73: IKEA Madness

This post is for those of you who have never been to IKEA. If you have an IKEA near you, you have got to make this store a part of your holiday shopping and preparation. Not only is it a fabulous place to buy gifts, it’s a great place to update your housewares and textiles within almost anyone’s budget!

Worried about the kids while you shop? IKEA has a solution with their fantastic supervised children’s play area and ballroom. When it’s time for a break, the IKEA restaurant has a kids’ menu.

I just want to encourage you to give it a try.

Visit their website at http://ikea.com

Fabulous photo courtesy of Sarah606

26: Mind Your Money

Today is Black Friday. While the retailers want us all to do our part to boost the economy, be careful out there. Just because it’s a traditional shopping day, doesn’t mean you need to get out there and overspend. Make a list and check it twice. Have a budget. Stick to your plan. Don’t dig yourself deeper into debt! Bake cookies for gifts, spend $10 more and go watch a movie if you have to go to the mall! Be smart!

49: Usborne Books

If I had to pick one thing that I couldn’t live without, it would be books. It runs in my family. One grandmother was a librarian, the other a literature fan. One grandfather was a church scholar, preacher, and history buff, and my dad is a huge science fiction fan. My husband is a voracious reader, and it’s been passed on to our daughter, who reads more than any other kid I know. I love to read and enjoy that when I have the time. I love books of all kinds, but especially non-fiction! Around this house, we love to learn about all kinds of things, so you can find books on just about everything in our family library.

As a homeschooler, we consume books at a near-alarming rate, so I’m always on the lookout for great stuff. I discovered Usborne Books a few years ago at a homeschooler expo, and love them! They have beautiful, durable volumes in addition to some non-book items. The illustrations and photos are vibrant and plentiful, while the content is rich and accurate. Take a look at their books and see what you like! They have internet specials frequently, too, so check back often!

There’s a Mouse in the House is one of our kids’ most beloved books! It has a little mouse that slips through cutout slots in each page, and the kids love it!

58: Craft Gifts for Kids

Inexpensive projects to do with kids can also make great gifts! Here are some ideas:

  • An unfinished wood item (initial, birdhouse, stepstool, etc.) with set of acrylic paints and brushes
  • Knitting needles or crochet hook with yarn and a free scarf pattern or knitting instructions
  • Bracelet Beading supplies
  • Stamping set
  • Scrapbooking materials or creativity book
  • Crafting kits of all kinds from JoAnn’s or Borders (lots of these are very inexpensive!)
  • Sewing notions, fabric, easy pattern

Even better than all of the stuff, would be a bonus of a lesson or crafting time with the child. All kids love attention and one-on-one time with their favorite adults. If you paint, sew, knit, crochet, scrapbook, bead, or any other crafty thing, make up an invitation to spend some crafting time with you! They will love it!

A more technical version of this gift would be a radio building kit or other electronics project! Geeky fun!

Beautiful photo courtesy of James Jordan.

60: The “Buy Nothing” Christmas

This is a novel but necessary concept for many people in this economic climate. Forced by circumstance (lay-off, bankruptcy, foreclosure, health problems, other catastrophes,) many Americans will be having a “Buy Nothing” Christmas, or at least a “Buy a WHOLE LOT LESS” Christmas this year.

Even if you aren’t under tremendous economic pressure, there are many ways to save or spend very little this holiday season.

  1. Holiday meals – In your meal planning, go a little lighter on the calorie load. If you want to splurge on Christmas, but stay within your normal budget, plan extremely frugal meals around the holidays. Breakfasts and lunches can be your real money-savers. Learn to make real oatmeal! Flavor with milk and jam or honey. For lunch, pasta dishes are some of the most low-cost meals you can make. Burritos or wraps are great lunch alternatives, too. A great dinner is homemade soup and homemade bread!
  2. Cards – Make your own. It’s just silly to spend $3-5 on a card at Hallmark!
  3. Wrapping paper – Use brown craft paper or plain white paper to wrap gifts. Use twine or raffia to tie up the package. If you are a stamper, let your imagination run wild! Make a matching card! Kids love to decorate gifts with markers and stickers, too.
  4. Have a potluck dinner with friends. Spend what you would’ve on dinner anyway.
  5. Adopt a “no gifts” policy for the adults and focus on the kids.

You can still have a wonderful Christmas without blowing your budget! Start planning now!

Photo courtesy of Joshua Davis. Thanks!

81: Deals for HSM, Hannah Montana, and Camp Rock NOW!

For all of you High School Musical, Hannah Montana, and Camp Rock fans, stores everywhere are clearing out a lot of related merchandise. Great deals of 50-75% off can be found in clearance sections of your local Target and Wal-mart right now. Disney High School Musical 3 hits theaters soon, so there will be a lot of new stuff out to fill that need. In the meantime, though, the original is still this elf’s favorite, and everything High School Musical is on sale!

Another huge clearout is Camp Rock merchandise. A Camp Rock themed Acoustic Guitar was only $23 today, down from around $90! Get one today! Also, Hannah Montana items of every kind were marked down.

These deals are great gift ideas for preteen girls and some boys. Stock up for fall birthday parties and Christmas gifts this weekend before they are all gone!

82: Dollar Store Adventure

Everyone can find a treasure in a dollar store! Here’s an inexpensive way to let the kids have shopping adventure that’s relatively painless to your pocketbook. Have a friendly competition to see who can come up with the craziest (silliest, weirdest, most useful, prettiest, etc.) gift for $1.

This can be repeated as often as you like, or until you run out of money.

Photo courtesy of Traci Todd.

92: Custom Christmas Cards

Holiday Cards
I love to get Christmas cards! I’m not so great at sending them every year, though. I think the motivator to actually sending them out is to have a great card that you are proud of. My favorite option is to upload a photo somewhere and get cool stuff printed using that photo.

One site that I love is VistaPrint. They have all kinds of crazy specials all the time and lots of templates. If you want to try something out, you might only have to pay for shipping!

I’ve used them for printing save-the-date magnets (these were awesome!), post-it notepads, and TONS of postcard projects. They also have yard signs, car magnets, t-shirts, business cards, notepads, and notecards just to name a few. Get a custom yard sign for your next party or a car magnet for your kid’s high school band!

Give VistaPrint a try! The price is right!

94: Free Coffee Maker for the Holidays

Try Gevalia and get this FREE coffeemaker.Okay, I’m not really a coffee drinker. I enjoy the occasional cup at Starbucks or Cafe du Monde. Who can resist that? The problem is when we are entertaining over the holidays and dessert time rolls around.

“Do you have any coffee?”
“Uh, no. I don’t even have a coffee maker.”

This conversation has occurred more than a few times. For the amount of money I would spend on some decent coffee, I could get enough coffee to entertain my guests for the holidays, a coffee maker, a stainless steel carafe, and a travel mug! Wow!

Try two 1/2 pound packages of our exceptional coffee for only $22.95, including shipping and handling, and receive a 12 Cup Programmable Stainless Steel Coffeemaker, Stainless Steel Thermal Carafe & Gevalia Travel Mug as a special gift.

Even if you already have a coffee maker, it’s a good idea to have a backup or an extra one, especially if you are a coffee addict or entertaining. Give Gevalia a try and get the coffee maker, carafe, and mug FREE! I’m going to get one for the holidays, and after that, I might just keep drinking the stuff!

Finally, you are probably wondering what this has to do with kids, right? If you are a coffee drinker, you probably weren’t asking that one! For everyone else, any money saved on entertaining means more money available for other stuff, plain and simple.

P.S. They have tea, too!

95: Unplug the Christmas Machine

Unplug the Christmas Machine:
A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season

I highly recommend this book as a great way to get yourself centered and focus on what really matters during the Christmas season. Sometimes, we just do things during this time of year because we’re “supposed to,” or other people have certain expectations from us that we keep trying to meet. This is the time of year to look at your family and those who mean the most to you and decide what’s best and most meaningful for them. Would you continue baking a mincemeat pie every year even though only one piece is ever eaten? Just because so-and-so did that, doesn’t mean you are sentenced to it. Take some time to read this little book and figure out what you really want this year.

This is a wonderful selection for small group study or book club to focus on in preparation for Christmas. Get a few copies and invite your friends over for coffee! Make it fun!

You don’t need to be an economist to know what’s been happening this year. Everything is more expensive, jobs are slightly more tenuous, and investments are all over the place. People are losing their homes. In this kind of economic climate, do we really need to go out and get the latest everything so we’re keeping up with the Joneses who are even worse off than we? Seriously, folks! Focus on the important things!