money saving tip

  • DIY Sugar Cubes

    diy sugar cubes

     

    We were talking yesterday about fancy teacups, and so today I thought I'd jump off that topic and delve a little deeper into the cup. Yesterday we made really easy candles in our sweet little cups from the thrift store, but today we're actually thinking about and planning for a tea party!

    Plain ol' sugar just won't do with such precious cups, so we're going to get creative and make our own cute sugar cubes. Can you even believe how adorable these are?! And, as always, easy. I do easy well. :)

     

    Here's what you'll need to gather (and it's not much!):

    • granulated white and/or brown sugar
    • water
    • bowl
    • teaspoon
    • candy molds

    Step 1:  Pour about 1/2 cup of sugar into a bowl. Using a teaspoon, pour smal amounts of water on the sugar, little by little mixing until you have a paste-like consistency. Make sure the sugar doesn't melt!

    Step 2:  Fill the candy molds about halfway full with the sugary paste, pressing firmly into the mold. Let it dry overnight and carefully remove the adorable lumps.

    Step 3:  Pick up little cellophane bags at the craft store and tie closed with a ribbon to give as a Christmas gift.

     

    Recipe adapted

  • Tea Cup Candles

    tea cupI was shopping at Pier 1 the other day and couldn't get over how just walking close to the area where the candles are displayed gave me a strong whiff of those fabulous scents! I think they had an entire wall dedicated to candles, it's one of those home items that have been popular for a very long time. Today's craft idea takes advantage of the universal love of candles and combines it with a charming holder: the tea cup.

    This tea cup belonged to my mother, and when I saw it I instantly fell in love with it. It is so very delicate, the rim so thin, and it's yellow. Yellow is my favorite color, plus there are daisies! I carried a bouquet of daisies at my wedding! I was thrilled when she passed this cup and a matching saucer down to me.

    For today's gift idea, you don't need to use a family heirloom tho! Thrift stores have bunches of these fancy, sweet tea cups, usually without the saucer and that suits our project today just fine. They are almost always just a buck or two also, so super affordable. Even if you aren't making these lovely candles, pick up a bunch of those for an eclectic tea party for your girlfriends. :)

    For the candles, here's what you'll need to have on hand:

    • double boiler pan
    • partially burnt candles
    • candle (0r candy) thermometer
    • tongs
    • new wicking
    • teacups
    • wick sustainers
    • wooden skewers

    teacup candle1.  In a double boiler pan, melt down old candles. Clip your thermometer to the upper pot where the wax is, and keep the temp around 185 degrees. As the candles melt, use your tongs to remove the old wicks.

    2.  Cut a piece of wicking that measures the height of the cup plus 2". Attach one end to a wick sustainer and tie the other around a wooden skewer as shown in the photo to the right. Dip the wicking and sustainer into melted wax just to coat them, then adhere the sustainer to the bottom of the cup.

    3.  Pour in the melted wax to within 1/2" from the top of the cup. Allow to set for about an hour. Then, using another wooden skewer, prick a circle of holes around the wick. Pour in more melted wax to within 1/4" from the rim. Cut wick.

    These adorable, sweet gifts are perfect for girlfriends, daughters, grand-daughters and moms.....basically any female will love them, especially since you made them yourself.

     

    Photo courtesy

  • The Gift of Time

    It's Friday morning, the very last day of the work week, the day many have been looking forward to since Monday. We drag ourselves out of bed, stumble to the coffee pot and go through our morning rituals. Thank God it's Friday!

    This morning, in a most uncharacteristic manner, I bounded out of bed at 5am. Why, you ask? I had a coffee date with a good friend to get to! These java sipping events are one of the great pleasures of my life; they are the times when we talk about our lives, what's important to us, what's happening within our families, etc. It's also a place where dreams can and do spring up and are spoken out loud, sometimes for the first time.  My date this morning was with a good friend who has walked with me through it all . . . the happy, glorious days, the painful, unsettling and uncertain ones and everything in between.  Who wouldn't get out of bed early for that!

    The gift of time. There is nothing like it. You can't go to the store and buy more when you run out, you can't ever take it back once given. It is not a renewable resource; how many times have we said in frustration "that's an hour I'll never get back"?

    Giving time is a pretty special thing. I read a story this morning about a family who planned a birthday party for their 90 year old father/grandfather/uncle. It took an enormous amount of time emailing family members,  arranging and paying  for travel, setting up accommodations to host the family, preparing food,  packing and traveling.

    When the day for this grand event finally arrived, the 90 year old guest of honor had  a dozen or so family members on the edge of their seats, telling the stories of his life! Celebrating it all! Talk about memories! Small memento gifts were given, like a box of chocolates, a bottle of champagne, but the best gift of all he received that day was, without a doubt, their time.

    Next time I are tempted to run out to the store to purchase a gift, I'm going to stop and remember this story and the coffee chats that mean so much.  Maybe save a little gas and money, and pick up the phone instead.

    You with me?

    Photo credit

  • Christmas on a Budget

    December is an expensive month, is it not? Christmas gifts are the most obvious expense, but there are often clothes to buy for the parties, at which there is food. Or photos (in possibly a different set of clothes) for holiday cards. Decorations, a tree, charitable giving, etc. - it adds up quickly!

    Whether you need to cut back on spending, or just want to rein in the madness, there are many ways to do so without feeling like Ebeneezer Scrooge. Here are a few angles that you may not have considered.

    Writing at Simple Mom, Tsh reminds that planning ahead is the key to staying within a budget at Christmas. That includes setting money aside each month for the bigger bills in December, and also being mindful of the many little expenses that come up in this season. She offers this free Christmas budget printable to help you plan.

    A Christmas tree is another big expense. I realize that some of you just questioned my promise of non-Scrooginess because cutting down your own tree or picking the best one from the corner lot is your very favorite Christmas tradition. But for others, this may be a fun way to change up your holiday decor. I was definitely looking for tree alternatives in the years when my boys were toddling around precariously! Check out these creative options for inexpensive Christmas tree alternatives.

    This is probably my favorite list, and I may accidentally leave a printout where my husband will find it...10 Holiday Dates. There are a couple of splurges like tickets to the Nutcracker, but most of the options won't put a dent in your bank account. Brett at The Art of Manliness puts the list in a romantic context, but nearly all of the options could be adapted for a group of friends, a family or even an office get-together. Another bonus is that most of them are interactive, perfect for forming lasting memories.

    Remember that you can start with just one or two areas to cut back your holiday spending - Pinterest is a great resource for this. Try entering a search like inexpensive Christmas gifts or whatever suits your holiday budget style. You're sure to find a way to save a few dollars this season!

    What are your best money-saving tips at Christmas?

     

     

     

  • Unique Ways to Wrap Christmas Gifts

    Looking for some new ways to wrap your Christmas gifts this year? Something out of the box, if you will??

    Personal confession: I did some math incorrectly when buying fabric for a birthday party project, and now we have a massive amount of black watch plaid fabric. Thankfully, the navy and dark green work well at Christmas, especially with a red ribbon. All our gifts are wrapped in this fabric, and probably will be for the next 25 years (my math was really off!). I've found that wrapping gifts that have an awkward size or shape is much easier with fabric than with wrapping paper. And it's cheaper, too, if you're using fabric that's already on hand.

    My brother Matt is famous (within our family) for wrapping gifts in newspaper. He adds his own speech bubbles to the photos, with funny text related to the recipient. It's cheap, creative, and earth-friendly!

    Another crafty idea is to make your own wrapping paper. Definitely include the kids in this project! Start with white or brown craft paper (available at craft stores or office supply stores, with mailing supplies), then add color with crayons, markers, paint, or whatever you want. This also eliminates the need for gift tags, as you can write the "to" and "from" right on the package.

    Or what if you're not giving an actual gift, but money? Amy from Then She Made has created 2 different styles of a Christmas Money Tree. It would take a little while to put one of these together, but you've already saved time by not shopping for a gift, right?

    Likewise, Debbie from Happy Clippings has some great ideas for creatively wrapping gift cards. My personal favorite (check out her post for details!) is making a homemade snow globe to hold the card.

    Debbie suggests a couple of ways to wrap up coffee shop gift cards. Along that theme, I'll suggest that coffee filters make a cute and inexpensive substitute for tissue paper, especially if you're giving a coffee-themed gift basket. That tip is from a Starbucks barista, who wrapped up a mug for me that way when they ran out of tissue paper.

    What are your favorite ways to wrap Christmas gifts?

     

     

  • eLayaway: a unique and prudent way of shopping in the 21st century

    Today I came across a company called eLayaway.com. They offer consumers the ability to buy something and make payments on the product or service over a chosen period of time. Instead of making several large purchases during the Holiday rush, the thought behind the site is to approach the season with a defined budget and most importantly, pay for the gifts in full instead of just slapping them on a credit card. As a merchant, we are considering becoming a vendor of eLayaway to offer our customers and potential customers an additional payment option. From a quick scan of the site, it looks like consumers are charged a 1.9% fee, which is based off of the final price of the product. That fee is actually not bad if the alternative is to put it on a credit card that is being paid in full every month.

    Something to think about as you begin planning and preparing for the Holiday season coming up (sooner than later!).

    Here is the article I found if you are interested in more details.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/merry-christmas-in-august-from-elayaway-2011-08-17?reflink=MW_news_stmp

    Thanks!

    MerryStockings.com

  • Timeless Gifts to Help You Save

    One of the most often suggested tip for saving when buying Christmas gifts for your friends, family and loved ones is to buy way before the Christmas rush starts. Shopping for Christmas gifts in January is not too far out. The only way to do this is to hoard gifts that are considered timeless. MerryStockings.com offer these suggestions on what to get your many friends and relatives for Christmas 2011, as early as now!

    1. Get Creative! If you have the talent to paint or draw, you can probably create some masterpieces that you could give your loved ones. Paint their portraits, houses, favorite places, children. The ideas of what to paint are endless. It all depends on what you want him or her to remember or knowing what he or she cherishes the most. This is also true if you are interested in needlework, cross-stitching or other crafts. Starting now, it is very possible to be able to give each and every friend or relative a unique gift that came from your hands.

    2. Start a savings account for your kids. A great way for you and your kids to bond and teach them a little something about money. Instead of encouraging your kids to list down their most wanted list from Santa this year, tell them that they can buy anything that they save for come Christmas time. What's more, you can match their savings to make it more attractive for them. Say you can match it 1 to 1 or 50 cents for every dollar.

    For example, you can tell your kids that for every dollar they put into their savings account, you would also deposit a dollar. So if he or she deposits $10 now, he or she would have $20!

    3. Give them something very useful for them. If you know your loved ones very well, you have an inkling what they need the most. It could be an article of clothing, a tool or materials. For example, if your mother loves to bake, then you can certainly buy her baking materials or pans when your local retailer has a sale. You can buy umbrellas at half the price during summer. It's all a matter of timing!

  • More Ways to Have Fun with Old Christmas Cards

    MerryStockings.com offers you more ways to make use of old Christmas cards. Now you do not have to throw them out and still have fun with them! Talk about re-purposing!

    6. Create your own unique bookmark. Christmas cards are made of thin yet very sturdy cardboard, making it a great bookmark material. Cut out the graphics and punch a hole in it. Run a ribbon, twine or string through the hole and voila! you have a great looking bookmark!

    7. Reuse them as Christmas postcards. For those Christmas cards where the inside front are left without any writing, cut out the front of the card and use the card as a postcard. For added effect, draw a line down the center of the card. Then you can use the left portion for your message and the right portion for the recipient's address.

    You can also use these postcards as a thank you card for all those gifts you have recieved!

    8. Turn old cards into scrapbook material. If you keep a scrapbook, the graphics on these old Christmas cards can provide the best background for your Christmas page. You can create picture holders, stickers and frames using old cards.

    9. Old Christmas cards make the best Christmas ornaments! Simply find a figure or graphic that you can cut out from old Christmas cards. Have a card with a particularly cute Rudolph or an endearing Santa Claus up front? Then cut it out and tape a looped string behind it. These would make your Christmas tree a lot more interesting and bursting with variety.

    10. If you enjoyed turning your Christmas card into gift tags, you can probably use the larger designs as accents for your gift wrapping. Next Christmas do away with simple gift wrappers by gluing cut out graphics on them.

  • Don't throw those Christmas cards away!

    Now that Christmas is over, you are probably packing away the tree and storing away your Christmas decorations. You may have received a bunch of cards from last Christmas and are ready to throw them out. Don't. There are a lot of things that you can use these old Christmas cards for. MerryStockings.com offers you some suggestions.

    1. Use them to decorate your house next Christmas. Think about setting up a Christmas card wall that includes the Christmas cards you have received over the years. These could be those special cards from special people. Not only would this give you the chance to recollect on the messages and the people who sent them, the beautiful graphics of the card would provide a great Christmas display.

    2. Use them to decorate your own candy holder. The graphics on the front of the card could provide eye-catching designs for a Christmas candy holder. If you have old tin cans, you can paint these with green or red and then stick cut out card fronts all over.

    3. Create a Christmas ball. Cut out the front of several cards to make similarly sized pentagons. You can glue these together to make a hanging ball.

    4. Use them to show your love on Valentine's Day! There are a lot of Christmas cards that come in red. You don't even need the graphics for this one. Cut out the back of the red Christmas card to form the shape of a heart, or a cupid. There are a lot of stencils for you to use with this particular project. Send these to your spouse, children or significant others!

    5. Christmas gift tags. People usually leave the back of the card's front empty. You could cut out the graphics on the card and use the back to write your own messages to server as gift tags for next Christmas!

  • Tips for Cleaning Your Brass Christmas Hangers

    Brass is a metal that will oxidize and turn black in the long run. This is the reason why the raw brass is coated with a thin layer of lacquer to prevent it from tarnishing. MerryStockings.com offers you some simple reminders to keep your brass Christmas hangers shining year after year.

    1. Brass is actually simple to maintain. First you would need to remove the tarnish with a good polish that contains detergents and other chemicals designed to clean the metal. Then coat it to inhibit tarnishing in the future. Most commercially available brass polish products have these chemical to clean and protect brass.

    2. Do not overdo it. A lot of people think that when polishing brass using more polish is good. This is actually a misconception. Using a lot of polish can cause the surface to discolor. You would also have a problem with fingerprints. When polishing brass, make sure that you use only a small amount of polish, enough to cover the metal with a thin film of polish.

    3. Spread out the polish with an absorbent cloth. Buff the metal using the thin film of polish and an absorbent cloth. This will make the polish harden on the metal, making it less prone to smudging.

    4. If you do not have brass polish on hand, use rubbing alcohol to clean your Christmas stocking hanger. Use a sponge to clean the brass. Then using a treated dust cloth, wipe down the brass. The minute amount of oil present in the treated cloth would help protect the metal.

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