Shopping

This year, my hubby and I have the best gift we could possibly get for Mother’s or Father’s Day: Baby Juliza. Still, I’ll take any excuse I can get to make him feel extra special, because he really is an awesome dad. But what do you give a man who doesn’t really need anything, and whose wants are slightly out of budget? I mean, if anyone wants to get him a sports car, I’ll be happy to let you, but mama needed to be a little more thrifty.

When Walmart challenged me to do something special for Father’s Day under $25, I was genuinely stumped for a bit. Until I remembered how much my hubby loves to grill. It may sound like a cliche, but the man genuinely enjoys getting his barbecue on. And I’m happy to stand back and let him. He’s already a master in the kitchen, but he gets really inventive with the grill and turns out delicious meals. So if I’m honest, this gift is really for both of us.

I decided to make a barbecue-themed gift basket/bowl with stuff from Walmart. Here’s how you can do the same.

What I Used:

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The bowl should be big enough to contain marinated meat or ice so it can be used as a mini cooler. With this in mind, at the last minute I decided to grab his favorite beer, Heineken. What can I say? The man likes to enjoy a cold one while he’s outside grilling.

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If I’m honest, that final addition is probably the thing he’ll most appreciate about the whole package.

Once you’ve assembled everything, simply arrange it in the bowl and tie with a ribbon.

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This is the type of thoughtful gift I love. It’s fun and speaks to his interests, and it contains stuff he will actually use rather than items that will only hold his interest for a little bit and soon be forgotten. It’s a gift that will create memories for us.

Also, this pretty much guarantees that I don’t have to cook next Sunday. Mommy FTW.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

When I’m shopping for big ticket baby gear, there are a few basic criteria I try to keep in mind:

  • Durability. I don’t want to spend a pretty penny on something that’s not going to last.
  • Functionality and ease of use. Because I don’t have time to waste trying to figure out how something works.
  • Affordability. Because we’re on a budget.
  • *Bonus: Fabulosity? I kid with that word, but it would be still great for anything we buy to also look fabulous. Because lets be real: Lots of baby gear is straight up hideous, and mama don’t do hideous.

When Walmart offered to let me try a baby product that would deliver on all those criteria, how could I say no?

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The Urbini Omni 3-in-1 Travel System is a lightweight stroller and car seat system with urban, contemporary styling that is designed to last through toddlerhood. For $199, it comes with an infant car seat and base, along with a stroller frame and a seat that converts from a bassinet setup for an infant to an upright toddler stroller seat.

Unlike many travel systems, the car seat doesn’t attach on top of the full sized stroller. In those cases, the car seat usually snaps right above the built-in stroller seat. Instead, you can remove the seat altogether and use the lightweight frame with just the carseat.

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This makes for a much more compact setup. Check out this video to see the Omni in action with 8 reasons I already love it:

In case you didn’t watch the video, here are those reasons, with a couple bonuses tacked on for good luck:

1. The carseat base was really easy to install in our minivan.

2. The carseat snaps in and out of the base smoothly, making car trips simple. We don’t have to jostle the baby around in the process trying to get her in and out of the car.

3. The bassinet is a great option for my baby, who is bigger than most babies her age and isn’t a fan of being in the car seat for very long. It gives her some breathing room.

4. It’s easy to switch between bassinet/seat and car seat. Just a few buttons to remove one, and the other snaps right in.

5. It’s easy to switch between rear facing and front facing configurations. So baby can look at me or turn around to see the world.

6. The stroller handle is adjustable into several positions for parents of varying heights. This means my husband and I are each able to find a setting that is comfortable for us. Nice, since he’s about 5 inches taller than I am. This is one of those features I remember wishing for on our strollers when my older daughter was a baby.

7. The stroller frame is easy to collapse and set up. Our previous stroller was a pain to collapse, even after lots of practice. This just requires pushing a few buttons on the handles, and it collapses smoothly and quickly. It pops up equally as fast.

8. The entire setup is really lightweight and considerably less bulky than the traditional car-seat-on-top-of-stroller configuration. That means it’s easier to steer and fit into smaller spaces, like a public bathroom stall, for example.

Bonus 1. It’s pretty. Forgive this style-obsessed, but that matters to me. It’s modern and sleek, and that fits right into my design sensibilities.

Bonus 2. The storage rack on the bottom of the stroller frame is easily accessible. This was a big problem with our other stroller. It was difficult to put anything in the storage basket, so I wound up always carrying stuff in my hands.

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I recently went on a trip for Walmart (more on that soon), and I took the Omni with me since baby Juliza traveled with me. I chose to travel with just the stroller frame and the car seat, and let me tell you — it made traveling a breeze. Seriously. If I wasn’t convinced about this system just from use at home, this trip offered complete confirmation about how great it is. I was able to push and steer the stroller easily with one hand and pull my suitcase with the other, collapse it easily to go through security and to check it onto the plane in the jetway, and set it up quickly on the way out of the plane.

If I have any complaints, and it’s honestly difficult to find one, it’s that I have to find a place to store the large seat attachment. While Juliza is still little enough to fit in the car set, we’ll likely use just that with the frame most of the time. So we have to keep the bassinet/seat somewhere. While the frame is relatively compact, the seat does take up a lot of space in the trunk of our van. Still, that’s a small inconvenience for what is a really versatile and functional system. Simply put, the pros very clearly outweigh the cons.

I can honestly say that I unequivocally recommend this to moms who are looking for an option that is lightweight, but still sturdy and incredibly easy to operate — a plus when you’re dealing with a fussy baby or just need to get where you’re going in a hurry. And if you’re a frequent traveler, you really can’t beat this system. We love the Omni!

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

As much as I wish most people would give to causes and charities without a second thought, I still love the idea of shopping for a cause. At the end of the day, I realize that, for many people, the incentive of getting something while you give is really powerful. This is one of the methods to my madness when I’m shopping for gifts. If I can find something that was made thoughtfully and helps others, but also makes a great gift, I’m easily sold. So needless to say, it didn’t take much for Walmart to sell me on their Empowering Women Together collection for Mother’s Day.

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Empowering Women Together is a selection of products that support women-owned businesses around the world. This initiative isn’t new. In fact, I’ve written about it before. But in time for Mother’s Day, Walmart will begin selling these products in 2,700 stores for the first time! This means that small women-owned businesses will now have their products in front of an estimated 100 million shoppers.

I got a firsthand look at a bunch of those products, and I think you’ll approve.

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The collection currently includes a ton of possibilities for any woman on your list, including:

  • Chocolates
  • Both ceramic and insulated plastic coffee mugs
  • Aprons
  • Infinity scarves
  • Double-walled plastic cups with straws
  • Cards
  • Gift bags

All of them feature gorgeous designs by artisans from all over the world, and many of them offer messages that will speak directly to Mom.

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They are colorful and springy, but my favorite feature? Almost every product is hand-signed by the artisan who made it. These artisans are from the U.S., Peru, Haiti and India, in collaboration with Full Circle Exchange.

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I absolutely LOVE the infinity scarves, which will help me stretch my spring wardrobe by giving basic outfits a different look.

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And as a breastfeeding mom, they’ll also work as nursing covers that my daughter won’t be able to pull off since they’ll be around my neck. The scarves and aprons would make great gift wrap, as well.

As you can see from the first photo, I’ve already picked my favorite mug and scarf, but I’m planning to do a lot of gifting to my favorite moms. The next time you’re at your local Walmart, check out the collection for yourself. You’re bound to find something affordable that mom will love, and she’ll be more than happy to know that her gift is helping other women sustain themselves and their communities.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Occasionally, I’ll see a commercial for a product that intrigues me, but sets my spidey senses tingling. After all, the entire point of a commercial is to make a product appealing, right? When I saw the commercial for Yonanas months ago, I thought it was innovative, but I was skeptical about any machine being able to turn bananas into something resembling ice cream. So when Walmart offered me an opportunity to review Yonanas, I was crazy excited. More than I have probably been about a review in a while, in fact. And with good reason: It promised to deliver delicious frozen treats using nothing but fruit. Really.  Let me tell you firsthand: Yonanas does not disappoint!

In case you haven’t heard of it, the Yonanas frozen treat maker is a small, self-contained appliance that converts frozen fruit to the consistency of ice cream in just minutes. The key is the fruit. Bananas are the base for all of the included recipes, and you can’t use just any bananas. They need to be overripe and cheetah spotted. The machine comes with a convenient card that shows the optimal state  for your bananas.

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Personally, I cannot stand eating overripe bananas as is. There’s something about soft, mushy banana that just makes my palate revolt. So we usually put them in smoothies or use them to make banana fritters, which are sort of similar to banana pancakes. We always buy a lot of bananas, and they go past the stage at which I’d eat them within a few days, so I’m glad to have a new use for them.

Once the bananas are good and spotty, you have to peel and freeze them for at least 24 hours. When you’re ready to make your treat, take the bananas out of the freezer and let them defrost a bit. This will require a little finesse. The manufacturer recommends defrosting for 10-15 minutes, but we had to defrost ours for more like 25 minutes. If the banana goes into the machine too hard, it will start to chip off in pieces instead of creating a smooth texture. But if it’s too soft, it will come out runny.

Once you fine tune that part of the process, the rest is easy.

You need about 2 whole bananas to make a decent amount of dessert. Simply put them into the Yonanas chute one and use the plunger to push them through slowly, one at a time.

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What comes out the other end is nothing short of amazing. It really does look like ice cream!

And it tastes like magic. Because the bananas are overripe, they are sweeter than perfect green or yellow fruit. That makes for something that tastes like a sinful treat, but is really a healthy indulgence. Seriously. I LOVE the idea that I can eat this at any time because it’s just fruit. Nothing else. I know exactly what’s in it and therefore am only too happy to let my kids have at it. Plus, I am addicted to ice cream, which we all know to be sugar and calorie rich, so I’m hoping this will help me end my addiction.

After trying a bananas-only treat, we added some frozen mixed berries. This pushes the treat over the top. If you do several types of fruit, you do have to mix them together, but that’s no big deal.

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My husband and daughter each devoured a bowl, and I’m freezing some bananas as I write this so I can have a bowl of my own. The biggest problem will be keeping enough bananas on hand to feed our appetites.

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The machine is also easy to disassemble for cleaning. However, a lot of fruit does tend to stay in the machine instead of running all the way through. Not a big deal, but I did notice that when I was cleaning it.

We have a lot of small kitchen appliances, and most of them get put away when not in use.  I can already tell that the Yonanas machine is going to be awarded a permanent spot on the counter, because I know that we’ll use it a lot. And that is the best possible review I could give it.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

Mother’s Day is one of those special holidays when you want to give your mom the world. After all, she brought you into it (and has probably reminded you a few times that she could also “take you out of it!”). Flowers and candy are great, but if you’re like me, you probably want to give a gift with a little more meaning.

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If there’s one store that specializes in gifts with meaning, it’s Uncommon Goods. Every product has a story, whether it’s handmade, made from recycled materials, or just thoughtfully designed to fill a gap that you never realized needed to be filled.

If the mama on your list also happens to be your favorite style maven, finding a great gift can be even more challenging. Here are five gifts the stylish mama on your list will love:

Books for Mom, by You

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How often do you tell your mom you love her? Well, these books give you an easy way to show her, and be specific about why. The What I Love About Mom book offers pages of prompts for you to complete. Warning: This one may induce tears when she realizes that that you really do love her taste in clothes, and that her encouragement to follow your dreams meant so much to you. For younger kids, the Dear Mom arts & crafts book is full of activities to complete that will make mom smile. For example, what do you think a better name for mom would be? Maybe “Queen for a Day?” Write it down! The illustrated book includes 48 pages of writing and drawing prompts, and even things to cut out.

Price: What I Love About Mom: $10; Dear Mom Arts & Crafts Book, $9 (aff)

Something Shiny for Her Wrist

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What mama doesn’t love to receive jewelry? This fabulous brass cuff is inspired by nature and designed to be reminiscent of a birch tree with lovers’ initials carved into it. You can honor both parents with this gift, or you could personalize it with moms initials and yours. Or if you’d like, you can get the cuff without the initials — just the heart cutout. Either way, she’ll appreciate the sentiment and wear it with pride.

Price w/personalization: $100; Price without personalization: $85 (aff)

Celebrate Her Flock

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Again with the jewelry? Yeah. Well, I doubt there’s any mom in the world who would mind constant reminder of her children she loves so dearly. Whether you opt for the locket or the bracelet, this locket made of sterling silver will make her day. Inside, on nests of copper, she will find up to four Peruvian opal “eggs” symbolizing her children. Way to make mom tear up on Mother’s Day!

Price: Nest Egg Necklace, $68-74; Bracelet: $68-74 (aff)

Something to Hold Her Pretties

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Now that you’ve given her some new baubles, she needs a place to store them, right? This particular box is something special. It’s made of recycled bangles, but not just any recycled bangles. These have a special meaning for Indian women: Married women wear beaded bangles symbolize the bonds of love and marriage. When they break, they usually end up in the landfill, but a group of fair-trade artisans recovers them to handcraft these boxes.

Price: $48 (aff)

A New Purse. Because Purses.

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If there’s one thing in my closet with which I personally have an unnatural obsession, it is purses. I love them. In all shapes, sizes and colors. I get this love of handbags from my mom. Which means that no matter the purse, as long as it’s pretty, she’ll love it. Well, this one is better than pretty. It’s sustainable, too. It looks like it’s made a croc skin, but that wouldn’t be very green, would it? Instead, it’s actually handmade in the U.S. of sustainably harvested cork, which is then pressed into this fancy pattern. That’s what I’m talking about. And while you’re at it, give her the matching wallet.

Price: $60 (aff)

What unique gifts are you planning to give the moms on your list for Mother’s Day? You can find many more ideas at Uncommon Goods.

Disclosure: I have received compensation for sharing these gift ideas with you. However, as usual, all opinions are my own and 100% authentic.

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My mom’s dog, Candi, is a 12-year-old beagle. She’s slowed down as the years have come and gone, but there are still moments when she wants to act like a puppy. Specifically, when she goes on walks. Candi is a bundle of energy then, and she is famous for pulling on the leash. So much so that my mom hasn’t been able to take Candi on walks in recent months because of problems with my mom’s ankles and hips. So when Walmart asked if I’d like to try out some stylish new dog collars and a leash designed to help dogs stop pulling, I jumped at the chance to do something for both of them.

First, the collars.

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They’re pretty snazzy, aren’t they? The collars come in three different sizes: small for $4.48; medium for $5.88 and large for $6.88.

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If you know how much I love fashion, you’ll know that plain, boring dog collars just wouldn’t work. Of the two I received, my mom and I both preferred the red lattice design. The collar itself is generous in size and the material used to make it is very strong. It’s easy to put on and take off, and adjustable for a big variance in size. We had the medium, and it fit her with room to adjust it in the event she gets bigger (which she probably won’t).

My only complaint is that the loop where you attach a leash is made of plastic. As I mentioned, Candi likes to pull, and she’s a pretty strong dog. We’re used to loops that are made of metal. While this one didn’t break, I worry that over time, it will. We’ve had her get loose and take off running more than once, and it’s no fun worrying and trying to find her. I’d much prefer that the hook be made of metal to eliminate that worry altogether.

Now, the Sporn Stop-Pulling Mesh Harness.

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We really like this product. When Candi would pull on a collar, she’d eventually end up choking herself and getting out of breath. The harness is designed to fit over your dog’s torso, so instead of pulling at the neck, it’s around the body.

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It comes with a breathable mesh chest pad that allows the dog to move naturally. The idea is that when the dog pulls, the harness “tickles” her armpit. The sensation should discourage her from pulling. Also, the straps that go under her front legs are covered with a soft sherpa material so that if she does pull, there’s a cushion between her body and the straps.

It was pretty easy to put on, and we went off for our walk. My husband took charge, because as I mentioned, Candi likes to pull.

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This time, there was a noticeable difference in how much she struggled against the leash. Honestly. She would start to pull, and within a second or two, stop and walk to match my husband’s pace. It had been a while since he had walked her, so he thought she may have just slowed down with age. To test the theory, he ran with her for a few hundred feet. She took off and had no problem matching his stride, and in fact wanted to keep running. So it was not an energy issue. I honestly believe that the harness discouraged her from pulling.

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The fact that these photos are so clear is evidence of how slow she was walking. As a result, our hope is that my mom will finally be able to walk Candi without being dragged.

The harness comes with a lifetime guarantee and is available in four adjustable sizes to fit any breed and size for just $11.88. Not bad for a solution to a long-term problem.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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When I began my green journey about 5 years ago, I admit I was a bit militant about it. I essentially demanded change from myself and my family, in everything from our shopping and recycling habits to the lotion we put on our skin. It was a tough transition, but it worked. We switched most of those habits within months, and never really looked back.

However, in the years since, I’ve slackened my stance a bit. Often, the kids will outgrow clothes and need immediate replacements, and finding organic cotton in person is difficult. And finding it for myself — a plus sized woman, and now a pregnant one — is all but impossible — in person OR online. I love thrifting, but that’s not always a viable option and I wind up buying what I can find. We also have hobbies that can’t be considered green no matter how we spin them — like playing video games.

But now that I’m pregnant, a little of that militancy is creeping back into my life. Because I WILL buy green for my new baby whenever possible.

This has made shopping at Walmart really challenging. Because truth be told, outside of organic baby food, there’s very little in the physical stores for a mama who wants to buy green. Not even an organic onesie in sight.

However, this is when shopping online becomes useful, and Walmart.com is no exception. The company’s website stocks and sells a LOT more products that you can ever find in store. That means there’s a ton more available for your green baby: From organic cotton sheets to clothing and mattress pads.

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I recently picked up a Boppy Bare Naked nursing pillow, along with an organic cotton cover to go with it, and a pair of organic cotton Boppy swaddling blankets. These are all things that I anticipate needing within the first days after my little lady is born, so I’m glad to have them on hand now. (aff)

But there was honestly quite a bit more to choose from. You can even find eco-friendly nursery furniture at Walmart.com! Affordable stuff, too.

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Baby Mod makes nursery furniture from sustainable New Zealand pine with non-toxic finishes. Had I not found an awesome crib on Craigslist, I would’ve chosen one of these, because they have clean, modern designs and fit into our nursery budget pretty nicely. (aff)

So if, like me, it’s important to purchase organic, natural and otherwise sustainably made products for your baby, and you’re on a budget, I’d definitely consider Walmart.com for those things you can’t find in store.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’m one of those people who likes to get my Christmas shopping done early. I make a list and check it twice. Or four or five times. And I check people off as I go, noting when I’ve purchased, orders and even wrapped gifts. I even have an app for that. (aff) But inevitably, there are one or two people who I forget to include until the last minute. When that happens and my time to shop online sales has run out, there’s a frantic scurry to do some in-store shopping. So when Walmart asked me to share some last-minute gift ideas, I knew I’d have no problem doing that.

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Here are three ideas for last minute gifts that are both affordable and really thoughtful.

Warm & cozy teacher gift idea

Bad mommy alert: My daughter’s teacher is usually one of the people I shop for at the last minute. I usually have to give myself a little time to come up with something creative.

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Well, when I went to Walmart headquarters a few months back, I came home with some double walled plastic mason jar mugs from Aladdin, and we have been using them like crazy for everything from coffee to smoothies. At just under $5, I knew it would make a great gift. But not alone. I added an awesome plush chevron print blanket for just $4.96 and filled it with delectable Lindor chocolate truffles for $3. Later, I decided to add a $10 Starbucks gift card.

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I simply put the gift card and chocolates inside the mug, then wrapped it all up in the blanket. Together, they’re the perfect warm and cozy gift, and it took all of 5 minutes to put together. My daughter delivered it to her teacher today, so I hope she loves it!

Wrap a gift in a gift

We are very particular about gift wrap around here, and we’ve been reusing the same gift bags and boxes for years. We even reuse quality, thick wrapping paper. But I always like to mix it up by wrapping some things unconventionally.

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I had this purse to give my niece as a gift, but I didn’t want to put it in a gift bag. Instead, I spent $4.97 on a great blue and white patterned scarf similar to this one and used it to “wrap” the purse. Simple and pretty, and she gets two gifts in one!

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Scarves really make awesome gift wrap, particularly for items that are oddly shaped. How you wrap it will depend largely upon the size of your gift, but I’d opt for the largest scarf you can find to give you some breathing room. Bonus Tip: Tea towels and light blankets are also awesome for this purpose.

Useful stocking stuffers

We do Christmas stockings each year, but I’ve never been a fan of the “throw anything that fits into the stocking” mentality. We used to be, once upon a time, and we learned the hard way that most of those small gifts were completely useless and turned into clutter in short order. So now, my only rule for stocking stuffers is that they need to be either edible or useful. For my kids, that usually amounts to things like soap, deodorant and candy. Boring, I know, but they use them. This time, I stuck with the theme, but at least took into consideration things they actually requested.

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My stepson recently made the basketball team at school, so I grabbed a three-pack of And 1 performance socks for just $4.97 (and he did ask for basketball socks this Christmas), along with a headband, both of which he’ll get a lot of use from during the next few months. My daughter, on the other hand, has been asking for a spinning electric toothbrush for years. Why she wants one, I have no idea, but since the Arm & Hammer Spinbrush is on sale for $4.88, I decided this was finally the year to fulfill her request.

At the end of the day, we’re all happy. I’m not giving useless gifts that will be thrown by the wayside, and they get stocking stuffers they actually want.

What are your “rules” for stocking stuffers? And how do you handle last-minute gift giving? I’d love to hear your tips!

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.