Simple Christmas

simplechristmasDH and I are enjoying a simple Christmas this year.

After handing out frugal presents and cards to our extended families a few weeks ago at the Thanksgiving celebration we’ve had a very laidback season.   Tonight we are finally putting up a tree with my beloved ornament collection and we already have a pile of presents to go underneath it.  Several presents came from family but DH and I also purchased many presents for one another this year respecting a low spending limit.  We love to drink hot cocoa, put on Christmas music, and setup the tree together one ornament at a time.

We have received a few holiday cards in the mail and have them setup around the kitchen in different places where we can read them over the next few weeks.  I did not send cards to everyone on our list this year.  Last year I sent cards out to an entire mailing list of over 100 people because we had just gotten married.  I spent so much money in cards and stamps at the post office 3 separate times to send cards before the wedding, after the wedding and at the holidays.  Instead, we are trying to slowly reconnect in person over the phone with a few friends we don’t get to talk to often to have meaningful holiday contact.

We’ve been listening to holiday music here and there over the last few weeks and watching a few new Christmas movies each week from our home collection.  We keep those in the closet year round but we took them out at Thanksgiving this year and started in on them then.  We already own 5 or 6 classic holiday movies and we rented a few new ones with our inclusive video store membership.  We also went to see “Four Christmases” at the theater this week 😉

We rejected 3 holiday party offers this year because we didn’t feel like dressing up and using our few days off each week to do parties.  We did have a small get together with friends a few weeks ago and watched a rental, played video games and ate pizza.  That’s how we felt we wanted to celebrate with those close to us this year.  See that post on cheap entertaining.

We’ll be hanging stockings and exchanging gifts on one night about a week from now but unfortunately we’re both working for the actual holidays.

Here’s to our simple, stressfree Christmas!

The Final Push to $1000

We’re up another $100 this month which we received in cash as Christmas gifts from family unexpectedly.  We’re adding that to our goal to turn our unwanted stuff into $1000 cash and grateful family did not buy things we didn’t need this year.

Cash is always appreciated.  We may also be exchanging some games and gaming equipment for cash this week for an additional couple hundred dollars.  DH is still reluctant to exchange it for cash instead of store credit but I think it’s worth it to take the cash since we still have $100 store credit on the card from other games he exchanged earlier this fall.

We are currently at $400 extra cash made this fall!  We were hoping for $1000 and plan to invest whatever we make in stocks in January!

Cheap Entertaining

DH and I had some friends over last night and shared in a bit of frugal “potluck entertainment” with them.

pizza

One friend brought a movie.  Another friend brought soda.  Another friend brought chocolate chip cookies.  We provided pizza and festive holiday bottles of grape juice (I couldn’t resist them!).  We talked about our jobs, watched a movie, and then played video games for several hours.  It was a lot of fun and everybody spent less than $10 to come.

Other ideas for cheap entertaining include:

-board game nights with friends

-video gaming nights with friends

-murder mystery nights with friends (we haven’t done this yet but hope to!)

-wine and cheese parties (everyone can bring one of each)

-cookie exchange parties (everyone brings several dozen of their own with recipes and then trades)

-pool parties (not recommended in the winter in cooler climates but usually someone has a pool, in our case it’s us, and it makes for a nice setting to have people over to visit during the summer)

Enjoy your friends without spending a bundle this holiday season!

DINK

Raising Quick Cash: The Push For $1000

Currently we’ve raised $300 cash over the past two months as explained in my last update post here.  While I don’t know that we’re going to make our goal of $1000, I do know that we’ve done very well and will invest in our small but growing portfolio whatever we can raise during this time.

Here are the items we’ll be listing this month:

1) Excess books from the library (we’re hoping to list 1 dozen each) and make $50 total after fees

2) Excess DVDs (my goal is to pick out at least 1 dozen total) for $25 after fees

3) Unused wedding gifts from the storage closet on ebay (perhaps $100-$200 worth of stuff)

4) Our extra t.v. since we upgraded with a dumpster dive last month on craigslist for $25

5) Several lots from an inherited collection on ebay (perhaps $50-$100 for the set- we plan to offer them cheap so they’ll sell but this means we have to do it ourselves instead of giving them to the local ebay store as we had wanted to do)

6) We have a lot of winter jackets.  I’m hoping to list 5 each on ebay to try to reduce the clutter of our clothes closet and make some extra money.  Probably $50 there.

Ideally we’ll list about $500 worth of stuff.  However, at this point, if we can raise an additional $250 from all of this during the month I’ll consider it a great success.  We’ll have $500 to invest in stocks and will probably expand on what is already in our portfolio presently so that we don’t have too much to follow.

I’ll report back later next week once we have everything picked out and listed!

Gluttons for Punishment

DH and I must be gluttons for punishment.  Our Roths have lost 40 and 45% respectively this year and we are still investing.  But with some of our favorite blue chips at such low prices… increasing our investments seems an irresistible prospect.  Let’s continue to hope that they do in fact bounce back with a vengeance when this is over.  It’d be nice to break even in the end 🙂

10 Frugal Christmas Gifts for 2009

Oops- you mean 2008 right?  This is the 2008 holiday season.  No, I’m looking ahead to the holidays for 2009 which is how DH and I are enjoying yet another “free” holiday season!  We paid for Christmas 2008 last year and will enjoy the fruits of our January labors all month long!

I received an email recently asking what type of frugal Christmas gifts DH and I gave to family and friends.  Generally we do the bulk of our shopping in January (sometimes employing gift cards) to take advantage of 90% off clearance items.  The email suggested that candles and bath products were the only products that could be purchased at this time which would last for a year.  Candles and bath products make lovely non-specific gifts particularly if they are holiday-themed and appropriate to the preferences of the recipient.  However, in the hopes that I can help expand readers’ minds I offer my secret: the gift drawer.

DH and I have 2 large plastic totes which we use as the “gift drawer.”  One is filled with clearance items for gift wrapping (bags, boxes, wrapping paper, ribbons, card tags) and sets of holiday cards which are all purchased at 90% off after the holidays.  We also have non-specific gift bags in a variety of styles and colors in there which can be used for birthdays, weddings, new babies etc throughout the year.  I usually find a few wine bags and/or boxes for $1 or $2 throughout the year at various sales.  When I find a baby or wedding appropriate gift on sale throughout the year (cheap baby clothes, receiving blankets and burp cloths, toasting sets, honeymoon/wedding paraphernalia) I put them in the gift drawer and pull them out as needed.  However, this post is solely focused on holiday gift giving so, without further ado…

This week we packaged up many of the gifts for this holiday season and I thought I’d share a list of 10 actual ideas we used this year to help with your shopping after the holidays.

1)  Wine

DH and I sampled a variety of tasty $5 bottles of “Barefoot” wine last summer and modestly priced bottles including Gabbiano Chianti, Kung Fu girl Riesling, and Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio.  We will wrap up two bottles at $10/each in a wine bag and give those to close friends, including a couple recently engaged and another couple who is celebrating their first year in a new home.  They also make lovely housewarming gifts or holiday party gifts!

cost: $6-infinite depending on the bottle you choose but generally no more than $20

barefoot

2) Wooden photo album

For those who love pictures but don’t scrapbook the albums offer them a chance to collect all their pictures together from the past year or a special life event this year (wedding, birthday, vacation, retirement party, anniversary) and display them attractively in their home.  Our recipient of the gift this year constantly had loose photos around her home so we hoped this would help her preserve those memories for years to come! These also make fantastic gifts with scrapbook supplies for newlyweds and mamas to be.

cost: $5.99 (at 90% off)

3) Matching photo frames

Attractive frames can highlight a special moment over the past year.  One family member welcomed several new grandchildren this year so we gifted a matching set of photo frames which she can use to display holiday photos of their first holiday together this year, and for years to come.  Of course, we didn’t even know  these babies were coming last January when we purchased the frames but if you look carefully you can find the right recipient for these gifts!

cost: $3 (at 90% off each $16 frame)

4) Holiday Table Setting

damask1

Another family member loves to entertain.  She is a wonderful hostess and always knows how to make people feel right at home.  However, the downside to frequent entertaining is that she is always trying to find new eye-catching accessories to impress her visitors.  We found her a lovely set that included a tablecloth, cloths napkins, and matching runner to use for the holiday season last year in her favorite color.  We hoped that she would be able to use it throughout the season so we asked her to open it early.  She loves it and has already sent pictures of her table set and ready for company this weekend!

cost: less than $10 after sales for $100 worth of damask table linens

5) Foodie Gift Packs

We’ve found great deals on foodie gift packs.  Over the years we’ve given “Corona buckets,” “Mexican themed,” “Italian Pasta Packs,” “Tabasco Chili Sets” and “Norman Rockwell Hot Chocolate Packs” at a cost of no more than $10 per pack.  These sets are regularly priced anywhere from $25-$40 at the holidays.  They often contain a food or snack item (which can be replaced if you don’t want to gift the food product a year later) but they also have fun mugs, bowls, games, and trinkets which the recipient will appreciate if they like that particular foodstuff! If they are loaded with snacks, they make great birthday presents for people who have birthdays in the months after the holidays.

cost: $5-$10/set after the holidays

6) Apron

A family member mentioned that she wanted an apron a few months ago and I knew I’d found one last year at the sales so I dug it out of the gift drawer and set it aside for her for this holiday.  As a bonus it’s decorated in her favorite country’s theme and I think she’ll absolutely love it as if it was purchased just for her.

cost: $2.99 (regularly $29.99)

7) Wine Connoisseur Book

I’ve had this one stashed for a few years.   It’s a book with pictures of wines, descriptions of the wines…and a place to record wines you have had.  It also has some places to affix favorite bottle labels.  It’s like a premade wine scrapbook of sorts.  A friend recently went to France to go wine tasting and will absolutely love this gift to record her memories from the trip and future wines she tastes as she is now really into this experience.

cost: less than $5 a few years ago

8 ) Christmas Memories Book

chrimstasbook

For the couple that got married this year, this is a scrapbook with places to add photos, journal entries, and holiday memories which will inspire an annual tradition of photos and memory keeping that provide joy for years to come.

cost: $2 for a $19.99 book

9) Bath Set

A girlfriend of mine loves “French Vanilla” scent and last year I picked up a 90% off box set of French Vanilla bath and beauty items.  Yes, soaps and bath beads have a place in the gift drawer.  Some people truly need and love the relaxation of soaps and candles to enjoy some “me time” at this time of the year! Also keep an eye out for 2 for 1 Yankee Candle Jars making them just $10 each.

cost: $1.99 for a $10 gift

10) Gardening journal, gloves, and hand lotion

These are separate items which I purchased on various discounts.  We have a friend who gardens and this set of gifts is thoughtful and appreciated at a cost of less than $10 for the gift bag of related items, regularly priced at over $30.

Holiday books and music, creative supplies such as paints/crayons/markers, and bakeware can also be purchased and stored after holiday sales in your gift drawer and gifted a year later without adverse effects.  I hope this post has inspired you to consider setting aside some of your holiday spending money until after the holidays so you can take advantage of sales and get started early for next year!  With a little creativity and patience you can find the perfect recipient for each of your gifts in years to come and spend a lot less money at the holidays!

UPDATE: Fall Cash Campaign

DH and I had hoped to raise $1000 in extra cash to invest in the stock market this winter by downsizing and getting rid of stuff we were no longer using this fall.

Currently we’ve raised $300 cash which is disappointing since the big ticket items went for lowest prices possible.  Smaller items are headed to a yard sale in 6 large garbage bags for payoff at a later date.  We normally earn anywhere from $50-$200 depending on how much stuff gets put out at any particular yard sale, the weather conditions, and the quality of our items.

However, we’ve also saved lots of dollars not buying new “stuff” to replace the old stuff and by finding stuff in dumpsters at our complex!  Still, that was not the plan so I’m not going to count it towards our $1000!

Our goals for November were:

unload the recreational equipment

-bring our newly acquired collection to the pawn shop, changed it to a local ebay store based on a great suggestion from a www.networthiq.com member

-dump our clothes on consignment from the annual paring down of the wardrobes

-go through our books and see what we can sell online (including textbooks and coffee table books that we don’t truly love and use)

-bring whatever does not sell to our friend for her spring yard sale

  So, we still plan to go ahead with our final month even though $1000 sounds a bit lofty now that we have $700 cash left to earn.  We will attempt to sell the collection, old books, textbooks, and unused wedding gifts still in the box via internet resources this month.  A couple of ideas that have been generated for this include:

www.craigslist.org

www.ebay.com

www.secondspin.com

www.half.com

www.dvdpawn.com

Join me in becoming a seller and not a buyer this holiday season and reinvest what you earn to the stock market to generate future income!