Christmas is just around the corner, for those of you who celebrate it, and we have DIY ornament crafts, instructions for making gifts, recipes and tips for getting the most out of your holiday season before it gets the better of you.
DIY Decor & Gifts
Since Christmas ornaments make good gifts and stocking stuffers, I’ve lumped all the links to ornaments (and other decor) in with homemade gift tutorials.
- Have yourself a frugal little Christmas by making ornaments out of grocery bags, balsa wood greeting cards, meringue snowmen and more.
- These 12 DIY Beauty Recipes from Pink of Perfection could be used to make great little gifts for women you don’t know so well, like co-workers or acquaintances. I would suggest making a card that lists the ingredients you used in each one and an expiration date so in case your recipients have allergies you don’t know about or concerns about freshness. To come up with an expiration date, figure out which of your ingredients will go bad soonest, and calculate the date.
- The Long Thread’s 10-minute Santa Ornament involves no sewing (just glue), so it’s easy enough even for kids to make. Also see her Elf Skittles – a small set of bowling pins and a bowling ball you make yourself.
- Make your own stockings with any of these patterns for knitting, crocheting or sewing Christmas stockings.
- These fabric recipe folders with laminated cards make a gorgeous gift for anyone who does any cooking at all.
- When I was a kid, two of our most favored tree decorations were a red and green paper garland (you can add glitter if you like) and a popcorn garland. You can reuse the popcorn garland year after year – no, seriously. We made one when I was a kid, and packed it carefully away. Every year we expected to pull it out and find it crumbled or half-eaten by bugs or something… but it lasted over twenty years. I’m not sure that’s normal! But I’m sure getting a few years out of it is.
- Another “when I was a kid”… at school, we’d make wreaths out of wire coat hangers and Hefty bags. Not so very green, huh? And it was ugly. Here’s a tutorial for a paper wreath that could use recycled writing or wrapping paper (or old magazines, or whatever). Or make this one out of recycled CDs.
- Here are some wonderful handmade Christmas gifts sure to light up somebody’s holiday.
- HomemadeSchool has an even longer list of ideas for homemade presents, many of which link to tutorials (the rest you probably don’t need a tutorial for).
- Got some old wool sweaters you can’t wear anymore? Then follow Ellen Luckett Baker’s tutorial on making felted sweater ornaments. They’re cheerful, adorable and just all-round fabulous, and they’re free. If you don’t have any old wool, check a thrift shop or local garage sales.
- You can make Elsie Marley’s string of Chrismas tree lights advent calendar pattern.
- Feeling Stitchy has Gingerbread men ornaments and a free holiday mitten pattern.
- Zakka Life’s lucky star paper strips made from scraps of wrapping paper.
- Instructables turns used wrapping paper into a wreath.
- ‘Tis the season for gingerbread, and we’ve collected 20 gingerbread recipes for you.
- A cheese ball you can put together minutes before guests arrive.
- Peppermint bark is a holiday candy that’s traditionally made with white chocolate, though personally I prefer milk or dark chocolate. Recipe is the same either way.
- Syllabub is a traditional English mousse-like dessert made from whipped cream, egg whites and alcohol.
- Peppermint Meltaways look as festive as they taste.
- Here’s a traditional recipe for Christmas pudding.
- Here are 25 nut snack recipes, perfect for holiday parties or a special snack to keep around the house.
- Chocolate pecan rum balls should get any party off to a great start.
- Over 40 easy dessert recipes you can make last-minute.
This is a stressful time of year. Make it as easy as you can for yourself with these tips for smarter shopping, hosting, etc.
- Shop online as much as you can. The stores aren’t as busy as usual this year, thanks to this whopper of a recession, but there will still be extra traffic to fight and long lines, especially as we get closer to those last few shopping days.
- Don’t neglect exercise. It’s one of the first things most of us cut out of our schedule when we’re overwhelmed, but it helps reduce stress and keep you feeling like you can handle everything being thrown at you.
- Take vacation days if you can, to help get ahead on everything you need to get done.
- Get organized before buying gifts. Make a list of exactly what you’re getting for whom, then look for the best price on it, buy it, and boom, you’re done.
- Save money by wrapping with newspaper or other recycled paper instead of expensive giftwrap. Use holiday-colored yarns for the ribbons for an old-timey look, or spend a little on store bought ribbons to give it some glitter. Either way, you save money and your gifts look cute and unique.
- Keep a journal every night, listing the things you did that, in hindsight, worked well or badly for you. Next year, read the journal to streamline your pre-holiday efforts. It’s amazing how much we forget from one year to the next! Also note in your journal all the unexpected hassles that got thrown at you unexpectedly. Like, relatives who say, “Oh, and can you cook that really complicated masterpiece dish you do so well for my party in 6 hours?” and kids who remember at 9pm they’re supposed to bring a dish to the school party tomorrow morning. Next year, you can get the drop on these folks by asking up front if there’s anything they need from you – or telling them no in advance. You do not owe people anything just because they ask for it!
- Remember: it’s okay to send e-gift cards. Especially to kids, who often prefer being able to buy what they want over getting presents.
- Put yourself/your household first. Make sure your home is festive-feeling before you help anyone else decorate theirs. Make sure your shopping is done before you help others.
- When planning your holiday budget, remember to factor in holiday treats, like gourmet foods and drinks you only buy around the holidays.
- Don’t sweat it if you can’t do everything you planned. If you find yourself doing last minute shopping, use our guide to make it as easy as possible.
- Ladies, rent a dress online instead of spending too much on something you’ll rarely wear. You may also be able to find a shop near you that rents out formal wear for women.
- These time saving tips will leave you more time to relax and enjoy what the season’s really supposed to be about: peace on earth and good will toward everyone.
- If you’re entertaining, outsource what you can. Catering from a local restaurant may be more affordable than you think; or you may be able to buy some or all of your food fresh-made from the grocery store’s deli section; or do it pot-luck style.
- If you need to shop offline, take off a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday from work, if you have the vacation time, and do it then. Shops are less crowded on those days, and there may be more stock (as retailers take advantage of the lull to get their shelves back in order).
- Combine errands with friends, family or neighbors: if several households needs a few things from the grocery store, one person provided with lists can run that errand. They can even pay for it as several separate transactions to help with sorting out reimbursements later.
- Get the kids involved. They can help in the kitchen or with decorations.