Thursday, June 3, 2010

I’m Dreaming of an Almost Free Christmas

The race is on. 204 days to go. Actually, I followed my sister’s example by starting Christmas shopping right after the holiday. (When wrapping paper and ribbons are half price.) In addition to her discount strategy, a new idea popped up last year on a personal finance blog. This particular couple were on a mission to put their financial house in order, so they axed their discretionary budget. They challenged themselves to use accumulated “points” from credit cards, cash backs, rebates and the like to get gifts for each other. Even with these restraints, the presents were quite wonderful. It was sort of a financial epiphany for them. And for me.

I’ve always been one to make homemade items as part of the gifts. Special foods for the diabetics, or hand crafted things for the kids are my way of expressing love. Besides, it stretches a tight budget to accommodate eight siblings and spouses, eight nieces and nephews, three other relations, a grandmom, and the four of us.

This year in my quest for the perfect outlay, we’re pulling all the methods together. Survey points should cover several gift cards (for a couple of cash strapped relatives), a Cross pen, and an artist’s sketchbook. Not too shabby.

I’m skimming from the grocery cash each paycheck to stock up on food supplies and collecting recipes for terrific homemade treats. Plus, I’m setting aside the occasional very crispy dollar bill. Ah you ask, what are they for? Following online instructions, they’re transforming into a bit of money origami. Regular cash is so boring. This is spendable, with a twist.

Our local bump and dent grocer, Sharp Shopper, offered Cracker Barrel cheese in wonderful sliding top dovetailed wooden boxes this past week. Since the cheeses are coated in wax, and come to $2 a pound, I bought four. Ah the ideas are flowing on that one. Boxes have so many possibilities.

A couple things just plopped into my lap. They were cool gifts, free with postage, on the back of bread bags and cereal boxes, perfect for kids.

This spring’s batch of homemade dandelion wine ages even as you read. It should be really mellow by the holidays. Something special for the older folks.

To be totally honest, a few items were purchased on sale. The standard is, are they things with a “wow” factor, and do they suit the giftee? (Without saying, they have to be amazing bargains.) So at a going out of business sale I found a detailed book on knights, for a nephew, and a couple of gorgeous, (no exaggeration), journals for my sisters. Online, at a one day only promotion, I snagged a handmade Christmas stocking. Using a special code it even had free shipping.

With half the year over and twelve people to go, the quest continues. Keeping my eyes peeled, I never know what will show up. Should be fun.

(By the way. Feel free to use these secrets, just don’t tell anyone what they got.)

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