I realize it is New Year's Eve and here I am still talking about Christmas. This time though, the topic is going to cover gifts for the family that you can make or where a little can go a long way.
I'm choosing to talk about this early because let's face it, Christmas gift buying can really put a strain on our finances. We did well this year, staying within budget and looking for those bargains, but I believe we can do better. Especially since this year we'd love to see at least one of our credit cards paid off and the next one paid way down.
Since we've already exchanged gifts with both sides of our family, I can share what I chose to do for our brothers and sisters and their spouses this year.
I spent the year putting together a family cookbook!
I anticipated that it would take me several months to get recipes collected, so I started early. I contacted all of the female..and some of the male..family members and asked each of them for their favorite family recipes. I asked that I get at least 4 or 5 recipes from each person and that they would be a mixture of main meals, side dishes and desserts.
As I would get them, I would type them up and print them out on some colored paper. I would then put the recipes in page protectors and into a 3 ring binder. I also printed up a cover page for the front of the binder.
As the year went along, it was great for me to read over these recipes and think about our families and how they fix these very same meals for their own families.
Looking at the ones my mother and mother-in-law gave me, it brought back a lot of memories of meals and laughter shared at their homes. It was definitely a warm-fuzzy time.
I watched as everyone opened their cookbooks and I caught the same look in their eyes as I'd had in my own. Just remembering those dishes we've all shared together over the years.
You could personalize it even more with pictures of the cooks and their recipes, or maybe jotting down some memory that a certain dish brought back to you.
All in all I printed out 10 cookbooks. I bought my printer paper at the dollar store as well as my page protectors. The 3 ring binders came from Wal Mart and whenever I needed ink, I waited for a sale at Walgreens and filled my cartridges for half price or free. Total cost for 10 cookbooks: $30. 7 cookbooks were given to extended family and I kept 3. 1 for me and 1 for each of my kids.
Other ideas that you can work on throughout the year:
1) Look at the thrift stores and yard sales for interesting jars. Clean them up and fill them with the recipient's favorite candy. Cost shouldn't be more than $3 depending on the candy.
2) Again looking for interesting jars...fill them with the ingredients for "Cookies in a Jar" These gifts are a big hit and sure to be used. Cost shouldn't be more than $2.
3) Have a gardener in the family? Look at the dollar stores at the end of summer and you can find those tiny hand rakes and trowels for $1 each...I've even seen them at 50¢. Add a few packs of seeds and a pot and you've spent around $3-$4.
4) A movie buff? Again...the dollar stores are notorious for having old movies for $1-$3. Add a pack of microwave popcorn and for $3 or less..your set!
My biggest piece of advice is to start now. Plan early. Shop ahead. When we wait till the last minute, we tend to overspend because we're just grabbing whatever is on the shelf in order to get someone something. Who needs the added stress on themselves and their budgets??
Every time you go shopping, take a little notebook with you and look for those gifts. When you find one, write in your notebook who it's for and what it is. You'll be amazed at how freeing it is to not be scrambling at the last minute!
As a side note....Wal Mart has their Christmas ornaments at 50-75% off right now. These are great gifts for a teacher, mail person or a last minute gift that comes up...and at my house...that is a very normal occurrence!!
I bought 4 yesterday and will check again when I go back to the store. The Dollar Tree has all of their Christmas merchandise at 50% off..which means you are only spending 50¢ per item. I bought stuffed animals for Operation Christmas Child boxes for next year and also got some pillar candles (because that is one of my true weaknesses).
Leave no stone unturned. Remember this is your budget. Make it work for you.