Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to have a frugal Holiday

Each year people run around trying to get the best deal, spend their money and money they don't have, and by the time Christmas gets here they are broke. Whats the fun in Christmas when you cause yourself all that stress? I have my mother to thank for giving me such a great attitude about everything. We have little or no money most of the time and my mother had to get creative. Memories of Christmas boxes being delivered to us come to mind. Each box was filled with food to last a few weeks, and gifts all wrapped up. Although I really did not appreciate it all back then, I surely do now. Those horrible ugly grandma boots I received came in handy later. I learned that even though we didn't have much, you always appreciate what you do have. We had each other and that's all that counted. It didn't matter what you had. Yes I wanted many things, A Jem doll comes to mind, but its not what you want but more about what you need. This was a lesson I learned very early and still go by now.
So a big THANK YOU to my mom. I love you for this and appreciate you even more.

Over the years I have come up with some creative gifts. Some are super simple and some take a little planning. But the common thread here is that they are frugal. Here is a list of things I have given over the years. Use any idea's you want or just pass on the info.

Baskets-this is my favorite thing to do. You can get baskets in thrift stores all year round and save them for when you need them. Just stick to a theme and do one theme a year. This will save you money and time. Here are a few theme's I have done.

-Candles. Can be bought on clearance all year and saved. Simply wrap some ribbon or a string of beads around with a tag. Maybe throw in some candle holders. Throw in some cookies you have made and that's it. Each basket cost about $5
-food. One year I made my own pancake mix and put it in a pretty bag. Threw in some wooden spoons (dollar store), small honey pots (Grocery Outlet) , and knit some pot holders. Simple and easy to do. Each basket cost about $5.
-Pamper. I made some bath salts for the parents using essential oils and used cocoa for the kids. I decorated girls with muffins and the boys with trucks (cocoa being the mud). Threw in some bubble bath with some cookies of course. Each basket cost around $3 to make.
-Soaps. Buy soap and a mold from the craft store. Make your own just using your microwave. Use a coupon (Michael's has a 40% off one all the time) and make it even cheaper.
Meals-one package of noodles, 1 jar of pasta sauce, one wooden spoon, etc. You get the idea? Throw together a simple meal and throw it in a basket. Done!

Thrift shop finds
Some people have a problem with thrift shop buying on holidays. To me, I encourage it. Have a friend who loves a particular type of glass ware that you cannot buy anymore? Thrift stores have it. My girls love Raggedy Anne and Andy but they do not sell them anymore. Thrift stores here I go! Its just as fun hunting for the item as it is giving it to them. Last year my daughter was into tea parties. I found an amazing old set of clear glass tea cups and saucers. Then I found a vintage set of tea gloves at a barn sale. She screamed so loud when she opened her present. She still plays with it all the time. Just think of what each person loves and try to give a gift around that idea. Not only is this a personal gift that you took the time to find, but it will also save you some money.
This year my 5 yr old twins bought their sister books from the thrifts shop. They were so proud to buy their sisters books that they will love. They even used their money they made from doing chores all year long. Little bits of change really do add up. They are super excited to see their faces when they open them up.

Sales and clearance
I usually buy for gifts all year long. If I find an amazing sale that I cannot pass up, I buy it and stash it. You never know when a birthday sneaks up or your in the need of a thank you gift. Example: When I was still working, I was a P.I.C (price integrity coordinator) which meant that I would be the first to see all clearance, mark them, and be in charge of setting them up. Lucky me! I found cotton yarn only 25 cents each. When I clocked out that day I ran back to the yard and snatched it up quick. I think I bought about 20 of them. All my knitting friends and family received yarn, knitting needles and a pattern I printed out that was simple and easy to do. Oh yeah also I put them in a basket of course. So keep an eye out all year for things you know your family or friends would love. Pay little now, save big later.

Homemade. One year my sister in law made cute little snugly girls out of the most wonderful fabric. Simple but adorable. She also gave my older girls each a stationary set. She printed out paper with their initials on it, threw in matching pencils and put it all in easy to sew bags she made to match the set. Simple and frugal gift that my girls loved! This year I'm making fire starters for those who have fire places. Using egg cartons, lint, and wax left over from used up candles. Might even throw in some oils to make them smell good. I'm also making a basket full of cookies galore. This year its homemade everything. Another year I made beautiful frames out of dollar store frames, ribbon and pretty buttons.

Brown paper bags. Yes, I said it. Brown paper bags. These are super cheap and can be bought for less than a buck. I would say this would be a perfect gift for co workers or neighbors. Have the kids decorate your paper bags. They will love this. I usually make a super easy dry coffee mix (or cheat and buy it done already) . Simply put them into bags, throw in a candy cane, and top it off with some ribbon. Super easy and cheap gift. Also super fast! Remember to write on the bottom or remind each person to recycle the bag!

Coupons. Yes, just like you did as a child. Maybe you have a friend that watches your kids or you watch theirs. Make a coupon booklet with a few coupons in it they can use all year long. One free day care date night. One free house cleaning. One free hour just for mommy. One kid free grocery shopping day. Get creative! I would love this gift!

Need vs want. This year we decided to give gifts to our kids that they needed. Yes they all have wants, but there are things they simply need more than want. I asked my girls to make a list of things they wanted for Christmas. I have yet to get a list from any of them. They could not think of any toys they wanted. So this time I asked them to tell me what they needed. I was amazed by my girls. No toys were on the list. So this year, there will be no mass produced toys under out tree. None! Instead things like jackets, slippers, handmade dolls, and things like that. I cannot wait to see their faces. They will be so happy. So I encourage you to get things for people that they need. Maybe dad needs a pair of gloves because he keeps wearing his holey ones. Or maybe your daughter needs a winter jacket. Or maybe its something simple like undies or socks. This is especially helpful when it comes to friends gifts. My friends know that I love coffee so sometimes I get gift cards to Starbucks or other coffee shops. I take that gift card and go buy coffee grounds. I choose 100 cups of coffee at home over 3 specialty coffee's from the store.
Just get creative. Your friends and family will thank you for thinking of them and saving them money.

Decorating Yes even decorating can be frugal. Take your kids to little out of the way thrift shops and let them pick out some decorations. Everything we have decoration our home was either given to me from friends, received from free from the "free box" at a thrift shop, bought super cheap from Goodwill, or bought on super clearance after the holiday. Most are vintage which I love. Or if you do not have a thrift shop around you, hit up your local dollar store. I have 2 cone Christmas tree's I bought for a buck. Just saw those at a store for $20 each. No thanks, I will keep that $19 in my pocket. Ornaments can be bought used too. This year I bought a large bag of ornaments for $4. It was so much fun going through the bag and deciding which ones to put on the tree. Our tree is filled with some Ive made, some from childhood, kids have made, gifts, or thrift store finds.

I hope Ive inspired you to have a frugal holiday. You really do not have to have very much money or any at all to have a good holiday. Just the idea that you put that much thought into each person is enough. I will take that over any brand new marketed gift anytime.

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