Ways To Track and Save During the Holidays

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SaveWithHopster #CollectiveBias

The holidays should be full of joy, happiness, time with family and friends, and the creation of precious memories.

Often, though, the busyness and strain from added expenses and to-dos turn them into anything but the most wonderful time of the year. Recently I shared a post with you on how important it is to step back and realign with what really matters during this busy season.

Today I’m tackling the other half of the problem by sharing how to track and save! Once you get your holiday budget under control it’s a lot easier to enjoy the season.

First off, let’s start with the saving–because once you get a good handle on that you’ll have more money to put back into that gift budget you’re tracking!

For savings I’m sharing a great app with you that you might not already know about! It’s Hopster Mobile Rebates! One of the best ways to get more money for holiday fun is by saving on the items you already buy. You can download it here and start saving because it’s super simple to use! You just follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose your rebates from a large selection of brands

You’ll find rebates for your favorite groceries, beauty essentials, pet supplies, plus new products you’ll want to try.

Step 2: Shop at your favorite store — most of the rebates you can redeem from *any store* or you can pick from a list of your favorite retailers!

Step 3: Take a picture of your receipt showing the items you purchased–it walks you through exactly how to do it!

Step 4. Rebates will be redeemed and the cash credited to your PayPal account as soon as the redemption is validated. That means you don’t have to wait to reach a certain number or value of redeemed offers!

You can see for yourself how simple and great this is for saving! As you make your shopping list it’s so easy to hop on, scan for items you can take advantage of rebates on, and then scan in the receipt right after you put the items away! All those rebates can add up to a nice little chunk of change to roll into your holiday budget. Which brings us to the tracking part!

The best ways to track your holidays and helpful tips before you dive in!

I’ve mentioned this to you before, but it really is such a lifesaver each year! This year I’ll also cover a few things you’ll want to do in case you’ve been using this or a different system before!

Set A Budget

I know, I know, but trust me, knowing how much you *can* spend actually frees you up to enjoy it and not stress out. Sit down with whoever else is involved in the money situation in your house and come up with a budget to stick to.

(Tip: Start using Hopster and also think outside the box for ways to save on normal things during the holiday months. Maybe you can cut back on a service or plan. Take your extra savings and put it right into your holiday budget!)

Make A List & Check It Twice

Growing up and getting married and all having babies is super-ly amazing and fabulous!!! It does make for a long, long, long  Christmas list after just a few years, though! And things can get awkward when you keep buying presents, and they stop, or vice versa. This year have a pow-wow with your extended family. Often you might find that they’d prefer one family gift they all can enjoy, they just want gifts for the kids, or you might discover it actually blesses everyone the most if you no longer exchange gifts. Just like the budgeting thing, it’s far better to clarify in advance, then to be disappointed when reality strikes.

Make & Track Using a Spreadsheet

As you can see I’ve been using this system for over 5 years now because it’s that awesome! I put in everyone on my list, put in ideas for gifts before I buy them and then fill in the prices when I actually purchase them, and fill in the slots so I know what has been purchased, wrapped, and shipped for our out of state family. At the bottom I have formulas that automatically add up the totals for each column, and also show my savings.

This is super easy-peasy to create for yourself–but I’m making it even easier for you!! Here is a blank gift tracking sheet just for you!

So, to use this you’ll want to go up to where it says File at the top menu bar. Click on it then go down to “Make a Copy”  here you can name it, and save it to your drive. Then it is private to you and you can customize it for your own personal holiday tracking! If you have any questions about how to tweak it further just drop me a comment and ask!

By putting these simple steps into practice this year you’ll save money and sanity this holiday season! Don’t forget to get started by downloading the Hopster App here!

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How To Put Together The Perfect Galentine’s Gifts This Year

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SendingYourLove #CollectiveBias

I’ll always remember my worst Valentine’s Day.

I was 16 years old and I’d just broken up with my first boyfriend, who I’d been dating for over 6 months (I laugh at that length of time, now, but if you ever dated in high school you know that’s an impressive amount!). I was a cashier at Walmart at the time and was scheduled to work on Valentine’s Day. Sure enough, they stuck me on one of the 20 Items Or Less registers, and my night was one continual stream of cute guys with lavish gifts for their significant others. After about the 30th beautiful card and bouquet of roses, I was ready to burst into tears.

To put the final crown on the evening, the guy that I had my first and only serious tween crush on for about 3 years came through my register….with, you guessed it, a completely gorgeous and touching card and a bouquet of flowers, plus delicious chocolates for his current girlfriend.

Can’t a single gal get a break??!!

I feel like people are becoming more aware of how painful holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas can be for those who are alone, or recently lost a loved one. Valentine’s Day, however, is really easy to forget about, as long as you’re in a happy, fulfilling relationship. For the recently or always single, bereaved, or not-so-happily coupled, however, it can be a day of glaringly unfulfilled dreams and crushed hopes that every social media post and couple picture just further inflicts pain upon.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I LOVE love. I love my marriage, I LOVE it when people are happily coupled whether they’re in the “You’re so perfect” stage or whether they’re in the “I love you even though I know you’re not perfect” stage. If you are blessed to be in a relationship right now, by all means, be sure to pick up one of the amazing Signature Hallmark cards at Walmart for your spouse or boyfriend, too!

Right now they have an awesome offer going on! $2 off a 2 card purchase (min $2 purchase required), expires 2/15. This means you can buy for everyone this Valentine’s Day!

No matter what your personal relationship status will be this Valentine’s Day, I have a sure-fire way to make sure your day is filled with joy, guaranteed. Want to know the secret????

Fill your Valentine’s Day With Joy, By Sending Love To Others!

This year I wanted to send some love to two amazing and beautiful women in my life, for completely different reasons. Though your Galentine’s Day packages will be completely unique to the amazing women in your life, I want to provide my gifts to give you ideas and springboards into who to bless, and what you can give–whether they live next door or thousands of miles away!!!

My first Galentine’s Day package that I put together was for my amazing little sister Hannah! As you know, she’s actually a contributor for this site now, so be sure to go say hello! She’s my “baby” sister and the last of the Romero kids to still be single. Because the rest of us were a little odd and all married off by the age of 25 (I got married at 19), she feels a little odd having not gotten hitched in her very young 20s. While she’s perfectly content to fan girl while she waits for Mr. Awesome, I know how it must feel a little awkward for her and all her single friends to see Valentine’s Day come each year along with the latest announcement of who is dating who and who just got engaged. I’m thankful I was able to live my single and dating life pre-social media days!

So sadly we’re thousands of miles apart as she’s back in Wyoming while I’m down here in Texas. So here’s my best advice for putting together a Long Distance Galentine’s Day Gift Package!!!!

Of course, every Galentine’s Gift has to start with the perfect card. When I saw this gorgeous Signature Hallmark Card at Walmart I knew it was absolutely perfect for both of the beautiful gals in my life! As you can see above it says “Loved & Lovely” on the front. Then when you open it up is says “Lots of things can make you pretty But your good heart makes you beautiful”

Love. It!!!!!!!

Don’t just sign your name and call it good, though! That empty side is there for a reason–so you can include a sweet, beautiful, and heartfelt message in your very own handwriting. Let the person know exactly why you’re sending your love, and how much they mean to you!

Now that you have the most important part taken care of, it’s time for the gifts! I’ve mentioned before that I take great pride in my family as being known as the “bestest gift giver”. There’s a big secret to this–do you want to know it?

#1 Gift Giving Tip: To be an amazing gift giver you have to give people what they like, not what you like.

I know, it seems so simple but often people don’t follow this advice that seems like a no-brainer. That’s why registries and wish lists are often ignored and instead you wind up with something you would never use, want, or wear.

There’s great news, though! These days it’s so easy to find people’s likes, interests, and tastes! It’s called social media! For Christmas, I wanted to give my sister-in-law a pair of earrings. The thing is, that while I *love* her gorgeous style it is totally and completely different from my own. So instead of guess what she “might” like or give her something in my taste that I knew would “look great on her” I did a little investigation. Profile pictures are an amazing thing! Through going through all her pictures I was able to pinpoint exactly what her favorite earring style and color are and picked out a pair that “were so perfect” in her own words.

So your gift bundle will and should look completely unique to the lovely lady you’re gifting it to! Here is what I included in my sister’s far away package, along with why I chose each item and some that different ideas in the same category.

Great Ideas For a Far Away Galentine’s Day Gift Package

  • Cozy Hat & Sweater — Wyoming is having a record breaking year for snow and cold! My sister is also working nights at a newspaper during all of this, and so she’s having to go out into that a lot! Because of this, I got her this adorable hat and scarf. Bonus??? Down here in Texas we’re reaching the 70s already, which means that my Walmart has all cold winter gear on clearance already! If your recipient isn’t into hats and scarves (for example, I never wear either item) then you can substitute another fun item to wear. Maybe she loves boots, long tunics, or a cozy sweater!
  • Earrings — If your recipient wears jewelry this is a perfect Valentine’s Day gift to include! Walmart has pretty items at low prices, and by doing a little snooping you’ll find the perfect necklace or pair of earrings! To make it feel even more upscale take it off of the plastic holder and place it inside of a cloth or gauzy bag, you can find these inexpensively in the craft section of most Walmart’s.
  • Journal — My sister graduated last May with her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. Because writing runs in her blood, like mine, she usually has a million different things she’s furiously working away at. She, like me, also loves to use pen and paper. Because of this journals are always appreciated and used by her! For your recipient, you might gift a new best-selling book, a few magazines, or an adult coloring book!
  • Masquerade Mask — If there’s one thing Hannah loves, it’s plays! She has an entire wall dedicated to the plays that she’s seen. When I found this gorgeous mask in the clearance aisle (It was originally a Christmas decoration!) I knew it would fit right into her room and that she’d love it! Don’t forget to check out Walmart’s clearance aisle! Stocking up year round makes for generous gift giving come special occasions!
  • Pampering Mask — All girls love to be pampered and feel beautiful! Hannah doesn’t do a ton of makeup, so this relaxing mask was the perfect pampering touch to include! Simple and fun she can use it during her next bath and feel luxurious and beautiful! This is great for any woman, but feel free to include makeup, perfume, or nail polish in place of this!

Put all of this together and it makes what appears to be a lavish gift bundle. By choosing items that they will love, and purchasing them at Walmart, it’s completely possible to put together this epic gift without going beyond your budget!

The next Galentine’s Day Gift Package I put together was for my sweet & beautiful Mom-in-Love. As you might remember, this sweet lady let my family live with her for 4 years while my husband got his Bachelor’s Degree. Amazingly, not only did living together go very well, we came out of it as best friends!

She truly is loved and lovely, and has one of the most beautiful hearts I know!

She’s a totally different case, as she has been married to my father-in-love for ages now (over 30 years). But even if you’re in a happily ever after marriage, you know that the longer it goes, the more likely it is that you won’t really be celebrating or celebrated on Valentine’s Day. Leave that as you will, it’s just kind of the case with most of the guys in my families. Because of this, I wanted to give her some special love on Valentine’s Day. We owe them so much, that I’ll always be looking for ways to let her know how thankful I am and how loved she is!

Also, unlike my sister, my Mom-in-Love *loves* to shop and self-confessedly has more books, knick-knacks, clothes, and well, everything, than she needs. For people like this, I love to gift mostly consumable items, along with just one special piece. Since she’s still close by at just an hour away, I can easily gift food and flowers to her!

  • Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies — A nearby gift from me almost always contains some of my “famous” homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re one of my mom-in-love’s favorite desserts, so of course, a big plateful is always a great start to a gift for her!
  • Flowers — These are a Valentine’s Day Cliche for a reason! There is just something about gorgeous cut flowers that brightens up the world! When buying flowers for another gal I always forgo roses. While they are my very favorite flower, they’re also the most expensive, and they also have the shortest cut lifespan. If you opt for flowers like baby carnations, or daisies, you can get gorgeous colors like these, they last for weeks, and when you buy them from Walmart you can get a gorgeous bouquet for under $5!
  • Necklace — As I mentioned, I love to give one “keep it” gift in a bundle/basket like this one. Diane loves beautiful, long, fun necklaces and when I saw this one it just screamed “her” to me! It was just the right amount of bling and sparkle and colors I know she loves and wears often. Look for one piece, no matter what it is, that you know your girl will love and cherish and that will remind her of you each time she wears or sees it!
  • Lunch Date — For all my close gals I love to give the gift of delicious food and time together to round this package all out! Whether it’s meeting up for coffee or taking her out to lunch, plan a girl date so that you can have the most precious gift of all–conversation, connection, and making memories together!

Here are some ideas for how to let the girls in your life know that they are loved and lovely this Valentine’s Day! Here’s a list of some of the ladies you might want to send a card to this year!

  • Singles
  • Those who recently went through a breakup
  • Widows
  • Women who have been married for a very long time
  • Military & Law Enforcement Spouses (they usually have to celebrate the day with their husbands working long shifts or completely away/deployed)

Looking for more amazing Valentine’s Day ideas AND additional coupons and offers here!

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Noble the Movie

 

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The movie Noble is about the life of Christina Noble, an Irish woman from the mid 1900’s, who has had a very difficult and trying childhood and life growing up in Dublin and then moving to England, but throughout it all she holds onto, even if just by a thread of hope, her faith in God.

In the midst of her suffering and crying out to God for understanding and beseeching Him with questions about if He has forgotten about her, she has a vision of children from Vietnam consumed by war and devastation that their little innocent hearts does not deserve to have to endure through. She dreams of children, who are desperately in need of love, protection, and help. She vows that one day, somehow, she WILL go to Vietnam and carry out her vision that God has placed within her heart. The movie goes through her journey in Vietnam in 1989, as she is trying to set up a home for the street children so that they can be safe, loved, nurtured, educated, and receive any medical care they need.  The movie also has many flashbacks about her life as she was growing up and all the intensity and sorrows she went through to make her into the woman she was destined to be.

Her spirit is one truly comprised of gold to go through all the pain she went through, and yet to still have a song on her lips, radiating joy in her heart and love for the “least of these”, the poor and abandoned children, in abundance. She is such an inspiration in how she pours and selflessly gives out of herself to these children in desperate need on the streets of Vietnam. She is as bold as a lion, and in the movie, she even rescues some young girls from being preyed upon by evil predator type men who have nothing but the vilest intentions with these young girls, which adds for quite the dramatic plot twist as she “storms the castle”, so to speak, for these young souls. She is a hero in the truest form of the word, in my humble opinion.

The movie was such an inspiration and very moving.  I found this movie to be quite surprisingly splendid and refreshing because sometimes, with more feel-good/faith films, they can be quite cheesy and low quality, but this movie was quite the opposite. I loved the more serious parts, and how they were expertly broken up by little scenes of humor and amusement that left me giggling and smiling.

The actress who portrayed Christina Noble, Deirdre O’Kane, was delightful! She had such a passionate and vibrant acting personality, and the Irish accent in her voice, both singing and speaking, was beautiful to watch and hear!

In this movie, I laughed, I cried, I was, to say it again, very much moved by this movie.

Watching Christina’s story drew something out from within me, it reignited a passion, so to speak. Children are the future, and we are called by God to love the children, widows, and orphans (James 1:27 and Psalm 82:3 in the Bible), and for someone to embrace that divine calling so selflessly and fully with a wide open heart and boldness of a lion…that is true faith and religion in my opinion. Serving with abandon and loving everyone you come across with and protecting them from themselves even. There is no greater calling, than to be NOBLE and BRAVE and to LOVE, no matter the personal cost (John 15:13)!

Have you seen this movie yet? What were your thoughts on it?

Beloveds, my ending question is one that convicts me to the core and puts my priorities in alignment, and that is: What is something both noble and brave you would accomplish with your life if you were guaranteed NOT to fail because God was on your side?????

To find and connect with other “noble” women, search the hashtag on your favorite social media “#sheisnoble”.

Now may I add this as a follow up to that question?

GREAT NEWS!!! He IS on your side, and if He has placed a dream within you…no matter how huge or minuscule, if it is from Him…NOTHING can get in your way. Fear has no place where love is (1 John 4:18), and God LOVES you and is FOR YOU! Go be bold and brave like Christina, and do great things for the Kingdom and for His glory alone! You are VICTORIOUS in Jesus!!!

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Now for some homeplay (homework but better):

Here is the trailer for the movie and a link to their phenomenal, beautifully done website! Go check them out and give them some lovings and go watch this movie!

Here is the official synopsis from their website:

“They broke everything but her spirit. They took everything but her dream. NOBLE, the award-winning feature film, is the incredible true story of a fearless Irish heroine driven by her daring vision to escape the slums of Ireland and risk everything on the streets of Vietnam.

Winner of six U.S. film festival awards, including the Panavision Spirit Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the powerful biopic drama written and directed by Stephen Bradley is heralded by critics as “raw and genuinely powerful,” “captivating” and “moving.” The Hollywood Reporter calls it “a joyful and rousing affirmation of the human spirit that will resound widely.”

With great affection, as always,

Rebekah M. Clark

Christmas Gift Guide 2013 ~ The Perfect Gift for Any Baby

Christmas Gift Guide

Yes–that’s right! This is the kick off post to my Christmas Gift Guide!

Now, now–before you start hurling rotten tomatoes at me and shouting the virtues of Thanksgiving hear me out! I agree–the Christmas trees up in the mall already *are* a bit much. But when it comes to shopping–well I’ve been Christmas shopping since February!! If you were around last year you’ll know I believe in shopping early and staying organized, and then using the month of December for traditions and family — not fighting the crowds and focusing on the material! Every year I try to have ALL my Christmas gifts bought and shipped by December 1st–I’m nearly there!

So with that disclosure I’m super excited to bring you ….

 Graco Little Lounger
Legalese Nonsense: I will absolutely drive to Dallas if it means I get to meet other bloggers, have 3 hours of drive time sans kids singing at the top of my lungs, get fed, learn exercise tips from a pro, and walk away with one of the coolest baby products I’ve ever seen. All mommy thoughts, lack of pregnancy announcements, and before mentioned erratic behavior is all my own.

First off I will preface this post with the fact that NO — contrary to what you seeing me with a baby swing that holds infants up to 30 lbs. might lead you to believe — there will be NO big, exciting announcements from me concerning the expansion of our family at any point within the next-couple-of-years future! (unless you all know something I don’t?!) *However* I know that most of you do have babies, will also at some point in the next-few-years future have one, or know someone who is pregnant right now. I seems like every time I turn around another friend or family member is announcing their pregnancy, so there is a lot of use for the Graco Little Lounger in my life and I knew there would be in yours as well!

Continue reading “Christmas Gift Guide 2013 ~ The Perfect Gift for Any Baby”

Christmas Gift Guide

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?? I’m actually almost all done with mine! If you haven’t yet don’t worry! I have some great quick Christmas gift ideas that I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks from homemade gifts to frugal Christmas gift ideas! I started off with my Unique Holiday Gift Idea post.

Christmas Gift Guide


Mommy Bag Marketing Holiday Gift Guide ~ Once again Mommy Bag Marketing is hosting a fantastic holiday gift guide! I’ve already purchased from it and would encourage you to as well! Although I’m the first to love a good deal I also am passionate about supporting small businesses. So please bless multiple families this year and shop through Mommy Bag Marketing!

 Shopping Just Got Easier at Rock The Tea!  Girls shopping on-line store.  Rock the Tea offers crafts, dress-up clothes, make-up and jewlery for young girls.


Vistaprint – 6 Free HolidayProducts ~ Great neighbor Christmas gift ideas-just pay shipping!!

Shipping Starting Price:
· Holiday Cards: starts at $5.23
· Desk/Wall Photo Calendar: $5.23
· Mug: $5.78
· T-Shirts: $5.99
· Business Cards: $5.99
· Tote Bag: $5.26
· Sticky Note: $4.77
· Stamp: $5.99

Vistaprint also has this awesome deal going on right now! Custom Christmas Stockings for just $7.99 and free shipping!


Last but not least–get 140 labels for free from Vista Print – just pay shipping!

Or if you’re a new customer you can get 30 Free Ink Garden Address Labels-just pay shipping!

Think outside the address label box-you can use these as To/From Christmas Gift Labels, a gift for a teacher or another neighbor Christmas gift idea!

Nicole Elliott