Cutting the cost of holiday giving doesn’t mean not giving gifts – it means you change your attitude and strategy to fit your pocket.

Agriculture is mostly a once-a-year paycheck. Next fall is a long way off, and we have 12 months of bills to keep paid up – so we make a lot of our gifts.

We listen to folks all year long say, "Gee, II’d sure like a ________(fill in the blank)."

If you find that item on sale or can make it for that person, the gift means a lot more than just anything slapped in wrapping paper!

Always pay in CASH. By starting early, like October, you can stretch the buying out over time so you won’t have any credit card payments come January.

We made a lot of the toys for our children. Wooden blocks cut from ends of lumber, sanded smooth and then either painted (or not) and put in a container for safekeeping. This made for many hours of building things, and we didn’t spend the $30 to $40 for the commercially made blocks. We also decorated the cardboard box with glued-on gift wrap and it lasted for years.

We also shopped for things for ‘busy boxes’ for the smaller children nearing school age. Crayons on sale for 25 cents a box, glue sticks for 10 cents each, 25 cents for four to six pencils, a ream of paper ($3 for 500 sheets), and a pair of blunt-nosed school scissors for under a dollar. This keeps the kids busy for days and days, drawing, cutting and coloring.

For the ‘Drama Queen’ who loves to pretend, a ‘Dress-Up’ box can be made of yard sale items: Jewelry, fancy dress shoes – what little princess doesn’t love to trip around in high-heels! A fancy dress can be cut to size with a pair of shears so the little ones don’t trip. We go to thrift stores for these things and for under $10 you can dress the princess in style!
Home made play dough is also a welcome gift and easily made with one of the many recipes available in craft books and on-line.



As the stores clearance their summer merchandise like paper plates, napkins, and tablecloths, you can get ahead of the game and stretch those holiday dollars a little bit further.  I buy the paper tablecloths for 50 cents at this time of year, and then use them to wrap gifts for Christmas – especially for the little ones.  They don’t care what is printed on the paper; they are going to rip it off anyway to get to the toys inside. Why spend $5 for a fancy roll of gift paper that will end up in the trash?



Many of our Christmas gifts are food items, either made up for immediate enjoyment or in the form of a basket of baking supplies for those who love to make their own goodies. I watch for sales on things like chocolate chips, nuts, colored sprinkles, brown and powdered sugars, cooking oil and butter/shortening.

Be sure and check the prices on different brands of the sugars, etc.  Many times the ‘advertised brand names’ will be double the cost of the store brand. When it comes down to it, sugar is sugar, flour is flour, corn syrup is corn syrup (you get the picture. Compare the prices and save many $$$!

These items are placed in baskets, boxes and bags that are found at yard sales. Once decorated with some inexpensive wrappings these thoughtful gifts are very cost effective.

We also make jams, jellies, pickles and relishes during the summer/fall months when the farmer’s markets are full of good, healthy fruits and vegetables.  Why pay $8 or $10 for a jar of expensive jam when you can make five or six jars of jam for the same amount of money, especially if you have several people on your list to give to?


Almost anything can go in a stocking for Christmas. Start stashing these away now:

  • Baseball or football cards
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Tools of all kinds, screwdrivers, tape measures, folding rulers, pliers, small hammer
  • Decks of cards
  • New paperback books
  • Gloves of any kind
  • Handkerchiefs.
  • Stocking caps
  • Stickers.
  • Sock

Basically, anything small that can be purchased for under $3 can be a stocking stuffer.



For those of you who love the scented bath powder, but hate to pay ‘that much money’ for it, here’s a tip from a reader:
Measure out the scented bath powder into a measuring cup, perhaps a quart size, and then put that into a large bowl, then measure out the same amount of cornstarch. (Yes, the kind you buy in the grocery store.) Mix the starch with the scented powder and you have doubled the amount for around a dollar!

This same reader also said that folks with babies should read labels because quite a bit of the ‘baby powder’ found in the kids section is nothing more than simple cornstarch.

I used plain cornstarch when my children were babies because they tended to develop rashes when I used the scented products. I assume they were allergic to the chemicals that made the stuff smell pretty!



A reader writes:
I bought a nice looking teakettle at a yard sale for a dollar and when I got it home, I found out why it sold so cheap: It had a ‘crust’ of mineral deposit almost three-quarters of the way up on the inside. I took three cups of white vinegar and six cups of water, put it in the kettle and simmered the mixture for a good 30 minutes or so and then dumped it out. Most of the white deposit came off the first time through. I repeated the mixture a second time and have been rewarded with a wonderful ‘new to me’ teakettle for the added cost of 50 cents worth of vinegar and a little time.



When I hard-boil eggs, I like to cook a dozen at a time as they keep for several days and that will save time and energy.   I put a few drops of food coloring in the cooking pan at the start. The eggs get a little bit of color so I can tell which are cooked and which are raw.

COATING MIX for MEATS (almost free)

A reader suggests that you save those last few bits and crumbs in the bottom of cereal boxes, pretzel bags, chip bags, and cracker sleeves.  She saves these crumbs in a bag in her freezer until she has about 2 cups of the ‘stuff’, then runs it through the blender or food processor and adds some flour and seasoning salts.  She then uses this mixture to coat her meats for grilling or frying. She says it’s not the biggest money-saver, but all of the little hints and ideas like this that you use helps to stretch that bottom line a longer ways and with a family, that is important.


My children loved Halloween. They always made up their own costumes from old clothes, some of mom’s makeup, and scrounged whatever they needed. Old sheets work pretty well torn into strips for a zombie, or just put over your head with eye holes for a ghost costume. Costumes out in the country are different that those of the ‘city’ kids because going trick or treating out here means a minimum of a four mile ride to the nearest neighbor’s house – so costumes were, by necessity, pretty simple because getting in and out of a vehicle a dozen times is a challenge if you are wearing something long and dragging behind you.

Encourage the children to be creative and make their costumes from things they find around the house. You will be surprised at what they can come up with for very little cash, and it’s very good for their imagination!

 if you have tips or ideas to share, send them to Pennywise, Box 518, Kadoka, SD 57543 or better yet, email Pennywise at [email protected]
P.S.: Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond.