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My Christmas Gifts List EXPLODED!

Okay, so my husband and I didn’t make many friends until about 3-4 years ago.  That’s when we met (sort of re-met) Ivy and Isabelle.  Then a year or two later, our group started growing.  It’s been great to build up a support network of people who can all depend on each other.  But that also means that we all like each other, so our Christmas gifts list has become a small issue for all of us.

White Elephant Gift Exchange

In an effort to keep this cheap for our group as a whole, we decided that our next potluck will have a White Elephant gift exchange.  Anybody who brings a $15 or less package to the party can participate, and we’ll run it classically.  First we’ll draw numbers to see what order we will go in.  A person will choose a gift.  Then the next person can choose to “steal” a previous gift or open a new one.  If your gift is stolen, you choose again.  No one gift can be stolen more than three times.

Personal Christmas Gifts

This is great for the group as a whole and will make a fun side event for our next potluck, BUT there are some people who are closer to each other than others.  They will be exchanging personal gifts on their own time.  Most of the group has made it clear that I am on their list.  And they are on mine.  So despite the excellent White Elephant idea, I still have a pretty long Christmas list.  Including grandparents, close family, and close friends, there are 25-30 people…

General Gift Options

When I want to spread holiday cheer, these are my general options:

  • DIY- Do something craftsy.
  • Cooking – Bake little care packages.
  • Gifts – Buy individual gifts.
  • Activities – Do something with each of them.

Laziness Won

This year, I am extremely lazy.  Sometimes I will get the baking bug and just take care of mostly everyone, but that has not hit me.  The only activity will be the potluck with the White Elephant exchange.  I am also doing photo gifts for the grandparents and close family, so that’ll cover my “craftsy”.  They’ll also be getting printed copies of both of my online books, with personalized messages in each one.  So that’s the extent of my “DIY”.

But I’m buying something for everyone else.  My husband’s list is a little shorter, but he is planning on buying stuff too.  I’m generally done, and my gifts range from $8-$18 per person depending on what screamed their name.  It seems my overall Christmas spending will be around $300 including the photo gifts and book printing.  My husband will probably spend around $200.

Not Stressing

Overall, we can totally afford this $500, so I’m not worrying over it all.  I’ve been in a funk lately anyway, so I really just want to take some deep breaths and use the holidays to be thankful for our friends and family.  I refuse to go nuts over a Christmas budget.  We won’t spend ourselves broke, and that’s good enough for me.

As for the funk, I am trying to figure out if it’s because of ongoing allergies or what…I just feel “blah”.  Boogers.

I just hope our more broke friends stick with something cheaper like baking.  Crystal loves her some Christmas cookies…

How are your holiday gift giving plans going?

Marketing that Works! These Comercials Are Hilarious!!!

Mr. BFS and I have cable and we love our DVR.  That means that I generally do not watch commercials.  Almost anything trying to sell me something that I didn’t want to start with is ignored completely.  BUT, I do love funny.  And I do not mind watching a commercial if it is dang hilarious.

Gotta Love the Funny

Two examples of super funny, worth watching for a quick chuckle commercials are below.  Please note, I am not an affiliate of Poo Pourri or AT&T Digital Life.  Altogether, this will take up about 3.5 minutes of your life, but you will be laughing most of that time.

Marvelous Marketing

Thanks to these commercials and reviews, I will be buying a bottle of Poo Pourri (and will probably review it here, minus the British accent).  I actually emailed them to get a free bottle for me to review, but they have been inundated with similar requests ever since this commercial went live.  That’s pretty cool.  I also looked into AT&T Digital Life and we may get it installed down the line since it is a larger expense than a $10-$15 bottle of Poo Pourri.  Overall, these are two products that I had heard of before, but I hadn’t looked into them at all until I saw their You Tube commercials.

That’s amazing marketing at work.  I received a BBA with honors in Marketing.  I chose that major specifically so I could help create ads like this one day – ads so humorous that the fact that they are selling something wouldn’t be held against them.  I obviously went in another direction, but I can still appreciate a job well done.  Here’s a big high five to both groups of creators for the commercials above!

What do you think?  Are funny sales pitches like these way better than the normal stuff to you too?

Financial Mistakes I’ve Made Over The Years

The following is a guest post from Martin of Studenomics, where he helps out with launching something now so that you don’t waste any time in your 20s.

I’ve seen all kinds of shows on TV about strange addictions and odd issues. I myself have gone through phases where I spent my money pretty foolishly. Despite being a personal finance blogger for five years, I can confirm that I haven’t always made the best decisions with my money.

I wanted to thank Crystal for allowing me to guest post again. I’m usually pretty serious or trying to be. Today I wanted to have some fun and write about my financial addictions/mistakes over the years.

Where do I regret spending money over the years? What have been some of my problem areas when it comes to blowing my money?


Am I the only one here that has had a strange cologne addiction? I’ve gone through phases where I just had to have every popular scent. I just couldn’t resist. I would research different types of cologne and I learned all about how cologne works. I always had to have the newest cologne. I even went as far as to not wear the same scent two days in a row.

How did I improve this? I just stopped buying cologne and decided to stick with what I have. If I run out, I look for a sale before I buy another bottle. I still love to smell good though.

Useless Nights Out

I’ve had way too many pointless nights out where I should have stayed home. I would go out just for the sake of not staying home.

I’m all for fun and enjoy myself with friends. There’s just no sense in getting wasted for no reason just because it’s Saturday. You don’t have to turn any little thing into an excuse for going out.

How did I improve here? I cut back on drinking, go out less often, and I pick-and-choose my nights. This is a huge savings in your 20s. If you can go out without drinking or cut back on your nights out, your wallet will thank you.


I went through a phase in between my college partying and working like mad, where I became a voracious reader. The only problem was that instead of hitting up the library or exchanging books with friends, I just bought random books from Chapters. I mean totally random. I would just look for books that seemed interesting or I would ask the staff for recommendations. The staff always had some new book to recommend to me.

I have a whole stack of unfinished books in my room. Did I really think that I was going to read, “The Black Swan?” In the ultimate irony, I still haven’t read, “Getting Things Done.” I also haven’t opened that book on social media marketing. I usually find a book that I really enjoy (“Linchpin” by Seth Godin), read it slowly, take notes, and then read it again. Some books I never plan on even opening.

How did I change here? I luckily now get many books for free since publishers will contact me or I can contact them about book reviews. I also don’t let myself buy a new book until I’ve finished the current one.

Workout Supplements

Of course I want to get lean in 21 days! Sign me up for five cases of that product.

I’m a very impatient man. I don’t like to wait. So when I started working out, I had to have every workout supplement on the market. I didn’t know what I was buying nor did I care. I fell for the marketing. I knew that the claims were too good to be true, but I didn’t want to believe it.

What changed for me? I realized that you could never supplement training hard and eating well. Just like with personal finance, the fundamentals are key in the fitness industry. I also bought some books on the topic (see above) that opened my eyes on the issues with the supplement industry. Sadly, I never got lean in 21 days, but my wallet sure did lose a few pounds.

That’s how I spent money foolishly over the years. When I started writing about personal finance I was quick to brag about my accomplishments. I’ve come to believe that if you want to take pride in your achievements, you also need to hold yourself accountable for your mistakes.

Now it’s your turn to join in on the fun and share some of the ways you regret spending your hard-earned money. This is a judgment-free zone.

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” — Ayn Rand

The Minimalism-Personal Finance Connection

I have recently taken a long, deep look into my life and I have started to figure out what I want and what is most important. I keep having “ah hah!” moments as I begin to make sense of health, money, love, and my own mindsets. I blog about these insights and more at Living Life Happier.

For years I didn’t want anything to do with minimalism. I love my stuff and I had no intention of getting rid of it all. On the other hand, personal finance was infinitely interesting to me. I love numbers and I knew I could be doing better with my own savings. So I started down the rabbit hole of personal finance books and web sites, learning all I could.

Intro to Minimalism

I’m not sure exactly when or where I began reading about minimalism, but I’m pretty sure it was because of a link on a personal finance site. I came across a web site that emphasized the idea of getting rid of the extra stuff, but not getting rid of everything. On this and other sites, the idea was that minimalism was about having the least amount with which I would be happy.

So if that birthday gift from my mom makes me happy every time I see it, and I use it often, then I should keep it. If it’s just collecting dust, not being used or noticed, then it should go. This actually made sense to me.

It’s not surprising that I found minimalism through personal finance because they’re really so connected. Buying unnecessary stuff is not good for the budget, and saving money often involves buying less unneeded stuff. See how that works? It seems obvious to me now, when it’s written out like this, but for a long time I didn’t see it, even though I’d unknowingly begun to do it.

Diving In

Practicing minimalism began when several friends, separately and over many months, commented on how small and cluttered my apartment felt. While my place isn’t huge, it certainly isn’t too small for one person! This was the wake-up call I needed.

After yet another person made this comment, I slowly began to get rid of stuff I didn’t want, clutter, and unused items. After a while, I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy anything unless I really needed it and would use it. Shortly after this, I decided to start saving more money.

Since I had already cut out entertainment shopping (shopping out of boredom, as a way to spend time with friends, or just to see if there was something interesting I might want to buy) it was so much easier to save. I never bought expensive items, but $10 here and $15 there can still add up. Now, between trying to keep the clutter out and trying to keep the dollars in, I found I was doing very little shopping. In fact, just about the only shopping I did was for groceries, toilet paper, and similar perishables.


Now here’s the part that surprised me: I didn’t miss it! I really thought I’d miss shopping but I now see what a time- and money-waster it was. I was buying things that I didn’t truly need. In fact, I realized that I dislike shopping.

I’ll admit, every now and then I’m tempted to buy something I don’t need. I’ll be at the pharmacy or in a box store buying paper towels, and something will catch my eye and I’ll think that I want it. Then I’ll remember that I really don’t need, I wouldn’t use it, and I’d rather have a less cluttered home and save the money for early retirement.

Suddenly it’s so easy to walk away from that unnecessary thing. Instead I put the money towards my real goals and then I come home to an apartment that finally doesn’t feel small and cluttered but homey and calm. It took me many years to really understand minimalism and personal finance, and I’m still figuring out how best to applying them both, but it has been worth it. They work so well together and have made my life so much better.

Social Shopping : A Holiday Guide

Hi!  I am out of town for the Financial Blogger Conference this week, but I have some excellent guest posts lined up for you thanks to some amazing readers and bloggers!!!  This one is from Christie, who says that she is a huge fan of BFS, and this is her first guest post ever.  :-)

One of the most difficult tasks when handling a Christmas budget is “ Social Shopping”.  Social Shopping can start innocently enough.  You might get a phone call…

“ We are all going to the mall together!  We will look at all the Christmas decorations  and lights.  We’ll go out to eat and get our Christmas shopping done too”.

Warning, Warning

Ding!  Ding!  Ding !

Warning bells should be going off in your head!  These Social Shopping get togethers can be extremely expensive !  If you go all out, you might need to get your hair and nails done before you go.  You might need a new Christmas sweater to wear !  Plus lunch money.  All of this and a day of shopping!  If you haven’t planned ahead for this day it can be a real budget buster.

The tricky part of these situations is that they can be awkward to decline.  There can be a lot of peer pressure to go.  For many people it is a tradition that goes back several generations.  Not going on the Christmas Shopping Trip can cause hurt feelings and social drama.  Do you want hurt feelings or social drama with your friends, coworkers or mother in law?

How to Avoid the Financial Hit

What can you do to salvage your budget and keep the peace ?  You can offer a simple explanation of your budget.  However, people in the throes of a major spending spree really don’t want to hear about it.  ; )   So, make a plan and go!  Here are some suggestions.

1.  Tell everyone that you really want to try a new fragrance.  You can spend some time in the Cosmetics and Fragrance areas with out buying.  Plus, you can score some free samples.  Just don’t hog up the Sales Associates time if you know you aren’t making a purchase.

2.  Buy Specialty Food ingredients.  If you know that you will be doing some holiday baking upgrade your vanilla or spices.  (Best quality vanilla makes a huge difference in the taste of baked goods.  Best quality chocolate does too.)  The idea here is that you will be spending some money on these things anyway.  If you spend an extra $5 or $10 you can try the gourmet version.  Be wary of bottles of wine, olive oil or vinegar.  Those things get heavy!

3. Think of some basic items that don’t cost too much, even in an expensive store.  I love really nice tea towels for my kitchen.  Even crazy cost stores like Neiman Marcus sell tea towels for $25 or less.  You might also try Music CDs, cookie cutters, socks or stationery.

4. Shop for Charity. Participate in Toys for Tots!  Buy toys for children that may not otherwise receive much.  Look around in your area for toy drives, coat drives, book drives etc.  Buy needed items for a local shelter.  This way you can participate in a fun tradition and help others too !  Maybe everyone in your group could shop for a needy child.  Wouldn’t that be a great tradition to start ?

If you go on a Social Shopping trip this Holiday Season, have a plan !  Take enough cash for your meal and coffee plus one or two small purchases.  The only thing left is to enjoy your day!

Why I Will Be Making the Switch to the Dollar Coin (and you should too!)

Hi!  I am out of town for the Financial Blogger Conference this week, but I have some excellent guest posts lined up for you thanks to some amazing readers and bloggers!!! 

Hi! I’m Christine and I’m a married twenty-something with a love for coffee, writing, my dogs, and anything organizing and spreadsheet related. I blog over at My Everyday Life, a lifestyle blog where I blog about a little of everything. ;) I currently hail from the Midwest as my husband’s career in the military has moved us away from our Southern home.

When I first started as a bank teller, I was fascinated with dollar coins. Maybe it’s because hardly anyone uses them. Maybe it’s because it reminded me of the time I spent in Italy, where the one and two Euro coins were used just as much (if not more) than other paper currency. But the more I think about (and read about) the dollar coins, the more I realize that we should really be using them instead of paper dollars!

First Things First

Dollar coins only cost a little bit more to make and last nearly 10x as long. I mean, honestly, with all the budget issues our government is having, you would think they could be a little more frugal with currency production. While it does take about $0.121 to produce the dollar coin as opposed to the $0.052 it takes to produce the dollar bill, coins generally circulate for 25-303 years as opposed to much shorter life span of paper currency. Some report a life span as short as 18-22 months4 while the U.S. Mint says $1 bills last approximately 6 years.5 It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or an accountant) to figure out that in the long run it would be much more cost effective to use dollar coins rather than paper dollars.

But People Really Don’t Like Change

(Ha. See what I did there?)  :-)  I’ve heard so many arguments from people about why we can’t make the switch to the dollar coin. Everything from “It’s weird” to the fact that it will cost businesses tons of money to incorporate the dollar coin into their daily routine.

Honestly, I get deposits from businesses every day who just toss dollar coins in with the rest of the coin in their deposit. The only people I could see a really valid argument from is vending machine manufacturers/owners who would literally have to change the essential parts of their machine to accept dollar coins. Although, older machines that were built to accept the Susan B. Anthony dollar will work with the new dollar coins as well. (I can’t remember where I read this, but it has something to do with the magnetic properties in both coins being the same.)

And as for individuals, a lot of people complain about the extra weight dollar coins will add to their wallet. How many one dollar bills are you really carrying around!?

And Are That Many People Still Using Paper Instead of Plastic Anyway?

I think it depends on your location. From what I’ve heard and observed, more affluent areas deal a lot more in plastic whereas your lower income areas are going to use a lot more cash. That may be completely unfounded, but it’s just a trend I’ve noticed as a teller.

I’ve been trying to use more paper currency as part of a little extra savings plan but before that I hadn’t carried paper currency in years! And besides all of that totally logical stuff, can I just say for the record that a dollar coin is just way more awesome than a paper dollar? Most of the paper dollars I touch make me want to bleach my hands, but dollar coins are generally much less used (read: gross) looking. If you use paper currency anyway, try asking your bank for dollar coins next time and just see how you like it!


The Art of Choosing Between An Experience And A Possession

The following is a guest post from Taynia (rhymes with pain-ya), a debt whip-cracker and financial peacemaker (also CPA – yawn!). 


She blogs at The Fiscal Flamingo, a site dedicated to navigate your journey from big spendah to dynamite saver.   Sign up for her free financial resource, The Light.  You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook

It’s the end of the month and you’ve got some extra dough.  You sweet budgeter, you.

You’ve been waiting for this to happen.  Now that it has, you’re ready to spend.  For the sake of this argument, let’s look past saving and investing your riches.  Although both smart options, sometimes you’ve just gotta spend, in order to save.  Non-stop tightwad frugality leads to grumpiness.

So, where was I?  Ah yes, you’ve got two choices:

One:  Buy Stuff (aka possession)

Two:  Buy An Experience

So let’s chat a little about both….


Oh, the sweet allure of stuff.  Sparkly, magical and make-your-heart-swell stuff.  You lust for it.  You covet it.  You must have it.  You think, “If only I had this, then I would be that.”

And it’s a quick win.  It fulfills the instant gratification that has become the minimum standard.  It’s also the perception, although you may not want to admit it.  People will think more highly of you if you drive a nice car, wear designer clothing, and have a giant house.  They’ll want to be you.   You’ll be a member of the inner circle.

Then, just like Bennifer (and TomKat), the allure fizzles.  Quickly.  The shine loses its brilliance.   Your stuff is shoved aside in favor of a newer gadget.  It’s now worn and torn and off-trend.  And your heart no longer swells when you look at it.  In sum, you’ve lost that loving feeling.  Sigh.


Its not so instant.  You rarely have anything tangible to show for it.  And generally, it takes some work.  For example, you go for a walk in the park.  Yeah, it’s a beautiful day and you’re more relaxed for it, but nobody can see that.  And the vacation – you’ll never save enough money.  Plus you have to plan your airfare, your hotel, and your entertainment.   Time wise, it’s so far away.  And the last vacation, the only memento you have is a sombrero.  Forget it.

Yet, the internal rewards of an experience are priceless.  Whether you have a family and are creating forever memories for your children, or you’re a young single adult, living life to the fullest, traveling the globe soaking up new cultures.   While you may not have a shiny new bauble to show for it, those experiences will stay with you for the rest of your life.  The bank can’t take them from you if you lose your job.  You don’t have to buy an insurance policy because a robber can’t steal them.  And they can’t be replaced by the newest version (which you know will be released the second you make that purchase.)

My Conclusion

So the next time you find yourself drooling over a riding lawn mower at Home Depot, think about the trip you’ve been dying to take to Mexico.  Hint:  pick Mexico.

When you spy that luxurious, to-die-for, gotta-have-it, royal purple cashmere sweater in the window at Nordstrom – keep walking.     Embrace your surroundings, feel the crisp air of fall, look at the changing colors of the leaves.  Stand in awe of nature.  And save that money for [insert an experience you’ve been waiting for here].