Have yourself a financially stress-free Christmas

December 2, 2013

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I have fond memories of mince pies, decorating the tree and home-made gifts. Every year, my Mum would start in the summer to plan and create our gifts. She could knit, crochet, sew and do just about every other kind of craft. She didn’t have sewing machine, but she had a full set of knitting needles, a collection she took years to build.

609-Knitting-on-the-trainBack in those days, yarn was not nearly so spendy as it is today. Making sweaters, mittens and gloves was inexpensive and so, it was one of the only ways she could afford to put gifts under the tree. I remember her sending me off to bed as early as possible to give herself more time to work on creating our Christmas presents by hand.

I am ashamed to say that I was sometimes disappointed that I did not receive the gift I wanted. I remember being devastated that I was the only girl in my class who did not receive a Cabbage Patch Kid one year. When I reflect on this, I am ashamed that I pined for these products so selfishly and felt so empty and worthless when I did not receive them.

All this made Mum terribly anxious. Without fail, she would buy a few small things and put them under the tree, but every year the trendiest gifts got more and more expensive and always seemed to be just out of her financial reach. Whatever the most fashionable gift of the year was, the prices always inched up so that a single mom of the working-poor could never have those gifts within reach. Pride and dignity prevailed at all times of the year and accepting hand-outs from friends or charity groups was out of the question. Sleep deprivation was a small price to pay to ensure there was something under the tree on Christmas morning.

As I look back, I can not remember any of the consumer products that I received as Christmas gifts, but I remember every single handmade gift she made me. The effort and love she put into those gifts are what have left me with warm and special memories. She died at Christmas time and my tolerance for consumerism has waned every year since. What I wouldn’t do for one of her hand-made sweaters today!

Here are seven things I have learned about Christmas gifts:

  1.  The amount of money spent on a gift is not equal or proportionate to the amount of love in the giver’s heart.
  2. Store-bought gifts take less time than hand-made gifts.
  3. A gesture of kindness, a hand-written card or sincere forgiveness for something that went wrong in the past, are better gifts than anything money can buy.
  4. When the giving comes from your heart, it is more likely to be cherished in the long run.
  5. The best gifts are those that leave us with warm memories.
  6. Spending time to build, create or prepare a gift is often more valuable than spending cash to buy one.
  7. Thoughtfulness and intentionality count. Thinking of what the recipient would deeply enjoy takes effort and a deep focus on the person on the receiving end. Think twice before buying gourmet coffee for the person who does not care for caffeinated beverages.

If you are going to buy gifts this year, here’s a way to lead by example when to comes to putting the spirit of Christmas ahead of the spending:

Set a budget

One of the basics of financial literacy is budgeting. Decide how much you can spend on gifts. Then, figure out who you want to buy gifts for. Allocate a maximum amount of money for each person. Remember to factor in taxes and if you are buying online, remember the shipping costs, too. The amount you spend on all of your recipients combined can not exceed your total.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade has an excellent online worksheet to help you plan your holiday spending: http://www.gailvazoxlade.com/resources/holiday_spending_plan.html

Buy local

Look at where the product is made. If it’s made in your country, or better yet, your province or state, it is more likely that it was made under fair working conditions. Why not support your own local economy?

Support independent businesses and solo-preneurs

Farmers markets, craft fairs and independently owned shops and businesses are just a few of the placed you can find locally-made products.

I was recently told that 70% of all small businesses in Canada are service-based businesses. How about a gift certificate for a house-cleaning or a massage? There are plenty of options for a gift that allows the recipient to feel pampered without adding more to the landfill.

Remember that Christmas is not about how much money you spend on others, but offering letting the love in your heart shine towards those whom you hold dearest to your soul. A gift can come in many forms, but best are those that leave you with warm memories to hold on to long after the gift itself has gone from your life.

For those of us who work in the literacy field and are advocates of literacy, it is up to us to lead by example when it comes to responsible spending during the holidays. So have yourself a financially literate Christmas and focus on sharing laughter and love this holiday season.

Related posts:

 5 Festive ways to say Happy Holidays! to your favorite teacher http://wp.me/pNAh3-151

 Top 10 affordable and unique Christmas gift ideas for teachers http://wp.me/pNAh3-1xD

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


10 affordable and unique Christmas gift ideas for teachers

December 10, 2012

Swirl of giftsIt is that time of year again when parents and children want to acknowledge teachers’ hard work and commitment to education with a token of appreciation.

Over the years, teachers collect dozens of boxes of chocolates and coffee mugs, so avoid those and instead opt for affordable gifts that your teacher is sure to appreciate. Here are some gift ideas for teachers, educational aides and volunteers, do not cost a lot of money and say “thank you” in a unique way:

1. Specialty tea

Choose black, green or herbal teas that are organic and high quality. Visit a local speciality tea shop and choose one that your teacher will love. Avoid the temptation to present it in a mug though. Many teachers already have a hearty collection of mugs, comprised of previous gifts from students.

2. High quality coffee

If you know for sure that the teacher drinks coffee, then the gift of java will surely be appreciated. Opt for high quality ground coffee unless you know for sure that the teacher uses a coffee grinder. Look for organic, fair trade or direct trade coffee from a local distributor.

3. Hand-made soap or lotion

Body products are another typical holiday gift for teachers, but many of the commercial products contain unhealthy ingredients. Opt for naturally-made, locally produced products that are scent-free or only lightly scented. This increases the chances that teacher will actually use the bath product.

4. A bottle of wine

Only give this gift if you know for sure that the teacher drinks alcohol. If she or he does, then a high quality bottle of wine can go a long way to help a stressed teacher relax once the term is over.

5. A gift card for classroom supplies

Did you know that many teachers buy their own classroom supplies? Some teachers love strolling the aisles of office supply stores, looking at markers, paper, pens, pencils and other classroom supplies. A gift card to an office supply store is a wonderful way to help teachers help kids.

6. A box of elegant, high quality blank cards

An exquisite box of blank cards is a great idea because it means that when the teacher is too busy during the term to go out and buy a special occasion card, they have one handy. Choose high quality paper with a design that can be used for a multitude of purposes.

7. A gift certificate for housecleaning services

This is another great idea from a group of parents. Many teachers find themselves so busy during the term that their house keeping chores just do not get done. If it comes to preparing a lesson plan or cleaning their toilet, teachers will opt to focus on their students. A gift certificate for maid services for a day can provide welcome relief. Choose a well-known service with an excellent reputation.

8. Gift certificates to a locally owned restaurant

Pool resources with a few other parents and buy a gift certificate to a local fancy restaurant. A group gift that allows a teacher to take their special someone out for a complete dinner with wine will be appreciated and remembered for a long time to come.

9. Gift certificates to the movies, live theatre or a concert

This kind of gift sends the message, “You deserve to relax.” A gift certificate or card for entertainment allows the teacher to take a break and forget all the day-to-day stresses of their job.

10. A gift made by you and your child

A gift handmade by your child, together with you, is a surefire way to touch a teacher’s heart. A handmade card, bookmark or other small token is enough to say, “We appreciate you!”

Avoid sugary or sweet gifts such as chocolate, cookies or other sweets. The school staff room is probably full of high calorie treats and many teachers end up laden with boxes of chocolates that they do not particularly want or need.

Instead, show your appreciation to teachers with small, thoughtful gifts that are unique and sure to be appreciated. Choose gifts that do double-duty of helping to support ethical business and local entrepreneurs and you’ll be giving a gift in more ways than one. You are guaranteed a great big smile on the teacher’s face when you do.

Related posts:

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


5 Easy Christmas Blogging Ideas for Literacy and Language Teachers

December 5, 2012

With Christmas right around the corner, teachers are scrambling to finish up the semester before the holidays. If you are a blogger, you probably do not have much time for your blog at the moment. Here are five easy ideas to keep you blogging through this busy time of year:

1. A guide to Christmas away from home

Do you have students from other countries who are missing their family and friends back home? Write a post with your top suggestions on how to survive the holidays away from home.

2. Local Christmas traditions and events

Many areas have special events such as craft fairs, light displays or free ice skating to celebrate the holidays. Tap into your local community to find out what is going on. Write a post that highlights some free or low-cost options for your students and their families.

3. Christmas crafts for young and old

Believe it or not, doing crafts can be an excellent way to build literacy and language skills. You must read instructions, follow directions and use a step-by-step method to complete a task.

Create a post with links to simple crafts that are appropriate for the ages and language proficiency of the group you teach. A link to a YouTube video is always a great idea.

4. Christmas carols for language learning

Sarah Eaton blog photoAs children we learn Christmas carols without really thinking about the words. What does it mean to “deck the halls with boughs of holly”, anyway? If you live in an area where holly does not grow then you may have never seen real holly.

Write a blog post that de-mystifies some of the language and phrases in common Christmas songs.

5. Multicultural Christmas traditions

When I was a teenager my Mom befriended a lady from El Salvador. That first Christmas we exchanged stories about our different Christmas traditions. Marta told us that setting off fireworks after their turkey dinner was part of their tradition. We had a wonderful conversation as we learned about what the similarities and differences were between our two cultures.

Write a blog post that highlights some of the traditions of your students, friends or family members.

Christmas time is one of the busiest times of the year for many people. Keep your blog posts simple and light during this time of year. Focus on joy and sharing and you’ll continue to enjoy your own blogging through the holiday season.

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Share or Tweet this: 5 Easy Christmas Blogging Ideas for Literacy and Language Teachers http://wp.me/pNAh3-1wP

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Apple (Mac) Resources for Presenters, Speakers and Teachers

December 21, 2011

I recently facilitated a lunch meeting at the Calgary chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS). The purpose of the meeting was for presenters, workshop trainers and speakers who use Apple products in their professional practice to share their best ideas and resources.

You can download a copy of these resources and use them in your own teaching, training or speaking practice.

View this document on Scribd

Let me know which ones you like or leave a comment to add to our list!
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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Literacy for Christmas: Free activities and resources

December 19, 2011

Swirl of giftsAre you looking for activities with a Christmas or holiday theme to promote or improve literacy? Check out some of these great free resources:

Early Childhood Literacy

Christmas literacy resources for K-3 teachers 

Candy cane math and sight words for preschoolers and kindergarten – The Preschool Toolbox blog

Literacy activities for K-12

Tons of holiday literacy resources for a variety of ages (including printables) – Teaching Ideas

Christmas writing activities – Literacy Minute blog

Christmas around the world – Numerous activities for a variety of age groups – TES resources

Literacy at Christmas “How to” kit – NWT Literacy Council (NALD)

Christmas Brainstorm Activities – About.com (There are links to other worthwhile resources from that page.)

Do you know of other free activities for literacy teachers that we can add to this list? If so, leave your comment below.

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Like this post? Share or Tweet it: Literacy for Christmas: Free activities and resources http://wp.me/pNAh3-16g

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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