Saving Money During the Holidays

So it’s that time to think about Christmas gifts (isn’t this a dilemma–tradition balanced with budget balanced with true meaning of Christmas? )

And for some reason, our budget always feels a little tighter around this time.  And this year, the economy poses a heightened need for frugality.  But, my personality seems bound with the mantra:  “Necessity is the mother of invention”…and so I invent.

I thought it would be fun, since there are quite a few of you clever ladies here, to share ideas, inspiration and tips about all things saving money and/or preparing for Christmas.  My ideas are probably all old hat, but I’ll mention a few again for newer readers.

Ideas for saving money during the holidays (or any other time, for that matter):

  • Turn the thermostat down just a notch or two, and wear an extra layer.
  • Turn the hot water heater off at night, and use the hot water stored in the tank the next day.  Turn it on again, if needed, the next evening for dishes/baths.
  • Cook a lot of soup.  ‘Tis the season!  *See below for one of our favorite, cheap soup recipes.
  • Think unconventionally about gifts and wrapping.  Just because they bombard us with advertisements, doesn’t mean we have to buy everything.  I’ve mentioned that one year we didn’t buy any wrapping paper or bows.  It seems silly to spend money on an item that will be ripped off and discarded if I can come up with a cheaper alternative.  I think I’ll do it again this year.  We used brown paper grocery bags, old fabric/quilt pieces and ribbon, leaves, stamps, pine cones, etc.  Maps make nice wrapping for the right person or old wallpaper.
  • Don’t overlook thrift stores and yard sales for great gift finds.
  • Consider suggesting that family gatherings focus on fellowship and meal time instead of buying gifts.
  • Draw names.

Homemade Gift Ideas:



  • Candles: Make a log candle holder, or a teacup candle, or this cute Hershey can candle for your chocolate lover!
  • Block puzzle: We did this one year.  A great way to recycle old greeting cards or calendars.
  • Wood crafts:  Look around and use what’s there!  Kathy @ Teaching Good Things is ever creative.   She can turn anything into something wonderful.  They made these gift tags and family-name wall hanging with a saw, a magic marker and some ribbon.
  • Chalkboard: Go wild with some chalk board paint; chalk boards as message boards are the in-thing.   Who wouldn’t love it?  Oh and speaking of chalkboard paint, applied to the wooden discs above, our crafty neighbors used them as place cards.

There are more ideas in Easy Homemade Gifts.

Maybe a post ahead on how to make a little extra money for spending!

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Black Bean Soup

I’m not much for measuring, so this soup is just based on your preferences and family size in determining amounts.  The ingredients are in no particular order, and you can substitute ingredients if needed:

Black beans, cooked and left in juice

Chicken broth or water with butter and spices

Cumin

Chili powder

Salt, pepper

Garlic, onions and celery, sauteed in olive oil or butter before adding to soup

Hint: Puree half of the beans for a hearty texture.  Serve with cheddar cheese and sour cream.  Yum!

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17 Responses to “Saving Money During the Holidays”

  1. Kim M says:

    You, dear, are my hero! I was just browsing the internet for ideas (in the middle of the night!). I love these ideas! I am looking forward to more posts.

    Another idea I saw today was to make verse plaques. Print out verses and border, and mat them with scrapbook paper. Mod podge and frame.

  2. Lauren says:

    For wrapping paper, single out colourful sheets of your children’s artwork.
    Bake goodies, serve them on a gorgeous, one-off plate from a thrift store and provide the recipe on a pretty card.
    Cut back on the soda pop and desserts in anticipation of the fine meals ahead — it’ll make you appreciate them more too!
    Give memories instead of presents — a day playing in the snow, a special outing to a zoo or theme park, a trip to a museum.

  3. Lori says:

    A lot of women are really handy at scrapbooking (not I). Those women usually already have a lot of the supplies and could make
    -a bundle of pretty hand-made notecards
    -coasters (coat with mod-podge to make more durable) – perfect for a hostess gift
    -pre-assmebled scrapbook pages if (like me), they want to scrapbook but don’t have skills.

    A twist on the idea of home-made cookies is just cookie dough – either logs of frozen cookie dough in wax paper or cookied doungh frozen in individual balls, along with baking instructions. Then the recipient gets the goodness of the cookies and the smell of them baking filling the house.

    Make ornamets by mixing equal parts cinnamon and applesauce. Mix until stiff and press between two sheets of wax paper. Cut with cookie cutters and use a straw to poke hole in the top. Allow to dry 2 days. Thread with ribbon and put in small box or use as present topper.

  4. Lori says:

    Oh, I forgot, also for the scrappers, beautiful pictures can be made with just a lovely sheet of paper and a decal or two. Frame in thrift store frame (I buy those all year long so I have a stash – and almost every one was $1 or less). For an example, see the two prints on the wall in the first photo, here: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/sf/etsy-find–084503

    If you’re a photographer, you can take a fun photo, like these of children’s animal toys:
    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/sf/etsy-find–084503
    Martha Stewart has showcased similar projects where someone can photograph a child’s fav toy in front of a simple background and get it blown up.

  5. Lori says:

    Hey Kelly, what did you end up doing with the doll here: http://www.generationcedar.com/main/2008/11/thrift-store-christmas.html#comments ?

    Ebay or did one of the girls get it?

  6. Diane says:

    My daughter was just longing for some black bean soup yesterday, and even though I could find recipes galore, they all had oodles of ingredients I didn’t have on hand. I LOVE your recipe! and I’ll be trying it this week:) We do lots of soups here as well… one of my homekeeping goals is to have a pot of soup always simmering either on the stove or in the crockpot. There is something so homey and cozy about hot soup on cold days.

    We have made our own wrapping paper for years, by printing with tempera paint on paper. We’ve done gold leaves on tissue paper, apple halves and pine boughs on brown craft paper, potato prints of stars and other shapes on white paper. You can extend this idea to gift bags (buy plain bags from W*lmart.. they’re very cheap), and gift tags too. One year I made this homemade wrapping paper made into “kits” with matching raffia in place of ribbon. I gave the kits as gifts to folks like my pastor’s wife, the piano teacher, etc. The kits were *very* well received.. in fact now that I am reminded of them, I’m thinking I might do it again this year!

    Have a blessed day:)

  7. Kelly, and everybody else here: Somebody has made a parody site of my blog — stealing my picture and everything, and going around to my blog friends and making rude and obscene comments using my name and my stolen picture and making a blog that looks EXACTLY like mine with stolen articles of mine.

    Thank you for understanding. If you get a rude or obscene comment in my name and clicking on my name takes you to “my” blog, please know that it isn’t me. It is a blog troll.

  8. Word Warrior says:

    Oh Mary, I am so sorry–how very frustrating!

  9. Kelly L says:

    THat sounds like my soup recipe. The simpler the better! Thanks for the ideas.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    This year I’m making all of the grandparents marble magnets w/my children’s pictures. You just get the large clear glass beads from JoAnn, put some modge podge glue on the flat side, stick the picture on the back, face down onto the glue, then after it’s dry, glue a magnet on the back and you’re done! They are really cute. Last year I started using fabric wrapping paper or bags for wrapping so the same ones can be reused every year! I forgot to scoop up more Christmas fabric last year after Christmas to get it super cheap, so I’m kicking myself this year since I need to make more.

  11. It really is uncanny how often we write about the same thing! I just posted on my blog ways to save money and Christmas was a big topic! With more ideas to come. Thanks for the homemade ideas since that is one thing we do for family and we don’t have a “project” yet. We did pinecone wreaths last year that you use a wire wreath holder and place the pinecones in the wreath after thay have soaked overnight in water. Place the wreath in the oven on a low temp and leave for 4 hours and as the pinecones dry out in the oven,they expand and tighten around the wire wreath. Let cool and add a ribbon or hot glue some decorations on it and you have a BEAUTIFUL gift! Also makes the house smell festive! Just thought I would share that with you! I love your thoughts and appreciate your wisdom and insight sooooo much!
    Thanks!

  12. Mrs. Lady Sofia says:

    Kelly,

    I’m sorry that I haven’t “visited” you in awhile . . .

    These are good ideas for Christmas, although my husband and I are still trying to figure-out if we should or should not celebrate it. We’re just so sick and tired of all the commercialism and greed which seems to be connected with this holiday.

    BTW, your recipe for Black Bean Soup sounds good. Maybe I can give it a try. I’m getting more confident in the kitchen (at least with some things, ha), so I think I will give this a try. =D

  13. Stef Layton says:

    We NEVER buy tags for our presents – we just usually write names in sharpie on the package. My husband has great landscape architect handwriting!

    My neighbor’s daughter – 13yrs old – makes blank cards, scrapbook style. They are gorgeous (she sells them to raise $$ for diabetes, but I great idea for gifts)!!

  14. ako says:

    He ist dieses ein großer Pfosten. Kann ich einen Teil auf ihm auf meinem Aufstellungsort benutzen? Ich würde selbstverständlich mit Ihrem Aufstellungsort verbinden, also konnten Leute den vollen Artikel lesen, wenn sie zu wünschten. Dankt jeder Weise.

  15. Wow, that was a great read through. Finally, somebody who really thinks and is familiar with what they are writing about. Quite hard to find these days, especially on the internet. I saved your blog and will make sure to keep coming back here if this is how you always post. Many thanks, keep it up!

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