As we face the crush of holiday prep, could you possibly use some help? Try these tips and ideas on for size—clever ways to do more while spending less.
When you cook, double your favorite meals and freeze the leftovers. Then, when you’re in a frenzy the few days before Christmas, you won’t have to fret about making dinner, too.
Shop from home
Shopping online can save a lot of time, frustration and gasoline. Finding free or reduced shipping makes online shopping even better. Dec. 14, 2019 is Free Shipping Day. Check FreeShipping.com for retailers who will be participating—and to grab hundreds of coupon codes, too.
Get cash back
If you’ll be shopping anyway, you might as well get some of your cash back. Rakuten is by far the easiest and most efficient way to do that. A Rakuten account is completely free, easy to set up. Then every time you shop online, make sure you have your Ebates account activated (it’s so easy—you’ll see once you have an account). And you can use your Rakuten account in-store, too!
If you’re curious why I’m such a Rakuten fan, a few weeks ago I got another Rakuten check in the mail—cash back for things I would have purchased anyway, including the rental car Harold and I used on our recent New England getaway. I didn’t expect it, but I’ll take it!
The hardest part about using Rakuten? Remembering to use it! Ha. However, they do make it pretty easy to add a Rakuten button on your computer’s toolbar or the Rakuten app for your mobile device. I believe I’ll stop forgetting, now that Rakuten is putting money back in my pocket.
READ: 3 Ways to Find Extra Cash for ChristmasPerfect fit
Some people say giving money as a gift is tacky. It is not. Money always fits. It’s never the wrong color and it works in any store or bank account.
Unlike a Gift Card, the recipient can spend cash right to the very last penny. Sales of Hallmark greeting cards that are designed to hold cash have increased so dramatically in the past few years, they are now the company’s top seller—evidence that currency is still in vogue and quite acceptable.
Consumables are gifts that will be used up, not stashed in a closet for the next yard sale.
Example: Forget the Easy-Bake Oven, the pricey toy that promises to bake cookies using a single light bulb. Instead, bundle a few cookie cutters, a mini rolling pin and a box of sugar cookie mix together with a certificate for Cookie Lessons.
Magazine subscriptions, food, theater tickets, personal care items are all examples of consumables—items that are enjoyed while being used up.
Listen right here to Day 16 of our 40-Day Christmas Challenge … and if you’re behind, you can play catch up too!
For the cook
Select a cookbook and choose a recipe from the book. Attach a card to the front that includes the recipe name and page number. Place the cookbook and dry ingredients for the recipe in a decorative basket.
Use your computer
Make a set of Thank-you notes or stationery, tie with a festive ribbon and place in an attractive tin for that one-of-a-kind gift. Don’t forget to include a colorful pen, envelopes and perhaps even a supply of postage stamps.
Photos make great gifts
Whether printed traditionally or on your home computer, a well-chosen framed or mounted photo can be a terrific gift. Take family heirloom photos to a quick printer to be photocopied on a color machine, even if the original is black and white. The duplicate will be so close to the original you’ll have a difficult time deciphering.
Find amaryllis, paperwhites, poinsettias and English ivy this time of year at a nursery or home improvement center. Placed in an attractive decorative container, they make a great holiday gift.
Breakfast in a basket
A hardy holiday breakfast would really start the day off right. Give a package of specialty pancake mix (maybe you have your own recipe) and a bottle of fine maple syrup. Put them in a neat mixing bowl. Add other appropriate items.
If you can sew a straight line you can make holiday-themed pillow covers for your throw pillows and bed pillows, too. With just a little effort you can add splashes of color and whimsy to any room. Use holiday theme fabric (now on sale in most fabric stores) and make closures with ties, buttons or hook and loop tape, so you can use these covers year after year.
Instead of a huge tree this year, opt for a smaller more manageable one. Set it on a table to give the visual effect of a taller tree. It will cost half as much, you’ll decorate it in half the time, with half the decorations.
Take down your pictures and wrap them as you would a gift, complete with ribbon and bow. Rehang. Grouping multiple pictures looks especially festive. You could do this throughout the house or just in the entry or living room.
Sponge stars or other seasonal shapes on your window with paint. Just add a teaspoon or so of liquid dish soap to acrylic craft paint. White and gold acrylic paint looks great. You will be able to wash it off with window cleaner. Use a non-scratching dish scrubber if you come across a stubborn spot.
Instead of buying that pricey Christmas decorator item now, make a note of it and then be patient. Buy it right before or after Christmas when it will be 50% to 75% off. You’ll have it for next year.
What you have
Use what you already have to decorate your home. Example: Stack different glass bowls and dishes in a pyramid effect for a centerpiece, filling them with marbles or water and floating candles. Showcase your collections in holiday vignettes.
Instead of trying to decorate every square inch of the house, focus on three simple things: a tree, your mantelpiece, and a wreath. Decorate them similarly.
Wherever you live, look to the natural world for a source of inexpensive decorations. Pile pine cones into bowls, thread dried apple slices into wreaths, string popcorn, pretzels or cranberries (or all three) to make stunning garlands. Wind twinkle lights into spray-painted tumbleweeds.
Look around for inspiration. Bring Mother Nature inside for the holidays. Her price is right!
First published: 11-18; Republished with updated info 11-30-19
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Question: What are your favorite Christmas prep tips and tricks? We’d love to know! Share them in the comments below!