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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Ideas to Save Money This Holiday Season

Brought to you by: The Frugal Buzz On November 16, 2011 No Comments

Today we are going to help you come up with creative inspiration to save money. We’ll take a look at gift ideas, ways to save money on food, decorations and so on.

Let’s dive right in!

#1 Make your own gifts.

Make your own gifts? Does this sound a little too Martha Stewart to you? It does to many and yet it’s still a great idea. The problem is, people often choose to make gifts that don’t play to their strengths.

For example, maybe you’re not crafty and sewing a tea cozy isn’t something you can accomplish. If your strength is photography then you can take photos that mean something to your recipient, frame them and give them as gifts. This is a very thoughtful and potentially inexpensive gift.

When considering what you can make, consider your strengths first. What are you good at? Are you a skilled chef or baker? Are you good at designing small graphics? You could make stationary for gifts or bake bread.

The second consideration is to reflect how you can make the gift special for the recipient. How can you make it personal? For example, if your recipient loves wine and you’re creating handmade note cards, you could design cards with a wine glass on the front.

Homemade gifts don’t have to be elaborate, take a lot of time to make or cost a lot. Simple expressions from the heart are what make handmade gifts so special.

#2 Think Unique

One of a kind items are often a great gift and you can find one of a kind gift ideas in the most inexpensive places.

For example:

Etsy – this website sells handmade crafts that range from artwork and jewelry to bath products. They also sell vintage goods. You can find great items on this website. Great, affordable gifts, with a personal touch.

Flea markets – Flea markets are a fantastic place to find really special gifts. You can find vintage dinnerware, antique glassware, home goods, even vintage clothing and jewelry. The key to gift shopping at flea markets is to give yourself time to shop.

Foodzie – Foodzie is a website like Etsy. It’s a site that sells food made by chefs around the country. You can find baked goods, sauces, jerky, and candy amongst other things.

#3 Be of service

Taking your recipient in mind, what can you give them that would help them solve a problem? For example, your sister in law just had a baby and is a bit frantic and on a tight budget. You can offer babysitting services, errand services, or cleaning services to help make her life a little easier. Give her a coupon book packed with value and make her life easier without costing you a dime.

#4 Potluck

During the holiday season you may like to host parties. Cut back on your expenses by making them potluck parties. You’ll save money on the cost of groceries and your guests will be happy to contribute.

#5 Make your own holiday decorations

Decorations can cost a fortune however you can make your own decorations for a fraction of the cost. You can purchase clear ornaments from a hobby store and paint them yourself. You can get your entire family in on the activity and have them create a tree covered with memories.

There are a number of ways to stay on budget this holiday season. Whether it’s cutting back on travel, making your own gifts, or finding one of a kind gifts in unexpected places all that’s required is a little planning.

Take a look at your gift list and make a plan. What are your creative strengths? What would the recipient value most?

Start planning your holiday spending as early as possible. You’ll be able to hit the stores, online or off, without stress, without the crowds and without busting your budget.

Stay Focused

The key to not overspending this holiday season is to stay focused. Take a look at your priorities this season. What’s most important to you?

Once you know what your priorities are you can then create a plan to make it happen. The holidays can be a stressful time but when you focus on what matters most, you can make this holiday season the best ever.

Frugally yours, Mary

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A Guide to Staying on Budget on Holiday

Brought to you by: The Frugal Buzz On November 14, 2011 No Comments

Don’t Go Financially Overboard This Holiday Season; take the Holiday Challenge to Stay on Budget.

It’s easy during the holiday season to get carried away. There are so many things to spend money on. In addition to simply wanting the holiday to be perfect there are demands on your finances. These demands include but are not limited to:

• Family pressures and expectations. Between children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins it’s enough to break even the most balanced budget. For example, you have a large family and every year you get together to exchange gifts. That can mean you’re buying twenty or more gifts and that’s just for your family.

• Work gifts. Do you buy for your boss? What about your co-workers? Do you do an office gift exchange? You may feel the pressure to spend big to make a good impression. If you’re married, your spouse may have to buy gifts for work too.

• Parties. Work parties, friend’s parties and even your own holiday party require spending. You need hostess gifts, holiday attire and maybe a dish to pass. It all adds up.

• Travel. Many families travel great distances during the holidays to be together. Holiday travel is expensive and can quickly break the family budget.

• Decorating. Decorating for the holidays is a tradition for many. You don’t have to have a Griswold style Christmas to spend a fortune either. A tree, candles, ornaments, wreath and other small items can add up quickly.

• The desire to give. You may feel pressure from your own desire to give. The holiday season brings out our desire to be generous. However, if the budget doesn’t allow it, it can be a stressful and unhappy time.

This blog series is designed to help you overcome and manage the holiday pressures and expectations to spend. We take a two pronged approach. In the first post we discuss how to manage and change holiday expectations. In the second we take a look at a number of ideas to have a great holiday on a budget.

The holidays are a wonderful celebratory season. When you’re able to enjoy them stress free and stay on budget it can be the best holiday season ever.

Let’s get started!


Managing Holiday Expectations

One of the best ways to not go overboard this holiday season is to assess expectations for the season. You’ll want to take a look both at the expectations of those around you as well as your own.

In this first section we take a look at four elements of managing holiday expectations. We’ll look at:

• Find your own meaning for the holiday season
• Assessing your family’s and friend’s expectations and having that all important discussion.
• The Power of “No”. (You really don’t have to say yes to everything)
• And finally we’ll help you begin to create a holiday budget.

Finding Your Own Meaning for the Holiday Season

The first step to managing holiday expectations is to take a look at what the holiday’s mean to you. For many the holidays mean:

• Time together with family
• A time to connect with God, spirituality and your religion
• A time to spend showing appreciation and gratitude
• Parties with friends and family
• Smiles on children’s faces when they’re opening gifts
• Traditions
• Food

Make a list of what the holidays mean to you. Consider looking back and remembering the last holiday season or your favorite holiday memories. What made them so memorable? What makes the holidays special for you?

You may also want to consider what values and experiences you want to hold onto each holiday season? Often, people work very hard to create the “perfect” holiday and the end up having a terrible experience. Their expectations of perfection fall short and they forget to look at what the holidays really mean to them.

Once you’ve made that list of what the holidays mean to you and what you want them to mean this year and in the future, you may begin to create a plan to make that happen. You can set priorities for this holiday season and create a budget that reflects your priorities.

For example, if your priority this holiday is to get together with your family, then your budget can prioritize travel expenses. You can then create an appropriate spending limit for gifts. Next we’ll take a look at how to manage the expectations of others.
Assessing Your Family’s and Friend’s Expectations and Having That All Important Discussion

Just because your expectations are set and understood doesn’t mean friend’s and family’s expectations are going to match. In fact, if you have young children chances are their expectations, at least the one’s they’ll voice, are going to be centered on gifts. As a parent you want to get your children everything on their wish list.

However, you probably can’t afford everything on their list. And your friends and family likely have different budgets to work with. Some may have more to spend while others have less. The next step to a budget friendly holiday is to have a conversation with those closest to you. This conversation may feel difficult. Here are a few tips to make it a bit easier.

When talking to adult family members…

• Ask what’s most important to them about the holiday season. You may find that your priorities match.
• Express your desire to stay on budget this holiday and what’s most important to you.
• Ask if you can sit down and find a way to work together to come up with a plan that makes everyone happy.
• Consider options or solutions before you have the discussion.

Discussion example,

“I’d like to spend time with you this holiday season and I know you really enjoy the gift exchange. Because travel is expensive I’d like to find a way to stay on budget. Do you think we can figure out a way to make it work for both of us? What about setting a price limit of ten dollars or drawing names this holiday season?”

When talking to children…

• Let them know what the holidays mean to you
• Ask them what the holidays mean to them
• Let them know you’re on a budget (or Santa’s on a budget) and to choose one present they want the most. Consider giving them a price limit so they don’t ask for a pony or a trip to the moon.

When talking to co-workers…
• Consider suggesting a group gift or a secret Santa type set up to help everyone stay on budget.

It can be difficult to start the conversation. However, this step is very important. Once everything is out in the open it reduces stress. You may find that your friends and family feel exactly the same way. They may be very grateful to you for bringing it up.
The Power of “No” (You really don’t have to say yes to everything).

This may be the most difficult aspect of the holiday season. The overwhelming pressure to say yes to everything. You agree to bring a dish to pass. You agree to attend a party. You agree to help your child pay for gifts for their tennis team. You agree to host a holiday party. You agree to buy gifts for everyone in your department at work.

When you’re under this much pressure two things happen:
You end up busting your budget because of all the unexpected purchases.
You’re so tired and stressed you say to heck with the budget and just buy what’s easy (which is often more expensive.)
The key to sane holiday spending is to learn to say no.

You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to buy everything on your family’s wish list and you don’t have to go to every part. In the next section we’ll show you how to create a budget. Part of your budget will be allocated to unexpected holiday expenses because they do happen. Setting aside money for the unexpected will help you decide what you want to say yes to and what you don’t want to say yes to.

Here are some additional tips:
• Ask yourself if you want to say yes? If you do, why do you want to say yes? Are you saying yes to please someone or because you really want to participate?
• Ask yourself if you have the time to participate? For example, do you have time to host a party or bake cookies for your daughter’s classroom?
• Ask yourself if you have the money to participate?

If you struggle saying no to people consider practicing on the small things. Then when it comes time to say no to something bigger, you’ll have experience. Additionally, remember that when you say no to someone you don’t have to give them an explanation. A simple, “I’m sorry I can’t do that this year,” should suffice.

Once you’ve established expectations for yourself and your friends and family, it’s time to build a budget that supports those expectations.

Creating a Holiday Budget

The secret to not overspending this holiday season is to create a budget. This will give you control over your money. You’ll know how much you have to spend and you can base your decisions on your budget and your priorities.
Holiday Expense
Budgeted Cost
Actual Cost

Priority #1 Holiday Travel

Air fare


Car rental
Priority #2 Gifts

Joe’s gift

Jane’s gift

Bob’s gift

Sample categories might include:
• Gifts for Family
• Gifts for Friends
• Gifts for Neighbors
• Teacher gifts
• Coworkers
• Holiday Tips for Service People
• Charity
• Cards
• Postage Stamps
• Home Decorations
• Flowers 
• Christmas Tree and Decorations
• Baking Supplies Food
• Party Supplies

Once you have your budget established, it’s time to take a look at how you can make it work. You may be looking at your budget and wondering what on earth you’re going to be able to find at the price you can afford.

Next:  A plan to help you come up with great ideas to save money on gifts, food, decorations and more.

Frugally yours, Mary

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Six Last Minute – Homemade Gifts

Brought to you by: The Frugal Buzz On December 22, 2010 No Comments

A tight budget can really put a damper on the holidays but it doesn’t have to.  All you need is a little creativity to come up with gifts that anyone will love.  If you have a large, well stocked Dollar Store in your neighborhood that helps too!  Here’s a few ideas to get you started…

328465678_442b4de640 flikr

1. For the health conscious friend! Wrap individual 100 calorie packs of tortilla chips and add a large jar of salsa tied with a bow.  Tuck all into a gift bag, large stocking, holiday decorated tin or container (re-use coffee, chip, etc.).  You can substitute all sorts of treats in portion controlled individual servings – for example – biscotti with sample size coffee, teas or hot chocolate.

2.  For friends with a sweet tooth – Caramel popcorn! Making a batch (or several) of caramel popcorn starting with inexpensive stove-top plain popcorn.  Cook the popcorn according to package directions and spread the cooked popcorn on a greased cookie sheet.

In another pan, heat 1/4 cup of butter, one cup of brown sugar, half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, and one quarter cup of corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring until it boils. Let the mixture sit on the stove and bubble for another three minutes.

Pour the hot mixture over the popped popcorn and bake for 15 minutes at 250 degrees. Open the oven and stir up the mixture at least three times until the popcorn has cooked for about one hour.  After the caramel popcorn cools, break into pieces.   I usually give away large plastic zip lock baggies of this popcorn to lucky friends.  P.S. You can easily decorate the bags with holiday drawings, cut outs, ribbon, etc.

3.  For Seniors or anyone on a tight budget. My favorite gift for seniors is to give an assortment of greeting cards and a book or two of postage stamps.  If you’ve bought either a full price greeting card or a book of postage stamps recently, you know what a savings this gift would be to anyone on a tight budget.  Consider other similar items like an address book, some thank you notes, plain notecards,  white envelopes, etc. A pretty bow is all that’s needed to wrap this up.

4.  For Kids.  My all time favorite and I know some of you are sick of me bringing it up AGAIN…is flubber.  This glob of goo is inexpensive, fun to make (although a bit messy) and loved by just about all.  It’s particularly fun for the 4-10 year old set but can work for kids of all ages (if you get my drift).  You can find lots of recipes online or use my favorite found here.  Make sure to put this in individual air tight baggies or it will dry out.

5.  For Families – Anything ‘in a jar’!  One of my all time favorite gifts for a family is to create one of the many recipes that can be presented in a jar – wrapped with a big bow with recipe card attached.  I especially like soup mixes, beverage mixes (like hot chocolate) and cookie mixes.  I always buy enough ingredients to make at least 3 batches – 2 to give away and one to keep.  Large mayo jars work good as containers.  Click here for a fantastic (and easy) Chocolate Chip Cookie Cookies in a Jar recipe courtesy of About.com.

6.  For Doggies - No reason to forget fido and all the dogs in your life. They will love this nutritious (and tasty) dog biscuit that takes less than one hour from start to finish.  Bonus? You can eat them too.  Click here for the recipe.

For more ideas on wrapping gifts inexpensively, click here.

Remember – it’s not the cost of the gift that counts – it’s the thought and sentiment that goes into gift giving.  A heartfelt note, an expression of gratitude, an offer to help someone with chores or anything to make their life easier are the best gifts of all.

You might also like:  Frugal Gift Giving

What are some homemade gifts you are known for?  Please share.

Frugally yours, Mary

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Photo Source:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/nez/328465678/

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