We always fill it up with a ridiculous number of ornaments, we put colored lights on and usually gold garland. We always cook a big meal on Christmas day, usually eating around noon. We always open presents at 5am Christmas morning while listening to Christmas Carols. We always wake-up some of our relatives around 7am with a phone call and tell them to get their asses out of bed (okay, this is my dad usually). We always decorate the house with lights, we always decorate the inside with a rather bulky christmas display, including a garden below the tree.

When I was little and all of the family still got along, we always went to the grandparents for Christmas dinner, on both sides of my family. And we always opened gifts again there, on each side of the family. Actually I was pretty lucky as a kid because we opened gifts at home, then my moms mothers, then my dads parents, then my step-dads parents. A lot of gift-exchanging going on there, I don’t know how they did it. Eventually we started drawing names rather than buying all of the kids a gift. It was more economical that way :)

Dad always bakes cookies every year as gifts. I’m talking about…….at least a hundred dozen. I hate having all these cookies around, to be honest. But he likes baking, so I deal with it. Not to mention it’s a tradition for him to totally trash the kitchen for 2 or 3 weeks during December for this process, so I usually avoid cooking meals as much as possible so I don’t have to filter through the mess.

A lot of things have changed over the years though. Now that my dad is disabled he can no longer buy gifts, so I always allot like $200 every year for him to use at his leisure. Also 2007 was my first year of starting a “Christmas Fund” so I wasn’t scrambling at the end of the year like usual. I like this tradition too because it takes all of the stress out of the holidays. Also our gifts are a lot more practical in nature now. I still get him some things that aren’t practical, like his corncob pipe last year, or that calendar I made. But in general we try to get things we really need. This year I’m asking for some socks, some dumbbells, and some practical books on canning and such from him. Oh, and for him to buy me a case of oil and change the oil in my car. That’s always a nice gift :)

His presents really boil down to only two or three this year. His massive toolbox and a battery storage system with a battery tester in it. Actually I think that is all I got him…though I’d like to at least get him a few more small things.

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Cutting the Holiday Budget in Half

This year I’ve cut our holiday budget in half as sort of an involuntary experiment.

When we were hit with the house crisis in July, I poured my excess savings, including my holiday funds into getting the house. I did not, however, touch my emergency savings, that stayed right where it is, to serve its purpose when we got this house. That purpose being any emergency fixes we had to do, or any other absolute emergencies that needed to be taken care of -now-.

So I had to start over my holiday fund after that, which brings me to about $300-$350 to spend on the holidays, as opposed to the $600 I saved last year. Prior to last year, I didn’t have a holiday fund at all and was always rushing around at the end of the year trying to figure out how to pay for the holidays. Starting up my holiday fund in January of 2007, and adding a little each month took -all- the stress away from the holidays for me. What a relief that was.

This year I’ve cut the budget in half (which I had been wanting to do anyway, as $600 seems overly extravagant), and now I have to figure out how to divvy it up between our normal holiday traditions.

Last year my totals were as follows:
- $200 given to my father to buy gifts
- $300 for me to buy gifts for my father, the sweetheart, my soon-to-be step-daughter, and my sister
- $100 to buy the christmas tree and to get my dad his christmas cards

This year I’m thinking of the following:
- $100 for the tree and dads cards, which include inserts with our new address and information on it for relatives
- $100 to my dad to buy gifts
- $100 for me to buy gifts for my dad and sister and my cousin Landon. The sweetheart will have to do without unless I find some good bargains. He’s difficult to shop for anyway, and knows that sending him gifts just isn’t practical right now since he’s planning on moving.
- $50 excess to catch any overflow on gift-buying or possibly stamps for the cards or holiday food

Not entirely too much difference, just in the amounts. I normally try to have all of my holiday shopping done by October, but given the house crisis for July/Aug/Sept that just didn’t happen this year. I have no idea what to get people, but I know it will all be practical/useful items. For my sister I was thinking of getting her one of those pre-paid Visa cards, and start teaching her about financial responsibility.

I’m actually looking forward to seeing how far I can stretch $350, and see if I can accomplish a well-thought out holiday with such little money. I hope to try and focus on home-made gifts as much as I am able, and I -always- wrap in extra fabric from around the house, or newspapers. I’ve developed a hatred for expensive wasteful wrapping-paper.

Thinking ahead, I will most likely continue to do the $600 holiday fund after this year, given that our gift receivers will be expanding. I still plan to not use as much of it as possible and tuck the rest into an extra bill payment or a charity donation at the end of the year. But Christmas with my father is a very ingrained and enjoyable tradition for me. I’m certain there is a way to remain financially responsible while still partaking in the secular frivolities of the holidays.

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