holiday gifts

Billy’s Bakery – Holiday Food Shopping

by Jamie Sanford on December 6, 2011

Last week, I had the pleasure of taking a meeting where Billy’s Bakery cupcakes were provided. Since they were super fabulous and delicious, I figured that I would check out the Billy’s Bakery website and see what else they have to offer.

If you are in NYC, you can have Billy’s Bakery delivered to you by a real person, but since I imagine that most of the readers of this blog do not live in NYC, I will stick to only the items that can be shipped.

You can get cute little gift packages in different denominations.  This is the $40 gift package. Look at the tin!

My mother makes delicious baby banana breads, and my husband makes it too. I love it. So I’m all about ordering a 6-pack of these mini banana breads to use as holiday gifts, since I don’t actually make it. The box of 6 mini Banana Nut loaves is available from Billy’s Bakery for $18.

I can TOTALLY vouch for the cupcakes, they were most and delicious and decadent, and really, that’s what cupcakes should be all about. I picked the classic cupcake sampler here, but they have chocolate, vanilla, red velvet (which I had and it was super good) – you can pick whichever cupcake combination you want.  The classic cupcake sampler dozen is available for $36.

Remember what I said about the red velvet? They have a whole cake you can get! For $45, you can feed 10-12 people this deliciousness.

Another favorite of mine (my Dad too) is peanut butter cookies, and these look really yummy.  The package of 6 cookies is available from Billy’s Bakery for $4.50.

If you need to order a sweet gift for the holidays, I would recommend checking out Billy’s Bakery. Those cupcakes were super good, so I have high hopes for everything else on their menu.

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Wrought Iron Haven Holiday Shopping

by Jamie Sanford on December 2, 2011

I was introduced to Wrought Iron Haven a few years ago when I was searching for a basic coat rack for the wall in my new apartment. I was annoyed with how much Pottery Barn wanted, and eventually found a perfect option from Wrought Iron Haven.

It’s just what I wanted! Black, basic, holds coats. This coat rack is available from Wrought Iron Haven for $39.95.

I got an email from WIH today about holiday specials, so I decided to shop around some more.  There are lots of things available that I love, and some that are random.

Bathroom decor realness. The Wrought Iron Ribbon Tissue Holder is available for $19.95.

You knew I’d find the deer items. This Wrought Iron Deer Key Rack, which I would totally use to hang necklaces, is available for $15.95.

I have a frog keychain that my parents gave me YEARS ago. I think that a cool keychain is something you might actually have for a lifetime.  Based on how solid and amazing my coat rack is, I have a feeling that this maple leaf keychain has some heft and would be a great gift for someone. The Wrought Iron Maple Leaf key ring is available for $5.95.

This is supposed to be a cat. Doesn’t it look like a primate though? The Wrought Iron Cat outlet cover is available for $10.95.

That’s more like it. Totally deer-a-rific. The Wrought Iron Deer outlet cover is available for $10.95.

Then before you leave the site, you should buy this adorable squirrel magnet. The Wrought Iron Squirrel magnet is available for $6.95.

There are lots of other fun things available from Wrought Iron Haven, and I suggest you check them out, pronto. Plus, if you sign up for their mailing list, you get $10 off of your next order!

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Track Your Holiday Gift Spending

by Jamie Sanford on November 10, 2011

Let’s get into some holiday preparation ideas for the holidays!  I am going to revisit some of my gift-giving tips soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share the spreadsheet that I use for tracking all of my gift purchases.  If you are like me and try to buy holiday gifts all year, the tracker is the best way to remind yourself that you already bought a gift for Cousin Sally, back in February.

So, here we go.

So, it’s a spreadsheet, it isn’t rocket science.  However, as simple as it looks, it took me a while to get all of the columns and formulas that I wanted, so here it is.  Let’s break it down.

The first columns are the very basics.  I think that filling this in early in the calendar year will create a little mental reminder that you’ve committed yourself to shop for gifts all year and not just at the last minute.

In addition, defining an absolute budget will help you stick it it.  One of the biggest problems with early shopping is that there is a possibility that you will find something else for someone after you’ve spent your budget.  If you can return something you have already bought, then fine.  If you can’t, then you need to remember the item and go back for it in the next calendar year.

There are 3 columns for gifts to purchase for each person(s).  In this area, you describe the gift, list the price, and note whether or not it has been purchased.  As you can see here, the cells are blue.  Once I have a gift that is “done” (i.e. in my possession), I go ahead and make it another color so I can gloss over it.  When I have completely finished with obtaining gifts for a person(s) on the list, the whole row gets a single color.

And of course, the budget tracking portion of the spreadsheet.  The columns will automatically add up in the “total spent” column, and “remaining in budget” will show you what you have left, if any.  It will show a number in parentheses if you have a negative remainder!

I would love to hear if anyone ends up using my little creation to track their holiday gifting and spending, but mostly, it is designed to use all year, for birthdays, anniversaries, baby gifts, Hanukkah and whatever other gift-giving happenings are in your life.

Track your holiday gift spending here with the spreadsheet in Google Docs.

Good luck!

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“No Shopping” Month Continued…

by Jamie Sanford on February 8, 2011

“No Shopping” month was implemented in my house in January. My husband and I both had birthdays in December and of course there was holiday gift spending, which all adds up to feeling spent in more ways than one. So it was decided that we would not make any purchases deemed frivolous in January. Obviously we have to eat and whatnot, so we spend money on that, but I’m talking more about the little things, like iTunes purchases, little Amazon purchases, etc.  While I obviously love shopping online, the ease with which we can spend money makes for a lot more spending than if we were forced to go to the mall every time I wanted to buy music or anything else.

Maybe Santana is dealing with "no shopping" month too.

So the month went by, and I won’t lie, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t spending any money in January, and I know that it is largely due to the fact that I get what feels like 25 emails a day from sale sites like Ideeli and Gilt.  Plus, I was writing posts for the Daily Wishlist, which requires a lot of online browsing.

Either way, it’s now February 7th and with the exception of ordering OPI Black Shatter online because I can’t find it anywhere in stores and the Mumford & Sons album, I haven’t bought anything.  I have some Ideeli credit to use but nothing has appealed to me.  I also used a store credit I had in January, but I figured that it didn’t count.

Cocktails counted as food. Right.

I did also go out with friends during “no shopping” month, but that doesn’t count either.  1, I would have needed to eat or drink something during that time anyway, and 2, I don’t go out so much that it’s eating up a major portion of my income.

Anyway, it was pretty telling.  I noticed a difference in my bank account for sure, and that was a good feeling.  The downside of this is that I enjoyed the savings so much that I don’t want to buy things that I need! I’m desperately in need of new snow boots and I love a number of boots in the Sorel collection, but I find myself not wanting to spend my money on something unless its really fun – and while these are some of the chicest snowboots I’ve seen, they are not that fun!

I know I’m not the only person who has been trying the shopping diet in January, I’ve read about a few others doing it too!  I know I’m going to need to pick up some things for my wardrobe in the next few weeks so I’m going to have to deal with it, but I think this gave me a big reminder of how I probably don’t really need as much as I might think.  That item that looks cute or intriguing right now is probably not as fulfilling as you might think.

So, would anyone else be game to try to curb their spending for a month? I think I’m going to try this out a few times a year, I think it would be a great way to save some extra cash for a specific purchase or event.

If you’ve tried a shopping diet or “no shopping” month of your own, please share in the comments.

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Shopping for Holiday Gifts? 5 Tips To Get Moving!

by Jamie Sanford on August 13, 2010

I asked a group of my colleagues the other night if they had started their holiday shopping and they were shocked that I had suggested it. I had a similar encounter on Twitter where I talked about having started my holiday shopping already and getting messages back saying things such as “WHAT?”  I knew immediately that I needed to offer my tips on fulfilling your holiday shopping list to my readers.

The Tree at Rockefeller Center.

This famous tree will be up in no time!

Why is everyone so surprised by this? There’s no reason why holiday gifts need to be purchased around the holidays, unless you’re shopping for someone who must have the absolute latest gadget—some tech toy purchased in July may conceivably be outdated by December, sure. But most other gifts have staying power. In addition, I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys going to a store after Thanksgiving.

So, I’ve purchased 3 or 4 holiday gifts so far, smallish things but I’m working through my list. It’s not as if the major holidays won’t come around this year, so why not start gift shopping now?

Here are my top 5 tips for getting into early holiday gift shopping. (Note that these ideas can also apply to your year-round gift shopping, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)

1.  Keep notes! Your friends and family probably drop subtle and not-so-subtle hints all the time about things they like and are interested in. If you think someone is consistently hard to shop for, remember this tip and it will be much easier in the future. My husband saves emails that I send him about things I like and revisits them later when it is gift time.

2.  Expose yourself to opportunities for saving money! I have been having a ball checking out the daily sales from the following websites. The first 5 are mostly focused on product purchases, but Groupon has daily deals on things to do or see in your area – and most of the experiences you can buy can be redeemed within long period of time, completely making this viable for holiday gift shopping.

Gilt Groupe
Beyond The Rack
Swirl by Daily Candy

Leave a comment below if there are other sites in this category that readers should check out.

3.  Set a budget. This process is much faster in general if you have a hard number in mind as a budget for each gift you are going to give. It makes snap decisions very easy, especially when using the deal-a-day websites. If it is above your budget, let it go. If it is below your budget, great – this can work especially well if you get a really hot deal on something. Keep in mind that smart shopping means that a small budget can go a long way!

4.  Go “shopping” in a real store, or at the mall. As much as I love the Internet, you can’t see everything online. There is a lot to be said for window-shopping, and it can really help to jog your memory—passing a display of perfume can remind you that your mother-in-law mentioned liking/wanting it. I highly recommend doing this memory-sparking shopping early in the week, at night. This is the time I find the mall to be the quietest. Feel free to take notes (or photos with your cell phone if you prefer), and order the items online when you get home. You might be able to find a much better price online, but the experience will help you nonetheless.

5.  Have fun! I know I’m not the only one who really gets a kick out of giving gifts that really makes the other person happy. I’ve been told that I’m great at finding holiday gifts (hence this blog), but for the most part, anyone can do it if you put some thought into it.  It really does bring a great feeling and it is worth the effort—there really is no need to default to buying holiday gift cards!

Here’s a great 30-second clip from 30 Rock, where Jack discusses the beauty of gift-giving. It pretty much sums it all up. The clip is gone now and I can’t find it anywhere. The best quote from Jack Donaghy is this:

“Gift giving is the purest expression of friendship. I’m going to think about what I know and like about you and that will lead me to the perfect gift, and you do the same.”

Please post your early shopping tips in the comments!

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