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I Wish I Knew These Low-cost Christmas Tricks Earlier

I Wish I Knew These Low-cost Christmas Tricks Earlier

Ho, ho, ho—the jolly holiday season is upon us! Christmas is slowly nearing and everyone is getting excited about the biggest holiday of the year. Now, we’ve become a very consumer-oriented culture, one where everyone is expected to spend tons of money on everything from gifts and decorations, to Christmas cards and even specific types of candy, but not everyone can afford to spend lots of their hard-earned money. We all want to enjoy the holidays, prepare cool gifts for our family and bring about some of that Christmas spirit—it’s just that a lot of us need a more cost-effective way of doing these things. Well, being that it is the season of giving and sharing, let me share with you some great tricks for having the perfect Christmas experience on a very tight budget.

1. Have everyone help out with the cleaning and decorating.

Christmas decoration

    The best way to create a fun holiday atmosphere is to get the whole family involved in the preparation. Get the kids and parents involved, and if you’re living the single life and spending Christmas away from home you can have friends over to help you decorate. It is a fun bonding experience and it helps make things easier. Serve some snacks, cookies and drinks for the hard-working helpers and play some fun games when the work is done.

    1. Organize a fun photo session.

    In this day and age you don’t even really need a professional photographer to capture great family moments—everyone has a camera on their phone, and there’s at least one decent digital camera in most households. There are plenty of benefits to having regular family photo sessions about once a year around the holidays, and you can have tons of fun dressing up and snapping creative photos. You can later pick out the best ones, print them out and create some cheap, yet cool-looking decorations. There’s plenty of room for some creative photo editing and DIY frames, which will make the photos really stand out.

    2. Get creative with homemade Christmas cards and envelopes.

    You can get an assortment of different color envelopes and blank cards, or even just get plain white ones and spice them up yourself. You can color them, use markers, glue on small items like Christmas tree branches or colorful fabrics and ribbons, use snowflake cutouts, apply glitter, use buttons or pictures, and so on.

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    Make tree ornaments and decorations from everyday objects.

    pinecones

      When it comes to Christmas decorations, you can make some incredibly interesting things from simple everyday objects. All it takes is a few basic items, some creativity and a bit of work.

      1. Old t-shirt wreath

      Finally, there’s a use for those old shirts, t-shirts and assorted rags—cut them up into strips and you can braid a colorful wreath.

      2. Toilet paper roll crafts

      From calendars to figurines and lovely stars for your Christmas tree, with a bunch of toilet paper rolls and a few other materials you have lying around, you can create a variety of amazing crafts virtually for free.

      3. Unique homemade candle holders

      Some candlelight really helps set the mood during that holiest of nights, and what better way to enhance the atmosphere than with some great candle holders that are cheap and fairly easy to make.

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      4. Pinecone decorations

      You can color them green and set them upside down to create a mini-Christmas tree ornament, use them as window dressing, create wreaths out of them, and much more.

      5. DIY snow globe

      This will require a bit more skill and dedication, but it definitely pays off, as these can be used as either ornaments or cool gifts.

      Cheap and fun Christmas snacks

      Next up, you want to make sure that there are plenty of snacks around Christmas, so that everyone can enjoy themselves and have a nibble every now and then. Here are a few great snacks that won’t cost much to prepare:

      1. Healthy and delicious cereal

      You can combine some corn flakes, oats, dehydrated fruit, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and mix it all up in mason jars to get a very healthy instant breakfast cereal. Add a little bow and a card with the name of each family member and friend and give them out as a surprise when people come over. You can even make this a part of a nice holiday gift basket.

      2. Gingerbread house with all sorts of sweets

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      Gingerbread house

        Making a gingerbread house can be a very fun family activity, as well as a beautiful decoration and, of course, a tasty treat. You can choose from plenty of great templates and create your ultimate gingerbread house. Go wild with the decorations, adding candy canes, M&M’s and all kinds of different sweets.

        3. Personalized homemade chocolate bars

        Get some tasty chocolate, I would recommend dark chocolate, melt it in a pot, and add some additional ingredients like chopped nuts, cherries or raisins. Pour the mix into a mold that you can get for cheap online, and use aluminum foil and decorative paper to wrap up the chocolate. Use a strip of craft paper to write the name of your special chocolate and list the ingredients.

        4. Great DIY gifts

        So, we’ve covered some fun holiday activities, cool decorations and great snacks, some of which can make excellent gifts, but let’s look at a few more unique DIY gift ideas that your friends and family will appreciate:

        5. Knitted or felt smartphone/tablet case

        If you have some knitting skills you can sit down and make several fun and practical cases for smartphones or tablets, which will make excellent gifts for virtually anyone you know. Here are some patterns you can use. You can also make adorable felt covers which you can customize with some felt flowers and similar decorations.

        6. Recipe binder and book of memories combo

        Every family has that mom or granny who know hundreds of delicious recipes and gives the food her own personal touch. Sit them down and have them tell you these coveted family recipes, so you can write them down. You can have one page of your recipe binder feature the recipe, while the page next to it can have a comment or picture that brings everyone back to a special moment—like a picture of a young grandma presenting her first Christmas dinner or your little brother with his face smeared in chocolate from mom’s cake. Make sure to make a lovely cover for the book as well.

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        7. Fun Christmas-themed pillows

        Christmas pillow

          Another one that requires some skill, a set of unique pillows can be made with a very small investment – mostly time and effort. There are plenty of things you can sew in—like snowmen, Christmas trees, reindeer, write out names or messages and so on. Even if you can’t really sew, you can still make some nice decorative pillows using Sharpies and a steady hand.

          8. Stuffed toys

          When you have smaller kids, a stuffed toy is always a safe bet—they also make lovely gifts for your significant other, and the fact that they were made by hand only adds emotional value. You can find a few good ideas online to spark your imagination, but don’t be afraid to experiment—even if it takes a few tries to get right, you’ll work will pay off when you see someone’s face light up as they hold the toy in their hands.

          9. DIY pet toys

          doggy toy

            An excellent choice for people with pets are some creative pet toys and treats for dog owners or a nice scratch post for cat owners. You won’t have to spend much money, but you will still be able to make some durable and clever items that pet owners will really appreciate.

            10. Special Moment Wall Clock

            A simple board and a picture of a very special moment, with a meaningful inscription, and a basic clockwork mechanism is all that you will need for this heartfelt gift. Here is a useful guide on how to print out images on tissue paper that you will use on your decoupage clock.

            With Christmas just around the corner, it’s never too late to start preparing, decorating and crafting gifts for your friends and family. I wish I had known some of these great low-cost tricks much earlier—I could have saved quite a bit of money, while at the same time making much more personal and meaningful gifts and decorations.

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            Ivan Dimitrijevic

            Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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            Last Updated on August 20, 2019

            How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

            How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

            Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

            In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

            5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

            Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

            1. Be Clear About the Objectives

            Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

            It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

            Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

            2. Keep Them Realistic

            It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

            It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

            3. Account for Inflation

            Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

            Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

            For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

            4. Short Term vs Long Term

            Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

            As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

            More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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            5. To Each to His Own

            The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

            It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

            By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

            11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

            Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

            • Ensuring healthy savings
            • Making smart investments

            You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

            Ensuring Healthy Savings

            Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

            This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

            1. Track Expenses

            The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

            Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

            2. Pay Yourself First

            Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

            Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

            The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

            Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

            3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

            Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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            Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

            At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

            Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

            You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

            4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

            Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

            If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

            Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

            All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

            5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

            In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

            Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

            Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

            If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

            If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

            So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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            6. Talk About It

            Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

            Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

            7. Maintain a Journal

            For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

            So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

            Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

            When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

            At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

            Making Smart Investments

            Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

            8. Consult a Financial Advisor

            Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

            Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

            9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

            Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

            Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

            Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

            It is here where that classification will help.

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            So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

            10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

            Einstein once remarked about compounding,

            Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

            So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

            Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

            11. Measure, Measure, Measure

            All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

            If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

            If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

            Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

            The Bottom Line

            This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

            As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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            Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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