Christmas Tree for $40 Or Less

Christmas is just around the corner!!!

Are you looking for a way to get into the Christmas spirit? Do you miss the soft glow of the Christmas tree at night? Does the thought of this year’s festivities give you a slight tingle in your pants? (Yes, Yes, and Yes!)

Every year, I try to get into the Christmas spirit, but the truth of the matter is Christmas will never be just like it was at home. I don’t have the funds, the storage, nor the vast collection of previous year’s decorations at my disposal. I always try to decorate the house and get into the Christmas mood, but it seems like each year I find myself living in a new place, and starting from scratch.

Which is why I was determined to have my own Christmas Tree this year AND not spend a fortune on it. I ended up with my very own Christmas tree, all for under $40! How did I do it? Amazon.com and The Dollar Store.

First off, I bought a 4 foot Christmas tree from Amazon.com. I don’t necessarily have space in my house for a full tree yet, and in the interest of saving money I decided to go with the fake tree, as much as it hurts to do so. The best option is the 4′ Charlie Pine Artificial Christmas Tree. It costs roughly ~$12 plus shipping, which is a steal if you ask me. It’s perfect if you have a little table or a stand that you can prop the tree up on to get the “height” typical trees should be. Although the tree in the above link is a little sparse, with the right kind of decorations and additional pine garland, you can really fill it up.

A look at the 4' Charlie

A look at the 4′ Charlie Pine Artificial Christmas Tree

After you get the tree, it’s time to decorate it! This is where a trip to your local Dollar Store will be very helpful. Stores like The Dollar Tree carry TONS of Christmas decorations, all for –yes you guessed it– a dollar! You can see their collection of Christmas tree decorations and other items here. Here are some of the items I bought recently:

Items, from left to right:Bow

Items, from left to right:
Bow, Candy Canes, Ribbons, Metallic Ornaments, Tiny Bows, Specialty Ornaments, Christmas Lights, and Metallic Garlands

The decorations cost all but $17 bucks. The lights cost $3 from my local supermarket.

And a look at the final product!

Placed near a window it looks like a full 6'-8' tree!

Placed near a window it looks like a full 6′-8′ tree!

Happy holidays!

Yu Live, Yu Learn

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30 Days to Hawaii: How to Maximize Your Vacation Days

The life of a vacationer is tough.

You have to plan your trip, book flights, and figure out the most diminutive details months ahead of time. And God forbid you have a job cause then you can’t even travel the world anytime or as often as you want. Geeeeeez.

Kidding! But all seriousness… doesn’t it sometimes seem like too much work to even find the time to go on vacation? Seems kind of counter intuitive, don’t you think? Those of us who have jobs (or aren’t self employed) often find it difficult to find the time to take a vacation. There are always things to consider when asking for time off, such as yearly limits, “busy seasons” within our respective fields, and the fear of being perceived as a slacker at work. It seems like there is always a roadblock preventing you from traveling to your heart’s content, and my friends, that is just plain wrong. As I wrote the other day, it’s important to vacation once in a while, and while work is an important part of your life, you should also take care of yourself as well.

Did you know that Americans vacation amongst the LEAST compared to every other industrialized nation in the world? In fact, the average number of vacation days an American gets a year is 12, compared to the Denmark, Brazil, France, and Spain, which all have upwards of 30 days paid time off. It’ll also surprise you that of those days, we don’t even USE all our hard earned time off, whereas most workers in those countries use them all. A study conducted by the Families and Work Institute found that less than half of U.S. employees take the full vacation. Doesn’t that seem implicitly wrong to you? My thought is, if you have them, use them. They’re given to us for a reason… yet we find ourselves complaining about overworking when we don’t even maximize the time given to us to relax, reset, and reinvigorate ourselves.

Expedia has published a couple of visuals to give you a sense of how far back we are in terms of vacations:

And also some side-by-side comparisons by country:

Statistics

So how does one fix this? Here are some of the tips you can use at work to maximize your vacation time.

Lump your vacation in with existing holidays

Only have 2 vacation days left? Why don’t you take your time off around Memorial Day or Labor Day? Chances are you get those days off if you don’t work in retail or in the restaurant business, so make the most of your three day weekends by tacking on a couple of vacation days there. Your three day weekend will magically become a 5 day vacation.

Take an entire week off if you have enough vacation days

If you’ve got it, spend it. Take Monday through Friday off if you get the opportunity to. By doing so, you end up with a 9-day vacation versus a 7-day vacation if you took, say, Thursday and Friday off one week and Monday through Wednesday off the next. Taking a whole week off gives you two extra days to do whatever you want, and makes it a true vacation rather than just a temporary “getaway.”

Work it out with your boss

Don’t have any more days left? Talk to your boss. I’ve been working since I was 14, and have had over a dozen bosses in my life. They’re people too. They get it. Who doesn’t like to take a vacation? Now, assuming your boss isn’t this guy, you should be able to strike a deal. Maybe take some unpaid time off. Or offer to work extra hours before or after your vacation. Or see if you can use sick/personal days instead. If you have a cool boss, you can most definitely figure it out.

Work out of the office

Can’t afford to be out the entire time? Why don’t you set aside some time while you’re on vacation to work? While this may seem like “not vacationing,” think of it as striking a middle ground somewhere. You’ll be happy you’re away and enjoying what you like the most, your boss will be happy you’re working, and regardless, it’s always nice to take some time away from the office, wherever you are. 

Volunteer during your vacation

Now I know this may sound weird, but hear me out. My company gives us two days off a year to go and volunteer within our communities. It’s an amazing program that I know some companies do. Ask your HR department if yours offers the same. If it does, it may offer an opportunity for you to spend some time helping a community that you otherwise would have never done. While vacationing is fun, sometimes the best experiences are doing things that do not fit the mold. You could help build houses while partying in Cancun, clean up the Lower Ninth Ward during Mardi Gras, or feed the homeless literally anywhere. It’ll save you an extra vacation day and it will be more than worth it afterwards.

However you do it, make sure to enjoy your time off! You deserve it, and hopefully with the hints above, you can extend the time you vacation this year! Also, if anyone has any additional hints on how YOU extend your vacation days, post below!

Yu Live, Yu Learn

Photos from here.