Simple gifts that won't break the bank, but WILL make you look good


Over the years we’ve had so much generosity passed our way. We’ve had friends and family members gift and share children’s clothes and toys, we’ve been given subscription services for gifts that last a year or more, they watch our kids, bring over food, help with major home projects, have helped us move and the list goes on and on. Sometimes thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough. Here are some great gifts that are always loved and don’t break the bank. You don’t have to spend a lot to show gratitude.


Homemade bread

Listen, who doesn’t love warm, soft homemade bread? I have a bread machine that was a gift from my mom probably back when I bought my first house. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving to us and to friends. This is one of my favorite go-to’s in the fall and winter to just say a little ‘thank you’ for a small favor or when going to someone’s house for dinner or drinks. I use the quick loaf recipe and have a fresh loaf to go in 58 minutes.

Don’t have a bread machine? How about just trying one of the many 5 star reviews of basic bread you can find on Pinterest? Or, just bake some good old fashioned chocolate chip cookies. From scratch or slice and bake, it’s the thought that matters.


Wait, I’m sure you’re thinking I must be mistaken because I said it won’t break the bank. Listen. There is nothing wrong with an inexpensive bottle of wine. I don’t know another mom who isn’t grateful for a bottle to have on hand in case of a meltdown. Costco has bottles (not in PA of course) for as low as $5.99, Fine Wines and Spirits has bottles that I’ve seen as low as $5.99 on sale and then there’s always Trader Joe’s two buck chuck (actually $2.99). My favorite thing to do is to pick up a bottle or two when I’m at the store anyway to have on hand.

Crock-pot Crack

Ok, I bet that I can find a way to fit this into everything I write. And I know I need a better name, but this stuff is addicting. It is seriously the best gift, the best candy and it makes such a huge recipe, it’s the gift that keeps on giving! One batch makes over 100 pieces of candy and the whole batch of items only runs about $15.00 shopping at Walmart or Aldi. You get at least 5 gifts out of it, depending on your serving size. Shop the Dollar Tree or Michaels for gifting tins or packaging that will run $1.00 or less each.

I start making pots of this in early November to have on hand anywhere we visit, for our mailmen, teachers, friends and neighbors. We give it throughout the holidays and every year I end up making one batch more than the last. Here is the recipe I like to use. Throw it in the freezer until you need it, or it will magically disappear.

Shutterfly Gifts

This takes a little more thought and planning, but if you have someone who regularly does you favors like a neighbor or friend, you can almost always find a Shutterfly coupon for 40-50% off, or freebie giveaways. If you don’t have any favorite photos of them, pick one they would appreciate of their kid(s), dog or family from their Facebook page and turn it into a fun gift for their home. You can do most of these for FREE-$10 including shipping.

Rice Bag Warmers

Do you have a sewing machine or any skill at all? I definitely don’t, but I have received, a rice bag warmer and I know that it’s one of THE most useful gifts I’ve ever gotten. It only takes someone who isn’t me, a matter of minutes to make. And if you’re already a crafter, you probably have some material on hand.

Saying thank you doesn’t need to be expensive or extravagant. Good friends just do those things because they want to, but it’s always nice to be appreciated for the things you do! What are your favorite things to gift that cost mostly time and thought?

If you’d like information on getting started on a budget, getting out of debt, learning how to save money, protecting your family financially and creating a financial plan to build wealth, click here to set up your FREE discovery call and let me show you how I can help!


Owning your October Budget


It’s officially fall in Western Pennsylvania! The air conditioning has been off for over a week, pumpkin is in full swing and I’ve broken out the boots and sweaters. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

Monday starts another new month and I hope your September was successful! Take a few moments this weekend to reflect on the last 30 days. What did you do well financially speaking? Where did you leave room for improvement? What simple changes were you able to implement that made an impact? Then use your takeaways to spend some time planning October’s budget.



1) Travel. You might have fall break or Columbus Day off, but regardless, extra time off often means extra money spent.

2) Halloween decorations, costumes and candy. Don’t be stingy!

3) Oktoberfest. Now THIS is what October is all about! It seems like everyone’s getting in on the fun these days with Oktoberfest and you can too…just make sure you plan a little extra in the entertainment, dining out or however you might categorize it!

4) Football. It doesn’t matter what level you’re watching or where, sporting events have a way of getting the best of our pockets when we’re not prepared.

5) Fundraisers are in full swing and if you can find it in your budget, it’s great to support your local kids and schools.

6) Winter tires. Depending on where you live and what you drive, you might need winter tires on your car. Maybe not for October, but it might take a couple months to save up.

7) Fall and winter clothing. Don’t be shocked when little Johnny puts his pants on and looks like he’s in a flood. Kids grow quick and you need to be prepared for some new fall and winter clothing. Consignment sales are a great way to take out the old and bring in the new!

8) School pictures. I don’t know about your Facebook feed, but mine’s been flooded recently with those silly and sweet smiles. Don’t forget to put some money in the budget to get a few sheets to share with your family and friends.

9) Increased utility bills. The air might be off, but that means the heat will go on soon! Consider putting your utilities on budget billing to eliminate the element of surprise.

10) Christmas. I said it in September and I’ll say it again in November. Plan ahead, not behind! What if you save up from October to December this year to pay for Christmas as you go, instead of paying for it January to March? Imagine the peace you’ll feel come January and the joy you’ll get in the giving knowing it’s all paid for.

By creating a spending plan before the month begins, you’ll feel more in control of your money and you’ll have more left over at the end of the month! If you’re still not sure how to get started, click here to set up your FREE discovery call to see how I can help!


6 Simple Ways to Save this Christmas


Well, we’ve hit the 99 days until Christmas mark! I don’t know about you, but when I hear 99 days until anything, I think, “Oh crap….it’ll be here before I know it!” And sure enough, the days and weeks go by faster and faster each month it seems, especially with little ones around.

So since the secret is out that Christmas is in fact, on December 25th this year, let’s start preparing at least financially for the holidays, and avoid that credit card hangover in January! Instead of waiting until the new year to start a resolution saying, “This will be the year I get my money under control”, let’s start right now.



First things first, you’ll need to make a list and check it twice (like what I did there?). List who you plan to buy for and a reasonable amount for each person. If you want to take it one step further, add in some costs of your holiday baking, cooking if you host meals through the season, decorations, costs associated with travel, company parties and other activities that might be tradition around your friends and family. Don’t worry that it’s not perfect ~ you can add and change things as you go, but this is a great starting point. Now, take your total and divide it by 3 to be part of your October, November and December budgets. Here’s what you need to save each month to pay for Christmas in advance this year. Does it look reasonable? Achievable? If yes, AWESOME! Make sure to implement this plan starting in the October budget, if not sooner. If no, keep reading.


Let’s remember the reason for the season. My absolute favorite part about Christmas is all the gatherings. It’s seeing friends and family in settings where we let go a bit from daily stress. We forget about all the lists and chores waiting and just enjoy the company.

If your total on your list looked a little overwhelming, let’s first look at that list and see if there’s anyone that can be cut out. I know that sounds a bit Scrooge-ish, but the holidays can get out of hand over years passing and I’ve seen people buy for friend’s brother’s roomates…I mean, come on. Can you look at your list and see who you can bake for as gift instead? Or do a nice gesture for them? I LOVE to bake these Christmas Crock-pot Crack cookies every year and gift them to our mailmen, co-workers, clients, friends, family…I try to have a small box to take anywhere we go. They’re easy, delicious and everyone loves them. The recipe makes over 100 for about $15.

If you can’t cut anyone out, try gifting a group gift. Siblings can easily go in together for your parents! Friends in for friends! You can give something just a little bit nicer usually and spend less.

Personalized gifts are another great way to save. Shutterfly is famous for sending out emails in the fall to make free photo books, and discounts for calendars or coffee mugs. Make it a special gift and take advantage of major discounts! The trick on this is you usually need to start early!

Another way to save big is to take advantage of sales and the fact that you’ve started a list early. The closer we get to the holiday, the crazier we get with buying and falling for “sales”. We start buying things just to buy them and end up spending way more than we planned. If you have a well organized list now, you can start picking up things on sale as you find them and sit back and enjoy the season as it unfolds.

Use places like to buy discounted gift cards and then shop for those on your list. These places buy gift cards that are unwanted at a portion of their price and then resell them for just under their value, saving you $5, $10 or more depending on the value.

And lastly, if your family is older and grown, consider not buying gifts for each other at all anymore and taking that money and buying gifts for a family in need in your area. Our family started doing giving trees instead many years ago and it quickly became the best part about Christmas. We enjoy the giving so much more going to those who need it most!

What are your tips for giving on a budget? Share in the comments below!