Thinking Outside the Gift Box

It’s holiday shopping season again. We popped into Kroger and Sam’s Club over the weekend to do a couple of side hustles and whoa! both places were almost too crowded to walk though. The back aisle of Kroger, near the turkey bin, was impassable and there must have been a smoking sale on fuzzy blankets at Sam’s because we saw two different shoppers with carts full of them.

While everyone else was spending money, we were earning it (and sampling snacks from the food demos along the way). We made $49 through Easy Shift and Field Agent and both surpassed our goal on the Shopkick app – to each earn a $25 Amazon gift card. Add that to the hotel audits we did on Wednesday evening and we hustled our way to an extra $123 this week. Not bad for the first full week of what we like to call RetailMania, that time of year when people buy all manner of stuff for no other reason than they are expected to.

Sadly, we are not immune to the gifting phenomenon. My nephew has already circulated his wish list. My sister has asked for ours. And yes, we did hit the Dollar General 3-day sale on Saturday looking for building blocks for a certain little someone on our Christmas list. The blocks were 50% off – or $7.50 – by the way, and fit very nicely into the extremely small budget we set for gifting this year. How small, you might be wondering. Let’s just say this…we’re paying for ALL of our gifts with the change we collected throughout the year – all $57.07 of it. That’s approximately $10 apiece for the five members of my family, not including each other. Angie and I don’t usually exchange gifts. Rather we stuff each other’s stocking with little inexpensive edible tidbits, like tea or chocolate, which is paid for out of our grocery budget.

We’re doing this experiment, not because we’re cheap (even though we are), but to challenge ourselves to think outside of the (gift) box and find new ways to stand by our values, while also honoring our family’s tradition of gifting presents for Christmas. We did try talking our family members into joining the fun but none were willing to be “that frugal”. My mom, though, has set herself a strict budget of $150 (down quite significantly from the $600 she spent last year) and my sister and I made lists for each other, from which we are supposed to choose only one gift to give. Our list, by the way, contained only food items and thrifty experiences, like a Red Box gift card or passes for bowling – things that would easily fit a $10 budget, since we didn’t want to expect more from others than we were willing to spend ourselves.

There are a plethora of great gifts out there under $10 but we wanted to get creative and do something from the heart. So on Sunday, we sat down with our crafting supplies and started creating. I had seen these cute reindeer washcloths on Facebook a few weeks back and knew they were something that would be fun to do.

Each reindeer cost 92 cents to make. The laughs that came along with making them – priceless. Inside of each deer is a bar of hypoallergenic soap (25 cents at Dollar Tree). The instructions for folding the reindeer can be found here.

Since reindeer are social animals (I’m just guessing here), we decided to make each one a friend. 

The snowman companion is filled with a homemade peppermint foot soak. The jars were collected throughout the year from buying salsa at the Farmer’s Market, so they were essentially free; bringing the cost of each snowman to $1.07. Together with the reindeer, they make a holiday themed spa kit. Toss in three 27 cent gift bags and we spent just $6.78 of our $57.07 budget on three gifts. For fun, on the top of each snowman we added a “coupon” for free refills. Angie makes peppermint foot soak all the time and we’re more than happy to share. On the bottom we included the recipe, just in case someone wants to make their own.

We have a few more ideas up our sleeves for the remaining budget so stay tuned!

Do you make handmade gifts for the holidays? How well are they received? What’s your favorite projects to create?


A Table for Ticky

One day this summer, as we were driving past the dumpster, Angie spotted what looked like a folding table sitting off to the side. We stopped to find a pink Minnie Mouse table with a huge rip across Minnie’s face. Angie hesitated. “Grab it,” I said. “We can always tape over the hole. Little kids don’t care anyway.” And so we did just that.

Ticky thought it was great. She ate snacks on it and used it as a desk to color her pictures.

A few nights ago we got the bright idea to make Ticky’s table even more useful. Well technically, we were inspired by Ticky’s fascination with the chalkboard on our fridge.

We unscrewed the top from the base. Easy peasy! And painted it with 3 coats of chalkboard paint (which we got for $3 with a coupon at Michael’s).

The end result was fabulous. The two grown up kids (aka me and Angie) couldn’t wait for it to dry just to try it out.

We added a zipper bag to hold the chalk and eraser and now it’s all ready for a Ticky test drive on Wednesday.

It was a simple project but it made us feel pretty good. We saved another object from the landfill and turned it into something to be enjoyed for at least a few more years.