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Gifts That Don’t Cost a Dime

Long on Christmas lists but short on cash this year? What you need are tips, tricks, and Gift Guides to help you save money, right?

“Save money?!” you sneer. “What if we don’t have any money?” 

That, my friend, is a reliable signal that it’s time to get creative. Often the most meaningful gifts and most difficult ones to give are those that cost no money at all.

A gift from the heart is a gift of time and talent. It’s going to require some (all?) of your free time over the next week or so, but it sure beats going into debt to buy a bunch of gifts for others—or missing out altogether because you refuse to show up empty-handed.

No one was more creative than my mother-in-law one Christmas years ago. I’d always admired her beautiful crystal, a wedding gift from her parents in 1942. Imagine how stunned I was when she gave it—all of it—to me. My favorite pieces are the water pitcher and cordials. Her gift, which cost nothing in terms of money, was and continues to be priceless to me.

Are you getting the picture? Great. Consider these idea starters to show someone you care that won’t require spending any cash at all. And please, add your own ideas in the comments!

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7 Fabulous Last-Minute Gift Ideas

Need a last-minute gift for an office party, your trusty mail carrier, a neighbor, co-worker or anyone else on your Christmas gift list? Here are nine great ideas that won’t take much time, and certainly won’t break the bank.

Woman Offering Christmas Gift

Give a treasure

Consider passing on an heirloom or family treasure to the next generation as a Christmas gift. Write a paragraph or two explaining the history or significance of the heirloom to go along with the gift. You will be preserving family history but not spending a dime. But here is the tricky part: Unless a person has expressed a particular love or desire for said heirloom and special treasure, do not assume your gesture will be appreciated. Read more

4 Things We Really Want for Christmas

Do you remember the TV show Supermarket Sweep? Contestants had several minutes to fill grocery carts with as much stuff as possible. But the winner wasn’t determined by the quantity of stuff jammed into the cart, but by the total monetary value at checkout. The contestant with the biggest tab won the game. 

The strategy is simple. Pass up the low-value stuff and load up on what’s going to pay off big at the checkout. Smart contestants had a plan of action and knew exactly where to head the minute that clock started ticking.

Portrait of friendly family reading book on Christmas evening

Christmas is like that. Once the season begins we start filling our “shopping carts.” We have lots of choices. What we choose will either pay off in terms of happiness, satisfaction, and pleasant holiday memories—or we’ll get negative results of dissatisfaction and disappointment fueled by guilt, obligation, and trying to meet others’ expectations. What we end up with when it’s all put away for another year will depend on the choices you make between now and then.

Measuring holiday value

In their book Unplug the Christmas Machine, authors Jo Robinson and Jean C. Staeheli say that while children may be quick to tell their parents they want designer clothes, the latest electronic gear, and brand-name toys for Christmas, underneath here’s what they really want: 

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7 Ways to Use Fresh Cranberries to Make the Holidays More Beautiful

The relatively short season for fresh cranberries (October through December) is now in full swing with bags of the ruby red tart fruit available in supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere.

 

Fresh ripe cranberries poured out of a wicker basket on old wooden table, still life in rustic style, selective focus

Here are some cranberry fun facts: There are about 440 cranberries in one pound, 4,400 cranberries in one gallon of juice, and 440,000 cranberries in a 100-pound barrel. Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries each year. If you strung all the cranberries produced in North America last year, they would stretch from Boston to Los Angeles more than 565 times.

Cranberries are as delicious as they are nutritious, but there are other ways we can use fresh cranberries—to make the holidays even more beautiful!

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A Mishmash of Christmas Ideas and Holiday Tips

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.

Double up

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.

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Electronic cards

You can save a lot of time and money when you send electronic Christmas ecards. There are lots of free sites—DaySpring.com and BlueMountain.com 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, 2019 is Free Shipping Day. Check FreeShipping.com for retailers who will be participating—and to grab hundreds of coupon codes, too.

READ: How to Shop with CASH at Amazon

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 Christmas Read more

Gift-Giving: What’s the Point?

The simple act of gift-giving has become extremely complicated. I blame that on the consumer credit industry.

Think about it: You can be completely broke but still spend thousands of dollars on Christmas gifts—and believe it is not only your right to do so but that you are obligated to do it.

The culture has created a message that we have to spend a lot on Christmas gifts to be socially acceptable.

Christmas vintage presents on a wooden background

Gift-giving is a custom that has pretty much run amok. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to make wise and reasonable decisions about the gifts we give.

How many of you cannot recall the gifts you gave last Christmas? How about the gifts you received? Come on, let’s see those hands. Okay, that’s just about everybody.

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White Fruitcake that Dreams are Made Of

I have no pride and, according to some, no taste. I love fruitcake. Sickeningly sweet, loaded with pecans, cherries, pineapple, and golden raisins; heavy as a brick and about four weeks old. Yum.

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Undeserved reputation

For some reason, which I cannot even begin to fathom, fruitcake has acquired a somewhat dubious reputation. It’s been horribly maligned— often referred to as “disgusting!” It’s the laughing stock of the season, which as a fruitcake connoisseur, I find completely offensive.

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11 Ways to Get the Best Online Deals and Discounts

Just about everyone who shops online knows to look for a discount, promotional code, or coupon of some kind before hitting checkout. According to Statista, in 2016 126.8 million U.S. adults redeemed online coupons, a number that’s projected to grow to 145.3 million users by 2021. But digital coupons are only one of 11 ways to get the biggest discounts and best deals this holiday season.

cropped shot of young couple shopping online with credit card and laptop at christmas

Coupon codes

Making it a personal commitment that you won’t buy anything online without a coupon code is something you’ll be able to carry out, almost flawlessly. Coupons and codes are out there if you know where to look. A simple Google search is one way. Another is to visit sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com. Totally stumped? Contact customer service or the online chat feature and kindly ask for a code. A simple “Is there anything you can do for me?” has been known to work very well.

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