Holidays on a budget

Hello everyone!

Happy Holidays! My name is Bridget Thornton and I am an intern with Katie Camplin at the Community Center. I just wanted to pass along some tips I came across on how to do all of your holiday shopping on a budget. I will list for you here the tips that you can utilize during this busy time of year.

1.  Make a spending plan:

Start with a realistic idea of how much you can spend on all your holiday purchases. Make a list of everything you usually buy, from the gifts to food to entertainment to travel expenses, and tally the costs.

“If you don’t budget and set a specific dollar limit, then your spending grows and grows and grows. In January you’ll be horrified by how much you’ve spent,” says Mari Adam, a Certified Financial Planner in Boca Raton, Fla. “And, don’t get locked into the thought that how much you spend measures how good of a person you are.”

2.  Know your limits:

Make a list of gift recipients and decide how much you want to spend on each person.If you’re unable to spend as much on gifts this year, prioritize for whom you really want to buy gifts. Then communicate your plans to family and friends.

3.  Track your spending:

You’ve made a spending plan at this point, which is great! But if you don’t keep track of your purchases and make sure you’re staying within your budget, you’ve wasted your time. Write down everything you spend on holiday clothing, cards, postage, wrapping paper and decorations, reminds Dvorkin. “Don’t forget that these holiday expenses add up and need to be tracked on your budget.”

4.  Shop with a list:

Know what you want to buy, and go to the store with a list. You can zip through the stores faster and are more apt to avoid impulse buying, says Dvorkin. When you have finished shopping, stop.

5.  Shop early:

The best window for holiday shopping is between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1,” says Dvorkin. “Don’t wait until the last minute. Give yourself time to compare prices and find the best deals.” An all-out shopping spree leaves you exhausted from shopping, tempting you to buy the next thing you see regardless of cost. Last-minute shoppers are unlikely to save money.

6. Be an educated consumer:

Comparison-shopping stretches your holiday funds further. Fight the urge to get your shopping over quickly, recommends the Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association. Instead, take some extra time to find the best deal before heading off to the stores by scouring catalogs, sales advertisements and the Internet.

7. Carry cash in your wallet, if possible:

Leave your credit cards at home. “Spend cash. This will force you to budget and make overspending more obvious,” says Dvorkin. According to the CCCS, people spend up to a third more when paying with credit instead of cash. There is no emotional attachment to plastic like there is to cash.

8. Use credit judiciously:

Shop with no more than two credit cards — preferably low-interest rate credit cards, not the expensive department store cards. The more cards you use, the harder it is to track spending. Use one with a zero balance for purchases you will pay off in full. Use the other, low-interest rate credit card for purchases you plan to pay off over the next few months, suggests

9) Beware of sales pitches:

Don’t shop under the influence of holiday hype. Retailers work hard to entice you to buy, buy and buy. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend more than you planned. Don’t fall for credit card offers to “skip a payment.” You’ll just pay more in interest next month. Watch out for the “buy now and pay later” offers that encourage you to spend money you don’t have. And, bypass applying for the department store credit card to get a one-time discount.

Most importantly you can limit the amount of time and energy you spend on gifts and make it more about spending time with friends, family, traditions and creating memories.

Read more: Tips for stretching your holiday budget

I hope everyone has a safe, and happy holiday season!


Bridget Thornton


Parenting Support

Are you interested in learning parenting tips and techniques from others?  Would you like to share your thoughts or hear from experts?  Looking for support and ideas about bedtimes, reading, and getting your kids to eat more vegetables?

Folks at the Westbrook Community Center have been trying to put together a neighborhood mothers group on Monday mornings to no avail.  If you have any suggestions or ideas, we’d love to hear them. 

Would you like to get folks together and form a new group?  Looking for space or technical assistance?  Let us know!  We’re looking to meet the needs and interests of parents in Westbrook, but need to hear from you.  Please feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment below!

Do you want to learn more about Heating Assistance and Weatherization? Info Night October 22nd!

Stop by the Community Center on October 22nd for info on Heating Assistance and Weatherization. Stay for the Free Family Fun night!

Mothers Group at the Westbrook Community Center

Did you hear?  There is a new group for moms at the Westbrook Community Center.  Every Monday (except for holidays) 9:30-11am, come on down to meet other moms from Westbrook.  This group is intended to be social and fun.  Light refreshments are served and childcare is available.  For more information, please call the Westbrook Community Center!

Back to school week! Let the fun begin!

Yes, it’s back to school this week!  We’ve asked guest blogger Peter Lancia for some tips for parents during this exciting time! 

Hello! I’m Peter Lancia, Westbrook’s Director of Teaching and Learning. Some of us know each other through my work as principal of Congin School and as a teacher at Saccarappa School. It is now my job to ensure that people are learning throughout our entire school community. I hope to blog occasionally on topics about learning.

After a summer filled with fun in the sun, it’s time to think about going back to school. No matter if it’s your child’s first or of twelfth year of school, the anticipation of the first day may be creating feelings of excitement and nervousness. It’s important to help our children ease back into a school routine so that they are ready for an excellent year ahead. Here are some suggestions for getting ready to go back to school:

  •  Read stories aloud about school and friendship. Kindergartners and first graders would enjoy books by Mercer Mayer, like The First Day of School,  and books about a kindergarten class in the Miss Bindergarten series by Joseph Slate. Second and third graders may enjoy back to school books about favorite characters like Amelia Bedelia, Horrible Harry, and Henry and Mudge. Upper elementary students will enjoy school stories written by former teacher Andrew Clements or books about Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler (yes, that Henry Winkler.)


  • Plan a school day morning routine together. What should they wear? What should they bring for snack? How long do they have for breakfast? Where will they keep their backpacks? Where will you leave important papers for them to return to school? The more that is decided ahead of time will make mornings less stressful.


  •  Leave your child a note for the first day of school. A few words of encouragement from a parent, grandparent, favorite aunt, baby-sitter, or sibling can encourage a good day and a good new year.


  • Tuck a note with your cell, home, or work phone number written on it into your child’s pocket or back pack. Even if they don’t need it, it reminds them that you’re only a phone call away.


  • Talk about the friends they’ll see on the first day of school and anticipate who they’ll play with at recess, sit with on the bus, or sit next to in class.


  • Visit your school, especially if it’s a new one. Play on the playground, walk around the building, take a peek inside if it’s open. Also, all of Westbrook’s elementary schools are hosting open houses the night before school starts to help take care of those back to school jitters. Make sure to attend.


Let’s all have a wonderful new school year. I look forward to seeing you in all of Westbrook’s schools.

Peter Lancia is the Director of Teaching and Learning for the Westbrook School Department. He previously served as a teacher and literacy specialist at Saccarappa School and as principal at Congin Elementary School. He also serves on the faculty at the University of Southern Maine teaching graduate courses in literacy education. He presents workshops around the country and consults to local schools on literacy related topics. He was honored as Maine’s Teacher of the Year in 2002.

Youth Alternatives Ingraham offers parenting classes this fall!

For more information on the Strengthening Families Program please call Deb Dunlap at 523-5081.

Check out the YAI website for more information on other parenting classes!

Open House!

It’s time for back-to-school and the Westbrook School Department hosts Open Houses at each school.  For more information, please contact schools directly.

Open House Schedule:

Saccarappa:            Tuesday, Aug. 31, 4:30-6pm

Prides Corner:        Tuesday, Aug. 31, 4:30-6pm

Canal:                       Tuesday, Aug. 31, 5:30-7pm

Congin:                     Tuesday, Aug. 31, 5:30-7pm

WMS (grade 6):      Monday, Aug 30, 5:30-6:30pm

WMS (grade 7-8):  Thursday, Sept. 16, 5:30 -7:30pm

WHS:                          Wednesday, Sept. 22, 7-8:30pm