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Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

You can find my personal blog at

Small treats

Categories: Life balance, Managing stress


January is one of the more dismal months. No more decorations. Back to the regular routine. Diets and exercise. Bills. There’s MLK Jr.’s birthday to look forward to, of course, but other than that it’s just one long stretch of deprivation and paying the piper.

This is why I recommend that January be a month of small treats. “Small” because it’s a month of many kinds of restrictions, and we are not going to get anywhere by thwarting all of them. “Treats” because if we don’t find ANY small way around those restrictions we’re going to lose our will to live.

(And make sure you price it right: if it’s something you’d need buy anyway, the treat is only the amount EXTRA it costs. That is, if your regular fabric softener is $6, but the scent you really love is $8, buying it is only a $2 treat, not an $8 treat. If packing a lunch would cost you $2, but buying a lunch is $6, buying it is only a $4 treat, not a $6 treat.)

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Treat Idea #1: A nice smell. If you have perfume you don’t usually wear, wear it sometimes. Or buy a new candle, or get some perfume samples to try, or choose a new hand soap, or a new air freshener, or a new fabric softener. We are not thinking BIG here: even very small and ordinary things can be cheering.

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Treat idea #2: Something yummy. A new coffee or tea or overpriced fruit if you’re dieting. A Lindt truffle or whipped cream on your coffee one morning if you’re dieting but won’t spin off with a small step from the straight and narrow. A candy bar you’ve never tried or a value meal you like, if you’re working on something else with this year’s resolutions. Would it be more fun/cheering to get something that’s your favorite, or to try something you’ve never tried before? Maybe do both.

Treat idea #3: A day off from a chore. This works best with chores that take the same amount of time to do whether you’ve put them off or not. Taking a day off from the dishes or the filing means twice the work the next day; but taking a day off from vacuuming or a phone call means you get to feel the pleasantness of slacking without adding anything to how long it takes to do tomorrow.

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Treat idea #4: A new thing for your hair or skin. A nice lip balm. A new hand lotion. A new conditioner. It doesn’t even have to cost more than your usual thing, and can easily be cheaper: just having something new to try can be cheering. I got a little $1.50 tub of Pond’s moisturizing face cream from the Target travel-size aisle this past week: fun to try, AND it turns out I really like it, AND in the regular size it costs less than my usual moisturizer.

Treat idea #5: Desky things. Don’t you need a fresh pack of pens? A new notebook with a cute cover? A pack of colored pencils to keep away from the children? You are working with a tiny stub of an eraser there. And you lost the pink highlighter and it hasn’t seemed worth buying a whole new package just to replace it, and now is the perfect moment to do it.

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Treat idea #6: A new kitchen thing. A new coffee mug can be surprisingly cheering to see in the morning. Or a new cereal bowl. A new cute smiling spoon or pig spatula. A cute little frying pan you probably don’t have a use for but it’s only $4.99 and it keeps catching your eye.

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Treat idea #7: A new accessory. Earrings can be cheap. A bracelet. Cute socks. New mittens that look better with your coat. A lipstick.


More treat ideas, please: it’s a long month.

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18 comments so far...

  • Watching good movies, cooking treats with fun ingredients you got for Christmas/clearance Christmas ingredients, spending gift cards/codes without going over the amount, planning January and February birthday parties. :)

    Nowheymama  |  January 11th, 2012 at 1:21 pm

  • I love a new flavor of gum. Sometimes it’s yuck, then a friend gets the rest of the pack, but when it’s great, then it’s a nice little surprise almost every day for a week! FWIW, the Trident citrus pack went to a friend … but Orbit Bubblemint did not!

    Bitts  |  January 11th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

  • Building a CDP for a friend is cheering, even though you are technically not getting the stuff. Also, making sure your to-read list is nice and full with lots of available library books.

    Checking out the PIF section on etsy and getting yourself a little present. Then figuring out how to PIF!

    Also, it is plant gazing time. Maybe think about what seeds you would like to plant or where you would like to put the rosemary bush you already bought.

    Misty  |  January 11th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

  • I got a new eyeshadow set from ELF that I have been experimenting with, and I like it. It was $5 at Target for 6 different colors of eyeshadow.

    -R-  |  January 11th, 2012 at 4:10 pm

  • This year’s treat will be wool dryer balls–they are supposed to reduce drying times and static and I can choose a pretty scent and pretty colours!

    I am also a fan of trying new toothpaste flavours.

    (man, oh, man do I sound like a fun person!)

    bunnyslippers  |  January 11th, 2012 at 5:07 pm

  • If I don’t ask too often (perhaps once a month) the babysitter will keep my kiddo for an extra hour (without charge) and feed her dinner with the rest of the daycare kids. That gives me an extra hour to recharge (as opposed to just the time it takes me to drive from work to pick her up) and gets me off the hook for dinner. I confess sometimes I just get a milkshake and read in my car for an hour, but I still feel treated.

    Also, (is this TMI?) the clothing store where I purchase underwear usually has an after-Christmas kind of sale. I have to buy underoos anyway, so I get them on sale and then get to pick out something new and pretty to wear. Even if only I know it’s there, it’s still fun.

    BKC  |  January 11th, 2012 at 5:39 pm

  • If you like to sew, maybe some lovely new fabric. Check out the bargain bins and whip up some new pillow covers for a couple bucks!
    I love fabric and it makes me happy!

    Devan  |  January 11th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

  • I bought the wool dryer balls, too! They were definitely not a small thing (especially since I don’t buy fabric softener), but I’m excited for them to come!

    Jesabes  |  January 11th, 2012 at 6:13 pm

  • I, uh, practice #3 a little too freely.

    Melospiza  |  January 11th, 2012 at 6:49 pm

  • I second the building a Crappy Day Package for a friend suggestion =)! And there are still a few days left to sign up for the Crappy Day Presents Package exchange if you would actually like to RECEIVE a package too!

    Seriously, one of my favorite small treats is buying/making a little something that I think will cheer someone up!

    (And ice cream. Always ice cream.)

    Doing My Best  |  January 11th, 2012 at 7:15 pm

  • I enjoy sending care packages (or CDPs), because there’s the fun of shopping but none of the guilt that I don’t really NEED the stuff. Maybe January would be a good month for an Anysoldier package?

    I also like buying bins at target and putting things into them. Hear me out: I didn’t think this would be something I could get into at first. But you’d be surprised by how satisfying it can be to transfer stuff that you were storing haphazardly in a cardboard box or a closet into a plastic bin and then writing a label with sharpie and the SLAP, sticking the label on it and look how organized and neat you are!

    Superjules  |  January 11th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

  • I also like a big stack of library books, fun movie rentals, and fresh office supplies.

    Barb @ getupandplay  |  January 12th, 2012 at 12:23 am

  • a new book. nothing is more cheery then a good book.

    if i am having a REALLY awful day, i stop at the remainder section of the bookstore or the library sale, get a paperback mystery, and then run to cvs for a trial sized body wash. then i pour the whole thing into the bath and relaaaaxxx.

    vanessa  |  January 12th, 2012 at 2:39 am

  • how does one get involved in this crappy day present exchnge thing? I WANT IN.

    vanessa  |  January 12th, 2012 at 2:40 am

  • Swistle  |  January 12th, 2012 at 2:53 am

  • I do this for myself when I get down. If I really shop the house, I can usually even find something in a cupboard or closet. I love this post! I’m all about small things to help a mood. Couch time is the way that I tend to treat myself…and a show that only I want to watch.

    Melanie  |  January 12th, 2012 at 4:00 am

  • Swis, (thats what I call you in my head because we are friends there)

    Have you ever heard of Birchbox? Nope, I am in no way affiliated with the company, however I did get my first one in the mail today. It’s a web company that sends a monthly package with 4 - 5 deluxe sized samples of high end beauty products. I think there are other companies that do the same thing too.

    It costs $10 a month, which may be more than a little treat, but it is so much fun to get the cute little box each month (well, it was fun today because it is rainy and blah here, I’m assuming next month it will be fun too :) ). I got a 3 month subscription for my sister-in-law for Christmas and decided to get one for myself. Now, I’m a drugstore brand girl for almost all of my toiletries and cosmetics because I’m cheap, except there are a few things I will get from a dept store counter or Sephora maybe once a year. But this was fun to try out.

    In case you are curious - in this box I got a cool bluey-grey nail polish that I would have never bought, but I would have admired on someone else, a tube sample of Juicy Couture perfume, a really good-sized bottle of some kind of fancy magic eye serum, their custom signature lip color tube, and a sample Lara bar (not impressed by that one).

    I think you can earn points and buy full sized products from their website blah blah blah, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. Anyway, seems like a fun small treat.

    sara m  |  January 12th, 2012 at 4:47 am

  • How about some new music? Amazon has a super-long list of free songs you can download, and there are songs out there for 69 - 99 cents, so that could be a cheap pick-me-up.

    I’m a daily eyeliner wearer, so I think a new cheapy one would be a cool way to do something different without breaking the bank.

    Also, silly — I drink diet soda every day. When I want to mix things up (because I’m wacky), I get diet orange/grape/cherry soda instead. They usually have cheerier labels.

    Last one — rather than eating at my desk, I’ll eat in a friend’s office. Just 15 minutes of down time to eat our home-packed lunches, but it’s a nice way to recharge a little.

    Buttercup  |  January 18th, 2012 at 6:36 pm