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How to Set Up a Holiday Budget (And Stick to It)

How to Set Up a Holiday Budget (And Stick to It)

The holiday season may be a bit different this year, but there are some things you can always count on. Specifically, buying lots of presents for your kids and family members in the last few weeks of the year. While we love getting the perfect gifts for the people we love, our bank accounts say otherwise.

With a holiday budget, you can get those perfect gifts without breaking the bank. Here’s how to get started:

Project your income

To understand how many gifts you can buy, you first need to know how much money you’ll have on-hand. Calculate your total net income (your income after taxes) until the last possible date you can buy presents. Then, subtract all of your necessary expenses. This should include your rent or mortgage payment, food expenses, utilities, gas, and other monthly necessities. The amount you have left is the amount you can spend on your gifts.

Make a list and check it twice

Next, it’s time to make a list. Start by listing out everyone you’re buying a present for. Then, take a look at the projected income you calculated earlier to see how much you can spend on each person. The amount you spend on an individual will depend on your relationship with that individual. For example, you’ll likely spend less money on your mother-in-law than you would on your kids.

Look out for sales, coupons, and rebates

The holiday season is full of sales, so use this to your advantage! Keep an eye on your potential present to see if the price drops anytime during the holiday season. Additionally, be sure to check other sites and stores to see if they have lower prices. You can use one of the many Chrome extensions that automatically search for sales and coupons to make this process easier.

Keep track of your expenses

As you start buying presents, keep track of how much you’re spending. Take the list you created earlier and subtract the expense from the total budgeted amount you have for each individual. For example, if you’re setting aside $50 for your husband, and then you buy a gift for him that costs $25, subtract the 25 from the 50. You can save the extra 25 for another gift, you can spend that extra on someone else, or you can save it for later.

Are you looking for the perfect holiday present for your kids or loved ones? Then take a look at some of our stuffable animals here at The Zoo Factory!

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How to Celebrate the Holiday Season During COVID-19

How to Celebrate the Holiday Season During COVID-19

For many of us, the coronavirus has derailed many of our holiday plans. All of those big dinners and fancy Christmas parties are now taking a back seat as we strive to protect our family’s health. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean the holidays are completely ruined. There are still ways to celebrate with your immediate family and to let your kids have fun as well.

Have a video chat with other family members

We may not be able to spend time together in person, but we can spend time together virtually. Schedule a video chat with friends and family members outside of your household to spend quality time together this holiday season. You can even do this on Christmas Day as you’re opening each other’s presents.

Bake Christmas cookies with the kids

Who doesn’t love Christmas cookies? Not only will you have a tasty treat, but baking Christmas cookies is also a great bonding moment with your kids. Put on their favorite holiday movie and get to work baking their favorite Christmas cookies.

Do outdoor activities together

Socializing outdoors is much safer than socializing indoors. While you should still be social distancing with individuals outside of your household, there are still plenty of safe, outdoor activities you can do. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Cut down a Christmas tree
  • Go sledding
  • Drive or walk around with your kids to look at your neighborhood’s holiday decorations
  • Go ice skating
  • Build a snowman in your yard
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Hang up your outdoor decorations

Here at The Zoo Factory, we want everyone to have a happy and safe holiday season this year. For more holiday tips, read through our blog today!

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4 Need-to-Know Tips for Black Friday Shopping During COVID-19

4 Need-to-Know Tips for Black Friday Shopping During COVID-19

During any other year, you spend Black Friday perusing store shelves and hunting for the best deals. But with a global pandemic, things are bound to change. You still want to get your loved ones that perfect gift, but you don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way as a result.

Thankfully, there are a few ways to navigate Black Friday shopping during COVID-19 safely. Here’s how:

Don’t shop only on Black Friday

Ten years ago, Black Friday was the only day to get a great deal. That’s not the case anymore. Thanksgiving week is full of sales for Brown Thursday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. Many stores are also extending their Black Friday deals, allowing shoppers to avoid the crowds.

Do curbside pickup

Do you want your gifts as soon as possible but don’t want to brave going into a store? Then opt for curbside pickup. Many stores such as Target and Lowe’s offer curbside pickup for their customers. Some local businesses are offering it as well. This may be the ideal choice for your holiday shopping, as many are expecting shipping delays from now through December.

Shop online…but early

No one says that you have to go to the store to shop. You can do much of your holiday shopping from the comfort of your own home. However, if you plan to shop online, do it early. As we said before, shipping delays are expected for the holiday season. If you want to get your gifts in time, start buying them now.

Ship items directly to the recipient, not your home

If you buy your items online, don’t ship it to your home. Instead, ship the items directly to the intended recipient. This will reduce the risk of getting lost or delayed in the weeks leading up to Christmas or Hanukkah. Some stores will also gift wrap your item, though this will cost you extra.

To get started on your holiday shopping, check out some of our stuffable animal kits here at The Zoo Factory. We will ship your items in a quick and timely fashion, ensuring they get to their intended destination before the holiday season ends.

 

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Is It Safe to Go Trick-or-Treating in 2020?

Is It Safe to Go Trick-or-Treating in 2020?

The coronavirus has put a stop to many of our annual holiday traditions. Is Halloween among them? While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled trick-or-treating a high-risk activity, that doesn’t mean all is lost for All Hallows’ Eve. Read on to learn more:

How to safely trick-or-treat in 2020

Traditional trick-or-treating where children go door-to-door with no masks on is highly discouraged this year. You could not only run the risk of your children contracting the coronavirus, but they could spread it to family members or neighbors as well. A trunk-or-treat event (where people hand out treats from their cars) is also considered high-risk.

Yet, there are a few ways to go trick-or-treating safely this year. Here’s how:

  • Check with your local government: Some localities are banning trick-or-treating this year. Before sending your kids out for the night, check to make sure your town or city isn’t one of them.
  • Wear a cloth mask as part of the costume: Masks decrease transmission rates, so keep them on at all times. Just beware, a traditional costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.
  • Bring hand sanitizer: Use it every time you interact with someone or something else.
  • Stay 6 feet away: Whether you’re outside or inside, stay 6 feet away from others at all times. When approaching a house, have your neighbor set the candy on the porch or sidewalk, then let your kids walk up to get it.

Alternatives to trick-or-treating

If you live in an area that has canceled trick-or-treating for the year, or if you don’t feel comfortable letting your children out, there are other ways to celebrate Halloween.

  • Carve pumpkins and decorate the house with Halloween decorations
  • Do a Halloween scavenger hunt around your house or backyard
  • Have a virtual Halloween costume party or contest (and don’t forget to let your stuffed animals join in on the fun!)
  • Set up a Halloween movie night

Here at The Zoo Factory, we hope that everyone has a safe and happy Halloween. If you’re looking for a new costume for your stuffed animal or for more tips on how to keep your kids safe this year, look through our website to learn more!

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4 Fun Ideas for a Family Gift Exchange

We may not always admit it, but exchanging gifts is probably our favorite part about Christmas. No matter your age, there’s always that rush of excitement as you’re opening presents Christmas morning. But why stick to the usual gift opening routine? Instead, consider doing a family gift exchange to add a little bit more fun to your Christmas morning. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Secret Santa

Secret Santa is a great way to add a little mystery and intrigue to Christmas. Fill a bowl with names and have each person draw a name. Whoever’s name they draw they have to get a present for, but here’s the catch—they can’t tell the person they’re getting a gift for. Instead, the person must guess who their Secret Santa was after opening their gift. You can even provide clues for people to mull over if they’re having trouble guessing.

White Elephant

If Secret Santa provides intrigue, then White Elephant provides competition. With a White Elephant exchange, each person brings a wrapped gift and adds it to a common pool. People then draw numbers to determine what order they can go. When it’s your turn, you get to choose to either pick an unwrapped gift or steal a previous player’s gift. If your gift gets stolen, then you have the option to steal another person’s gift. The game ends when someone declines to steal a gift.

Grab Bag

With White Elephant, you compete for your gifts. With grab bag, you leave it up to chance. The rules for grab bag are pretty simple. Place all of your gifts in a bag and then take turns grabbing gifts out of the bag. But no peeking allowed!

Musical Gifts

This gift exchange is similar to musical chairs, except it will be the presents moving with the music rather than yourself. Sit in a circle and put on some music. Then start passing a gift along. When the music stops, the gift that is in your hands stays with you.

If you’re doing a family gift exchange this Christmas, then you’ll want to make sure that you bring the perfect gift. So, why not bring a stuffable animal? Here at The Zoo Factory, we have plenty of stuffable animals for you to choose from. Look through our inventory or contact us for more information.

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Where to Donate Your Stuffed Animals for the Holidays

Last week we talked about how you can help children and families in need by organizing a toy drive in your community. There are many of us, however, who don’t have the time to start our own toy drives but still want to help the struggling families in our area. Thankfully, you can do just that by donating some of your families’ stuffed animals. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some places that are always looking for donations, especially during the holiday season.

Charities

The most obvious place to start is your local charity. You’ll likely have a Salvation Army or Goodwill location in your neighborhood that will be accepting old toys and stuffed animals. They will then take your stuffed animals and give them directly to a less fortunate child or sell them at their thrift store. As an added bonus, you can also deduct the items you donate on your taxes.

Hospitals and doctors’ offices

While charities are usually people’s first choice, your local hospitals and doctors’ offices will also be accepting donations during the holidays. Many of these facilities use these stuffed animals to help their young patients during recovery. Just be sure to check with your local hospital or doctors’ office beforehand, as some don’t accept older items due to the risk of illness.

Police and fire departments

In addition to your local hospitals and doctors’ offices, you should also check out your local police and fire departments. Police officers and firefighters often carry stuffed animals with them to comfort traumatized children, so they’re always looking for donations from local families. Call your police or fire departments to see when and where you can donate.

We at The Zoo Factory want to make sure every child has a happy holiday this year. So, if you would like to learn more about how you can use stuffed animals to help local children in need, then give us a call today at 866-993-3325.

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4 Tips for Running a Toy Drive

The holiday season is upon us, and that means lots of presents, food, and parties to enjoy. Yet, while we will be spending our Christmas day in a warm house surrounded by family and presents, there are just as many who won’t. Struggling families want to give their children as joyful and happy a Christmas as possible, but they need our help to do it. Running a toy drive is just one way you can help the families in your neighborhood this holiday season. Here’s how you can get started:

Find a charity to work with

If you want to run a toy drive on your own, there’s certainly nothing stopping you. However, it’s often easier to partner with a local charity in order to help you organize your toy drive and distribute the donations. Good places to start would be your local YMCA, children’s programs, or your local police department.

Figure out the days, times and location

The most successful toy drives are typically five days, or one business week. This gives everyone in your community enough time to drop off their donations.

Publicize it

In order to get people to come and donate, you need to publicize your event. While you can print out flyers and hand them out, it’s often much easier (and cheaper) to publicize it on social media. Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram are all excellent avenues for you to promote your toy drive. You can create social media accounts just for your event (this can make it seem more professional, though you’ll start off with less followers), or you can publicize it on your own social media accounts. Be sure to get the help of your friends too to share your posts and spread the word!

Organize and plan everything

Your toy drive will likely get a bit chaotic, so make sure that everything is properly organized and planned ahead of time. Have donation bins to sort through all of the donations and have volunteers available for different jobs (collecting the donations, sorting through the donations, etc.).

Would you like to give a stuffable animal to a child in need? The Zoo Factory can help. Check out our inventory to see how you can start making a difference.

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Trader Joe’s Biggest Secret? Their Stuffed Animals

When you walk into a Trader Joe’s, you can find nearly anything that your heart desires. Chocolate? Check. Cheese? Check. Peanut butter? Check. What they don’t typically have are stuffed animals…most of the year.

Unbeknownst to most of us, from November to December, Trader Joe’s fills its shelves with hidden stuffed animals for kids to find.

This game of hide-and-seek was revealed on a Reddit thread by a former employee. The practice wasn’t confirmed, however, until TheKitchn spoke with Kendra Friend-Daniel, Trader Joe’s public relations director. “It’s a way to engage with kids in our store,” Friend-Daniel said. “If they locate the hidden stuffed toy, they just let a Crew Member know and they’ll receive a treat.”

The stuffed toys and treats may vary from store to store, but you can bet that the Trader Joe’s in your area will have a stuffed friend hidden behind the cans of cranberry.

And this isn’t just a fun activity; it can also be something to help parents survive holiday shopping themselves. We all know the feeling of dragging your kids with you to go food shopping. This is bad on most days, but especially so during the holidays where aisles are crammed with other stressed out parents and kids. But with Trader Joe’s stuffed animal hide-and-seek, food shopping is made fun for both you and your child this holiday season.

While we won’t be hiding our own stuffable animals in the shelves at Trader Joe’s, we at The Zoo Factory do have plenty of stuffable animals for your child to bring home this holiday season. Take a look through our inventory to get started today!

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5 Ways to Destress During National Wellness Month

Relax or Stress Signs

The month of August is considered National Wellness Month, a time for people to focus on self-care and learn new techniques to better manage their stress. In honor of National Wellness Month, then, we’ve put together a quick list of ways you can destress from your hectic lifestyle.

Exercise

Countless studies have proven how physical activity can boost your mode and help you unwind. This doesn’t mean you have to go out running if you hate running. Instead, find an activity that you enjoy—like walking or playing soccer—and stick with that.

Meditate

Just a few minutes of mindfulness each day can drastically change your mood and stress levels. Plus, meditation can be done anywhere, at practically any time, such as when you’re out for walk, when you’re sitting at your desk, when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, and more.

Eat Well

Your diet impacts your mood. As much as we may love our ice cream sundaes, eating them everyday can have a serious impact on our health. However, by eating the right foods and taking in the right nutrients, you’ll have the energy to take on whatever life throws at you, including stress.

Go on vacation

Sometimes you need to completely unplug and get away from everything that stresses you out. While a multi-week getaway may not be possible for everyone, even just getting away from the office for a few days will help.

Cuddle with a pet or stuffed animal

Both animals and stuffed animals have been proven to help relieve and reduce stress, starting as early as childhood. There’s something about the comfort of cuddling with your pet or stuffed animals that automatically makes us feel calmer. While not everyone can have a pet, everyone can have a stuffed animal. So if you want to destress this month, consider getting a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory!

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Ways to Relieve Stress on National Stress Awareness Day

girl resting under a tree with a teddy bear

We all know that life can be stressful. Balancing work or school, friends, family, and everything else is a daily chore; one which can sometimes feel overwhelming. But the key is learning to not let that stress control you. And that’s what National Stress Awareness Day, on April 16th, is all about: finding strategies to reduce that stress, and live a happier life.

Here are a few healthy habits to practice and ideas to reduce stress on National Stress Awareness Day.

Relieving Stress on National Stress Awareness Day

Keep a Journal

There are a number of benefits to keeping a daily journal of some sort—it’s great for time management, and helpful in strengthening your memory and your focus. But one benefit that often goes without mention is an alleviation of stress.  And it’s fun to keep a record of your experiences and memories, too!

Meditate

Meditation can come in many different forms, like yoga, sitting in silence, or leaving your phone in the other room while you concentrate. Whatever form it takes for you, a healthy meditation diet can do wonders to your stress levels. It lets you cleanse your mind of the day’s on-goings, and really focus on what’s in front of you.

Keep a Garden

This one is to all the folks who have any green space—be it a backyard, or park—close to them: get out there and garden! Planting flowers and taking care of a garden is one of the most proven strategies to reducing stress. Not only that, but it’s also great exercise. If you don’t have a backyard to plant in, get involved in your local community’s volunteer efforts.

Get a Stuffed Animal

To everyone here at The Zoo Factory, this one goes without saying. Having a stuffed animal by your side is a time-tested method of reducing stress, starting as early as childhood. Something about your favorite farm or jungle animal as a toy is just so comforting, and it’s no surprise that people of all ages love their stuffed animals.

At The Zoo Factory, we offer a wide selection of high-quality stuffed animals in all shapes and sizes for adults, and customized models and stuff-your-own-animal party packages for kids as well. So contact us today!