Thursday, November 19, 2009

No money for Christmas

Dear Mom:

Now that the semester is almost over, I have been thinking more about Christmas. The problem? I have little money to spend on my friends and family. I want the gifts to look cool, not cheap. What should I do?


Penny Pinched

Dear Pinched:

Here's my take on cheap Christmas gifts that don't necessarily look it.

1. Think before you buy. Make a list. You will spend your small wad very quickly without one. Call this material hunger-sort of like going to the grocery store when your belly is crying out for food. Your Christmas list will help you curb the spending you might otherwise do without one.

2. Take the list wherever you go so that you can pull it out and remember your plan. Often I find the most creative items when I'm not looking for them. Without the list, you will be scrambling to remember if this gift will go along with your initial idea.

3. Get Creative. Every Christmas I shop at thrift stores for baskets to hold theme gifts. And every year my loved ones are thrilled about the thought and energy that it must have taken me to put it together. They don't need to know how much it cost me, and it shouldn't matter anyhow. A themed gift for the "cook" in my family can drum up many wonderful things such as a cookbook from Barnes & Noble (I get these on the discount racks right within the store) and the Dollar Store (I have also found some pretty neat utensils at a buck a piece).

4. Think Smart. If you are stressed for time, don't run, thinking you will find all the items on your list in one or two hours. Plan your day. Allow for an enjoyable experience, which goes without saying, don't do all of your shopping on Christmas Eve.

5. Shop with a friend who is budget conscious and/or take only cash, and when the money is gone, it's gone. When I write my list I also include a budget amount for each person. If I spend too much on one person, I am obviously left with less for another. I find it's usually best to stick to my original plan. Friendships are great motivators in sticking to your budget. A good budget conscious friend can persuade you to put the item on hold until your check with other stores to find the cheapest price, or to put the "horrible" gift idea back on the shelf. There is nothing worse than taking a gift back during the holidays that initially appeared "wonderful."

Good luck! And Merry Christmas!


This is my last semester at SLCC and I'm getting "trunky."

Dear Mom:

This is my last semester at SLCC and I'm getting "trunky." I don't have as much interest in my homework and I'm dreading finals. I just want it to be over.


Dragging my Heels

Dear Dragging:

Keep your chin up and keep walking. The last few weeks of any semester are never "joyous" especially the last one when you can finally see that old light at the end of the tunnel and hate the fact that you're still "in school." Just so you know, I'm here with you and I've had struggles of my own these last few weeks.

It is easy to start thinking, I've done pretty well the last few months, how could missing a few assignments hurt me? Or, I really don't need to go to class. I've gone all this time; what could missing a couple hurt?

Plenty. If nothing else keep going because you'll be able to take a better look at yourself later, you know, for not giving up and coming to the end of that grand old race. That's what I'm doing.

One of the things I have focused on is taking time out between assignments to clear my head and to have that well needed break. Another thing I have done is to cram all homework and study into one sitting; rewarding myself after all is said and done with a special treat-chocolate works fine at my house. I have also experimented with doing the worst homework first, ending with the best one from the stack. I have also joined with other students this semester who are feeling a bit more motivated than I am. Together, we get things done.

Whatever you decide to do, don't give up, the last leg of the race is at hand.
I will never forget what I heard Tim Allen say in one of his best movies-in my opinion. "Never give up; never surrender." The line is from "Galaxy Quest," though I have heard that the saying came originally from Winston Churchill. When I looked it up, however, this is what I found.

"We shall not flag nor fail, we shall go to the end; We shall never surrender" (Winston Churchill, Speech before Commons, 1940).
Similar language. Still, the message is clear, don't you think? Going to the end is a grand thing, something not to be missed.

Until graduation,


Monday, November 9, 2009

Ask Mom... Holiday Pickle?

Dear Mom,

My parents and in-laws have invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner. We want to spend time with both families. What should we do?

Hungry for Fairness

Dear Hungry,

This is a dilemma I've had to deal with personally, probably the same dilemma most of us married folk have had to deal with. How do you balance out the holidays with two sets of parents? In this case, we're talking about turkey, stuffing and that infamous sweet potato. Then comes Christmas.

Used to be I could hardly think about it. Every year it was the same. The house we didn't go to for dinner would be disappointed at the very least. Sure, they would say they understood, but I could see the sadness in their puppy eyes. I wasn't stupid, you know.

Then my husband came up with this ingenious idea. We would go to both houses! Stuff ourselves sill and really enjoy the day! Unfortunately, both families planned the meal around the same time so going to both proved difficult.

We decided on another strategy - Thanksgiving Day swapping. The first year was the most difficult, of course. We went to my parent's home as I remember, and spent most of the day with them. The evening was spent at my in-laws' eating pie. The following year, we went to my husband's parent's home for dinner and came over to my home-away-from home for dessert.

For the most part this strategy has proved successful. However, there have been some years that we have forgotten whose house for dinner is on the agenda. Fortunately, the correct set of parents has informed us that it's "their turn."

As our children have grown older, there have been times we haven't gone to either house, preferring to have dinner at our own home or at the home of one of our children. This has meant we have had to get back on track with our parents and in-laws; no easy task.

In the long-run though, our parents from both sides have appreciated the swapping arrangement. Sure, they don't get us for dinner every year, but they do at lest get us for desert.