Top Wireless Accessories for the Holiday Season

This is a sponsored post in partnership with U.S. Cellular.  All opinions are my own.

I can't believe we are already at the time to start thinking about gifts for this holiday season!  With a very long list of people to buy for, we are always looking for the perfect gift.  Today I have some awesome options for the tech lover in your life.

U.S. Cellular has helped me create a list of 8 awesome accessories for every budget.

Top Wireless Gifts for Christmas

Under $30

JLab JBuddies Studio Kids Headphones or eKids Frozen Headphones make the perfect gift for the kids in your life.  I know both of my kids have headphones on their list this year.

The Ventev Fast Charge car charger is a great present for driving teens and adults.  A perfect gift for those of us who frequently forget to charge our phones before we leave for work!

Under $70

Audio enthusiasts can jam out with JBL E15 Earbuds or a JLab Crasher Mini Bluetooth Speaker.  I use my bluetooth speaker constantly throughout the day for my kids to listen to music, and I frequently make dinner while using my earbuds to listen to my favorite podcasts (Sorta Awesome Show anyone?!)

Anyone that uses their iPhone all the time knows the importance of having something at the ready for charging, and Samsung Fast Charge Wireless ChargingStand or iWalk Scorpio Portable Charger definitely would fit the bill!

$100-$200 range

You can easily transform your home into a "Smart Home" with the use of Google Home or Amazon Echo.  All you need to do is talk to them and they can be used to play music, answer questions, get weather and news updates as well as most other needs you may have like controlling lights and thermostats.

$300 and up

Help your friends and family (or give them a hint for yourself) to get on track with their fitness goals and sync their favorite playlists right on their wrist with with Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) or a Samsung Gear S3 Classic.

With the use of wearable technology on the rise, having some of these awesome accessories is a must for this holiday season.  U.S. Cellular has all of these amazing accessories right in store or at their website.  

Do you have a must have accessory for this year?

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Encouragement Going Forward

It has been an eventful few days here at Townsend House.  I expected to have my final 31 Days posts up on the actual days in October, however, life has a way of changing things.

We had a bit of a power outage here for the past few days.

It was definitely unexpected to have hurricane force winds come through our part of the country, and lose power for 3 days, but honestly, it was kind of nice to lose power for a few days at the end of this series.  It put a lot of things in perspective for me, thus you are receiving a bit of a different conclusion than what I had originally planned.

It gave me quite a bit of time to reflect, to slow down and to focus on the bare essentials.  Making sure that our basic needs were met, making sure all the kids wore enough clothes so they would be too cold in our 55 degree house. 

The reflection was the most significant though.  Our days slowed way down.

We had no commitments because most places didn’t have power.  There was no TV or internet, so the kids (and I) didn’t have screen time.  I did have access to the internet through my phone, but my main concern was trying to find out when power would be restored, not following the news or what one of my Facebook friends was doing. 

It was nice.

It was something that was needed.

Something I have been thinking about for a long time.

To just unplug for a while.

What were some of the things that I did during our forced sabbatical from the digital world, and the busyness of the normal day to day activities?  Well, there was a different sort of busyness.  Making sure I had boiled water so that I could do the dishes, and make sure everyone was clean.  Figuring out creative ways to make meals, and realizing that I need to make sure that I have some sort of way to make coffee with cream when we have no power.

I spent a lot of time reading.  The kids each read a couple of books.  They played together.  The older two started NaNoWriMo on paper, filled with fun ideas.  I pulled out my knitting (partly because working with wool helps keep my hands warm!), and remember how much I miss doing this in my daily life.

It made me consider what mattered most.  What were the things that I could let fall to the wayside, and what were the things that I wanted to make sure I did if I possibly could.  Things like my morning quiet time, still up before the sun, but instead of writing by lamp light, I was writing by candlelight.  Taking the time to sit and drink my coffee.  Talking to my kids.  Reading to my kids. 

Now, these are things we all do most days, but looking at them in a new light was interesting.  I wasn’t concerned with making sure we got x, y, and z done so we could move to the next item on our list.  Instead, we were able to sit back and enjoy the time together more.  Perhaps because we all were cold and wanted to stay under the blankets for a little bit longer, or maybe having that forced respite from social media and all the other outside requirements, we were able to enjoy the small moments more, not thinking about what was next.

So what is next?

Well, we have power back, and obviously I am posting to my blog, so we haven’t completely given up the internet.  But, I think that I personally need to be more aware of my time, and make sure that my kids are as well.  It is amazing how resilient they are.  They are able to move ahead and adjust. 

Do we need to adjust?  Do we need to make decisions that are less about keeping up with everything around us, and instead more centrally focused on our small families and communities around us?

It is amazing what happens when your world suddenly becomes so much smaller because of the lack of social media and the internet.  It reminds me of how my childhood was; less about the stress and big world problems, and more about community, and making connections locally.

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I’m not saying that we should ignore the big world problems – because there are many, and they are stressful – but what if we were all trying to make our local communities a little bit better.  What if we start there, and see what kind of change that can make.

It is about remembering and clinging to those small moments, those small accomplishments working towards your goals, making those small connections with your kids that they will remember into adulthood rather than the newest present at Christmas that lays forgotten by the end of January.

Finding real freedom in simplicity means enjoying those small things that we often give no time to, and making sure we make the time for those small moments. 

When your kids ask you to read them one more story, when you teach them a new skill, when you take the time to read and have time for self-care in the evening instead of rushing out to do more errands.

We all can let that weight go.  You don’t have to feel like you are drowning, that you aren’t sure what is next, and you don’t know the steps you need to take.  In the words of Elsa, you can let it go.

What do you need to let go of in order to find that inner peace and tranquility that you and your family desire?

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Putting it all Together

When I started this series, I had an entirely different layout.  I wrote out my ideas, I knew where I was going to end up.  However, how I got here completely changed.  When you start writing, sometimes your writing takes you a different direction.

What does it mean to find real freedom in simplicity?

The easy answer is to be able to breathe, to observe the relationships you want to have, to have confidence in your decisions even if they are outside the norm.  Or if they are the norm, to still believe you are doing what is right for you and your family.

Having that confidence is then the main concern.

We see it through social media every day, the mommy wars, trying to one up everyone else, the vitriol that the news has on every day.

You have to make sure that you can step away from that.  That you aren’t so wrapped up in everything else that you forget what is right in front of you.

It is easy to get sucked up into the busyness of the everyday.  How many appointments and drop offs you have to do for your kids, or for yourself.  Making sure you run all the errands, get all the gifts and make sure that you have everything you need all the time.  Honestly, it is exhausting.

How do you easily break away from something like that? 

Well you can’t easily break away.  That is why you need to really look at your values, at your family mission statement, and make sure that the busy, all of the decisions you are making with and for your family are the things that truly matter to you.

Now, of course there are always going to be seasons where it is stressful no matter how much you simplify, but it shouldn’t be for years.

A season is a short amount of time, and you need to be able to look at your everyday and know if it is a season, or if it is something that can be changed so that your everyday is not so difficult, not so jumbled.

It isn’t something that is one and done either, you have to continue to pursue this simplicity as you move through life otherwise life has a way of leading you along to places you don’t necessarily want to go.

I know personally that I am constantly re-evaluating.  Sometimes that can be easy, and sometimes it makes me take a real hard look at what I am doing, and I realize that I need to scale things back dramatically.

I want to encourage you to be aware of all of your decisions.  Really look at what you are doing, what your family is doing, and make the hard choices – especially if you feel like things are spinning out of control.

I know that oftentimes when we are moving away from our family mission statement in our decisions, life doesn’t seem to be in balance, things seem off kilter, and I can never place my finger directly on one thing that is wrong that I can change.  But, when you take a few moments to breathe, and then look back on those values, on those statements you created about your family’s purpose, you will be able to bring it back to balance, and be happier for it.

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Financial Resources

There are affiliate links in this post.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

Starting a budget and taking control of your finances is not difficult to start even if you have never thought of budgeting before.  There is a bit of a learning curve, but I hope through some of these resources you are able to get control of your money, and start making your way towards financial freedom.

The first and best resource I recommend is the book The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.  I purchased this book way back before my husband and I even had kids, but unfortunately did not really read the book until 2013.  Some of the ideas are a bit radical, but the stories are incredibly motivating, and it definitely helps get you into the mindset of paying off debt.

If you are already trying to get out of debt, or save for a large purchase, I would also recommend his podcast.  Most of the calls, and especially the debt free screams, are encouraging and definitely keep you on track to make the best financial decisions for your family.

I budget using a plain old excel spreadsheet.  Each book is for the entire year.  I break the book into sheets for all twelve months as well as a sample budget we can use if we are trying to figure out different scenarios (like renting out space in our home, or buying a new house, or our ideal budget), and a sheet that holds all of our debt amounts that I keep updated.

I also like to use Quicken to keep track of all of our money.

If you like a more digital product that you can easily access and update from your phone, a few good options are  everydollar, YNAB, and Mint.

The most important part about keeping track of money is just that, keep track of your money.  Know where all of your money goes each month, and make your money work for you.

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Giving Generously

There are affiliate links in this post.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

One of the best outcomes from cultivating simplicity in your life is the ability to give generously.  When you are not held back by buying the latest gadget, or are under a heavy weight of debt, you have the option to give generously to those in your community and beyond.

When I read the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess I was constantly hit by the realization that I had so much. 

From the view of the rest of the world, I was rich beyond measure.  When we were looking at our life, we saw huge amounts of debt, and more stuff than we knew what to do with.  But, to the rest of the world we had it all.

Practicing contentment was an immediate desire in my life, but the burden to give generously was also placed on my heart.  I wanted to help people.  I’m sure you want to help people as well.

It is easy to fall into the trap of woe is me – as in looking at the bigger and better on social media that you do not have.  But, it is also amazing to be able to give generously to someone else, and the feeling that giving provides far outweighs any cost to you as an individual.

Teaching my children to give generously is important, but to be honest they teach me more about giving generously than I do to them.  They have always had giving spirits, wanting to donate all their money to church or an animal shelter, wanting to bring their toys to the warming center for kids that do not have them, wanting to start a business so that they can donate all the profits to a cause that is important to them (almost all of their important causes have something to do with other kids that are less fortunate than they are).

What a testament for a parent to witness, and also incredibly convicting.  They are so willing to give all that they have, and we can easily be on the stingy side, only giving a fraction of what we are capable of giving.

As we find freedom in simplicity, going through our homes and removing items that we no longer need, are there useful items that can be donated to those who do not have as much as us?  As we get our finances under control, and there is more space in our budgets as we pay off debt, are we able to give a little bit more?

Giving generously does not have to mean buying items, or giving money for a special cause, it can also mean giving of your time.  With people busier and busier, and having more activities and appointments to go to, time has become incredibly precious.  And setting the time aside to volunteer is something that we should all do.  It shows our kids how important it is to give back, and to dedicate some of our time to helping others.

Do you have a favorite cause or charity that you love to donate your time and money to?

31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Practicing Contentment

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

Practicing contentment is almost a lost art today.  It seems like wherever we look we need to have more, bigger, faster.  Social media does not help in this regard, when we see what everyone else seemingly has, without the context of what is going on in the background.

I always go back and forth between wanting more, and trying to find peace with where I am right now.  It is incredibly difficult to practice contentment, especially if you have some big goals that you are trying to work on.

Practicing contentment does not mean that you have to stop dreaming and making goals to grow in different areas of your life.  What it does mean is that you should be content with where you are right now, even while working towards new things.

An easy way to look at this is with our finances.  When we talked about financial freedom we talked about how the goal is to be debt free, but for some of us that is going to be an incredibly long journey.  We cannot go down the path of discontentment just because it is going to take a long time to reach our goal. 

Instead we ought to think about our current place, and be grateful for what we have right now.

One way to practice contentment is to get into the habit of practicing gratitude.  Practice gratitude not only for the big accomplishments, but also for those small, everyday wins that we often overlook.

Several years ago I read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  It was the first time I had thought about practicing gratitude in the everyday, and not only for the big things. 

I started a gratitude journal.

You should too.  It is amazing what writing down a few things at the end of each day you are grateful for will do for your heart and mind.  On the days that are difficult, it will be hard to do this, and you obviously can skip days.  On the days that are difficult, this is a perfect reflection for the evening.  Nothing improves my mood more than looking back on my gratitude journal and seeing items that I was grateful for last week, last month, last year, or several years ago.

Gratitude and contentment go hand in hand and will allow you to cultivate simplicity in your life.  You can look at all that you have in front of you, and realize how blessed you truly are.  Look at all those little moments and see how they add up quickly.

Do you practice contentment with a gratitude journal?

Find the entire 31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity series here.