Yankee Swap Gift Ideas

Yankee Swaps are a great idea when you have a large group or family. Not only do you get a better gift, you have fun getting it! My family and I get competitive every year. Here are some fun ideas:
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Do It Yourself
Fleece Tie Blanket
Custom Coasters

Purchase Online
Family Recipe Box
One of these inexpensive gifts – plenty to choose from!

Gag Gifts
A bag of “coal”
One (or a few) of these hilarious ideas

What’s been your favorite Yankee Swap gift in Christmases past?

Gifts For: Kids

Whether it’s your own kids, younger siblings or cousins, or other children in your life, kids are lots of fun to shop for!
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Board or Card Games
I think kids spend way too much time playing video games these days. Get them away from the TV or computer with a classic game. Monopoly, Sorry, Uno and Phase 10 all come to mind.

Hat, Scarf and Glove/Mitten Sets
Kids are notorious for losing things. So stock them up on some cute outerwear accessories. If you live anywhere in the Northeast, you’ll recognize how necessary these are!

Custom Ornaments
I have an aunt who gives me and each of my cousins a unique ornament each year, with our names and the year on them. I love this idea because now when we decorate our Christmas tree, I have lots of family memories to think of when I’m hanging all of my ornaments. You can get them on Etsy or at any engraving store.

Savings Account Deposit
The little one might not appreciate it now, but if you and other family members deposit $50 or $100 into an account in the child’s name, starting when they’re very little, they’ll have a nice little nest egg waiting for them when they graduate college and money is tight. I wish someone had done this for me!

What are your favorite gifts to give to kids in your life? Do you give each child something different or pick a theme for everyone’s gifts?

A Night in Newport

Every once and a while, my boyfriend and I like to get away for just a night or two. It’s much more affordable than a full on vacation but it’s a nice way to recharge when things have been a little crazy.

One of our favorite places to go is Newport, RI. It’s a cute little town with a lot of history, including the Bellevue Ave mansions. There are tons of cute hotels and B&B’s to choose from and lots of delicious restaurants.

We went down to Newport for a night last weekend to celebrate me finishing my first MBA class (yay!). We had such a fun trip!

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We stayed at an adorable bed & breakfast called The Victorian Ladies Inn. It was cozy with a friendly staff and a delicious breakfast included. We stayed in the Arthur room (I forgot to take a picture!) and it was really nice. Very clean and spacious and the bed was incredibly comfortable.

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When we booked our hotel, we were also able to book discounted tickets to tour the famous Bellevue Ave mansions. We’ve been to some of the mansions before, but they’re so beautiful and intricate that I love going again and again.

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On Saturday, we toured The Breakers (pictured above) and did the servant life tour at the Elms. On Sunday, we did the Rosecliff tour (pictures below). We were a bit tired by then, so we decided to save the last tour for another date. The great thing about the mansions tickets is they never expire!

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It was a great one night getaway, and one I would suggest for any fellow New Englander, or someone visiting the area. There’s a little something for everyone! There are lots of shops and restaurants, beaches and historical tours. I love Newport and can’t wait to go back soon 🙂

Have you ever been to Newport? Where is your favorite getaway spot?

Why I Am Boycotting Black Friday

If you’re a loyal reader, I’m sure you know – I love a good deal. Which is why it might surprise some of you that I have decided to boycott Black Friday and the in-store “deals” this year. Here’s why…IMG_2597.JPG
I am a strong believer in the importance of family. For me, holidays are one of the few times throughout the year where I get to see my extended family. I love having the chance to catch up with all of my cousins, aunts, uncles and other family members.

But over the last few years, I’ve noticed something happening at Thanksgiving. Instead of talking to each other about exciting things happening in our lives, the focus seems to have shifted more and more on the next day – Black Friday. Where are you shopping? What time are you going? What deals are you hoping to get?

Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful for everything you are blessed with in life. It is not a day for devising shopping strategies. And then heading to bed early so you can get up before the sun to save a couple bucks.

And yes, I understand that everyone has different views on holidays. Maybe your family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, which is totally fine. But your decision to shop in the wee hours of the next morning affect people other than just you.

There are the college kids, home for just a few days, who have to give up valuable family time to go stand behind the register for you. And I speak from experience in saying that many retailers make Black Friday a mandatory day for all employees.

There are the high schoolers who, instead of enjoying a nice school break, have to head to the mall to fold the clothes and stock the shelves that you’re just going to mess up five minutes later.

There are the store managers with young children who have to hire babysitters so they can deal with any issues with pricing or customers misreading the sale signs.

And in some places, there are the police officers who have to work details at the malls and shopping centers in order to ensure that no one gets out of hand. These men and women already work tirelessly to keep your city safe and now they have to work overtime for crowd control.

I understand – a good deal is hard to pass up. But when you look at the bigger picture, are you really costing yourself and others more than you’re actually saving?

Instead of giving in to the commercial madness, I’ll be spending next Friday morning at home with my parents, boyfriend, dog and new kitten (!!). Sure, I’ll probably browse online for a good sale or two, but that’s not different than any other day for me!

Take the time to enjoy the time with your family and give others the same chance. You never know how much time you have with your loved ones, so make the most of it, especially during the holiday season.

Secret Santa Gift Ideas

When you have a large group of friends, it’s sometimes easier for each person to buy one nice gift, rather than trying to buy something for everyone. I do two of these “Secret Santa” swaps each year – one with my college roommates and one with my boyfriend and all of his friends. It’s so much less stressful and you end up with one gift that you really love.

I try to make my gifts really special, since they’re just getting mine! Here are some ideas I’ve had in the past…

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“Survival Kit”
Last year, I picked my friend who takes the train to work, is a Starbucks addict and loves beauty products. I got her a pair of headphones, some travel makeup essentials and a Starbucks giftcard. I wrapped it up in an adorable box and called it a “Salina Survival Kit”. It was a big hit!

Fleece Tie Blanket
I love pillows and blankets. I have a ridiculous amount and I am completely OK with that! One of my favorite blankets is a fleece tie blanket. It’s super warm, can be made in any color and is easy to make. Find more details here.

Personalized Gifts
Whether it’s an engraved wallet, monogram necklace or pretty bag with their initials, your friend will love something that is unique and just for them. Etsy is my go-to for all personalized gifts. There’s an option on there for every friend.

Beauty Products
Let’s be real – girls love to pamper themselves. But beauty products can be expensive! Treat your friend to that eyeshadow palette or expensive foundation she’s had her eye on. And for the fellas, a nice cologne is always a welcome idea!

What have you given as Secret Santa gifts? I could use some creative ideas for this year!