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Christmas 2012: Strategies to Succeed

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Mavens-Christmas-2012-Savin-guideTwas 12 weeks before Christmas, credit card companies are reeling
Parents did not budget again and their debt will hit ceilings.
Will they pay crazy fees to buy gifts for their kin
Or be smart, use coupons, follow Maven of Savin’

This is an updated version of last years post that I hope was helpful to you in planning your Christmas shopping.

OK, so I am still not a poet, but I wanted to start the holiday season with some strategies to simplify Christmas and avoid paying WAY TOO MUCH during your holiday shopping this year.

The first thing I cannot stress enough is Don’t Buy Stuff you Cannot Afford.  I know it seems obvious, but seriously – the holidays are about family, not about material goods.  I will be posting lots of deals, but that does not mean you need to buy them all.  A deal is not a deal if you cannot afford it.  You may save $100 on an item, but if you are charging them to credit cards with high interest rates, you may end up paying more in the end.  Do not use credit cards to finance your holidays – it is not worth it in the end.

Watch out for crazy shipping fees.  I love FREE shipping and highly recommend Amazon Prime.  You can get a FREE 30 day trial you can use for holiday shopping.  Then it costs $79/year which you can SHARE with other family members (yes at different addresses) – totally worth it in my opinion.

Also, beware of Layaway as well – make sure you understand the terms and fees associated with it to determine if it is the right thing for you.  Sometimes the fees end up being more than the interest on a credit card.

We have cut way back at our house in an effort to save money, but also teach out children the meaning of Christmas and the value of a gift.  Christmas’s of the past had so many gifts, some remained untouched for months after Christmas morning.  It was unnecessary and wasteful so we have moved to the “WANT, NEED, WEAR, READ” method and the kids really enjoy it.

I highly suggest you budget and keep a list handy of the gifts you need.  Even if it is not specific, at least have the names handy so you can cross them off as you grab their gifts.  Here are a few resources that may help:

There are many tools out there, or create your own, just make sure you create some sort of PLAN.

In the coming weeks I will strive to bring you all the great deals on the must have holiday items – keep an eye out for this tree to mark if I think it is a good holiday gift idea, but please keep the following in mind:

  • Some deals are time sensitive and may not be available for long so make sure to check facebook and twitter for the most up to date information.  Prices can change by the minute.  Or download the Maven of Savin toolbar to see the latest Holiday deals right in your browser.
  • I am an affiliate for a lot of stores (you will see my disclosure policy linked on the posts), but I will only post deals that I think are good.  I appreciate when you use my links as they support the up keep of this site, but please do not feel you need to.
  • If a deal is time sensitive and I do not know or have the time to research, I may post it but clearly state that I do not know if this is a great deal, so please use your own judgement.  I am human and I cannot possible know everything about everything.  So please let me know when you find a great deal or if what I posted is not a great deal – nicely please – LOL!

You will see the above button on my sidebar and you can click on it anytime to see all the latest Christmas deals.  I will also begin to spy out the Black Friday Deals as we do every year.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE have a plan and do not dig yourself in a financial hole this season.  You can still have a fulfilling holiday without a bunch of meaningless STUFF.

DIY Home Management Command Center

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I cannot even believe it was over a year ago that I asked for you help on my Home Management Command Center design.  If you remember I had this…

but I wanted this very expensive system from Pottery Barn…

photo credit: PotteryBarn

Well I could not bring myself to splurge so with a little hunting around at Staples & Walmart clearance I ended up with this…

FAMILY CALENDAR
I think I paid around $20-$30 for the white board magnetic calendar at Staples and we have a magnetic bucket to hold the Expo markers.  We color code the events by person.  Having a large VISUAL calendar has really helped organize our family activities and minimize scheduling conflicts.  We have also recently started to use HacthedIt.com so everyone has mobile access to our schedules as well.  I do have a paper calendar hanging on the bottom of the white board to record future events.  The little cork strip is very convenient for appointment cards.

MAILBOXES
The 6 pocket wall file I found on clearance at Staples serves as personal “mailboxes” for each family member and one for general household papers.  This is great for papers that you need to keep handy but do not really belong in an office file.  They are not labeled yet, but they will be.

BULLETIN BOARDS
To the left I have 2 bulletin boards I found on clearance at Walmart – they are actually “pretty” using khaki colored cloth instead of boring cork and nicely framed.  Right now I hang school lunch menus/calendars and any other school related notices that need to remain visible.

CHORE CHART
On the right I got a cheap frame black wooden frame with plexiglass that I used to create a Chore Chart.  Create your chart online and slip it in the frame.  That way we can use the expo markers to check off when tasks are complete and then wipe it clean at the end of the week.  The kids like to check off their tasks and it is easy to update as the children’s chores change.

Of course I still need to work on my Home Management notebook and actually use my Motivated Moms chore checklists to get MY act together.

Even though this is not my dream Potter Barn version, this Home Management Command Center has really helped “organize” the family papers and activities and cleared up my kitchen counters.

Do you have a Home Management Command Center?  What thing have worked for you?

HatchedIt.com: Family Calendar and so much more

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It always takes me forever to schedule time for myself – hair appt, anything really.  I ask my husband when I can do it and he says anytime.  Then I do and then get – Well I have this or that… NO MORE!  Now he can access the calendar with his phone!

There is a great new online calendar tool that may be just what your family needs.  HatchedIt.com was created out of the frustration of a single mom trying to communicate her children’s activities to family & friends that were helping with drop-off and pick-up duties.

In creating HATCHEDit.com we sought to create a free, organization tool that includes a family calendar, an address book, updating news feeds, and a place to curate all that is important in your life. We also made it collaborative, giving moms the ability to fluidly communicate important information to the people that assist them (grandparents, babysitters, au pairs, spouses, and children).

On your home page it is intended to tell you “where you need to be, who you need to speak to, what you need to know and what inspires you”.

  • Upcoming Events: this is a quick snapshot of your calendar with color code for who is involved in the activity.  Click there to see your calendar in may different formats – monthly, daily…
  • Invites – if you have any active invitations
  • Curate – think of this as your own personal cork board to pin up ideas, articles and other things you have found.
  • My Groups – think book club, PTO, family communications and more.  Easy way to chat without endless emails back and forth.  You can also schedule your meetings through HatchedIt as well so they will always be on everyone’s HatchedIt calendar.
  • Blogroll – where you can see the latest feed from your favorite blogs – do not forget to add me – LOL!
  • CONTACTS
  • TO-DO-LIST

I love being able to schedule out activities and my husband and children can see the calendar before we all triple book the same day.  Since it is an online tool, it can be accessed anywhere – they do not have to wait to get home and look at the white board.  Each time you enter something in the calendar you have the option to email an invite to someone.  You control the access people have to your calendar.

What is different about HatchedIt versus some other online calendar tools is that you can invite ANYONE into your calendar as well as limit what they can view and interact with.  Do you need a babysitter to know your child’s dance schedule – give them access to VIEW that child’s calendar.  Set up groups for your book club, girls night out and more.  You can have active discussions without emails flying back and forth.

Calendar information can be shared as follows:

– You can allow your immediate family (those members of MY ACCOUNT) to view the family calendar – all with their own log ins and passwords

– You can elect to give any other member of HATCHEDit access to your calendar

– (Coming in Feb.) You will be able to allow other members of HATCHEDit to see select categories on your calendar (for example you can give grandparents the rights to see all “Sporting” events

– You can send an event invitation to any HATCHEDit member and they will receive that invite in their Inbox as well as via their email address

– You can send an event invitation to anyone who is NOT a member of HATCHEDit and they will recieve an email invite with the details of the event on it.

They are still in the beginning stages and are adding new capabilities every day – literally.  They absolutely LOVE to get ideas and input from their users to make it a better solution and experience for people.  There is an Android app available now and the iPhone app is expected this week.  I love that you can color code the events – just like I try to do on my white board family calendar.

UPDATE – both FREE apps are now available!

You can check out more about how Hatchedit.com works below.  Then set up your FREE account and start playing – I hope it works for you.

I was introduced to HatchedIt and the founders through a blogger party at StowedStuff and thought it was a great tool to help you organize your life better.

FREE Kindle Book: Getting Organized

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Right now you can get Getting Organized: Improving Focus, Organization and Productivity (kindle) for FREE on Amazon.  It is regularly $9.99 and got good reviews.  I like reading others ideas on how to get organized so maybe something will resonate with me and get my act together.

Getting Organized is a collection of simple ideas that address at least six major issues that could be generating chaos and disorder in your life or the lives of your employees. Each idea is presented in a three-part format: the first section gives you information on the idea (What?), the second section tells you more about the idea and how it might affect you (So What?), and the third section gives you specific suggestions on how to put the idea to work (Now What?)

It may only be free today only, so do not wait, you can always delete it if you decide you do not need it.

thanks CouponersUnited

Motivated Moms 2012 Planner

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I totally forgot to remind you to order your 2012 Motivated Moms planner. Deann has created Chore Planner printable chore lists that are an e-book to be downloaded and saved to your computer.

She spells out daily chores (things you do everyday) as well as scheduling other needed chores throughout the weeks/months. It is literally a checklist to help get you through the overwhelming task of keeping your house in order.

What I love about them (other than their inexpensive $8 price) are all the different variations that are available. There are weekly versions, daily versions, full page or half page (to fit in Franklin Planners or Day Timers). I personally prefer the daily version as it has an appointment schedule on each page. The level of detail is awesome – like it spells out when to change your dishtowel, when to water the plants – LOVE IT!!

Right now you can save $1 using code 1off at checkout!

If you want to see examples of the pages - scroll down to the bottom of the order page and you can see each of the versions.

Do you use Motivated Moms??  if so, let me know what you think.

FREE Life…Your Way Organizational printables

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I love looking at all different organizational tools.  Mandi over at Life… Your Way has a wonderful set of FREE printables available for all your organizational needs.

With the Life…Your Way printables, you’re able to get all of the information out of your brain and onto paper so you can free up your mind for things like enjoying your family, rediscovering your creativity and improving your productivity.

Click here to view more details.  The collection includes more than 150 printables — with new ones added each month — and they are available for FREE! However they also offer a convenient download pack for $7 which includes all of the printables in one file, organized by category, as well as monthly emails with new printables.

There are menu planning tools, babysitter info, emergency contacts, daily planning, Christmas planning and more.  Anything your could possibly need to create your Home Management Notebook.  Though they are all FREE, the $7 total download pack is well worth the convenience of having them all and getting the updates.

Motivated Moms 2011 Planners $4 (50% off!!)

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I am sooo excited that the 2011 Motivated Moms planners have been marked down to $4 (50% off).  If you are a procrastinator, like me, and have not gotten into the swing of things at the beginning of the year, now if the time to try these chore planners super cheap.  Although the $8 for the full year is well worth the money.

Motivated Moms are Chore Planner printable chore lists that are an e-book to be downloaded and saved to your computer.

Deann spells out daily chores (things you do everyday) as well as scheduling other needed chores throughout the weeks/months. It is literally a checklist to help get you through the overwhelming task of keeping your house in order.  Believe me, I need daily instructions to stay on track.

What I love about them (other than their price) are all the different variations that are available. There are weekly versions, daily versions, full page or half page (to fit in Franklin Planners or Day Timers). I personally prefer the daily version as it has an appointment schedule on each page. The level of detail is awesome – like it spells out when to change your dishtowel, when to water the plants – LOVE IT!!

If you want to see examples of the pages – scroll down to the bottom of the order page and you can see each of the versions.

Do you use Motivated Moms??  if so, let me know what you think.

Home Management COMMAND Central: A Design Challenge

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I have talked before about a Home Management Notebook and other ways to be more efficient in the home. WELL my system or lack of system has gone to the proverbial hell in a handbasket.  Where did that term come from any way??  I digress…

You all know we moved into a new home and in addition to me having no desk yet, (or working printer – AHHHH!!) I realized in my last home that my desk top WAS NOT a good place to organize the family – school papers, important reminders, calendar, etc.  They got swallowed up and were not visible when we need them.  So what I need is COMMAND CENTRAL!!

Here is what I have:

This is what I WANT...

photo credit: PotteryBarn

I mean I REALLY REALLY REALLY WANT this system from Pottery Barn.  I am sooo tempted, except the price tag is HUGE!!!  So this CHEAP gal needs to find a different solution that does not short change what I NEED only to save money.

Here is where I need your help – HELP me scour the internet and stores to find similar, CHEAPER solutions.  Send me pictures and ideas.  I will pull them all together and document my progress in building my families HOME MANAGEMENT COMMAND CENTRAL.  Once we do that, then I can revisit my home management notebook, cleaning schedules and dare I say menu planning (eek!).

PLEASE JOIN MY DESIGN TEAM and send me IDEAS!!

Top 10 Spices in your Pantry?

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You all know I moved and in packing up my house, I realized that some of the spices I had in my cabinets were a million years old.  OK – well maybe not a million, but you get the idea.  So before I ran out spending a fortune on new spices, I figured I would do some research on what the MUST HAVE spices are.  I like to cook, but my family eats a lot of basics, so I asked Erin the author/blogger of 5DollarDinners what are the Top 10 MUST HAVE spices for your pantry.

She created a great list and her readers are adding even more in the comments.  So I want to know what yours are as well.  PLEASE share your top 10 spices and your storage ideas as well.  Do you buy bulk?  Do you have a spice cabinet or rotating thing on the counter?  HELP ME!!!  Let me know if you have a spice organization system that you love.

photo from WilliamSonoma

Happy New Year – CHANGES COMING

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HAPPY NEW YEAR

I hope you survived the holidays and the BACK TO SCHOOL routine this morning.  Personally I have a love/hate relationship with New Years.  I HATE thinking about all the things I DID NOT accomplish the previous year, but I LOVE thinking about all the cool things I CAN do this year.

I have so many ideas that I want to do with the blog this year.  We have grown so much over the last year and I cannot wait to see where we are headed in 2011.  If you are NEW HERE – WELCOME and you can read all about me and Maven of Savin’ HERE. Do not worry, all the deals will still be here, but I really want to get back to my original intent for the blog…

  • saving MONEY – OK – we’ve got that one in full swing though I hope to have more tutorials and maybe a VLOG or 2… we’ll see.  Of course I will be sharing more of my shopping trips and tracking savings.
  • saving TIME - I really NEED this one and though I have shared some great tools in the past on cleaning, organizing and more.  We will be talking even more about this one as I strive to create my Home Management notebook and work through Tell Your Time – How to manage your schedule so you can live fulfilled.  I cannot wait to improve my time management.
  • saving MY MIND – this is a free for all – WHO knows what I might write about – but LOOK OUT!

Be on the lookout for our weekly LIVE CHAT on Wednesday’s from 8pm – 9pm.  I will also be creating a bunch of polls I will need you to participate in so I can better understand what you all want.  WOO HOO – it is going to be great.  You will see some new tools as well.  We already have the coupondatabase and the NEW Shipping List feature (tutorial coming…), but I love techie toys, so who knows what is next.

HOWEVER – keep in mind that I always BITE OFF MORE THAN I CAN CHEW – so rather than me making all kinds of timing promises to you all, I am going to try to pace myself.  My family is also moving in 3 weeks – so needless to say, the saving time and organizing stuff will clearly have to wait until I get settled.  So as I say… BABY STEPS.  But there is one thing I will be starting tomorrow…

I am so pleased to be starting a RENEW FOR YOU 2011 writing series collaborating with Kelly from Kansas City Mamas, Shelly from Coupon Teacher, Melissa from Stockpiling Moms and Sarah from Give Me Neither.  Sometimes we get bogged down with everything (the deals :)) and do not get to write about the things we want.  So now – cue the music – “it’s my blog and I’ll write IF I want to, write WHAT I want to, write WHEN I want to”!

This series is about Renewing yourself for YOU in 2011. Every week, each blogger will be writing about different resolution type topics like budgeting, frugal weight loss, organizing, making time for yourself and accepting you for you.  I hope you will join us as we help support each other in RENEW’ing ourselves.  Look for new posts on Tuesday afternoons.

So even though I will be doing a poll, feel free to chime in now – WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE on Maven of Savin’ in 2011??