The Saturday Weekly Review

Are photos with Santa a budget expense worth paying for? : The Saturday Weekend Review #96

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Where is Santa right now?

With only 40 days left until Christmas Santa is everywhere but in the North Pole right now.  If you are using the Norad Santa tracker you will know that Jolly Old Saint Nicholas is at a mall near you waiting for the kids to get Santa pictures taken.

That’s right Santa is gearing up today in most malls across Canada to meet thousands of excited children with their Christmas list for Santa in hand.

This is the time of year where our families come together to share memories, create memories, eat lots of food and open gifts! I’m the one who decorates the Christmas tree and the decorations and lights up outside of our house.

My wife and I love driving around to see the other houses in our city all lit up. It’s just a great feeling that we now get to share with our son who was born in September of this year.


Holiday Photos


My wife and I decided to go to the mall last night to bring our son for a walk around to tire him out plus to find a “My First Christmas” Santa hat for his Christmas photos in December.

We are getting photo cards done for our his first Christmas so we send them to family and friends for the whopping cost of only$12. We thought that was a pretty good deal plus for another $9.99 we get an 8×10 Holiday photo with any props we’d like. Sadly there is no Santa at the photo studio nor does our son know that Santa lives in the North Pole.

While wandering around we noticed that Christmas is in full swing with decorated Christmas trees and decorations all over the walls and ceiling of the mall. It feels like we are walking through a winter wonderland. They waste no time to market the holiday season because as soon as Halloween is done out comes the holiday frosting.

With so many malls in the Toronto area there will be no shortage of Santa Clause sightings everywhere you go especially at the malls. I never did understand how we would explain to our child why he can see Santa on just about every corner and shopping mall we went in. Now that he is here I have a few years to come up with a good excuse. It really does make the kids at one point question, Is Santa Clause real?


Letters to Santa


While walking through Santa’s Village at a mall in the Greater Toronto area we noticed other parents with their children taking photos by the huge red Santa mailbox in Santa’s village.

The child said out loud to his parents, “Mom, Dad how will we know what Santa Clauses address is?” and we both laughed. The parents told him that the elves would come and pick up the letters to Santa and bring them to Santa so he could read them.

I thought it was brilliant that when our son gets older he can write a letter to Santa and some places even mail back a response. Not all malls provide this return Santa letter service but you might find your local newspaper might have something to this extent. Canada post always runs a “Write to Santa” service in which he write back all for the price of a stamp. I think we will send off a letter to Santa from our son and put it in his keepsake binder for him.

To cut down on the costs of the response from Santa in the mail and the time it takes to mail return letters technology has given us a modern take on communicating with Santa, text.

That’s right if you have a cell phone some mall Santa’s are offering to send a message from Santa right to your cell phone. I’m sure that comes with a price tag although I failed to find out that cost as of yet.


Santa Pictures


If you are bringing your children to the mall starting this weekend until Dec 24 in most malls be prepared to pay some cash for that photo with Santa. My wife remembers as a child her parents brought her a few times to meet Santa and it was a memorable experience for her. I never had this experience growing up.

Did I miss out? No. Would I have liked to see photos of myself on Santa’s lap? Sure, why not. My wife and I get a chuckle looking at photos of her on Santa’s lap although she still wonders exactly what she asked him to get her for Christmas. She says she wishes now that she had asked to win the lottery as she probably asked for a Barbie doll.

Some children forget the toys and ask Santa for other personal and in some cases emotionally filled needs for Christmas. Talking with Santa gives them hope and I don’t think I’d want to take that hope away from a child who desperately wants and needs it. Some parents don’t want their children believing in make-believe characters such as Santa but as parents we all have our own opinions to raise our children as we want to.

What I wasn’t to keen on was the cost to get a photo done with Santa unless of course the money was being donated to a charity which some organizations are doing. I think the entire Santa photo is becoming such a large marketing ploy that many parents fall into.

If you think you will just take your own photos with your smartphone or camera, think again as they don’t let this happen. One family last night took photos of their child at the Santa Letter Mailbox outside of Santa’s village which is free and perfectly fine to do but not with Santa.

Not all parents can afford to pay to put their kids on Santa’s lap so this is another way to have them participate even though they don’t get to meet the jolly man in person. If you dig around I’m sure you will find some places in your city that will offer free photos with Santa.

If the company where your work has a children’s Christmas party your organization might hire a Santa or someone will dress up and volunteer. This is a great way to get a free photo of your child with Santa Clause.

Santa pictures and packages at a mall can range anywhere from $5 for a photo up to $42 for a package of photos and there’s more than one package at some malls. If you want to have a high-resolution CD plus a photo of Santa created you can add another $10 to that cost. If you just want the photo of Santa on disk that will cost you a further $7 out-of-pocket but you must by a photo package to have this done. Not all malls and organizations are charging the above prices but for the most part they aren’t free.

How many photos of Santa do you really need?

You could easily scan the photo to share on social media if you’d like. Most people could care less on Facebook how professional the photo is all they want to see is the photo. Some malls are even offering photos of Santa and your pets. Oh ya, if you want your pet to get in on the festivities you can chime in and get some photos taken.

Although we are getting professional photos done at the photography studio my wife and I agreed that we would make our way back to the mall to introduce or baby boy to Santa for the first time in his life.

Although some photo prices are expensive it’s important for us to start creating traditions for our little family. Most parents would pay just about anything to get in on the Santa action with their kids and likely why the costs are so high, or part of the reason.

How much are Santa pictures worth to you and your child? Some of you may say nothing and won’t bother getting photos with Santa done but for many of you getting photos done with Santa is a must for the holidays.


 Around our house and the blog


The blog has been busy but I’ve had to deal with another issue with spam behind the scenes which was quickly resolved. I thought to myself.. “not again” but that’s behind me now.

A big thanks to my new friend Kipp from Frankly Frugal who shared the Grocery Game Challenge in his Budget Update  post for Sept/Oct for all of his fans. The best part is Kipp is from the USA and he participates in the Grocery Game. You don’t have to be Canadian to save money!

My friend Dan from Our Big Fat Wallet shared my post about paying a fee to view a rental unit with his fans this week as well. Thanks Dan.

This week has been crazy busy for me and even though I didn’t accomplish all of my goals I did manage to get the vehicle undercoating done by Krown for the winter. Winter maintenance of our vehicle is important to us and our safety. Next week I’ll be putting the snow tires on the van and I have to replace the lock mechanism on one of the doors.

Now that the snow has made touchdown in Ontario I’ll be shutting off the water outdoors and bringing in the garden hose for the winter. All of our plants are finally indoors in the front window soaking up the sunshine. I was going to put up our Christmas wreathe over the garage but that is not priority at the moment but if I can find some time that is what else I will get done.

Our baby had his first shots this week at the doctors office and he took them like a champ. I have to say that I wasn’t sure how he would be having 2 needles in his legs but other than a first cry he quickly started smiling. Phew!!

We managed to get his passport application in the mail too so hopefully he will have his Canadian Passport soon so we can book a vacation to the UK to see my family.

It’s been almost 8 years since I’ve been home so I look forward to seeing them next year. I will have to update my British passport too very soon so while I’m at the Toronto UK consulate I’ll look into getting our son his EU passport as well. You can never have too many passports. 🙂

That’s my week.. how was yours?


CBB blog posts this week


Just in case you’ve missed any of my blog posts this week I will link to them all below. If you have a question that you would like to ask Mr.CBB fill out the contact Mr.CBB form on the Home Page and send in your questions. Mr.CBB will look in his mailbag weekly and pick a question to answer on the blog.


Fan deals and inspirations


Submit your Brag or Inspiration If you have a brag that you want me to share email me at canadianbudgetbinder (@) [yahoo] [.ca] or fill out my contact form by Friday each week to have your brag considered for the Saturday post.


chandra grocery deals

This week Chandra shares just how much she saved with this huge grocery haul costing her only $183.20. Below is the breakdown of just the deals she picked up. Thanks for sharing Chandra!

Coupons, price matching and sales the above photo of products cost me $183.20. A woman behind me was shocked as she believed that the total out-of-pocket was going to be around the $250.00 without coupons. Whoop!

  • Family size pork chops-$10.00
  • 2 x Deli meat family pack $5.00 each-me $10.00
  • 2x potatoes $3.47 each-$6.54
  • 2x prime chicken thighs reduced
  • 2x prime ground chicken reduced total for all meat $22.83
  • 4x 5.00 off coupons my price $2.83 for all the prime meat
  • 2x breakfast bars on sale $3.00-me $6.00
  • 2x rice packs on sale $2.00- me $4.00
  • chewy mini bars reg $7.49-me $1.75
  • 4x hot italian sausages 2 packs for $8.00-me $16.00
  • 2x ground pork 2 packs for $8.00-me$16.00
  • 10x Yoplait drinks on sale $1.00-me $10.00
  • 5x margarine on sale $1.00-me $5.00 (I can’t believe it’s not butter freezes great)
  •  omega eggs $4.56-coupon me-free
  • 18 pack eggs $4.69 price match No Frills me $2.77
  • 4x Greek yogurt $3.97- me $15.88
  • 3x mushrooms sale $1.47-me $4.41
  • 3x Stonemill bread $4.29- 3 coupons me=free
  • 4 packs of gravy $2.00
  • 4x 5 alive juice sale $1.00-me $4.00
  • big bag shrimp-$9.00
  • 24 royal toilet paper-$8.00
  • 3x cherry tomatoes $1.00-me $3.00


Making A Difference


If you know a personal finance blogger that is making a difference and want to nominate them please send me an email canadianbudgetbinder (@) so I can reach out to them for a feature story.


the wallet diet

Hey everyone! My name is Christine and I blog at The Wallet Diet.

The Wallet Diet is all about making personal finance simple for 20-somethings. I’m big on making things simple because it was only four years ago that I had just graduated university with over $35k in student debt. The idea of paying off this huge sum of money was so daunting to me that I didn’t even know where to start.

I mean, savings? Investing? STOCK MARKET?? These terms were so foreign to me, you might as well have spoken in Dutch.

I spent the last few years learning about personal finance and taking in everything that I could. Here’s the thing though: I still wanted to live my life. I didn’t want to call my parents roommates or eat instant noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I absolutely love to travel – does debt mean I have to give that up too? There had to be a way to balance it all.

Luckily for me, I’ve discovered the way. Since then, I’ve paid off more than $30,000 of my student debt while navigating her career, living in an apartment in downtown Toronto, and traveling to over 15 countries.

The Wallet Diet blog is a way for me to share the knowledge that I’ve accumulated throughout the years and journalize the highs and lows of my financial journey. I also like to “decode” the most common personal finance concepts. No idea how credit card interest work? No worries. I’ll break it down into bite-sized morsels you can chew.

My advice will be simple and easy to understand – no financial background necessary. These tips will be practical to put to use in your everyday life and will help you manage your money better.

Let the journey to financial wisdom begin!


Top recipe


Orange Liqueur Holiday Cookies

If you don’t already know I have a second Facebook page called The Free Recipe Depot where I share recipes from other Food Bloggers from around the world.

From now until the end of the year I will be sharing holiday recipes with all of you!! Today my friend at Baking in a Tornado shared this lovely Holiday Orange Liqueur cookie recipe.


Editor’s Pick


Every week I will pick a blog post of the week from around the web that I found interesting and want to share with you and an Editor’s top blog post pick.

Editor’s blog post pick of the week

This week I enjoyed reading Mark’s post about Retirement Perspectives. He always gives me the push I need to keep thinking about our retirement and ways to make sure we are maximizing on the ways that are available to us. Enjoy the read.

I’m not near “retirement age” yet but I think about it often.  I suppose for individuals in their 50s and 60s, they are forced to think about retirement and how to fund it more often than they care to admit.  No doubt recent stock market volatility has forced many people to question if they can retire at all, if so by when and how much might be enough.


Google search terms


Every week I get thousands of people visit Canadian Budget Binder because they did a search online and found my blog. Keep in mind any spelling errors below are because I share with you the exact way they typed their search engine query to land on my blog.

  • How can a single mom afford a nanny?– I don’t know you tell me. If you have to ask you likely can’t.
  • Best way to make money in Canada– One answer- Get a job!
  • How much should I pay to have someone prepare meals weekly– Hmm, good question. I might look into that for a GGC post! Hiring a personal chef likely is not that cheap.
  • Clothes envy from neighbours– Now that’ new!


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