Christmas gifts en-US Reusable Gift Wrapping: The Wrap That Keeps on Giving <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/reusable-gift-wrapping-the-wrap-that-keeps-on-giving" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="gift tins" title="gift tins" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Ah, what a wonderful time of the year! &lsquo;Tis the season of beautiful litter.</p> <p>According to the Environmental Protection Agency, holiday wrapping is responsible for a 25% spike in trash between Thanksgiving and New Year&rsquo;s Day.</p> <p>Oh, I know. You are really, <em>really</em> good about recycling. You&rsquo;d <em>never</em> throw all the used wrapping paper into the trash. In fact, your family laughs at you because you are so ding dang persnickety about removing all the sticky tape from the paper before you put it in the recycling bin. Well, guess what? That shiny finish on most wrapping papers makes it unrecyclable. Your annoying uncle who doesn&rsquo;t believe in global warming can now laugh at your naivety.</p> <p>Speaking of your annoying uncle, burning Christmas trash, his favorite method of holiday garbage disposal, is also terrible. While burning wrapping paper often results in magnificent colored flames in the fireplace, the inks and foils used to make gift-wrap contain a lot of chemicals that are toxic when burned. Roasting chestnuts over an open fire shouldn&rsquo;t involve lung or liver damage.</p> <p>The easiest way to reduce holiday trash is not to wrap your gifts. (Duh). Alas, this method of trash reduction isn&rsquo;t that fun, because most people get great enjoyment out of unwrapping gifts and watching others unwrap gifts.</p> <p>Fortunately, there are many reusable alternatives to gift wrap that are not only good for the planet, but can also save you money. Why pay for something that will only be used once and then becomes garbage? (See also: <a href="">10 Cheap,&nbsp;Handmade, and Green&nbsp;Wrapping Ideas</a>)</p> <h2>Reusable Cloth&nbsp;Bags</h2> <p>Reusable cloth gift bags are a growing trend among frugal and green families. Instead of wrapping paper, gifts are packed into decorated cloth bags that are used year after year. Drawstring bags are probably one of the easiest projects for the home sewist to make. For non-sewers, there are plenty of reusable gift bags on the market for just about every price point and holiday. Just plunk the gift inside and tie the bag shut. (For extra credit, use shoelaces, hair accessories, bow ties, or luggage tags as reusable closures).</p> <p>Because I don't have the space to store seasonal decorations at my house, Dinky Manor, my reusable cloth gift bags are usually referred to as, <em>ahem</em>, &ldquo;pillow cases.&quot;</p> <h2>Furoshiki</h2> <p>If you can tie a necktie or make an origami crane, then you have the hand-eye coordination necessary to use <a href="">furoshiki</a> instead of wrapping paper. Furoshiki are traditional Japanese cloth scarves that can be folded into a variety of carrying cases to transport wares or decorate gifts. Furoshiki are commonly used to wrap bento (lunch) boxes, with the furoshiki doubling as napkins or tablecloths. There are tons of free instructional videos available online that show how to use small pieces of fabric to wrap everything from glass bottles to books for beautiful portability. &nbsp;</p> <p>By the way, if anyone wants to make me a present, I would love a furoshiki cloth printed with this extremely Japanese <a href="">diagram of popular furoshiki folds</a> created by Japan&rsquo;s Ministry of the Environment. It's a gift that wraps itself!</p> <h2>Other Reusable Fabrics</h2> <p>As with furoshiki, a reusable wrapper can be the real gift. Consider wrapping small or breakable items in scarves, vintage linens, or even t-shirts. For example, you could roll sunscreen, guilty reading material, and maps into a beach towel (and tie with a luggage strap) to create a &ldquo;vacation gift package&rdquo; for your favorite honeymooners.</p> <h2>Tupperware</h2> <p>If you love holiday baking, forgo the dollar store disposable plasticware and buy reusable Tupperware containers that have a lifetime guarantee instead. Your friends and family will think of you every time they reuse the containers, long after the cookies are gone. If you are on a really tight budget, you can freecycle for interesting jars or metal tins instead.</p> <h2>Jars and Tins</h2> <p>I save pretty glass jars throughout the year. At Christmastime, I spray-paint over any ugly logos on the exterior of the jar lids and fill the freshly washed jars with colored gumballs that I buy in bulk. A handmade ribbon or a gift tag is all I need to turn recyclables into charming wrap. In addition to making cute and inexpensive stocking stuffers, the gumball jars are my go-to gift for postal workers, hairdressers, teachers, and anyone else who helps make my life better on a regular basis. And, if your jars or tins are cute enough, they will have a second (or third) life for the giftees.</p> <h2>Thrifted Casserole Dishes</h2> <p>Vintage Pyrex casserole dishes are easy to find at <a href="">most thrift stores</a>. Put the dry ingredients of your favorite brownie mix into a Ziploc bag. Put the bag, along with the recipe card, into the Pyrex dish, and tie the lid down with kitchen twine.</p> <h2>Plant Pots</h2> <p>Clay pots are an excellent gift-in-a-gift for gardeners or <a href="">new homeowners</a>. Simply put a small plant, flower bulbs, or packets of vegetable seeds inside a pot and use the saucer as a lid. Tie the saucer to the top of the clay pot with reusable garden twine.</p> <h2>Altoid Tins</h2> <p>Lastly, there are entire websites devoted to showing all the <a href=" ">ways Altoid candy tins can be reused</a> and turned into everything from flame throwers to pinhole cameras. Buy new tins of Altoids for stocking stuffers, but also print out a miniature instruction book or put links to your favorite instructions onto a USB drive to show the giftees how to turn the tins, once empty, into aftermarket DIY toys of their choosing.</p> <p>Ta da! All the surprise, and none of the trash. Happy (green) holidays!</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Reusable Gift Wrapping: The Wrap That Keeps on Giving" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Max Wong</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Christmas gifts gift wrapping reusable Mon, 17 Dec 2012 11:24:30 +0000 Max Wong 958199 at 10 Gift Ideas That Cost Almost Nothing <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-spend-almost-nothing-on-gifts-this-year" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="gift" title="gift" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="125" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>It&rsquo;s that season again, when your wallet starts to feel lighter and every purchase means a big nasty surprise when the credit card bill rolls around in January. I am not against spending money for gifts at the holidays &mdash; after all, this is the one time of year when people are spending money on others rather than on themselves. But the holiday season shouldn&rsquo;t be one of financial burden &mdash; it should be a time of joy. And there are few things as joyful as being financially stable and responsible with your money. (See also: <a href="">14 Gift Ideas for the Truly Broke</a>)</p> <p>How can you spend almost nothing this Christmas? By being innovative and resourceful when it comes to giving gifts, of course! Some of the gifts below won&#39;t cost you anything; most cost you very little if you already have some of the materials on hand. (See also: <a href="">31 Great Gifts That Keep on Giving</a>)</p> <h2>1. Buy Presents Using Old Gift Cards</h2> <p>I still had a few gift cards hanging around from when I got married, some of which were from stores I don&rsquo;t normally shop at. I had never used them because I never found anything I liked from those stores. However, I was able to find some thoughtful presents for friends who like those stores. I consider gift cards free money, so in this way, I was able to buy nice gifts without spending any of my own cash. Dig through your own desk drawers, and you&rsquo;ll likely find a few old gift cards too!</p> <h2>2. Make Baked Goods</h2> <p>For most of the friends and acquaintances on your list, a bag of cookies is a perfectly appropriate gift. Chances are you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry, and any you lack will cost far less than buying a whole gift. Wrapping the cookies up beautifully (in dollar store colored tissue paper) makes your gift look even more fancy and expensive. (See also: <a href="">15 Delicious Gifts You Can Bake</a>)</p> <h2>3. Make Cookie &ldquo;Mixes&rdquo;</h2> <p>Even easier than making baked goods &mdash; how about making mixes for <a href="">baked goods</a> or <a href="">hot chocolate</a>? You don&rsquo;t even have to pay for eggs or milk! Put pre-mixed quantities of flour, baking powder, sugar, and flavorings into a washed-out jar and tie it with a ribbon. Large glass pasta sauce jars make pretty containers for cookie and pancake mixes. Or make a peppermint hot chocolate mix with cocoa powder, sugar, and a crushed candy cane. Again, it&rsquo;s all about presentation. Decorate the jar with lovely labels, ribbons, and other crafty things, and your gift looks gorgeous and not at all cheap.</p> <h2>4. Regift!</h2> <p>Wince. I know, I know. Regifting seems kind of lame. But let&rsquo;s face it &mdash; we&rsquo;ve all done it. And if something that someone gave you happens to suit another friend better than it suits you, why not? It&rsquo;s the right thing to do. Just avoid regifting items that have been used, or regifting at a party where the original giver might be present. Now <em>that&rsquo;s</em> lame. (See also: <a href="">Guide to Regifting</a>)</p> <h2>5. Revamp the Traditional Gift Exchange</h2> <p>Instead of having a traditional gift exchange or Secret Santa, propose a White Elephant gift exchange. Everyone brings some junk that they don&rsquo;t want, and then you take turns swapping for the best stuff. You get to clean out your junk drawer and give a gift at the same time! One year, I hosted a holiday book exchange instead of a traditional gift exchange, where everyone brought a used book from their personal collection that they had read and liked. Again, we played a game of swap to see who could score the book he or she wanted. No purchase required!</p> <h2>6. Make Your Own Wrapping Paper and Cards</h2> <p>Wrapping paper can get expensive. Make your own by using brown paper bags and decorating them using potato stamps, stickers, ribbon, and bits of colored paper. Cut out the gift labels printed on Trader Joe&rsquo;s grocery bags. Use the comics section of the newspaper to wrap a gift. Plus you get brownie points for being eco-friendly and using recyclable and biodegradable materials. (See also: <a href="">10 Cheap Gift Wrapping Ideas</a>)</p> <p>For cards, download free printable holiday cards and gift tags from websites like <a href="">HowAboutOrange</a>, or make your own, more personal cards with paper, markers, and other materials you have around the house. If you&#39;re particularly artsy, you can even bundle several handmade notecards together as a gift that the receiver can use throughout the year.</p> <h2>7. Make a Personal Photo Album</h2> <p>Collect photos of you and a friend, and make a photo album out of scrapbooking or construction paper. Across from every photo, write a cute personal message. Bind the pages together with yarn or ribbon. It may not cost much (or anything if you already have photos printed), but the time and effort you put into this gift makes it a unique and memorable one. For friends who live far away, you can give them a variation of this gift for free! Create a Word or Powerpoint file (or if you&#39;re more computer-savvy, a video slideshow) with photos and meaningful notes that you can email to your friends for them to print out.</p> <h2>8. Get Your Craft On</h2> <p>If you&rsquo;re crafty, you might be able to whip up a beanie or scarf from some leftover yarn (it&rsquo;s not hard &mdash; my husband crocheted me a beanie once!). Or use the fabric scraps in your cupboard to make coasters or a cute pillow or blanket. Make <a href="">ornaments </a>from scrap pieces of wood and craft paint (for example, we&#39;re renovating our house and we&#39;ve got plenty of perfectly good pieces of pine lying around). Makeover an old wood tray with paint or decoupage. Paint pretty designs on smooth rocks to make paperweights. Stick an orange full of cloves to make a clove-orange ornament. Take a good look at the raw materials you have in and around your home, and see if you can make something with them.</p> <h2>9. Give the Gift of Service</h2> <p>If you have a skill, consider offering a valuable service to a friend or relative. For instance, if you&rsquo;re handy around the house, offer to build bookshelves, paint a bedroom, or do some home repairs. <a href="">Shovel the snow</a> for a week for a neighbor. If you&rsquo;re a good cook, offer to privately cater a romantic dinner for two. If you&rsquo;re a freelancer, offer a free family photo session, a free blog post promoting a friend&rsquo;s business, a free makeover, or a free design consultation. (See also: <a href="">20 Great, Free Gifts</a>)</p> <h2>10. Donate Your Time</h2> <p>If you can&rsquo;t afford to spend money on gifts this year, consider donating your time instead. Suggest that instead of exchanging gifts, you and your family volunteer at a local soup kitchen, nursing home, or food bank, or cook a meal for a family in need. You&rsquo;ll capture the true meaning of the season &mdash; caring for others, which might just be the best gift you ever give yourself.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Gift Ideas That Cost Almost Nothing" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Camilla Cheung</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Budgeting Shopping Christmas gifts frugal gifts homemade gifts Tue, 13 Dec 2011 11:24:11 +0000 Camilla Cheung 818389 at Creating a Memorable Christmas <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/creating-a-memorable-christmas" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Running Santas" title="Running Santas" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="130" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A Christmas memory that usually makes the rounds each year at my house is the story about the time we all watched as the entire, glistening Jell-O mold slid off its platter and settled, intact and jiggling, onto a horrified guest&rsquo;s lap. If you think about the moments that stand out for you around the holidays, chances are they don&rsquo;t revolve around an expensive gift or how perfect the dinner table looked. Instead, what we often remember are the unexpected moments that just, well, happen &mdash; perhaps in spite of our efforts to make everything go according to plan. Unfortunately, when it comes to planning for the holidays, we often focus on the gifts, the dinners, and all the other grand gestures we feel are expected of us. This is probably because they are just so much easier to produce on demand. So how can you let go of the commercial side of Christmas in favor of creating something of real value? Here are a few ideas. (See also:&nbsp;<a href="">How to Save Money on&nbsp;Christmas This Year</a>)</p> <h2>Focus on Fun</h2> <p>Rather than focusing on giving the perfect gift and making sure your house looks just so before guests arrive, lighten up and focus on making the day fun. If you are hosting a holiday party or meal, this applies to both you and your guests. Bring out some old family photos, give some gifts with a sense of humor, or set up a game. Rather than thinking of the holidays as some of kind of precious moment, consider it a party; whether you&rsquo;re throwing it or attending it, do your best to make sure it adheres to the #1 tenet of any good party &mdash; it&rsquo;s fun.</p> <h2>Toast to Traditions</h2> <p>Traditions help make the holidays memorable and give everyone something to look forward to every year. Whether it's making gingerbread cookies or engaging in some winter sports before dinner, this is a great way to put the focus on people rather than presents. If you don&rsquo;t have a tradition yet, start one.</p> <h2>Forget Perfect</h2> <p>Martha Stewart may lay a beautiful table, but rumor has it she sleeps only a few hours each night! Perfection comes at a cost, both to you and your wallet. Focus on the things that are really important, recruit your family members for help, and accept that life is not a magazine; in many ways, it's better.</p> <h2>Give Great Gifts</h2> <p>An amazing gift isn't one that costs a fortune, but one that makes you truly excited about bringing it to the recipient on the big day. Don't trudge to the store and buy things because you feel you have to. Instead, find or make gifts that have meaning for you and those who receive them. Most importantly, forget about cost and worry about choosing <a href="">small gifts</a> your family and friends will truly use and enjoy. This is definitely more work than buying big, flashy presents, but you&rsquo;re likely to feel better about thoughtful gifts you can really afford. Chances are, those who receive them will too.</p> <h2>Be Realistic</h2> <p>Problems and conflict with family often weigh on us during the holidays because we think it's a time when those issues should just disappear and be replaced by love and goodwill (like on TV!). It's not gonna happen, and you're likely to enjoy your holidays a lot more if you adjust your expectations accordingly.</p> <p>A lot of emotions are wrapped up in the holidays. Maybe that&rsquo;s why we so often strive to make things just perfect, no matter the cost to ourselves or our budgets. As for me, I&rsquo;ll be hoping for a little disaster. After all, if no one drops the Jell-O, what will we have to laugh about next year?</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Creating a Memorable Christmas " rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tara Struyk</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Family Lifestyle Christmas gifts christmas on a budget things to do Mon, 28 Nov 2011 11:24:47 +0000 Tara Struyk 794640 at My 5 Favorite Funny Christmas Gifts <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/my-5-favorite-funny-christmas-gifts" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Fruitcake" title="Fruitcake" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I got a lot of great stuff for Christmas.&nbsp;Some items were standouts. There were beautiful, seriously thought-out items, which I will treasure. And then there were the ones that made me laugh out loud. If you want to start buying for 2011 already, I have saved you some trouble. Get these:</p> <h2>A Fireplace DVD</h2> <p>Go ahead and laugh.&nbsp;Get it out of your system. I love this DVD. Even though we live in temperatures that average in the 80s, I miss having a fireplace during the holidays. There is something really cozy about sitting near the fire with a good book. That, my friends, is why the <em>Cozy, Cracklin&rsquo; Fireplace</em> DVD became one of my favorite gifts this year. You just pop it into your DVD player, and the logs burn down. It has hissing and crackling noises too. Mine has the option of Christmas carols or Mozart in the background, but I am happy with the snappy fire noise. </p> <p>I know what you are thinking: <em>Omigod, she is so tacky</em>. Yes. Agreed. No contest. I read the comments about these DVDs on Amazon, though, and I am not alone in my quest for fire. Lots of people like me find you can &ldquo;feel&rdquo; warmth coming from the screen. If you live somewhere without a fireplace, and you long for the reassuring ambiance of a hearth fire, this is a frugal person&rsquo;s dream. There is also no need to buy (or cut and split) firewood, stack firewood, check the woodpile for spiders, haul wood inside, clean up soot, or wreck your rug with hot embers. I love it. </p> <p>Here is a shopping tip, though. There are an unbelievable number of different fireplace DVDs on the market. Because I had dropped a last-minute hint, my husband shopped everywhere and the only one he was able to find locally was <em>Cozy, Crackln&rsquo; Fireplace.</em> But with all of this warning, you have the luxury of shopping at online retailers like and reading descriptions, ratings, and reviews to find the best version for your special someone.</p> <h2>Fruitcake</h2> <p>Are you still one of those &ldquo;I hate fruitcake&rdquo; people? Give it UP! I am not talking about the kind of fruitcake that our aged neighbor pulled out of her freezer and gave to us last year (&quot;I&rsquo;m not sure where I got this, or, um, when...&quot;). This was <a href="">Harry &amp; David</a> fruitcake, resplendent with chunks of dried fruit and nuts.&nbsp;Even my husband, who previously suffered from &ldquo;I hate fruitcake&rdquo; syndrome, had to admit it is delicious.</p> <h2>The <em>Hawaii Cook Book</em></h2> <p>Those of you who share my love of thrift stores would enjoy this book from 1965. My friend Betsy knew I would dig it. Anyone for &ldquo;Fish and Yam Fritters&rdquo; or &ldquo;Poi Muffins&rdquo;? This is a treasure, and it reminds me that I should comb more thrift stores for classic cookbooks. They make fun gifts.</p> <h2>Marshmallow Shooters</h2> <p>These are a HOT item here on the Island. Yes, we do have TV...but load up your camo-painted PVC pipe with a mini-marshmallow, pop someone in the eye, and you will soon understand why you cannot find mini-marshmallows for your baked yams around here at Christmas. You can <a href="">make your own shooters</a> or buy them online.</p> <h2>Farkle</h2> <p>After buying the neighbor boys a Yahtzee game at our local big-box retailer, my husband found a dice game with the rather bizarre name of &ldquo;Farkle&rdquo; (Patch Products, Inc.). I suppose that is really no odder than &ldquo;Yahtzee.&rdquo; Anyway, he decided we needed to learn how to Farkle. It is really fun, and I am not saying that because I just beat him 10,000 to 4,300. It is just something about the word, as in, &ldquo;Ha ha, you just Farkled.&rdquo; Saying it never gets old (well, yet).</p> <p>There you have it, readers, my five hot tips. Get ready for 2011. Can anybody beat THIS&nbsp;stuff? If you can, I would love to read about it in the comments.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="My 5 Favorite Funny Christmas Gifts" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Marla Walters</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">General Tips articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> General Tips Shopping cake Christmas gifts funny games gift ideas thrift stores Fri, 31 Dec 2010 13:00:13 +0000 Marla Walters 424508 at 10 Great Gifts for Teachers <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/christmas-gifts-for-teachers-10-great-possibilities" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="kid with gift" title="kid with gift" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>While there is no requirement for your child to give a holiday gift to his or her teacher, it is a pretty nice way to tell an educator &ldquo;thank you.&rdquo; My parents, both teachers, have received a wide variety of gifts from their students, and over careers of 30+ years, they have amassed some <a href="" title="Unusual Gift Ideas for a Memorable Holiday Season">interesting items</a>. I have compiled some favorites of theirs, as well those of a friend who recently retired from teaching.</p> <p>How about a mug imprinted with &ldquo;#1 Teacher&quot;? No. That teacher&rsquo;s coffee mug cupboard was probably full long ago.</p> <p>What about perfume? Nope. There are only so many gallons of Jean Nate that a teacher can wear in a lifetime.</p> <p>Wouldn&rsquo;t the teacher love a framed photo of your child?&nbsp;No.&nbsp;(One of those really showed up one Christmas, in a popsicle-stick frame.) Do you have framed photos of customers or clients around your home?</p> <p>Here are ten better ideas.</p> <h2>1. Frozen Ravioli</h2> <p>Winning the &ldquo;most memorable&rdquo; category, my father received a box of frozen ravioli. They were homemade by a family that had owned a renowned Italian restaurant on the Northern California coast, and they were absolutely delicious. He was thrilled with such a marvelous gift. While I think <a href="">ravioli are challenging to make</a>, a basket with pasta sauce, pasta, cheese, and bread would be really nice, too. (See also: <a href="">7 Savory Food Gifts</a>)</p> <h2>2. Cookie Mix in a Jar</h2> <p>For the teacher who suggested this, who was also a mom, this present represented the gift of time. She just needed to add a couple of things to <a href="">this mix</a> and could then bake holiday cookies with her own daughter. (See also: <a href="">15 Delicious Gifts You Can Bake</a>)</p> <h2>3. A Homemade Game</h2> <p>My dad taught a math class for math under-achievers. Part of his strategy was to play math-related games. A student made him a beautiful <a href="">wooden cribbage board</a>, which he uses it to this day.</p> <h2>4. Coffee</h2> <p>Just about everyone loves coffee, and teachers are no exception. My friend Nancy loved the coupon book she received for the local coffee shop. A coffee gift card is also a hit, and a bag of a gourmet blend is nice for the teacher&rsquo;s lounge.&nbsp;</p> <h2>5. All-Purpose Cards</h2> <p>Nancy also loved <a href="">student-made thank-you cards</a> that she could use right away. This was a gift that was both charming and practical.</p> <h2>6. Add to a Collection</h2> <p>What does the teacher collect? This idea requires a little sleuthing. My mother, for instance, collected snow-globes. She was delighted when a new one showed up as a Christmas gift.</p> <h2>7. Christmas Ornaments</h2> <p>I still have some of the ones that my mother received, made by little hands. I can even tell you which students made them because she was so thrilled with them. The <a href="">ornaments from Kaboose</a> are so cute that I need to borrow somebody&rsquo;s kid and make some.</p> <h2>8. Books</h2> <p>Some school book programs allow you to <a href="">purchase books for the classroom</a>&nbsp;according to the teacher&rsquo;s &ldquo;wish list.&rdquo;</p> <h2>9. Classroom Help</h2> <p>Field trips are pretty tough when you are trying to wrangle 20+ kids. A <a href=";pq-locale=en_US&amp;_requestid=27104">coupon for your time</a> would be wonderful. Elementary teachers often also need help with prepping for big projects. However, if you give the coupon, be ready to commit the time when asked.</p> <h2>10. Swedish Tea Ring</h2> <p>This is a <a href="">wreath-shaped sweet bread</a>. I think I made four of them for my daughter&rsquo;s favorite teachers at Christmas during her senior year in high school. They were very well-received. Besides the great homemade appeal, the wreath shape is very festive-looking.</p> <p>None of these 10 items is very expensive, but they are all fairly memorable. My father chimed in that he felt &ldquo;homemade things were always the best.&rdquo;&nbsp;I thought this was good advice, as many of us look toward simplifying holiday gift-giving. One caveat, though: If your children are not yet mature, you might want to limit their participation to making non-food gifts for the best chance of a truly appreciated and useful gift.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Great Gifts for Teachers" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Marla Walters</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Shopping articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Shopping cheap gifts Christmas gifts handmade holiday gifts teachers Wed, 01 Dec 2010 14:00:06 +0000 Marla Walters 344709 at 20 Fitness Gifts for $15 or Less <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/20-fitness-gifts-for-15-or-less" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="woman stretching" title="woman stretching" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="171" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Looking for inexpensive gifts or Christmas stocking stuffers for someone who&rsquo;s into fitness? Here are some ideas that will be readily available for $15 or less.&nbsp;</p> <h2>1. Moisture-Wicking Socks</h2> <p>These are handy for indoor and outdoor workouts. During the winter, wool socks with moisture-wicking capabilities are especially nice for staying warm and dry.</p> <h2>2. Gym Bag or Bin</h2> <p>A bag to carry a change of clothes, sneakers (or running or bike shoes), towel, water bottle, etc. is useful for those who want to work out before work, after work, or during lunch. A bin or basket to hold sports gear makes everything accessible when packing for an outing or race.</p> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 605px; height: 340px;" /></p> <h2>3. Base-Layer Tops and Bottoms</h2> <p>Base layers worn under other clothing provide warmth during outdoor, cold-weather activities. Tops are essential to protect the core of the body, but depending on the climate, bottoms can be useful as well. Base layers should be lightweight, flexible, and have moisture-wicking capabilities, allowing for free movement during workouts.</p> <p>Generally, base-layer garments are expensive, but you can get basic lines at your favorite discount store (check out C9 at Target) or search for them on clearance at your favorite sports store or</p> <h2>4. Blinking Rear Bicycle Light</h2> <p>Every cyclist needs one of these, even those who don&#39;t plan on riding before sunrise or after sunset. Lights can make cyclists more visible in low-light conditions encountered in a rainstorm, in a foggy area, or on a tree-shaded road.</p> <h2>5. Bicycle Tire Tube</h2> <p>Tubes come in various sizes, so make sure you get the right size. Cyclists often like to keep replacement tires readily available in case they have a flat tire or want to rescue someone else who has a flat.</p> <h2>6. Bike Computer</h2> <p>A basic model can give a readout of miles traveled (total and per trip) and average miles per hour. Even casual cyclists can appreciate this device. As a scout merit badge counselor, I have recommended that cyclists use bike computers to track mileage and plan trips based on average speed.</p> <h2>7. Water Bottle</h2> <p>More experienced athletes probably have loads of water bottles, but beginners may not have acquired many yet.</p> <h2>8. Water Bottle Holder or Cage</h2> <p>Many bikes come with a water-bottle holder attached to the frame. Some bikes have no holder in place but have fasteners for either one or two water bottle holders. Runners may also carry water with them using devices that attach around the waist (these are called hydration waistpacks or hydration belts), but these are generally much more expensive than cycling-related holders.</p> <h2>9.&nbsp; Swim Goggles</h2> <p>A friend recommended the Barracuda brand, which I use now. They have a tight seal so that water doesn&rsquo;t seep in.</p> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 605px; height: 340px;" /></p> <h2>10. Small Bag</h2> <p>Many cyclists need a bike bag to carry a spare tube, keys, cell phone, and food; a friend uses a second bag to carry a first aid kit. Runners may also like to carry a small bag that attaches around the waist to hold keys and a cell phone.</p> <h2>11. Race Belt</h2> <p>I don&rsquo;t have one of these but have seen people use them in running races and the running portion of triathlons. Race numbers attach to the belt so that safety pins are not necessary to attach the race number to clothing; safety pins can damage technical clothing.</p> <h2>12. Easy-to-Carry Sunscreen</h2> <p>Small containers of sunscreen and sunscreen wipes (or towelettes) are handy for those who need to reapply sunscreen during a long outdoor workout.</p> <h2>13. Jump Rope</h2> <p>Jumping rope can provide a great aerobic workout quickly.</p> <h2>14. Sports Watch</h2> <p>A sports watch with stopwatch capabilities can help runners time themselves when training and competing in a race. Watches with a heart rate monitor and GPS capabilities are much more expensive.</p> <h2>15. Fitness Snacks</h2> <p>These include energy gels, electrolyte chews, and less-expensive alternatives such as small boxes of raisins. Cyclists and long-distance runners will especially like these items, which they use to refuel when working out for hours at a time.</p> <h2>16. Shower Shoes</h2> <p>Pick up an off-brand at your favorite discount store. These are great to use in the gym or pool shower to avoid picking up germs.</p> <p><img alt="" src="" style="width: 605px; height: 340px;" /></p> <h2>17. Cue Sheet Holder</h2> <p>I&#39;ve never used one of these but have seen others with them at cycling events.</p> <h2>18. Do Rag</h2> <p>Cyclists with thinning hair can protect their skin by wearing a do rag under a bike helmet.</p> <h2>19. Bike Lock</h2> <p>A lock is especially handy when traveling or running errands with a bike.</p> <h2>20. Visor</h2> <p>The visor can help keep hair out of eyes and hold sunglasses in place while running or&nbsp;hiking.</p> <p><em>If you have a favorite fitness gift that is $15 or less, share it in the comments.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="20 Fitness Gifts for $15 or Less" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Health and Beauty articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty Shopping cheap gifts Christmas gifts fitness frugal gifts holiday gifts Tue, 30 Nov 2010 13:00:07 +0000 Julie Rains 341904 at 5 Rules for Planning Your Most Affordable Christmas Ever <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-rules-for-planning-your-most-affordable-christmas-ever" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Santa hat cat" title="Santa hat cat" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="250" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Welcome to October! Before you know it, Christmas will be here.</p> <p>Personally, I think that the better prepared you are for Christmas, the more likely you are to enjoy it. Over the last few years our family has developed some internal rules that help us make decisions regarding Christmas.</p> <h3>1. Give what you <em>have</em>, not what you <em>will have</em> or <em>wish you had</em></h3> <p>Honestly, I cannot identify with people who buy all of their Christmas gifts on credit. For years and years, I've known of families who are trying to get out of credit card debt who continue to spend more than they can afford on Christmas gifts. This may make for a decent December, but a horrible January.</p> <p>If you've ever read or watched a version of <em>A Christmas Carol</em>, then one of your greatest fears may be that people are going to look at you and think you are just like Scrooge. As a result, we give what we do not have and buy gifts on credit.</p> <p><strong>In your Christmas planning, you must establish boundaries.</strong></p> <ol> <li><em>Financial Boundaries</em> (often called making a budget) &mdash; How much money do you have to spend on Christmas?</li> <li><em>Scheduling boundaries</em> &mdash; How many Christmas parties can you logically attend?</li> <li><em>Hosting boundaries</em> &mdash; How many people can you feasibly host?</li> </ol> <p>As a result, 'no' must become a part of your Christmas vocabulary. For many, Christmas is about a time of over-commitment, so it is essential that we know our limits.</p> <h3>2. Giving a gift does not require buying a gift</h3> <p>You can communicate love for someone by giving them something that does not cost a penny. Somehow we've muddled love and spending together. As a result, we think those who spend money on us love us.</p> <p>For the last few years my family (wife and the kids) have exchanged homemade Christmas gifts. Those gifts are some of the most valuable items in my office. Have you ever heard the question &quot;What would you save if your house was burning down?&quot; The things I'd try and get would include the silhouette of my kids, the hand-print card, and the &quot;we love you daddy&quot; scrapbook page. (See also: <a href="" title="25 Gifts You Can Make Today">25 Gifts You Can Make Today</a>)</p> <h3>3. You must make a list, but you might need to check it more than twice</h3> <p>When I've written about <a href="">how to make a Christmas budget</a>, I suggest that people write a long list of everyone they want to give a gift to.</p> <p>At the very top of the page, write your total Christmas budget. If, for example, you plan to spend $500 for Christmas, then write that at the top of the page. Now allocate that $500 in portions to each person who will get a paid gift like a store bought item or a holiday gift card.</p> <p>Now review the names on your list and write one thing you can give each person. It might be a card, a homemade gift, or something you can give with your time, energy, or talents. Some people may just get a thoughtful card, others a gift that doesn't cost money, and others a gift that requires money &mdash; but everyone can get a gift.</p> <h3>4. Start saving money n-o-w</h3> <p>If you haven't already, you'll soon start noticing all the <a href="" title="6 Festive, Frugal Ways to Spruce Up Your Home for the Holidays">Christmas decorations</a> in stores (crazy, I know).</p> <p>Even though those decorations are being put up outrageously early, they can be a positive mental trigger. Christmas is coming. If you don't start saving now then how can you possibly have an all-cash Christmas?</p> <p>You might consider taking the total dollar amount you have to spend on Christmas and dividing that number by the number of months between now and Christmas. Since it is October, you would take your Christmas budgeted amount and divide it by three. Thus, a $500 budget would require you to save about $165 each month between now and Christmas. Is that possible? If not, you may need to decrease your budget.</p> <h3>5. Be watching for sales today</h3> <p>Time is always a friend of a savvy shopper.</p> <p>Stores almost always have sales, but they don't put everything on sale at the same time (typically). This means that if you start watching for sales today, you can snag a pair of running shoes for junior today, and then in a few weeks they might have a video game on sale. Far too many of us wait until the last week and are forced to pay full price for everything. But since you've already got your list, your budget, and you're even setting aside money, you can start taking advantage of sales now.</p> <p><strong><em>What tips do you have for making this your most affordable Christmas ever?</em></strong></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Rules for Planning Your Most Affordable Christmas Ever" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Craig Ford</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Budgeting articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Budgeting Shopping Christmas Christmas gifts DIY Christmas holiday shopping Wed, 13 Oct 2010 12:00:10 +0000 Craig Ford 259355 at