Holidays, Money and a few last minute ideas…


I hate to break it to you but the holidays are here, and for many of us this means spending far too much money on gifts our kids and families really don’t need. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-gifting, I just don’t like having to buy gifts as a result of socially constructed consumer norms (to be addressed in a future post). That said, I’m a mom of 5-year-old twins and explaining what a social construct is will result in the consumption of far, far too many bottles of wine so I’m opting for conforming – at least to a certain extent.

Everyone knows the holidays are about family, friends, spending time together and sharing the love and,  if you’ve done your job well, your kids know this well. Ya know what else kids know? Holidays = presents! So, since I’m buying into the holiday crap, I’m at least going to do it in a way that doesn’t put my family into peril. Peril? yes, peril.

The holidays are expensive. If you’re not careful, the parental guilt that inevitably comes with the knowledge you can’t get your kids everything they want could put your family into a negative financial situation that’s difficult to recoup from.

“No, you can’t have the Nintendo, doll house, race car and Barbie… many kids don’t even receive gifts during the holidays…we’ve very fortunate to have everything that we do… when I was your age I got a matchstick for Christmas/ Hanukkah/ Kwanza…” Sound familiar? As parents, we want to give our kids the world and everything in it. We also don’t want to raise assholes. And this principle is what often alleviates that guilt I was talking about earlier. Now, we’re not just trying to save money, we’re teaching our kids a valuable lesson, right?

I dunno about you, but I still feel like total shit when I can’t get my kids what they want or, more to the point, what I want to get them. That said, DON’T GO INTO DEBT FOR THE HOLIDAYS. IT’S NOT WORTH IT. Yes, like a crack addict, you’ll get that initial high of being the ‘best parent ever’, but come January you’re going to crash and it’s gonna be ugly. (Please trust me on this, I watch people do it every day, let alone every year, it’s the line of work I’m in.) So, how do you avoid this scenario? Here are my 5 top tips I use to financially survive the holidays:

Tip 1 – Everyone loves photo gifts. Sign up for all of the online photo-gift sites and throughout the year they send great freebies, ranging from mugs to calendars to bags and prints.  You pay the shipping (which isn’t cheap but it’s far cheaper than paying for a gift and shipping) and that’s it!

Tip 2 – Shops the sales before the ‘sales’.  If you’re like my husband and don’t plan all that far in advance for gift giving then wait until September to take advantage of the back to school sales for toys, home stuff, clothing, make up etc. they often end up being cheaper than all of the sales that are currently out right now.

Tip 3 – THE DOLLAR STORE IS YOUR FRIEND. There is absolutely no good reason to spend five times the amount of money on a brand name toy or game when you can get the exact same one at the dollar store? They’re all made in China so why spend $20 instead of $4 for a logo? For the record, half of my son’s gifts are from Dollarama (no, they didn’t pay me to endorse them, I’m just a big fan)

Tip 4 – New does not mean better. I just bought half of my daughter’s gifts from kijiji, craigs list and Facebook market (again, no endorsement). If the toys are in good condition then who gives a crap about the plastic package? This way, you’re saving yourself some $ and giving Mother Nature a hand!

Tip 5 – It doesn’t have to be fancy. My kids are getting books, markers and fun earmuffs as gifts. They’ll love it because it’s all about the delivery. I’m in my 30’s and I still love getting this stuff as gifts, but maybe that’s just me.

I hope these tips help ease your guilt and keep enough money in the bank to pay the bills at the end of the month.

Now for some examples of the aforementioned tips. (Disclaimer, I received all of these products as free samples, but you can bet your ass you’ll know if I didn’t like something about them.)

Books:

But I don’t Eat Ants is a super cute story for picky eaters and their parents. Not to spoil it, the lesson for parents goes back to tip #5: it’s all about the delivery! The final line of the book confused my kids a bit but  it was a fun story for all and every time I make tortellini they laugh hysterically yelling “TORTELLINITOTALLINI!”

Finding Gobi is one of the best feel good books for young kids that I’ve come across in a long while. The first time I heard the story Gobiwas on CBC and the publisher blindly reached out a couple of weeks later. I wanted to see if the story I heard on the news was accurately depicted in the book and how they were going to adapt it for young kids.  Much to my surprise it was really well written, succinct and colourful, which is key for young kids. They also sent over the novel version which I didn’t have a chance to read but my friend’s son, who’s 8, said it was a great book – why would he lie, right?

Home:

I was never a coffee drinker and figured it was dumb to get one of the single cup machines for tea since they always tasted so diluted, so I never bought any of the ones on the market. I have seen the light thanks to the Keurig that was sent to us. It has a new ‘strong’ brew option which actually allows tea to taste likcoffeee tea!  I also like that it doesn’t take up all that much counter space. The machine is also pretty tough, which I realized as I used pliers to pry the wrong K-Cup that I jammed in, out of the machine (don’t judge, I was running on 2hrs sleep!)

Random fun things:

Cozyphones are a super cute alternative to headphones, with the bonus of keeping your munchkins’ ears toasty. I’m hoping they come outcozyphones with a version that can be worn in summer since these are fleece. Regardless, the kids look freaking adorable in them and love wearing them around the apartment.

Sigma Beauty reached out and sent over a bunch of items from their new Creme De Couture line. I was pretty hesitant to include makeup in a gift guide since I reallymakeup don’t wear much unless I’m out for an event and because isn’t all makeup basically the same? Evidently not! According to my makeup-wearing friends quality varies drastically. So I figured I’d try a bit myself and share some with my mom (avid makeup wearer). I have to say I was shocked at how much I liked it! The colours are super vibrant and the Liquid Lipstick stays on the whole night (hubby can attest to that!). My next thought was that it must be super expensive since it’s pretty good quality but again I was pleasantly surprised! All in all, I really liked the products and I wear a bit more makeup these days. I hope these help in your last-minute shopping frenzy and I wish you good luck!!!

The Urban Daddy and Urban Twin Mommy would like to wish you all a very happy holiday season, filled with love and light. May the year ahead be filled with happiness, health and success (in whatever form that means to you!).

XOXO

 

 

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Father’s Day Gift Suggestion in Toronto


Forget another tie. or cufflinks, or a gift card this Father’s Day and give your father one of these cool gifts instead from a local Toronto art gallery named Struck Contemporary Art Gallery, located at 571 Adelaide Street East.

From Batman to Breaking Bad to Star Wars, Struck has got all the pop culture gifts ideas to give any dad bragging rights this father’s day!

I’ve included a couple photos of the Pop Heroes and Breaking Bad collectables, but all the goods can be viewed via their website: struckcontemporary.com, on Instagram: strucktoronto, on Twitter @STRUCKtoronto or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StruckToronto

Examples of items for sale include:

 

 

Thursday Thirteen – 13 Noteworthy News Items You Need to Know About


Nuclear north korea
Nuclear north korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I felt that there were quite a few noteworthy news items this past week and instead of writing on each one, I thought it might be easier to toss them into a Thursday Thirteen format and cover off all of them at once.  So without further delay, please buckle up, hid the children and be prepared to read about a whole lot of stupidity which made news headlines this past week.   you can also now contribute at the water cooler in conversation about any of these topics today or tomorrow.

13.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  Today is Valentine’s Day which is good, yet bad, for many of us.  First off, do we really need on specific day to tell the one we love that we love them through over-priced cards, chocolates, and flowers?   As a father of three children this is one expensive holiday once I purchase a gift (and chocolates and flowers) for my wife, and then from each of my kids for their mother when all she really wants from them is a homemade card, hugs and kisses.

On the other hand, the other day my wife was recounting how her Dad always bought her a Valentine’s gift and how that tradition continues to this day, so last year I bought my daughter a card, with flowers and this year she’s getting the same from me (and a Hello Kitty Valentine’s Beanie Baby).  A great tradition, for sure and I like the idea of keeping it up with Boo.

As an aside, my boys wanted me to buy them something this year – one wants chocolates while the other wants something that “will last” because flowers die and chocolates get eaten.  They’ve also tried to keep me in check this past week by threatening to withhold or tear up the Valentine’s day cards they made for me if I didn’t treat them nicely.  My middle child, Stewie, actually did just that and when he saw the gifts I bought him, felt bad and tried to take one of the 2 cards he gave his mother – which of course upset her, and then upset him.  I asked him to make me my own special card on Friday when he’s off school.

12.  I want to slap North Korea… really hard.  They remind me of the little snot-nosed kid who hides behind his big bully brother and yaps his mouth off because he knows he is safe.  Then one day big brother isn’t there and little snot-nosed kid gets his ass handed to him on a platter.  By threatening the United States and South Korea and then testing three missiles – the last one underground causing an earthquake tells me that North Korea is either really brave or unbelievably stupid.  If they blow up the earth where is the supreme idiot going to live?

North Korea is banned under U.N. sanctions from developing missile or nuclear technology after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.  Good work, UN.  Absolutely useless organization, then again with peace-loving nations like Iran, Venezuela and Cuba on the security council that do you expect…

I wish there were other countries who felt as threatened as Israel does, and will just fly into North Korea, blow up their nuclear facility and be done.  Then that useless UN could walk in, remove their leader and start feeding the people.  Imagine the amounts of money being spent on building nuclear weapons while the people of North Korea are on food rations, starving and dying.  Next step would be to unite the North and the South, let the South run the country and be done.

11.  Just under 11,000 took in the Toronto Rock lacrosse game the other week in which Rock came from behind to beat the Minnesota Sward 13-12;.  I have not seen the Swarm at the ACC since 2007 and must have forgotten how silly their uniforms look – Google it.  They look like bees (I know, they’re called the Swarm).  Now I’m craving honey…

On the other hand, 11,000 is a shame for these games because not only are they affordable, but the Rock are an elite team in the NLL, and the environment is incredible.  It’s fun, loud, entertaining and worth supporting.  There should be 15,000 people at every game!

10.  Pope Benedict is stepping down at the end of this month at the age of 85 as the first Pope to not die in office in 600 years.  I guess in these recessionary times, even God had to lay off staff…

9.  Did you see that Tina Turner is renouncing her US citizenship over the upcoming FATCA cash grab (tax) that the IRS is imposing on US persons worldwide…  They’re going to have to wake up and address this before they are left with no wealthy individuals or no one to collect their wealth tax from.  This is a slippery slope!

8.  Mali and Timbuktu – Al Qaeda moved in an imposed Sharia law on the residents of these two cities which remained below the world’s radar until these terrorists began stoning to death adulterers, amputating the hands of suspected thieves, and destroying historical sites and documents belonging to the region – which are on UNESCO’s list.  Then the French came in and scared them away.  Now comes a report that a manifesto was left there outlining al-Qaeda’s true intentions for that region.  Good.  One more peice of the puzzle to hopefully force these thugs to cease and desist altogether.

7.  Iran’s nuclear facilities and their trip to Egypt – Iran can join North Korea as a nation which is developing nuclear weapons for bad instead of good and while the Koreans want to threaten the world, Iran is trying to slime their way into agreements with other Arab nations such as Egypt by offering them money in exchange for a renewel of diplomatic negotiations.  I do not trust this holocost-denying nation who are funding terrorists in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.  If they truly wanted peace and not the destruction of Israel adn the West then they would help these countries educate their own, learn to grow their own food, build an economy and rise from the ashes.  Firing rockets at Israel and blowing themselves up are not going to further these people along in any way.  It’s a shame.

6.  Kathleen Wynne (Kathleen’s win) – If you’ve come here before then you know that I am not a Liberal supporter, especially of this Liberal government, but even moe so, I could care less if Kathleen Wynne was a woman, gay, straight, purple, green or had three heads.  If she is able to make Ontario right, then we deserve to give her a chance.  Anyone who compares her to Kim Campbell, the former Prime Minister of Canada who was appointed PM just before an election in which the Conservatives lost  – feeling that she was given the role to show that women / gay women, etc., are capable leaders or to promote equality in that party are out of their minds.  Let’s judge her on her ability to get things done only.

5.  The NHL is rolling along, but I’m still not watching.  I have not watched a single game this season.  Not interested at all.  But I would like the coverage of the Raptors, Rock and Blue Jays to be more detailed, please.

4. Ron Jeremy almost died – that’s enough said on that topic…

3. Have you seen “The Priestley”?  It’s a Timbit stuffed inside a strawberry-vanilla donut at Tim Hortons, and the coffee chain and their savvy marketing department landed Tim Hortons some feel-good publicity, thanks to some heavy placement in  Monday’s Canada-centric episode of How I Met Your Mother entitled “P.S. I Love  You,”

In the episode, several Canadian celebrities including former Barenaked  Ladies frontman Stephen Page, Rush’s Geddy Lee, Alex Trebek and Jason Priestley  appeared on fictional MuchMusic program Under The Tunes to discuss the breakdown  of the show’s Canadian teen superstar Robin Sparkles.  During a scene in which each celeb remembers which Tim Hortons they were in  and what doughnut they were eating when Sparkles “lost it,” Priestley claims to  have crammed a Timbit inside a strawberry vanilla and invented ‘The  Priestley.”

2. Canada is adding another eight countries to a list of safe places, making it harder for refugee claimants from those countries to get asylum, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced.  Mexico, Israel, Australia and others to a list of “designated countries of origin,” safe countries

The refugee claimants of these new 8 safe countries, below, must follow a streamlined process to prove they have genuine need for asylum, as opposed to being granted access right away:

  • Mexico.
  • Israel (excluding Gaza and the West Bank).
  • Japan.
  • Norway.
  • Iceland.
  • New Zealand.
  • Australia.
  • Switzerland.

1.  The Greater Toronto Area will welcome two new area codes to its directory next month as a result of a rise in demand for phone numbers. Starting March 25th, 2013, area code 437 will overlay the existing 416 and 647 areas in Toronto while 365 will be added to 905 and 289 areas.

Now you are up to speed.

Get chatting.

Hanukkah


With Hanukkah around the corner, my wife has been checking in with the kids to see what it is that they would like this year.

Below, please find Stewie’s list and the rationale behind it…

Stewie’s Hanukkah gift list: “Chocolate Santa, my own fire hydrant, a car for when I’m a adult. And lights, for when I build my own house.” And he wanted to buy a snowplow.

Awesome!