Archive for the ‘gifts’ Category

Jane Austen-Inspired Gifts

One of my best friends is getting married this summer and as soon as she got engaged I knew I had to buy her this mug:

The quote on the mug is taken from Pride and Prejudice when Jane Bennett gets engaged to Mr. Bingley. My friend and I share a love for all things Jane Austen, so this will make a lovely gift perhaps paired with a new coffee maker or a cute cream and sugar set.

Here are some other Austen-inspired items for gifts I’ve found via Etsy:

Found here, here, here & here.

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It’s that time of the year again: Wedding Season! I arrived home from my vacation over Christmas to find out two of my friends are engaged. I am honored to be a bridesmaid in one of the weddings and am so excited about the fun festivities in the springtime!

However, as we all know, weddings are expensive–whether you’re the bride, in the wedding party or just attending. Here are some things I will probably need to buy in the next six months:

  • Bridesmaid dress ~$150
  • Shoes, makeup, etc. ~$50
  • Shower gifts ~$100
  • Planning showers ~$50
  • Travel costs ~$100
  • Lodging ~$100
  • Wedding gifts ~$130

Wow $680 is a lot of money! I was overestimating on some things, so perhaps I won’t have to spend that much, but I am sure all the little expenses will be at least $500 or so. The wedding I am in is in June and the other one is in September, so at least they aren’t too close together. At this point, I will figure out how I will pay for these things after February; aka: my debt is paid off and I know my tax refund amount.

While I’m on a role adding up future costs, here are some other pending expenses I’ll need soon:

  • Haircut: ~$70 including tip; it’s been way too long!
  • New phone ~$100; My two-year contract runs out this month and I desperately need a new phone. I’m debating to upgrade to a data package, but still am not sure if I want to pay the extra $10 a month.
  • Plane ticket to Atlanta ~$150; This could be part of the wedding costs, but we are probably going to have a bachlorette weekend in Atlanta this spring.

Is anyone else in a wedding party this year? Have you started planning for the costs?

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This year I was asked to participate in a Holiday Blogging Swap and of course I said YES! Kaileen Elise, Chelsea Bea at Pencil Skirt & Pearls and Carolyn at Hang on Little Tomato organized it, three lovely bloggers you should definitely check out. I had the privilege of getting City Girl Lifestyle to send a gift to and receive from! CGL is a blogger who writes about all things lovely, including beauty, fashion, cooking, and of course city life! She lives nearby so there’s no surprise that my favorite posts are when she mentions Life in DC.

The purpose of the Blogging Swap is to spread holiday love through Warmth, Sparkle, Cheer and Sweets. Here are the delightful things I received from City Girl:

SPARKLE: She knows I’m about to go on a holiday cruise, so she gave me delightful little lotions, soaps, shampoos, etc. for my journey. So thoughtful. :)

SWEETS & CHEER: These sweet sure did cheer me up! As soon as I opened the package, I went straight for those Sea Salt Caramels. Yum yum yum.

WARMTH: I wish that there was some way you could smell this gingerbread coffee and feel how soft this scarf is. Oh my.


Wow, I feel so blessed to have such wonderful gifts and be in touch with so many fantastic girls across the web. A huge thank you to City Girl Lifestyle for the thoughtful and perfect gifts, and also to the organizers Kaileen Elise, Carolyn, and Chelsea Bea! Check back with Kaileen Elise in the next week to see the rest of the gifts among the Holiday Bloggers! :)

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I play the same game every few weeks. I look at my calendar and say to myself, What?! How is it already October TWENTIETH? Where is this month going? What happened to this year?!

I need to stop being surprised and embrace that life is moving fast these days.


As November is fast approaching, I cannot help but get a little nervous. I notoriously try to be “frugal” for the holidays, only to realize New Year’s Day that I failed miserably. For example, I entered 2009 with a $300+ balance on my credit card. Granted, I paid it off in January, but that could have been $300 going towards savings and starting the year off right.

My goal this holiday season is to have a $0 credit card balance and zero regret! I am determined to have a great holiday season, but also to leave it behind me when I enter 2010!

How will I accomplish that? By planning and saving, of course! Here’s some lists of approximate costs for the holidays that will be added to my regular monthly budget in November & December.

Gifts to Buy: $275
-My Family
-My best friend’s birthday – $30
-J’s sister – $15
-J’s parents – $30
-J’s graduation present – $100
-J’s Christmas present – $50
-Unexpected gifts – $50

Perhaps you’re looking at this list thinking I’m A) a Scrooge who needs to give more gifts, or B) friendless. Well, neither is the case. A long time ago my friends and I decided we wouldn’t give gifts during the holidays since December is expensive enough for everyone. Excellent decision. As for my family, we are going on the cruise this year and promised each other we wouldn’t give gifts. I am spending part of the holidays with J and his family so I want to make sure I get them some things. And the unexpected gift is for any silly company or friend “dirty santa/white elephant” gift exchange that may arise. I really don’t like those.

Other Holiday Expenses: $533
-Wrapping paper, cards & supplies: $50
-Gas while traveling: an extra $100 in Nov/Dec
-Eating out/entertainment: an extra $100 in Nov/Dec
-Parties/Food: an extra $50
-Cruise balance: $233 left to pay

There’s always more expenses than just gifts. You know the like: you’re invited to a cookie exchange and spend $20 at the grocery store for ingredients. Your company has a holiday party and that frumpy red sweater doesn’t meet the dress code. You travel to visit family and forget to factor the $5 toll road fee.


    Sure some of this will be out of my monthly budget and sure some of it were overestimated amounts… but still, $800 is a lot to pay for the holidays!

    My broad goals:

    • Have $0 on my credit card on New Year’s.
    • Buy all of my gifts and have them wrapped by December 1st.
    • Pay off cruise balance of $233 by Thanksgiving.

    More specific goals and how I plan to pay for the holidays to come…!!!

    Have you thought about what the Holidays will cost you?

    {photo: via etsy}

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    Country Music & Money

    I love me some country music in the summer. There’s just something about rolling down your windows, getting that car into fifth gear, and blasting Brad Paisley’s “Mud on the Tires” as you watch the sun set on the horizon at 8:45 pm. Since we are in the heart of summer, I’ve already listened to my fair share of country tunes already. It’s funny to me how so many of the songs’ lyrics revolve around money–or rather the unimportance of money.

    Seriously, listen to read some of the lyrics:
    “And there are fancy cars and diamond rings, but you know that they don’t mean a thing. They all add up to nothin’ compared to you.” –-Baby Girl, Sugarland

    “I got no money in my pockets, I got a hole in my jeans. I had a job and I lost it, but it won’t get to me ’cause I’m riding with my baby and it’s a brand new day. We’re on the wheels of an angel flyin’ away.” —Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me, Keith Urban

    “My hotel in Manhattan holds more people than our town, and what I just paid for dinner, would be a down payment on a house. I’d rather be tipping cows in Tulsa, than hailing cabs here in New York, but I ain’t in Checotah anymore.” —I Aint in Checota Anymore, Carrie Underwood

    “It’s funny how it’s the simple things in life that mean the most. Not where you live or what you drive or the price tag on your clothes.There’s no dollar sign on a peace of mind this I’ve come to know. So if you agree have a drink with me, raise your glasses for a toast. To a little bit of chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday night, a pair of jeans that fit just right, and the radio up.” —Chicken Fried, Zac Brown Band

    I was looking at my almost-empty budget the other day and wondering where exactly I spent all my money this month. I noticed that I was waaaaay over budget on gifts.

    I’ve heard it said that you can tell a person’s values by looking at their receipts. Well, the $100 I spent on wedding gifts for college friends were totally worth it. And I wouldn’t go back and trade the $80 I spent on J’s birthday for anything. The same goes for the $25 on a Father’s Day gift. As well as the $20 on DVDs for my mom to watch as she’s going through chemo. And the $30 international shipping fee to send a gift abroad. And the little costs accrued by helping A move out. All of those purchases were worth going overbudget for because they are investments in relationships. And you just can’t put a price tag on that.

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    Unexpected Expenses

    It’s June 10th and already I’m seeing my budget suffer just a tad. Nothing too dramatic, but it’s all because of some expenses I wasn’t prepared for. And these are actually pretty rare for me. I usually anticipate what types of things will come up (birthdays, weekend trips, big dinners) and I create my budget vague enough to allow for some flexibility in those areas.

    But the unexpected expenses I’m talking include:

    • My boss had a birthday and we all had to pitch in $10 for flowers and a gift.
    • My friend’s mom sent me a blank fabric square that I need to make into a quilt patch for a wedding gift. This cost me $15 in supplies and mailing.
    • My coworker was leaving after ten years and we had to pitch in $5 for a gift.
    • I am going to a lake house this weekend with some friends and was asked to contribute $8 to a gift for the family that’s letting us stay there.

    All these things I cheerfully agreed to pay for and certainly doesn’t break the bank, but when I originally set a $100 gift budget for J’s birthday and two weddings this month (already over), this accumulated $38 really does affect the rest of the month. If I am trying to live within my means, then I’ll just have to cut back in other areas. Perhaps I should start a gift-buffer savings fund.

    How is your budget going so far this month?

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    tableI feel like I need a weekend to recover from this past weekend. What a crazy few days I just had! I hung out with so many old, wonderful friends and had such a lovely time at both of the bridal showers. We even had perfect 70-degree spring weather and all of the trees in full bloom.

    The one I hosted in Charlotte was a little stressful at the beginning because the restaurant was not prepared for us (even though we booked the room in January and called three times in the past week). However, to make up for its tardiness, they provided mimosas on the house for the guests at the bar while my frazzled sister and I set up the table. Everyone just thought the pre-shower beverage was all apart of it, so it turned out pretty awesome in the end.

    Weekend Budget: I was over budget by $11, which I am fine with.

    Projected: $15 | Actual: $7
    Yay! I was under-budget. We stopped by Panera on our way Friday night.

    Projected: $100 | Actual: $116
    This included $21 for party favors, $10 for flowers for the table, and $85 for the meal, all split with my older sister.

    Projected: $60 | Actual: $63
    Not bad, considering I drove a total of 16 hours this past weekend. 2665_609703587258_29708868_36212022_6347362_s1

    I also got to meet my newest little sister: Biscuit! As soon as my mom found out she has breast cancer, she decided she needed a little furry friend to keep her company while she goes through chemo. She’s four years old and just the sweetest little thing ever. I’m going home again this weekend for Easter and cannot wait to spend more time with her.

    Driving home last night I had that Sunday night sadness that you get after a wonderful weekend. After you’ve been planning and looking forward to something for months, it just goes by so quickly once it arrives. But I’m pretty confident there will be more fun, exciting and just as exhausting weekends ahead.

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    Usually I budget about $80-100 per month towards gifts. This includes old fashion birthday presents, paying for a friend’s meal, buying cards, stamps or mailing fees, wrapping paper, and even bridesmaids dresses.

    This next month will be especially pricey since I have three bridal showers to go to including one that I am co-hosting at a restaurant. Why we thought hosting it at a restaurant was a good idea is beyond me! So I thought I’d get a head-start on buying those gifts. I like to accompany bridal gifts with cookbooks since they can easily be purchased used.


    I won't say which cake, but my grandmother's recipe is featured in here!

    Gift #1:

    • A cake stand from Bed Bath & Beyond – $33
    • Southern Cakes cookbook – $15
    • Wedding card – $4

    Gift #2:

    • A mini muffin pan from Crate & Barrel – $15
    • A Cupcake Cookbook – $9
    • A clear gallon jar that I will fill with colorful cupcake and muffin paper – $16
    • Wedding card – $4

      Total = $93… and I still have a third gift to get. Rats!

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