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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Manchester Tragedy Crossed The Line


What happened last night in Manchester, England crossed the line.

The cowardly killing of innocent children – mainly girls – by a (hate to quote the US President, but I have to) LOSER, has repulsed pretty much every living and breathing person with a heart and a pulse.

The fact that this loser waited until the end of the show…

Ah, forget it.

He’s a loser.  A murderer.  A coward.  He deserves to be dead.  His victims do not.  He’s not going to heaven, he’s not getting any virgins.  He’s going to rot like the worthless piece of trash that he was.

Now the UK needs to do this right and they need to go round up anyone and everyone who knew him, who taught him, who called him a friend, or a family and they need to send the message that friends of losers and family of losers and teachers of losers are losers too.

The UK need to act fast and act swiftly, and go through their list of “suspected” losers and round them up now.  Screw their human rights.  Honestly.  They’re on the government’s watch list not because they’ve been good citizens but because they’re potential criminals, talking to bad evil guys and because they’re going to do something bad.

It’s time to take action for the safety of society.  Reasoning and rationalizing, sympathizing and understanding, banning and stereotyping and not the options that are going to bring a close to this problem.

Speaking up and being a solid contributing member of society will.

To each and every hero who helped the sick, dying, hurt and scared last night, I say thank you a thousand times.  It’s your courage and your kindness and your compassion which keep everyone’s faith in society.

If I believed in hell, I’d say rot in hell, losers.

I just hope and pray that we can continue to keep our kids safe, teach them right from wrong, and that we need to be a kind, supporting, inclusive society so losers don’t feel that they need to cowardly take their own lives and those of little girls and other people.

 

Coffeeshop Etiquette 101


I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to camp out in a coffeeshop to get some work done, either before or after meetings, due to travel, or because I just want a change of scenery.

I have pretty much seen and heard it all, over the years and this morning’s adventures have prompted me to post a quick, albeit not exclusive, list of coffee shop etiquette – the do’s and don’t do’s when you’re working from a public space.

Feel free to add to this list, or debate items on this list.

  1. Learn the difference between your phone’s speaker and it’s regular headset.  The gentleman beside me is unaware that he is using his speaker, and has the phone right up to his ear, has the volume very high, and is telling the person he is speaking to that he cannot hear him.  We all hear everything about the conversation and it’s REALLY loud.
  2. If you’re going to watch videos on your cell phone or laptop, invest in a pair of headphones.  Nobody wants to hear whatever you are listening to – music, news, videogame sounds, etc.
  3. If you’re holding a meeting with the rest of your office in, say, the Starbucks I am currently sitting in, trashing your competition and berating a staff member might not be the most professional approach.
  4. If you’re working in a coffee shop and it’s really packed and you’ve been nursing the cheapest drink for 5 hours, it might be time to move on…  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve finished my drink, then packed up earlier than I had planned because paying customers need space.  If I’m going to stay longer, I go back and buy food and another drink (although at Starbucks the additional drink is free, so I can buy better food… yum).
  5. Like being on an airplane, there are certain seats which have responsibilities attached, so if you’re sitting near one of the few outlets, be prepared to politely engage people who really need that free jack in order to meet a deadline or get through their morning.  Don’t be a grumpy outlet ogre!
  6. Be super respectful to the staff if you’ve been to a particular location more than once.  They know you, they recognize you, so don’t abuse your comfort level there.  Shake things up, try foods or drinks they recommend every now and then.  Remember, they control the on/off switch to the WiFi.
  7. If you’re not sure, ask.  I’ve come to many coffee shops and asked if it’s okay if I crash for a few hours, and I’ve asked them how long I can stay, and I have even told them upfront that if it gets busy, I’ll leave, or they can come tell me it’s busy and I’ll go.
  8. Make sure your sound is off on your laptop if you have a headset on your phone.  There is nothing worse than someone listening to music or having a conversation on their phone while their laptop is chirping away without their knowledge.
  9. Smile.  A smile goes a LONG way these days…
  10. Don’t make a mess, and be helpful, and you’ll be a welcomed customer for a very long time.
  11. It might go without saying, but for some people this is a real problem, but I cannot tell you the number of times I have gone to the washroom only to find the person / people before me had not flushed the toilet… UGH.  I can only assume these people also do not wipe themselves or wash their hands, because I teach my children to ALWAYS flush the toilet and wash their hands.  If they don’t want to touch the handle they can use paper towel or their foot to flush, then always wash and watch the door handle on the way out.
  12. If there are few seating options, taking a table for 4, or the handicapped seating is fine, unless there are people in need of those spaces.  Then you absolutely need to move or pack up and leave.  There is no reason to stay unless you are willing to share your space, which is absolutely a nice thing to do.  Sharing is, after all, caring.
  13.  Remember that as loud as it may seem in a coffee shop, with the music and coffee machine noises, it’s equally as loud for the person on the other end of the phone.  Before you change your voicemail, or make that critical business call, or job interview call, to step outside where it is quiet.  (To the kid who had a hard time on his phone interview last week, you really did lose out on that opportunity because you took your call in the washroom for 20 minutes, then flushed the toilet mid-conversation.  They totally heard and that lack of judgement blew it for you.  It was not because they didn’t like the answers to your questions… Trust me on that!

 

Happy to hear your thoughts and stories, as I move through my morning here in my local Starbucks where I keep my headphones on but am listening to everyone and everything…

Inspiration


I’m a big quote guy.  I may not remember them all of the time, but I tend to find some really good quotes to be rather inspiring.

Here are a few I found;

“kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless” -Mother Teresa
“I can live for two months on one good compliment” -Mark Twain
“You are what you are because of what goes into your mind” -Zig Zigler

I found them here;

http://successbootcamp.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/inspiring-quotes/

I recommend looking at a few of these posts on this blog. 

They all look good.