December 11th, 2017

10 Perks of Working at Home

Perks of working at home

Being home with your kids isn’t the only good thing about working at home. It’s certainly a benefit when you’re a parent… provided you can actually work with the kids around, which is not always easy or smart. But there are a lot of other perks of working at home that you may not have considered as much.

1. No Commute

Losing the drive to work is wonderful. There are some work at home jobs out there where you may have to drive to the office sometimes or to see a client, but for the most part, you don’t have to drive anywhere to get to work. Potentially, that’s a huge time savings.

You’ll also use less gas. This is a personal favorite, especially whenever gas prices start climbing. So long as you don’t take the excuses to drive all around town, working at home uses a lot less gas for most people… unless you have to meet with clients a lot away from your home.

2. More Time

Cutting that commute means you have more time. The average U.S. travel time to work is 24.5 minutes. I assume the drive home is similar. That’s close to an hour a day of driving. Working at home gives you that time back, to use as you wish.

For what depends on you. You might work more, or you might have more family time. Some use it to volunteer at their children’s schools or elsewhere. It could be more time for a hobby or to improve your skills by taking a class.

3. Your Day Can Be More Productive

Most people are more productive when they work at home, distractions or no. Meetings can be held with online tools such as Slack, which also makes it easy to share documents.

If you need to chat with a coworker about something, you can. The online tools for this have really improved in recent years. Companies that have a lot of remote employees are pretty good at handling communication between employees now, which is a huge boost for productivity.

4. Your Home Office, Your Style

This is one of my favorite perks of working at home. You can set up your home office to suit you. You want a standing desk, it’s up to you to make that happen. Office plants and other decor are up to you. Your home office can be a guest room, as mine is.

Odds are that you won’t want to spend a lot on your home office, at least not at first. But you will have the freedom to pick out the desk and chair that fit your needs and budget, and upgrade when the time comes.

Not everything will be up to you in some work at home jobs, of course. You can’t work at the coffee shop if you’re required to have a wired internet connection or a silent work area. You probably won’t even be able to work outside your regular workspace. But you will be able to set that space up to suit you, rather than by a set of corporate rules.

Some companies will give you a stipend to set up your home office. This may be mostly for the technology you need to do your job right – a good computer and monitor, for example. Some will provide enough that you can also get a good desk and chair. Others will expect you to provide your own equipment.

You have full control of the thermostat when you work at home. Get that programmable thermostat or a smart thermostat to make it easy to keep your home at the right temperature while you work. My husband’s biggest complaint about his job is that he is exactly under the blower at work. Even on the hottest days of the summer, he brings a jacket to work because it gets so cold at his desk. I don’t have to worry about that at home because I have full control over the temperature of the house.

You aren’t even restricted to working in your home office with many work at home jobs. If you want to head outside because it’s a beautiful day, you might just be able to do that. There are lots of places you can work at home if you aren’t required to have a quiet or wired setup.

Home Office

5. A More Flexible Work Day

Most work at home jobs give you more flexibility to get things done. That makes it easier to run quick errands or get the kids from school if you need to. That’s especially handy if one of the kids gets sick at school. With a regular outside the home job, you’d be done for the day. With a work at home job, you can get the kid and then decide if you can keep working.

Some require a schedule and strict adherence, but even then you can usually pick a schedule that suits you. If you work best in the early morning, you set up your schedule so that you start in the early morning. If you’re a night owl, many jobs will let you do much of your work then. So long as you can sign in for online meetings, you’re probably fine.

Better yet, you can have a lot more fun on your breaks during the workday. You don’t have to worry about disturbing your coworkers if you want to crank up the music during a break. You might embarrass any kids who are at home if you sing along, but you won’t bother your coworkers.

You’ll even have more time to work out if you want. You can get to the gym in the middle of the day when it’s relatively quiet, rather than fighting the crowds. Some people find that getting a workout in also helps them come up with ideas. Taking that break can greatly improve your productivity.

6. No Distracting Coworkers

You won’t have any coworkers stopping by your desk to chat when you work at home. You can set your status in your work chat group to “do not disturb” when you really need to focus. It’s much easier to control when you socialize with coworkers.

On the other hand, there are other distractions, just waiting for you to give in. And they’re always there. If you don’t learn how to ignore the television and the housework you may have difficulty being sufficiently productive at home.

You will need to teach friends and family that they aren’t allowed to distract you. A spouse or child swinging by your home office to chat can be even more disruptive than a coworker if they don’t take the hint to let you work.

Don’t even get me started on my cats. Given a chance, they’re wonderful distractions. But they also make me feel good, so I’m pretty sure that balances out.

7. No Sharing Germs With Coworkers – One Of The Best Perks Of Working At Home

This is one of my favorite perks of working at home during cold and flu season. I can almost guarantee that I’m not the one bringing the latest virus home. I might get sick due to my husband or kids bringing something home, but that’s it.

You can even decide to work when you’re only mildly ill without having to take your coworkers into consideration. It’s so nice when you can save your sick days for the days you really need them without feeling as though you’re spreading illness to your coworkers.

The ability to work at your own speed when you’re not feeling 100% well is a huge help. It’s easier to take an extra break in many remote jobs. If your schedule isn’t flexible you may still be stuck, but for many jobs, you can take it a little easy when you’re sick.

Just try not to think about how much worse that sick kid at home with you can be. They’re usually far worse than a contagious coworker. On the other hand, you’d have to deal with that sick kid even if you worked outside the home. You might even have to take a day off work to deal with them, while a work at home mom or dad might still be able to work.

8. Eating Healthy Is Easier

This one is all up to you, but it can be much easier to eat healthy when you work at home. There’s less excuse to grab lunch out, and what’s in the fridge is under your control.

One of the best ways to take advantage of this perk of working at home is to prepare things in advance. Don’t have a lot of chips, soda or candy in the house – it’s too easy to snack on them if they’re in the house. Instead, prepare healthier snacks for yourself. Chop up any vegetables you like for a super fast and easy snack. I’ve also developed a taste for frozen yogurt bark, which is very easy to make.

Have healthy lunch fixings available too. I pack up leftovers from dinner and put them in the fridge or freezer for easy lunches. They’re a good alternative to sandwiches. If you freeze them you don’t get so bored from always having leftovers from the night before as your lunch.

Keep a good supply of coffee around if that’s your habit so that you don’t get the urge to run out to a local coffee shop. Not only will that mess with your productivity, it adds up fast.

9. Wear What You Want

Many people love the ability to dress as they please when they work at home. It’s one of the most popular perks of working at home. Some prefer to dress just as they would if they were going to the office. They say it gets them into the right frame of mind to work. Others do just fine dressing casually or yes, working in their pajamas. You choose the clothing that makes being productive easier for you, rather than having to abide by the company dress code.

Of course, if you’re meeting someone face to face or by webcam, dress appropriately. What this means depends on your job, but rarely includes pajamas.

10. Environmentally Friendly.

Working at home can be very environmentally friendly. Sure, you’ll use more electricity around your house, but you also use less gas, which tilts the environmental considerations in your favor when you work at home.

Your home office can be as efficient as you care to make it. You can use LED lights. You can have plants in your office if you want. If you have space in your budget, you can even consider solar panels for your home.

Having people work at home also means companies can use smaller buildings. Odds are that you aren’t buying a bigger home just so that you can work from there. An employer, on the other hand, has to provide space to all employees who come to the office.

Some will debate the environmental impact of working at home – you still need all the equipment, and heating or cooling individual homes is less efficient than heating an office building. Overall, most say the environmental impact of working at home is less than that of commuting to an office.

Are There More Perks Of Working At Home?

What are your favorite perks of working at home? Have I missed anything great?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

December 6th, 2017

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Ideas

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Ideas

My kids really enjoy when we use the Elf on the Shelf. My older two don’t much care what the elves do, aside from laughing when we do something particularly funny, or snagging their share of candy when candy is involved. As we’re a bunch of science fiction geeks around here, so I’m often working on geeky Elf on the Shelf ideas. That way it’s more fun for me.

We have two elves. The first is Peppermint, the second is Cocoa. Cocoa started last year as an elf in training when we couldn’t find Peppermint for a while. This year, Cocoa is still around, helping Peppermint while waiting for a permanent position. I made Peppermint poseable, but Cocoa isn’t

The challenge is deciding which fandom to use. There are so many choices.

I started out simple this year. The elves have been messing with my dragon, Norberta. Peppermint started things out by stealing Norberta’s eggs (the eggs were made in the thumbtack, Game of Thrones style) and putting them in the fridge with the regular eggs. Peppermint hid the next night in the cat carrier because Norberta was after her. She has since tried to use Minecraft TNT to blow Norberta up. The feud continues.

Elf on the Shelf dragon egg

Elf on the Shelf hiding from dragon

Minecraft stuff is easy to make. The TNT is paper. The emerald egg Peppermint is holding was made for a Minecraft themed birthday party some years ago and is made of Perler beads. Perler beads are great for making Minecraft stuff if you can spare the time.

Elf on the Shelf Minecraft TNT

There are so many fandoms to work with, and you may have some of the things you need for geeky Elf on the Shelf poses on hand.

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Basics

Take a look around your house to see what you have to make this easy. Funko Pop vinyl figures make it easy to have characters from just about any fandom. Disney Infinity characters are very useful, as are Lego Dimensions and Lego building sets your kids have made.

Dolls, action figures, and anything else you and your kids have for shows you love help as well. Plan things out so that you can easily reach what you need while the kids are sleeping.

I scout things out while the kids are at school. Usually, even my older kids don’t know what I plan for the next day. This is more fun for those ideas that they actually like.

I do not focus on the idea that the elf is spying for Santa. I’m honestly not fond of that part, so we ignore it. My kids have heard that one from friends, not from me. Our Elf is more fun and has been known to do thing such as replace the ice in the ice maker with candy. That was a really fun one. A lot of work, but worth it.

Elf On The Shelf With Harry Potter

My oldest loves Harry Potter stuff, so we have done quite a bit with that fandom. This one with Harry Potter and Peppermint going up against Voldemort was an easy setup. The elf’s wand is a bamboo skewer cut down to size.

Elf vs Voldemort

The most fun Peppermint has had, however, has been chasing Niffler around. I got my oldest well with that one. Peppermint chased Niffler all around the house for days as Niffler stole shiny things. My daughter was quick to ask to have the Niffler figure when we were done with it. It was a stocking stuffer for her.

Elf vs Niffler

This year I might have Niffler bring in some candy in shiny wrappers. Not chocolate coins – the chocolate in those is usually awful. Some Ghirardelli squares might work. Not that Niffler will make them easy to reach.

Many other people have done a lot with Harry Potter and the Elf on the Shelf. Rather than recreate them, take a look at these links.

A Little Moore has a sorting hat printable.

This Harry Potter meets Elf on the Shelf idea on Pinterest is cute.

Elf On The Shelf Vs. Disney Infinity Characters

As I said above, the Disney Infinity characters give so much range to set up your Elf on the Shelf. Disney owns so many popular franchises that kids adore. We have rather a lot of characters in our Infinity set because my sister handed down a bunch when she got tired of having duplicates.

That means we can do the simple “horde of characters attacking the elf” scene very easily.

elf vs disney infinity

With the various Star Wars characters, I decided Peppermint needed her own lightsaber. This was easy to make.

I used a bamboo skewer and some nail polish. I have a nice, bright green nail polish, so that was the best choice for Peppermint’s lightsaber. The handle was painted with my black polish.

Paint an appropriate length of the skewer for the lightsaber. It will take a couple coats. I stuck the unpainted end into the edge of a cardboard box so the polish could dry. Once it was completely dry, I cut off the excess and painted the ends with the nail polish. To let those dry, I set up some other skewers and laid it across them so the ends wouldn’t touch anything as they dried.

elf lightsaber

Now Peppermint can join the Jedi in battle. Or will she betray them? Who knows.

elf vs jedi

Stitch is another fun character for an Elf on the Shelf to play with. Who else gives the elf so good an excuse to get a little messy or get into the food?

elf Stitch eating fruit

Especially the candy.

elf Stitch and candy

There’s always the good old snowball fight with Elsa and Anna. I used cotton balls because one of my cats would eat the marshmallows if I used those for a snowball fight. My kids like to use cotton balls for summer snowball fights anyhow. It’s kind of a thing around here.

elf vs Elsa

Peppermint also had a nice chat with the feelings from Inside Out. If I had some Orbeeze or other small, colored balls there’s more that could be done there, but without that, they just relaxed together.

elf and inside out

Given the range of Disney Infinity characters that we have, I could probably do the entire season using nothing but them. That would get dull, though, wouldn’t it?

The Elf And The Doctor

We have some Doctor Who fans around here, so naturally Peppermint has to play along. In fact, the Doctor should be careful, because the elf has the Tardis. Okay, it’s just a Lego Tardis, but there still might be a problem.

the elf has the tardis

Peppermint and the Doctor can have a lovely chat, aside from what’s behind them… what was I talking about?

elf doctor silence

I don’t know what Peppermint is doing to my router with the sonic screwdriver, but I hope it speeds up.

elf router

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Ideas With Other Fandoms

Around here, you can’t forget the other animated shows, anime or manga. My kids especially enjoy movies by Studio Ghibli. So naturally, soot sprites make an appearance.

elf soot sprites

They’ll have to hide shoes some other time.

Soot sprites are very easy to make. Black puff balls and googly eyes make very simple ones. You can use black pipe cleaners if you want to give them legs, but I’m too lazy for that. I used a hot glue gun to attach the eyes, but you can use whichever glue works for you. I like how fast it dries and how well it holds.

Peppermint seems to enjoy manga. It’s easy to set an elf up with whichever book your kids like. I’m not sure if I should be concerned that Peppermint is reading Death Note, however.

elf death note

I couldn’t resist bringing Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls into the game. My oldest still loves that character from the show – she dressed up as him for Halloween. So, I had Bill give the elf some advice.

Bill Cipher and elf

Finally, I have to mention the cute, printable Elf on the Shelf superhero costumes over at Simple Made Pretty. They’re an easy way to dress up your elf as the superheroes your kids like.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

December 4th, 2017

Beware The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

Beware The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

I’m seeing the secret sister gift exchange all over Facebook right now. I have a few friends who are participating, and it just makes me wince. Simply put, the secret sister gift exchange is a pyramid scheme, and illegal.

A lot of people don’t understand that. $10 seems like such a small risk, and it is. But the odds of receiving the promised 6 or 36 gifts is poor, especially since it depends not only on how well you recruit people into it, but how well your recruits bring people into the deal as well.

How Is The Secret Sister Gift Exchange Supposed To Work?

The basic premise is so simple. You send your gift to the person whose name appears at the top of the list you receive. When you send the list to your recruits, you remove the person you sent a gift to, and put the second person’s name at the top. Your name becomes the second name on the list.

There is often a push to do this quickly, so that everyone gets their gifts. Your six people send to the top of the list, and their people, now totalling 36 people, send gifts to you. It sounds wonderful.

Legally, however, this falls under the same laws as chain letters and lotteries. It’s not something you want to mess with. Not many people will get in legal trouble for doing the secret sister gift exchange, but why try your luck? It’s a federal crime, according to the Post Office. It also may be a crime by the laws in your state.

Do The Math

If you do the math on the secret sister gift exchange, you can quickly see why it will quickly run out, even if everyone finds enough people and everyone sends their gifts. Both of those are pretty iffy themselves.

Six people each finding six people means they need 36 people. Those 36 people need a total of 216 people, who need 1296 people. Keep this going for five more levels, and you need 10,077,696 people. That’s a difficult number, but not completely impossible. Highly unlikely, of course.

It only takes 13 levels to get beyond the entire population of the planet. Even assuming some people participate more than once, it’s not going to happen.

This means it won’t take long at all for people to have trouble finding someone to send gifts. Many people who try to join in won’t get anything in return. Most will simply fail to get a full six people sending gifts, and their people in return will have trouble finding enough people.

You might get a few gifts, but usually that’s it. Between the number of people needed for everyone to get their gifts and the difficulty in recruiting people, it’s just not going to go that well.

There are also gift exchanges where the focus is on wine. It has the same problem as this one. Just don’t join in. The wine version also presents challenges in shipping it legally.

Talking Friends Out Of The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

It can be hard to call this out as a scam. I’ve seen people call friends names for trying to explain why the secret sister gift exchange doesn’t work or is illegal.

I would imagine that most people have trouble admitting the problems with the gift exchange because they’re already invested in it. They’ve promised to send a gift to someone else, or have even sent it already.

It’s worth a try, even if the friend who posts the gift exchange won’t listen. Someone else might.

Be polite when you try to discourage friends from this. No one will respond well if they feel foolish. You should also remember that the people participating don’t mean to scam or cheat anyone. They’re trying to do something fun. No one in this means any harm by it.

That doesn’t change the legal issues. Or the fact that eventually there are people who won’t get anything in return.

Then there’s the risk in putting your personal information out there for random people. You may know all the people you recruit into the gift exchange, but it’s the people they recruit who will be sending you gifts, and they’ll get your name and address too. Are you comfortable with that?

Alternatives To The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

It may be better to suggest setting up a basic secret Santa gift exchange, where everyone in a group draws a name and buys for one other person. No grand promises of dozens of gifts. Just a simple gift exchange among friends. It’s much simpler and legal when you avoid the chain letter aspects of the secret sister gift exchange. Best of all, you know that everyone gets a gift.

If you want something to feel good about, donate to a local cause. There are lots of wonderful causes out there, and even a $10 donation will be welcome. You won’t get a gift back, but you will have done something good.

As illegal actions go, this is a minor one, and I doubt many people ever get prosecuted for it. But why take the chance when a simpler gift exchange works just fine?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

November 29th, 2017

Medical Transcription Companies That Offer Remote Jobs

Medical Transcription Companies That Offer Remote Jobs

Once you have medical transcription training, you need a job. If you’re reading this, odds are that you want a remote job, something you can do from home. While medical transcription jobs aren’t as common as they used to be, they are still out there. You simply have to find the medical transcription companies that offer remote jobs.

The school you attended, if you’re a recent graduate, may help you find a job. If it has been a while or you’re now an experienced transcriptionist looking for a different position, you have to do more of your own searching.

I’ve found a number of companies that hire medical transcriptionist for remote jobs. Many require experience, but others consider training through an AHDI certified program such as the one through Career Step to be acceptable.

You can generally assume that all of these jobs will require a high speed internet connection and a reasonably recent computer. Many will require a Windows operating system. Some employers will provide you with your foot pedal, headset and other gear. Others may expect you to provide your own.

I do not know which of these companies are hiring right now or if they will be hiring soon. Check back regularly with any companies that interest you if they aren’t hiring when you look. I think medical transcription is harder to get into than when I did it, but still possible.

The Big Medical Transcription Companies

These are the two biggest medical transcription companies out there, so far as I know. There are a lot of smaller companies, which I will list next. Many smaller companies have been merged with or bought out by these two companies.

M*Modal

Back when I was a medical transcriptionist, I worked for a company called Medquist. They merged with M*Modal several years ago, but I didn’t work there at the time. I can’t speak as to how things have changed since I left, years before the merge, but Medquist was a decent employer for a new medical transcriptionist.

They still hire people who are new to medical transcription but have successfully completed acceptable training. Otherwise, you must have at least one year of experience as a medical transcriptionist.

They pay per 65 character line, and payday is every other Friday.

When I worked for Medquist, they were very good at accommodating my schedule. They did, however, expect me to stick to the agreed upon schedule. This is still true of them. They cannot guarantee that they can accommodate all scheduling requests, but they try.

Nuance Transcription Services

Nuance is one of the big companies out there. You may be familiar with their speech recognition program, Dragon. Even with that tool, they hire medical transcriptionists to check the dictations doctors send in, to ensure that they are transcribed and formatted completely accurately.

You must have experience or acceptable training. How much experience may depend upon the position you apply for. Benefits may be available for full time employees. Schedules are flexible.

Other Medical Transcription Companies

Eight Crossings

Applicants for jobs with Eight Crossings must have at least two years of multi specialty experience. If you have graduated from an approved medical transcription training program, you may be considered as well.

You must be able to process 1000 lines per day that you’re scheduled. Your schedule is flexible.

InfraWare

InfraWare provides a dictation plaform for medical professionals. They also offer transcription services bundled with their technology. Transcriptionists who want to work with InfraWare clients must have at least two years of experience in medical transcription. Some positions require at least five years of experience.

Med-Scribe

Med-Scribe has been around since 1992. Positions are often part time and may be second shift.

Three years of medical transcription experience is required. Report types typically include History and Physicals, Operative Notes, Consults, Discharge & Summaries as well as Diagnostics. They prefer that you have ChartNet experience, but it is not required.

Preferred Transcriptions

Applicants for medical transcription positions must have at least two years of experience. You must have your own equipment, including antivirus software. A minimum of 20 hours a week is required.

SoftScript

Must have appropriate training and at least three years medical transcription experience. CMT preferred. Transcription to include acute care, clinic, radiology and/or pathology.

Also hires editors and QA for medical dictation.

SpectraMedi

Full and part time medical transcriptionist positions may be available and experience is required. Prefers transcriptionists with either a certificate or certification.

SpectraMedi also hired QA editors and medical billers. Once again, experience is required.

StenTel

StenTel is another company that has doctors use voice recognition software for their transcriptions, and then uses medical transcriptionists to ensure that it’s accurate.

Medical transcription opportunities with StenTel are generally for independent contractors, not employees. Their application asks about the software you’re familiar with as well as the rates you expect. If you don’t have experience, I wouldn’t assume that you can get top rates for your work. They also want to know if you have a foot pedal, as well as basic facts about your computer.

Ubiqus

Ubiqus hires only U.S. based, English speaking transcriptionists. They strongly prefer at least 1-5 years of transcription experience or professional medical transcription training.

Deadlines can be very strict. Pay is every two weeks. Transcriptionist positions are for independent contractors – you will not be considered an employee. Positions are part time and they can work with your schedule.

United Transcription

United Transcription hires U.S. based medical transcriptionists for straight transcription. You must have at least three years of experience and excellent quality scores. This is NOT open to entry level candidates.

This position is best for those who are familiar with ESL dictation.

There are, of course, many other medical transcription companies out there. Some require you to work in the office, but others will offer remote jobs. Take a look around, and see what you can find if none of these work out.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

November 27th, 2017

Get Your Christmas Budget Under Control Now

Get Your Christmas Budget Under Control Now

How well do you keep your Christmas budget under control? It’s often difficult, right? What you want, what the kids want, what you want to give them… it all adds up to something well above what you can actually afford to spend. Most families find it very difficult to keep the Christmas budget under control.

Decide Who You’re Shopping For

If money is tight, you may need to cut back on who you buy gifts for at Christmas. There are a number of ways to do this.

My sisters and I, for example, are assigned family members to shop for. I maintain a list of all relevant family members, and then assign names. This way no one has to shop for the whole family. It means you can spend less overall and yet get a better present from the family.

This also cuts down on low quality gifts. There’s only so much you can give someone if you can only afford to spend $5-10 on them because you have so many people to shop for. Draw names, and each person only has to buy for one, and the gift can be better.

You can also consider cutting the adults out of the list. Usually this is done by mutual agreement. Seriously, how badly do most adults need a Christmas gift? Talk it out and decide if it’s something you still want to do.

You should also look at your extended family, friends and coworkers. How many people can you reasonably afford to shop for? If times are tight or you’re just tired of shopping for so many people, tell them you don’t want to exchange gifts with them this year. Most will understand. Some will be grateful to have fewer people to shop for as well.

What Is Your Christmas Budget?

The first thing you need to decide is how much you can put into your Christmas budget. This is the amount of money you don’t want to go over when you’re done shopping for everyone.

If this is too hard to figure out, start with how much you want to spend on each person. Most families will spend more on kids than adults, since adults can buy stuff for themselves more easily than kids can.

Make sure you include everyone you need to shop for. Depending on your traditions, this may include kids, parents, spouse, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, coworkers, secret Santa exchanges and so forth.

Set an amount for each. Add it up, and you have a Christmas budget. I suggest using a spreadsheet to keep track of your spending on each person. This will make it easier to track.

If this number is more than you’re willing to spend overall, you need to trim that budget. There are a couple ways to do this. Review how much you’re spending per person and how many people you’re shopping for. Get that budget under control.

How Strict Is Your Christmas Budget?

Depending on your financial situation, your Christmas budget may be strict or have some leeway. A little leeway is always fun – it’s so easy to find things that go beyond your budget, especially for kids.

Obviously, you aren’t going to keep to your per person budget to the penny or even the dollar. Things rarely work out that way. So long as things balance out reasonably at the end, you should be fine.

Watch For Sales

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great days for buying Christmas gifts, but they aren’t the only sales of the season, and sometimes they aren’t the best sales of the season.

It’s always a risk, of course, to see if the sale price gets any better on something you want. It may sell out or you may have missed the best price.

The wonderful part about online shopping is how easy it make price comparisons. You can have several websites open to see how much things cost at each.

Compare store prices with online prices while you’re in the store. Some stores will match online prices with select websites. They probably won’t match anyone other than the big sites such as Amazon.com, but it’s worth knowing. I found a list of stores that should price match online prices you should be aware of.

I also love taking advantage of what my local dollar store offers. They get a ton of toys in at this time of year. They don’t all cost a dollar anymore, but that’s so they can get better toys, the same stuff you’d see elsewhere. Usually it’s a great deal, half or less what you’d pay for the same toy elsewhere.

If you see a good toy at a dollar store, get it quick. Most won’t stay in stock for long. Keep your receipt and you can return it if you find a better price elsewhere.

Try to avoid impulse shopping when buying Christmas gifts. Buy because it’s a good gift at a good price, not just because it’s there. If it’s something you want for you, consider whether it could be put on your wish list for someone else to buy as a gift for you.

Be Aware Of Shipping Costs

Make sure you consider shipping when you compare prices. Free shipping can make the difference in your total cost. Many sites offer free shipping if you spend enough. Pay attention to what it takes so that you can get free shipping as often as possible.

This is a great time of year to get the free trial of Amazon Prime if you don’t already have it. If you don’t want to pay for Amazon Prime, be sure to cancel it in time. Many people find it worth the expense because you get so much more than free shipping. Music, video, Prime member only deals… there’s a lot to be said for it as a service beyond the convenience of fast and free shipping.

Amazon limits how often you can get a free trial of Prime. If you’ve done it before, you may not qualify again. But if Amazon is offering you the free trial on your account, you should be good to go on that score.

If you don’t want to sign up for Prime, just remember that many products on Amazon ship free if you spend enough money. This amount changes from time to time, but it’s not hard to reach. It’s nowhere near as fast as Prime, but it’s good enough if you shop early enough. As some products on Amazon are sold and shipped by third parties, not everything qualifies for this or for Prime shipping.

Consider Handmedowns

On occasion, a handmedown can be an appropriate Christmas gift for someone. This is especially true with kids. One year my younger sister gave one of my daughters a bunch of Barbie stuff for Christmas. It had belonged to her daughters, but they no longer wanted the dolls or dollhouses.

My daughter, on the other hand, was ecstatic to get so much Barbie stuff. That it was used didn’t matter at all.

Handmedown gifts can be very generous in comparison to things you had to spend money on. There’s no way my sister would have spent what the dolls and dollhouse cost on my daughter if she had had to buy them. Passing them down, on the other hand, worked quite well.

This doesn’t have to be limited to kids, although they’re usually the easiest. If there’s something of yours that you don’t want and you know someone else would be happy to have, it might work out as a Christmas present.

I suggest discussing handmedowns before giving them as gifts if you think it might bother someone. Done right, they can be every bit as considerate as something you went and spent money on.

Homemade Gifts

Another way to possibly save some money is to give homemade gifts. What you make depends on your skills, but a nice homemade gift can be very thoughtful.

My go-to homemade gift is chocolate truffles. My pomegranate truffles are very popular within my family – they’re usually my contribution to the food part of the celebration. My recipe makes about 70 or so truffles, depending on the mold I use (easier than rolling them!). I make a few types of chocolates so I can mix it up and there’s something for all tastes.

Cookies are also pretty easy to make as a small gift.

If you can knit, scarves are a simple gift, and you don’t have to worry about what size the recipient wears. If you don’t knit, a no-sew fleece scarf is very easy to make.

Make It Fun

Whatever else happens with your Christmas budget, make the holidays fun. Get together with family and friends. Talk. Play games. Get outside if the weather in your area allows. Many of the things that are most memorable about your holiday celebrations aren’t the things that cost money. It’s the time you spend together that really matters most.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.