Merry Christmas from these frugal creatures
Merry Christmas from these frugal creatures

It’s time for the annual Frugalwoods frugal holiday gifts run down (check out the 2014 and 2015 lists too)! Although the mere phrase “holiday gifts” is anathema to many a frugalyte, there are ways to maintain one’s frugal predilections while celebrating all things festive and jolly.

Chiefly, I wish to point out that the holidays should not come as a surprise to anyone or their budget. Indeed, we’re graced with this merry season every single year. Without fail. No exceptions. And thus, panic of any sort is uncalled for. The holidays are not a time to dip into an emergency fund or go into debt or overextend oneself financially (or otherwise). Given their amazingly predictable recurrence, one can plan for holiday expenses well in advance.

The entire point of the holiday season is to spend time with family and friends, enjoy homemade feasts, and if you’re religious, celebrate an important element of your faith through either Christmas or Hanukkah. The point is most certainly not to stress out over packing your house with gifts and glitz. I think we all know this, but nevertheless, it’s easy to get swept up in the lifestyle inflation that is Christmas in the digital age. We now KNOW what everyone else’s tree looks like, how mammoth their kids’ toy pile is, and whose partner bought them a diamond-encrusted toothpick. The danger of comparison–and the inevitable resulting feelings of inadequacy–are rife this time of year and threaten to destroy not only budgets but also morale.

Finding a tenable balance between disavowing the dangerous consumerism of the holidays and still partaking in merriment is possible. It just takes a bit of mindfulness. I first wrote that it “just takes a bit of work,”  but I realized that’s not accurate because it actually takes less work to celebrate frugally. But it does take presence of mind to let go of the pressure to compete and compare. To instead embrace a simpler–and I’d posit happier–holiday experience.

Since I gather Mr. Frugalwoods and I aren’t the only frugal folk who celebrate the holidays in thrifty style, I thought I’d share how we gift. Before delving into specific gifts, here’s our general gift philosophy:

Hiking together is our idea of a perfect gift.
Hiking together is our idea of a perfect gift.

1) Mr. FW and I don’t give gifts to each other.

This decision came about as equal parts money-saving and stress-reducing. We used to scamper around trying to cobble together gifts for each other, which quickly became ridiculous. It’s difficult to shop for a frugal person who doesn’t need anything and we were needlessly spending too much money in this harried quest. I will caution that it’s important a no-gift decision is made mutually by both members of a couple. For a full treatment of this topic, check out I Need A Gift For My Anniversary Like Frugal Hound Needs A Bicycle.

2) We limit our formal gift-giving list.

We give gifts to our immediate family members, which includes parents, siblings, and nieces/nephews. To friends, neighbors, and colleagues, we give homemade cookies or sweet breads. Christmas cards are mailed to our broader network of friends and relations.

3) We don’t spend a lot of money.

I have several tactics for saving money on gifts, including: redeeming credit card points for gifts, using gift cards I’ve received to purchase gifts for others, re-gifting, and shopping used. Oh yes, my family is on board with the used gift train. Read more about these strategies here.

Reader Gift Suggestions

I put the question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group of what your favorite holiday gifts are and you all responded with gusto! There were too many responses for me to include them all, but I did my best to represent each gift category. If you want to read the full list, head over to our Facebook page.

1) Homemade gifts.

Anything in here for hounds?
Anything in here for hounds?

Many of you gave the same answer: homemade gifts! When I read this, a bolt of fear streaked through me. What you may not know about me is that I’m certifiably horrific at crafting of any kind. Over the years I’ve attempted homemade ornaments, hand-crafted felt cats (what was I thinking?!), paintings, pottery, knitting, and scrapbooking. All results were terrible. Even my mom agrees, which should tell you something.

Most notable is the scarf I endeavored to knit for Mr. FW back before we were engaged. I had it in my mind that I’d make him a gray scarf with black stripes for Christmas. What I presented to him… on VALENTINE’s Day… was a wretched example of gray woe with exactly two black stripes. Not only did it take me four months to knit this thing, it ended up being way too short. I sort of forgot that Mr. FW is a lot taller than me and I measured the scarf on myself. It resembled a poorly constructed ascot up there on his neck.

In addition to my ineptitude where crafting is concerned, I do not enjoy it. I fall into the camp of I’ll craft if someone’s life depends on it, but otherwise, it’s not my thing. So imagine my horror when you all revealed yourselves as mightily crafty folk! But then I calmed down and realized that this is a fabulous illustration of the different modalities of frugality.

Here are a few of the crafty items Frugalwoods readers will undertake:

  • Cara makes bath salts and candles.
  • Kellie assembles personalized hampers with nice coffees and teas, holiday-flavored sauces and jams, sweets and other such things.
  • Jackie helps the kids make homemade tree ornaments for the adults in their lives (commence Mrs. FW having a panic attack).
  • Jennifer will make lip balm.
  • Kristina’s daughter is concocting bath balms.

2) Experiences, season passes, and museum memberships.

We'd much rather do this together than buy gifts
We’d much rather do this together than buy gifts

Giving experiences is something I heartily endorse. It eliminates the clutter of unneeded gifts and provides an opportunity to spend time with friends and family. Plus, it’s often educational!

Readers had the following to say about experience gifts:

  • Ciera likes to gift memberships to the zoo and children’s museum as well as geocaching annual fees and family photos.
  • Faith says that the best gift she’s ever received is the ability to spend time with her family and pets to celebrate the day.
  • Jennifer said, “Regardless of how much is (or isn’t, as it were) spent, I value experiences over things. Any sort of class or workshop (fermenting, glassblowing, beekeeping) or experience (apple picking, rafting) we’ve gifted each other has been more fun to me that acquiring ‘stuff.'” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
  • Carissa suggests an annual national parks pass. Great idea!
Who wouldn't want this face on a coffee mug?
Who wouldn’t want this face on a coffee mug?

3) Photo gifts, such as calendars, mugs, or framed pictures.

Customized photo gifts are superb as they’re personalized and typically not terribly expensive. I use VistaPrint for all my photo gift needs as their prices are excellent and their formats are easy to work with (here’s how I make super cheap Christmas cards with them). I made a coffee mug with Frugal Hound’s face on it for Mr. FW one year. Now that’s a craft I can handle.

A few reader plans regarding photo-related gifts:

  • Louise shared that, “My husband made me a memory collage of a Morrissey concert we attended together. He bought a frame and arranged our tickets, pictures from the night, and a guitar pic we found. My son stole the idea and made a similar thing for his one year anniversary including the bus ticket they used on their first date.”
  • Anja is making a calendar of grandkid photos for her mother. I might have to borrow that idea!
  • Elizabeth’s mom made a calligraphy plaque of a poem she’d written and hand-painted it.

4) Food!

No frugal gift round-up is complete without the requisite homemade food section. While I typically stick to sweet breads and cookies, you all get pretty darn gourmet in your culinary undertakings.

Baking Christmas shortbread cookies to share!
Baking Christmas shortbread cookies to share!

Here are a few scrumptious selections readers will cook up:

  • Amy shared that she makes Vin d’Orange using this recipe.
  • Cara makes jarred cranberry chutney, limoncello, and Italian pizzelle cookies. For the kids, she makes gingerbread play dough.
  • Mary makes raspberry honey mustard pretzel dip and chocolate covered pretzels.
  • Jennifer creates homemade canned salsa, jam, and apple butter. She shared, “I have a source of free apples and grow my own tomatoes and these are the gifts my family and friends have thanked me for more than anything else.”
  • Naomi made caramel popcorn last year and cinnamon swirl bread this year. Yum!
  • Caroline makes doctored gin!
    • Here’s her recipe: You need a large mason jar and either some muslin or a fine strainer, such as a coffee filter. Pour in your reasonably-priced (of course!) gin (750ml, the normal bottle size), add approximately 2 cups of washed berries, mulberries, blueberries (not strawberries, they’d go a bit mushy and grim), OR approximately 100 grams of dried fruit such as apricots or figs. Depending on whether the fruit is sweet or tart, you can add a tablespoon of sugar, give it a good stir, put it somewhere dark, stir every day or two for about 2 weeks, then start having little tastes… when it tastes gooood…. strain it twice and voilà: You have flavored gin!
FH feels this toy is an act of kindness
FH feels this toy is an act of kindness

5) Acts of kindness.

Perfectly frugal and perfectly in alignment with the true meaning of the season.

Here’s what Laura had to say: “One year my husband cleaned out his shop for me so I could park in the garage all winter instead of out in the snow. Now I never have to scrape my windshield. It didn’t cost a thing and was my favorite gift ever.”

6) Charitable contributions.

I think this is a wonderful tradition. Plus, most organizations will supply you with a gift card that lets your intended recipient know you’ve contributed in their honor.

Maluna shared, “Last year I didn’t send cards, saved money on stamps, cut back on gift spending, and contributed to animal rescue groups and shelters. My daughter has a rescue group in Erie, PA and I know the money went to a worthy cause.”

7) Set parameters.

Although not a gift per se, I think establishing gift-giving parameters in advance is a wise and worthy endeavor. Whether it’s setting price limits or making the decision not to give gifts at all, this is an excellent way to curb holiday spending.

Anna shared that her family sets a total dollar amount for gifts and then gives in the following categories: “something to eat, something to wear, something to read, and something to do.”

Frugalwoods Gift Suggestions

Thank you to everyone who contributed their gift ideas! My very favorite gifts to give and receive are things that enable greater frugality. Extreme frugality requires a lot of insourcing and DIY mavenry, which in turn requires tools and gadgets. One of Mr. FW’s catch phrases is “right tool for the job,” which refers to anything that facilitates us doing projects on our own. Here are a few such “tools” that we find invaluable for our frugal lifestyle.

Gifts that facilitate frugality:

Me cutting Mr. FW's hair
Me cutting Mr. FW’s hair

1) Hair Clippers + bottle of wine (a gift set!).

Love these things. To save serious dough, we cut our own hair. In order to effectively do so, we use these clippers on Mr. FW and the scissors that come with the kit on my hair. The perfect gift for any aspiring at-home hairdresser! Supply them with links to my articles on how to cut short hair and how to cut long hair to boost their hair-cutting confidence. Include a bottle of wine in case things don’t turn out well.

2) Electric Kettle.

At the risk of you all booing me off the stage for mentioning this kettle YET AGAIN, I’m going to do it anyway. This kettle delivered us from buying take-out coffee and also liberated us from using a microwave and/or a coffee maker. We use it for coffee, tea, and oatmeal prep. Ok now I’ll shut up about the kettle.

3) Travel Coffee Thermos.

Close behind the kettle comes my travel coffee thermos, which I use everyday even though I work from home. You see, I’m a sipper. I sip my 1-2 cups of coffee alllllllll day long. It took me a year to realize I could use a travel thermos at home instead of drinking cold coffee. May you learn this much more quickly than me.

Our glass tupperware in use. Bonus: kettle photobomb!
Our glass tupperware in use. Bonus: kettle photobomb!

4) Glass Food Storage Containers.

Another kitchen implement I can’t tout enough. All good frugal weirdos cook their own meals and eat their leftovers. Hence, quality, dishwasher-safe glass food storage containers are a supremely welcome member of our household.

5) Stock Pot.

For cooking those bulk batches of food, a stock pot is ideal. The bigger the pot, the more you can make at one time! Frugal, efficient, and tasty. Plus, this is a good item to find at a thrift store–they’re typically quite cheap on the used market.

6) A Mattress.

Ok don’t laugh, this is not (entirely) a joke. You see, we bought our mattress on Amazon over four years ago and we love it. It cost us a mere $279 for a king-sized, memory foam mattress, which is firm to this day (and hey, the price is now down to $267.95!). If you want to splash out for a relative or purchase a family gift for yourselves, may I highly recommend this super cheap mattress. P.S. Oh yes, we got free shipping.

7) Electric Blanket.

Now I’m on a bedding theme. An electric blanket is a fantastic frugal gift as it allows us to keep our home cooler at night (and thus use less wood in our woodstove), yet remain warm and cozy in bed. Frugal weirdos love to turn down their thermostats at night and using an electric blanket for a few minutes each evening consumes far less electricity.

Yeah, dis a pretty nice mattress right here
Yeah, dis a pretty nice mattress right here

8) Dog Bed Heating Pad.

Since hounds should be warmed too, Frugal Hound adores her hound dog bed warmer. Laugh all you want, but she loves the roasty toasty-ness that this little pad provides.

9) Fleece Baby Sleep Sack.

Yes indeed, we are all cozy and warm at night! This fleece sleep sack (coupled with fleece zip-up jammies) keeps Babywoods warm and snug in her crib. Ok this concludes the warm-in-bed themed gifts.

Gifts that facilitate frugal hobbies:

The next category of gifts Mr. FW and I appreciate are things that support frugal hobbies. Happy is the frugal weirdo who can entertain herself on the cheap and without outside intervention.

Baby books too!
Baby books too!

1) Books!

As insourcers, Mr. FW and I are constantly learning. The more we read, the more self-sufficient we become. Most of our current reading focuses on homesteading, gardening, and parenting. Know what your frugal weirdo wants to learn and find them a book on the subject. And if you’re hoping to educate yourself or others on the art of frugality and investing, may I highly recommend this book right here.

2) Yoga Mat.

With a yoga mat, one can perform all manner of exercises in one’s home. I use this free website of yoga classes for my yoga practice.

3) Hiking Shoes.

Any gear related to your frugal weirdo’s hobbies will be most welcome. Hiking shoes, ski poles, mittens, hats, surfboards, croquet sets…. whatever it is you enjoy, look for gear that’ll deliver years of enjoyment.

FW_GiftsGive What Matters And Give Within Reason

The holidays don’t have to be an anxiety-provoking melee of spending debauchery. Rather, you can choose to celebrate within reason and spend money on gifts that your recipients will appreciate.

Thoughtful, homemade gifts or gifts that facilitate your recipient’s version of the good life will win out every time. Take heart that you’re not alone in your frugal quest and know that you can navigate this season of commercial consumerism with ease. To give you further ideas and encouragement, this month’s case study will also address gift giving in the frugal sphere.

What are your favorite frugal gifts?

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  1. Wonderful tips! It can get tricky to give frugally when not everyone in your circle is on board, but that’s where using gift cards I’ve received comes in handy. I also love the homemade/consumable route; my husband has insisted for years he only wants cheese and beer for Christmas! Besides that, just getting together is a terrific gift, since we don’t live close to extended family.

  2. Last year I got my mom two documentaries about things she really cared about. I then donated in her name to the corresponding causes of each documentary. I think that was one of the best gifts I ever gave.

  3. Haha, love the suggestion for hair clippers!

    Mrs CK and I have a similar approach to gift giving. For family and friends it usually homemade gifts – lots of home brewed beers are distributed. As for the two of us we usually hold off on the gift giving and instead plan another trip. This year we will be booking our trip entirely with travel rewards.

    This will be my first holiday season after quitting my job. We plan to spend the time cooking up some feasts and lounging in front of our wood stove enjoying free heat from all the firewood I gathered over the summer.

    Great tips, and Happy Holidays 🙂

  4. A diamond encrusted toothpick would NEVER be on my Christmas wish list!! And I am with you on doing crafty projects. My philosophy is that there are people who do crafts and people who shop crafts — I am not a “doer”! But I love to shop the craft sales and see what others have done — especially things that are made with other people’s “trash”. For me, the kinds of gifts I like to receive are things that are consumable — eat it, drink it, wear it, read it (and pass it on). Also yes to experiences — especially things like movie tickets, play tickets, restaurant meal cards, or museum membership — which I would probably not buy for myself.

  5. First I must say your daughter in her Christmas dress is the cutest! I have been great at creating and going under budget with gifts this year. I plan on making candles and cooking oils. But I think this article has inspired me to also add in some homemade cookies for my co-workers instead of the gift cards I had been planning. Thanks and happy holidays.

    1. Thank you! That dress was actually mine as a baby :). I’m super impressed you make your own candles and cooking oil!

      1. I was just about to ask that question. Beautiful picture (and baby), great dress and hats off to your Mom for keeping it all these years.

  6. I always tell my husband that I don’t need a Christmas present but he’s insistent of giving me something like my favorite chocolate candy bar and a new pair of pajamas because they’re cheap, he always reasons out. In gift-giving, we’re not extravagant either. Last year, I gave bottles of Bath and Body Works lotion that I got so cheap and some of them are free (using coupons!). Nowadays, it’s hard to give people a present because they seem have everything.

  7. Looong story but as it turns out because we will be helping my husband’s ex-wife with a financial matter (something he is not obligated by decree to do, but we can’t just not help!) we will not be able to celebrate Christmas commercially this year. Sometimes life just goes this way! That said, we will celebrate Christmas religiously and still enjoy all the joys of the season.

  8. This year we asked our extended familly for a print of their annual family portrait for our photo wall. Some of the ones we had were getting dated–the newborn in our photo turns two next month!–and of course the families were happy to oblige.
    For gifts we give, it’s experiences for the kids and platters of various baked goods for friends and neighbors. My husband and I have a great time finding new recipes and experimenting each year, and taking bets on whose creations will be the favorites.

  9. Ah, a great list. My husband and I tend to get each other “big gifts” every year. Here’s a short list of the last several years:
    1. A new mattress (old one was 20 years old)
    2. A new low-water toilet
    3. A new low-water washing machine
    4. A new dishwasher (this year)
    5. Replacement sewer line from house to street (hopefully also this year, that’s a $10k gift right there…but no longer calling a plumber to have the 70 year old orangeboard (aka cardboard) pipes snaked = priceless!)
    6. A new bathroom vanity and sink

    I tell ya, that’s romance right there.

    I’m also crafty, since age 10 when my big sister taught me to crochet. So this year: a large crocheted afghan, a baby quilt (for my soon to be 5 year old, whee!), a quilted tote bag in Steelers fabric, crocheted snowflakes (which were WAY easier before I turned 40, yikes, my eyes!), crocheted stars and small stockings to hang on the tree.

    Prior years: jams, bread, cookies, crocheted handbag, sewn change purses and tote bags, quilts, afghans.

    Every year: micro-brew beer of the month club for my brother in law, and local pistachios for everyone. Sometimes we also send local wine, but that’s only possible to NY, not PA.

    Close family: photo gifts – we almost always make a calendar with photos of family on it, and buy 8-9 for house, two offices, three grandparents, and 3 aunts/uncles. Sometimes will get discounted coffee mugs or Christmas decorations with photos too.

    For our kids: 4 gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. So generally – 1 toy, an item of clothing (need), another item of clothing (wear), a book (read).

  10. favorite frugal gift: a diamond encrusted tooth pick! Just kidding.. that was really funny though… I haven’t done this (yet), but I just read somewhere about a newly married and broke woman that worked at a city library who borrowed a bunch of movies and books from the library shelves and wrapped them up for her honey. Of course they were all due back within 1 week to 1 month… but honestly, once I’ve read a book or watched a movie I’m not inclined to repeat the experience immediately. I would love it if my husband did that!

  11. Since my in-laws passed away, we’ve always gone to my sister-in-law’s place for Christmas. My husband’s brother lives near her, and I’m the Jewish one, so I do what my husband wants in that regard. The year after my mother-in-law died, my SIL and I endeavored to make the holiday bread my MIL used to make. It turned out OK, but my SIL killed the yeast, and I rescued it. Since then, I’ve made the bread at home and brought it. We also bring other foodstuffs, since she’s hosting. (Hint – an ethnic baked good of some sort is invariably a hit.)

    Last year, I THOUGHT we had agreed on no gifts. After the years where we exchanged gift cards (pointless, especially since we often gave each other the same cards) and our kids are all now out of college, I was tired of the nonsense that went with it. If my husband gets involved at all, he runs around throwing money at the problem at the last minute., which totally drives me nuts. Here’s hoping we’re past that this year. Our daughter was still in school last year, so gifts from her aunt and uncle continued. I hope we’re out of that cycle now.

    Within our nuclear family (and Chanukkah is bang on with Christmas this year) I typically buy or make things for hubby and daughter that are specific interest or hobby related, and we’ll often buy something for daughter that she has expressed interest in. We often ask what each other would like – no point in getting something that they aren’t keen for. Hubby doesn’t ever buy a lot for himself, so it is often clothing (Hawaiian shirts, running gear, underwear and socks as kind of a joke but useful). No one ever seems to be able to figure out what to get me, and they will sometimes ask, and sometimes I have an answer, and sometimes not. Daughter started her first real job in August, and wanted to know what to get us. I think we’ve agreed on a fancy dinner out – a combination of food and experience.

    None of what we buy is high-priced. The notion that kids (or adults) get a gift for each of the eight nights of Chanukkah is just rubbish, and nothing we’ve ever done. That notion erupted in the US as parents competed with the Christmas gifting frenzy, but my parents didn’t buy it (pun!) and neither have we as parents.

  12. I had a lot of green tomatoes that I picked from the garden and was thinking about turning them into chow chow and gifting them! I’m lucky because my parents are pretty frugal people and even discourage us from getting them gifts. Whenever I see something I think someone will like (and it’s a reasonable price) I’ll purchase it for them and hold on to it until a birthday or holiday comes around. Great suggestions!

  13. Great tips. I gave Mr. Roamer hair clipper one year. He already had a set but it was on the way out so I asked around to find a better quality set. The Wahl is still going strong.

    We also do gift coupon. Which are experices. Ice skating classes. Or going to a dinner show. We did medieval times.

    But I am also very much in the crafting camp and have made crotchet hats (lots of them) scarves, and recently I have made slippers for the first time.

    This year though we really want to convince family not to gift to us so that we have less stuff to purge for our big move next year

  14. I pull together a local gift basket full of consumable goodies for my extended family. I ship almost the identical set to everyone. It saves a ton of time, and stress. The family loves getting Montana goodies that they can’t buy anywhere. This year I even decided to send one out to one of my email subscribers. If I am mailing 8 boxes anyways, what is one more? We have done this for the last 14 years, and it’s become an expected tradition. When we lived overseas, the family got all the European goodies that I loved. The cost of the boxes has gone up a little over the years as our income has increased. But it make it easy to keep things on budget.

  15. Lots of great ideas! I would add this—give as locally as you can. While sticking to a budget, I have bought gift certificates to an art cinema nearby and to a wine and beer store. Also I have bought little affordable presents from several local businesses. Online is great, and we order that way, too, but there can be no substitution for supporting what’s in your town or area. Also, don’t forget local writers 😉

  16. Yep – “panic of any sort is uncalled for. Given their amazingly predictable recurrence, one can plan for holiday expenses well in advance.” You can plan for most things, because either they reoccur regularly or you can set your priorities to respond to the unknowns/surprises accordingly. You own a house? You plan for maintenance, including big-ticket items like HVAC, roof, and hot water tank replacement. You have a human body? You plan for rising healthcare costs because few of our internal systems improve with age. Everything suffers from wear and tear, and most man-made things become more efficient or easier to use as technology improves, so you get more predictable budgeting/spending on both counts. I just don’t understand why so many people seem surprised that they have not anticipated what is so easily known in advance. I had a neighbor who always seem surprised when it snowed. Really? Most eastern US snow is known 3-6 days in advance. No, the neighbor did not travel. He never bothered to seek or absorb a weather report because he had an indoor, white collar job…with a 30 mile commute… that was often impacted ball kinds of weather. Stupid is as stupid does.

  17. Books? No, not books!

    As the child of a librarian, and a bookish frugalitarian I say “no” to buying books.

    Just for fun, I took your example book, The Simple Path to Wealth. In exactly ten clicks and one password entry I logged onto my county library’s site, searched for the book via copy and paste, and placed a hold on it. It literally took less time to do than this reply. Obviously your mileage may vary.

    1. Not buying books deprives the authors of being paid for their work, which is valuable, unlike a diamond encrusted toothpick or some other unnecessary trinket.

      1. You bring up an interesting point. Should people feel guilty about using the public library?

        Since this is a blog on frugality and not capitalism, I think patronizing you public library stands as a worthy suggestion. Reduce/Reuse/Recycle applies here. Sharing books as a society has not been dragged under the capitalism bus quite yet. I would estimate we use about $10,000 in books a year from the library, so I suppose I should feel extra guilty.

        Capitalism really is creeping towards user licenses. For many products, purchasers no longer own them at all, instead buying the right to use a product, and only in certain ways which are invariably buried deep in a licensing agreement.

        I think of publishers and the spiraling costs of textbooks when I hear about young people burdened with huge college debt – they are not an industry I have sympathy for. Authors, true, that’s different. It’s a valid point you have, to some degree or another, though I suppose a furniture maker would say picking up and reusing a discarded roadside freebie deprives him of selling another one brand new in the same light, and it would be equally true. This is worth further discussion from your viewpoint, and I’d welcome it.

        1. We once attended a talk at the local university campus by James Burke (PBS “Connections” series and the book by the same name) (free entertainment!) and brought the paperback version of the book for him to autograph. My husband apologized to him for it being the paperback, and he said not to worry about it – his take was pretty much the same for paperback and hardback. I sometimes buy a book after having borrowed it from the library, if I feel that it is something that I want to keep around.

          I listen to audiobooks during my work commute, but I’ve never bought one. They are all borrowed from the library on CD (I prefer tape because you can’t accidentally lose your place as easily, but they don’t do that any more, and my tape player in my car died), or downloaded from the library e-resources. The pricing on audiobooks is such that I would NEVER buy one.

          Textbooks – textbooks have gotten larger, heavier and glossier, largely I think because of our all-entertainment-all-the-time society. They can be rented or re-sold. I believe it is the publishers making the money there. At least in the sciences, I think the authors do it for their reputation, far more than the money. There is also now a trap with the online components attached to texts – they are only useable for a semester or a year after activation, and then the publisher will sell a key for further electronic access, and those are pricey. My husband is an adjunct professor at a state university, and he is certainly not making a fortune. See –
          and also note that at one time college staff at all levels were pretty dismally compensated.

        2. I joyfully rent the digital rights to text books on an as needed basis. As a graduate student the professors/ university assign way more books than are actually read. Getting my MSW, I don’t read half of what I’m supposed to and I still have an awesome GPA. I’ve purchased used what I can’t live without. But in the middle the digital licenses are where its at. Now when I was a law student I had to buy all the case books because you had to have them in class and write in them. The law is still a very paper heavy industry. 🙁

  18. I bought my wife tickets to the symphony & a material object as well. We also tried to do most of our shopping for family and friends thorugh charitable gift catalogs. It’s not 100% charitable, but, the proceeds are donating a cause instead of a company. Plus, most of these purchases doubled as planned charitable contributions for the month as well.

  19. One of our most successful gifts was one to my mother-in-law. For a while she a had a weekly standing appointment with one of our kids, usually dinner or some treat. The kids created a card that gifted her dinner for two months that she would pick up on the same day she came by. She would show up and I would have dinner prepared in reusable containers to take home for her and her husband. I was already cooking for 6 so I just added enough for 2 more. She was delighted after 57 years of cooking, she loved having a home cook meal.

    1. that is a wonderful, thoughtful (and even in monetary terms, quite valuable) thing to do for someone who may be perfectly ”able” to cook herself, but just be bored and tired of it. The gift of a ”no input needed” meal, 8 of them, or thereabouts, that she could absolutely rely on, was very clever!

  20. One of my new favorite gifts for giving and receiving is Darn Tough socks–socks with a lifetime guarantee! Who wouldn’t want that??? I believe they make them in Vermont, but you have to buy them online or at outdoorsy stores like REI. Regular price, they’re about $15-20/pair but deals can be found.

  21. Love to give books. I search out ones on extreme markdown on homesteading and give as gifts. My family is shifting to frugal gifting for which I am grateful!

  22. Love the suggestion of giving classes. I LOVE learning new things – the problem is getting enough time to do it!

    One of my problems is that my family loves to give gifts. It sounds great, but they usually just buy me tons of things that THEY would like! We relocated to a tiny apartment within the past couple years and we’ve had to explicitly tell them to STOP sending us crap this year, or we’ll just have to donate it!

  23. I often drink tea or coffee out of a travel mug at home, too! And this list is a great reminder that gift giving can also be frugal. Extended family can make that difficult, so can grandparents. But our grandparents get portraits of the kids and our kids get experiences and other small games. We often take a date night as our gift to each other.

  24. Husband and I have, in the 6 years we’ve been together, been a no-Xmas gifts couple. This year we extended it to no birthday gifts. Freeing! I usually make homemade peanut butter cups for my adult nieces/nephew and friends, but that gets fattening (for me), so this year will make a very simple homemade lavender air freshener spray.

      1. Yes, it’s very simple (but slightly time-consuming) and I don’t even think I have a recipe anymore:

        Clear a level space in your freezer the size of whatever cookie sheet will fit. The chocolate shells will need to set for about 10 minutes before you can fill them with PB filling.

        Mix together all natural peanut butter and — wait for it — nutritional yeast, aka hippie fish food. I start with about 1/2 cup of PB and stir in a few spoonfuls of nutritional yeast. Normally PB cups recipes call for tons of powdered sugar to stiffen the mixture. The nutritional yeast adds a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup taste to it. If the peanut butter is unsalted, add a dash of salt. The mixture should be stiff but somewhat spoonable. If you run out you can make more. Sometimes I add a few tablespoons of honey for sweetness. Taste the mix and add what you like.

        Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in a a microwave with about 2T of coconut oil. I use very dark chocolate — the big blocks from Trader Joe’s — but you could use milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips. Aim for about a cup of melted chocolate.

        I use mini muffin liners but you could use full sized ones. Line them up on a cookie sheet or pan or whatever fits your freezer levelly. Frugal tip! You do NOT need to run out and buy mini-muffin tins, like I did the first year.

        Fill muffin liners (it helps if they’re doubled or paper-within-foil) about 1/3 the way with melted chocolate. Let set in freezer about 10 minutes.

        Add about a teaspoon of PB filling — flatten it somewhat into a disk with your fingers and drop it on the chocolate. You can add a touch of jam if you want, too.

        Spoon melted chocolate over and around it to fill the cup. Put back in freezer and after about 8 minutes, if you wish, sprinkle some fancy salt on top (I use regular kosher salt). If you wait until they’re frozen the chocolate won’t stick. Or you can sprinkle a bit of chopped peanut on top.

        While batch 1 is freezing you can prepare batch 2. When completely frozen, store in a cold place (fridge or freezer) and try to avoid eating them all yourself. You can also make these with almond butter, pistachio butter, whatever you like. It’s hard to go wrong with these. I package them in fancy zipper “holiday” bags as gift.

  25. I’ve made homemade vanilla and limoncello. So easy and so much better (and less expensive) than store bought. Tie on a homemade label made from a rustic grocery sack with the recipes and you have a fancy-looking, yummy gift

  26. This year my husband has agreed to give me a gift I read about on another blog: 12 hours on one day in January, where he does only what I want him to do in terms of chores. I have already compiled a list, including fixing a cupboard that won’t stay closed, sanding and varnishing a window sill that developed mold and so on. Really, I have had so much fun imagining and listing as much as I can cram into 12 hours, that the gift has already given me great pleasure! He is a very helpful husband, but sometimes what he considers important to fix is not that same as what I want done.

  27. As i have teenages i had got some clothes for them for Christmas. Coupons the works ..but earned kohls cash.gave it to my father in law for his birthday as he loves to shop i dont.
    Also hubby and i dont give gifts but when we do a project on the house we called that our ‘gift’to each other.

  28. A great, and timely, post. A number of years ago I convinced my family to start doing Secret Santa, but it turned into a bit of an exchange of gift cards. I didn’t really see the point so opted out the last few years. This year, my mum came up with the idea of a $30 limit and it had to be bought at a second hand/thrift store.

    We all loved the idea… but it turns out it wasn’t a fantastic one. Perhaps our thrift stores aren’t as good but we are all kind of feeling like we are just adding to each other’s clutter or buying something that the person will just end up donating. Still on the search for a good idea. Maybe next year we’ll go back to the normal Secret Santa but put restrictions on it like no gift cards allowed.

    1. You could do Secret Santa but require that the gifts be edible. Could be home made treats, or store bought fancies: coffee, tea, chocolate, fancy mustard, salad dressing, honey. Another fun spin might be a recipe and the ingredients to make it i.e. a cookie recipe including flour, sugar, butter, spices, etc. You can buy small amounts of specific ingredients at stores with bulk bins. To make it more fun, you could stipulate no prepackaged “sets” or must be purchased in a grocery store, not a place selling gifts.
      Another idea is to include a garage saled or thrifted item. How about a pie recipe with ingredients packed in a second-hand Pyrex pie plate? Oh, the possibilities!

  29. The kids are ending up with clothing they needed anyway and a pair of PJ’s. A few other small things and two experiences . The extended family is not exchanging gifts. I don’t like black Friday but it can be useful for what can’t be found secondhand like season passes .

  30. Definitely homemade food items: jams, tomato juice (pair with a bottle of vodka!) … once I planted up some herb-themed pots. I painted (I know craft alert) them brightly with limes for a mojito mint pot, with pizza slices for a basil pot, with bees for a lavender pot. I loved how they turned out. I also make my own cards and two of my favorite ideas were “drink recipe” cards which could be upgifted with recipe ingredients i.e. a bottle of rum for a hot rum recipe. Also, last year I made my own coloring page as a card so that people could color it – the new prozac, you know? But as far as receiving, I love homemade food items.

  31. I know you put a space between the words but I read that sentence and thought “cookies and offal, weird” ????

    I like making food things, cranberry sauce, cookies, jam. Word of warning, make sure that both of you have checked the length setting on the clippers before starting! Ask me how I know ????

    And on the book thing, whilst second hand and libraries are good, no writer could afford to keep writing if books only ever sold to libraries. So buying books new isn’t all bad. I have a little tradition of asking for a winter/Christmas themed vintage mystery novel that I get to read on Christmas Day.

    For family asking what to get you, I suggest using the amazon wishlist function. You don’t have to put anything from amazon on there, or even anything that requires purchasing, you can just list a thing or idea (an hour of gardening) but people can then mark that they have ‘bought it’ so the list refreshes.

    Love the article and Babywoods and Frugal Hound battling for cutest Christmas look!

  32. My very favorite present of all time is the bug of the month calendar (complete with very witty writing from my beautiful daughter Lorna. We moved to Western Kentucky 11 years ago from N Calif and are constantly amazed at all the different bugs!
    As far as Christmas presents I am going very much out of my comfort level- I have made a teepee for 2 of my grandkids and am making a stuffed giraffe rug for my granddaughter who turns 1 in a few days.
    Love, love, love your style of writing – please don’t worry about not being able to make crafts, your writing is definitely one of your super powers! Happiest of holidays to all.

  33. 3 cheap but great frugal gifts.
    1) puncture repair kit for cyclists
    2) Memory stick with photos and/or legally downloaded movies.
    3) Pot plants: start growing now and they will be ready for next year depending on the type.

  34. Hi Mrs. Frugalwoods! I have been reading your blog for a couple of months now and am I really enjoying it!

    Here are a few ways of how Mr. ThriftyOnTheLake and I frugalize our Christmas:

    A few years ago we started doing a family Christmas raffle with our family where each couple “pulls” names of two other adults, so we give gifts to two other family members instead of every adult. We set a dollar limit on the gifts too to keep it fair. It adds extra fun because no one knows who got their name until they open gifts on Christmas morning.

    We have a couple of friends and family overseas with whom we exchange Christmas gifts. I was dreading USPS international shipping rates and then I discovered that Amazon ships internationally and for a much more reasonable fee. Saved about $50 and a trip to the post office.

    For our Christmas gift budget this year we are going to use the credit card cash back we accumulated over 2016. That cash was going into a separate account, so there is a clearly set budget number now.

  35. Great ideas! We limit our gift-exchanging circle as you do, and try to get experience-based gifts as much as possible. Although we also tend to include sweets in the gifting and receiving leading to a jolly family trait of having bellies that shake like bowls full of jelly.

  36. How about saving together for a fun common goal instead of exchanging material gifts? In our early twenties my two cousins and I decided to stop buying gifts for each other; the money we would have spent on Christmas and birthday presents turned into twice-yearly contributions to a travel fund. In four years we had enough money to treat ourselves to an awesome trip around Eastern Europe, a fantastic experience which created beautiful memories.

  37. I’ve spent my year making gifts, like crocheting socks, afghans, hats, scarves, and potholders, assembling charm bracelets with matching necklaces and earrings from found objects and recycled jewelry, and gathering a good stock of preserves, pickled cucumbers and okra, and other produce I’ve grown and canned. For the little girls in my life, they get matching girl and doll jewelry sets that I make for fashion dolls and American Girl, as well as matching apron sets, purses, and hair accessories. It’s a creative outlet and very frugal and minimalist because I get most of the materials for next to nothing at yard sales, thrift stores, and via barter. I only spend an hour a day, on average. Then there is the fun of printing creative cards and decorating the “presents”. My local thrift store sells baskets for a quarter–you can probably see where this is going. 🙂

  38. Great ideas! I make lotions and salves (which has come in super handy in my first year and a bit of motherhood) but never give them to anyone. Perhaps I should start.

    We either get each other a big joint gift or discuss it before hand and spend a certain amount of money separately on something we’ve been needing. We also do stocking for each other, which gives us a bit of a fun surprise. We spend $25 and it’s usually food treats that we don’t eat much and/or sample sizes of different alcohol. Haha!

  39. This is all so inspiring! Mrs. Frugalwoods, you opened a new room in my mind when you wrote of gifting “experiences.” I am so excited by this because I pride myself on knowing people’s tastes in gifts but I never thought of giving an experience….and yet I have heard family members mention things (often no money involved) that they’d like to do. Sometimes no one else is interested in that experience so the individual feels selfish pursuing it. Wow! This is going to be so fun! Thanks!!

  40. Homemade body scrub! One part coconut oil to two parts raw sugar, then put in a nice glass jar. It’s great stuff. Also, passes to yoga or exercise classes, or subscriptions to great magazines. For toddlers, Hello Highlights is a great grandparent gift!

  41. It is important for me to share my culture with others. During Christmas, I prepare a Puerto Rican drink called Coquito. It’s a coconut drink made with coconut cream, coconut milk, cinnamon, condense and evaporated milk and Bacardi white rum (no other rum allowed). I put the “white gold” as we call it, in nice liquor bottles and slap a personalized label I purchased. My friends love it and the cost is barely $5 per bottle.

  42. I pay to have my son’s car rust proofed every fall, as a Christmas present. We live in Canada, and if you plan to keep your car a long time, which he does, then it is a necessity. I also get mine done at the same time, and receive a discount for two cars. The shop has great free classic car calendars which we like, and they let me take a few for some senior friends who love them.

    My Grandaughters and I like to shop in thrift stores, so I give them cards with an IOU for a couple of all expenses paid shopping trips with me, including a visit to their favourite Subway fast food restaurant, and I usually have coupons ! They have learned a lot about value shopping from their parents, and their Grandmother. They wear designer outfits from Ralph Lauren, Calvin Cline, etc. at about 10 percent of the original price. Sometimes the items are even new, and just never worn, probably hung in the back of someone’s closet. Those girls look like a million dollars !

  43. I really wish my family and my husband would do the “no Christmas gifts” for me. I always end up asking for something practical like new spoons or pots and pans because there’s nothing I really want. The most special gift that hardly cost anything was a memory book I helped my boys make for their great- grandmother when she was terminally ill. The book was very special to her and she showed it to all her friends who came to visit. This is a great idea for older kids and a very special gift to grandparents or other close loved ones.

    I picked up a scrapbook, 20 scrap booking pages that the boys picked out, and a pack of 50 little index-sized white cards from the craft store. I also had them pick out two packs of nice stickers. Then over the course of a month they worked on the book a little bit every weekend. They would each do a page a day on a specific topic related to their great-grandma: favorite thing about you, favorite holiday, special memories, etc. Each page had two memories, one with a written card and one with a drawn picture. I then printed some collage pictures of them with great-grandma for the front and back of the scrapbook. With coupons, etc. it hardly cost anything but was very special. We have the book in our house now, and look at it when we want to remember special times with great-grandma.

    1. I love this. The Christmas after my father died I bought a small silver box and filled it with pictures from me as a baby with my dad to my own boys with my dad and gave it to my mom. I had to hold the pictures for her as she looked so she didn’t get her tears on them. It was as simple of a gift as you can imagine. I am not crafty so a scrapbook would take me forever. I stumbled into this box idea because I knew I wanted her to see the pictures in a particular order and the older ones wouldn’t scan nicely for a photobook. Simple but perfect. The box sits by her bed, pritecting her memories of the love of her life and everything he was to all of us.

        1. In a similar vein: Dad died this year, Mom last year. I found bling-y Christmas tree picture frame ornaments on super clearance at Michael’s. I have a lovely picture of our parents taken on their 50th Anniversary cruise, wearing fancy duds. I am shrinking the photo to fit into the frame and giving one to each of my sibs and to some dear relatives. It will be nice to be reminded of my folks at their best every year. I don’t normally do gifts for so many people, but this year I will. Best of all, I can’t wait to give these, because I know they will be a lovely surprise. Total cost? Maybe $2.00 each.

  44. My family agreed on a limit this year along with contributions to a rental house at the beach this summer! It’s been so fabulous. Completely done looking for gifts and now I can just drink my wine in front of the Christmas tree!

    Mrs FW, cannot believe that you did not mention the greyhound winning the dog show!!

    1. Mmmm wine by the Christmas tree–divine. I am so remiss in not mentioning the award-winning greyhound! We were so excited!

  45. We keep to a somewhat-strict budget and we plan for the holidays all year ’round. We actually use a rewards credit card and cash out our rewards to pay for Christmas. I think this year we’ll have about $500 to use, which should hopefully pay for Christmas and then some! We’re trying to do homemade gifts for family and not buying each other or ourselves anything (especially since we just gave ourselves a fancy kitchen remodel!).

    I think I’m planning on making homemade chocolate truffles, IPA pickles, peppermint sugar scrub, and crocheted hats. We’ll see how it goes!

  46. These are great tips – I forgot about photos of the grand kid- that is currency for our family. Oh and a greyhound won the thanksgiving doggie show thing this year- frugal hound is now a top dog – hopefully it won’t go to his head.

  47. How do you all deal with family members who take offense at your suggestions to limit holiday gift-giving?

    My husband and his siblings are currently in the middle of a major fight all because he suggested doing a Secret Santa type gift exchange for Christmas this year instead of the usual everyone-buys-something-for-everyone-else. His brother and sister got upset at this suggestion because they felt like it meant my husband didn’t value their relationship, and now no one is speaking to one another… happy holidays indeed 🙁

    1. For some possible insight, check out “The Five Love Languages” book. Gifts may be their primary way of showing love, so I can imagine this will trigger a reaction. For many on this post, quality time together, or acts of service seems to be what they like the best (words of affirmation and physical touch are the last two). People tend to show love in their preferred mode, and don’t always recognize when another is showing love if it’s not their way. That morning cup of coffee was my husband showing love but I didn’t get it at first. Likewise, he feels loved when I take care of groceries and other “stuff”. Who knew? Maybe gifts are the #1 language for his siblings… so perhaps rather than jump to potentially no gift for each person, you shift to a different type of gift – a day at a free museum, a morning of yard work, monthly coffee out (your treat). The first year we made the shift, we said we needed to focus on paying off debt, so we suggested that gifts go to kids only. We give food gifts to siblings, and added in the White Elephant gift exchange. This conversation ideally should happen early in the year if possible, before the year-long shoppers get started. Good luck!

  48. I’m pretty sure that helping your children make ornaments is kind of required by law. But don’t worry, Mrs. FW! The beauty of helping children make ornaments is that they should be at the child’s level! Photo frame made from craft sticks? Sure! I have also done felt teddy bears for the kids to decorate with leftover buttons (mostly spares from garments I no longer owned) and bits of ribbon. The easiest homemade ornaments are those cinnamon dough ones. You just mix it up, cut with a cookie cutter, punch hanging hole with a straw, and bake. (Some fancy people decorate them. We are not fancy people.)

    Having kids old enough to expect presents adds a whole new level to Christmas. Some things I am thinking of this year for my 4- and 5-year-olds:
    -licensed character underpants
    -maybe illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone–they might be ready!
    -wallets to carry their allowance around in and make spending choices en route to learning frugality
    -art supplies: markers, tape, paints, gluesticks etc. I do not replenish these supplies when they run out except at Christmas–that’s what allowance is for!
    -Scooters. This is the big thing I’m thinking of. Their bikes are now stored in Daddy’s garage and I want something they can ride to the park four blocks over. They are actually not very expensive.

    Last year I sewed them aprons from licensed character fabric the picked out, which was a BIG hit.

    The only actual toy I might get them is some Legos as those are also all at Daddy’s. Need to stalk Craigslist for a big mismatched bin of them! I mostly think that toys are for grandparents.

    1. Sounds like a good list! I scored a bin of those giant Duplo blocks for $1 at a garage sale–I bet you could find legos in a similar situation/price point. Good luck :)!

  49. I have a junk email account. I have received hundreds of dollars in small coupons and gift cards from various retailers. My favorites this year were the coffee mugs from Shutterfly and the 60.00 credit from Best Buy. Staples, Bath and Body Works helped too . Groupons and discounted gift cards have been great on my budget. Most of my lovely gifts were 5.00 or less out of pocket. Visa check out gave me a 20.00 discount from a 40.00 purchase. No coupon has been to small for me to get a gift. We have made many lovely gift baskets this year for just a few dollars.

  50. For end-of-year teacher gifts that I KNOW are certainly not essential, but are a nice touch, we generally either lasso in the entire class and get them to donate a very modest amount and get a general-purpose gift card for a large mall local to the teacher in question (this cannot be wrong. If he or she wants, they can spend it on groceries!), and if we don’t do that, I’ve started looking at the extremely, ridiculously pricey, beautifully-presented gift basket type things that many shops will do at an extortionate premium for very ordinary products. For a fraction of the price, I’ve got a job lot of red-tinted cellophane and festive tissue, dug out old Christmas ribbon (classy!), and got some cheap baskets… and then filled those baskets with various bargain treats I happen upon, starting at the end of October (taking into account sell-by dates of course). Things like hand cream, jars of olives, biltong (South African here), cute little packs of premium chocolate, trial-size premium coffee packs… things that get discounted from time to time, and that is that! I’ve also been known to go and get inexpensive biscuit tins and fill them with home-made shortbread and that’s always a win too. Planning is the thing. Planning ahead can save so much angst.


  51. I’m a big fan of homemade gifts and food gifts. There’s just something about someone taking all that time for little ole me.

    That said, I still love receiving gifts from Mrs. Tako that I would never buy for myself. Sometimes I’m too frugal to buy what I need!

  52. This year the family is writing my niece letters to be opened when she is 18. Other fun frugal gift is sending her books her mother and I grew up reading . Other than food the only other things I would like is spending time with people or wool socks : )

  53. I love Vistaprint! I got my wedding invitations and RSVP cards there for a very reasonable price. I also like Snapfish and Shutterfly because of the dueling coupon codes. I get 60% off with one and then the other sends me 70% off. Must be careful not to order what you don’t need just for a deal. And if you don’t use a coupon with them for awhile? The free offers just come rolling in to bring you ‘back’.

  54. We are fortunate that most of our family lives nearby, so for Christmas they each get a home cooked meal – a Spaghetti Pie straight out of our freezer. In a time of too many sweets (I know, impossible to imagine for some), they seem to appreciate a night off from cooking (and that recipe is easy to expand). We have a big family with varying levels of disposable income, so food gifts don’t embarrass anyone unable to reciprocate. What everyone loves though is the White Elephant or Dirty Santa gift exchange – google to find rules. It’s a great way to recirculate something you don’t need anymore. My sister is so tidy she has nothing she doesn’t use/love so she goes to the thrift store to find real “jewels”. This exchange is one of the highlights of the day, bringing so many great memories…

  55. Ahh yes we find ourselves very similar when it comes to gift giving. My wife enjoys crocheting so she will try to make some homemade items each year. We’ve also mutually agreed not to purchase gifts for each other. Not only does it induce stress, but it’s also hard to purchase something and have it be a surprise. That’s what happens when you both monitor bank accounts regularly. We’ve also come to draw names with my family (siblings and parents). My siblings have started to get married which means more people int he family for gifts. We draw one name and the limit is $50. Easy peasy.

  56. Here’s an alternative to the “book acquisition question” ie borrow it from the library or buy it. Why not buy it from a thrift store. It’s usually about 10-20% of the original purchase price and you get a near new (often unread) book. I volunteer at one excellent store and proceeds go toward worldwide disaster relief.

  57. My partner and I don’t give each other gifts either – we know the greatest gift is keeping each other on track to reach our goals, so it’s a mutual understanding. Amongst my girlfriends, we do a Kris Kringle with a $25 maximum.

    A great frugal gift I have planned this year is homemade dog biscuits. A lot of my friends are pooch parents, so I make a healthy batch of dog biscuits (lots of great recipes online) and put them in adorable doggie treat jars I find from the dollar store with a pretty bow. As a fellow dog mom, I know it always pulls at my heart strings that someone thought of my furry little dude and it means a lot more than a purchased gift!

  58. One of my favorite frugal gifts is a homemade pasta maker, along with a printed recipe for making pasta and a little bag of fancy flour. You can purchase the pasta maker for ~$20 on amazon, the recipe is free, and the fancy flour is ~$4.00. Perfect little gift!

  59. Fantastic ideas….read them all
    Had a look at your awesome electric kettle and here is yet another good use for it, I put mine on auto reboil and because it is in an appliance cupboard I can put my bread dough on the flat top to help rise in cold weather. With the doors shut it creates just enough warmth.

  60. I like your balanced xmas philosophy and there’s some great ideas there. One suggestion though- try changing the word crafting for insourcing if you want to get around your block! I’ve always been impressed by your ingenuity and the ambitious insourcing projects you’ve tackled, and am convinced that all you need is a belief you can do something, plus a bit of research online. Making cosmetics/toiletries is easier than following a cooking recipe and saves me a fortunate (especially since I’m after non-toxic/organic options), and more complex skills like sewing are simply about practice- start simple, use up waste (old clothes) and don’t let a few failures put you off, they’re just part of the learning process. I started knitting 2 months ago. My husband laughed at my holey first sample square, but I’m now well on my way to producing a decent looking cowl!
    I am in a small skill share group with 4 others, and we take it in turns to host/teach something and have a pot luck lunch, which is a great way of socialising plus learning something new for free. A frugal double win?!! Beginners knitting was something offered in my group, but we’ve covered raw chocolate, furniture upcycling, moisturisers, body butter, felt making, sourdough and more. I usually pick 1-2 new skills a year to try to master so I don’t overwhelm myself, but it sounds like you have plenty of new things to tackle with a new homestead!!!

  61. I was given the idea a couple years ago to make Shutterfly calendar’s for the grandparents. I started doing that and my mom absolutely loved it and begs for it every year. I get it mostly made around the beginning of fall and then wait for them to put them on sale.

  62. Mrs. FW, as a former educator, I noticed your stock of books for Baby FW. As she gets to be preschool age, might I recommend the “Skippy John Jones” series about a little kitten who thinks he’s a dog and which contains many, many advertures? I gave one of the books to my grandchildren, and my son said that he reads it aloud to them at least once per week. I love your articles! My husband said to tell you that sometimes his haircut results in a little shorter than usual, but he still likes my haircutting anyway!!

    1. Thank you for the recommendation! We’ve been so delighted to see Babywoods enjoy her books! She has her own bookshelf in the living room and she goes over everyday to “read” her books. She has also started bringing us her favorite book to read to her–currently it’s “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb.” I’ll have to check out Skippy John Jones :)!

    2. Yes! Skippyjon and before that, the Satoshi Kitamura board books (Squirrel is Hungry was our favorite) were major hits in our household! They were also some of my favorite art to look at many, many, many times 🙂

      I hadn’t thought of Skippyjon in years, but my mind is now singing, “My name is Skippito Friskito” Clap-Clap!

  63. Attitudes toward holiday gifts are set early in life. We got new underwear and socks with the candy in our Easter baskets when we were growing up, and Christmas on occasion followed similar patterns when my Mom was the shopper.. Now that he is alone, my Dad, who fretted over what to get his adult children, (because he was convinced he had to), has now decided to give us things from his house. This works just fine! My husband didn’t really need the 1972 “Encyclopedia of Wine” that my parents had themselves once received as a gift, but we certainly didn’t tell Dad that.
    My close friend is locked into buying huge numbers of gifts for her and her husband’s families, and she complained that she hates wrapping them. I don’t mind it, so when she was pregnant, I went over one afternoon and wrapped for four hours. She was thrilled, and I have continued giving that present to make her Christmas more peaceful.

  64. My husband and I stopped gifting each other about 17 years ago. I am very specific in my likes and dislikes and it is confusing to him and he is the least stuff-interested person I have ever known. Gifts are not a love language for either of us, or our kids, luckily.
    Our 3 boys are accustomed to modest Christmases with a fat stocking (mostly books and chocolate), a new pair of pjs (robes this year, as a first), a new game of some kind, a Santa gift (they all still believe because they keep re-convincing each other. We don’t do a thing to encourage it other than the Santa gift on the hearth each year. ) They also get the one thing they wanted most….whatever it is. Except phones and tablets. Nope. Too young. Anyway…that’s it. 4 things, because the stocking presents as one thing.

    With our extended family it varies. We have an agreement with my brother, SIL and mom that each couple gets Mom something awesome (My dad recently died and so if she is getting anything at all it comes from us and a couple of friends. So, no slacking!) But we don’t get each other anything and get the kids one cool present to minimize the avalanche of stuff. And by avalanche I mean my mother. Lots of presents for the grandkids. My goodness. When our oldest was 6 months old she and dad showed up for Christmas Brunch with a literal truckload of gifts. ???? With my in-laws it is simpler. They are quite elderly and so my MIL gives all of the grandkids crisp bills from the bank because she doesn’t shop much anymore. The kids are old enough to love this arrangement. Every year I make Dada and Grandma a new photobook from the prior year and the boys write them a card. My BIL and SIL have six kids and no extra money. We have mutually agreed to not burden them with buying our kids anything so we just have a Christmas party and the kids play together and eat and get money from Grandma. Lol. If we bought for their kids it would make it awkward, so we never do.

  65. Oh my gosh, I would LOVE to get a national parks season pass! It’s one of my travel dreams to visit several of them in the U.S. As for the cookies, I generally stick to the stick and bake or store bought ones. I kinda suck at baking. haha.

  66. “It took me a year to realize I could use a travel thermos at home instead of drinking cold coffee. May you learn this much more quickly than me.”

    No, no I haven’t. I’ve just learned this from you. Despite my colleague also using one at work. Everyday. I have never thought to stop and ask why she has a thermos instead of a cup. Clearly my observational skills need a significant upgrade, but perhaps my mental acuity will improve now I’m not drinking cold cups of tea!

  67. I have four grown children, one daughter, three sons. I sent my daughter and her husband a $40 gift because I do not give them anything during the year and they live thousands of miles away. My three sons are more local, I am always helping them out (paid for electric bill -$233, and car repairs-($200 in November), so I give each son $1 gifts from Dollar Store of deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, soap, shampoo, and they each get a $3.24 bag of chocolate covered almond kisses. I also scored at the local library sale, hardback books they would like, for 10 cents each, and each son will get three books.

  68. Three car wrecks have made this a rough year. I find my junk email account to be valuable . I received 65.00 in free credit from Best Buy, 120.00 from Shutterfly , Numerous 5.00 coupons from Staples and Kohls. Groupons and Swagbucks netted me a total of about 500.00 worth of gifts for 100.00. This included a Keurig coffee maker and gifts that are really nice. Christmas is going to be nice and I accumulated it for very little.

  69. I love your site. As a mother of 3 its invaluable. Library book sale dates, the clearance rack, and using cookbooks for homemade gifts during the holidays are must do’s. I’m trying to learn to live nearly free & share how to with others. Frugal living is a part of that plan. Having all the know how and information on where and how to locate deals, and help when needed is a godsend to many people. Keep sharing and helping others.

  70. I usually ask for a house thing (I noticed early on that I get best results when I want something that involves trips to the hardware store.) Shelves for my canning jars, a good work light in the sewing room, coat pegs in the front entry way. I once gave my hubby a pie of the month–which included asking friends to dinner to help eat each pie.

  71. I may be frugal, but I am happy to spend a significant amount on a gift I know will be used than to spend a small amount on a random item just to buy-and-give something. Echoing much of what has been written, my favorite types of gifts to give and to receive are:

    * Consumable gifts. I read somewhere that it’s usually a welcome gift to give someone a higher end version of something they already like and use, such as gourmet coffee, hot chocolate, tea, cheese, olive oil, baking extracts, etc., items they will use anyway, but that feel a bit more special than the everyday version.
    * Experience gifts. As other have said, these generally cannot be beat, if you know your audience; season passes to the local zoo, park, museum or any place you know they frequent. If these are well received, you might find yourself purchasing them each year, it may become a tradition that serves all parties well. (No stress for the giver and an annual expense eliminated for the receiver.) Gift certificates for singular experiences can be very memorable as well. Many people talk about wanting to do things that they view as luxuries they cannot afford while overlooking the expenses of the physical items they’ve purchased and received throughout a year of gifting. Replace those costs with experience gifts and folks will be less likely to feel they are missing out due to expense. For someone I know wishes to travel, I’ve given a gift card to an airline that I know will eventually be used, as I read the fine print and it does not expire. If the recipient doesn’t travel during the current year, perhaps I’ll repeat the gift following year. Sooner or later, it will serve to defray (or entirely cover) the cost of a flight.
    * Gift certificates to local restaurants. The merits here are threefold for most of us frugal types who dine out on rare occasions: it is a consumable gift, an experience gift and it supports a local business.

  72. My BFF (Best Frugal Friend) is giving me a ticket to Vox Luminis in May. (I already know this because she sent me a Save the Date note.) Vox Luminis are a Belgian vocal ensemble who are a legend in the area of historically informed voice performance. I love classical music and in particular historically informed performance, and going to live concerts is a chink in my frugal armour. So the gift could not have been better chosen.

    My gift to her will be a gift voucher for a designer factory outlet with steep price reductions, plus chauffeur services there and back and coffee for the two of us, at any Friday or weekend day of her choosing. Since she does not own a car, she has trouble getting to the place on her own, but I am sure she will love browsing there. That should be two enjoyable events out of the one Christmas! 🙂

  73. Another happy home thermos user here! For European readers, the best thermos EVER is the Bodum travel mug–the one with the screw top sunken in the center. (That description probably makes no sense, btw,so here is the French Amazon title for reference: Bodum – 11043-01 – Travel Mug – Mug de Voyage Isotherme Double Paroi Inox – 0.35 L – Noir)

    As long as I’ve screwed the lid on tightly, I can chuck it in any bag and I never have to worry about it spilling or leaking. Stainless steel interior, so it doesn’t reek of plastic or retain odors, and it’s virtually indestructible. I had to buy a second one only because I left it behind at a friend’s place and she “helpfully” washed it…in her dishwasher…leaving it with a permanent flowery taste, yuck.

    Most of the time, I use it for coffee or tea, which saved me a small fortune. Colleagues were buying coffees for “only” fifty cents a cup out of the instant coffee machines. After I calculated that that would be 20 euros per month, this mug reimbursed itself within a month, and I got to carry way more tea in it than the dinky cups from the machines!

    In the summer, I use it to carry ice water with lemon, which keeps those urges to buy unhealthy, pricey slushies at bay!

  74. I like to give everyone the same thing; one year I bought wool plaid fabrics 60″ wide and cut into strips, I pulled out the threads along the sides. Well, the Fringe was in a different spot. Now I would add yarn fringe to the ends, didn’t think of that then.
    Now a days I buy beautiful ceramics from my neighbor/friend. He does pottery as a hobby and in December his Parks & Rec class has a ceramic sale. He prices to sell mainly to replenish his funds for glaze. I get to preview at his home and he gives me a discount because no surcharge and no hauling it away. Everyone delighted and I spend less than $100 on 12 people.

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