Updated on 12.05.07

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Christmas Decorating Edition

Trent Hamm

This year, I’m learning about the trials and challenges of attempting to decorate a house for Christmas with a toddler running around. Hang your ornaments high. Make the plug-ins as inaccessible as you can. Do NOT make anything edible low enough for him to reach (bye bye popcorn strands – bye bye candy canes). We’re half-scared to put presents under the tree because they’ll be opened when we aren’t looking. Toddlers are whirling dervishes.

Anyway, here’s the best personal finance stuff I’ve seen come across my browser window lately.

In the Spotlight, Ready for Its Close Up I’ve often talked about the financial benefits of living in Iowa, but many pooh-pooh living in Iowa because of the supposed lack of culture. The New York Times is now talking about Iowa as a travel destination because of the interesting night life, particularly in Des Moines’ East Village. Yes, Iowa is both frugal and a hip place to be. (@ nytimes via bankergirl)

Money Saving Tip: PriceProtectr This post introduced me to the wonderful PriceProtectr service, which I’ve signed up for. Lots of stores offer a price match guarantee – this site lets you just enter the product you purchased and what you paid, then alerts you if someone offers a better deal in your timeframe. Sweet. (@ gather little by little)

The Lies That (Some) Financial Advisors Tell It’s amazing how much financial “advice” is perfectly tuned to maximize the wallet size of the broker. Whenever you’re getting dinged on commissions, you’re losing money that you should be earning in returns. (@ five cent nickel)

A Collection of Money Tips for the Holidays My favorite holiday money tip? Develop a separate Christmas budget, then contribute enough to a savings account so that you have that amount when Christmas comes. (@ the digerati life)

The Simple Dollar Retro: How Much Cash Is Appropriate To Carry? How much money do you feel appropriate carrying? It’s a balance of potential emergency need and risk of loss or robbery for me, but what’s that dollar amount that balances these two counteracting forces?

Lessons From My Job Hunting Expedition This really is great advice for people seeking a job – a lot of good material here that happens to overlap with next week’s portion of the book club. (@ money, matter, and more musings)

The Cinnamon Bear: An Annual Holiday Tradition This is a fantastic frugal way to celebrate Christmas. I’ve saved this to my own computer so we can listen to it in future years at home. (@ get rich slowly)

Is Software Development Slowly Killing Me? This is a textbook example of someone really evaluating their career choices and coming to some potentially painful conclusions. (@ lazy man and money)

Invest In Yourself By Learning Things of Value I agree wholeheartedly, and the Guitar Hero analogy is spot on. (@ mighty bargain hunter)

The Simple Dollar Retro: Now That Aquafina Is Actually Labeled As Tap Water, Maybe We Can Look For Another Solution To The Bottled Water Issue I titled it to draw attention, but it’s about an important point: why are we buying water as a premium product when it’s a commodity?

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  1. Stephen says:

    Yo Trent, as a regular reader and a big fan I was kinda curious as to what your reaction of all the hoopla around the candidates tromping around your state.

    I am not sure if you are partial to sharing any political beliefs but I was just curious as to any insight you might offer us on any issues you find to be personal to you.

    Obviously I would understand if you choose not to answer this as politics in my personal experience is a slippery slope that tends to descend into people just getting pissed off at each other.

  2. Stephen says:

    As a disclaimer I am sorry if this has been asked 50x already and answered also.

  3. Wow, Stephen, that was way off topic. Personally, I don’t really care what Trent thinks of the candidates and I hope he doesn’t care what I think of them. I will be voting for the one that most represents my ideals (which may be none of them at this rate!). I think we should all keep politics on the political blogs and focus on finances in our financial blogs.

  4. guinness416 says:

    Yeah, for the love of all that is holy, no politics please. There is plenty of space for that elsewhere online.

  5. Stephen says:

    Well yeah, that is kinda the point of it. Not that I want to know everything he thinks, just wondering if there was anything going on with all of them he finds relevant to TSD.

  6. guinness416 says:

    Oh and I understadn the hometown pride but the NYT isn’t recommending Iowa as a travel destination dude … Nagourney specifically says “I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that Des Moines has become a vacation destination”!

  7. Katy Raymond says:

    About Christmas decorating with toddlers: Back in the day, parents were big fans of the play pen. I don’t know if that’s still the case or not. At any rate, one year my poor mother got so frustrated with my little sister tearing into the gifts and dismantling the tree that Mom put the entire tree and all the gifts–instead of my sister– INTO the playpen. Not a Martha Stewart moment, but it did save Mom’s sanity!

  8. sunshine says:

    “Whirling dervishes” *cue music* Love that!

  9. d. gasa says:

    We used to put the Christmas tree inside a playpen when we had kittens or toddlers in the house. It worked SOME of the time!What happy memories!

  10. Jen says:

    I too am dealing with a toddler this year. My little boy just turned 2 and we have 2 very curious cats. Because of our cats, our tree was “baby-proofed” long before we had a baby. :) Popcorn strings were replaced with stings of red wooden beads. Very simple, but bright and festive. All the sentimental and/or breakable ornaments are at the top of the tree. I was able to find some ornaments that look like the brightly colored glass balls, but they’re plastic. Those stay near the bottom of the tree. With the unbreakable stuff near the bottom and nothing edible our tree looks great and is safe for our family. However, I don’t put presents under the tree until right before christmas. My son is fine with them but my cats try to eat the paper and ribbon and that is always messy.

  11. STL Mom says:

    When my son was little, we put the tree on top of a table, and didn’t put out any presents until Christmas Eve. I have friends who put their tree out on the porch the year their son was two. They could see it through the sliding door in their kitchen. They still used lights, but replaced the indoor ornaments with treats for the birds.
    After Christmas, I strongly suggest packing breakable ornaments separate from the sturdy ornaments. Next year the little one can help decorate without a parent yelping, “Oh, honey let me get that one – ooops, I’ll get the broom.”
    And there’s always the upside-down Christmas tree that hangs from the ceiling!

  12. Ali says:

    This is the first year we have DARED put presents under the tree because my youngest is 3 1/2 — hopefully they will all stay wrapped! We make different popsicle stick ornaments every year with the kids and they are so proud of them that they are much more careful with the popsicle “Rudolphs” and “snowflakes” than they are with the nicer ornaments. It is a little hodgepodge looking, but the kids think it is beautiful. What else matters? :)

  13. vh says:

    LOL! One of the joys of having your kids grown up is the privilege of enjoying other people’s whirling dervishes. Toddlers get a lot cuter when you can think, “We’ll never have to do that again!”

    The outdoor Bird Tree is a terrific idea! Do they have birds in Iowa in the wintertime?

    Another way to dispense with the breakable ornaments is to make your own ornaments — some of them can be made with the help of even fairly young children. And some last a long time, so they get to be pretty sentimental and warm and Christmasy after a while.

    One memorable DIY ornament was a Santa made by wrapping a styrofoam ball with sheet beeswax and then pressing yarn into the stuff–pink for his face, white to build his hair and beard. Make him a little hat out of red felt, with a white yarn pom-pom at the top, and glue on a couple of sequins for his eyes. You can make lots of less elaborate ball-shaped ornaments with this technique, too. If the kidlet pulls them apart, at least she won’t get hurt.

    Also you can take sheets of clear acrylic, cut them into shapes, and paint them with transparent craft paints for a “stained glass” effect. Unbreakable!

    My parents never put presents under the tree until after I had gone to sleep Christmas Eve. And here I thought all these years it was because they were trying to trick me into thinking Santa Claus brought all that stuff….

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