Another Great Way to Give: Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas ChildI’m completely convinced that giving back to people whether that be with a thoughtful note, big batch of cookies, or small gift is one of the best ways you can make a difference in not only the world, but also in yourself.

Something amazing happens when you selflessly help others.

A quick “I love you,” a sincere “I’m here for you,” a random card in the mail, or a hug to someone who really needs it has more power than you realize.

Another great way to give this year is through Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan’s Purse organization that delivers shoe boxes packed with small gifts to needy children around the world.

But first I want to show you something.

Watch this boy’s reaction to getting an OCC shoe box.

How to Pack Operation Christmas Child Boxes on a Budget

Are you looking for an easy way to give back this Christmas? Operation Christmas Child is a great way for you to change the lives of needy children all around the world. Here's how my family was able to pack shoeboxes at around $13 a box. (Plus some shoebox ideas.)I’ve decided this year that I want to fill 5 Operation Christmas Child Boxes. The catch is my budget is only $100 for all five. When you calculate the shipping costs of $7 per box I’m left with $65 or $13 per box.

I want to stuff these boxes full of fun and practical goodness and make some kids happy.

Here’s my plan to pack these boxes on a budget.

Shop at the Dollar Tree – You’ll see below that a lot of the things I’m packing in my boxes came from the Dollar Tree. Buy personal hygiene products, small toys, coloring books, and other school supplies.

Take Inventory of What You Already Have – Do you have toothpaste samples lying around the house? Extra bars of soap? Clothing that your kids have never worn? Look at everything you already have and see if there’s anything you can incorporate in your box.

Scope Out the Clearance Sections - I was able to get a couple of nicer toys at K-mart that were already marked down plus an additional 40% off on clearance. Start checking clearance sections when you go shopping.

Know that Whatever You Give Will be Appreciated - These boxes are going to kids who don’t have a lot. Know that what you give will be appreciated. You don’t have to spend a ton of money.

I decided to do 2 boxes for boys ages 10-14 (they get the least amount), 1 box for a boy age 2-4, 1 box for a girl ages 2-4, and 1 box for a girl age 5-9.

The Dollar Tree

Buying Items from the Dollar Tree for Operation Christmas Child

Here’s what I bought from the Dollar Tree:

  • 2 3pks Toothbrush and Toothbrush Holder @ $1 – $2
  • 2 Hairbrushes @ $1 – $2
  • 1 Blue Stuffed Animal – $1
  • 2 Deodorants @ $1 – $2
  • 2 3pks Dial Soap @ $1 – $2
  • 3 Coloring Books @ $1 – $3
  • 3 Boxes of Crayons @ $1 – $3
  • 3 Notepads @ $1 – $3
  • 3 pks of pencils @ $1 – $3
  • 2 pks of pens @ $1 – $2
  • 2 pks of Dominoes @ $1 – $2
  • 2 2pks of Playing Cards @ $1 – $2
  • 2 6 packs of Tissues @ $1 – $2
  • 2 Flashlights @ $1 – $2
  • 2 Tape Measures @ $1 – $2
  • 2 Interchangeable Screw Driver @ $1 – $2
  • 2 pks of Jolly Ranches @ $1 – $2
  • 1 bag Double Bubble – $1
  • 3 Hair Accessories @ $1 – $3

Dollar Tree Total with Tax – $43.97

Family Dollar

Buying Operation Christmas Child Items From Family Dollar

  • 5 Wash Cloths @ .50 – $2.50
  • 5 pks. Toothpaste @ $1 – $5
  • 2 Stuffed Animals @ $2 – $4
  • 2 70 pc Screw Set @ $1.25 – $2.50
  • 1 Baby Doll – $3

Family Dollar Total with Tax – $18.23

Other Stores

  • 3 Pencil Sharpeners @ .50 – $1.50 (Dollar General)
  • 2 Angry Birds Balls @ .75 – $1.50 (K-Mart)
  • 1 Fish Game – $2 (K-Mart)
  • 1 Ball and Glove – $1.25 (K-Mart)

Total with Tax – $6.70

(I also put a t-shirt that the girls have never worn into the girls ages 2-4 box.)

Total for All 5 Boxes – $68.90

Packing Operation Christmas Child Boxes on a Tight Budget

These boxes are jam packed and I barely went over budget!

But I have to say the very best part of doing this was probably Kailyn’s reaction. She and I watched a lot of the YouTube videos showing little girls her age receiving these boxes. She was instantly asking if it’d be okay if we went and got those little girls so they could ride her bus and be in her class.

She started going through her toys wanting to give all of her stuff away. (She seemed most worried that the little girls wouldn’t have socks. So if I do another box I think I’ll definitely add socks to the list!)

She also made a card to go in the 5-9 year old girl box.

Making a card for Operation Christmas Child Boxes.

Ava, while fascinated with the boxes, didn’t quite grip the concept of giving. She just wanted to make sure that she’ll get one of these boxes for her birthday!

All in all it was a fun project for us to do, a great way for me to once again realize how lucky I am to be living my life, and was another easy way for us to give back!

If you’re interested in participating in Operation Christmas Child this year you can find out more here.

 And if you’re stumped for ideas here are some of the blog posts around the web that really helped me:

(If you have a post about Operation Christmas Child on your blog let me know and I’ll link it up.)

How to Make Goals You Actually Stick With (And My Goal Setting Mistakes)

How to create goals that stick. (And my goal setting mistakes!)The month is more than half way over. Even though I set goals that were important to me, it seems I’m only getting about half of them done. Which is kind of a bummer.

I started digging deep, wondering why some of the goals I set were easy to attain while others were a real challenge.

Here’s what I discovered. (And what I think will help you, too.)

Specificity = Actionable

One goal that I’ve done amazingly well with, and that has now become a natural part of my daily routine, is Reading a Chapter of Proverbs a day.

I’ve read at least a chapter a day, sometimes reading up to four. It’s safe to say that before the end of the month I’ll be well into another book of the Bible.

This goal is easy and super specific. I didn’t just say that I’d read the Bible (like I did in the past) – I said I’d read one chapter of Proverbs each day. That’s a pretty easy goal to accomplish and I know exactly what I need to do.

Now let’s look at another goal. “Reading to my kids everyday” that goal is so generic that it’s hard to stick to. For one, my girls go to their Dads every other weekend, making it impossible to read to them every day. Secondly, with Kailyn now in school our lives have become a little more chaotic than usual, there are just some days when reading doesn’t happen. People stop over, the girls are tired, or we have prior commitments. By making the goal so open I’m setting myself up to automatically feel like a failure.

In order for goals to be actionable they need to be a lot more specific.

(This would also apply to my make $3k this month without mapping out a plan.)

Trying to Make Goals too Big to Stick


{Kailyn determined to learn how to ride her bike without training wheels in one afternoon.}

I’ve also been struggling to get my eBook done and it’s really bothering me. After all, I feel like this book is me. It’s the message I want to share, so writing it should be easy, right?

Not exactly.

I couldn’t figure out why I had such a hard time writing this for an hour a day until listening to this podcast on Bullet Proof Exec with the founder of Pavlok – a habit changing system.

You see, I’m used to working on other people’s projects all day. Working on my own stuff doesn’t come naturally. I’m in the habit of first doing what others need before doing what I need to do, which often means that I don’t work on my stuff at all. So instead of saying that I’m going to write the eBook for an hour a day, first thing in the morning, I need to start smaller.

According to Maneesh Sethi (founder of Pavlok) habits are more likely to stick when you take them slow and steady. For instance, instead of making the goal to write an hour a day I need to make it five or ten minutes a day.

That’s easy to accomplish and chances are, once I log in my five minutes of writing I’ll feel the need to keep going until I’ve said all I could for the day. Plus this gets me into the habit of just opening my Word Doc and writing.

If I only write for five minutes I still feel accomplished. I don’t feel like a failure.

October Goals Revamped

kids reading list

If your goals aren’t working you should take a good look at them and make changes where necessary. It doesn’t matter if it’s the end of the month, week, or year. The sooner you change your system the closer you’ll be to achieving success.

Here is a revise of my goals:

Read a Chapter of Proverbs Each Day – This is a good strong goal!

Read to the Kids Everyday - *REVISED* Read the following books to the kids (just for the rest of the month. Doesn’t count everything we’ve already read.)

  • Help Kailyn Read We Love to Share and On the Playground
  • Read Charlie the Ranch Dog Goes to the Doctor
  • Read a Few Nursery Rhymes of the Girls’ Choosing
  • Read Five Chapters of the Children’s Bible
  • Read again – Creepy Carrots and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (our favorites right now!)

Save $500 – Good goal I’m already in the habit of doing this.

Earn $3,000 this Month - *REVISED* I set a priority list of things that will help me make more money in the long term. I’m going to keep working on these which should result in stronger income in the following months.

Write eBook for 5 Hours Per Week - *REVISED* Open up Word Doc and write for ten minutes per day. (To develop the habit!)

Why do you think there are some goals you don’t seem to stick with? Do you revise your goals often?

3 Great Kids Books to Read this Fall (Plus Free Activities to Go With Them)

Here are three great children's books to read this fall plus fun and free activities to go with them. My kids absolutely loved these! Especially the activity that went with book number two.Kailyn came home from school Monday with pink eye. I took her to the doctor who advised her to stay home from school for the next two days.

She was so bummed about missing school that we decided to have our own school at home. We dug up three of our favorite fall books and found free activities to go with them.

The girls loved all of these activities sooo much that I just had to share.

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Random, Random Acts of Kindness

Practice Random Acts of Kindness. Brighten someone's day!At the beginning of the year I made a goal to practice random acts of kindness all year long. (I even bought some wall art that I found on clearance at Menards with the “Practice Random Acts of Kindness” saying on it!) But I have pretty much failed.

Really, I hardly ever think of that goal. Which is kinda bad because it’s something I should be doing a lot more of.

But then I got to thinking, maybe I do practice random acts of kindness and I don’t realize it. I started thinking over my past week. And yes, I actually had achieved some goodness without even knowing it.

I had it all wrong. Random acts of kindness are not methodically planned out. They don’t have to be toward strangers (although that could be nice).

Random acts of kindness are just random.

Thinking back here’s what I did over the past week.

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Living Intentionally: What It Really Means and How to Do It

Do you want to live intentionally but don't know where to start? Here's what I've learned about spending your money and time in a purposeful way.

I feel like living intentionally, while a great concept, has become a fad word. Just like frugal is a fad word, just like travel hacking is a fad, and just how extreme couponing used to be a fad.

I’ve been spending more time on Pinterest than I probably should be. And since I’m all about trying to build a life I love I always click through the living intentionally posts. But in my opinion the majority of the ones that I have read are totally missing the mark.

Because, let’s face it  – living intentionally means something COMPLETELY different for every single person.

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Online Income and October Goals

Your character is defined by how you treat those who can do nothing for you.

Favorite quote of the month.

What’s up?

I hope you had a good September. It seems like mine went by way too fast. And I am now one year older. It’s funny how the older you get the more you dislike having a birthday! Other than that I’d say September was a fairly good month.

Here’s what went down.

September Income

I finally did it. I cracked the $3,000 mark – although not by much. But I’m still happy that I finally got there!

In September I made $3,046.04

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How to Find Freelance Writing Jobs (Free Email Templates)

freelance writing email templates

This post was originally published on 9/4/13. Since I still get at least one question a week on how to go about finding writing jobs I decided to *update* and republish this post. This is the strategy that worked for me when I first got started and I’m pretty confident this will work for you too!

When it comes to finding freelance jobs the first one is the hardest. And, at first it takes a ton of time to find them – especially if you don’t already have a platform setup for yourself.

Last week I shared the exact email templates that I use to get freelance jobs with my email subscribers. Since a lot of you have showed interest in finding freelance writing jobs I thought I would share those with you as well and go a little bit more into detail of exactly how I go about finding freelance jobs.

I have to give credit where credit is due. I have picked up most of my tips from Leaving Work Behind, Be A Freelance Blogger, and Make a Living Writing. But, if you’re just starting out I think these tips will certainly help you in your freelance job hunt.

But first one *important* piece of advice.

Go for Companies with Products/Services for High Pay (And How My Rates Have Changed)

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