Tuesday, 21 October 2008

FRUGAL CHRISTMAS GIFTS TO MAKE PART 1

As we’ve still got time to make some Christmas gifts (very frugal and very much in the true spirit of Christmas) I’m busy hunting up ideas right now.

I want to make gifts that look good, and are better and more personalised than anything I could get for that person in the shops (and cheaper!).

My first find is for the knitters amongst us. I've recently seen lots of hot water bottle covers in the shops - they seem to be popular right now, so I think I'll have a go at one! Knitting is very “in” at the moment and hand knitted gifts are popular. You don’t have to be an expert, experienced knitter, just pick a pattern you know you can do - better a simple pattern, beautifully knitted in stocking stitch or garter stitch and perfectly finished off, than a poorly produced complicated Aran cable with mistakes or lace with poor tension.

I like to choose a good quality yarn not just the correct ply (aran, double knitting, chunky, 4-ply etc). If I’m making something special that does not require a fancy “fun” yarn – I try to use a good quality wool-mix, machine washable yarn. If I’m making smaller items (scarves, wrist warmers, mitts etc) it hopefully, will not be too expensive. Look in your stash – I had a good look through mine yesterday (after dragging the huge storage box from the back of my wardrobe!) and now have a good idea of what I have and will choose my patterns accordingly. Luckily, most of my stash comes from charity shops, great yarns that I’ve picked up over the last couple of years. Much of it is still in original plastic bags and with the ball bands. I like to have these for the correct washing instructions and to give me the detailed fibre make-up of the yarn.

There are of course, cheap versions of hot water bottle covers to be had on the high street, but they are usually acrylic and cost anything from around £8-£10. But look for a good quality one and they cost from £25 (Cath Kidston) to £55 (cashmere, but not hand knitted). To get some inspiration for customising your patterns have a look here.

So – on to the (FREE!) patterns in the links below. I am thinking I may knit one of these hot water bottle covers and then personalise it with some wool embroidery or crochet flowers. Get Frugal - get knitting!

Classic cover with one centre cable and “polo” neck.

Cable rib cover knitted in the round with eyelets to thread with ribbon and gather up.

Plain hot water bottle cover with button fastening.

2 colour patterned cover with drawstring i-cord fastening.

A lovely decorated cover in crochet.


For more Christmas gifts to make click HERE!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

CHRISTMAS WINE GLASSES - QUICK!

If you've got guests coming for Christmas dinner and your glass collection amounts to a few old Nutella jars, some of those free greenish coke tumblers and a chipped beer mug - you'd better get moving! Now is the time get along to the charity shops and look for sets of stemmed wine glasses.
If you can get some that are "cut" in decorative patterns, so much the better as candles or fairy lights set them
twinkling beautifully. Plain glass can look worn or scratched, so try to get some kind of patterned glasses.
Check the glasses thoroughly by close inspection and running your fingers all around the rims, base and stems - I've often found chips that way - even when I
have been wearing my specs!
If you can't get enough of one design for all of your dinner guests (go for at least 8-10 if you ever see that many as it allows for breakages) then try to get several sets of 4 in the same size and when you lay your table put the two different designs alternately around it. I keep small bows and tinsel trimmings from Christmas Crackers and they look very cute tied around the base of the wine glass stems.
I was very lucky last year and found several of these glasses pictured, in two different charity shops. They don't look as if they've ever been used (I have a feeling they were given away with petrol, years ago!).
Happy frugal Christmas!

Monday, 13 October 2008

ORGANISING YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT LIST

I used to think that buying Christmas presents early and, possibly even wrapping them up, took all the fun out of Christmas, but now with the Credit Crunch looming over us, I don’t think I can afford any silly sentiments like that! The earlier I start planning and buying, the more money I save. If you are buying “gift” sets from anywhere, you will find that the cheaper items (under £5!!) will sell out quickly, making even the 3 for 2 deals expensive. So I’m starting now.

I’ve actually already started, albeit in a small way, by buying some reduced pressies in Superdrug – 2 men’s belts with bottle opener buckles, each belt in its own box (they’re probably left over from last Christmas!) and costing £1.99! I never know what to buy the men in the family, so this is a start!

I’m also starting to look out for small stocking presents for my sons – these are usually 2 for 1 offers on deodorant, shower gel, chocolate oranges, and other sweets. I also buy packs of socks and boxers and split them up (and yes, they are always pleased with them as they hate spending their money on underwear!). I also start looking for small fun things in charity shops - look amongst the bric-a-brac for small gifty bits that often cost under a pound. Have a look at two little things I found last year!

The first thing I always do as soon as (or before) I’ve bought the first present, is to make a list of everyone I have to buy for – I use a page in my diary or a piece of lined file paper folded and taped inside the back cover. Every single time I buy something, I write it on the list – if I don’t do this, I tend to forget what I’ve bought and stuffed under the bed or in the back of the wardrobe, and then buy another present for the same person – not at all frugal! I often put down the price I’ve paid for it too – just to see how much Christmas is really costing me!

Happy frugal bargain hunting!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

HOW TO AFFORD CHRISTMAS

To comfortably afford Christmas it is necessary for us to radically change our view of it. Christmas is 2 days only, but we spend months preparing, stressing and spending for it. The Christmas present buying aspect is representative of the gifts that were brought to Jesus on the day of his birth, so our gifts to friends and family should also be representative; a kind thought, a considered gift – but not a huge amount of money spent. If you have friends and relatives who try to outdo you every year in the expensive buying of presents – then let them. Don’t join in. This “keeping up with the Jones’s” mentality is not only “un-green”, wasteful and misguided, it is just plain wrong. Even without the present Credit-Crunching, recessive times, those with debts cannot afford to make them bigger just to “have a good Christmas”. If that so-called “good” Christmas sees us in January broke and with even more credit card debt which takes the rest of the year (or more!) to pay off – then that can never be a “good” Christmas. You could tell everyone that you are trying to be debt free by the end of 2010 and so will be buying very small presents, or even making them. Tell them also not to spend too much on you – I find this helps both parties. But if they go ahead and spend far more than you do – well, that’s their business – you did warn them! Now is the time to think carefully about how much you can really afford. Make a list of everyone you have to buy for and calculate how much (ideally) you would like to spend. If you have 20 people to buy for and you think you should spend £10 on each of them – do you actually have £200 cash (not credit) to spare, or will you at least have it by the end of November? If the answer is no, then you have some more thinking to do. Happy Frugal Christmas!

Monday, 6 October 2008

FRUGAL GIFT TAGS

If you didn’t make your gift tags from last year’s Christmas cards, then all is not lost. You can print them off from the internet, start here and here or just use a search engine to find free printable Christmas tags.

You can add a bit of personal touch with glitter glue or gold and silver pens,

then punch a hole in the corner and tie with parcel ribbon, but remember, if you have to go and buy thin card for your printer, it may be cheaper to just buy a pack from a pound shop!

The free option (for Christmas 2009) is to cut up this year’s cards in January and pack them away with your left over Christmas cards, wrapping paper and ribbon all ready for next year!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

WHEN TO MAKE YOUR CHRISTMAS CHUTNEY!

Well, if you had the time, it really wouldn't matter if you made it on Christmas Eve! But of course, if you can make it now and store it in a cool dark place, the flavours will blend and mature over the next couple of months - I think the spicy taste is more pronounced the older it gets - I've just finished my last jar of last year's batch - and it tasted wonderful!
Get my recipe for
Christmas Chutney now!