December Budget Breakdown and Shutterfly Giveaway

My Awesome Shutterfly Christmas Card

My Awesome Shutterfly Christmas Card

Ahhhh…….the holidays, the time of year when we rack our brains to come up with creative gifts for the people we’re biologically related to.  It’s also the time of year when your well-meaning family members call and ask what you want for Christmas as well.  And if you’re like me, it an be difficult to come up with something.

My parents still insist on buying for me, and even go as far as putting out a stocking for each of their kids who are now 33, 36, and 37.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s adorable and I hope to get a stocking ’til I’m 80.  It’s just getting hard to know what to ask for.  So far this year I’ve asked my mom for a skillet, yoga pants, plastic kid’s plates, and a calculator.  Boooooorrrrrring……

Anyways, it’s time to share our December Budget Breakdown, and it’s a doozy!  Check it out:

  • Rent:               $700
  • Electric:          $200
  • Groceries:       $500
  • Daycare:          $600
  • Internet:          $110
  • College L:        $25
  • College V:        $25
  • Gas/Misc.:      $200
  • Cell Phone:     $55
  • Health Ins:      $395
  • Life Ins. (H):   $73.31
  • Wisc. Dells:     $300
  • Christmas:      $500
  • Furnace:          $120
  • Anniversary:   $75

Total: $3,878.31

Whoomp, there it is.  Our expenses are a little higher than usual and… hurts.  However, there’s a reason for everything:

  • Our internet went up to $110 because I had to increase the gigs available on my wifi hotspot from 10 to 16!  I can’t wait until we move to a regular neighborhood where I can get regular, cheap internet.
  • We’re still staying on our old health insurance plan for the moment, but I did get a notice that it was going up about $20.  Exciting stuff, I know.
  • Greg’s parents are taking us to the Wisconsin Dells for Christmas.  Isn’t that an awesome Christmas present?  Anyhoo, they’re paying for the resort and we’re paying for gas, food, and incidentals.  Our room has a minifridge though, so I hope to save by bringing milk and some snacks.  I still budgeted $300 for this just in case.
  • We got our rental home’s furnaces serviced.
  • Our anniversary is coming up and we’re going out to dinner and staying in the swank and high-brow Super 8 in town.  But, our hotel is free so I just had to budget for dinner.  Find out how we got our hotel room free by reading this post on how to earn $800 by doing nothing.

Shutterfly Giveaway

I recently ordered some kick-ass Christmas cards from Shutterfly and they are, as usual, da bomb.  What’s super cool is that they’ve authorized me to give away a credit for $50 of merchandise and free shipping to one of you lucky guys and dollz.  Oh come on, you know you want it!

To win, all you’ve got to do is leave a comment with your worst Christmas memory, the craziest present you’ve ever gotten, or the lamest thing you’re asking for this year.

The best (and most outrageous) comment will be chosen tonight at 9:00 p.m. by my dog Pablo, the freeloading genius.  Cheers!

***UPDATE:  The $50 Shutterfly credit goes to A. Tindall for getting drunk on Christmas and ignoring the haters.  I approve.  Check your email.

Want to be a part of some cool giveaways? Become a VIP Club Insider today!
About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.


  1. Apparently the lamest thing I’m asking for is a Christmas photo of our whole family. Our family doesn’t really have ANY pictures of everyone together and lately they’ve all been reminding me that it’s because they avoid them at all cost.

  2. Once at a white elephant gift exchange I somehow got stuck with a box of someone’s old makeup. That’s right, an entire box of someone else’s used makeup. It went straight into the trash!!
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted..Black Friday Blue Light Crap AlertMy Profile

  3. Have fun on your Wisconsin Dells trip! That will be a lot of fun and yeah budgeting extra for a vacation is always a good idea!
    kelly @stayingonbudget recently posted..November 2013 Recap and 2014 GoalsMy Profile

  4. The strangest thing I have ever gotten was from my mother in law. I wine bottle cork. That was it! She has a net worth of over a million (probably because she gives presents like this one!).

  5. I gatta think up some stuff for Christmas… my shopping for others is all done, however. I always feel strange asking for Christmas gifts as an adult. I guess I feel that anything I need I would have already bought.
    Snarkfinance recently posted..Facebook Friends and VoyeurismMy Profile

  6. Nice giveaway, my wife loves Shutterfly! My worst gifts as a kid was my Mom’s friend who gave me ugly sweaters every year : (
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..5 Practical Stocking Stuffers for AdultsMy Profile

  7. Ack, you too?!! My mom embarrasses me every year with a stocking full of candy and a couple of $5 gift cards. I’m like “MOM! I’m 32 years old!!”

    But deep down I hope she does it forever. :-)
    FI Pilgrim recently posted..Don’t Worry ‘Bout The Mule, Just Load The WagonMy Profile

  8. The Super 8 in my town is sketchy and there are occasional drug busts and it is know as the place you can go for an hour if you are spending time with one of those women who walk around outside the Grey Hound station. I am sure yours is nice though.
    Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle recently posted..It Costs Me Money In Taxes When People Just Don’t Want To WorkMy Profile

  9. Super cute pic, Holly! It’s a bummer when those high-expense months come, but sounds like you guys are slated for an awesome month, with Christmas, Wisc. Dells and your anniversary – party on!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..Your Family “Traits”: Which Will You Choose to Follow?My Profile

    • Yeah, pretty excited for the month. I love seeing the kid’s faces on Christmas! And this is the first year that my youngest knows what’s going on.

  10. I’m going to go with the question on the lamest things that I’m asking for this Christmas.

    Personally, I’m someone that asks for things that I need vs. things I want. On this years wishlist is socks and white t-shirts. Yep, that’s the stuff with the highest priority on my Amazon wish list. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s a link to my list:

    As you can see, I added those babies on December 2nd, well before I knew about this contest.

    P.S. If anyone wants to buy me something, that would be wonderful. Just kidding! Or am I? ;-)
    Adam Hagerman recently posted..21 Motivational Stories of People Who Attacked Their Debt and WonMy Profile

  11. My parents asked me what I wanted and I said new socks. I love new socks and my dream in life is to be able to wear a new pair every day (wasteful I know). PS. I don’t really want to win, because then I would have to actually doing something with the pictures I take other than store them on an external HD.

  12. The lamest present I ever received was…..

    ….a pair of sweats and matching sweatshirt that my family said they all pitched in to get me around the age of 8.

    Actually, it was a cruel, mean joke on all of their parts as they were just testing me. I opened the present which happened to be the last one and was thinking it was something really cool. I was super disappointed, but tried to act like I wasn’t, which at the age of 8 is kind of hard to hide.

    Anyways, they pulled out my ACTUAL present 15 minutes later and it was a brand new basketball hoop. I was pumped. I literally went from extreme depression to pure joy in 15 minutes.

    Gotta love the cruel family ;)

    The Warrior
    The Warrior recently posted..Tossing My Financial Future Away Since 1988My Profile

  13. I always have trouble with what to ask for too. I think this year I told my mom I wanted some new khaki pants. Last year I really wanted a shredder. Can it possible get any more exciting?
    Matt Becker recently posted..What’s worse: Being in During a Bad Market or Out During a Good One?My Profile

    • I asked for a new shredder last year! I think my MIL got us one! That’s the kind of thing I ask for- something I am too cheap to buy for myself but probably need.

  14. My Mom is the same way – we still get stockings. Oh well, it feels a little silly, but I appreciate the thought. I’m with you on the boring gift request. We’ve been racking our brains trying to come up with something for my Dad to get us and settled on a blender. Exciting I know. ;) But, our old one broke a few months back and would like a new one. The rest of our parents give us the best gift…cash! :)
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..How I Come Up With Great Christmas Gift Ideas for KidsMy Profile

  15. A. Tindall says:

    Last year my parent’s power went out Christms morning but they didn’t tell us kids because they knew they’d have to go into the city to one of our (heated) apartments. God forbid we break tradition. So we show up and I think ok nbd we will wear our coats and drink mimosas. I was chosen by the siblings and spouses to open the beverage fridge to get the oj and champagne and my mom freaks and says if I break the seal on the fridge her soy milk and eggs will spoil. Uh what? I suggest we put them outside where its cold. Rejected. I offer to pay her to replace them. Rejected. And she screams in front of everyone that I clearly have a drinking problem. I opened the fridge got the booze and was “iced” out by mom all day but we all felt toasty inside :) the eggs and milk survived.
    Oh moms.

  16. Alison F. says:

    The lamest thing I’m asking for is new socks! My parents love to give me presents that are practical so I threw that on the list this year. Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. How do you only pay $600 a month for daycare for two children???? We pay almost $2000 a month for two kids. There is nothing cheaper in our area other than home daycare and my husband does not want to do that. If we could pay that small amount, our student loans would be gone in no time. Jealous!

    • ETA: Half-day care for kindergarteners in our area for one child is more per month than you pay for both. Ugh.

    • My kids go to a small in-home daycare that they love! It’s $150 per week for two kids full-time. Prices are all over the place where I live. Some of the centers I checked out were $225 per week…per kid!

      We have always done in-home childcare since it’s cheaper and we’ve been able to find people we trust. I don’t think the centers are worth the extra expense. The most expensive once I came across taught the kids French and did baby yoga. Not necessary.

    • I just re-read your comment and saw that your hubby didn’t want to do an in-home daycare. I would possibly consider rethinking that if I were you! You have to do your research and find someone you’re comfortable with but the savings are worth it IMO. Because of the money we save, we’re able to do a lot more things!

      • How did you find your in-home daycare? We are in suburban Philadelphia so I don’t think we’d be able to find anything as cheap as you pay, but it could possibly be less. Our kids are in a small center right now so it is less than the big chains – most of which would charge us over $2500/month for both kids.

        • Actually, I called a few daycare ads off of craigslist. One of the people I was considering ended up being full and gave me the name of another lady down the street from her. It ended up being the lady we picked and she’s great. I did a background check on her and called six of her references. She’s been doing daycare for something like ten years and does a great job. The kids do arts and crafts and she feeds them healthy snacks. We are grateful that we found her!
          It is worth the savings, I think, since it is so huge. My brother’s kids go to Goddard nearby (love you brother!) and I think it’s something like $500 per week. Sure they may be in a nicer building and stuff but I doubt the benefit for their family is enough to warrant the extra cost. Know what I mean?

          Its just such a personal thing. Some people think the fancy daycares are worth the money and that’s fine too.

  18. Also, how do you have a cell phone plan that costs $55? I don’t even have Internet on my phone and it’s a POS and my one phone costs more than both of yours (AT&T). Just looking for suggestions because we want to switch plans A.S.A.P.

    • My husband’s phone goes through Page Plus Cellular. It’s a discount provider that uses that Verizon network. He has 5 gigs of data and unlimited talk and text per month. They also have a 29.99 plan with a little less data.
      I’m not sure if Page Plus is in your area but it’s a great company. His plan is also no-contract which is nice!
      My phone is through Republic Wireless and I haven’t paid a monthly bill on it since I got it. There was a promotion where I got a month free every time someone signed up through my affiliate link and I took advantage of it. I’m not sure when I’ll have to start paying for it but it’s only $19.99 per month when I do!

  19. At a White Elephant party that I attended in college, I ended up with an Obama Chia Pet. Yeah. It was the “determined” pose – because for some reason they make more than one! By far the craziest gift I’ve ever received.
    Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial recently posted..How Banks Profit from Customers – and Why Credit Unions are DifferentMy Profile

  20. My mother-in-law’s gift to us got mixed up at the shipping store. She doesn’t ever plan so just drops stuff off for them to wrap and ship (I know!). Anyway, we got a box with our name from her, but it was full of airplane seat covers like for a small private plane. We thought she was senile until we found out what happened. I would have liked to have seen the airplane guy when he got socks and candles!
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Retirement Planning Made SimpleMy Profile

  21. Probably the craziest gift I got was from my SIL last year. She got me a vase. I NEVER have fresh flowers in the house so it has just been sitting in my cabinet for a year now, never been used.


  22. I’m in grad school and burn through Sharpies and pens like crazy while studying- so it’s lame but I’m asking for more of the multicolor pack of ultra fine point sharpies. Lame, and yet it makes my life soooooooo much easier! My other lame present is asking for more thin wool hiking socks- I love them for horseback riding, but a $20/pair, I feel guilty buying them myself!

  23. Nice breakdown Holly. The lamest thing I am asking for this year is a Home Depot gift card so I can buy paint! Yes, I will be painting our room and touching up walls during the holidays. Yea!!! I love getting ready for a home sale….
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..How To Shop Safely On Your Mobile Device This Holiday SeasonMy Profile

  24. How long does it take Shutterfly to print up those cards…I need to get a move on. I can’t believe Christmas is almost here. I really don’t get much gifts and honestly don’t want anything. When one of my co-workers was trying to figure out what to get me as the secret Santa, I said that I liked this mousepad/calendar gift given to me from a previous year. Calendar right on my desk AND a mousepad! Multi-purpose.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted..Save Money While Holiday ShoppingMy Profile

  25. My grandmother once gave me a set of plastic unicorns that were intended for cake decorating. I believe I was 13 at the time and had no interest in cake decorating, but it was good for a laugh later.

  26. The white elephant gift I received last year was bad. A big huge pink shell from the bahamas. you know the type….the big one where you put it up to your ear? I bet she was glad to get rid of that thing!!
    The absolute worst gifts though are the children’s gifts that come with all the little itty bitty pieces. Lite Brite, Hungry Hungry Hippo, hi ho Cherry O, that damn Melissa and Doug dress up magnet doll, STICKERS, puzzles….and the absolute worst? Polly Pocket.

  27. The weirdest thing I ever got was a banana holder. Like, a contraption that holds bananas. I was a teenager and I still can’t begin to guess what my grandma was thinking.

    Other interesting things she has gotten me include: a bag of oranges, a decorative wine bottle (no wine, unfortunately), and corn on the cob holders. I can’t begin to understand how she chooses gifts…
    Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild recently posted..It’s My Money, I’ll Eat Out If I Want ToMy Profile

  28. I will never forget the Christmas when the applesauce flew all over the car! When I was younger we had an apple tree and my Dad would make homemade applesauce. It was his thing! He made some for Christmas and being who he is he just left it in the pot he cooked it in with a lid that didn’t close tight. We were driving in the car over to the family party and sure enough the pot flew off the seat and applesauce flew all over the car and on the presents! I can recall this like it was yesterday and I’m sure it was 30 years ago!

  29. My former stepdad brought a new and horrifying gift-giving tradition to our family as a child. He decided it would be hilarious to take a pair of our underwear out of the hamper the week before Christmas, wrap it up, and then videotape the unwrapping of my own yet-to-be-washed boxers on Christmas day. I really cannot express the horror that I felt as an already anxious 11 year old going through what, even to this day, seems like and evil genius sort of prank. My sister and I both freaked out while my parents cracked up behind the camera.

    In future years, he started wrapping up multiple pairs. So right when you thought the on instance of humiliation was all you’d endure….BAM. More dirty boxers.

    I think that counts as both my worst memory and worst gift, right? :)

    This year, my lame Christmas wish is for a nice new pair of athletic shorts for working out. The ones I have are all fine but I’ve had them for years. Something new in the rotation would be cool.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Notes from Peru & Ecuador…With Pictures!My Profile

  30. When I was in middle school my mom asked me to find a White Elephant gift to take to a work party. I found a pot filled with acorns in the backyard. The lady who “won” the gift put it in her office and left for a few days. Well… when she got back from vacation, the pot had warmed up and bugs were crawling out of it! All over her desk! So gross…

    I still haven’t lived that down…
    Kelsie recently posted..Getting Beat by a Baby: My 10K RaceMy Profile

  31. Last week when my wife and I went on our Black Friday DVD spree, I came up with this awesome idea–hey, we can cut this expense a little by giving a couple of these to my mom and having her give them to us for Christmas! We ended up getting $20 back and I’m pretty sure my mom thinks I’m super cheap and lame haha.
    Ben @ The Wealth Gospel recently posted..November Net Worth Update – Up 8.45%My Profile

  32. OK, I’ll bite…what the heck is the Wisconsin Dells? My first thought was computers made in the cheese state.

    As for my worst Christmas memory, it was a couple years ago when our tree fell in the middle of the night and glass ornaments shattered everywhere, then the kids came out and cut the bottom of their feet at 2am. That was sooooo fun.
    Kyle | recently posted..6 Holiday Budgeting Tips to Prevent OverspendingMy Profile

  33. The Wisconsin Dells look like fun! I went to something similar called Great Wolf Lodge. It’s an indoor waterpark and everything is basically five minutes from your room. Really convenient and everyone I went with loved it.

    I’m probably going to ask for pens as a stocking stuffer. I love writing with an amazingly smooth pen, and I was researching them earlier today. Writing in different colors makes me happy, too. Talk about lame! Btw, your Christmas card is cute. Family members keep begging for pictures of the boyfriend and I, and I’ve heard great things about Shutterfly.
    E.M. recently posted..November Budget ReviewMy Profile

  34. I can only assume that they are taking you to one of the Dell’s many indoor water parks. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure why they want to take you to Wisconsin in December/January. I lived there for many years, it gets cold. =)
    Micro recently posted..Saving money with an alternate work scheduleMy Profile

  35. I’m probably too late as i just saw this now. My worst gift was i was 9 years old, we are at my grandparents, all the aunts, uncles, cousins. everyone is exchanging gifts and all my cousins and siblings are getting some neat stuff. I open my little box, so excited to find……a sea shell magnet with a weird little plant growing out of it. My aunt (who had 2 kids who are around my age, it’s not like she was a 100 years old) gave it to me. We refer to it as ‘the root’ gift as it literally looked like a root of a tree growing out of a sea shell that we were supposed to hang on the fridge. My dad still laughs at the thought of my face when i held it up. So the other kids were playing with their new stuff, I had my root to take home

    who the hell gives that to a 9 year old? my aunt, that’s who

  36. Love the family pic! You look so tiny next to Greg! Chris and I are the same height. So good news, I can wear flats most of the time. :) We always do a family picture on our holiday card too and I can’t believe how much the girls have grown when I look back at our old cards. I, of course, simply do not age! LOL! Is Wisconsin Dells is an indoor amusement park? Sounds like a great gift and I’m sure the girls will have a blast. Have a great weekend!
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..Blog Round-Up: Week of December 2, 2013My Profile

  37. These months are hard. I am in the same boat in terms of issues with the increase in expenses because of Christmas. I really enjoy the month with my family but the expenses go through the roof! Oh well… luckily it will be over and done with soon.

  38. Holly, First I shocked to see that your iNternet costs you 110$, we here in India get Good internet package for just 10$-15$.

    Happy Christmas In Advance
    Nani recently posted..Save 10% on Viva ThemesMy Profile

  39. One year my aunt gave me a “make your own soap set” with terrifying fake bugs that your were supposed to put inside the bars of soap. To this day I still don’t understand.
    Terry @EasyFinancialTips recently posted..5 Awesome and Inexpensive Gift Ideas for Your Significant OtherMy Profile

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