Did I scare you?
It may still be August, but nights are getting cooler. (We actually need a quilt again to stay warm!) The chickadees are back, their feisty 'dee-dee-dee's echoing through the scrub oak. Soon we'll lose the hummingbirds; they never stay much past Labor Day. And if all goes the way it often does, we'll have our first frost sometime in the next few weeks. (Then a month of warm weather...sigh.)
In less time than you think, it will be the holidays. Time once again to figure out what you're going to get for your partner, the parents and the kids... as well as crabby Aunt Tillie who lives in faraway Poughkeepsie. (Make it a book or video for her. Ships cheaper.)
I try hard to plan for presents throughout the year. Why? Because we can afford them easier this way, picked up one or two at a time, especially if I find them on sale or at the thrift shop. (Don't laugh at the latter...how many taped, unopened boxes have you donated after Christmastime? I rest my case.)
I also buy a good many things with gift cards I earn by using Swagbucks. Usually a hundred dollars or more...every year! I've mentioned this before, but it's worth emphasizing -- this program lets you earn by just doing the searches you normally would make. And I have had NO PROBLEMS with them passing my name on, or pestering me. In several years. How many programs could say that? If you're curious and want to find out more, click here. It's worth it.
This year's present-hunting expeditions have been different. For one, presents are slowly scaling down in favor of experiences -- meals out, movies enjoyed, trips taken. For another, both daughters (28 and 30, respectively) are at the stage that they appreciate one or two larger presents much more than a shower of smaller ones.
Okay with me -- fewer things to wrap!
I'm also more apt to buy "you mentioned this" presents (or their coffee) for good friends now and then. It seems more meaningful to remind them I love them all through the year -- not just at Christmas.
There's also Operation Christmas Child.
I still look for bigger presents throughout the year; in fact, one is coming shortly from Amazon for Daughter #1. But the major items I'll get from now on are stocking stuffers:
*unusual canned or jarred foods -- especially sauces
*black olives on sale -- we go through these like a house afire, and both girlies appreciate a can in their stockings
on Christmas day. (They eat them while reading the Christmas book(s) they also got.)
*free samples -- I request these all year round
*a small bottle of wine, beer or whiskey (not for The Mama, who's a dedicated teetotaller)
*dark chocolate -- plus favored candy bars
*imported truffles or cookies (if securely packaged)
*socks -- heavy wool ones are the big thing now
*small flashlights, especially maglites
*CDs or DVDs (often purchased during Walmart Black Friday's scramble)
*knit slippers and gloves (Someday, girlies, I'll knit these myself again. Promise.)
*gift cards (Starbucks, Qdoba and Red Robin dominate, but I'll buy anything useful that also offers an extra bonus.)
Our new son Keith loves all things hunting and fishing, so I usually look for small items on clearance after those seasons...plus the stuff mentioned above. Both daughters and the Brick hunt, too, so I'll look for fourpacks. (But NO pink camo stuff. Real women don't wear that for hunting. Ridiculous.)
The Brick often gets a package of cookies or chocolate -- but I've held off giving much more than that in recent years. He is a lovely man, but stocking presents have never meant that much to him... which translates to few or no stocking presents for me. I merely return the favor. He has more than enough sterling qualities to make up for this tiny glitch.
I'd felt a little guilty for leaning heavily on practical stocking presents, until I read Frances Stroh's memoir, Beer Money. (Yes, the people originally connected with Stroh's Beer.) Her parents had a ton of money to throw around, especially during the holidays. So what did they put in their kids' Christmas stockings? Practical things, like batteries, flashlights and socks. Go figure.
If you're looking for more budget ideas, try these posts. (They work for birthdays, too.)
Christmas presents just for guys. (From The Bluebirds Are Nesting)
Easy homemade gifts to make at the last minute. Perfect for "Oh no, I need a present tomorrow" panics. (From Don't Waste the Crumbs)
Prudent Homemaker has a 'Make A Gift A Day' series that's been running for years now. (She's got some great ideas for birthdays, too, including 'Harry Potter' and 'Frozen'-themed parties on a low budget.)
Six gifts under a buck. (From the Fundamental Home) In fact, this blogger has an entire section on frugal Christmases that's very helpful.
I also have fun rereading through Meredith's holiday posts for her 'resting' blog, Like Merchant Ships. (This section, a 'gift closet,' is especially helpful. See, she shops from thrift shops, too.)
A post devoted to stocking stuffers. From Thrifty Mom in Boise, who's famous for posting Christmas DIY projects year-round. These snowmen candy bars would be great for small gifts, package decorations -- and yes, stocking stuffers.
More ideas here. Here, too. And yes, here too.