A Mishmash of Ideas and Holiday Tips

As we face the crush the Holiday prep, could you possibly use some help? Try these tips and ideas on for size.

Double up

When you cook this month, 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.


Electronic cards

You can save a lot of time and money when you send electronic Christmas cards, or eCards. There are lots of free sites— and offer the best selections.

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, 2018 is Free Shipping Day. Check for retailers who will be participating.

MORE: 9 Ways to Avoid Christmas Debt Even If You’re Short on Cash

Get cash back

If you’ll be shopping anyway, you might as well get some of your cash back. Ebates is by far the easiest and most efficient way to do that. An Ebates 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 Ebates account in-store, too!

If you’re curious why I’m such an Ebates fan, yesterday I got another Ebates 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 Ebates? Remembering to use it! Ha. However, they do make it pretty easy. I believe I’ll stop forgetting, now that it is putting money back in my pocket.

RELATED: 3 Ways to Find Extra Cash for Christmas

 Perfect 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.

Think consumables

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.

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.

MORE: Gift Baskets for the “Tremendous” Cooks on Your Gift List

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.

Holiday flowers

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.

Festive pillows

If you can sew a straight line you can make holiday-theme 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.

Small tree

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.

Wall art

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.

Window art

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.

Just wait

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.

The Trifecta

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.

Outdoors inside

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!

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4 replies
  1. Kay Jones
    Kay Jones says:

    Not free,but well worth the $14 a year. Check out Jacquie Lawson e cards. They have beautiful cards for all occasions and every year a wonderful advent calendar. I love the comments I get from the recipients of her cards. Check it out and see what you think.

    • Barb Ridge
      Barb Ridge says:

      I’ve used those for several years now. I have a dear friend who has been battling some serious health issues, and whenever I think she can use a pick-me-up, I send one of the Jacquie Lawson cards. At $14/year, it’s quite a bargain.

  2. Betty Thomas
    Betty Thomas says:

    I have a rustic planter on my front porch that I plant King Coleus in every Spring. After I pull the plant in the late summer I fill my planter with Pine Cones from my trees that I scent with cinammon oil. It is such a welcoming scent and the Pine Cones can be left natural, painted or sprinkled with glitter for a little more glam. Of course you can use any type of scent you love such as Nutmeg or Vanilla. The possibilities are endless. I get so many compliments in this simple welcome to my front door.

    • Deb Westmoreland
      Deb Westmoreland says:

      Do you then leave it outside?? Just curious I live in Northern Illinois and didn’t know how the scent would work in the cold.

      Thank you…Deb


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