I Go Nuts at Christmas (or Not!)
More and more folks seem to think that with more money and less time, they need to go ‘all out’ at Christmas, and if a kid says ‘I want’, they get. Advertisers work hard to convince the kids they need said toy and that the parents are lousy if they don’t buy everything their little darling wants.
Studies have been done over many years showing that Americans spend up to 70% of their disposable income for the year in the 30-day time slot between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Disposable income is that money you have left after paying the monthly bills: Rent, utilities, food, gas, etc. If you figure you have $100 disposable income left each month, you are spending over $800 on Christmas and that is if you go ‘cash’. A whole lot of folks use those handy dandy credit cards, and overspend! I learned many years ago that I couldn’t afford the expensive stuff and had to make things myself. I’ve learned to sew, bake a fairly decent loaf of bread, cake or pie and make do with whatever is on hand.
If you really look at the stuff in the fancy catalogs, sometimes it’s a tiny little jar of jam in a box full of ‘Easter grass’. I’m not going to spend my hard earned money that way so I’ve learned to use yard sale baskets, pretty tins, canning jars and other containers to fill with my own cookies, jams, and other homemade treats. And, they look just as good as the fancy stuff and cost a lot less!
I can buy a bar of white bark candy and a bag of mini pretzels and make my own version of candy-dipped pretzels for under $5, including the container! I’ll take a canning jar of homemade salsa and a bag of chips and box it up in some shredded comic strip pages. Looks good and costs little.
I’ve been known to mix up some dried beans of various kinds and attach a recipe for ‘blizzard soup’. Again, packed in shredded comic strip pages (the colored ones) it looks like the ‘spendy’ ones for very little cash outlay. You know your own family and what they really need, versus what they want. You can plan accordingly, and within your budget.
Look to nature for part of your decorating this year. The possibilities are endless and don’t cost much; just a little time for gathering the material. Pine boughs with cones still attached, cedar or juniper branches with their dark blue and silver berries peeking out from the needles, bittersweet vines with their bright orange berries popped open to look like flowers after frost time can be found and gathered early in the month of December, or even earlier, depending on where you live.
Swags and wreaths can be made from wraps of old wire and hung on a door, gate or even a fencepost near the gate. After the season, put the inside decorations outside for the winter birds to enjoy. The overwintering robins love the cedar and juniper berries and pinecones can be dotted with some peanut butter and some sunflower seeds rolled through it makes a ‘birdie feast’.
Nature’s Gift Ideas
If some of your friends or relatives have fireplaces or wood stoves, so they need ‘fire starters’. These can be made from pinecones. Just melt some old candles or even crayons and dip part of the cone in the melted wax and let dry. A big recycled basket of waxed cones decorated with a bow is inexpensive, but much appreciated. (I’ve seen these in specialty stores starting at $35 and up!).
Spice mats are wonderful gifts too, and they are easy and inexpensive to make. You need some whole allspice, a cinnamon stick or two and a handful of whole cloves, and a bag of cheap rice.
Break up the spices with a hammer and mix with 1 cup of the rice. Cut two 8” squares of fabric and one of something soft, like a scrap of quilt batting or a piece of an old blanket. Put the two pieces of fabric (wrong sides together) and lay the other soft piece on top. Stitch on three sides by hand or machine and turn right side out. Divide the square into three parts and stitch through all the layers, making three small pockets. Fill the pockets with the spice/rice mix, and then stitch the opening shut. Used as a hot mat under a teapot or casserole dish, a sweet and spicy scent will fill the air. Fun, and easy to make.
Purchase a straw wreath. (I found several at a yard sale for a just quarter apiece.) Decorate these with odds and ends of silk flowers. I asked a neighbor who had a sunflower field if I could cut a few of the heads before they combined. He gave me permission and I got enough to wire a head in the center of each of the wreaths.
These were given to friends and family who are avid birdwatchers and have feeders located near windows. A big hit, and fairly inexpensive to make. (Tip submitted by AC, IA)
Senior Citizen Gift Ideas
These ideas will work for those who still live in their own homes, or perhaps senior apartments or assisted living/nursing homes:
(Ideas submitted by MBW, NE)
Gifts For Teachers
I have two sisters that are teachers as well as several friends that have taught since their college days, years ago. Folks forget that teachers spend untold extra hours with our children during the holidays preparing for all those Christmas programs, pageants, plays, musicals, etc. Many times, their own ‘home time’ is very shortened.
I asked several of the teachers what they and their families would like from the students. And the answers are as follows:
Teachers always appreciate hand lotion and pretty soaps. A couple of them said they also enjoy a box of assorted cards to give to their students on special occasions.
Personally, I always bake holiday gift goodies weeks ahead of time. Stretches out the expense over several weeks and I don’t get frustrated trying to get everything done at the last minute.
Aside from saving last year’s Christmas wrap, I do what my aunts learned to do during the Depression. I iron it flat and use it over and over again. Gift-wrap can be expensive, and is something that is often tossed aside and unnecessarily sent to the trash.
Homemade Stickers For Kids
Cut out pretty pictures from seed catalogs, magazines with colored pictures of cars, dogs, cats, etc. or farm magazines with their machinery and animals.
Mix together two parts white glue (like Elmer’s) and one part white vinegar. Paint this on the backsides of your cut out pictures. Let dry completely and package in a small box or an envelope and give to the child. I like to give a package of plain, white typing paper with something like this with instructions that the stickers are to be pasted ONLY to the paper. This eliminates the kids putting stickers on the good furniture, the refrigerator or the dog. (Tip submitted by ET, TX)
Attention: If you have tips or ideas to share, send them to Pennywise, Box 518, Kadoka, SD 57543 or email them to [email protected].
P.S.: Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond!