“Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?”
Some of the joy of the season can be diminished by the thought of all the money it can take to create the perfect holiday memories. These ideas will leave you saying, “Ho, ho, ho!” instead of “Broke, broke, broke!”
BARGAIN BAGS Make your own small holiday gift bags from white lunch bags. Decorate the bags using holiday rubber stamps, stickers, cancelled holiday-themed postage stamps, craft paints or design cut from last years’ Christmas cards. Fold the top over about an inch and punch two holes in the folded portion of the bag. Thread curling ribbon or yarn through the holes, tie a knot and you’ve made an attractive reusable gift bag for just pennies.
BONUS BAGS AND BOXES Recycle gift bags or boxes you received last year. Tie curling ribbon around the boxes, and you or the recipient may be able to use them again next year.
RIBBON REASONS I’ve already given you two reasons to buy curling ribbon and here’s a third – it’s cheap. You can buy yards and yards or curling ribbon for under $2.00. It’s pretty, festive and practically uncrushable.
THRIFTY TAGS Use last years’ Christmas cards to make gift tags for this year.
CARD CREATIVITY You can also use your old cards to decorate, too. Trim a beautiful design to fit into an inexpensive frame. Arrange several cards on a tabletop and cover with glass. Punch holes in the cards and hang them to form a garland on your mantel or above a window.
GREAT GREETINGS Make your own holiday photo greeting cards. Choose a photo you’ve taken any time during the year. Vacation photos make wonderful cards as do pictures of your family in their natural habitat – sledding, swimming or jumping in a pile of leaves. I get 3-1/2 by 5 inch reprints because they’re cheaper and will fit into a standard envelope. I then use a computer program and white self-stick computer address labels to make labels to stick on the fronts of the photos. I also make matching return address labels for the envelopes.
FAST PHOTOS One year I made “photo” greeting cards on a color copy machine. I was able to fit three cards on one 8-1/2 x 11 inch paper. At $1.00 per page, my cost was $.33 per card, plus the cost of envelopes. These are a good idea when you really want to send photos but are pressed for time.
CANCEL THE CARD It isn’t necessary to send a traditional Christmas card if you send a Christmas letter. You don’t even need to put your letters in an envelope. Simply fold it in thirds, secure with a Christmas sticker or tape, address the opposite side, and mail.
LETTER LIMITS Keep your Christmas letter under one page in length to save on paper and photocopying costs. (How much do people really want to know about you, anyway?) A short paragraph about each family member should be sufficient. I have a printer, but I photocopy rather than print each letter since printer cartridges are quite expensive. You can put colored paper into the copy machine. I’ve used light blue and light green paper in years past. Add clip art or stickers to your letter for a festive look.
PRECIOUS PIECES Get out your crystal, silver, brass and gold accessories. They will spark in the light of your holiday candles.
ADAPT ACCESSORIES Incorporate other objects you already own into your holiday decor. Red apples, hearts or any red, white or ivory silk flowers can be attached or tucked into garlands, placed on your Christmas tree, or included with holiday arrangements on a tabletop. Any artificial greens, such as ivy vines, can be placed on mantels, mirrors, or draped over pictures frames to enhance your holiday decor.
COLOR IT CHRISTMAS Match your existing color scheme rather than using Christmas red and green. Find decorations such as tinsel garland, ornaments and candles in your room’s current color scheme. It will take fewer items to achieve a holiday look.
FESTIVE FOLIAGE Decorate your houseplants for the season. They’re already green so just add a pretty bow and an ornament in other Christmas colors. Put Christmas lights on a ficus tree or any other plant that is large enough to support them.
SECOND CHILDHOOD If you’re short on decorations but have young children or have kept some of your childhood possessions, use a “toyland” theme during the Yuletide season. Tie wide plaid, red or green ribbon around the necks of teddy bears or other stuff animals. Toys trains fit nicely into a Christmas theme. Display children’s holiday or winter-themed picture books. Spell words such as “JOY”, “NOEL” or “PEACE” using children’s alphabet blocks. You can use small toys for ornaments on your tree or on garlands.
HAIL YOUR HOBBY Decorate your tree to reflect a hobby or interest. An accomplished seamstress could use thread spools and button ornaments and ato golf enthusiast might want to tie golf tees and balls on the tree.
PRETTY PILLARS Embellish plain pillar candles with studs, inexpensive pierced earrings, beads or ribbons.
BEAUTIFUL BOXES Small empty boxes wrapped with Christmas paper and adorned with bows can be added to your Christmas arrangements.
NATURAL LIGHT Hang grapevine or small branches over your windowss and weave small white or clear Christmas lights through them. You could leave them up after the holidays, too. Plug in the lights whenever you’re entertaining for a festive look all year long.
A CENTERPIECE WITH “PUNCH” Use a punchbowl or large glass serving bowl to create a quick and easy centerpiece. Put water in the bowl and red or green food coloring. Add metallic confetti and three or more floating candles to the water. Sprinkle more confetti on the table around the bowl or place coordinating tinsel garland or greens around the base of the bowl.
SEASONAL CENTERPIECE Another simple centerpiece consists of a pretty basket or bowl filled with greens and glass ornaments in your table’s colors. Candlelight placed near the basket will reflect from the ornaments’ shiny surfaces.
BUY BASICS Purchase plain red, green, silver or gold paper or plastics products (napkins, cups, plates, etc.) for casual entertaining. These will be cheaper than products with a seasonal design, can be purchased in economy-sized packages, and you can use them throughout the year for birthday parties and other speical occasions.
MULTIPLY WITH MIRRORS Place a mirror under or behind a grouping of candles to increase their impact.
WINTER WONDERS Buy winter-themed decorations such as snowflakes and snowmen which can be displayed November through February.
NECESSARY NOTEBOOK Carry a small notebook all year long. Enter gift ideas, gifts purchased and reminders about the amount budgeted for each person on your list. This will help elminate duplications, impulsive purchases and overspending.
FUN FILLERS Be on the lookout for inexpensive items which can be used as stocking stuffers or package tie-ons such as pens or pencils with holiday designs, cartoon character toothbrushes, Christmas socks, and small toys.
FESTIVE FINDS Locate natural items which can be transformed into tree ornaments and decorations. Seashells from your vacation can be made into beautiful ornaments with a hot glue gun, some beads and metallic cord. Pinecones and acorns may be spray painted gold and hung on your trees or attached to a wreath. Tuck dried flowers and weeds into wreaths and garlands. Coat small, dead branches or sticks with gold or silver spray paint and put into centerpieces and potted plants. Look around your yard for greens to use in your decorations.
RECYCLE WRAPS Save some used wrapping paper to wrap fragile ornaments and other decorations for storage after the holidays.
KEEP CARDBOARD Save cardboard boxes from your gifts for use after the holidays. Stow your holiday ornaments and decorations in some of the boxes. Cut cardboard from some of the boxes into 8 x 4 inch rectangles. Cut a notch in each four-inch side. Wrap strings of lights and garlands around the rectangles for tangle-free storage.
PLAIN JANE NO MORE A plain tablecloth can be dressed up for the holidays easily and inexpensively with paper or fabric Christmas ribbon. Lay two or three lengths of ribbon down the center of the table the long way. Then lay the same number of ribbons across the width of the table. Weave these ribbons over and under the other ribbons. You can secure the ribbons with tape or pins in the center of the table, if you’d like. The centerpiece will hide the pins.
AFTER EFFECTS Shop the after-Christmas sales for bows and wrapping paper you can use all year. You’ll find many patterns or plain papers which are appropriate for birthdays and anniversaries.
SEASONAL SAVINGS Shop for other holiday items immediately after Christmas for great savings. On Dec. 29th a couple of years ago, I bought a 7-foot artificial Christmas tree for half price. I bought several items I thought would make nice gifts for next year which were also 50% off. Between Christmas and New Years’ Day, I try to find some stickers and Christmas cards for the coming year. If you purchase these items a year in advance, it’s important that you keep them in a spot where you’ll find them easily and make a notation on your calendar (or maybe in that little notebook you keep) for the coming year that you have purchased these items.
EMBELLISH EVERGREENS Buy a plain evergreen wreath and embellish it with fancy ribbons, jingle bells or large pine cones. Wire the decorations on the wreath for easy removal. You can use these items year after year. You may also want to invest in a good artificial wreath and decorate it yourself.
BAG A BOX Ask for a free gift box whenever you’re shopping during the months of November and December If you’re offered a white box, you may be able to forego the wrapping paper. Cover the store logo with a bow. Tie the box shut with curling ribbon and scatter Christmas stamps or stickers on the box top.
OVERSIZED OPTIONS When faced with the dilemna of wrapping an oversized gift, here are three ways to handle it without using rolls of wrapping paper: Place the item in a large garbage bag and tie it shut with several colorful lengths of curling ribbon; hide the item away and draw or find a picture of the object and wrap it in a small box; or hide the item, write clues regarding where the item is hidden on paper, wrap the paper in a small box, and let the recipient go on a treasure hunt.
THRIFTY TINS Look for inexpensive, seasonal tins at flea markets and discount stores for your homemade gifts of baked goods.
ARTIFICIAL ADAPTATIONS If you (or someone you know) plan to dispose of an artificial tree, use some of the individual branches to create decorations. Use the top section of the tree, either indoors or out, as a small Christmas tree.
QUICK AND EASY Make a sixty-second luminary. Save 46 ounce (fruit and tomato juice) aluminum cans. Remove the top of the can. Punch triangle shapes along the top and bottom with the pointed end of a bottle opener. Place an inch of sand or cat litter and a votive candle in the bottom of the can and light with a fireplace match. Place outside on the pathway to your front door.
ANOTHER BRIGHT IDEA Make luminaries from smaller (vegetable or soup) aluminum cans. Remove the top of the can. Fill the can with water and place in the freezer. When the water is frozen, using a hammer and nail, make a design on the can. The design can be free-hand or you may want to tape a pattern to the can. Place sand and a votive candle in the bottom of the can. These luminaries can be used indoors or out.
JOLLY JUGS An outdoor luminary can be made from an empty plastic milk jug. Cut off about four or five inches from the top of the jug. Place sand and a votive candle inside.
ILLUMINATED ICE Another kind of luminary can be made using ice. Fill an ice cream bucket with water and place it in the freezer or outside until it is partially frozen. Pour or scoop out the middle of your luminary, place a votive candle in the center and put your luminary outdoors. It will last as long as the cold weather does.
SHARING SEASON Remember to buy an extra can of tuna or box of macaroni and cheese when they’re on sale. Donate the items to a local food shelf.
CHRISTMAS FUTURE Give your children a Christmas ornament each year. One days these ornaments will help your kids decorate their own homes for Christmas.