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Posts from December 2012


HOME MADE CHRISTMAS
Many of us are finding our purses are a little more pinched this holiday season, and may be scrambling to put together an affordable Christmas for our families.  In our own family, we're fortunate in that our parents and siblings have been very kind to our kids, but that doesn't mean we don't want to leave something under the tree for them from us, to remind them that we love them and we're thinking of them (even if we occasionally have to reintroduce ourselves to them after a long work week.) 

Over the last couple of years, we've come up with some creative gifts.  I'm a big proponent of home made elements.  Paper mache and unpainted wood boxes can be cool and personal presents when they're dressed up with leftover paint and decoupaged with downloaded photos of family events.  Add some bargain candles, some inexpensive makeup and a mirror glued on the inside cover (in my daughter's case), or even home baked cookies or bon bons, and you have a thoughtful gift that makes an impact.

My favorite gifts from my dad and my mother-in-law are their paintings and photos.  Both of them have talent and excellent eyes for composition.  My late mother thrilled the family with her exquisite pinecone wreaths one year, and she could sew an outfit that would put the pros to shame. 

Maybe your skill is on the computer.  Offer to construct a website.  Gardening or yardwork?  Bet you could start some clippings for someone in a (discount) pot tied with a bow. 

Not trying to sound like Martha Stewart here (if you saw my house, you'd know that is soooo not me!) but you can find a way to show your loved ones you're remembering them for the holidays, without putting yourself in the poorhouse.  You may also find that pulling together your gift puts you in the holiday spirit, too!
Merry Christmas from the Monk & Kelly Family
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BRAVING THE CHRISTMAS CRUNCH

Lots of us are dashing around, trying to affordably buy gifts to remind those we care about that we do care about them, even if our daily worries and too-busy work schedules force us to put them on the back burner sometimes.

Don't let guilt force you into spending more than you can afford, though. Savvy shopping can save you money and net you smiles from those who get your gifts.   Here are some tips to remember before hitting the aisles:

1. Gather all the pertinent information you need to effectively shop. Who needs a gift? What are their preferences? Where do they shop?  

2. When it comes to clothing, what are their sizes, favorite colors and most complementary styles? (It's not a good idea to get a caftan for someone who should be wearing straight lines.)

3. When it comes to household items, what is their color scheme and style of décor? It doesn’t make sense to give something frilly to someone whose home is ultracontemporary.

4. When it comes to recreational items, what do they already have? Is your gift meant to complement it, as in a game, attachment or accessory? My son gave me a couple of really specific suggestions for computer games and reiterated—twice—that they were for PC. 

He reminded me—twice—that we no longer have an Xbox. I’ve heard plenty of stories from moms who have bought games during sales that were not for the right equipment, which created disappointment Christmas morning.

5. Check out advertised sales. That doesn’t mean just in the media; go to the actual store you think will have your desired items and see if it is promoting a sale. Ask the clerks—yes, many will tell you! Keep a log of where you’ve been and what was available there.

6. Go on the store websites and see if they’ll offer you a deal if you buy online—many do! You’ll save gas and time if you can order it through the Web; however, you may incur shipping costs, and it’ll be up to you to decide if the gas money saved is worth the mailing expense. Some websites will waive shipping costs on special days.

7. Check store websites for coupons and see if the coupons can be used in addition to any discounts. You may find you get a better deal holding off until after the holiday sale and using the coupon if it can’t be used on sale items.

8. Map out your route. Which stores are in the same proximity? You waste gas zigzagging around town if you don’t have a plan of what you’re buying and where.

9. Dress comfortably but not like a slob. If you dress for respect, you're more likely to get it from the clerks.

10. Keep your receipts and your shopping bags. Both will make it easier to return items if your gifts didn’t quite hit the mark.

11. Hide your purchases in your vehicle. I usually make sure I take the car with the trunk. And if I think someone’s watching to see where I parked, I either take the long way to my car, or head to a security guard and strike up a conversation until the person—or feeling—goes away. 

A lot of thefts happen this time of year, and you don’t want someone to do their “shopping” in your vehicle because they liked what they saw in the window.

12. Don’t let yourself be distracted at the register by something that looks like a “great buy.” As my late mother used to say, “It’s not a bargain if you don’t need it!”

 If you're in a position where your finances are strained, and many of us are, think about going the do-it-yourself route. 

Homemade baked goods presented in a lovely box that you bought unpainted (4 bucks at my favorite discount stores) and dressed up with leftover paint, markers or decoupage is an inexpensive but thoughtful gift. I've used the same trick with inexpensive candles and makeup.  Print photos of special events including the person you're gifting on regular letter paper, cut them out and decoupage them in a design on your bargain box after you've painted it. 

Instant heirloom, and a very thoughtful gift.

And hokey as it may seem, it really is the thought that counts.

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