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Frugality & Finances > The $0 Holiday Challenge
eminer's Avatar eminer 05:45 AM 11-16-2004
The last couple of years, we've just been skipping giving gifts to the extended family (my dh and I have 14 siblings and countless neices and nephews). I'm pretty sure everyone understands, and on my side, we've all agreed not to do it. The family Christmas get-together is so much more pleasant, and the stress -- over money and preparation time -- is so much less.

For my dh and dd, I try to put off some purchases we would have needed to make anyway, like necessary clothes and personal items, and wrap them up. More stuff to open, which is fun. Even that can be hard if you are truly broke, but secondhand store stuff wraps up just as nicely.

I think it's possible to get a lot of not-feeling-deprived by shifting focus off the presents and onto the festivities. Don't know whether you are religious and in what way, so these specific things may not be options for you, but theyr'e just examples from my experience. I love going out into the cold air for midnight mass. Singing Christmas carols, especially if family members have spent time learning them, or learning how to accompany them on a musical instrument, or copying the lyrics for everyone. Drawing the whole thing out over many days: In a couple of weeks, we will be doing St. Nicholas Day. We make speculatius cookies, which are spice cookies (cost nothing, all the ingredients are extremely common, but they're delicious after you refrigerate the dough overnight), and buy a 99c box of candy canes. Into dd's shoe will go a special candy cane (for St. Nicholas' bishop's staff), a little bag of those gold--foil-wrapped chocolate coins (for the dowry he gave to the poor girls -- though ours actually have menorrahs on them :-)), an orange, and some other really cheap, drugstore-type gift. There are a lot of cheap cookie recipes, and having a lot of Christmas cookies is good. For example, I LOVE merengue cookies, and they're mostly egg and sugar. You can add cocoa to some to get chocolate merengue -- yum. If cranberries are on sale, one bag makes 3 dozen cranberry corn muffins with orange rinds grated into them. IME, everyone loves cranberry corn muffins. Lots of those 25c candles, too, to warm up the room where you're singing carols while gobbling muffins.

Last year I used the rebozo in which we'd carried dd as a tree skirt. It brought positive associations to the tree. :-) Then we made nativity figures to put under the tree out of homemade playdough (which we baked to make them solid) and scraps of fabric, cotton balls (for the sheep), etc. On Epiphany we added one of the round incense burners you can buy for very little on the sidewalk around here.

This won't apply to the OP, but for littler kids, a great gift is the "doorway gym" described in an out-of-print book, *Rings, Swings, and Climbing Things* by Rita Hoppert. You can make a soft swing seat out of an old pair of jeans or the like, folding both ends over about an inch and sewing a seam. Then cut off a little piping or a piece of (hollow) plastic broomstick to put inside the fold. Thread clothesline through each side (through the piping) and tie a knot. On Christmas Eve, install two sturdy hooks with screw-ends, from the hardware store, into the top of a doorframe that has good clearance for swinging. Then tie the swing onto the hooks. You can do lots of variations that use the same hooks: a tether ball, climbing rope, trapeze, etc.

eminer's Avatar eminer 05:56 AM 11-16-2004
XM, was your flour moving as soon as you bought it? Generally the freezing thing prevents eggs from hatching, rather than just killing hatched bugs (blecccchh). My moths/larvae have come on the kind of flour the store doesn't sell much of or that I don't use often, like rye and buckwheat. Once it's had time to sit on the store shelf and then my shelf for a good long time, the eggs hatch. So I suspect we all eat a lot of moth eggs we don't know about.
Pam_and_Abigail's Avatar Pam_and_Abigail 09:58 AM 11-16-2004
Wow what a great thread!
One year , dh and I made an interactive cd of pictures plus I recorded myslef playing christmas songs on my ukulele. Then I painted labels for them. Of course, with dh working in music software we had access to some nice recording and editin equipment that made it easier, but it is still do-able.
Last year I made puppets out of felt (kings, princesses, etc)
Give a jar of homemade hot chocolate powder. Here's the recipe from Comapany's Coming Everything Chocolate:
3 c skim milk powder
1/4 c cocoa
1/3 c coffee whitener powder
1 c granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt

mix in blender. Makes 2 1/4 cups
to serve, mix 2 tbsp mix with 3/4 c hot water
Brisen's Avatar Brisen 02:41 PM 11-16-2004
Great thread!

There are also ideas here, here, and here.
annakiss's Avatar annakiss 05:05 PM 11-16-2004
I made hand puppets for my 3yo nephew. Jo-ann's had a sale and I spent $1.68 total on this project: monkey, bunny, frog, and kitty.
annettemarie's Avatar annettemarie 05:07 PM 11-16-2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by annakiss
I made hand puppets for my 3yo nephew. Jo-ann's had a sale and I spent $1.68 total on this project:
Very crafty!!
Annette
AnnMarie's Avatar AnnMarie 05:15 PM 11-16-2004
I'm game. I only had enough money to buy each kid one present each, the rest will come from their father. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. For the grown ups I have tons of stuff to make gift baskets so that's what adult family members will be getting.
eminer's Avatar eminer 05:19 PM 11-16-2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by annakiss
I made hand puppets for my 3yo nephew. Jo-ann's had a sale and I spent $1.68 total on this project:
Those are GORGEOUS! They look good enough to eat. He must have loved them.
annakiss's Avatar annakiss 06:16 PM 11-16-2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by eminer
He must have loved them.
Thanks! We'll see if he likes them... haven't given them to him yet.
Mona's Avatar Mona 06:26 PM 11-16-2004
annakiss- did you use any kind of pattern? or just do it by eye?


annelizabeth's Avatar annelizabeth 06:43 PM 11-16-2004
I need help...
1- girl age 12, neice who lives 1000km away, likes to read, shop, figure skate, kinda materistic

2- age 8 boy, nephew, likes tv and gameboy and nothing else- a habbit I DO NOT support, oh maybe he likes space??
annakiss's Avatar annakiss 06:47 PM 11-16-2004
I used some hand puppets that DS has to give me an idea of the base. I drew around those on some construction paper, which I cut out & used for my pattern. I made sure that it was even by folding the paper in half to cut it out. I just changed the ears for each different animal basically, but used the same circle for the head. Sketching out what each animal should look like helped. I used a monkey stuffed animal to give me an idea of what the monkey should look like. And that's pretty much it.

DH came up with the belly spot for the frog to finish it off, which I think worked out really well. He didn't understand why the bunny had a bow tie, but it needed a little something, I thought. Maybe a pink belly spot would have worked.
beanma's Avatar beanma 08:10 PM 11-17-2004
thanks for this thread. got some great ideas! got to start getting organized...
KoalaMama's Avatar KoalaMama 10:42 PM 11-17-2004
I've got an I Spy Bag variation for those of you that don't sew...

Take a small paper bag and cut a window in one side. Drop in a clear plastic bag that is slightly smaller than the paper bag. Fill with rice and trinkets so that window is covered but there's enough room for things to shake around a bit. Fold the tops of the two bags down and glue or staple to secure.

You can make this "pretty" by decorating the paper bag however you like. Great way to get little ones to help with the craft! (Decorate before filling - it's easier when it's flat.) You could even use the bag as the list for your trinkets... write the names of everything you can spy right on the outside and include a funky pen or marker to check off items as they're found.
Proudmom's Avatar Proudmom 04:04 AM 11-18-2004
My sister and I talked about doing this today with our extended families. Now to get dh on board. I will try to think of my own ideas to add....
JoyfulMomma's Avatar JoyfulMomma 01:29 PM 11-18-2004
I saw a very cute gift idea for a little girl.... You use an old glove and stuff the finders with polyfill then sew across the top of the fingers. Attach a snap to the inside of the cuff. Glue or sew on a ring and attach a beaded handle.

The picture was really cute... I think I am going to make one for my daughter.

JoyfulMomma
Ligmom's Avatar Ligmom 01:35 PM 11-18-2004
these ideas

I am making baby doll slings and blanket sets for some of the kids on my list...you only need about 1.25 yards of fabric and 2 craft rings (@24 cents/each). they turn out really cute
Pam_and_Abigail's Avatar Pam_and_Abigail 03:10 PM 11-18-2004
can anyone ppost directions or a link for instructions on doll slings? I bought ringd to make one for dd but don't know where to start.
mesecina's Avatar mesecina 03:53 PM 11-18-2004
Loving all these ideas! I had a brainstorm the other day, and thought I'd share. I had all the materials around the house, so it cost nothing, but it would depend if you're the type to have fabric, etc. around. I was getting ready to throw out one of those wooden boxes that clementines come in, and noticed that it was just about the right size for one of dd's dolls. So, I turned it upside down, so the four corners made legs and the flat side was on top. Then, I cut a piece of thin foam to make a little padding, cut a piece of fabric big enough to reach abut 3 inches down the sides, and fitted the corners. Presto, doll bed! I made a matching pillow, and hemmed another rectangle for a top sheet, and it was done. If I get ambitious, it'll get a matching knitted blanket. It only took about 1/2 yard of material total, and less than an hour to make.
Hope that was clear, I was just excited because it worked, and I'm not very good with a sewing machine at all.


Now, to go find chocolate - those truffle recipes look really good!
KoalaMama's Avatar KoalaMama 04:07 PM 11-18-2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pam_and_Abigail
can anyone ppost directions or a link for instructions on doll slings? I bought ringd to make one for dd but don't know where to start.
You can pretty much use any adult sling pattern and just make it smaller. A child size ring sling will need about 1.25 metres of fabric about 20" wide. If you're making a pouch, use 1 metre of fabric about 18" wide.

Ring sling instructions: http://www.slingmemommy.com/
Pouch instructions: http://www.ida.net/users/stace/sling.html
chellemarie's Avatar chellemarie 01:40 PM 11-23-2004
Just giving this a bump.
Ravin's Avatar Ravin 01:49 PM 11-23-2004
DD is getting: A coffee can drum and bean bags made from scrap fabric I have sitting around and WIC beans I never seem to get around to cooking. I want to make a game for my 5 yo niece using beanbags as well, maybe w/ some cardboard...a target game or something.

I'm cleaning out my closet and giving away stuff up there I never use, including:

A tarot deck w/ a nice box
A barely-used set of pastels
Jewelry I never wear and a jewelry box that's collecting dust
Who knows what else, I still need to clean it out!
mcmrymoon's Avatar mcmrymoon 04:32 PM 11-23-2004
for my nephew who loves himself and sports - i am getting a picture frame with many openings, covering the mat with sports fabric - adding his name to the mat - viola a place to celebrate himself!

for my niece - bean bags and an indoor hopscotch game made of scrap fabric

other niece - playsilks

ds (18 mos) bean bag animals

ds (5) not sure yet...

biscotti for aunts

gotta think of more!
Suzannah's Avatar Suzannah 04:46 PM 11-23-2004
Good ideas, but I still don't see a lot for my judgemental sister-in-law...

Sigh...
Wilhemina's Avatar Wilhemina 10:15 PM 11-23-2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suzannah
Good ideas, but I still don't see a lot for my judgemental sister-in-law...

Sigh...
I made some floating candles for my SIL (non-judgemental ) one year. Soak walnuts in salt water over night, then open into neat halves. Glue short wick in bottom, then fill with melted wax. You can add scent and/or color. Oh yea, before I filled them, I spray painted the halves gold.

Quote:
Originally Posted by annelizabeth
need help...
1- girl age 12, neice who lives 1000km away, likes to read, shop, figure skate, kinda materistic
My neices are getting clothespin doll kits. I got the idea from Family Fun, so their website might have some info. Basically it includes clothespins (I got a large package at the dollar store) and scraps of fabric, ribbon, trim, and embroidry floss to decorate with.

Several years ago for dh's young cousins I made purses from old children's jeans (Goodwill). Just cut off the legs at the seat and sew it up. Add a strap. If you feel ambitious, line it with cool fabric or embelish the outside. They were a real hit.

I Spy Bag questions: I sew some, but I've never sewn with plastic. Is shower curtain weight plastic going to go through my machine? Are the contents of the bag enclosed in plastic enclosed in fabric or is the bag fabric with a plastic window?
Ligmom's Avatar Ligmom 11:02 PM 11-23-2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ann Marie
I Spy Bag questions: I sew some, but I've never sewn with plastic. Is shower curtain weight plastic going to go through my machine? Are the contents of the bag enclosed in plastic enclosed in fabric or is the bag fabric with a plastic window?
it should go through your machine just fine. I have made about 3 of these so far and I them! they are so cute
The way I made mine was just to cut the fabric and the plastic window, sew the window onto the front piece, then I sewed the two sides of the bag together on 3 sides with wrong side out. After turning it right side out, I put the goodies into the bag, and sewed the fourth side ALMOST closed. Then I used a funnel to put rice or bird seed into the bag...then I sewed the final 1.5in. closed

Don't know if that made since or not, but it was VERY easy, and it only took me about 30-45 minutes to make

I will try to post some pics of my gifts so far...
Wilhemina's Avatar Wilhemina 11:31 PM 11-23-2004
Thank you! That made perfect sense. They sound so great, I can't wait to try one.
Ravin's Avatar Ravin 11:58 PM 11-23-2004
That I Spy bag thing sounds really cool. I don't have a sewing machine... Oy, and I have papers to write, too.

Something someone else said gave me the idea to write a story. Problem is, my artistic talents are nil so even if I wrote an awesome story starring DD and my nieces, illustrating it would be tough...hmmm, maybe I could enlist my other sister. Probably ought to put that on the list of stuff to do for NEXT year, though. I have finals coming up and I think I can manage to sew a few beanbags but not to do any major projects!
sueami's Avatar sueami 01:08 AM 11-24-2004
just wanted to thank everyone for their ideas and add another...

we went to joann's fabrics last year and got a yard each of three different colors of shimmery silk-like fabric that has held up very well and that the kids love. a cheaper version of playsilks, esp when the fabric's on sale.

one thing i haven't tried yet but really want to make this year is to get four- or five-foot-long lengths of 1 inch wide ribbon in different colors and attach them to a foot long wooden dowel with some type of ring. it would make a great swirling rainbow ribbon wave to dance around the room with!

i love the idea for a joke book. thanks for the link to ahajokes.com!

i'm making melt-and-pour glycerin soaps this year again (buy the 5 lb bricks at michaels or joanne's with a 40 percent off coupon and it runs about $14, i think. that makes dozens of bars). i get nice essential oils from oneplanetnatural.com for the best prices i've found. this year i'm doing all lemongrass oil ($2.50 for 10 ml) which is reputedly a powerful immune system booster and smells lovely. i color the soaps with simple food coloring.

i had another idea or two but lost them in reading everyone else's wonderful suggestions! i'll post them if they return to me...
warmly,
susan
OwensMa's Avatar OwensMa 01:21 AM 11-24-2004
Quote:
one thing i haven't tried yet but really want to make this year is to get four- or five-foot-long lengths of 1 inch wide ribbon in different colors and attach them to a foot long wooden dowel with some type of ring. it would make a great swirling rainbow ribbon wave to dance around the room with!
Oh, I thought maybe a quilter's hoop would work for this. A bit of hot glue, and the outer ring would keep everything tucked in nicely. I don't know how you'd attach a piece of dowel though. The ring on its own might be alright though, and they can be painted too.
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