Tag Archives: gifts

Gifts for Minimalists

gifts-for-minimalists It’s that time again. The time of year when you have no idea what to get the minimalist in your life. I’ve done a lot of holiday gift challenges in the past. I’ve tried spending just $100 on gifts. I’ve tried handmaking everything. I’ve lost my damn mind. Just kidding. Kind of.

But my gift challenges were to create or purchase gifts for other people. Most people in my life are not minimalists and that’s OK. And I have a lot of lovely people in my life who want to get me a gift in exchange. I know as a minimalist I can be hard to shop for. I don’t like a lot of stuff. And I’m very particular about what “stuff” I bring into my life. Here’s some gift ideas for the minimalists you know and love. Continue reading

The $100 Holiday Challenge: Did I make it?!

The $100 holiday challenge: Can you spend just $100 on gifts this holiday season? This lady tried it!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! This year we are celebrated both! This holiday season I also lost my mind and challenged myself to spend only $100 on almost 20 presents for friends and family. Check out the original post if you need a refresher.

And for those of you who were curious about my strategy, this post explains it. If you’re not feeling extra literary, here’s the short of it: I used coupons, I had a no-gift pact with my husband, I crafted and I shopped early, among other things.

Since it’s now Christmas, I can share the full details with you!

  1. Mom – $2 necklace flea market find
  2. Dad – $10 pants with a coupon at JC Penny
  3. Dog – .99 soft toy from Ikea
  4. Sister – Necklace made from materials at Michaels $10.11 with coupon and Etsy: $10.00
  5. Sister’s cat – .99 soft toy from Ikea
  6. Sister’s boyfriend – $2.78 hat with coupon from Kohl’s and coffee from my CSA (free)
  7. Mother-in-law – Gift basket made with things from the Dollar Tree: $8.00 and a neck relaxer .53 with coupon from Kohl’s
  8. Father-in-law – Set of grilling accessories: $5.33 with coupon from Kohl’s
  9. Brother-in-law – Slippers with coupon from Kohl’s: $6.39
  10. Sister-in-law – Made with same supplies from sister’s present: free
  11. Niece – Finger puppets from Ikea: $4.99
  12. Kid Cousin – $9.99 toy vehicle kit from Ikea
  13. Kid Cousin – $4.79 necklace making kit from Kohl’s with coupon
  14. Gift exchange – Made with same supplies from sister’s present: free
  15. Friend – Ice scraper from Kohl’s with coupon $7.26
  16. Friend – Purse $4.06 with coupon from Kohl’s
  17. Friend’s kid – $10 Groupon
  18. Co-workers – Nuts made with ingredients already on hand and packaged in bags from the Dollar Store $2.00

Total: $100.21

You guys, I got so close! It’s almost unbelievable! Admittedly, I probably didn’t add in tax for everything (which is pretty low here). I would have been under if everything had worked as planned– but of course it never does! I had planned on redeeming some of my credit card/debit card points for gift cards, but they didn’t arrive in time. Although I ordered them a month ago. Ugh!

Regardless, I’m considering this a win!

So what did I learn? Start early– super early. I thought I was starting early enough with a month’s leeway, but I could have used more time. The holidays are such a busy time, I’d love to just be able to sit back and enjoy them without all the shopping and craziness.

Use cash because it’s more tangible and you can easily figure out exactly how much you have left in your budget.

I also learned to look in the clearance section before even looking at something that people might enjoy. Then, use your coupons strategically. I always tried to get things for less than a dollar, if possible.

Check out those savings!

Check out those savings!

And luckily, I have a coupon crazy mom who graciously couponed for me and gave up some of her Kohl’s cash for me.

Happy holidays, ya’ll! It’s been a fun, wild ride, but I’m glad it’s over. I can’t wait for the refreshing start of a new year!

love,
melanie

20 Low-Cost Gifts to Make this Holiday

20 Low-Cost Gifts to Make this Holiday

How is it December already? Weren’t we just pumpkining all the things, jumping in all the leaves and carving all the jack-o-lanterns? Oh well. The holidays are almost here whether I like it or not.  I’m not making all my gifts this year. The handmade holiday challenge that I did last year was kind of insane. But I’ll still make a few gifts and I’ll still try to stay under $100, of course. If you are a fellow nut and want to MAKE ALL THE GIFTS here’s a few (or 20) ideas for low-cost gifts to make this holiday.

For the fashionista:

  1. A knotted bracelet
  2. A clay beads necklace
  3. Polymer clay hair accessories
  4. A holiday crown

For the foodie:

  1. DIY vanilla extract
  2. Upcycle a rolling pin
  3. Low sugar nuts
  4. Infused liquors!
  5. A personalized mug filled with coffee or chocolates

Can you knit or sew? These projects are super fun

  1. A knitted baby cape
  2. A chunky, knitted scarf
  3. A knitted scrubbie
  4. A leather clutch
  5. A look-alike, handmade American Apparel circle scarf

For everyone:

  1. Beeswax candles
  2. Pillows!
  3. A toy for your furry friends
  4. A clay bowl for jewelry, change or paper clips
  5. A hand-painted and customized ukulele
  6. And last, but not least, make everyone’s favorite gift (cash!) a little more exciting with this cash mobile.

What gifts are you making this holiday season? Tell me about them in the comments!

love,
melanie

12 Ways to Save Money on Holiday Gifts

12 ways to save money on holiday gifts Photo c/o FutUndBeidl on Flickr
Have I beat this topic to death yet? No? Great! Because today we’re going to talk about ways to save money on holiday gifts. You know I’m doing the $100 holiday challenge which means this holiday I’m only spending $100 on gifts. But how?! Well, I’m employing all of the strategies I’m sharing today and I’m part elf. Just kidding. Here goes…

  1. Set a limit!
    A budget for holiday gifts is essential. Without a budget and a strict limit, it’s way too simple to overspend or just buy something because it’s “easy.” I like to spend cash only when I’m holiday shopping, that way I know exactly how much I have left to spend without having to do much math.
  2. Make a list and check it twice!
    I sound like I live at the North Pole here, but making a list is important in the money saving process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve totally spaced and forgot to buy someone a gift, then I’ll have to run out the night before their holiday party (or whatever) and pick up something I did not plan to buy. Bonus tip: If you have room, it’s a good idea to pick up a few extra inexpensive and impersonal gifts like nice candies or wine. You never know when you’re going to need an extra gift.
  3. Use your points or promotions
    Do you have credit cards with points or promotions? This is the time to use them. In many cases you can cash in those points for products or even transfer those points to someone else. For my birthday last year, my in-laws let me use their points to pick out whatever I wanted from their credit card’s product catalog. I picked out a gift card for gasoline and I couldn’t have been more pleased.
    If you’ve signed up for something like Swag Bucks this would also be the time to use those. If you aren’t hip to Swag Bucks, it’s an online program where you earn Swag Bucks (or redeemable points) for your online activity.
  4. Coupons
    Ya’ll know I’m not into grocery coupons. If I have a coupon for food, I’ll use it, but I don’t go out of my way looking for food coupons. Since the holidays only happen once a year, I will coupon for gifts. A couple of my favorite places to shop are Kohl’s and JC Penny. Both often offer $10 off coupons and in some cases will let you combine coupons and offers. I always check Retail Me Not and the local circular before I go shopping.
  5. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on wrapping
    It’s easy to forget about actually making the presents look presentable (puns!) when your so focused on sticking within your holiday budget. But gift wrap costs can add up. Challenge yourself to spend as little money as possible on wrapping. I love to wrap presents in brown paper. It’s classic! You can purchase a whole roll at a dollar store and tie presents up with colorful yarn or string. If you want to get extra creative, you could stamp or draw on the paper first. And brown paper works for all seasons, holidays and special occasions! Score!
  6. If you’re crafty, make a gift (but do the math first!)
    Crafting a gift can save you big bucks in some cases. But make sure you do the math first. It isn’t always cheaper to craft gifts. If you’re an avid crafter it might be cheaper to make the gift, but if you’re a supply-less Sally, it might be cheaper to buy a gift. The one time crafting has really saved me money is when I make gifts in batches. For example, you could buy the supplies to make beeswax candles for everyone on your list. (Check out all the gifts I made last year here.)
  7. If you’re a good cook, make a gift (again, do the math!)
    Usually cooking supplies are cheaper than crafting supplies, but it still might be cheaper (and easier, and a time saver) to just buy a pack of cookies and place them into pretty jars. Let’s get real, folks.
  8. Shop early!
    If you are reading this, stop what you’re doing and start shopping now! Just kidding, keep reading this, but then make your list, check for coupons and go shopping. Yes, stores offer more deals around the holidays, but there’s too much pressure to shop under a tight deadline. You’ll be tempted to grab whatever and overspend. I know a few people who even shop year-round for Christmas, that way there is no pressure and they spread out their spending over many months.
  9. Online offers
    I know that having a smart phone is a total luxury, but it helps me save money too! Whenever I’m about to buy something, I’ll do a quick check on my phone to see if I can find it cheaper online. If I can, I’ll either ask the store if it does price matching or I’ll put it back on the shelf and order it online. Ain’t technology grand?!
  10. Useful presents
    Sometimes useful presents are the best. Useful presents don’t have to be the latest kitchen gizmo either. When I was a poor grad student, I told my mom I really didn’t need anything. So instead of going out and buying another thing I didn’t need, she went out and bought me groceries and then wrapped them. It was so nice to get boxes of cereal, canned goods and things I needed, but didn’t have to pay for!
  11. Give your time
    Honestly, I would much rather someone give me their time than any gift out there. Please come over to my house and help me do one of those crazy “Make 56 freezer meals!” things. Please come over to my house and help me clean out my closet (or just talk to me while I do it!) Imagine how nice it would be to give the gift of clean floors to a new mom or the gift of clean gutters to your elderly parents. Truly, time is the greatest gift.
  12. No-gift pacts
    This isn’t for the faint of heart and no, it’s not really “fun” either, but here’s a secret: you don’t have to give a gift to everyone. I know, I know, it’s a nice gesture! It’s the thought that counts and all that jazz, but for some people gift-giving can truly be a financial burden. If you think that gifts will be a financial burden on yourself or on your friends and family, I suggest rationally discussing no-gift packs. And make it clear that no judgments will be made on either behalf.
    My husband and I don’t exchange gifts for most holidays. We have a pact and we’d much rather save the money to go on a trip or to eventually buy a house. An alternative to a no-gift pack, if you have a large family, could be a White Elephant party or a Secret Santa gift-giving scheme.

Remember, it’s all about staying sane this holiday season and not ending the year in budgetary regret!

How do you save money on holiday gifts? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

Handmade Holiday Challenge Roundup

Gorgeous handmade socks by Hedgehog Fibres on Flickr

Gorgeous handmade socks by Hedgehog Fibres on Flickr

I didn’t finish my holiday challenge or stick to my strict budget of $100, but considering everything I had going on, I think I made a commendable effort. Let’s take a look back, shall we?

  1. Mom: This year, I gave my mom homemade vanilla extract. I think she’ll enjoy using it in her baking. $1.49 for the bottles and $2.99 for the vanilla beans. I already had the bourbon and the vodka, so I didn’t count it towards the budget. how to make vanilla extract
  2. Dad: I didn’t get anything for my Dad because he told me not to, and well, I didn’t really have time. I still love him though and he knows it.  Handmade Circle Scarf
  3. Sister: I made this imitation American Apparel circle scarf for my sister. It cost $16 for the fabric. A little steep, I tried to get cheaper fabric online, but my order was cancelled.  handmade cat toy
  4. Sister’s cat (weird, I know, but we always give our pets gifts in my family): I made Franklin, my sister’s cat, this toy with stuff I had around the house and out in the yard! He loved it and it was free. Animals and children always seem to love the presents that don’t cost anything the best.
  5. Mother-in-law: For my mother-in-law, I ordered a book of our wedding photos. Our wedding was a year ago and I have yet to print out any photos. I suck sometimes. And although, I’m not considering it homemade, I did get a good deal on the book through Groupon. ($10!)
  6. Father-in-law: We just ended up getting him a gift card to a local gun store. He has done a lot for us this year. He’s helped us to fix up the trailer and let us live on his land. ($50) customized ukulele
  7. Niece: This was probably my favorite project of the challenge. We customized this ukulele for my niece. She may be too young for it. She’s only 2! She wanted to tear off the strings when she opened it! :/ But it’s cute enough to  just sit on a shelf until she’s old enough to learn to play. I can’t find the red model that I purchased on Amazon. It was $29.95. But a similar model is sold on Amazon for a bit more.
  8. Brother-in-law: We bought him wool socks. It’s what he wanted. $20.
  9. Sister-in-law: Like my mother-in-law, I also purchased a Groupon and ordered a large canvas photo of her daughter from our wedding. $12.
  10. Husband: My poor husband didn’t get anything from me this year. We decided not to exchange gifts. We combined our anniversary and Christmas gifts and right now are on a relaxing trip to Austin, Texas! Priceless. infused liquors
  11. Friends: Our friends all received infused liquors this year. They were pumped. To make it, I used ingredients we already had on hand.
  12. Co-workers: My lovely co-workers didn’t get anything from me this year. I just couldn’t do it all.

I ended up going over budget at $142.43, but all considering, I’m proud of the work I’ve done. Next year, I’ll start on my projects earlier, so I’ll have time for unexpected things to pop up.

I hope everyone had the best of holidays. I’ll see you all in the new year!

love,
melanie

Handmade Holiday Challenge: Infused Liquors!

infused liquors I’ve never been too keen on flavored liquors with the exception of my college Smirnoff Lemon Vodka phase. I feel a little barfy just thinking about it. But that’s because most of those liquors are artificially flavored. I mean Cinnabon-flavored vodka? That can’t be real.

Infusing your own liquor is so much tastier than the manufactured stuff and makes mixed drinks extra special. And infused liquors make a great hostess holiday gift. Good thing my friends like to party because everyone is getting infused liquor this year!

infused liquors closeup Here’s the stupid-easy how-to:
Grab a canning jar. Cut up some fruit, add spices (if you desire) and fill the jar with liquor. I recommend using organic fruit so there’s no yucky stuff infusing the liquor. Then, shake once a day, everyday. The liquor will be infused in about a week!

I’ve tried strawberries and vodka before with great results. The vodka tasted just like real strawberries! This time I’m also trying an apple-infused bourbon and a green apple-infused moonshine. (The moonshine is legal, guys. It’s Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon, if you are curious.) For the apple-infused liquors, in addition to the fruit, I also added a cinnamon stick and three cloves. I’m thinking with a little bit of simple syrup it will taste like apple pie!

I’m so excited about these holiday gifts, I might have to keep one for myself!

love,
melanie

 

 

 

Books for Kids to Give as Mother’s Day Gifts

Mother’s Day will be here before you know it, so I started researching books to give to my own mama. In the process, I stumbled upon so, so many cute books for children to give to their moms as gifts. As a kid, I would have loved to give my mom a Mother’s Day themed book that I could read to her. Heck, I still might read her a children’s book and I’m 27, ya’ll. Who doesn’t love story time?!

Here’s my top 5 picks:

5.  what not to give your mom What NOT to Give Your Mom on Mother’s Day
Martha Simpson (Author), Jana Christy (Illustrator)

A list-based book that tells the story of a child giving his mother Mother’s Day gifts better suited for animals.

Easy-to-read for the beginning readers, but this book may be a little childish for kids over 6.

4.  Mother’s Day Surprise mother's day surprise
Stephen Krensky
 (Author), Kathi Ember (Illustrator)

Violet the snake is stumped! Her forest friends are all making gifts for their mothers for Mother’s Day. But Violet doesn’t have any arms or legs or teeth! What’s a snake to do?!

Reptilian-loving kids will love this story. We all know those kids! But they may point out that snakes do have teeth (or fangs) and Violet’s teeth are showing on almost every page. A small flaw in an otherwise cute story.

the night before mother's day 3. The Night Before Mother’s Day
Natasha Wing (Author), Amy Wummer (Illustrator)

One in the many and well-liked “Night Before” series, this book shows dad and the girls setting up a spa day and making a cake for mom.

What mom doesn’t want a spa day?! ‘Nuff said.

happy mothers day! 2. Little Critter: Happy Mother’s Day!
Mercer Mayer (Author, Illustrator)

Mercer Mayer books are true classics. And this book is no different. This time, Little Critter has a special surprise in store for Mom. This interactive book encourages kids to lift the flaps of the pages to see what Little Critter has created for his mom. Fun for kids that need that tactile stimulation!

we love our mom

1. We Love our Mom!
Jan Berenstain (Author, Illustrator), Mike Berenstain (Author, Illustrator)

And for my number one choice, my sentimentality won out. I have such fond memories of my mom reading my sister and I Berenstain Bears stories when we were small. She even had a special voice for each bear!

In this recent addition to the Berenstain Bears collection, Brother and Sister look for a way to show their mom they care.

My mom is definitely getting this one for mother’s day. Maybe with a spa gift certificate as a bookmark?!

What are you giving your mom on Mother’s Day?

love,
melanie