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Spend less money and enjoy the holidays more

Updated on January 9, 2016

Home sweet home

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Homemade is a homerun

The most important thing about the holidays is not how much money you spend. It is about celebrating. Whether you are spending the given holiday with friends and family or on your own, money (or lack of) should not dictate how much you enjoy it. With this fact in mind, many holiday items can easily be made at home. Everything from foods to gifts to decorations can be made from things you have in your home. All it takes is a festive spirit and some creativity.

One of the nicest advantages to making homemade holiday fare is giving it your personal touch. People often appreciate the time and effort put into homemade creations. There is no denying the charm of hand crafted gifts and/or décor. Homemade food can conjure up heart warming memories of childhood, favorite holiday movies and good times from the past.

Think about what pops into your mind when you smell fresh baked cookies or taste apple pie made from scratch. Chances are warm, comforting feelings wash over you. Why not create that feeling for yourself and those you care about?

Decorations

Homemade decorations can be ornate or simple. For people who enjoy crafts, making decorations is a snap. However, for those of us who are not so crafty, here are some easy decoration ideas:

Garland-

This can be made by stringing popcorn and hanging it. You can use food coloring appropriate for the holiday like red and blue for the Fourth of July or red and green for Christmas. One piece of advice is to avoid hanging your popcorn garland from trees or fences outside, unless you don't mind feeding the birds!

You can also use colorful ribbons as garland. Drape the ribbons over curtain rods, over shelves and even tack it up over doorways. The nice thing about using ribbon is that it is reusable after the holiday.

Pretty jars-

Take an empty, clean glass or clear plastic jar and fill it will colorful items like stones, sand, beads, marbles or even hard candy. Set these jars on tables, windowsills and shelves. If you have any strings of lights, wrap one around the base of each jar and plug in after dark for a stunning effect.

Glass jars can make lovely candle holders when filled 1/4 full of sand. Set the candle in the sand and then light. Use colored sand for added sparkle. Stones also work well. These candle holders have a rustic charm and give off a soft ambient glow.

Draw/paint-

You do not have to be a talented artist to make some nice holiday wall hangings. You can draw or paint signs that welcome guests or announce the given holiday. You can draw or trace festive designs and then add color (paint, markers, etc.). If you have children, this is a fun activity the whole family can enjoy together.

Nature-

Flowers and houseplants are a great form of decoration. For added cheer, tie a bright ribbon around the pot. The nice thing about plants and flowers is they can give off a comforting vibe.

You can also collect things like pine cones, twigs and leaves. Arrange these items in a wide rimmed bowl or basket. Twigs and small leafy branches can be arranged in a vase for nice Fall decoration.

These are a just some examples of things you can use to create homemade decorations. The only limit is your imagination.

Decorated sugar cookies

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Foods

Food in general is nutritious and comforting. During the holidays, meals and treats have an added role of being festive. Each holiday has certain foods associated with it. Summer holidays like the Fourth of July are generally hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on the grill. Winter holidays like Christmas have baked ham or turkey and all sorts of sweet treats. Here are a few key foods we're going to focus on:

Cookies-

These wonderful treats come in almost any flavor you can dream up. From chocolate chip to macadamia nut, cookies are a holiday staple. The easiest cookie to bake and decorate is the basic sugar cookie. You can mix up the dough and then separate it into smaller batches and add food coloring appropriate for the holiday. You can also frost each cookie and add any sprinkles you may have in the pantry.

Homemade bread-

"Nothin says lovin like fresh bread from the oven!" It doesn't matter if you use a bread maker or make it by hand, fresh bread is a special treat for holidays, or any day. A basic bread recipe and an afternoon is all you need to bake up some goodness. No Culinary Arts degree required for this aromatic treat.

Slow cooker perfection-

Maybe you don't have all day to devote to cooking a holiday meal. Perhaps you are just not the cooking type, whatever the reason, a slow cooker can come to the rescue. Choose your recipe like roast and veggies or ham and sweet potatoes, for example, add to the slow cooker and let it go. You will have to find instructions for your chosen recipe to suit your slow cooker.

All of these food ideas are easy to do and cost effective. No fancy equipment required or huge grocery bill. The best part of all is homemade foods hit the spot during the holidays.

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Gifts

Handmade gifts are charming and often sentimental. A gift made by hand is often treasured above store bought items. The reason they are so important is because of the time and effort put into making them. Anyone can go to a store and buy something off of a shelf.

Some people can sew well enough to make clothing, some can make things out of wood and metal and some can craft just about anything. The following suggestions are a bit out of the norm for handmade gifts.

Write-

Sit down and write a short story or song or poem. Write what you think and feel about the intended recipient. If you have a knack for humor, write something amusing. You can roll up the finished composition and tie with a ribbon for a nice presentation.

Scrapbook-

There is no doubt that scrapbooking can get expensive quickly. However, there are ways to make nice scrapbooks without spending all that extra money. What you'll need:

  • Notebook with plain white paper like an artist sketchbook (a regular notebook will work)
  • Photos (you may want to make copies of the originals and scrapbook the copies)
  • Colored pencils/markers
  • Clear tape
  • Souvenirs/memorabilia from events, trips and activities (concert stubs, menus, etc.)
  • Pen
  • Glue (use sparingly as notebook pages are thin)

Tape the photos and souvenirs that go together on the same page(s). Write comments or captions as you deem appropriate to make the book more personal. Write a personal inscription on the inside cover and date it. You can decorate the outside front cover by drawing pictures or gluing a larger photo (again, use a copy of the original). Take some of the pages and write any meaningful stories/memories you share with the intended recipient.

Note: a photo album can be used and will negate the need for most of the tape and/or glue. An added benefit of using a photo album is that it will protect photos and souvenirs.

Gift basket-

These are fun gifts to make and give out. Decide what kind of theme (coffee, tea, relaxation, sports, etc.) you want the basket to have and then assemble appropriate items. The following example is for a coffee gift basket.

You might put in these items:

  • Recipient's favorite grind (type of coffee) or surprise them with a new kind.
  • Coffee mug
  • Homemade brownies or cookies
  • Sugar and creamer packets (if applicable)
  • Spoon (a plastic spoon dipped in chocolate works nicely)
  • Coffee scoop (a TBS. measuring spoon works well and is the correct size)

As for the basket, you can use a real basket if you have one handy or use a clean bucket or large bowl. If all else fails, you can use a box of the appropriate size. Some of the items may have to be purchased since you would not want to give away one of your own mugs! Many of the items can be found inexpensively at a dollar store. If you have plastic wrap in your kitchen, use it to wrap the basket. This will secure the items. Tie a ribbon around the basket for added flare. Voila!

Homemade photo frame idea using Android App for inspiration.
Homemade photo frame idea using Android App for inspiration. | Source

Think outside of the box

The box in this case is a store. Many holiday decorations, gifts and foods can be made right at home with things you already have. So many people get stressed out and even depressed when a holiday rolls around and they find themselves strapped for money. No more! Holiday cheer should not have to come from an impersonal store or shopping center. It should come from the heart. Shiny baubles have shiny price tags, make your own and make memories in the process. Enjoy stress free holidays from now on.

© 2014 Tammy Cramblett

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