Holidays

11 Must Have Items Before Your Holiday Guests Arrive

Having friends and family over can be both an exciting and stressful experience. Here's a list of 11 must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

Having friends and family over for the holidays can be both an exciting and stressful experience. I love having guests but I certainly wasn't born a natural hostess. Taking care of additional people requires a little bit of footwork (if you want them to come back, that is).

I've welcomed a lot of people in my home in the past couple of years and have worked my way through plenty of mistakes and uh-oh moments. I've run out of toiletries, burned a meal, and been short on pillows. It's a good thing I'm a fast learner!

Having friends and family over can be both an exciting and stressful experience. Here's a list of 11 must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

Here's a list of must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

1. Kleenex

Please keep at least one box of Kleenex or any other off brand facial tissue in your home. A relative of mine never buys it and only offers her guests paper towels. As a guest, it's a little uncomfortable to say the least.

Having friends and family over can be both an exciting and stressful experience. Here's a list of 11 must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

Decorated tubs, like these adorable Kleenex Perfect Fit Holiday Canisters, keep your home looking festive. I keep one at every end table and in the vehicles' cup holders so we're never short on tissues!

2. Toilet Paper

This is embarrassing to list but oh-so essential if you're having guests over.

I once had a guest suffering from allergies who refused to use any of the Kleenex I owned and insisted on using tp only. Another time, a guest didn't care for the brand I had on hand and insisted I go out and buy another. Sure, these requests were a little odd to receive but we all want our visitors to be comfortable and happy. Prepare for the unexpected (and awkward!) and keep two different brands on hand, such as Cottonelle and Scott.

3. Paper Towels/Napkins

Spills and sticky surfaces are going to happen, even if you don't have little kids staying with you. Guests naturally gravitate towards a paper towel to wipe up a mess instead of grabbing your holiday towels on display. Viva paper towels are my favorite right now because they're super strong and can wipe up any amount of wine I've accidentally spilled.

4. Air Freshener/Candles

I try to mask the Clorox wipes and microwaved leftovers smell that usually graces our living area. I'm personally burning plenty of sugar cookie and other holiday candles right now. Walmart has some awesome Better Homes and Gardens candles that are less than $5. I've been using them for months now and have no complaints!

5. Snacks/Drinks

You know when you are a guest and your host says, "Raid the fridge at any hour! Help yourself!" (I love these people, by the way.) It's great to hear but how many of us actually sneak into the kitchen because we want a sandwich at midnight? I keep a cute basket of snacks out on display so that my guests stay full without having to check in with me.

Here are some of the items I always pick up when guests are coming over:

  • coffee/tea
  • water bottles
  • fresh veggies
  • fresh fruit
  • deli meat
  • cheese cubes
  • croissants/rolls
  • chips
  • applesauce pouches (for the kiddos)
  • cookies
  • crackers
Having friends and family over can be both an exciting and stressful experience. Here's a list of 11 must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

I also keep a lot of easy recipes on hand so I can spend more time with my guests and less time slaving in the kitchen. Remember these 2 Ingredient BBQ Chicken Sandwiches? Easy and worry free!

6. Alcoholic Beverages

Does this really need a description? Hosting is always much easier when I have a glass of wine in my hand. If you have non-drinkers on your guest list, keep hot chocolate, apple cider, and other specialty drinks instead.

And while you're shopping in the food department, pick up a bag of ice. We all know that an ice cube tray only lasts for 3.42 seconds when you have people over.

7. Disinfectant Supplies

I once had a guest come down with the flu at my home during the holidays. It was terrible for both of us, trust me. Thankfully, I had plenty of disinfectant supplies like spray and wipes. I think I've said enough.

8. Spare Pillows/Blankets

Be sure to stock up on extra pillows and blankets if you're having more people over than your guest room can handle. We had littles camping out on the floor once and completely forgot to buy extra pillows. Thankfully, I'm addicted to buying decorative couch pillows so we had plenty of those. Kids are so forgiving but I felt so terrible!

9. Toiletries

The last thing your guests want is to be stuck in the shower only to realize there's no shampoo or soap!

My family and I travel a lot throughout the year and we always have some partially used shampoo or body wash bottles laying around. I hate to see things go to waste so I place them in a pretty, clear vase in the guest bathroom.

Here's a list of the things I make sure I have on hand in every bathroom, even if they're only in travel size:

  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • body wash
  • bar soap
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • floss
  • deodorant
  • lotion
  • q-tips
  • nail file
  • chapstick
  • mouthwash
  • hand sanitizer
  • shavers
  • hairbrush

10. Back-Up Entertainment

Maybe the guests you're having are friends you've known for a decade or perhaps it's your new sister-in-law that you've only met once before. Either way, have some backup entertainment like board games and movies, just in case the conversation dies down.

11. Fresh Flowers

Last, but not least are the fresh flowers. They brighten up a room and say, "Look at your host! Isn't she so pulled together and organized?" Your guests will never know the bouquet was only $4.95 at your local Walmart or that you threw them in a vase 5 minutes before everyone arrived.

Whatever you do, don't panic about having people over. Nine times out of ten your guests will be understanding and gracious, regardless of what happens. Just relax and have a good time!

P.S. As you purchase these items, be sure to submit your receipts to the Ibotta app to get some cash rewards! If you've never used it before, you just enter your retailer's loyalty member phone/account number into the app. As you shop, Ibotta will search for rebates with that store and apply any credits to your account. Awesome! (Thank you, G, for sharing this app with me!)

Having friends and family over can be both an exciting and stressful experience. Here's a list of 11 must have items before your holiday guests arrive.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Savor the Holidays: A Mini Course to Help You Enjoy the Holiday Season

This post contains an affiliate link. Please read my Disclaimer for more information.

I'm one of those people. I pull out our Christmas tree before we carve the turkey on Thanksgiving. And my husband basically hides the Thanksgiving wreath because I will hang it up before Halloween if he doesn't. I LOVE THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

But as I've transitioned from my carefree college days and into my adulthood, I have found the holidays to become a bit stressful. There's the budget to worry about, the gatherings to attend, the presents to buy, the family traditions I don't want to forget, and all of the normal to-do lists to juggle as well. The fact that I'm so easily swept away in the season has really started to overwhelm me.

I want to turn things around and spend this year with mindfulness and purpose so my sanity doesn't get lost in that holiday madness. My good friend Christina from Embracing Simple has created a mini-course that can help people do just that.

Savor the Holidays Mini Course is the easiest 21-day course you will take!

click to read more

Reasons Why You Should Join Savor the Holidays

  1. "You are tired of the sheer exhaustion that the holidays can bring
  2. You want to get back to the basics and focus on what truly matters
  3. You have a list of obligations a mile long and want to learn how to prioritize
  4. The busyness of December makes you wish the holidays were over already
  5. You don’t want to be on auto-pilot anymore once Thanksgiving hits, just trying to get through the weeks leading up to Christmas
  6. You desire to have a rich holiday season filled with mindfulness and relaxation
  7. You want to be more intentional about how your time is spent during the holidays"

(from the Savor the Holidays Mini Course page)

What's Included in the Course:

  • The opportunity for you to invite a friend to participate in the course as well – for FREE!
  • Daily inspirational e-mails throughout the 21 days of the course
  • Each email will guide you through simple and quick steps on how to truly slow down and enjoy each aspect of the holiday season
  • PDF workbook with all 21 lessons so you can reference them again long after the course has ended

Cost and Dates:

Dates: The course runs from November 27-December 17.

Cost: $7.50 until November 16, then it will raise to $9.50.

Both prices include the opportunity to invite a friend to join the course for FREE!

This course is such a steal at under $10. I know I need a gentle reminder to spend my holidays more purposefully. What better way than by reading quick e-mails that contain easy steps I can follow? I hope you'll join me this year by slowing down and enjoying the holiday season!

Tips for Fall Decorating on a Budget

Lattes and scarves and boots, oh my! The fall season is finally upon us and so is the pressure to take our decorating game to the next level. But somewhere in between the excitement and our budget, we may feel a little overwhelmed. So I've pulled together these tips for fall decorating ideas on a budget. Enjoy!

Choose a Theme and Stick with It

The obvious overhead theme is Halloween or Thanksgiving. But thanks to the invention of Pinterest, a lot of us are now educated in the themes of country chic, rustic, classic, glamorous, and many more. Depending on what you already have on hand, you may feel pressured to go out and spend a lot of money. Don't do this to yourself.

Go through all of your current decorations and work around that. It may not look Pinterest perfect, but if it suits your family and budget then you're doing everything right.

Focus on One Area

There is no rule that says you need to decorate every room in the house, or even more than one room for that matter! For example, we decorate our front door/entry and living room only. That means we avoid spending money on holiday towels or extra knick knacks for the bedrooms.

Spread Items Out

In a lot of cases, less is more. If you feel like you need to "fill in the space" somewhere, step back and see if you can just spread out all of the items you currently have. You run the risk of looking cluttered if you go overboard on the decor.

Avoid Purchasing New Items

It is so tempting to pick up new decorations each year because the adorable holiday displays are almost too much to resist. But if I can leave Hobby Lobby without spending a dime then so can you!

For example, we have been using the same ornaments for the last 7 years. In fact, we're still showing off that Bart Simpson ornament from my husband's high school days.

Use Produce as Decor

What says Thanksgiving more than a pile of apples, oranges, or a pumpkin? I find the cheeriest, reddest apples at our grocery store and place them in my glass fruit bowl. Then I'll top them with either oranges, cinnamon sticks, or both.

Bring Nature Inside

Pine cones and branches are just some of nature's prettiest ornaments in the fall. You can have your kiddos gather as many pine cones as they can and fill them in $1 vases from the Dollar Tree. Just don't forget to check for bugs!

Head to the Dollar Store

You just can't beat a good Dollar Store deal like mini candles, candle holders, and mini fall signs. I also love to grab all of my decorative rocks, vases, and floral foam here as well.

Pull Out the Cozy Stuff

Nothing says fall more than thick, cozy blankets and pillows. You probably have a few of these around the house already. Move them to the areas you're focused on decorating (like the living room) so your family and guests have easy access.

There's a lot of temptation to turn your home into a miniature pumpkin house tour, but don't give into it. The investment in those items will only get you through the next couple of months. All of that expensive decor will just collect dust for the rest of the year.

You can have a beautifully decorated home on a budget and all ready for the fall season!

How do you save money on fall decor? 

Free Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Mother's Day is less than a month away and I'm already racking my brain for gift ideas. If I don't plan now, I will definitely drop the ball. Is it just me or is this year flying by?

Whether your mother is near or far it's likely you'll want to give her a little token of your affection. Have you ever seen the price for fruit baskets or flower bouquets? Of course our mothers are worth every penny and more! But sometimes the money you need is just not in the bank.

I've created a list of my best out-of-the-box ideas just for the special occasion. The best thing you can give your mom is a gift that will make her heart melt and keep your bank account happy too!

1. Call her bright and early.

She wants to hear your voice, regardless of what time it is. And there's nothing lonelier than waiting for someone to call you on a special day. Call her early and don't put it off until you're getting ready to watch Game of Thrones.

2. Tell her your favorite story about her.

As mothers we love to know that we have made an influence on our children and that the love we've given is also reciprocated. Think of a favorite memory when your mom was especially awesome and tell her about it. She'll appreciate the fact that you noticed the energy she put into raising you.

3. Make a homemade meal...and do the clean-up too!

Yes, we would all love a good breakfast in bed. But you're not going to leave the pancake batter and egg shells on the kitchen counter for her to clean, right? She will love the breakfast you made but she will especially love it if the kitchen was cleaned too.

4. Greet her with a compliment.

Sometimes we're so busy running through life that we forget to slow down and show the ones we love how much we appreciate them. Make your mother's day (no pun intended) by giving her a compliment as soon as you see her.

5. Give your phone the day off.

It's not going to be easy because as a society we are more addicted to cell phones than we were even 10 years ago. But she wants to spend time with you! Mother's Day will be disappointing if she spent time with you, while you spent time with Twitter.

6. Make a homemade card.

This really doesn't have to be fancy. I am the least creative person you will ever meet. I can't draw or decorate worth a dime but I have a lot of heart. Let your love for her show through your effort. A mom appreciates the idea that "it's the thought the counts" more than anyone else.

7. Write a poem

Again, you don't have to be Shakespeare to pull this one off.

Example:

Roses are red Violets are blue I can't really rhyme but I love you so much that I tried Happy Mother's Day, Mom

No you're not going to win any awards but she'll get a laugh out of it and find it really endearing that you tried anyway.

8. Give her the day off.

Do the grocery shopping. Clean the kitchen for her with these 5 easy steps. Return the sweater to Macy's that's been on her to-do list. Make it your mission to be her personal secretary for the day. She will appreciate it tenfold!

You don't have to do all of these to make your mother happy this year, though I'm sure she would love it if you did! The key is to find something that shows how much you care and how important she is to you. If you do that then you are already winning the Kid of the Year Award!

What frugal Mother's Day gifts will you be giving this year?

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Easter Feast on a Budget

Easter is one of my favorite holidays! It means that spring is finally here and you get to eat candy for breakfast. Can your week really get any better?

Related Post: How To: Thrifty Easter Basket

We're doing a tiny gathering in my home this year but I'm still cooking a feast, believe me. I don't want to break the bank just because the Easter Bunny stopped by though. I know a lot of you feel the same way!

Holidays are a joyful occasion that shouldn't leave you broke. But where do you start cutting corners? It wouldn't make any sense to skip the dyed Easter eggs but keep the four course meal planned. Using these simple tips will help keep your budget and your family happy at the same time.

Tip #1: Let the Guests Help

If you're having people over and they offer to bring something SAY YES! Better yet, save some money on the booze and ask them to bring a bottle of wine or their favorite liquor. 

Alternatively, are your family and friends willing to do a potluck Easter meal?  There's no shame in only cooking the protein or all of the desserts. This tactic will give you more time to relax and actually enjoy the day.

Tip #2: Trim the Appetizers

Keep the appetizers cheap and easy! We'll be using the dyed Easter eggs for deviled eggs. Why waste all of the cute eggs, right?

I'll also be setting out a large plate of cheese, crackers, and veggies. It's nice to have some light finger foods to nibble on before the ham gets served and it won't cost much. I'll be buying delicious cheese but nothing too foreign or fancy (i.e. expensive).

Tip #3: Buy an Affordable Main Course

You can have the full main course without losing all of your money if you plan it strategically. For example, sometimes it's cheaper to buy a plain spiral cut ham and to simply add the drizzle yourself.  I'll be using this recipe from Amy at Chew Out Loud. 

Good ole mashed potatoes are cheap, filling, and a must-have with ham! I like to add sour cream, rosemary, and garlic (in addition to milk and butter, of course!) to bring the flavor up a notch. It makes them a little more tasty without having to increase the budget.

Skip those overpriced prepackaged salads and assemble one yourself. Pre-made sides can be overpriced and you need to make your money stretch as far as possible. Buy all of the ingredients separately and then ask your handy partner or willing child to do all of the prep work.

Green Bean Casserole is an oldie but goodie and is very affordable. Green beans are cheap regardless of whether you buy them fresh or canned and the dish can be made ahead of time. It's a win win from all angles.

Lastly, don't forget to add a yummy bread to the table. Beth from Budget Bytes has AMAZING recipes and her Focaccia Rollsare no exception. Be sure to start these the daybefore! Trust me, they are worth it.

Tip #4: Have a Mini Dessert

You can almost skip dessert with all of the candy you received that morning. But I personally like to bake a little extra treat on the holidays so that why I've included it here.

I have to go back to Budget Bytes with this one because Beth has this Lemon Pudding Cakerecipe that I dream about. If you've got more than two people coming over just multiply the recipe and share...or eat them all by yourself, which is exactly what I would want to do. THEY'RE THAT GOOD!

Don't panic or worry about your bank account when you have a lot of hungry guests coming over. I've mentioned just some of the easy ways you can control the cost of a family dinner but I'm sure you can find even more, depending on your preferences and budget.

Be sure to let the guests help if they want to and don't go crazy with the appetizers. Put the bulk of your cash into the main course and keep those recipes simple, yet filling. If you feel like you can skip dessert and feast on Robin Eggs and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, do it! Nobody will judge. But if you really want a dessert, try to keep the ingredients down to a minimum. Your Easter celebration can be a success without going broke!

What recipes do you use for your Easter meal? How do you save money? 

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How To: Thrifty Easter Basket

I've got a large extended family and when we get together for Easter we put together A LOT of baskets. The lowest price I've seen for a pre-made basket is $10. Multiple that by 20 people and you've got a broke Easter Bunny!

Related Post: Easter Feast on a Budget

I'm a huge fan of raiding the Dollar Tree and Wal-Martfor more affordable versions of what's available in other retail stores. Here's how we're doing a DIY Easter basket this year.

Looking for a DIY Easter Basket? This is one of the best ways to make your holiday memorable without going broke!

I know everyone does things differently but my family always recycled the Easter baskets so I didn't include that in the cost. (I don't know how my siblings didn't catch on to the truth about the Bunny when they were little!)

Bunny glasses: Dollar Tree, $1.00

Wind-Up Hopping Chick: Dollar Tree, $1.00

Bunny Pez Dispenser: Wal-Mart, $1.50

Tootsie Rolls: Wal-Mart, $1.00

Starbursts: Wal-Mart, $1.00

Whoppers Robin Eggs: Wal-Mart, $1.00

Bunny Tale Book: Dollar Tree, $1.00

Bunny Ears: Dollar Tree, $1.00

Total: $8.50

Who doesn't love giving their child a memorable holiday without having to break the bank? Making your Easter baskets a DIY project is one of the best ways to do this. The kids can get the goodies that they love and you can enjoy the discount price.

How do you save money with your Easter baskets? 

*This post was NOT sponsored.*