Monday, December 8, 2008

Thrifty Holiday ideas

This was originally going to be my first post for December, but being gone last week put a hiccup in my blogging plans. Anyway, I got this list from a coworker a few weeks ago and withing it are some budget pleasing ideas for making Christmas a special and unique one this year. With Christmas just a few weeks away there is still time to take part in some of these fun and frugal ideas to make your Christmas an enjoyable and budget friendly one. I'm not posting everything on the list, just the stuff that I think is fun and practical. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I think it can be done. I mean hello, that's what baking Christmas cookies is all about:) There are also some other ideas that I found on other websites and, just so I don't seem like a total copy cat, I have a couple ideas of my own on here as well. They're at the end of this post. Happy crafting:)

1. Almost everyone loves
homemade truffles, says Mo. “My husband and I made them last year, and they were a big hit. I had no idea how easy to make they were, and we covered them with different kinds of crushed nuts and such. It was really fun! We then went and bought blank little white boxes and I decorated them with just some wrapping paper (glued) and ribbon. I think all together, we made about 15 boxes of truffles (9 truffles each box) for under $30. And we used good chocolate to boot!” Upside? Yum! Downside? They should be made only a short time before giving, and eaten soon after. If you’ve never made truffles before, try this recipe from Alton Brown.

2. Create a
secret hollow book. Find a cheap musty old classic at your nearby Goodwill or used bookstore. Glue the pages together, use an X-Acto knife to hollow out the center of the book. Now the recipient can store his treasures!

This could be particularly special if you were able to find a favorite book of the recipient of this gift. Any Jane Austen takers?:)

3. Martha Stewart has a great idea: create a
recipe booklet containing a collection of your favorite holiday recipes, and then include it with a small assortment of samples. “Pass your culinary traditions on to your friends.” Who doesn't love Martha, right? Of course the link is just an idea. Your personal ideas are always much more special to those you love.

4. Live in a cold climate? Give your friends the gift of warmth with a homemade hand warmer. If you know
how to make a bean bag, you know how to make a hand warmer. Use wool or cashmere or felt material, but instead of filling the bags with beans, fill them with ceramic pie weights. To use these toasty treasures, simply microwave them for a couple of minutes and then slip them in your pockets.

5. It’s difficult to go wrong with
themed gift baskets. Did you can your own pasta sauce over the summer? Use a colander for a basket, add some garlic bulbs, gourmet noodles, and a wooden spoon — a little taste of Italy. Or consider a breakfast basket. Or a breakfast basket (syrup and pancake mix), a movie basket (popcorn, candy, and a movie rental coupon), or a gardening basket (a trowel, a gardening hat, and some packets of seeds).

6. Can anyone say home-made almond roca. Here’s
one recipe.

7. At Ask Meta Filter, LadyBonita suggests making
personalized calendars: “You can buy calendar blanks or use a template from a program; add pictures of things or people meaningful to the recipient; add in important dates (birthdays and anniversaries of family & friends); and maybe a special note or quote every once in a while. For parents/students you can add in the school schedule; for homeowners you can add in a home maintenance schedule; etc. for sports fans, astrology followers, on & on. To make them extra special I sometimes add little treats - a couple dollars taped to a summer date for an ice-cream treat; a coupon for free babysitting on a weekend; video & popcorn night, etc.”

8. Here’s another great idea from Martha Stewart: create one of several dime-store games. My grandparents had several of
these modest toys when I was a boy, and they could keep me entertained for hours. The Martha Stewart site has instructions for creating six different games, toys, and puzzles.

9. Here’s an idea from one reader: “This year [my sister and I] are making
personalized mirrors with one word affirmations, like ‘fabulous’ and ‘gorgeous’. We started by picking up a bunch of the smallish (8×8) mirrors from Ikea, I think they are $5-6 for a four pack. My sister is obsessed with fonts, so we had some fun searching for fonts that fit the word we are going to use and the receiver of the mirror. We printed out the words to make stencils that we could cut out on contact paper. We used some glass etching glaze, left over from a candle holder project a few years ago, to etch the words on the mirrors. We added some cheap rhinestones to glitz up the mirrors for the girls and added a masculine etched pattern for the boys. We finished them off by attaching ribbon and twine so that they could be hung easily. I really like that we are giving them a reason to smile at themselves everyday when they leave for work or school.”

10. For several years, my wife and I gave each other
love coupons. Sounds sappy, I know. But it was nice to be able to come home at the end of the day and redeem a coupon for a dinner out, or for a back rub, or for an evening watching a favorite movie. I think that this could also be revamped for kids, i.e. quality time etc. Those are moments you'll never get back. Some of my favorite memories include me and my dad, when he would take me out for a day off of school if I got a B average on my report card.

11. Knip has a fantastic idea for a grandparent or other older relative: a
memory jar. “The most wonderful gift I’ve ever given (it’s still talked about years later) cost me almost nothing. I spent a few months contacting friends and family members and asked them to send me memories and old pictures of my grandfather. Then I wrote one memory (or printed one picture)on each of 365 business card sized pieces of cardstock. I folded each in half and secured it with a bit of tape, then placed them all in a big jar I decorated. Every morning for the next year, my grandfather would take out a paper, open it, and see what other people cherished in him. He loved it.”

12. If you have a funny bone then Fred's idea might work for you. Fred Bloggs has a unique idea. He gives his friends
joke boxes. These are “mostly gleanings from charity/thrift shops, picked up through the year when I see something particularly ugly or particularly good for a silly theme, and wrapped, because they don’t have to pretend to be expensive, in last year’s paper. Or sometimes one can make the jokes almost from scratch: things like knitty’s knitted womb, or my friend’s idea of a ‘rock concert’ — painted stones glued onto a ground with musical notes and dyed cotton bud mikes, that kind of thing. Someone else I know comes up with comic verses, and a token gift to illustrate the verse. Laughter’s a cheap gift, and a good one.”

13. Leanne has an idea that might be useful for college students looking for gifts on a budget. “I have a friend…who compiles a
mixed CD every year and mails them out to all his friends. It serves as a holiday card, gift, and moment of reconnection (we get a sense of how his year has been/things he’s been dealing with or excited about based on the music he chooses) plus we get introduced to new music we might not have picked up ourselves.” This could really work for anyone though. The gift of music is always memorable. Especially if you are able to find songs that remind you of the recipient or can find songs that inspire and encourage them. We are wired for music.

14. Who doesn't love Hot Chocolate?
Hot Chocolate Cones will be a hit. With 15 nieces and nephews, Kellie in Houston had to come up with a great gift that's both thrifty and sweet. To put a twist on this classic winter treat, Kellie created her own hot chocolate mixes, but here's one for you to try. Using a plastic piping bag to hold the mix, Kellie says to start with a layer of cocoa, add marshmallows, and top with chocolate chips. Tie the top with a ribbon, and voilĂ !
Now for my ideas

15. If you have the software on your PC/Laptop (and most new ones do) create your own DVD of photos from your computer and put them to a song that is special to the recipient. Maybe it's a sentimental one filled with pics of special times that you spent together or maybe it a comedic one with photos of them hamming it up. Whatever it is it's always fun to see what other people are able to come up with.

16. Since most Christmas baking is out for me I have some new homemade recipes for other Christmas food fare. They now include Maple & Brown sugar Syrup and Peppermint Marshmallows. Recipes, and pics, can be found below.

Maple & Brown Sugar Syrup

2 sticks of unsalted butter (1/2 lb.)
2 c. of light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 c. Pure Maple Syrup

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat melt the butter. Add sugar and salt into the melted butter and stir until sugar is dissolved, adjust heat until it comes to a boil (about 2 min longer). Add maple syrup and boil, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick, smooth and coats a spoon (about 2-4 min longer). Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour into jam jars (or any decorative jar that has a decent seal). Cool completely.

2. Tie a ribbon around each jar with instructions for heating (reheating takes about a minute) and serving ideas ("Drizzle over pancakes, oatmeal, or use for sweetener in

3. Stores in refrigerator for up to 2 months. Makes 3 8 oz. jars.

Peppermint Marshmallows

These were so much fun to make and super easy.

1 c. Powdered Sugar
4 tsp. water
1 Box crushed candy canes

Sift powdered sugar and add water. Mix until it forms a glaze consistancy. Dip half of a Marshmallow intoglaze and then coat in crushed candy canes. Let them dry and then serve in a mug of steaming hot chocolate. Yummy!!!

But if none of these seem to tickle your fancy then click on the Biblical woman hood link on my page she has a post with a lot ideas as well.


Anonymous said...

Great ideas here Carolyn!


Jersey Mama said...

These are great! Now I have a couple ideas of what to do for Eric's grandparents ... I was totally, completely, 100% at a loss for their gift.

BTW, when you are tagged it for a survey (or meme or whatever) it means that it's your turn to complete and post it. Or not. You know. Whatever you want! :p


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