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02Dec

Before You Shop Online

online shopping

The shopping season is upon us! We celebrate a simple Christmas, but there are still some gifts to buy. Over the last few years, I have begun to do more and more of my shopping online. I love strolling through stores and seeing things in person, but have discovered recently that there are many benefits to online shopping:

  • It saves time (not to mention gas for your car!)–no need to drive all over creation, just turn on your computer!
  • Save money–with online shopping, it’s easier than ever to compare prices and get the best deals.
  • Cash Back–there are many programs you can use to get cash back when you’re shopping online.
  • More Selection–The internet offers options previously only dreamed about! That awesome regional store on the other side of the country? You can now shop there in your jammies.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am a local shopper as much as possible. However, sometimes it’s just not practical, or even possible. We live in a tiny town. The only store here is a Dollar General. The nearest Walmart is about an hour away! Sometimes we really need to shop online, and I’m so glad that option is available to us.

However, before you shop online, here are some tips to be sure you’re getting the best value.

Shop Through a Rebate/Rewards Site

There are several of these out there, and they make it very easy to earn money on your purchases. Some of them also offer rewards on other tasks too, such as surveys, searching, and more.

Don’t make a purchase online without checking a rebate site first, you might be throwing money away! Here are a few that I have used:

Swagbucks–earn points that you can redeem for gift cards, Visa cards, paypal cash, and more. You can earn rebates from purchases at many popular online retailers. You can also earn points just for searching! Once you download their search bar, you can easily search (without going to their site first), and earn points. I have earned nearly $15 in gift cards just from searching alone–without spending a dime! Earn even more when you shop through them. For example, I just purchased some boots for my husband on sale from Cabela’s–$79.99, and I got 10 points per dollar spent, so I will get back an equivalent of $7.99, just for shopping through swagbucks.

Ebates–I have received cashback from Ebates on everything from vacations, hotel stays, flights, etc. I have earned shopping through walmart, ebay, and other popular online retailers. They make it super easy to get paid–they mail you a check or deposit into your paypal account. Get $10 free just for signing up! And, they are offering a special right now and you can earn $100 just for referring 3 friends! Easy peasy!

Comparison Shop

This goes without saying, but the online world makes it ridiculously easy to compare prices and get the best deal. About 6 years ago, I bought my husband a flat-screen TV as a gift. I ended up saving over $200 by comparison shopping, and we’re still using that same TV. I usually search the reward and rebate sites above first, and then compare prices from there.

I usually also check a few places without rebates, just to be sure I couldn’t get a better deal somewhere else (after taking into account the amount of the rebate I would get). Sometimes, I have found a better deal on a site that isn’t included on a rebate site. Others, the rebates get the best deal.

Yes, it takes a few moments of time, but it’s well worth it for the potential savings.

Try Amazon Prime

I’ve written about this before (Why I think Amazon Prime is worth it, and the secret prime perk you might not know about). However, it’s worth mentioning again, because Amazon offers a free trial of Amazon Prime.

The trial lasts 30 days, and if you cancel by the end, you’ll never be charged (tip: set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to cancel).When Amazon first started, their prices were higher than I could find at places like Walmart. However, now Amazon is very competitive. I have found great deals on things that I can’t get locally. And, with my secret prime perk, when I choose no-rush free shipping, I can get a little gift for myself as well–Score!

Bonus Tip: Follow Amazon Lightning Deals. Amazon is having lightning deals pretty much from now until Christmas. There are cyber deals all this week, and then 12 days of deals to come. It’s worth your while to keep a watch on these, especially the  daily Deals of the Day, which are usually a great bargain, and a bit less time-restrictive since they last all day. For example, today’s deal is 50% off on Melissa & Doug toys.

Read Reviews

One of the great perks of shopping online is that you can do some research before purchasing. If you’re considering making a purchase at a lesser known retailer, make sure to check them out. Before making a large purchase, read customer reviews (I like to read a couple of the highest, and a couple of the lowest in order to get a more balanced idea of what to expect).

Protect Your Information

Always be sure that you are shopping on a secure site, and be careful about when and how you give out your personal and payment information. Likewise, be sure to read the fine print for the possibility of recurring payments. Be sure you know what to expect.

Related Articles & Resources:

29Nov

A Little House on the Prairie Christmas

little-house-on-the-prairie-christmas-at-plum-creek-15

We celebrate a pretty simple Christmas, at least in terms of the over-commercialized version we see advertised around us. We try to keep Christ at the center of it. And focus more on togetherness–playing games, making crafts, baking, etc.–than on the stuff. 

However, even though our Christmas has been simpler than most, I have still felt a pull to simplify even more–to get back to our roots.

One of my favorite episodes of Little House on the Prairie is the Christmas at Plum Creek one. I love everything about it, and there is so much that we can glean from their simple celebration. {You can watch the Digital episode here}

  • They had simple, homemade decorations that were created and hung with love and joy.
  • Their celebration did not involve an excess of stuff. The Ingalls family had little in the way of excess possessions.
  • They were grateful for the things they did have.
  • Their focus and joy centered around the giving, rather than the receiving. They weren’t making Christmas wishlists–they were trying to find that perfect gift for other family members instead.

What is most notable is that the family didn’t feel deprived. They were happy. They were joyful. They were content. This does not have to be something that we only see in a TV show. We can have thankful and content attitudes in our own homes.

Our Christmas celebrations today have stuff  like no other time in history. According to the NRF, last year, Americans spent just over $600 billion on Christmas, with families averaging around $750 each. Our consumer-driven society has taught us that we can’t have Christmas without the stuff. Big companies spend a lot of money on persuasive marketing to convince us of that very thing. Corporations spend billions of dollars each year on marketing, trying to convince us that if we just bought more stuff, we’d be happy.

But it’s just not the truth. As I watch that sweet episode of Little House on the Prairie, I’m even more discouraged by the current state of things. Yes, we have more stuff than ever, but stuff is a poor substitute for heart, which we are sorely lacking in.

But at the same time, I’m encouraged by the truth that it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Blessing of Less

You may remember from a newsletter a few months ago that we’d been dealing with black mold in the rental home we were living in. It has been such a headache (literally!)–causing health problems, ruining a ton of our stuff, and forcing us to move for the second time this year.

In the midst of moving, we discovered that all of our Christmas stuff is ruined. I have to admit, I shed a few tears when I found out.

We’ve lost our couch, several book cases, and tons of books. A dresser. Lots of clothing. My husband’s tool chest. Basically lots of material things, but it’s all just stuff.

The Christmas stuff hit me the hardest, because it’s so sentimental and special. We had ornaments that the boys had made, and some that my husband and I had growing up with our families. We had our advent calendar boxes that I made myself out of scrapbook papers, that we’d done with our boys every year.

However, as I thought and prayed, I began to see the blessings. Even the sentimental stuff is still just stuff. All we need is each other and a good attitude. Our Christmas is going to look a little different this year. And that’s okay, because we need less stuff, and more heart

25Nov

Chris Tomlin New Christmas Music {With GIVEAWAY!}

adore

Yes, I have yet another giveaway for you today!

We’ve already established that I love Christmas music. I also enjoy Chris Tomlin’s worship music. So, when I had the chance to preview his new Christmas album, and give a copy to one of you, I jumped at it.

And, this one is just in time for my no-Christmas-music-till-after-Thanksgiving rule :)

Sometimes, when artists do Christmas music, it tends to sound completely different than their other stuff. That is not so with this Christmas album. Fans of Chris Tomlin will immediately recognize his beautiful worship style in each song on this album.

This CD will definitely take it’s place as one of our family’s favorites. Some of the songs were familiar classics, and others were new originals, but each song has Chris Tomlin’s unique worship approach.

Songs

Here is a list of the song titles contained on this CD. By the way, you can preview the songs yourself here. Just scroll down and push the little play button above the songs, to hear a snippet of each one.

1. He Shall Reign Forevermore
2. Adore
3. Midnight Clear (Love Song)
4. Noel featuring Lauren Daigle 
5. Hymn Of Joy
6. Silent Night featuring Kristyn Getty 
7. What Child Is This? featuring Sons & Daughters 
8. It’s Christmas
9. A King Like This
10. Bethlehem
11. A Christmas Alleluia featuring Lauren Daigle & Leslie Jordan of All Sons & Daughters 

Giveaway

First of all, this CD is a great bargain right now–you can buy the entire CD with free prime shipping for just $6.99!

The publisher is also generously providing a copy of the CD for me to give away to one of you! All you have to do is leave a comment letting me know why you’d like to win :)

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

 

19Nov

Finding Encouragement: Healthy Habits

encouragement healthy habits

We all know that healthy habits can have a huge impact on our mental health. However, sometimes when you’re struggling with depression, or just feeling especially down or discouraged, this can be difficult to put into practice.

Today, I want to share some practical things that you can do to take care of yourself, and hopefully improve those down days–or at least lessen the severity and frequency of them. Some of these may be harder than others, but try to do what you can to take care of yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s important. And the bonus is that it will help you be a better wife and mommy too–win/win.

Sleep

This is so important! God calls us to rest because he knows we need that. He created our bodies and he knows what we need to optimize them, and one important thing is rest.

I can always tell a difference in my mood when I don’t get enough sleep. Give yourself a bedtime if you have to, that ensures you’re getting the amount of sleep you need.

Exercise

I couldn’t write this series with practical tips and ignore the obvious. Science tells us that exercise releases hormones that can boost mood. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy–even a good brisk walk for 20 minutes can help.

If you’re struggling, consider adding in some exercise. Yes, it will be hard. This one is especially hard in the throes of depression since it can cause severe physical fatigue in addition to mental/emotional symptoms.

But I want to encourage you that the hardest things we do are the ones that feel the best afterward. Those victories are the sweetest–and most uplifting.

Diet

This is another hard thing, but so important. Science has shown us that processed foods, especially sugar and white flour, can worsen the symptoms of depression. This is one of the many, many reasons we made the switch to a real food diet. Chocolate and other comfort foods might offer temporary relief, but in reality they make things worse.

Another vicious cycle. Depression makes you crave sugar and processed foods, and those foods feed the depression and keep it going. To be completely honest, I haven’t completely mastered this one, though I’ve made strides in the right direction for myself and my family. Food has always been a big issue for me. But, I do believe in the power of a better diet in improving mood, and fighting depression.

Fill up on real, whole foods–fruits, vegetables, etc. and limit processed flours and sugars.

Natural Remedies

I’m still trying to educate myself about this, but there are a lot of vitamins, herbs, and essential oils that are known to improve mood. Do your research and see what might help you prevent those down days before they start. Here are just a few to get started with:

My caution with the essential oils would be to be sure you’re getting a good quality essential oil and not a cheap kind. Yes, it is more expensive, but well worth it. This essential oil diffuser has great reviews, and is very affordable.

When You Need Encouragement

This post is a part of my Finding Hope & Encouragement Series. To see all the posts in the series, click here or the image below.

need encouragement 2

 

Where do you find encouragement for those tough days?

18Nov

Finding Encouragement: Your To-Do List

encouragement to do list

Often the source of stress lies in our over-filled to-do lists. But, if you’re putting the right things on it, your to-do list can help you gain the encouragement and motivation you need to keep going in the midst of tough times.

When I am feeling especially burdened and weary, it’s usually a good sign that I’m not taking care of myself, that I’m over-committing myself, and that I’m not honoring God’s commandment to give my mind and body some rest.

Be Productive

I’ve been in the dark pit of depression, and it can be debilitating. It drains you of energy and motivation, and the result is an even deeper feeling of uselessness and self-loathing. It’s a vicious cycle, but you can break it.

During the worst of my depression, I determined to do just one thing. One productive thing each day.

I know to some of you that sounds ridiculous. But I know that to some of you, it sounds hard to think of doing even just one thing. But I promise you, it will help. Get up and do just one thing to be proud of. Pick up a room, cook dinner for your family, wash the dishes, take a shower.

Just one thing.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get you back on the right track. Sometimes that one thing leads to more things. But even if it doesn’t, you can feel better at night knowing that you accomplished at least something.

If you aren’t in the throes of depression, then your aim might be different. Maybe you need to focus on doing just one fun thing with your kids. Or just one fun thing for yourself. Or one restful thing.

Whatever it is, don’t underestimate the power of doing just one thing.

Get out of the House

Sometimes when you’re down or depressed the natural response is to be a hermit. Getting out requires energy–both mental and physical–that you just may not have.

But being cooped up in your house rarely does anything good. In fact, it usually makes things worse. I know it’s hard, but get out of the house. Sunshine is proven to help!

Sometimes a change in scenery or routine might be just the thing you need to get your day back on track.

Examine your schedule

Sometimes, I am too busy doing the wrong things. When I step outside God’s good and perfect will and take on things that He never intended for me to take on, that’s when I become weary and burdened by many things.

I love the words that Jesus spoke to Martha:

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

One thing is needed. Just one thing. And when we move beyond that one thing, we bring unnecessary stress and burdens on ourselves, and the things we are really meant to be doing suffer.

Ask the Lord to help you accept and embrace His calling for your life, even if that means setting some other things aside for this season. Make sure you have time for the things that are most important.

Do Something Fun!

Sometimes, the best remedy for a down-in-the-dumps day is a change in routine. Forget about your to-do list and re-write it. Do something fun, something that makes you happy. Play a game with your kids. Go for a nature walk. Put on some worship music and dance around your house.

Be silly. Make memories.

Sometimes, on a bad day it may feel like you don’t have the energy for fun, but put your mind to it and make it happen. Sometimes it can snap you right out of that down day.

When You Need Encouragement

This post is a part of my Finding Hope & Encouragement Series. To see all the posts in the series, click here or the image below.

need encouragement 2

 

Where do you find encouragement for those tough days?

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