Wow. All of a sudden it’s September, I’m buried in work, Goofball started kindergarten, and the littlest ones are back at daycare. Time may be advancing quickly, but we’re doing our best to make the most of every day. This list is my inspiration for getting started on holiday gifts. By prepping for Christmas in advance (it’s only a few months away), I can shop around for the best deals on supplies and take my time making meaningful and quality gifts for my loved ones. Because, let’s face it, you can only make so many love/chore coupon books.
I never realized how easy it is to make your own paint! I had seen this firework art project many times on Pinterest, but didn’t want to spend money on paint. After some quick searching online this morning, we were able to throw together a fun activity with things around the house. The kids had a great, messy time (with no need to spend money).
Frugality is about more than saving money, it’s also practiced by using what you already have at your disposal. Upcycling (or refashioning) my closet is a fun way to get creative and save money. I tend to get sentimental about clothing. As a result, my wardrobe includes a significant amount of items that don’t fit and/or are outdated. One such item was a boring, grey, plain-style sweatshirt. I never, ever wore it. However, when the thought of donating it crossed my mind, I remembered a day at the grocery store when my dad must have thought he was really clever or ironic. I was a senior in high school and he had recently caught me with some beer. So what does he do? He buys me a sweatshirt featuring a beer logo. At first, it was a bit nerve racking to cut up this sweatshirt, but the end result was awesome. I have a new, super-comfy skirt that was absolutely free and am now using the silly gift from dear old dad.
We’re officially in full swing baby-prep mode, which is good because our new little guy will be joining us in the next few weeks. There was something about the ever-decreasing number of days on the calendar that finally gave us the drive to clean, organize, and set up everything (it’s so much different having a third baby as compared to the months of preparation for your first). Tornado has loved testing out the new baby items – especially the swing – for her dolls. I can’t wait to see how she will react to a real baby being in them. Goofball is asking a ton of hilarious and random questions, like “Does the baby have legs?” The whole family seems touched by a sense of excitement and anticipation.
As discussed in my previous post, you really don’t need that much for a baby. But after prepping and doing an inventory, there was one thing missing that I really want for him – a crocheted baby blanket. Goofball received one as a gift. I had found one for Tornado at a consignment sale. They still like their blankets, but the thing that I loved about them was the big holes. There are so many warnings about what babies can have when you put them to sleep, lacking much as far as specific age applicability. But I was never nervous about covering the kids up with crocheted blankets, because even if it went over their face, they would still be able to breathe.
I don’t know anyone who crochets. In avoiding the baby stores, I cannot say whether they have crocheted blankets. However, I don’t recall seeing any of them a few years back when doing my baby registry for Goofball. The next option? There are plenty of very nice, crocheted blankets on Etsy, but with the cost and shipping, they were all out of our budget. I could have given up. Instead I thought, if Mr. Smith can watch YouTube to learn how to fix my car, why can’t I learn how to crochet?
I watched a number of different tutorials and liked this one the best. The video teaches how to make a “Granny Square.” You can make a bunch of these squares and connect them together, or just make one really big square. It’s a simple pattern, but serves my purpose. Yes, I spent money on a yarn and crochet hook. The total cost was $7.00. I really like the color combination and it’s very soft. Note: I watched the videos before spending any money on supplies. I only purchased supplies after deciding that it looked like something within my skill level. Then, this weekend I spent some time with my feet up on the couch, making a baby blanket (while side-hustling with rewards sites). Crochet is very repetitive, so once you get the hang of it, it’s really not that hard. It is taking a while and might not just be a nesting project, but also a hospital project. I can’t imagine how long it would take to do a full-size blanket!
The baby’s blanket is not perfect, but it will be special because I’m making it for him. We saved money and I learned something new. Once again, I can’t help but think of all those people who spend money frivolously and waste hours of their life surfing through bad television. Then, they complain about being bored. I am tired, sore, and not moving around very fast these days, but that doesn’t mean I can’t accomplish anything. There is a special sense of pride that comes with creating something, achieving new goals, and being productive . . . instead of just passing away the time. I’m actually looking forward to getting back to work on the blanket later – I can’t wait to see the finished product!
It seems like we just successfully survived Christmas without succumbing to the pressure to spend, spend, spend. Now, it’s time for another retailer-driven holiday. Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity for businesses to convince the public that if you really love someone, you need to buy them lots of stuff and go out for an over-priced dinner. We might actually obtain some long-term benefit from Christmas gifts like a nice sweater or a useful appliance. The same is not usually true with Valentine’s Day, when we receive consumables like chocolate and expensive flowers that will be gone within a week.
Mr. Smith and I have not exchanged any Valentine’s gifts in years. Admittedly, he did have expensive flowers delivered to me at work in the past. This indulgent spending is one of the reasons we’re now struggling with debt and we’ve learned our lesson. I think that extravagant gifts are probably more meaningful to someone who’s never received a special delivery like that before. With the benefit of retrospect, however, I can say that the feelings of “love and/or joy” was pretty short lived. After that, it became a little annoying when everyone kept stopping in my office for the obligatory “ooooh they’re so pretty.”
It’s easy enough for the hubby and I to agree that we won’t be exchanging anything. It’s a little more difficult to explain to toddlers that they can’t participate in an exchange of Valentine’s Day cards at school. But the printed cards at the store can be expensive and often have you include some candy with them. A frugal alternative? The kids had fun helping to make these heart-shaped crayons for their classmates.
The process was really easy and was great for using up our collection of broken crayons (because no one ever wants to use the broken ones anyways). I just so happened to have a heart-shaped silicone ice-cube tray, but have seen similar ones at the Dollar Store.
All that you have to do is peel the paper off of the crayons and fill up the hearts with pieces. I used scissors to cut the crayons up into smaller pieces, so there was more of a mixture of colors. The tray goes in the oven for about 15 minutes at 200 degrees (Fahrenheit), or until the crayons are all melted. Remove from the oven. Let them cool completely and then, they pop right out. I used construction paper to make a little envelope for each crayon and look at that – we’re ready for Valentine’s Day!
Before deciding to make crayons, I did find these other cute ideas (maybe next year):
We wish everyone a Valentine’s Day focused on the stuff that really matters, LOVE. Hopefully you can simply enjoy some time with the ones who are most important to you. There are only ten days left until the big day . . . the countdown is on . . . not to shop, but to plan something unique and special.
Looking for a cheap and easy do-it-yourself project? Make yourself some of these fancy “no-crease” hair ties.
Step 1: Go on Etsy and order a big bundle of “fold over elastic.” They have a seemingly limitless supply of different colors, textures, and patterns. I purchased a variety of colors of satin elastic. My total was $12.65 (including shipping) for 28 yards.
Step 2: Cut pieces to a length of 8 1/2 to 9 inches (depending on desired tightness).
Step 3: Fold the ends together and tie in a knot.
Step 4: Trim the ends so that they are even.
Step 5: Enjoy your brand new hair ties 🙂
I was shocked at seeing the same type of hair ties in Wal-Mart, a pack of 4 or 5 priced at $3! I purchased my bundle of elastic last year, right before Christmas. I made a bunch of hair ties and headbands for my sister as a gift (note: the headbands don’t work as well). I have made tons for myself – and use them pretty much every day. I more than recovered the cost of the elastic when I made a last minute decision to sell them at our garage sale. I cut and tied these accessories in between tending to customers. I made a little sign and sold them for $0.25 each or 5 for $1.00. They were really popular. I even used them in the haggling process – keeping the items at a higher price but throwing in some “free hair ties.” And, I still have plenty of elastic left. Another frugal win!
This year has represented a new journey into efficiency, minimalization, and frugality. However, even in past years, I have usually tried to inlcude some do-it-yourself presents in my Christmas giving. My two main projects for 2014: hidden-treasure books and personalized magnets.
Mr. Smith helped with this project, but only he became impatient with my technique for cutting out pages. The project was really quite simple and there are numerous websites that lay out the steps. For these books, I (we) did the following:
- Pick up some cheap hard-cover books. Mine were old books on sale at the library.
- Place a plastic grocery bag around the front cover and the first 10 pages or so.
- Use a paintbrush to coat the outside of the other pages with white glue.
- Close the book and let it dry, with something heavy on top.
- Draw a box in the center of the first glued page and start cutting it out with a razor blade.
- Glue a piece of felt to the bottom.
I gave these books to my brother and sister with a couple of goodies inside (gift cards, hair tyes, and a keychain). And Goofball thought that these books were so neat, we are going to make him one too.
I found directions for these magnets on notmartha. I used marbles from the Dollar Store, craft glue (borrowed from my mom a while ago), and magnets from a craft store. Then, I printed up some images on regular copy paper. The process was quite simple and I ended up making approximatley 40 of these magnets. About half of them featured the logo of our daycare. I placed the magnets on a big tin of cookies and fudge for all of the teachers to enjoy. Everyone was really impressed with the handmade magnets. One teacher even asked how much I would charge to make a bunch for her husband’s business (hmm, another side hustle perhaps?). The other magnets were for family member and featured a variety of images from photographs of the kids, to sports logos, and band logos. I even found some festive lunch box tins at the Dollar Store to package the magnets.
In addition, some relatives will receive homemade applesauce. I like to think that they appreciate the effort that went into creating gifts, as opposed to just picking up something at the store. Also, I took my time considering what images to include on the magnets, so they were uniquely personal.
Did you give any do-it-yourself presents this Christmas?