Creating Your Holiday Gift Budget

With the holidays looming, you might find that your holiday gift budget is a little more stretched than usual. Read on to discover a few common sense tips that will help you save for this special time of the year.

Creating Your Holiday Gift Budget

A Little Preparation Goes A Long Way

By being a smart shopper every day, you will have more to spend when the holidays come around. Here are some easy steps to more savings.

  • When it’s time to go grocery shopping, make a list. Get into the habit of only shopping for the items on your list and leave impulse purchases at the door.
  • Do your online research in advance of a big shopping trip. When you know where the bargains are, you will save yourself a whole heap of time, effort and frustration.
  • Make shopping rewarding. Use store coupons and rewards cards and sign up for email campaigns that will send advance details of sales.
  • Pay yourself first! Grant yourself a weekly allowance and shop for necessary items guilt free. By paying yourself a weekly or monthly allowance you will avoid the very real temptation of a retail therapy blowout.

Basic Steps To Big Savings

There are many small measures you can take to reduce your bills and help you save for the holidays. When you leave your apartment for the day, remember to unplug all electrical items making sure that you don’t spend anymore on your electrical bill than you have to. This tiny step goes a long way to reducing your electric bill over the course of a year.

When you go to work, adopt a “cash free” day where you go about your day-to-day business without spending a single penny. This is easier than it sounds with a modicum of forward planning: plan your lunches around what’s already in the pantry or the fridge, and take a (reusable) bottle of water with you. Then make sure to put away the equivalent money you would have spent into a savings account.

Now that you have adopted basic budget saving tips into your day-to-day life, you will have a clearer idea of how much you have to spend on your holiday gift budget.

Holiday Shopping Tips

When it’s time to go shopping for your chosen gifts, take cash only. This important step will prevent you from being tempted to use credit to make your purchases. Adopt a stealth-like approach to your shopping trip, planning in advance the stores you intend to visit. Don’t be distracted from your mission; instead, make the purchases you have decided upon in advance. If necessary, you can always go back later and buy that impulse present if there is enough left over in your budget.

Use the envelope system for shopping trips. Make out a new envelope for each person on your list and place in the exact amount needed for their chosen present. Then if the product is further discounted at the cash register, you can put the extra money into a contingency fund.

If you choose to do your holiday shopping online from the comfort of your own apartment, keep an eye open for useful promotions such as free shipping codes or buy-one-get-one-free offers.

Finally, if you are forced to put your holiday shopping onto a credit card, it’s always a good idea to put it on one that will benefit you and your wallet. Use cards that offer cash back with every purchase.

For more advice on money matters, follow Apartment Guide on Twitter.

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How to Create a Holiday Gift Budget

Photo Credit: Scott Miller

5 Christmas Decorating Ideas for Apartments Without Fireplaces

Don't worry if your apartment is lacking a fireplace. There are plenty of other places to hang your stockings before Santa comes.

Don’t worry if your apartment is lacking a fireplace. There are plenty of other places to hang your stockings before Santa comes.

The stockings were hung from the chimney with care,
But wait! There’s no fireplace! It’s just not there!

Fireplaces are kind of an important part of the holidays. You put all sorts of festive decorations on your mantel, including hanging your stockings for Santa to leave his goodies. Maybe you even roast chestnuts over the fire. And don’t forget the most important detail: Santa slides down the chimney! How else is he going to get inside to leave presents?

If you live in an apartment that doesn’t have a fireplace, the holidays can be a challenge. But don’t say “bah, humbug” just yet – there are plenty of alternative places to decorate if your abode is lacking a mantel.

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Christmas Shopping Apps: Technology to Make Your Christmas Shopping Easier

Santa Claus, perusing the "naughty or nice" app on his cell phone -- indispensable!

Santa Claus, perusing the “Naughty or Nice” app on his smartphone. His review: 5 stars, “indispensable!”

Feeling overwhelmed by all the Christmas shopping you still have left to do?

Why not put your smartphone to work… and relax!

There’s a wealth of fun and convenient shopping apps that will help you get your holiday shopping done faster, easier — and on budget!

Shop smart this season with a few of our favorite apps.

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5 Green Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

Being green doesn't have to mean sacrificing fun -- gifts can still look festive and fun while remaining eco-friendly.

Being green doesn’t have to mean sacrificing fun — gifts can still look festive and fun while remaining eco-friendly.

Is there anything more satisfying than ripping the paper off a neatly wrapped present, uncovering a hidden treasure inside? Probably not – but have you seen your living room after a morning spent unwrapping what Santa brought you? It’s an environmentalist’s nightmare; all that trash is hardly eco-friendly. On the other hand, you have to wrap your gifts in something. So what’s a tree-hugging Santa to do?

Fortunately, there are ways to keep all the fun of Christmas morning while remaining environmentally responsible. Check out these alternatives to wrapping paper so you can keep your holiday season green – not Grinch green, but earth-friendly green.

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Don’t Buy That! 8 Worst Holiday Gifts You Should Avoid

worst Christmas gift ideasWhen it comes to gift giving, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Wrong.

We’ve been busy sharing with you a ton of gift ideas that will wow your loved ones. You can thank us later. But let’s not ignore that fact that some items should never be given as gifts. Ever.

Good gifts can truly cement a relationship while bad or thoughtless gifts can cause it to fizzle. Not only that, a bad gift will make you appear tactless, and the person on the receiving end won’t feel so great either. Bah humbug!

‘Tis the season to give, and you must keep in mind that giving unto others is actually a very strong form of communication. What message are you sending with the gifts you’ve picked out this year? Hopefully none of these are on your shopping list:

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12 Gifts for the Small Apartment Dweller They’ll Enjoy Year-Round

Wracking your brain to find the perfect gift that won't clutter a small apartment? Check out this list!

Wracking your brain to find the perfect gift that won’t clutter  up a small apartment? We’ve brewed up some fun ideas!

‘Tis the season!

Let’s say you want to share a seasonal gift or two with your friend, partner, family member, coworker… but that person lives in a, let’s say, space-challenged apartment.

There is no need to fret, dear, generous celebrant.

Check out a dozen options to spread good cheer to a few lucky folks in your life. Sometimes, less truly can be more!

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Best Places to Hide Holiday Presents in Your Apartment

The trunk of a sedan is a perfect place to hide holiday presents so prying little eyes won't find them.

The trunk of a sedan is a perfect place to hide holiday presents so prying little eyes won’t find them.

‘Tis the season to do lots of shopping. And if you’re the type to get all your presents in one trip, you’re going to come home with a carload of gifts, unwrapped and out in the open, where anyone – even nosey little children – can see them.

You know they’re going to look for them … so, Santa? You’d better have a game plan. Where can you find places to hide presents before you get a chance to wrap them? Inquiring little minds want to know what’s in store for them this holiday season, but fortunately for you, we’re one step ahead of them.

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Give Back This Holiday Season in Kansas City, Mo.

This holiday season, give back in Kansas City through these volunteer opportunities.

This holiday season, give back in Kansas City through these volunteer opportunities.

Are you a new arrival in Kansas City, Mo.? Want to use your talents, skills and expertise to make a difference this holiday season? You’re in luck! There are plenty of organizations in the Kansas City area who are looking for caring volunteers just like you. Here’s how to find them.

Voolla.org
Do you have a specific skill that you want to put to use to help make the world a better place? This website matches you with people needing those skills, and the money they pay goes to charity. Register your skills for free today and get started.

Volunteermatch.org
Find tons of volunteer opportunities in your area. Many organizations in your own backyard need help with everything from party planning to data entry.

Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Kansas City (www.yvckc.org/)
This is a great resource if you have kids who want to volunteer. The YVCKC offers youth between the ages of 11 and 18 the opportunity to improve their community by volunteering. They offer plenty of after school, holiday, weekend and summer volunteering projects that are sure to fit you and your child’s schedule.

Volunteer Opportunities in Kansas City (www.americantowns.com/mo/kansascity-make-a-difference)
Part of Americantowns.com, this site links you up with local volunteer organizations in more than 27 categories. This is the one-stop shop for volunteering.

The Kansas City Zoo (www.kansascityzoo.org/Volunteer) has plenty of volunteer opportunities for you animal lovers out there. If you love working outdoors in all kinds of weather, you just might be a good fit for this great organization.

Church or School Organizations
Check with your child’s school or your church for places you can help out. If they don’t have any openings, they will almost surely know of someone who does. So get out and ask around!

Finding volunteer opportunities in a new city can be scary, but with a little patience and diligence, you’ll quickly find something that fulfills you while giving something of value to your new community of Kansas City, Mo.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/PinkTag

Holiday Gifts for Fido

Keep your pup happy this holiday season with these gifts.

Keep your pup happy this holiday season with these gifts.

For dog owners, this festive season would not be complete without a cold nose or wagging tail amid the holiday hustle. Whether our dogs are begging for a bite of Christmas cookie or enduring a few embarrassing photos in a sparkly sweater, Fido and Fifi are part of the family and deserve some thoughtful holiday gifts.

Healthy treats for dogs
Although we may try to watch our waistline at the holidays, it’s also important to make sure we’re not handing out too many treats to our four-legged friends. To keep your dog from adding empty calories, try to offer only treats made from 100 percent natural ingredients. Three Dog Bakery makes dog biscuits from peanut butter, apples and oats that are both tasty and nutritious for your pet. Visit www.threedog.com for locations or to shop online.

Canine-friendly cleansers
If you’re planning to host family and friends during the holidays, a bath might be in order for your pup. Why not use a new organic shampoo to keep his coat cuddle-ready? Both Kiehl’s and many pet specialty stores carry organic dog shampoo and conditioner, or you may want to ask for a referral from your vet. Using a gentle cleanser can help prevent your dog’s skin from getting too dry in winter weather.

Join the neighborhood light display
Show off your dog’s holiday spirit on your next evening walk with a new LED leash and collar. Not only will these illuminated accessories keep him safe and visible to cars, they can also be a festive fashion statement in red or white. Make Clark Griswold proud!

Not a creature was stirring…
Winter is also the perfect time to bring home a cozy new pet bed for your dog. Choose a soft fleece or cotton fiber lining that will breathe while your pet snoozes after a hard day of opening presents. When the festivities are over, and the wrapping paper and gift boxes have been sufficiently pounced upon, Fido will be happy to sink his paws into a plush new bed.

The holidays are an exciting time of year for both people and dogs. Remember that animals can be sensitive and may need some quiet time away from new guests, noise and additional stimulation. Allowing for sufficient down time will also give them the chance to dream about their new toys and gifts. Happy Howlidays!

Photo credit: iStockphoto/cmannphoto

How to Create DIY Holiday Vases

Repurpose old ornaments and display them in beautiful glass vases for a simple centerpiece.

Repurpose old ornaments and display them in beautiful glass vases for a simple centerpiece.

One of the best parts of the season is decorating and spreading the holiday cheer. This year, creatively get your apartment ready for the holidays and the New Year without stress. We’ve come up with a few ideas on creating fabulous centerpieces and holiday vases for your space. Read on for our ideas.

Glitter Vases
These glitter vases will add glam to your space, and they can be repurposed for throughout the year. You’ll need:

    Glass containers with smooth, straight sides
    Glitter in color of your choice
    Foam brush
    Mod Podge

Use a cylindrical vase, and apply a thin layer of Mod Podge on the interior of the vase using a foam brush. Next, dump a generous amount of glitter inside of the vase, and then roll the vase in your hands. Tap the side of the vase to get the glitter to evenly coat the Mod Podge. Dump out the excess glitter, and allow the vase to dry before displaying flowers.

Snowy Vases
Our infographic showed you how to create display-worthy centerpieces from recycled wine bottles.

    3 empty wine bottles
    Spray paint primer
    Epsom salt
    Craft bond spray

Spray a coat of primer on three empty wine bottles. While drying, pour Epsom salt on a paper bag. Next, spray the dried empty bottles with craft bond spray adhesive, and then roll the bottles in the Epsom salt. Allow the adhesive to dry before handling. Display the vases on a silver platter. Add flowers or glittered branches to the vases.

Vegetable Vases
A lot of the holidays are centered around the feast, so why not create centerpieces with more food items?

    Produce (turnips, squash, head of cabbage, etc.)
    Corer
    Sharp knife
    Flowers
    Candles

Wash and dry your vegetables. Cut off a small piece at the bottom of each vegetable to allow them to stand upright. Then, cut off the top and get ready to core the vegetable. Core and dig out the middle. Repeat this with the rest of the vegetables. Fill your new vases with flowers and candles. Use a tray or a cutting board to keep everything together.

Ornament Vase
Bring all the elements of Christmas together with these simple ornament vases.

    Ball ornaments
    Poinsettias
    Metallic spray paint
    Terra cotta pots

Use terra cotta pots that will fit your ball ornaments. Spray paint the pots with the metallic spray paint, and allow them to dry. Next, remove the hanger tops and fill the ornaments with water. Cut the poinsettia, and place the flower in the ornament. Nestle the arrangement in the pot. Instead of poinsettias, you can cut off a small piece of your tree to add to each of these ornaments.

Ornament Vase 2
If you have lots of leftover ball ornaments, here’s another idea for an ornament vase. You’ll need:

    Ball ornaments, varying colors and sizes
    3 tall glass vases
    Ribbon, optional

Cluster three tall glass vases together. Fill each vase with ball ornaments. Add character to each vase by adding various sizes of the ornaments. An optional step is to tie a bow out of shiny ribbon on the outside of each vase.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/lucop