10 Thrifty Christmas Gatherings: Entertaining On A Budget

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It seems like Christmas time more than any other time of the year friends, family, and co-workers want to gather together and spend quality time together.

10 Thrifty Christmas Gatherings Entetaining On A Budget

Although all the gatherings are great for friendship building and memory making they can often be a drain on the budget. They don’t have to be though.

The key to entertaining on a budget at Christmas time is to keep the event simple, and a group effort.

10 Thrifty Christmas Gatherings

1. Potluck

You knew a potluck would be on the list so I thought I might as well make it number one. You don’t have to do a traditional dinner pot luck. You could make it a brunch potluck, or a dessert potluck. Perhaps even a hot cocoa and cookie potluck.

2. White Elephant Gift Exchange

This is a great one to play with long time friends and co-workers, since those that know each other best won’t be afraid to really get into stealing and picking humorous gifts to include, and it is those elements that make it fun.

Encourage people not to spend a dime on the gift they bring. Set the guidelines on what type of gift should be included and what type you don’t want. For instance, I have been part of White Elephant exchanges that have asked for useful gifts only, as well as others that wanted the most unusual item you can find in your home.

Start the exchange by verbally stating all the rules of the game, how many steals a gift can have, etc.

3. Christmas Mug Exchange Night

I went to a Christmas Mug Exchange night once with a group of ladies from a church we attended. It was so much fun. They set the price limit at $5 and you could spend it just on the mug, or get a $1 store mug and fill it with extras if you wanted. If your friends are on super tight budget make it a dollar store, or re-gifted mug only gift exchange, so that everyone can swing it without busting the budget.

We all met and one ladies house, who had hot chocolate ready for us, as well as hot water and tea bags out for those who were not hot cocoa fans (me being one of them).

The Christmas Mug Exchanged worked a lot like a white elephant gift exchange, but the best part was after the exchange was over we all washed out our new mugs and then spent the evening drinking hot cocoa and tea out of them and chatting together.

To make things less expensive for the host, you could all bring your own favorite teas and cocoa mixes along with you.

4. DIY  Christmas Ornament Night

Have one person pick out an Christmas Ornament you could all make for relatively little money spent. Send the most thrifty person in your crew out to buy the materials, and then split the cost between the group.

Gather at whose ever house has the largest space for crafting and get to work making Christmas ornaments for your trees and catching up.

This idea does not have to be limited to just girlfriends, you could include the children on this one too if you wanted to.

5. Make Christmas Cards Night

A lot like number 4 but this time you make Christmas Cards. You could do handmade cards and split the cost, or everyone brings the boxes they got on clearance in January and their Christmas card list, postage stamps and other Christmas card supplies. In the second scenario you all go home with you Christmas cards done, and have had a blast catching up with friends while doing it. In the first you all go home with homemade cards to send out.

6. Walk or Run The Christmas Lights

In most towns where we live there is either a large Christmas display in the local parks or a neighborhood that really knows how to put on a Christmas light show. What I love doing is grabbing a friend and running or walking those displays together on a mild night. If you walk it you can hold a hot travel mug of something in your hands to keep you warmer while you walk. You can even bring the kids along, and make it a family night.

Grab some great pictures for instagram, spend sometime with a friend and get a workout in, all for very little cost and perhaps even free.

7. Cookie Sampling Night

I am not a fan of cookie exchanges (I can hear the gasps now). I find them to be stressful and not helpful. I stress because I never know if people will like what I bring , and they are not helpful to me because I find myself taking home cookies we don’t like that go stale and often…..end up in the garbage…all the while my family begs me to make more of the cookies they do like, which makes me spend the time in the kitchen I thought the cookie exchange would save me.

Here is my suggestion instead throw a “Cookie Sampling Night” have each guest bring enough  individual wrapped and labeled cookies for each guest to sample one of, as well as a printed out recipe to place in front of their cookie plate.

Each guest can either sample their cookie then and there while mixing and mingling with the other guests or take them home with them.

A fun night for just the cost of a dozen or so cookies, labels and printed recipes, nothing wasted and friendship time gained. Plus you discover new cookies you like, and you don’t waste more than one of those you don’t.

8. Hold A Re-gifting Christmas Gift Exchange In January

Sometimes the days from Thanksgiving to New Year’s are just packed. If this is you and your friends consider having  your get together  and gift exchange after the holidays are all done.

The first week of January get together while others are exchanging gifts at the store, and exchange you unwanted gifts with one another . Yep, re-gifting brought out into the open. Place all the gifts you won’t use on the table  and start drawing cards. That candle that gives you a headache might be  your best friends favorite scent. Those chocolate covered chocolate beans you got and hate, might be treasure to another friend.

This way these items won’t take up space for months until the next annual white elephant gift exchange.

If you really loved and will use all the gifts you received, then you can at least save money by bringing something from an after clearance sale.

9. Go Sleighing.

Gather some of your favorite families together, and meet at the local Sleigh hill over winter vacation. Bring along a few thermos’ full of hot chocolate or coffee, and some cookies too.

10. Year End Book Swap

Grab your fellow bookworm friends and get a head start on gathering new titles for the new year.

Give each person the same amount of tickets as they brought books as they come in the door and then once everyone has arrived and the books have all been placed on the tables let the book swapping begin.

Bonus idea: Ugly Christmas sweater party with white elephant style prizes. I am sure everyone either already has a bad holiday sweater in their closet or can find one at  a thrifty store. Have people vote for who has the most tacky holiday sweater, each bring snacks to share.

Have you been to a low cost Christmas gathering you have loved? Share it with me in the comments below.

Thrifty Christmas Tips (small)All my thrifty Christmas tips in one spot.

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Snapshot Thursday: One Proud Mom

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Snapshot Thursdays 3 pictures from my week to give you a peek into my daily life

Welcome to Snapshot Thursdays. Please join me on  Instagram  to see more pictures I share all week long.

aidens computerThis right here is a proud  thrifty mom moment, that happened this month. That is my middle child Aiden sitting in front of his new computer, that he built all by himself. He also saved up all the money for it. He did extra chores. He said no to candy, pop and even movies for over a year, so that he could make this computer. He watched hours of YouTube videos on how to build a gaming computer. He compared prices. He even reminded me to check to see if I could earn some cash back on his online order.

Courtney's earringsMy daughter is one creative gal. She came downstairs last week wearing these clip on style earring that she created out of a nail,some beads and magnets that she rescued out of some broken headphones.  The next day she came down wearing them with safety pins in the front.

Last Sunday I sat down and enjoyed reading “Keep The Happy In Your Holidays: 21 Ways to Save Time, Money And Your Sanity This Christmas Season” .  I really enjoyed it. Inside it’s pages my blogging friend Cherie Lowe from Queen of Free shares great tips for how to spend less this Christmas holiday season.

If you are new to the whole idea of living within your means and have no clue as to where to start trimming the fat off of your Christmas expenses, I  recommend reading Keep The Happy In Your Holidays. In it Cherie will hold you hand and show you all sorts of ways to save money on Christmas and give you a few laughs too.

What have your kids done this week that have made you beam with mommy pride?

I don’t know what the weather is like where you live but here in Indiana the temperatures have dropped significantly so I thought I would share some coupons for hot tea, coffee and soup to warm you up (and a few for candy, just because :) )


$1.00 off any ONE (1) Lipton Tea product

$1.50 off ONE Seattle's Best Coffee K-Cup Packs

$0.40 off one Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa product

$2.00 off one Lipton Tea K-Cup pack

$3.00 off any TWO (2) Lipton Tea products

$1.00 off 2 boxes Celestial Seasonings tea bags

$0.50 off (1) BOTTLE of Coffee-mate2Go creamer

$3.00 off TWO GEVALIA Mocha Latte or Cappuccino's

$1.00 off GEVALIA Mocha Latte or Cappuccino

$1.00 off FOUR Progresso™ products

$1.00 off TWO (2) Seasonal Nestle Chocolate Bags

$1.00 off TWO (2) WONKA Candy Canes

Coconut Almond Chocolate Bars

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I have recently found a new addiction; making my own chocolate bars. I have played around with various recipes I have found and have finally created a version of my own that satisfies my need for chocolate, without having to go out to the store (dangerous for sure but oh so good :) )

coconut almond chocolate bars: Vegan friendly, take less than 5 minutes to make

These chocolate bars are sweetened with maple syrup making them low in sugar compared to most bars available on the market. Best part though, I can make myself chocolate whenever I am in the mood for it, without needing to leave my house. These chocolate bars are ready to eat in under 15 minutes and take less than 5 minutes to make.

Ingredients for homemade chocolate almond coconut barsIngredients for my homemade coconut almond chocolate bars include:

Before you start making the chocolate I suggest you get a 8 by 8 pan out and grease it and line it with wax paper. This chocolate sets up quickly so having the pan ready before you start is essential. I didn’t during one batch and the end result was lumpy chocolate.

melted coconut oil

The first step is to melt the coconut oil. I did this by placing mine in a microwave safe bowl and microwaving it on high for right around a minute. It might take yours less or more depending on how solid it is before you put it in the microwave so I suggest doing it 20 seconds at a time and stirring in between. That is what I did and it worked great.  You can also melt in on the stove top in a pot if you prefer (just watch it carefully because it won’t take long to melt).

Coconut almond chocolate bars mixing Mix the unsweetened cocoa in the melted coconut oil, and then stir in the maple syrup. After that throw in the almonds (crushed into chunks by the food processor) and sweetened coconut.

last put the salt in the coconut almond chocolate barsLastly put in the celtic sea salt. Now this salt is very strong so I used just 1/8 of a teaspoon. If you don’t have Celtic sea salt, you can use any sea salt or table salt but you might have to put in just a tad more. The salt really brings out the flavor in this chocolate, trust me it makes a big difference in the taste.

Coconut Almond Chocolate Bar a whole foods treatOnce you have done pouring you chocolate out into the pan. Place it on a flat surface in your freezer to firm up. It takes roughly 10 to 15 minutes. At that point take the bar out and remove it from the pan and peel of the wax paper. Cut it into small squares and place them in a freezer safe container. Keep the chocolate in the freezer and take it out as you want to eat it so that it stays firm. This chocolate is very soft, but very yummy and will satisfy a chocolate craving without a sugar buzz.

Linked to Weekend Potluck,

Coconut Almond Chocolate Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup crushed almonds
  • 1/8 tsp celtic sea salt ( you can use another brand of sea salt but you might have to add a tad more)

Instructions

  1. grease a 8 by 8 pan and line it with wax paper, also greased.
  2. melt the coconut oil (If using microwave take it 20 seconds on high at a time and stir in between until it is just melted
  3. add unsweetened cocoa powder to melted coconut oil and stir until well blended.
  4. add in coconut and almonds and blend
  5. add the salt and stir
  6. pour out the mixture into the greased and wax lined 8 by 8 pan
  7. place pan on an even surface in freezer
  8. allow to harden (should take 10 to 15 minutes)
  9. take out of pan and peel off wax paper
  10. cut into pieces and place in a freezer safe container
  11. take it out piece by piece as you want to consume it.
  12. Enjoy!
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Tuesday Links: Time Management

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Tuesday links 30 or so link to articles on one topic for you to explore, learn, and apply to your lifeYesterday  I talked about what is working for me to increase my focus and productive in my blogging work. Today I thought I would share some other great posts on time management that you might find helpful.

1. Free ebook: Time Management 101 by Money Saving Mom’s Crystal Paine.  (I have personally read it and loved it)

2. 10 Tips For Getting More Done Every Single Day  found over at Living Well Spending Less. ( I am so glad Ruth admits to eating cereal for dinner)

3. Less Hurry, Less Stress, More Time found over at Time Management Ninja. (When I practice this my stress level does lower)

If you want to dig even deeper check out my 31 Days Of Time Management Tips Series  and follow my  Goal Setting & Time Management Tips Group Pinterest board.

$0.75 off 1 Georgia Pacific Copy & Printer Paper
Need to print out daily lists, and schedules? Here is a coupon for printer paper .

5 Ways To Increase Focus And Productivity

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My blog has grown significantly this year, and I am so thankful to all my readers who have helped make that happen. With growth has come more and more daily tasks beyond writing.

5 ways to increase focus and productivity

Lately those growing daily blogging tasks have  left my life a little unbalanced.

I strive in life to maintain balance. It is why I named the blog Snail Pace Transformations. I believe we can make and reach large goals in life without pursuing them at such an intensity that the other areas of our lives fall apart.

I want to be the mom and wife who can look back and say, when I was needed by my children and my husband I was 100% there. Yet, lately that hasn’t been true.

I have found myself nodding my head to whatever my family is saying as I am typing away at the computer, finding out later I missed something that happened in their life that was important enough to them to share it with me and therefore should have been important  enough to me to have given my full attention to.

I needed to put a few boundaries around my blog hours so I could start being more present with my family. I also needed to increase focus and productivity so I could get more done in less time.

5 Ways I have Increased Focus And Productivity

1. I took full advantage of the time change

Instead of adjusting to the “fall back” time change, I simple started getting up at 4:45 instead of my regular 6-ish ,  each morning and going to bed at 8 or 9.

After prayer and devotion time this gives me a solid 1 to 2 hours to work before anyone is up. I try my very best to use this time to write new posts for the blog, although I do also put the final edits on that day’s post, post it, and share it on social media during this time.

2. I changed where I work at home

I love sitting in the family room in the early morning hours before anyone else it up to work,  and had developed a habit of sitting there in the after school hours to work as well. However, this meant I was in the midst of the family action all evening long.

Although, I do want my children to know they always come before my work, this was allowing for too many interruptions.

So  I started moving  up to my  bedroom after our homeschooling day  is over and working there.

When my husband is not home, I work with the bedroom door open to show my children I am always willing to talk to them when they want to talk with me. However, since our bedroom is far away from the main living areas of the house, they really have to think about coming up to talking to me so I am interrupted only about the important things.

(please note this works for me because my children range from age 12 to 18, I know this would not work for moms with younger children)

3. I started working outside the home more often

I had a heart to heart talk with my husband about how I simply needed more focused time to work on the blog and we decided the best thing would be for me to stop hiding up in our bedroom to write when he is home and head out of the home and work.

I have tried several places, and found taking a few extra minutes to drive to a coffee shop not in our hometown works best. Here I can crank out posts at amazing speed. I am not tempted to get up and throw another load of laundry on.  I am not tempted to run into the other room and tell my husband something. Plus my children can’t run into the room and ask me if they can have a snack, even though dad was right downstairs sitting beside them when they decided they needed one.

 4. I moved the fluffy stuff to when I will be interrupted and the harder stuff to when I won’t

I had gotten into the bad habit of doing simple stuff first thing in the morning while leisurely sipping my tea. Problem was that was when I was the least interrupted, and  yet I was doing the stuff that I can easily be interrupted while doing.

Now before I sit down to work  I think to myself, will this be a time when work will be interrupted often, or will it be a time when I can focus without interruptions for 30 minutes or more. I have a mental list of what work can be done while being continually interrupted and what is done best with no interruptions and try to stick to doing these things in the proper time slots.

5. I returned to taking Sundays mostly off the blog

I was doing well with taking Sundays off the blog except for 1 hour in the morning to do absolute essentials but then  summer hit. In summer we are out of the house more during the week, and we go more places on Saturday as a family which is my normal BIG working day. I had to work on Sundays so I could take all the other time off during the week.

However, when fall returned I never went back to Sundays off. I kept trying to play catch up. Working 7 days a week was wearing me out and causing me to be less and less focused in what time I had to work, which was causing a vicious cycle of never catching up.

I have now returned to doing essential only Sunday morning, and then leaving the blog alone for the day, and it feels great! I return Monday focused again.

By implementing these 5 things my  focus and productivity has drastically increased these last few weeks. I now feel like I have returned the blog to it rightful work hours and have gained my family time back.

Interested in time management tips? Follow the Goal Setting & Time Management Board on Pinterest.

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10 Free Craftsy Classes To Help You Create Awesome DIY Christmas Gifts

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Are you wanting to make Awesome DIY Christmas this year but your skills are a bit rusty, or not all that you feel they could be?

10 free online craft classes that can help you create awesome DIY Christmas gifts

One thrifty  way to get considerably more instruction than you are going to find in an average blog post is to enroll in a free mini class from Craftsy.

Craftsy classes are video driven and given by expert instructors. Most free mini classes take an evening to view, and come with a complete list of supplies.

I recently took a look through Craftsy current listing of 38 free mini classes and came up with a list of 10 that I think you could take and come away with the skills you need to make awesome DIY Christmas gifts.

Remember what I talked about last Friday, sometimes being thrifty means thinking outside the box, so don’t let the name of some of these courses make you think “that is not a Christmas gift” but instead think “how could I take the skills I would learn in that free mini class and make  great inexpensive gifts”.

10 free mini Craftsy classes that can help you create awesome DIY Christmas gifts

1. Beautiful Wire Work Jewelery

Learn to make 3 different pieces of wire jewelery including a hoop necklace, drop earnings and a leather & bead bracelet with the free mini class Beautiful Wire Work Jewelery

 

2. Professional Family Portraits

Are you wanting to take advantage of all the free and deeply photo print deals found around the web this time of year but your photo ability is extremely lacking? Me too! Which is why I am planning on sitting down really soon and watching Craftsy free mini course “Professional Family Portraits” . The course contains an hour and half of up close instruction on how to take better portraits of you loved ones.

 

3.  Spectacular Stamping

Do you have stamps gathering dust. Get them out and spend just over an hour watching the free mini course Spectacular stamping and learn how to use those stamps to make gifts. The course shows you how to make cards, but you could apply the skills to so many more DIY gift ideas. One idea would be to  stamp up a favorite bible verse or saying and frame it for a loved one.

4. Create Stunning Birthday Cards

I know what you are thinking, this is suppose to be about DIY Christmas gifts not Birthdays, however Create Stunning Birthday Cards is a free mini class that would teach you techniques you could easily apply to making Christmas cards. You could also make sets of blank cards to give as gifts. Sometimes being thrifty requires thinking outside of the box, so look beyond the course name to what skills you can learn and apply to the gifts you want to create.
Online Fabric Patterning with Wax Resist Class

5. Piece, Patch, Quilt: Basic Quilt Making Skills

What I love about quilting most, is that you don’t have to buy new fabric if you don’t want to, especially if you are making a small project. You can make a quilt big enough for a dolly bed, out of a few dress shirts you no longer wear. You can make a toddler bed sized quilt out of you child’s favorite clothes they out grew.  If you haven’t made a quilt before or if it has been a while try taking the free mini class Piece, Patch Quilt: Basic Quilt Making Skills and be inspired.
Online Sewing Class

6. Bag Making Basics: A Reversible Tote & Zipper Pouch

I am really wanting to watch  Bag Making Basics: A Reversible Tote & Zipper Pouch as I think the reversible totes would make amazing gifts and I just so happen to have some great material I found at yard sales. The zipper pouch would also make a great gift stuffed with pencils, pens and erasers, or lip gloss, a pretty nail file, and candy.

7. Bag Making Basics: Drawstring Bag and Bucket Bag

Either of the  projects in Bag Making Basics: Drawstring Bag and Bucket Bag would make great gifts, and would be a great way to use up fabric scraps, or remnants found in the bargain bins of fabric stores.

Draw string bags make excellent gift bags that recipients can either re-gift with their own gift inside or keep and use for storing millions of things from phone chargers to shoes, depending on the size.

The Bucket bag would be a good alternative to using a basket to fill with gifts. Fill the bag with Duplo, or blocks found on sale for a small child, hand made scrubs and lotions for a girl friend, and perhaps a universal remote, (usually a freebie one offered somewhere on Black Friday) and snacks for the favorite guy in your life.

For those of you who want to take you sewing machine skills further this Christmas season so you can create amazing gifts these next 3 free mini courses are for you.

8. Machine Savvy Tips for Creative Sewing

The skills shared in Machine Savvy Tips for Creative sewing are  done on a Janome sewing machine (which I happen to have a basic one and love it) .  This course contains tips for using you machines free arm more effectively, how to raise your pressure foot without moving your material, how to sew a blind hem, how to do pipping and much more. I would think if your machine isn’t a Janome you would still glean some skills from taking this free mini course.

9. Sewing Machine Feet From A to Z

Have you ever sat and stared at the feet that came with your machine wondering what on earth each one was for? I know I have. Sewing Machine Feet From A to Z goes over the 11 most common feet for sewing machines. From the button hole, to the zipper foot, to the blind hem and rolled hem and more.

10. Mastering Zipper Techniques

Wanting to make a few zippered pouches as gifts this year but lack zipper skills? Take the free mini class Mastering Zipper Techniques and fear zippers no longer.

Most of these free classes would just take you one or two evenings to complete or a afternoon on the weekend. All the free mini classes come with a supply list, and you can view each one more than once if you need to.  You need to be a craftsy member to take a free mini class but it costs nothing to sign up.

My problem is deciding which one to take first.

Thrifty Christmas Tips (small)

All my Thrifty Christmas Tips in one place.

Craftsy: Free Cake Decorating ClassesLinked to Frugal Friday Link Up, Mom2Mom, Thrifty Thursdays,

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Snapshot Thursdays: Some Like It Hot

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Snapshot Thursdays 3 pictures from my week to give you a peek into my daily lifeWelcome to Snapshot Thursdays. Please join along  on instagram  by sharing your photos with the tag #snapst, or find the Snapshot Thursdays status update on the Snail Pace Transformations  facebook page and share a picture in the comments with me. I love getting to know my readers better.

 

early morning run with friend

When I say I don’t make time for friends it doesn’t mean that  I don’t spend time with them. In fact sometimes making time to see them face to face means getting up really early, in the cold, and the spitting rain, to run together. I never come home wishing I hadn’t gotten up that early to run with a friend before she has to go to work, in fact it is the opposite I come home wishing I could do it more often.

salamander seen on run

I almost stepped on this little Tiger Salamander during my 6 mile run this week. It is the first one I have ever seen on my years of running this particular trail. I snapped a picture to show my kids, and of course one was very disappointed that I didn’t capture it to keep as a pet. I still had a mile left to run until I made it to the car, can you imagine carrying this slippery thing for a whole mile! I am a good mom but not that good! LOL

My daughter in a heat bubble

Inside that cocoon is my daughter. Every morning when she wakes up she goes over to the thermostat and turns up the heat for the day (we turn it down at night) then she grabs this sheet, sits over the heat vent and allows the warm air to circulate around her for several minutes. If I did that I would come out  dripping in sweat from head to toe, but not my daughter she comes out warm and toasty and ready to face the day.

Which kind of makes me wonder. How hot do you keep your home in winter? We keep the thermostat at 68 degrees during the day and 64 at night, and I am always curious if that is average, on the cold side, or too hot for others?  I would love people to share in the comments what they set their thermostats at during the winter months.

All 3 of these photos come from Instagram: Join me there to see more of what I get up to each week.

Here are a few coupons your might like to start of you holiday shopping!
$1.00 off TWO (2) Seasonal Nestle Chocolate Bags
$1.00 off TWO (2) WONKA Candy Canes
$0.50 off any ONE (1) Command™ Brand Product

My Favorite Ways To Earn With instaGC

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I was told about instaGC by a friend and knew I had to check it out and see if it was a point earning program that could offer moms  a way to earn a little bit of money from home in flexible manner. After exploring earning options for a few weeks I have decided that instaGC , can be a great program for those who just have a bit of time here and there that they want to use to earn a gift card now and again.

My favorite ways to earn gift cards with instaGC

I found the site a bit confusing at first, BUT I didn’t take the time to open their welcome email they sent after I confirmed my email, until I had already spent 30 minutes  figuring out how to earn my first 35 points on my own.  Having now opened  it and read  all that it contained I would strongly suggest that you click through the welcome email and read the start up guide in full, it will help you understand how the program works a lot quicker than figuring it out yourself.

The part I love most about InstaGC  is instant payouts that start at just 100 points for a $1 gift card. I will admit the first time I cashed out I again found it a bit confusing, I was asked to verify  my account by entering my phone number (you can use a land line or a cell phone) and after I did, I couldn’t find my gift card, BUT what I didn’t understand was the first time you have to go back and click on the gift card you want again and the gift card code will show up magically on your screen.

In my case I cashed in for a Amazon gift card and all I had to do was copy the code, click on a link to Amazon, access my account and paste the code into the gift card box and WHAM  my Amazon account was $1 richer within minutes of cashing in my instaGC points.

With Christmas approaching, instaGC  would be an excellent program to start using regularly to earn at least enough gift cards to pay for one gift or more since not only are some of the tasks simple and quick but since the gift cards are instant you can cash them in right away and use them that day to buy gifts.

Here are my 4 favorite ways to earn points with instaGC

1. Listen to music

Under the Earn tab on the instaGC home page you will find “listen to music”. Click on it and then click through to Radio Loyalty, you can listen to the default station or choose one you want.  You earn 3 points for every 30 minutes that you keep it  running and enter the code that appears at the end of your 30 minute session.

What I do is open it in a different tab, also keeping my instaGC tab open and then open a 3rd tab to do blog work. I keep the volume low. I also set the timer on my cell phone to 30 minutes, and then click over to the Radio Loyalty tab when the timer goes off and wait for the pop up ad to show up (if not already up) and enter the captcha code . It takes just a few minutes for my 3 points to show up in my instaGC point history.

Considering I am often on the computer an average of 4 hours a day, I can earn and average of 12 points, 6 days a week, that is 72 points which is almost enough for a $1 gift card and all I did was one point earning action.

2. Visit Sites

My current favorite way to wind down at the end of the day is with my family all gathered around the TV watching “In The Middle”, during the commercials I can click and visit a few sites and earn instaGC points.

Click on the “Earn” tab found on the instaGC homepage, click “Recommend” then click “Clicks” here you will find different companies offering you intstaGC points to click through to websites and check them out.

I found in the “getting started guide” that it is recommended you stay on each website for at least 5 seconds to make sure you receive your points.

These offers reset once a day, so you can do them over the next day.

Please note that although sometimes all you have to do is click through that is not the case with all the websites, with others you have to click through a slide show or interact with the site somehow so make sure you read the instructions for each site before clicking over.

I found the instaGC  area had the ones with the simplest tasks.

3.  Watch Videos

Click on the “Earn” tab of the instaGC homepage and click on “Watch Videos” and you can earn 1 point for every 5 videos you watch. This is a pretty no brainer way to earn as you can keep clicking through to different videos as you fold laundry, or pay bills, or do other chores where you can keep the laptop handy to tap to a new video when needed.

4.  Refer Friends

Once you sign up for instaGC and have decided you like it and are going to continue being an active member, then you are probably going to want to spread the word and the good news is instaGC will give you points for it plus they make it fairly simple to do. With each person you refer, whom registers and confirms their email. You will then get 10 points right away and then 10% of what they earn for certain point earning actions while they remain members.

Click on the “Promote” tab on the instaGC homepage and you will find 5 different ways to share. The simplest way is to simple past your referral link found in the “Referral Link” tab under the “Promote” and copy and paste it  into a Facebook status, or into a tweet, or use it in a blog post if you have a blog.

Other ways to earn with instaGC

The 4 ways to earn above are point earning actions that I have tried and liked but there are more ways to earn with instaGC that you might like.

  • Search the web
  • Offer Wall
  • Crowd Flower
  • Trialpay

All of these 4  point earning actions are explained in the “get started” area of instaGC that you will receive a link to in your welcome email once you sign up for instaGC and confirm your email. I checked them out briefly but decided they were not for me, however I know others might like them, so I encourage you to check them out and decide for yourself.

Not yet a member of instaGC sign up here and start earning today.

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Tuesday Links: Veterans Day Free Meals

(post contains affiliate links see disclosure)

Tuesday links 30 or so link to articles on one topic for you to explore, learn, and apply to your lifeI cannot express enough gratitude to all the men and women that serve in the military. In honor of Veterans Day I wanted to list 3 links to share a few places they can go to receive a bit of a treat as a thank you from all of us whom you serve today.

1. Starbucks: Starbucks is offering a free Tall hot brewed coffee to all military  and their spouses. So enjoy a coffee date on Starbucks. (complete information is found in the sidebar of the page the link sends you to.

2. Bob Evans: Bob Evans is offering free all you can eat hotcakes to all veterans and active military.

3. For a huge listing of all the free deals available of both active duty military as well as veterans today and some through the week visit this awesome listing or Veteran’s deals  by Military Benefits.

 Sign Up for McAlister’s DeliGram e-club and get a coupon for a free cookie (you don’t have to be active military or a veteran for this deal)

My Favorite DIY Granite Countertop Cleaner

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When my husband and I were renovating out current home that we bought for just under $10,000 one of many areas that got completely gutted and redone was the kitchen.

It was so much fun designing and picking out supplies for the kitchen. I of course kept things thrifty but one area I felt would be worth the splurge would be getting a solid surface counter top.

My favorite DIY Granite Countertop cleaner that makes my counters shine

I was willing to do tile so that my husband could install it and we could save money on both supplies and labor. I first picked out a plain cream ceramic  tile, perfectly functional and inexpensive but not really what I wanted. A day later though when we were once again in the hardware store there was my dream tile, a grey  granite with white and black flecks. Best part, it was priced lower than the tile that I bought the day before that wasn’t granite,  because there wasn’t enough left for a major project.

It took me all of 10 seconds  to convince my husband to let me return yesterday’s so so tile find for that day’s amazing find.

Years later I still love it, but my husband, well he likes the granite but he hates his tile job. His skills have grown and now he hates seeing where it is a bit uneven or not quite square. I tell him stop fussing it is fine.

One thing I did notice very quickly about the granite though is that although it is hard wearing in many ways it does stain. I wanted something natural, and inexpensive to take care of those stains with. After all I didn’t want to spend as much on the cleaners over time as I did on the amazing counter tile itself. Plus a lot of cleaners trigger my headaches, not fun.

Somewhere on Pinterest, I am not sure where I found a pin where the blogger was using hydrogen peroxide to get stains out of her granite. I Googled it to make sure that it was indeed safe to use on granite and found that several sources said  that as long as you are using it no more than once or maximum twice a week  to give your granite a good cleaning and remove stains it is okay, otherwise you should clean your granite counter tops with simple hot water and soap.

I also found out that you should use no more than 12% strength hydrogen peroxide, any stronger and you could damage your granite.

How to use hydrogen peroxide to remove stains from your granite countertops

I bought a bottle of hydrogen peroxide for a whopping .60 cents at my local discount grocery store, placed it in a small spray bottle from the dollar store and gave it a try. It did indeed get rid  of the stains and left my granite countertops shining. I was hooked and it has been my favorite DIY granite countertop cleaner ever since.

For more cleaning tips visit my Cleaning Tips Resource Page

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