7 Ways to Keep Black Friday Fun & Festive

Deny Christmas as much as you want halfway through November, we all know it’s coming. I, for one, am OK with that. I love Thanksgiving too, don’t get me wrong, but to me it’s all part of one big wonderful holiday stretch. With the quickly approaching season are coming the Black Friday announcements and ads. Will you contribute to the madness?

Here’s the thing, shopping on Black Friday, does not mean you have be ‘mad’, or grinchy or just in it for the best deals. In fact, my experiences have brought fun and festive memories and I think that can be the case for anyone.

Some people are obviously in this only for the hot deals, and if that’s you then you should stop reading now. This is for the people who, sure, want a deal, but are also in it for the fun.

1. Wait until Black FRIDAY

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With the trend of Black Friday hours starting earlier and earlier, people will eventually wonder why we even call it Black “Friday”.  While I love Christmas, I love the entire holiday season and that includes Thanksgiving and even the events and days leading up to that last Thursday of November. Enjoy what Thanksgiving is and enjoy the time relaxing after that big glorious meal with people you love. Don’t rush through that special time just to go stand in line half of the holiday.

But also keep in mind the bigger picture beyond yourself and what shopping on Thursday means. By partaking in the early shopping on Thanksgiving Day, you are encouraging more and more stores to start their sales earlier, meaning over time, more and more people will be asked to sacrifice their holiday to go into work. I am so grateful to have always enjoyed a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving, but some are not so fortunate. It may not be a big deal to you to spend the end of your Thanksgiving shopping–especially if it’s with friends–but other people are spending it at work.  Those stores starting Black Friday earlier and earlier and eating into more and more people’s holiday weekends and one day it might affect you. (Like your kids not being able to come to Thanksgiving dinner!)

2. Don’t shop for yourself

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Make your outing is about what Christmas shopping should be about–giving. Shop for others. Sure, you might see something you just can’t resist, but for me, real shopping joy comes in being able to shop for others. Shop for your kids, your friends. Find joy in having an opportunity to shop for MORE people because you are find such great deals. Don’t just take advantage of deals for yourself. I once talked to a couple who had a cart full of toys. At first glance, it almost seemed extreme, but as we talked we came to find out that not only were many of the gifts for a child they had chosen from the Salvation Army Angel Tree, but their motive was so touching. They experienced a miscarriage during their parenthood journey and felt, had that child lived, they would be spending money on him every Christmas. They instead spend that same money on another child who is likely not to be gifted much. That is the spirit of Christmas shopping.

3. Add at least one goal to your list that is a charity buy.

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It takes very little effort to find a charity or event happening near you that is taking up gifts for children and families who would greatly appreciate gifts this Christmas. If you have children or young people shopping with you on Black Friday, this is also a great way to teach them the true spirit of Christmas and have them help pick out what gift(s) to buy that will go to someone else. Here are a few ways you can find others to shop for during the holidays:

  • Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army Angel Trees are just two that come immediately to mind.
  • You likely have local churches and organizations doing similar drives.
  • You may even know people personally who may not be receiving much, if anything, this year. Playing Santa for these people would be awesome.

4. Go with a group that loves Christmas as much as you.

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In one of my few Black Friday outings, I remember seeing a group at checkout that had matching custom-made Black Friday shirts. (And this was before graphic tees were the big hit they are today. Now you can get all sorts of fun Black Friday shopping tees.)  They told me how the late night/early morning shopping extravaganza was a fun tradition they had done together for a number of years. You could tell by their faces that the joy was in the shared tradition and not in any of the deals they were finding.

My first time shopping on Black Friday was about 12 years ago. It was long before I had kids to shop for, but I went with my cousin who did have young kids. She invited me along for her mid-night waking to drive 90-minutes to get to Lexington where she could hit up Toys-R-Us and the mall. I accepted the invite and had the best time and did not even have any shopping to do for myself. (I can’t even say I bought anything!) But it was such a fun experience. For one, she and I were at different states in life (college vs. motherhood), so it was quality time we never got together anymore, but it is still a special memory of driving in the dark, waiting in the cold, meeting interesting people, and just kicking off Christmas. My memory has nothing to do with deals and presents and it’s a great memory.

5. Do something festive with your time.

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You may be out for the purpose of shopping and maybe you are even shopping with major purpose. (Special deals for your family or your kids…) But with the close of Thanksgiving, it is sort of an unspoken but socially known rule that no one can give you a hard time about being in full-on Christmas mode. (Well, people can, but now you are on the winning side.) By no means do I judge those who play music or put up a tree before Thanksgiving, but for those who do complaining, they usually shut up after Thanksgiving. So Black Friday, beyond shopping, is the day the holiday season can officially begin, so celebrate the day that way. And I think most Christmas-lovers would say their love of the season is not about gifts and shopping. Here are just a few simple ways to spread holiday cheer when out and about.

  • Bring a bluetooth speaker and play Christmas music while you wait in line for your store to open. (You could sing, but if you are like me, you know that’s not going to brighten many moods!)
  • Bring an extra large carafe of coffee or hot chocolate to share with those in line around you.
  • Dress extra festive to really put on display your love for Christmas.

6. Don’t shop at all.

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I’ve always been blessed with a job that let me have the Friday after Thanksgiving off and Mingus has shared this blessing since we have been together. Some are not so fortunate, but if you do have the day, it does not have to be used shopping for it to be special or festive. The primary reason I have not done Black Friday shopping much is because of a family tradition that started a little over a decade ago that has become the main gathering for my parents and siblings for the holiday: Wood Day. My siblings and our families gather at my parent’s the night of Thanksgiving for laughs, leftovers and drinks and a toast to the holiday season. The next morning we are up bright and early with our warm clothes and work gloves to help my parents gather and split firewood for the coming winter. My parents heat their home with a wood-burning stove and while it just sounds like a bunch of work to most, it is always a fun day. With so many of us, an oftentimes other family friends showing up, no one is ever too stressed with work. We also enjoy good food, lots of leftover desserts and more time to catch up. With four of us siblings, all adults with our own lives and families, getting us all together does not happen often, but this is a set event we can count on happening each year.

Your ‘Black Friday’ tradition does not have to be even as elaborate as this, but making the day special can be a tradition. If you are blessed with a day of no work find a way to make the day special. Here is a list of ideas.

7. Don’t forget about Small Business Saturday

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While you may not get the big box deal prices, don’t forget that following Black Friday is Small Business Saturday, and it’s worth saving some of your money for this shopping event. This is a great way to be in the Christmas spirit with your shopping by spending money with businesses and people where it makes a real difference. These places are likely to run specials and deals, but you might also find some personal charm by hitting their brick and mortars–free coffee and door prizes. Shopping local and small is a way of giving back in and of itself. With today’s technology (social media, Paypal, etc.) it is easier for all of us to have our own businesses both on the streets and in our own homes. Find out from your area and your friends who will be participating in SBS and even if you don’t shop, maybe you can show up and/or introduce others to your friends’ businesses. (PS–> Look for a #shopsmall #shoplocal post in the near future!)

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7 first impressions of Costco and wholesale memberships

I made my first trip to Costco this past week and thought I’d share my initial impressions and thoughts. I went as a guest with my cousin after asking to tag along primarily for the purpose of stocking up on items for our vacation in a few weeks. We’ll be road tripping it to Myrtle Beach, so car snacks are crucial and even good snacks for the week at the beach are important.

I was obviously overwhelmed and had to rein myself in, but it definitely got me thinking about whether or not I want to get a membership here or somewhere similar. For the record, Costco is 90 minutes away, so weekly trips probably aren’t in the cards. Here are some initial considerations about shopping at Costco.

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Shop with a purpose

I’d advise not shopping here without a list or a goal, unless you have gotten super familiar with it. (If you’ve been frequenting one for a few years, you probably know the ropes, prices, what you use, and what is worth it, etc.) I was regularly reminding myself of focusing on vacation snacks (or things that I knew we’d use immediately/quickly–like taco chips!)

It’s not the place to experiment with too much “new”

It’s exciting to find new foods that seem like will feed your family well or will be big hits, but keep in mind the amount of something you are buying–even if the underlying price is a good deal. It’s great when the taste-testers are out and you can actually try something before buying a box of 36 and hope for the best! Example: I saw several veggie burger varieties that sounded good, but it wasn’t worth buying a bulk amount on the chance no one would really like them.

Eating healthy can be easy

While there is plenty of “junk” food available in bulk, I was impressed with how readily available the healthy and organic options were. Given, I was drawn toward things I buy or look for anyway, but I was shocked when I’d pull something off and then check and find it was organic–and that the price was still so good!

Keep in mind what you have room to store

You can buy giant boxes of things at great prices, but you have to have a place for it! This is another reason to shop with a list or focus in mind. You’ll find a little bit of everything in your cart, and then you’re trying to figure out where in the world you’ll put it all.

Fresh Produce–If you’re close!

I didn’t price out all of the produce, but I definitely picked up some blueberries and strawberries because the prices were incredible. If I had a Costco close, I’d be regularly buying my fruits here for that kind of savings.

Comparison to Sam’s Club?

I haven’t been to Sam’s in quite awhile and I have never done a real family shopping trip there, so I won’t try to give an opinion on one compared to the other. If I decide to get a bulk membership, though, I will definitely feel out Sam’s as well (and see how healthy their options are–the healthy options at Costco are a huge plus in my book). One perk in my particular situation is that there is a Sam’s Club closer than Costco. Costco is opening in Louisville, which is nice, but it’s still not closer than the Lexington option.

Membership? Yay or nay?

I honestly see us getting a membership to a wholesale store like this at some point. We already buy several items through a food co-op. (Rice, oatmeal, etc.) As you may know, frequent grocery trips can damage the budget–too many impulse or unnecessary buys–and this would help that much more. We already do a lot of dry goods through the co-op. What meat we use we tend to get through sources other than traditional groceries. Many months our vegetables are sourced through our garden. A resource like Costco could help us keep better/longer stocked on staples like snacks, cereal, frozen foods, baking and cooking needs. Not to mention… We know I love to host friends a family and buying bulk for such occasions would be a plus!

Your feedback?

Tell me your experiences with Costco or a similar store in the comments:

  • How frequently do you shop there?
  • What was your primary motivation for the membership?
  • What are you favorite things to buy at stores like this?
  • What are you Costco vs. Sam’s Club thoughts?
  • How close to your home is the store?

Building on a Budget

Fun Fact Friday: Another life event Jo and I had occur within a year of each other (unplanned) is moving into (if all goes as planned) our forever homes.

The difference: She bought and I built.

The similarity: We both wanted to do things on a budget. Your first mortgage as single income family is scary!

Jump over to the vlog to hear about some amazingly cute hacks Jo spills on how she decorated her beautiful new home. Her closet island is to die for!

On the flip side… I had to figure out ways to save while building so our loan could go further. We honestly did not mind to have some things unfinished in the house when we moved in, but we both knew the reality of how long it would probably be before we did complete those things, so we chose to aim for having as much complete as possible. addtext_com_MDExODExMTgxMTY3

If you don’t take the time to read it all… at least read this:
BE INVOLVED.    CHECK IN REGULARLY.   ASK QUESTIONS.
If you don’t do these things… You’ll check in on the progress only to realize you really dislike something or something was done wrong, and the correction, at that point, could be much more complex than if you addressed it right away.

…Ok… Here are my pointers for saving while building.

Saving during the BUILDING process:

Choose a flexible contractor
A big selling point for us was the fact our contractor would bill as he went and hand over copies of all receipts and bills to us along with his master bill. We could easily see the breakdown. He also gave us the option to purchase things ourselves and avoid his mark-up. (Example…We took care of purchasing the metal for our roof; therefore he didn’t add a management fee.) Read more about our decision making for a contractor here. 

Shop around and shop wisely
Take the time to compare prices. The internet makes this so stinkin’ easy that there is no excuse. Additionally, don’t automatically purchase every single extra THING just because a label says it works best with products X,Y&Z or because a Home Depot employee is trained to tell you to do so. It’s like when you’re making brownies and the recipe calls for HERSHEY chocolate… It really just means use chocolate. So do a little extra research to know if (a) a specific brand does matter and (b) if it’s even something that you need anyway. Sometimes the advice is legit

Decide what you can do yourself…
We did a lot of steps ourselves. (And by that I mean, I was keeping up with a baby while pregnant with #2, so my husband did a lot.)  This saves money but takes time and…time is money, so… Choose wisely! Our building process ended up taking about nine months; I’d say half of that time came from doing things ourselves and having limited weekend time for those projects. The things we did can be done by anyone, given the right tools, and don’t require an specialist. (If you don’t own them or want to invest in them, you likely know someone who has them.) Also, know there are a plethora of DIY videos and articles out there to help you with any projects you take on yourself. 

  • Acid Stained Concrete Floors: This was a lot more involved and labor-intensive than anticipated, but that also had to do with the fact we were building in the middle of nowhere with no running water alongside no experience. We kept it pretty simple, but there are a lot of really cool things you can do with stained concrete.
  • Wood Floors: We did not use real hardwood, but I LOVE the laminate snap/tap-and-lock we chose. It was a fraction of the cost, and it was about as simple to install as it gets. You can buy a kit with the tools for install as well as room-to-room thresholds that match your wood. There was about 2,000 square feet to cover, so it took some time, but it was well worth it. 
  • Painting: We painted and primed the entire house. Oooohweeee… It was  a LOT of painting, but the tools available today make it a lot easier to do yourself, like the extenders, the pouring lids and (my personal favorite) and edging brush. Oh that thing was a life-saver! (I still didn’t trust my husband with edges!)
  • Exterior Stain: We were fortunate enough that our builder left his scaffolding on site, which allowed us to use it for staining our cedar siding. We had some mighty high areas to reach. Again, this was time consuming, but we were doing it in early Spring, so at least the weather was nice. 
  • Trim: There are different ways to hang trim, but it really comes down to precision and patience. We gave ourselves an extra step of staining the wood. (We chose to save money and use plain 1×4 boards. Home Depot & Lowes have great options available for actual trim wood and even some you won’t have to paint if you are going with white.) I won’t say trim work is easy… But hard isn’t the word either. Just be patient… and know an entire house will take some time. 

You can sneak a peak of most of these things in some of the picture further down.

Saving during the FURNISHING process:

Moving from our first apartment, we weren’t coming in with a lot. As much as I wanted to fill the house with all new appliances and furnishings, we didn’t (don’t) have the money for that. We actually managed to put our kitchen together with the stove being the only brand new large appliance purchase. Here are some work-arounds we used for furnishing the house

Hit up second hand stores:
There is SO MUCH out there with a lot of good years left in it that gets tossed to the side. Mingus and I spent a lot of time in and out of different second hand places (A personal favorite: Habitat for Humanity Restore) and ended up with some major wins. We would have utilized Craig’s List a LOT more if we lived in an area where scouting and pick-up was more convenient. Check out these wins:

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HUGE Master Bath mirror: $10 at Habitat Restore
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Repainted Bookshelves: $7 each at local consignment shop (Entire setup was $550 including the TV stand, 48″ TV and Sound Bar!)
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Bedroom Shelf: $7 at Local consignment shop (Repainted white)

We also got interior doors for approximately $15 each. They are all off-white and some have imperfections, but we plan to replace them in time. (We already have some amazing old wood doors in possession that just need some love before we swap them out.) We also got our double-bowl, stainless steel kitchen sink for $10.  

Put word out to the family and friends
Everyone has connections… Everyone is always getting rid of stuff. You might be surprised at the treasures you’ll find… in someone’s barn!

  • My aunt’s barn: Woohoo for the rustic look being TOTALLY in right now! We snatched some steals from my aunt’s barn… I literally did nothing but wipe off the dirt and we had an awesome pantry and trash can. (And remember those old doors I mentioned? Yep… From the barn!) 
  • Family: We added a perfect table in our kitchen for some table top appliances that fits the rustic look we started building. Additionally, we took a little end table. I actually still need to repaint it, but the character in it is adorable! We also got our coffee table from Mingus’s grandmother who was moving and no longer had room for it.
  • Friends of Family: Maybe my family is weird, but in our case, when people knew we were building, we always had people asking us about things their friends were getting rid of. We got our dishwasher this way. We also acquired two beautiful wood drawer chests. (One we’ve refinished; the other we more recently acquired.) We also have a beautiful piece of glass we have yet to find a place for but it was a must-take when offered. 
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End Table from Aunt’s house (Project in the works)
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Pantry from my aunt’s BARN! Table from aunt’s house. Barn wood beam (top) from old tobacco barn on family property

Just keep your eyes peeled…
Not everything we ended up getting a deal on was sought out.  It was more about just paying attention and then actively taking the time to do something about the opportunities that arose.  Here are a few examples:

  • Liquidation Sales: A local store was closing down and going through liquidation. It’s of course risky because you can’t return things–and honestly, not everything at this particular place WAS a deal. But we did take the opportunity to get some things; for example, curtains and blinds.
  • Accumulate over time: I often remind myself this is our “forever home” and we don’t have to have everything at once. Rugs is a perfect example of this. I wanted to utilize area rugs because of having little ones but no carpet. If you have ever rug shopped, you know they are NOT cheap. I shopped long and hard to find the best deal on the one most important to me: one for the living space. I settled for some 5×8 rugs that were not what I would have specifically shopped for, but $20 clearance at Lowes? Heck yes! Now our kids’ rooms and their toy room have carpeting. I’ve picked up others here and there as I’ve found deals.
  • If you have a rustic look: With our wood trim throughout the house, a rustic look fits the home. This is great because of things at our disposal. We used a giant old barn beam as an actual beam support near our stairs. (The barn it came from is on our property so we have access to more wood which I am slowly incorporating into projects. Yay Pinterest!) Also, the rustic look goes well with old wood furniture in general.
  • Saved wedding gifts: Because we were living in a temporary space at the time of our wedding, we packed a lot of our gifts away. It was awesome to open those boxes upon move in and feel like we were opening them for the first time all over again. This gave us some fun “new” additions to our home. 
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2.5’x8′ Area Rug: $25 (Liquidation Sale)
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Bathroom Mirror: Family Heirloom Decor: Unused wedding gift
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Blinds & Curtains: Liquidation Sale; 5’x8′ Area Rug: $20 Lowes Clearance

It’s safe to say, our home is far from being “done”. We have lots of projects we hope to one day complete (stoning around the wood stove, adding a sun room…) and lots of furniture and appliances we hope to upgrade (pretty lighting over my island!), but I’ve already found that actually getting to live in it allows me to better know what I want in it. It likely would have been a lot of wasted money if I’d tried to plan everything perfect before the house even existed.

If you’ve just built or just bought, know the home is yours and making it yours is part of the journey and fun. Enjoy the home DIY project.

Now do two things for me:
(1) Tell me what home decor projects you’re really proud of and suggest.
(2) Jump over to the vlog and check out Jo’s projects. Spectacular!