Welcome to Festival of Frugality #307

The “Why Does Everything Always Break at Once?”Edition.

First thing – an apology. This Festival of Frugality post should have been up yesterday morning, but as always seems to be the way, things went wrong at the worst possible moment. (Although my boychild reminds me, there’s never a good moment for things to break or go wrong.)

My computer decided that Monday evening was a great time to come down with the flu. Or in this case, a nasty virus that had my computer locked up tight for a while. Several hours, and a brand new install of Windows later all seemed to be fine. Back on track I could get the post completed and up by end of day yesterday. Or so I thought. Again, Murphy’s Law laughed at my puny attempts and decided that it was a great time to knock out the cable for nearly 24 hours so that I had no internet. Ok, so I don’t know that it was Murphy – it might have been the construction guys that happen to be replacing the elevators in my building and fixing the roof after the heavy rain this week. And maybe one of those guys is named Murphy. Either way… here we are with a late, but packed-to-the-brim with great stuff, Festival of Frugality #307.

Onward!

Christmas

Extravagance

Travel

Home Sweet Home

Everything Else

Thanks again to Ryan at Festival of Frugality for giving me the honour of hosting this week!
~ Merlene
photo “Broken Computer” by Tara Hunt used under Creative Commons license.
 

8 Holiday Knitting Patterns for Christmas Stockings

ball of red wool yarn

photo by simplyla

With only 5 short weeks left until Christmas we sometimes feels as though we don’t have enough time to think let alone knit up a few great gifts. With Thanksgiving just a few days away for most of the Frugal Family Life readers, the air is crackling with a mixture of excitement, stress, fun and panic is equal portions. Holiday music is playing in the malls. Many folks have their holidays lights up and will begin trimming the Christmas trees over the holiday weekend.

As I looked through my own holiday decorations the other day, I realized that some of our Christmas stockings are getting a bit tattered looking and it might be time to get some new ones. Which led me to dig through my yarn stash and do a search for free Christmas Stocking patterns. I’m going to attempt to get 2 matching stockings knit this year. Below are 8 free Christmas stocking patterns I’ve found online this week but I haven’t settled on a pattern yet. I love the simplicity and old fashioned feeling of the Striped Christmas Stocking. The Fisherman (or Aran) Stocking is so elegant in that creamy wool. Nicky Epstein’s Stocking is so fun and lively. My yarn stash has yield nothing that would be suitable for Christmas Stockings so I have a hunch that I’ll be leaving the final stocking decision until I’m in the yarn shop tomorrow to choose.

In the meantime, here are 8 lovely free Christmas Stocking patterns to knit that range from very basic to intermediate knitting levels.
I’ll share some photos of my stocking progress soon.

Christmas Stockings to Knit

Knit Christmas Stocking Pattern Books

There are some great knitting books with just Christmas Stocking patterns out there as well!

Amazon.com Widgets

Only 12 Weeks (That’s 84 Days!) ’til Christmas!

Santa Run
Did your heart just start racing at the thought of Christmas?

Are you one of those people who plans and prepares months in advance or are you one of those people that seem to get caught by surprise when December rolls around?

Do you set and stick to a Holiday spending budget or do you spend the 6 months after the Christmas Holidays paying off the debt you racked up on gifts?

Do you spend the Christmas Holidays enjoying friends, family, and the holiday season or do you wind up feeling tired, frazzled, overwhelmed, anxious and stressed?

I’ve definitely been the frazzled, tired, stressed and overwhelmed Mom during the holidays and I’ve had my share of years spending months paying off my credit cards after the holidays and it’s sucked the holiday spirit out of my home many times.

On the other hand, I’ve had Christmas Holidays that went smoothly. Gifts were all purchased (or made) and wrapped up months in advance. No last minute running to the malls. No pressure or stress. And believe me, those Christmas Holidays were wonderful and filled with Holiday spirit.

Over the next 12 weeks we’re going to bring you lots of ways to take the stress out of the Christmas Holidays including:

  • frugal gifts you can make
  • frugal decorations you can make
  • holiday party ideas
  • holiday recipes
  • holiday budgeting tips
  • holiday calendar planning
  • much, much more

If you have any tips, suggestions, or questions please contact us. We’re always happy to hear from you :)

Frugal Holiday: 8 Frugal Yet Fun Holiday Entertaining Ideas

The holiday season is in full swing, money’s tight but you want to get together with your friends and family. After all that’s what the holidays are all about – good times with the people you love. I’ve come up with a list of ideas for parties and get togethers that won’t break the bank.

  1. Tree trimming party – gather your friends and family around to help you decorate your tree. Serve hot apple cider and cookies and make sure you load up a bunch of great Christmas Carols on your stereo.
  2. Sledding or skating party – invite the gang to meet you at your favourite sledding hill or ice skating pond for a couple of hours of fun. Have a snowball fight, make snow angels, remember how much fun snow can be.
  3. Tree-cutting party – instead of buying your tree from a tree lot this year head out to the country to a Christmas tree farm and cut your own. Pack thermoses of hot chocolate and sandwiches and have a winter picnic while you’re out. This is especially fun if you have several families rounded up to go.
  4. Board game night – invite a group of friends over to play some of those old favourites like Monopoly, Scattergories or Rumoli. A tray of cookies or sandwiches within easy reach and you’re all set.
  5. Have a neighbourhood potluck – assign each household a course: appetizer, salad, soup, side dish, main dish, dessert.
  6. Craft night – for those of you who love to craft and are trying to make last minute holiday gifts, get together with your like-minded friends to share few hours of crafting while you catch up with your friends.
  7. Cookie exchange – gather up a bunch of friends, assign each a type of cookie (you don’t want everyone to make Snickerdoodles do you…. hmmm… or do you?), everyone makes enough of one type of cookie to swap with the others. This is a great frugal practise. Instead of buying ingredients for several types of cookies you only buy ingredients for lots of one.
  8. Food exchange party- Why limit yourself to just cookies? Why not gather with friends and batch cook cabbage rolls, lasagana, stew, chili and other freezable make-aheads.

Feel free to add any of your own frugal yet fabulous holiday entertaining ideas in the comments below!

Win $500 Wal-Mart Gift Card!

500 dollar Wal-mart Gift Card Giveaway

One of the best parts about being one of Wal-Mart’s ElevenMoms is the opportunity to give great prizes away to my readers and subscribers.

Nickelodeon has teamed up with the Elevenmoms and Wal-Mart to offer you a chance to win a $500 Wal-Mart gift card just in time for the holidays. I’m sure you can think of lots of ways to use that card and entering is simple. Just follow the steps below for your chance to win and then head on over to the ElevenMoms website for more chances to win.

How to enter:

  1. Follow me on Twitter.
  2. Sign up for the Frugalous Monthly Newsletter (sign up is on this page).
  3. Post a comment below with ONE money saving tip for the Holidays, your twitter user name, and the email address you used to sign up for the newsletter.

This contest ends at 11:59pm EST on December 14, 2008.
Please note that you must complete all 3 steps to win! Good luck!
Winner will be notified by email on December 15, 2008 and will have 24 hours to reply.

EDIT: a reminder folks – you need to comment with 1. your money saving holiday tip AND 2. your twitter user name used to follow me AND 3. the email you used to sign up for the monthly newsletter. If you do not have all THREE of these in your comment you will not be eligible to win!

8 Ways to Stick to a Frugal Holiday Gift Budget

The holiday season is the time of year when even the most frugalous of the frugal have difficulty sticking to budgets. Here are 8 ways to to stick to a frugal holiday gift budget without losing your marbles:

  1. Always shop with a list of names, spending limit, and ideas. Stick to your list and don’t be dazzled into impulse spending by store displays.
  2. Stick to your budget. If you’ve budgeted $25 for Cousin Joe and you can’t find a sweater under $30, move over to accessories and maybe grab him some gloves. If you go even $5 off your budget per person it will add up quickly!
  3. If you shop early in the season and discover later that an item you bought has been discounted, take it back to the store. As long as you have the receipt, chances are they’ll refund you the difference.
  4. Buy gift cards for the hard to shop for people in your life. Teens, grandparents, and even cranky uncles can always find a way to use the gift card in their favourite stores.
  5. If your budget is really tight this year, give a homemade gift like cookies or a gift of your time, such as volunteering to babysit or mow an elderly neighbour’s lawn.
  6. A family photo album or your family history on dvd is a great and invaluable present for a elderly, housebound or out of town relative
  7. For large or extended families put everyone’s name in a hate and have each family member draw a name and buy a gift for that one person.
  8. Limit your gift list. If you prefer not to exchange gifts with a friend, neighbour, or co-worker this year, just say so. It’s very likely that she’s trying to pare down her Christmas list too!

Frugal Holiday – Wrap Gifts as you Go to Save Time

photo by MicheKerr If you’re anything like me you’ve likely started, or perhaps even finished, shopping for the holidays. One of things I dislike most is being faced with a mountain of gifts to wrap all at once. It takes any pleasure from wrapping and decorating package when you’ve a dozen or more to do at once.

When my kids were young I began wrapping the gifts as I bought them and stacking them on a closet shelf.  No ribbons, gift tags or other decoration. I’d just wrap at that point. In soft pencil on or near the tape I’d put a small symbol to represent which person it was meant for. Squiggle, circle, star, square, etc. Just something easy to let you know who each gift is for when the time comes to put them out.

A week or so before Christmas, once the tree was up and decorated, I’d take down the stack of gifts and decorate with ribbon and gift tags to place under the tree which only took a few minutes.

I found my kids were less likely to snoop through the gifts if they didn’t know who they were for and the ribbons were less likely to get squashed plus it took the stress out of gift wrapping.

Sometimes it’s just as important to be frugal with your time as it is with your money. Any little tricks that preserve your sanity during the holiday season counts as frugal in my book!