Christmas Budget Gift #5…Words Worth Their Weight

As the Christmas season gets closer and closer, the stress for buying gifts and finding that perfect present for the one you love can drive some people insane. Shopping at major department stores and staggering through crazy after-Thanksgiving lines, racking up credit card debt and wondering if they’ll even like it can be typical emotions for some during the Christmas season.

But is there joy in giving a gift if the gift drives the gift-giver insane? And if the gift-giver gives the gift to the one getting the gift are they grateful they got it?

The power of words on paper can be an incredibly special sentiment during Christmas. The amazing thing about the gift of words is that they come from the mind and heart of the one who pens them. In a post a few months back, How to Write A Love Letter, I mention some practical tips that can help you write a meaningful and honest letter to a significant other. Family members and friends appreciate cards and letters too. A great, inexpensive, yet amazing powerful gift during Christmas can be a letter or card to a family member, significant other or friend.

If you feel a lack of confidence in your ability to pen those heartfelt emotions, try finding a romantic quote from the great poets (or from your favorite TV show) and use that as a launching point for your own exposition of emotion.

Make a list of all the wonderful qualities you appreciate about that person and how you value their time, energy and love in your life. Write the ‘top ten things I like about your hair’ or ‘5 reasons why I love you’ and other romantically playful or seasonally meaningful titles.

Words can mean even more than ‘expensive’ gifts from the store or that new DVD or video game your kid has been asking for. I still have letters and cards from my parents and, in darker times, they are lights that provide hope and encouragement. The weight of your encouraging and uplifting words to a friend or family member can brighten their Christmas and deepen a relationship around the holidays.

Christmas Budget Gift #4…Fun with Paint=Perfect Picture

Kudos to Deanna for coming up with some great uses for old spoons! I good idea for cheap and recyclable Christmas gifts this year. With our ‘interesting’ economy and environmental awareness, hopefully people will become more and more committed to giving gifts that are personal, homemade and inexpensive to make.

Another great idea for inexpensive, yet really meaningful, Christmas gifts is to have your kids (or your friends) design and paint with their hands and then frame handprints, designs, pictures, etc. and give them as gifts at Christmas time to family members. A new piece of art from a grandchild or nephew has more worth than some ‘expensive’ paintings. Cheap, but sturdy frames can be bought at Dollar Tree or other thrift stores.

4 ct. Bottles – Washable Fingerpaint, construction paper and other items can be found at Amazon for less than $10.

Choose fun designs for your kids to paint, have them write messages with finger paint or just put their hand-prints on the construction paper and then put a fram around it and you have a great Christmas gift that you and family members will treasure.

10 Hottest Toys For The Holidays – Best Price Comparison

Countdown to Christmas – 48 Days!

Already items like Elmo Live and U-Dance are on Ebay being sold for more than you can buy them for at the stores or online. These items may be sold out if you wait too long but with a little planning and some comparison shopping you can get those Hot Holiday Items your kids are wanting. We did the research for you and compared the prices at the three most popular online toy stores.

  1. Fisher Price Elmo Live: Amazon – $64.87 with Free Shipping. Toys R Us – $67.98 with Free Shipping. eToys – 69.99 with 3.99 shipping and .85 per pound.
  2. Bakugan Battle Brawlers Series 1 Battle Pack of 6: Amazon – $49.45 with Free shipping. Toys R Us – Out of Stock. eToys – Out of Stock.
  3. Bratz Girls Really Rock(choice of 5 different dolls): Amazon – $19.99 with free shipping if you spend $25. Toys R Us – $14.99 with Free shipping. eToys – $21.99 with 3.99 shipping and .85 per pound.
  4. Gourmet Cupcake Maker: Amazon – $19.88 with free shipping if you spend $25. Toys R Us – $29.99 with free shipping on orders over $49. eToys – $29.99 with $3.99 shipping and .85 per pound.
  5. Crayola Glow Station: Amazon – $24.88 with free shipping if you spend $25. Toys R Us – $24.99 with free shipping on orders over $49. eToys – $29.99 with $3.99 shipping and .85 per pound.
  6. U-Dance: Amazon – $64.99 with Free shipping. Toys R Us – $74.99 with Free shipping. eToys – They do not offer it.
  7. Wild Planet Animal Scramble: Amazon – $25.99 with Free shipping. Toys R Us – $14.99 with free shipping on orders over $49. eToys – $19.99 with $3.99 shipping and .85 per pound.
  8. Lego Agents: Mobile Command Center: Amazon – $69.99 with Free shipping. Toys R Us – Out of Stock! eToys – Sold Out!
  9. Disney Fairies Clickables Fairy Charms Starter Set: Amazon – $19.99 with free shipping if spend $25. Toys R Us – $19.99 with free shipping on orders over $49. eToys – They dont offer it.
  10. Sit To Stand Alphabet Train: Amazon – $39.99 with Free shipping. Toys R Us – They don’t offer it. eToys – They dont offer it.

25 Budget Christmas Gifts-#1 Recycled Lovelies

This past weekend I had my first experience at the Goodwill outlet in our local area. The Goodwill store, affectionately termed “crap by the pound” by my colleague, was something that I have always heard of but never personally experienced. But my wife and I have decided to try and save money and do a lot of budget Christmas gifts this Christmas. During the upcoming months, I will lay out 25 budget ideas to give as gifts for Christmas.

The first is an idea that Deanna, another author on this blog, had the idea of doing; buying clothes and fabric at Goodwill and reusing/recycling those clothes to create other types of clothes that can then be given as Christmas gifts. My wife caught on to this idea and is getting lessons from Deanna on making aprons, purses, and even sandals. You can read more about Deanna’s craft at Recycled Lovelies.

Our experience at Goodwill was a little traumatic at first, there were so many people and the bins were lined with clothes that had neither been washed or processed. But as we dove in (quite literally) with our arms and hands we began to find all kinds of jewels that my wife will be able to use for fabric in making her Christmas creations.

When it was all said and done, we walked away with 16 pounds of clothes for $20! She will be able to make tons of aprons, skirts, purses and other things to give as gifts for such a cheap price, and it will be a great hobby for her during the winter months!

“25 Budget Christmas Gifts” will be a tool you can use as you prepare for the joy of giving gifts of Christmas. If you have ideas or projects that others might benefit from, feel free to leave comments and post your ideas below!

10 Edible Christmas Tree Ornaments

Over at greenglancy.com, was this post on edible Christmas tree ornaments. It’s not too early to be thinking of how you are going to decorate your Christmas tree! Christmas is just 54 days away.

1. Popcorn Balls – Follow the directions to your favorite popcorn ball recipe, wrap in cellophane and tie a ribbon around the top. Make a loop out of the ribbon to hang on the tree.

2. Dried Fruit Ring Ornaments – Materials: Dried Fruit, egg & ribbon. Thinly slice apples, oranges, and pears into rings and pop them into a low oven and allow to dry out. Once dry, you can simply tie a ribbon through the hole or you can brush egg white onto the rings and sprinkle them with coarse sugar before adding the ribbon.

3. Rice Krispie Treat Ball Ornaments – Follow the recipe for the original rice krispie treats but instead of smashing them in the pan, make 3″ balls, wrap in cellophane and tie a ribbon around the top, making a loop to hang on the tree.

4. Gumdrop Ornaments – Materials: Toothpicks broke in half, gumdrops, 2-3″ styrofoam balls & ribbon. Insert one end of a toothpick into a gumdrop and the other end into the styrofoam ball. Repeat until the ball is covered with gumdrops. Tie the ribbon around the ball to hang it on the tree.

5. Angel Ornaments – Materials: Sugar ice-cream cone, Three-ring pretzel, Royal icing (blend 1 egg white with 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar), Colored sugar, Tootsie Pop, Life Saver and red candy heart. Using scissors, cut off 1/2 inch from the cone’s point. Ice the cone and pretzel, then roll them in colored sugar. For the head, insert the lollipop’s stick into the cone. Using the icing, affix the Life Saver to the head and the pretzel to the back of the cone. Add icing features and a candy heart.

6. Candy Glass – Materials: Cookie cutters, Hard candies & ribbon. For a mold, wrap the bottom and sides of a cookie cutter wth foil. Set on a baking sheet and coat with cooking spray. Fill each cookie cutter with a single layer of candies. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes, or until melted. Add sprinkles, cool for 2 minutes, then use a chopstick to poke a hole near the top for hanging. Once cool, remove from the mold and hang with a ribbon.

7. Pretzel Garland – Materials: Pretzels dipped in white chocolate & ribbon. Thread one pretzel onto the ribbon and tie the end to the pretzel. Continue weaving on pretzels until the ribbon is full. Secure the ribbon to the last pretzel and hang.

8. Life Saver Wreath – Materials: Shoestring licorice & life savers. Use scissors to cut a piece of shoestring licorice 12 to 15 inches in length. Next, carefully string on about 15 life savers. Gather the ends of the licorice together and tie them into a bow to form a wreath.

9. Snowball Bundles – Materials: White chocolate covered malt balls, plastic wrap & white ribbon. Cut pieces of the plastic wrap in six inch squares and lay flat on the tabletop. Place approximately a half dozen of the malted milk balls in the center, gather the edges of the plastic wrap around the candy, twisting at the top to form a pouch of milk balls. Tie a length of ribbon around the gathering to close it, leaving a good length of ribbon left trailing from one end (a total length of about 6” of ribbon should do). Loop the remaining ribbon and tie off to form a hanger for the ornament.

10. Gingerbread Men – Follw the directions to your favorite gingerbread men recipe. Poke a hole in the head with a straw or chopstick before baking. When the men are completely cool, add a ribbon through the hole and hang on the tree.


5 Ways to Keep Your Jack-O-Lantern Fresh Until Halloween

You go through a lot of trouble to find that perfect pumpkin, searching for something that when carved will sit perfectly when displayed on your porch. So after you have carved it or painted, you don’t want to have it wither away and look sunken in after just one day on the porch. Here are some practical ways to keep your Jack-O-Lantern fresh looking until Halloween.

1. After you have carved your pumpkin, coat the carved edges and inside of the jack-o-lantern with vaseline(Petroleum Jelly), this will help seal in the moisture of the pumpkin and extend the life of your jack-o-lantern. Vegetable oil will work also, if vaseline isn’t available.

2. If the cut edges of your jack-o-lantern have begun to curl, soak the pumpkin in a tub of water

overnight to re-hydrate it. After removing the pumpkin from the tub of water, allow to drain for about half an hour and then pat dry.

3. To keep a painted or decorated jack-o-lantern hydrated, mist the pumpkin with water daily. Cover the jack-o-lantern with a damp towel when it’s not on display or place the jack-o-lantern inside a plastic trash bag and put it in your refrigerator.

4. Wrap your pumpkin in plastic wrap and store it in your refrigerator when not displaying it. This will help keep it fresher, longer.

5. Soak your pumpkin in bleach solution(1 tsp bleach to 1 gallon of water) for 8 hours. Then spray lightly with a bleach solution every day, the water hydrates while the bleach helps keep the mold away.

Do some experimenting and try some of these ideas on your Jack-o-lanterns and see which ones work. For carved pumpkins, it is best to use a battery operated light instead of a candle, it keeps the pumpkin fresh looking longer.

Find $1,000 by the Holidays

The title caught me off guard and made me want to read the article. I found this at Kiplinger.com and was impressed by the ideas she had. I am willing to put some of these ideas in effect in my life to see what I can save. Its been a tough few months for most everyone and we could all use some extra money for the holidays. Her idea is to start this through the months of October and November and since its mid October I figure I might not have the full $1,000 but even half that would help.

From the article: It’s not an unrealistic goal. I’ve collected six simple ideas to illustrate how easy it can be to find extra money in your budget to avoid debt this holiday season. (And you won’t have to eat Ramen noodles by candlelight for the next two months, either.) Employ these tricks for the months of October and November, and you could have $1,000 saved by December:

1. Adjust your tax withholding. This one wont work for me due to the fact that my husband is self employed, so I need to have as much taken out as possible to counter act those taxes.

2. Take fewer trips to the grocery store. I am a huge impulse buyer so this would help me save money. I would just have to calculate it so that I could see the savings.

3. Kick a habit. The coffee would have to go. I think I can do this, making coffee at home would really save me money.

4. Eat out one less time per month. My family has already started eating out less due to the high price of food and it has saved us some money.

5. Put on a sweater. This is another one of those ones that I have already started implementing and I am sure we will see a difference in the bill when we get it.

6. Examine your phone and cable use. We already have the cheapest cable possible, we only have it so we can get good reception. And no home phone since we have cell phones, so this wont save us any money.

Looking through these six money savers, I have four that will save my family money. I am excited to see how well I do with these simple money saving tips. For the complete article click here.

If you have some money saving tips for the holidays, please share them. Or if you plan to try these, please let us know how much money you have saved.


Save Money with these Party Food Substitutions

With the holidays well on there way, many of us will be having holiday parties, family gatherings and friends over for dinner. Here are some great ways to save money on your favorite appetizers and party food.

Instead of Guacamole – Try black bean dip with chopped avocado on top. Avocados are expensive and guacamole takes about 3-4 avocados, black bean dip only uses one.

Instead of Smoked Salmon Slices – Try smoked salmon spread. Smoked salmon’s strong flavor penetrates cream cheese so you don’t need much.

Instead of sliced Ham or Prosciutto – Try Wrapping meats around veggie sticks, cut them into bite size pieces. This requires less meat, and is more filling.

Instead of an Antipasto Platter of Olives and Marinated Veggies – Try Bruschetta with Olive and Veggie topping, serve with sliced bread. Uses less olives and the bread is filling.

Instead of Mini Crab Cakes – Try Crab dip with bread. Same great crab flavor but less crab used.

Instead of Champagne – Try Cava, Prosecco or Champagne Cocktails. Spain and Italy’s sparkling wines are often a better price, or stretch the bubbly in cocktails.

Even though you are scaling down on the more expensive items, the flavor is still there. Your guests will never know the difference. Enjoy the holidays as they were originally intended, spending time with the ones you love.

Halloween Help ~ How To… Make A Glow Stick

Halloween is just around the corner and as the little ghosts and goblins get ready to go out trick-or-treating, glow sticks really come in handy. But don’t let your little ones be the master scientist and put these together, the adult is always the best person to do jobs like this.

I found this article in WIRED magazine: How to….Make A GlowStick.

What you need to get started:

  • 2 liter distilled water
  • 50 milliliters hydrogen peroxide(3% concentration)
  • 0.2 gram luminol
  • 4 grams sodium carbonate
  • 0.4 gram copper sulfate pentahydrate
  • 0.5 gram ammonium cargonate

You can order the chemicals online at Science Stuff.In a medium-size mixing bowl add the hydrogen peroxide to 1 liter of water. In another bowl, dissolve the luminol, sodium carbonate, copper sulfate, and ammonium carbonate in the second liter of water.

Lay out a few sealable, clear containers – test tubes with stoppers or Nalgene bottles are good.

Pour in equal measures of each solution and watch with glee as it lights up. The hydrogen peroxide solution oxidizes the luminol, producing 3-aminophthalic acid. As its electrons settle to a more sedate quantum state, they emit photons at wavelengths between 430 and 470 nanometers – purplish blue.

August 8 – What is Today?

Some would say August 8th is Happiness Happens day. A day in which you are to go out of your way to make someone else happy. Smile, laugh and let yourself be happy too. BetterWorldCalendar.com has all the information you could want to know about this holiday.

Others might say August 8th is Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors Porch Night. This is the night that you share your overabundance of zucchini with your neighbor by placing it on their doorsteps. Established by Pennsylvanian Tom Roy, this day encourages sharing. Check out allrecipes.com for some great zucchini recipes and a few of Tom Roys ideas for how to successfully sneak zucchini onto your neighbors porch.

Still others might say August 8th is the Date to Create. I am not sure what this date is or what you are to do, but I can imagine it has to do with creating something.

Whatever day it is for you, enjoy today!