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Frugality & Finances > The $0 Holiday Challenge
Rainbowbird's Avatar Rainbowbird 07:53 PM 11-01-2006
We will be spending some $ this Christmas, but I definitely would like to try to save some $$ by making gifts. With fuel and electric being so pricey we need to budget a bit more. Our children will receive some presents purchased at natural toy stores or on the TP, but I am trying to supplement with homemade. I bought some plastic bottles on the TP from a mama for about 50 cents each. I'm going to make homemade bubble bath and put decorative labels on them. DD and DS will each get a bottle in their stockings (Bubble Bath For Good Little Girls and Boys) and I'll also make up a few for neighbors and friends. I have a ton of organic essential oils already so I just need to buy unscented soap which my co-op has in bulk...

Homemade playdough scented with lavender oil for the kids' stockings. Also for friends' children. I've seen this advertised on natural toy sites and I figured,why not make my own? Put it in a little plastic container, recycled of course, add a pretty label and you're done.

Also will be making pumpkin spice bread for neighbors and friends. And I think a gift basket for a family we are close friends with..pumpkin bread, homemade hot cocoa mix, homemade play dough and bubble bath for their kids. Their kids have nothing but plastic toys with batteries and a ton of them, I don't think they need another toy....

My family draws names for Secret Santa so we just have to buy one gift apiece. We do buy for the inlaws but some of them are coming from fundraisers at DS' preschool.

I plan to try to spend about half to a third less than last year.

ErinEmily's Avatar ErinEmily 08:58 PM 11-01-2006
Originally Posted by tnrsmom View Post
... homeade marshmallows.
Can you please tell me more about home made mashmallows?

stretchmark's Avatar stretchmark 02:26 PM 11-02-2006
My official Christmas list is as follows:

*Split small bundles of pinon firewood from our 5 acres an tie in a nice bundle for:Mom, Dad, Granparents, Uncle & Aunt.
*Make fudge for the same people plus my brother
*Knit back packs for my two kids and maybe a pair of socks
*Rice/hand warmers for Grandma in NJ out of socks
*patch all of DHs pants that have holes (about 12 pairs : ) plus make a pair of warm socks out of leftover yarn

That is it for me. Last year I darn nearly killed myself hand-knitting all sorts of things. I went overboard on the DIY Christmas thing.
HipGal's Avatar HipGal 07:01 PM 11-02-2006
I really like making things by hand, but I am pretty selective about who I give those treasures to. One time I heard this story on a craft blog: This knitter's family sent out a letter saying they wanted to keep Christmas more low-key. So they said that people could buy $5 presents or make them themselves: "like knit a sweater or something".

Um, I don't think these people realized how much yarn ($$) and time goes into knitting a sweater! The knitter was saying how she had been giving people hand-knitted sweaters and they obviously didn't "get it"! :

So, I really save the hand-made things for people who appreciate them! At least the things that take a lot of time and materials!
catnip's Avatar catnip 02:43 AM 11-03-2006
Something I have already done, so can't do this year, but that was a big hit, was dreamcatchers. I twisted rings out of fallen willow and birch withes, and then made the nets from colored embroidery floss. I hung found feathers and a couple of beads on them, and they worked out to about $.50 a piece.
2 in August's Avatar 2 in August 10:47 AM 11-03-2006
Originally Posted by ja mama View Post
I have several pieces of clothes in a stack to donate to Goodwill, but I keep thinking if I could figure out a way to use the fabric from them, I might be able to turn out some pretty cool beanbags, or little cloth bags. Maybe even bags to carry/store the beanbags in? I have an herb garden that I could snip from to add scents to the bean bags. I have a couple odd beads and leather scraps I could use to decorate the bags.

But here's my reservation. What would my friends and their kids do with the beanbags and little sack-purse thing after they were done oohing and ahhing over them? What shape and size beanbags and sack would be best? Would they just end up at Goodwill anyway? (Maybe I'm just procrastinating and calling it deciding and thinking)
I haven't read everything yet, but I am in the same boat as everyone else here. I need good ideas for this year.

Last year I got some cheap fleece scraps at JoAnn's and made beanbags for my dd and her little friends. I then got online and found activities to do with bean bags and printed them on 3x5 note cards. I put all the cards on a book ring.

I also made I Spy type bottles. I filled empty 16oz water bottles with rice and all sorts of tiny objects (like a penny, push pin, birthday candle, q-tip, foamy shapes etc about 20 things in all). As I put the items in I made a list and then printed it out and taped it to the side of the bottle. My dd loves hers and still plays with it.

For my mom and sil I made felted purses from recycled sweaters. I got the sweaters at a church goodwill store that has bag sales where all the clothes you can fit in a bag are only $5. Not only did I get 2 holiday dresses and some pjs for dd I got the sweaters. I felted them then cut out the pieces. I did spend a little more for trim and handles, but I bet I had less than $5 into each of them. Tons of time though since I had to sew them by hand.

I made my brother a string art thing like from the 70's. He's into retro stuff like that.

My dad was really tricky, I ended up buying vhs tapes and taping a bunch of shows for him. They only get 3 channels so he liked all the Discovery channel and History channel shows. It gave him something to do on all the cold, dark nights when he couldn't go out and putter in the garage after dinner.

I also made lots of food gifts, like the gifts in a jar, but I put them in bags instead.

Dh got some old oxygen tanks, cut the bottoms off, sandblasted them and put a thick rope up the hole where the valve was. He attached a small rubber mallet and made bells for his dad and uncles. He got the tanks free and the rope he had. He just spent $5 for hammers at the dollar store. My dad has the sandblaster.

I'm hoping to get some good ideas. This year we still have very little $ and I have even less time because of the baby.
2 in August's Avatar 2 in August 11:32 AM 11-03-2006
Originally Posted by Mona View Post
you all are awesome!! thank so much for posting your ideas!

the only thing i have come up w/ that is not listed is making home made granola.
making granola is pretty easy ( i used to make it at a restaurant i managed) and so yummy! i'm sorry- i don't have the recipe anymore.
Here is what my mom made me last year. It's very yummy and no sugar!


Combine in large bowl:
9 cups rolled oats
1/2 sunflower seeds
1c unsweetened coconut
1 c chopped nuts

In blender combine:
2 ripe bananas
1 c pitted dates
1/2 c water
1.5 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

Mix Banana mixure with oat mixture. Spread on cookie sheet 1/2 in thick. Bake at 200 for 90 min stirring every 30 min, until golden and dry. Turn oven off and leave pan in oven until cool. After it is cooled you can add choco or carob chips, chopped dates, bran. Store in airtight container.
2 in August's Avatar 2 in August 11:59 AM 11-03-2006
[QUOTE=boysrus;2288161]I am poking around looking for cheaper truffles, but they dont seem to exist How much does it cost to buy those fancy ingredients? I really want this to be aimed at people who are really broke like me, and it doesnt sound like something I can afford to make.


Decadent chocolate truffles

18oz (3 cups) semi-sweet choco chips
1 - 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Melt chips and milk in large sauce pan. Remove from heat, add vanilla. Pour into medium sized bowl. Let cool till firm ( may have to refrigerate).

Shape into one inch balls, roll in a coating.

chill till firm.

What I did is divide the original batch (before adding vanilla) into 3 bowls. In one bowl I added the vanilla I rolled these in cocoa powder. The next bowl I added almond extract and rolled in ground nuts. The third batch I added orange extract and rolled in coconut. They all turned out great!

Peanut butter fudge

(we get wic so the milk and pb was free)

2c sugar
1/2 c milk
1 1/3 cup peanut butter
7 oz marshmellow creme

In a saucepan bring sugar and milk to a boil. Boil for 3 min. Add pb and marshmellow creme, mix well. Quickly pour into buttered 8x8 pan. Cill until set and then cut into small squares.

Smores clusters

6 milk chocolate bars brokeninto pcs (I cheated and used choco chips)
1.5 tsp veggie oil
2c mini marshmellows
8 whole graham crackers broke into bite sized bits

Mix chocolate with oil and nuke (50%) until melted. Stir in marshmellows and cracker bits. Spoon into muffin papers, chill to set. Makes 12.

Dipped Pretzels

I bought the big pretzel rods (buy 1 get 1 free). melted choco chips and dipped them 3/4 of the way in the chocolate. Some I sprinkled with ground nuts, etc.
anthasam's Avatar anthasam 12:41 PM 11-03-2006
Those truffles sound yummy and easy to make!! Thanks!!
2 in August's Avatar 2 in August 03:49 PM 11-03-2006
Your welcome!

I didn't realize I was replying to 2yr old posts, lol. Glad the info was still helpful. I got a couple good ideas too.
phathui5's Avatar phathui5 11:33 PM 11-03-2006
I'm giving a couple gift cards that I got for taking surveys online. Tonight I'm going to try to remember to turn in my other survey points for Christmas gifts.
LeslieOT's Avatar LeslieOT 11:41 PM 11-03-2006
We are also working on a homemade Christmas this year. An idea--last year my sister kept empty babyfood jars and grew us all mini herb gardens. We each got about a dozen jars, with simple labels printed on the computer, and now we all have some of the most common fresh herbs right on hand! They are a great gift, and look so pretty along the windowsill!
Awaken's Avatar Awaken 07:17 PM 11-04-2006
Originally Posted by LeslieOT View Post
We are also working on a homemade Christmas this year. An idea--last year my sister kept empty babyfood jars and grew us all mini herb gardens. We each got about a dozen jars, with simple labels printed on the computer, and now we all have some of the most common fresh herbs right on hand! They are a great gift, and look so pretty along the windowsill!
What a cute idea! I would love to get that as a gift. Do you have to replant the herbs elsewhere, though- do they outgrow the little jars?
daekini's Avatar daekini 08:45 PM 11-04-2006
I love reading the ideas!

We'll probably spend some money, but trying to limit dramatically means I'll mostly buy raw materials to make things. I've decided to use up my ever-growing fabric stash and make matching mother-daughter aprons for a couple of friends, some stuffed animals, etc.

I agree with the pp who said hand-knit gifts should be saved for those who really appreciate the work that goes into them, but sewing on the machine is so easy! I will be knitting some leg warmers for my friends' babes.
LeslieOT's Avatar LeslieOT 12:32 AM 11-05-2006
I did end up replanting them, but it took a while--it also was perfect to get me started; I never would have gotten seeds started myself.
rainbowmoon's Avatar rainbowmoon 10:40 PM 11-05-2006
Originally Posted by LeslieOT View Post
We are also working on a homemade Christmas this year. An idea--last year my sister kept empty babyfood jars and grew us all mini herb gardens. We each got about a dozen jars, with simple labels printed on the computer, and now we all have some of the most common fresh herbs right on hand! They are a great gift, and look so pretty along the windowsill!
do herbs really grow in baby food jars? how long did they last in the jars before you planted them? I am wanting to try this, but concerned about drainage.
krankedyann's Avatar krankedyann 09:05 PM 11-06-2006
I found another recipe for the cinnamon applesauce ornaments. Because this one has white glue in it, it might hold up better until the following year.


4 oz. ground cinnamon (cheap spices can be purchased at dept. store)
1 tbsp. cloves
1 tbsp. nutmeg
2 tbsp. white school glue
3/4 c. applesauce

(Do NOT eat!)
Makes about 12 large ornaments.

Any spices can be used, the spices are only used to give the ornaments a good smell. Combine spices in a bowl, mix together. Add applesauce and glue. Work with hands until smooth. Mixture will be like wet dough, if too juicy add a little more spice. Roll out to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with Christmas ornament indented cookie cutters. Cut a hole in upper edge of ornament with a drinking straw so ornament can be hung.

Place on rack to air dry for several days (3 or 4 days), turning until dry. Do not put in oven. Great gift toppers or ornaments.
krankedyann's Avatar krankedyann 09:10 PM 11-06-2006
Here's my favorite food gift to give at Christmas.

Yield: 1 million buckeyes

1 pound butter
32 ounces peanut butter
2-3 pounds confectioner's sugar, sifted
3/4 cake paraffin wax
24 ounce chocolate chips

Melt butter. Blend in peanut butter until smooth and remove from burner. Add 2 pounds confectioner's sugar, blend well.Add up to one pound more confectioner's sugar to get to a shapable consistency. Shape into balls. Melt wax and chocolate chips in double boiler. Keep warm while dipping each ball into chocolate using a toothpick. Put on wax paper to cool.
krankedyann's Avatar krankedyann 09:15 PM 11-06-2006
Here's the other recipe we give a lot of at Christmas.

Chocolate no-bake cookies
Makes ~2 dozen

1.5 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups quick oats

Mix sugar, cocoa, milk, and butter in a large saucepan on medium heat until it boils. Remove from heat and cool one minute. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Drop by spoonfulls onto wax paper.
mommy2abigail's Avatar mommy2abigail 12:33 AM 11-07-2006
Anyone have a recipie for homemade playdoh that doesn't go bad? I'd like to make some up for the kids in our family, but most of the recipies require refridgeration right? Anything that doesn't? Also, anyone have a homemade finger paint one? I'll probably use kool-aid to dye both, and get some pretty little jars to put them in. I'm thinking of making a kids activity basket, with a playsilk, and some ideas for how to play with it (the rest of our family is way mainstream with toys....all electronic, they wouldn't have a clue as to what a playsilk was!) a couple of jars of homemade playdoh in different colors and a couple of jars or finger paint, along with the recipies so that mom and kids could make it again together. Thanks!
a-sorta-fairytale's Avatar a-sorta-fairytale 02:12 PM 11-07-2006
We make our own and while it is still a bit messy it comes out of carpets easily (since it is just a basic dough) and if she eats it i am not worried.
It is

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tarter
2 cups of water
1 tablespoons cooking oil

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring until stiff.
Allow to cool, then knead.

I add diff non sugar koolaid to get diff colors and smells. Right now we have 7 diff colors and scents. They last forever and even when dd smeared it into the carpet i was able to get it out with just hot water and a rag.

I dont refridgerate it and we just tossed ours out after 6 months because it had accumulated too much dog hair

As for the paints - we have made a bunch of diff ones but always have to fridge em or they get moldy.
mom2tig99Nroo03's Avatar mom2tig99Nroo03 12:11 AM 11-08-2006
Originally Posted by aeiouys View Post
For Grandparents I'm making (with the help of the kids) wind chimes

do you have the how-to's for this? do you use fishing line? what about the rest of it? i am trying to think of thigns we have around the house that may work. i think i have heard of doing it with spoons, but i don't have extra flatware
mom2tig99Nroo03's Avatar mom2tig99Nroo03 01:16 AM 11-08-2006
Originally Posted by Staceyy View Post
I get all kinds of internet freebies, makeup samples, deodorant, I have two Swiffer dusters, shampoo and conditioner samples, lotions, soaps, coffee, teas, tee shirts, tote bags, books, body wash, detergents,Schick razors etc. I usually send for about 5 per day. Most take a few months to get but Walmart samples usually come within a week. Some of the places I go to are:
the freebie boards at and

If you Google "freebie websites" , "todays freebies", or "freebie forums" a lot of sites will come up. You can also Google "baby freebies" or "men's freebies".

...I would estimate I receive about $50 worth of freebies per month.
cool. thankls for the websites.
mom2tig99Nroo03's Avatar mom2tig99Nroo03 01:17 AM 11-08-2006
Originally Posted by AntoninBeGonin View Post
I love to bake so this year the family is getting homemade fudge. I found a fantastic recipe on that's fast, cheap, oh so unhealthy , and delicious. (PM me if anyone wants it)

me, me, me please
mom2tig99Nroo03's Avatar mom2tig99Nroo03 01:18 AM 11-08-2006
Originally Posted by monocyte View Post
Last year I made tons of bath stuff - soaps, salts, bombs, yummy soaks for kids/adults, shampoo's, wasnt totally free, but the holidays were fairly inexpensive for us!!

Still thinking about this year!

more info please
*violet*'s Avatar *violet* 01:21 AM 11-08-2006
Wow! You guys are great. Subbing now, and I'll share ideas once I get my holiday brain organized.
mom2tig99Nroo03's Avatar mom2tig99Nroo03 01:21 AM 11-08-2006
Originally Posted by tnrsmom View Post
OK, I have spent all morning reading every single post here, all 457 of them. I started a list of what I want to do along with recipes/directions.

I still need ideas for 11-13 yo boys. They seem to be my toughest to gift.

Also, does someone have the recipe for spiced nuts? I am thinking that would be good for all the men.

and i still have the same ungreatful nieces and nephews this year... heck- 3 out of 4 of them are old enough to drive now. maybe i'll just make all of them a keychain
mom2tig99Nroo03's Avatar mom2tig99Nroo03 01:33 AM 11-08-2006
Originally Posted by mraven721 View Post
These were a big hit last year! The only problem is that there werent enough!!
catnip's Avatar catnip 01:37 AM 11-08-2006
Any ideas for sixteen year old girls?
Mickiswing's Avatar Mickiswing 04:14 AM 11-09-2006
For 16 year old girls - do a search for refashioning tee shirts. I know has a lot of examples in their forums. You basically take a random tshirt and cut and slice to make a more fancy shirt. I don't know that it makes a lot of sense, cut I love repurposing old tees. You can make bags, wrist bands, hats, ipod cozys, etc. And check your library for books (here's a couple from Amazon

I'm trying to be creative, but can't figure out what to do for my musical group. (All adults) I can't seem to find something that's inexpensive, handmade and not food. Several people have mentioned in the last couple weeks that they dread the holiday because all they do is throw out the goodies people bring over.

Any ideas?

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