Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Silent Night

(To see enlarged view, click on the picture.)
Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Getting the Holiday Spirit

You know, that spirit of happiness and friendliness; the one of smiles and helping hands, red bows and snow, eager children and candy canes. That spirit doesn't always come automatically, but it does come - whenever you're really ready for it.

Here are some frugal ways to open yourself to it!

1. Be the first to say 'Merry Christmas!'
2. Each day give at least one heartfelt compliment to someone.
3. Add something handmade to your decorations this year.
4. Smile at someone who looks grouchy. Don't let your feelings get hurt if they don't smile back.
5. Give the bank teller a candy cane.
6. Wave to Santa at the mall.
7. Tell your kids or grandkids what Christmas was like when you were a child. You might not think things were so different, but they are to a child.
8. Have an informal open house instead of a formal party. Put out some food, light the tree and enjoy your company.
9. Offer home made hot chocolate (Keep a pot ready to heat) to everyone who comes to your door, including the mailman.
10. Wear a sprig of holly, a small ornament or a plaid ribbon on your lapel or in your hair.
11. Go caroling. Look around for groups to go with if you can't round up enough enthusiasts on your own.
12. Take part in a local tree lighting ceremony.
13. Decorate your car - hang an ornament from the rearview mirror, or wire a wreath on the front.
14. Sing 'Jingle Bells' while cooking dinner.
15. Help elderly neighbors, family and friends put up decorations. (Don't forget to help them take them down again later!)
16. Sign your Christmas cards with a red or green pen.
17. Hug a child.
18. Turn off the lights, the tv and the stereo and sit quietly in the light of the Christmas tree thinking about why you celebrate it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How to make a paper gift bag

You'll need a piece of heavy paper like wrapping paper, wallpaper, freezer wrap or something similar. If you want to decorate it, do it before you start to make the bag.

You'll also need a form with a rectangular or square side, to wrap the bottom around. Use a cake mix box or anything packaged in a box or you can stack two or three books together.

Besides that, you'll need tape to secure the seams. You can use glue if you prefer, but a tab of tape here and there will help hold it while the glue dries.

Place the form on the paper as if you were going to wrap it. Use the "sheet corner" wrap to close one end of the paper. This article shows the method. Go to Step 7 and click on the image to see what I mean.

Fasten the end with glue and/or tape, then secure the seam, which should be more or less centered on a flat side.

Remove the form, fold the sides and crease to resemble a brown paper bag. If you want the bag to look "store bought," fold the bottom up to resemble a paper bag and crease it, then fold about a half inch to the inside of the top.

Trim the top, make sure the seams are secure and there you have it. You can glue cord or use a hole punch to punch holes around the top to lace a cord. Add a small card or name tag to the cord.

A more frugal note: Practice with a piece of scrap paper first.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Dinner Tips

Here's an idea that came to me last night as I was drifting off to sleep: You know all those Christmas catalogs that show up in your mail box? And you know how you have to plan where to set the hot dinner rolls and other hot dishes to keep from ruining your tablecloth on Christmas?

Put the two of them together! I haven't tried it yet, but why not wrap a catalog with a cloth, fasten it with tape and use it for a hotpad? Or maybe you could find a way to use part of the colorful pages without it looking like you just plopped an old catalog on the table! Ideas? I'd love to hear them.

A couple of other tips for the Christmas table:

If you don't have enough matching cloth napkins for your guests, mix two sets and stack them for a buffet or divide them evenly for a table setting. For instance, put a red one at the first place, then a green one at the next, a red one at the next, etc. Stack them for a buffet in the same way. People will think you went to a little extra effort to make your presentation cheerful.

If you don't have a big enough table cloth when the leaves are added, use a bed sheet or even a lightweight bed spread. If it's too big, fold it to fit. With the colors and types of sheets and spreads, no one will know the difference.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Snow and Frost

Early morning, frost falling from the air, fingers tingling with cold, silver blue sky... winter in Colorado.

Frugal thought? This picture only exists on my computer. No film, no processing, no slick paper printing. The camera was a gift and my internet access is free for personal use, since I need it for work.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

House? Debt? Interest? No Christmas?

"In the past, when times were tough, she would borrow against her home's equity -- that's no longer possible."

Ah... (insert bleeding heart strings here) This Christmas, she can't borrow any more money because she owes more on her house than it's worth.

No, I'm not that cold hearted, but how much sense does it take to know that you can't keep borrowing against a house without having to pay for it?

This was a story from CNN this morning, "Have yourself a subprime little Christmas". Yep, they're blaming it on the interest. Doesn't have a thing to do with poor money management. Nope, nosireee.... it's "them" out to get us.

I know. I know. The housing thing along with the interest thing and a few other things are hurting some people. Most of the hurt I see is brought on by over borrowing - by too much debt, by not enough financial maturity.

It may be time for some people to grow up the hard way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Frugal Christmas Decorating

There are a lot of ways to decorate at Christmas time without spending all the money "they" think you should. Here are some of my favorites:

A bowl or basket of pine cones and small ornaments
Leftover, old garland wound through every day decorations like figurines and pictures.
Candles in the appropriate color. (You can buy them cheap right now and even cheaper after Christmas.)
Old Christmas pictures, displayed in hand made frames and brightened with small tufts of (fake) evergreen or holly berries.
Red and green anything: I bring out the afghans, the rugs, the vases and bowls and cups. It all says Christmas when the season is right.

There are more ways, of course. There's a thread in the Dollar Stretcher Community about frugal Christmas decorations that has some good ideas. There's also a good piece at Organized Christmas.

One thing I almost forgot - newspapers and magazines are full of Christmas pictures right now. Find a theme, maybe Santa Claus, or stars for instance, and cut each figure out then paste them onto pasteboard, filling it completely. Then cover the whole thing with a thin layer of white glue and set it on a piano or display it on a wall. You could even cut a silhouette of a tree and glue cut out ornaments. Now, that's frugal!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Price of Baking Soda

CNN had an interesting report this morning: Baking soda could help save planet, which has me wondering if the price of baking soda will go down in the future! (I can dream, can't I?)

Coupled with another article I read at Dollar Stretcher this morning: Homemade Dishwasher Detergent wherein someone said they added baking soda to their $2 a box Dollar General dishwasher powder, I couldn't help but wonder if a little number crunching was in order.

Baking soda is a great help in doing many things - too many to list here - and it seems inexpensive, but it does cost money. I don't know how big the large box of dishwasher detergent is, but if she uses it in equal portions with baking soda, she may be paying more than if she wasn't using baking soda at all, which is still around 50 - 60 cents a pound. To put that in different terms, that's about a cup full. How much does a cup of cheap dishwasher detergent cost?

You'll have to help me out here. I don't own a dishwasher, so I don't pay attention to those things. How many cups are there in a normal size box of dishwasher detergent and how much does it cost?

Hopefully, we'll see the price of baking soda drop in the future so that using it in the dishwasher really will be frugal. It's frugal enough for other things, like brushing your teeth or absorbing odors, but it pays to check the actual cost.

Baking soda does have some very good properties. It won't hurt plumbing or you or your kids or pets and it's versatile, doing everything from softening water to removing black marks from the floor and a lot in between. Just don't confuse convenience and safety with frugality. '

Don't get me wrong. I use baking soda all the time and wouldn't be without it. If we're going to count pennies, though, let's do it with our eyes open.