Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Christmas With Strategic Shopping: The Twelve Months of Christmas Review

This post contains affiliate links. I make a commission on each purchase made through the link. 

I am a member of the Strategic Shopping Promo Team for Candy Foote's two strategic shopping ebooks. I chose to review the ebook titled, Christmas with Strategic Shopping: The Twelve Months of Christmas. Yes, I am very well aware that Christmas is over. However, as Candy would say "Christmas is always coming." Have you started preparing for next year? I can honestly say that I have! Before I begin my review, I want to tell you a little about Candy and her other book.

Candy Foote is a Christian mother of twelve and homeschool veteran with 21 years experience who learned over the years how to save money by shopping smarter and frugally. She offers workshop classes on her website which is filled with free information. You will find Candy's other ebook for sale titled, Strategic Shopping, on her website. She enjoys helping others live a quality life by teaching them how to save money.

Strategic Shopping is a 143-page step-by-step guide that teaches you strategies about how to save money on brand name "real" food groceries, prescriptions, couponing, coupon policies, discounts and rebates, stockpiling, and more. By utilizing the strategies in Candy's book, you will learn how to get rock-bottom prices, FREE items, and even see how she had stores pay her to shop! It shows you how to create a shopping plan and when to make purchases in order to get those rock-bottom prices. There is a lot of information in this book! The book also includes coupon binder printables in the appendix.
Strategic Shopping:

Now, let's move on to the bulk of my review. Christmas is definitely my favorite holiday of the year, but it can often be a source of stress due to last minute plans and shopping. My husband and I have been discussing ways to save money. I try to shop ahead of time throughout the year, but it never fails Christmas shopping piles up in December along with my never-ending to-do list. I am also known for going to the "extreme" when planning birthday parties, anniversaries, Valentine's Day gifts, Easter baskets, and Christmas celebrations. We end up spending a fortune and often accumulate more credit card debt which can cause a great deal of stress on us and our finances. We are still paying off Christmas present debt from last year and the year before. Unfortunately, we had to eliminate many people from our shopping list this year which made this particular gift-giver feel terribly sad.

Next Christmas WILL be different. I have a plan thanks to Candy Foote's strategic shopping techniques. I know that sounds corny, but she truly motivated me to make some changes in my life going into the new year. I immediately implemented the suggested ideas. I look forward to finding fantastic deals especially from now until the end of March. I am already constantly checking the clearance shelves in every store keeping watch for those rock-bottom prices. My six-year-old daughter is helping me shop sales too! I couldn't believe that we found the perfect color Christmas glass ornaments (blue and silver) discounted at 90% off at Big Lots last week for only 40-50 cents per package. Furthermore, each package contained 12-24 high quality ornaments! It makes sense to buy after the season and use the items next year.   

Book Description
The 62-page recently released ebook was downloaded in PDF format on my computer and iPad enabling me to read it anywhere or anytime I desired. I occasionally skimmed the pages of book to remind myself of my shopping goals when out and about running errands.
Christmas with Strategic Shopping: The Twelve Months of Christmas

Christmas with Strategic Shopping: The Twelve Months of Christmas is a month-by-month guide revealing tips and strategy techniques for saving money in preparation for Christmas and other celebrations. Each chapter represents a month of the year.

Book Includes:
  • Christmas at the Foote House Family Stories
  • Month-By-Month Chapters Detailing and Discussing Strategy Techniques, Tips, and Advice
  • Monthly Shopping Goal Summaries
  • Fifteen Pages of Basic Christmas Notebook Printables
The titled Christmas notebook printables give you the option of recording your own ideas in one convenient place. The binder printables contains the following titles:
  1. Notebook Cover
  2. Numbered Christmas Card List
  3. Christmas Decorations
  4. Size Sheet
  5. Christmas Crafts and Projects
  6. Homemade Gifts
  7. Christmas Baking
  8. Christmas Eve Plans
  9. Christmas Activities
  10. Christmas Songs, Poems, and Play
  11. Christmas Eve Dinner
  12. Christmas Dinner
  13. Christmas Party Plans
  14. Stocking Stuffers
  15. Gift List
Note: Please remember that you choose what you what to print out and that you can always print in grayscale if necessary. A minimal amount of color was used to create the printables.  

My Thoughts
I have to say . . . I absolutely LOVED reading Christmas with Strategic Shopping! One aspect of the book that draws in my attention is that each chapter of the book begins with a glance into Candy's family life during Christmas time. I thoroughly enjoy reading about how others celebrate Christmas. The author tells you how her "mega" family celebrates Christmas by listing some of their favorite activities, projects, classic Christmas movies, traditions, gift-giving opportunities, and more. Her "Pitch In Jar" idea is similar to the Christmas Jar activity we do every year enabling us to give to someone in need. Many connections were made to the author's ideas especially with regards to Christmas traditions and activities. The stories set a conversational tone to the book. Candy is straightforward and honest letting you know ahead of time that they strive to focus on the true meaning of Christmas (the birth of Jesus). The family stories are noted with asterisks at the top of the page and labeled as, "Christmas at the Foote House." I can sense her passion for Christmas celebrations as I read about the joyous occasions in her stories.

I really appreciated the simplicity of the writing format. The format of the ebook makes it very easy to read in a short amount of time which is great if you are a slow reader like myself. The author utilized short paragraphs, spacing, bulleted numbering, lists, and summaries. The text was also a reasonable size and font. It was a quick yet informative read!

The insightful tips and strategies were outstanding! I have used a Christmas gift box for years. I collect items I purchase on sale, but never thought to dedicate an entire closet to gifts which would be needed if I used the described methods in the book shopping during the monthly sale cycles. I never knew about some of the mentioned sale cycles and now I can save even more money by paying attention to them. Candy says strategic shopping is about having a plan and timing. I know what I am shopping for and now I know when to buy those items at the lowest price possible. I made a list of Christmas presents we buy every year. It included movies, books, games, winter clothes, pajamas, ornaments, baking items, crafts, and music. I already have three games, several dolls, a pair of house slippers, four books, and more in my gift closet box after watching sales closely. Candy taught me to track the sales noticing the discount percentages of 50-75-90% off.

I loved that the author included gift basket ideas which can be used for a variety of celebrations. Easter baskets go on sale in April. I never thought to purchase Easter baskets and paint them for use as Christmas baskets until Candy recommended it. I learned a lot reading this book. Did you know that cleaning supplies go on sale in April? That was news to me! Cleaning supplies are so expensive especially without coupons. I will be stockpiling when I notice those rock-bottom prices. I also learned that higher priced ticket items need to be bought in May and that we need to avoid the temptation to buy those items if they aren't necessary. I had to remind my husband to wait when he mentioned buying a new cell phone to replace his old one. Why pay more when you can get it for a lot less? 

Furthermore, Candy wants to help you become more organized during the holidays. She provided the actual Christmas notebook printables she uses in her binder as a guide. I do prefer lined printables, because I have sloppy handwriting without them. However, I went ahead and printed the sheets out to put in my personal Strategic Shopping binder. I also listed the Christmas activities and baking that I want to do with my family each year eliminating the doodled notes I keep finding on numerous pieces of paper and napkins scattered around the house.
Cover Printed in Grayscale
Another one of my favorite features of the ebook would be the step-by-step numbered summaries for each chapter indicating the monthly shopping goals. The summary is a reminder of what I should be doing and of the important items to be on the lookout for when making purchases during that specific month. I didn't have to print out the entire book. I decided to print out the summaries placing the pages behind the appropriate month of the year tabs in my binder in addition to my Christmas notebook printables.

I will continue implementing the suggestions and advice offered in this book in hopes to spread out the cost of Christmas spending throughout the entire year rather than scrambling to buy gifts in December. Furthermore, I made a list of the items purchased so that I would remember them as gifts for other occasions. I want to make a sale tracking sheet for the stores in my area to help me recognize when items are 50, 75, and 90% off, because sale times can vary a bit depending on your location.

I no longer want to feel the guilt after overspending each Christmas. Putting my plan in action was the key to making wise gift-giving decisions without impulse buying at the last minute. I believe with my new plan, I will be able to buy for everyone on my list instead of figuring out who I need to cross off the list. These preparations will help reduce stress around the holidays allowing me to spend quality time with my family while keeping more money in my pocket. I really wanted to organize my Christmas binder prior to reviewing this book. Candy inspired me to start that project. 

Current Sale Prices 
Strategic Shopping is currently available for $6.99 and Christmas with Strategic Shopping is the affordable price of $3.99. The ebook bundle price for both books is only $8.99. You can find the products listed in her store.
Strategic Shopping Ebook Bundle
Be sure to use the 20% off discount code which is offered until Sunday, February 2nd. The coupon code to be used at checkout is 20%OffEverything.

I recommend Christmas with Strategic Shopping: The Twelve Months of Christmas to both novice and experienced shoppers who have a strong desire to prepare and plan ahead in order to save money on Christmas gifts for the future. In fact, I strongly recommend both of Candy's Strategic Shopping books.

The Christmas with Strategic Shopping book will also appeal to individuals wanting to become gift-givers on a limited budget. Candy offers ideas in her book on how to encourage your children to serve and give to others instead of thinking of themselves first. She doesn't see Christmas gift-giving as a "burden." She teaches her children to think of others first which is something that I truly admire about the author.

Strategic Shopping eStore

Candy Foote's Social Media
Google Plus

Linking this ebook review at: 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Candy Foote's Strategic Shopping Facebook Party Invitation

 ** This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support.**

I am super excited about the Strategic Shopping Facebook party tomorrow night! I want to invite each of you and hope that you will join us. We are celebrating the launch of Candy Foote's newly released ebook titled, Christmas with Strategic Shopping: The Twelve Months of Christmas. Attending the Facebook party is absolutely FREE just in case you are wondering and haven't ever attended one. Get ready to learn how you can save money this year! Did I mention the fact that there will also be amazing giveaways and door prizes? Keep reading! 

What money-saving tips do you have to share with us?


Who's ready to party, save some $$$, and win some awesome prizes?  Candy Foote is celebrating the release of her new book, Christmas with Strategic Shopping and the re-release (with a new low price!) of Strategic Shopping, with what looks to be a rockin' Facebook Party! 

Here are some of the prizes you could win! Build a Menu: She will be giving away a one-year membership to this awesome, money-saving meal planning program. In three easy steps you can select the store you like to shop at, pick your recipes and print your customized shopping list. You’re done menu planning for the week! You can choose recipes... from any of these categories to create a menu that’s perfect for you family:
Family Friendly Trim Healthy Mama Low Carb Gluten Free Low Fat/Sensible Portions Allergy Friendly (No gluten, dairy, nuts) Vegetarian Slow Cooker Soups On Crowd Pleasers Manly Meals

To learn more about Build a Menu, go here.

Molly Green Magzine/Econobusters has donated for 2 giveaways during Tuesday's party-- (3) one-year memberships to Molly Green Magazine, which includes future issues as well as back issues, as well as a bundle of 5 eBooks!
Total Value of these giveaways is more than $265!

To learn more about Econobusters with Molly Green, go here.

Did I mention that one of you could win more than $100 in Paypal Cash or an Amazon Gift Card (winner's choice)? There's also an awesome bundle of ebooks up for grabs, from wonderful folks at  Hal and Melanie Young, Phyllis Sather, and Tabitha Philen. Not to mention Candy's books!

SS facebook event cover

So, what exactly is a Facebook party? It's a fast-paced, fun-filled hour and a half where Candy will be answering your Strategic Shopping questions, asking you some fun trivia questions, and best of all, giving out prizes.
Everyone who attends the party will receive FREEBIES just for showing up! Your first step is to RSVP on the events page over here. The actual party will not be on the events page though. It will be on Candy's STRATEGIC SHOPPING page. Throughout the party, watch for new status posts every 5 minutes with trivia questions, giveaway offers, and more fun. Leave comments, ask questions, and have fun! Refresh the page often so you don't miss out on new posts! See you there!

Are you thinking about purchasing the ebooks? If you would like to order the ebooks now, please visit Candy Foote's website store. You can save 20% off the price using the code 20%OffEverything

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey. I hope to see you tomorrow at the Facebook party!

God bless, 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Classical Composers Monthly Freebie

This post will contain affiliate links. 

I am a subscriber to Carrie's Homeschool Giveaways blog and absolutely adore her SUBSCRIBER ONLY FREEBIES. I anxiously await her subscriber only freebies that usually appear in my e-mail inbox on Wednesdays. This week I was super excited when I found out that the Fine Arts Pages Collection 1 was the subscriber only freebie. I recently reviewed Classical Composers Monthly Great Artist Collection 1. The Fine Arts Pages were one of the items on my wish list. It covers 25 famous paintings and artists. I LOVE these pages! This freebie expires tomorrow so be sure to check it out as soon as possible.
Fine Art Pages button large

If you choose to purchase any other Classical Composer Monthly products, please use my affiliate link. You will need to make a separate purchase AFTER obtaining your freebie. I believe you can also use the 20% off code provided (HSGSPECIAL) to buy additional items at a discounted price. Thank you for helping support out homeschool! 
Large logo

Visit Classical Composers Monthly home page to learn more about their collections and how it works.

God bless,

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Year's Goal Writing Project

I found a great free elementary writing project complete with helpful hints, pattern templates, photo images, and directions at Glyph Girls. Visit Teachers Pay Teachers to grab your copy of this activity. It took much longer than I expected, but Alyssa really enjoyed creating it and setting her 2014 goals for the year. I think the project is adorable! Let me know if you complete this writing project and be sure to thank Glyph Girls. 

Glyph Girls, Thank you for sharing this free printable with us all!
We thoroughly enjoyed making this creation.

I will link this post up at the Show-and-Share SaturdayShare It Saturday, and Mama to 5 Learn and Link.
I Can Teach My ChildTeach Beside Me

I hope you enjoyed visiting A Learning Journey today. Stop by again real soon. 

God bless,

Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Year's Eve Celebration

Howdy everyone! Sorry if I haven't been very active on my blog lately. First, I want to say Happy New Year! May you all be abundantly blessed this year. 

Our holidays didn't go as planned this year. I am finally moving around the house and getting over being sick which lasted three weeks. I still have a minor cough. It was a rough time period for us all. The illness started with my daughter on Christmas Day. We were visiting friends and she started acting a little strange. Then, to my surprise she took a 45-minute nap on their couch. Anyone that knows Alyssa . . . knows that this is VERY strange behavior for my daughter. What's weird is that 10 minutes prior she was singing carols to everyone and dancing. She wanted to stay and watch Christmas movies, but when she woke up I decided to take her home. That's when it happened. She threw up (sorry) down their hall and all over the bathroom. I felt so bad for her. Our friends were awesome. They helped clean up the mess. Furthermore, later that evening Alyssa texted them apologizing she told them she felt bad for ruining their Christmas. They sent her a loving message stating that she definitely did NOT ruin Christmas and that it was a blessing to celebrate with us. Awesome - right! I love our friends! Needless to say the sickness immediately spread and cycled through the family. Luckily, my husband didn't get sick for long. He is studying for his promotion test.  

My husband worked on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve so I tried my hardest to make things fun for our daughter since we were stuck inside for the holidays. I found a great idea on Pinterest at the last minute and used supplies we had in the house. Check out my New Year's Eve Pinterest board for these ideas and more. We also opened our Blessings Jar and read through the blessings we received from God this year. We are most grateful for the blessings we received and prayers that were answered.     

This is what we did. I found several yellow balloons in our birthday decorations box. I wrote activities on small slips of paper and squeezed them inside the balloon before blowing them up. As you can see each balloon had a time written in black permanent marker. I planned a family fun activity for each hour from 6:00 pm to midnight. We listened to music, watched a movie, did puzzles, played games, baked cookies, and more.  
Popping Balloon With Toothpick
She jumped every time!
There was also a lunch bag for each hour which contained activity supplies. I borrowed this idea from The Idea Room. My husband bought us shrimp cocktail and other appetizers for dinner. We snacked all evening. Wow! I just realized she was in pajamas earlier than normal. How did I pull that off?

I also found cool photo props online that we created during the day in preparation for our nighttime fun. We both LOVED the crown! 

Alyssa stayed up until midnight. We made a toast using sparkling fruit juice. I also gave her a bag of Hershey "midnight" kisses and we blew the noisemakers for Jeff when he called us. The hour beforehand we bundled up and went outside quickly to play with sparklers. We drew shapes and wrote our names in the air.
Adore my Happy Girl!

Well, that's it! These simple and fun activities helped us count down the New Year even though we were still sick. We had a blast! My daughter asked if the activities would become a tradition every year.

Did your kiddos stay up late? 
What did you do on New Year 's Eve?
 Please share your ideas or traditions in the comment section. 
I hope to pin more ideas for next year.

I will link this post up at Ben and Me's Blogging Through the Alphabet. Letter N is the focus for this week. Come join the fun!

Friday, January 3, 2014

BookCrash Review - Seeking Christmas: Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions by Renee Robinson

Last month I had the opportunity to review the paperback book titled, Seeking Christmas: Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions, written by Renee Robinson as part of the BookCrash book review program. This 62-page softcover devotional book is meant to be used with the entire family over the seven-day time period before Christmas. The author gives the reader alternate schedules for using the book in addition to modifications for younger children. I try hard to create meaningful experiences every year aiming to teach my daughter the importance of the holiday rather than emphasizing Santa and commercialism. This book served as a gentle reminder.

Book Description
"Is the message of Christmas lost in the commercialization and hectic pace? Can we celebrate with intentional purpose? Using devotions and activities, Seeking Christmas gives your family an experience to pass down for generations to come."

Other Book Details
CrossLink Publishing Current Price $7.46
Current Amazon Price: $8.96
Illustrator: Veronica Haltom

Note: All prices posted at the time of this review are subject to change. The author donates 10% of her royalties to organizations that impact the lives of orphans.

How We Used It
I used the book the seven days preceding Christmas with my six-year-old daughter. We immediately downloaded the seven FREE printable ornaments and journal clip art images from Renee's website. I hid the day's ornament. Each day consisted of five different organized activities to complete:
  • Remember - Your Own Childhood Traditions and Memories
  • Read Aloud - Scripture-Based References Paraphrasing the Story of Christ's Birth
  • Reflect - Leveled Discussion Questions (9 and under, 10-14, and 15+)
  • Rejoice in God - Interactive Activities Along With Journaling Family Memories and Traditions
  • Research - Research and Optional Readings About the History Behind Our Traditions
I read the content related to the "Remember" section prior to our family meeting so that I could share my childhood memories and traditions. A search for the daily wrapped ornament representing part of the Christmas story followed by a short scripture reading was next on the agenda. After reading more scripture, we had a discussion using the age-appropriate questions provided in the "Reflect" section. My favorite parts were the "Research" and "Rejoice" portions. We researched the legends and symbols related to Christmas including, but not limited to, the legend of the candy cane, holly, evergreen trees, caroling, poinsettias, colors of Christmas, and St. Nicholas. Activities from the "Rejoice" section may include thanking God for everyday blessings, trying new hot cocoa recipes, baking cookies, looking at Christmas lights, caroling, journaling, writing acrostic poems, and participating in gift-giving opportunities or random acts of kindness.  

Our Thoughts
The book was easily implemented into our seasonal traditions creating special moments together that strengthened our family bonds. Its simplicity will help guide families towards the true meaning of Christmas through purposeful activities and meaningful readings. We thoroughly enjoyed using the book! I plan on maintaining a "Seeking Christmas" journal each year and hope to look back on these keepsakes for years to come. 

I highly recommend this book for Christian families with children of all ages who want to slow the pace down during the season in order to focus on why we truly celebrate Christmas. Seeking Christmas: Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions is a book that will guide any family toward creating treasured traditions that will prepare our hearts for Christ. 

Disclaimer or Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”