I’m dreaming of a stripped-down Christmas.

4922931726 0693e56948 m Im dreaming of a stripped down Christmas.

Hello Kitty © by SomeDriftwood

A single-mom blogger who goes by “Mutant Supermodel” is stressing over the holiday. She’d saved to buy gifts, but when her husband quit paying child support she had to spend every dime to keep herself and her three kids afloat.

It isn’t that MS fears there will be no Christmas. It’s that she fears she won’t be the one giving it.

“My kids are blessed with a large, loving extended family who will surely shower them with gifts the way they do at every special occasion,” she writes in a post called “$tre$$.”

“I know they don’t need or even want more stuff but I want to give it to them.”

Yet she doesn’t want to become part of the “relentless consumerism that so deeply affects this country.” Her compromise: Make some of her gifts, and limit the children’s Santa lists to that old favorite, “something I want, something I need, something to wear, something to read.”

“I think it’s better this way than a free for all,” MS concluded.

Me too – and I say that as someone who’s feeling the same contradictory clash of emotions.

Christmas is very important to me. When I was a kid, it meant getting at least one thing I wanted but never really believed I’d receive. My family wasn’t super-impoverished, i.e., we never went without food. But times were tight for a long time and I developed a scarcity mentality at a fairly young age.

Thus finding Skipper under the tree was a Christmas miracle, especially since I’d asked for that specific doll in that specific dress when I sat on the lap of the Santa hired by the glass factory where my mom worked. (These days I figure Mom overheard what I said.)

Not greedy

It wasn’t that we were monsters of acquisition. Like other kids of that era we viewed many tantalizing playthings in the Sears catalog, which my grandmother called “the wish book.” I wanted them – who wouldn’t? – but my feelings were mostly abstract. Wow, look at what some kids get. I don’t remember feeling deprived or angry, although I do remember wondering what it would be like to have an Easy-Bake Oven.

Underwhelming, as it turned out: My best friend got that toy and the “baked” goods were gritty and gluey and weird. Besides, my mom had promised that I could use the real oven as soon as I turned 10. Until then, I stood at her elbow while she baked, memorizing her every move and doing whatever tasks she’d allow.

But that was just me. When my niece and my daughter were born I wanted them to get what I didn’t have. Not that I’d buy either one an Easy-Bake Oven, mind you, but I wanted to make the holiday special. Their needs were met all year long – like Mutant Supermodel’s kids, they had enough stuff – but Christmas was different, somehow.

Which is exactly where the marketing folks fasten on: that parental longing that your kids find magic under the tree. If you don’t buy just the right gifts, how will your children know that you love them?

Still wanting to celebrate

Sheesh. But plenty of us fall for that, I’m afraid. During my marriage I bought frugally for Christmas – Black Friday, thrift stores, etc. – but I did buy. The rest of the year I required my daughter to save up for at least half the cost of any toy she wanted; with certain  playthings, I wouldn’t match even some of the cost.

(This ability to wait and plan came in handy later, when she was disabled and it took a year and a half to save enough rewards points to buy an MP3 player. Boy, did she love that thing when she finally got it.)

Flash forward to 2005, when I was midway through the divorce process, a midlife college student and covering many expenses for my daughter (who was then waiting for her disability hearing). Rationally speaking, I knew that I couldn’t afford a big holiday.

But gift-giving mattered to me, a lot. So I relied on some pretty basic frugal hacks:

  • Rewards programs. I cashed in MyPoints and points from a rewards credit card to get a Macy’s gift card (as a standalone gift) plus cards from Borders and Barnes & Noble that paid for two calendars and a Burt’s Bees gift set.
  • Judicious re-gifting. When I’d gotten my hair cut the stylist gave me two olive-oil conditioner products; I wrapped that box up and put it under my daughter’s tree. In my evergreen gift stash was a pair of socks with ladybugs that someone had given me; I added them to Abby’s gift pile on the theory that it’s not Christmas unless someone gives you socks or underwear.
  • Freebies and rebates. When I needed batteries I chose the package with the mini-flashlight attached; it made a safety-conscious stocking stuffer. I’d gotten a Venus shaver and four refills for free (and it turned out her old razor was just about shot, so the timing was perfect).
  • Handmade coupons. I made up several for items of hand-wash-only items and two for loads of laundry washed, dried and folded.
  • The clearance table. I’d found a poker set (cards, chips, folding felt table-top) in the last-chance bin earlier that year, paying about $7.50 for it. At that time she was meeting with friends for card games and “Veronica Mars,” so I figured she could introduce poker into girls’ night out.

In other words, I spent well under $10 out of pocket but it filled a hugely emotional need. It had been a hard year for me and an even worse one for my daughter, and I wanted to celebrate. I just knew I had to do it on a budget.

Fortunately, I had no inkling of just how much tougher things would get. When my finances went even further south, I sure was glad that I hadn’t charged my Christmas. It was all I could do to charge my divorce lawyer, since she billed by the minute.

Before you buy, ask “Why?”

It’s a little late in the year for this kind of advice, but here goes:

  • Don’t spend too much to prove your love. (Hint: If you have to “prove” it, then there’s a problem on at least one side of the relationship.)
  • Ask yourself you’re buying more than you should because of complicated emotions from your own past.

Put another way: Can you name what you got for Christmas last year? Unless one or more gifts had particular resonance (puppy, engagement ring, mid-winter cruise tickets), I bet you can’t.

Most of us can’t. So what’s the point of all the ribbons and bows?

I’m just as prone to this blind spot as anyone. Right now I’m really glad I live four or five miles from the nearest mall and that I don’t have a car. That’s because I turn into a puddle of December sentiment every time I’m in a store. I blame the canned holiday music; even a piss-poor rendition of “Silent Night” has me fumbling for a credit card.

Case in point: After I got my hair cut last week I stopped in the card store to buy a birthday card for my son-in-law. Birthday errand, not Christmas – but the holiday music plus a display of Hello Kitty products brought me up short. My younger great-nephew is a huge HK fan (I predict hard times for him in middle school) and for a moment I considered purchasing something.

Fortunately I have a rule about buying: I must pick up the item and walk around the store with it for a while. Generally the product loses some of its luster within a few minutes. In this case, I came to my senses within 60 seconds: You have already bought enough for those boys. If you want to give them another gift, transfer $10 to each of their bank accounts.

So before you buy, wait. Then wait some more. Apply the two filters mentioned above. And if you want to be inspired, check out “Free Christmas 2012” on the My Frugal Home website. Erin Huffstetler has usually done Christmas for $100 or less, but this year she did it without spending anything out of pocket — and with absolute attention to the needs and wants of the folks on her list.

I bet her holidays will be just as merry and bright as someone who closes out 2012 with a giant, looming credit-card balance. I also predict that her kids will definitely remember getting the movie “Brave,” and that her bike-commuting husband will appreciate the new tires far more than he would an electronic putting green or some holiday boxer shorts. Ho, ho, etc.

Readers: Do you set a price limit, or a number-of-gifts limit, or both? Got any tips to share?


38 Comments

  1. take_flight

    I don’t set a price limit, but I do set a certain number of gifts for my children. No matter how well or not-so-well we have been financially, my kids get 5 gifts, (not including stocking stuffers), I don’t know why I chose 5, it’s just always been the number. If the older kids choose an expensive gift, and it’s in the budget, then they get that and maybe some socks and stocking items. Stocking items are usually something that they need or will use and maybe some candy.

    I cash in most of my rewards points during the holiday’s. I cashed in some promo’s for photo gifts of a very cute drawing my 4 year old did for my close relatives, and I cashed in a gobload of rewards for a new titanium wedding band for my husband, because his original gold one broke. I wanted a titanium ring because of the nature of his job. He will be so surprised because we usually don’y buy for each other at Christmas, we try to focus on the kids.

    I also shop year ’round, and if something catches my eye on a clearance rack in the middle of summer that someone on my list would love, I get it! I also never pass up a trip to the thrift store. They are a great place to find unique and hard to find items. My 16 year old daughter has a HUGE fondness for ’80′s and ’90′s style Christmas and ski sweaters, and I think she will be very happy with what I’ve found!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Take_flight: Five sounds nice. And I, too, shop year-round, including garage sales (you see a lot of still-wrapped items there).

  2. So, here’s where we look like Grinch. My son is 13 months old and is fortunate to have a large, generous extended family who are all planning to give him many Christmas presents. I wasn’t going to buy him any gifts at all this year, arguing that he will be just as thrilled with a cardboard box as with anything inside it (I have data to back this up – also, a laundry basket is a big hit). Husband has prevailed with seasonal sentimentality, so we will buy him one gift: a special stuffed animal he can snuggle up with in his crib.

    When he’s older, and when there might be a hypothetical sibling or two, I really like the “1 want, 1 need, 1 wear, 1 read” policy.

    Also, as an immediate family we exchange our gifts after Christmas – usually close to Three Kings Day on January 6. This simplifies shopping (we hit all the post-holiday sales!) and scheduling the other four quadrillion family get togethers.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Schmei: I’m with you. Why does a 13-month-old need gifts? Just get an appliance box and cut doors and windows in it. He will enjoy that “playhouse” for ages.

      • My second child was six months old at Christmas. Her almost three-year-old brother was outgrowing the kind of things she liked…chewable toys. So, I got her a stuffed doll ONLY. People were horrified that she got one litte thing and he got many toys from Santa. I still feel okay with my choice.

    • I got my 7 year old son the first birthday gift I’ve ever bought for him, this year. We didn’t get him a Christmas gift.

      There are so many gifts from extended family, it actually stresses him out to open them – usually there’s a good one in the first 2 or 3 and he wants to stop and play with it, not have it taken away and have to open 10 more things.

      It looks like ingratitude, and that’s a little of it – we’re lucky to already have everything we need and most of what we want, so he’s not that into new stuff – but it’s mostly sheer overwhelm at being the center of attention and having so many people around and then having to switch focus every moment.

      • Donna Freedman

        @Rosa: My great-nephew looked a little stressed and cranky by the time he finished his unwrapping his massive pile of gifts. More isn’t necessarily better.
        At the risk of sounding like an old poop: This was not a problem when we were kids because we didn’t get that many items and we didn’t already have a room full of stuffed animals, books, games and toys.
        Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  3. Giving the gift of time, to me, is much more important than a financial gift. Time is finite. You can make more money, but you can never make more time. Plus, a lot of what we buy is either useless or returned. I estimated that we waste as much money on useless gifts annually as we have in student loans. We shouldn’t have to prove we care for someone by spending money on them. We can do so if we are so inclined and have the money, but the pressure that material gifts = love is ridiculous.

  4. Well…….in my mind, my babies need gifts because those rattles and singing toys and etc give me a few minuites of peace and quiet, while working on their hand eye coordination. nods* Yup! That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!!

    I’m a pretty god shopper, sales/clearence/black friday/yard sales and stash it year round, but I admit…for christmas, I want my kids (a 5 year old and a 3 month old) to have good memories. I didn’t really have many good memories of Christmas. I was a child of divorced parents. I prefered to spend Christmas with my dad, where there was Santa, and wrapped gifts, and stockings, but I hardly saw him for years, and in my whole childhood (16 and under) I only remember 4 Christmas Days with him. My mom cared about me, and bought me stuff year round, but Christmas day had no stockings, unless I filled them for myself, and my little sister, no wrapped gift, unless I picked out and wrapped them for my sister, no special foods or treats… As a child, it was pretty crushing. The day was just like any other. No magic, nothing special. Almost like no one cared.

  5. When I was in college a lady in my Economics class and I were talking one night before class about the holidays in general and she told me something that stuck with me. Her 3 children had come to her with their “lists” and her reply to them was ” It’s not YOUR birthday, it’s Jesus’s birthday, I WILL take his list!”

    I thought that hit it on the head myself.

  6. When I was a kid, we got one thing we really wanted (if it was affordable) and then smaller things that were fun to open (think: newsprint paper pads, colored pencils, a game of Pick Up Sticks, books, etc.). We accepted the fact that we wouldn’t get every single thing we ever wanted. And you know, Christmas was still fun!

  7. I have no self-control with gift giving. I think everyone knows! Having to come up with the money to pay for it was a challenge but I loved buying everything with free money.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Sonya Ann: Your year-long search for the goods is an inspiration to those of us who also like shopping with “free” money.

  8. My children always received three gifts from Santa, one main and two smaller. Their gifts were toys until they were too old for them. I never thought “needs” were gifts, it was our duty to provide their needs. Needs are far more simple than we believe: adequate clothing, food, and a warm place to sleep. The reason for three gifts: That is the recorded amount the Christ child received from the Magi, so we were given a perfect example.

  9. Two gifts per person in our immediate family this year; we could afford more, but our twenty-something daughters are watching every penny, and asked for this. I’m proud of them for suggesting it!
    More about it here:

    http://cindybrick.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-two-present-christmas.html

  10. I dont have a budget. But I do not charge anything either. I shop year round, starting the day after Christmas. I look for sales and clearance. I put things away. Around the week before Christmas I ask the few people I buy for for anything specific and if I find a good deal they get it. Seems relatively painless this way and the season certainly doesn’t lead to stress about money or shopping.

    • Donna Freedman

      @CandiO: I bet a lot of people who read PF blogs shop year-round! I do, for sure — and again, I’d like to put in a plug for yard sales. You find the darnedest things there, some of them seemingly unused and others still in the shrink-wrap so you know they’re unused. Same with thrift stores. I wonder how many were Christmas gifts that never got used???
      This year I paid for almost everything with free gift cards that I got from Swagbucks, a couple of rewards credit cards and the American Express credit cards I won from that GoBankingRates.com contest.

  11. Well, as usual, I love your post. I was one of those mamas who wanted my children to love me a LITTLE too much LOL I too wanted them to find magic under the tree but ~ and speaking from my own personal experience ~ what fallacious thinking that was on my part. My kids loved me plenty but I just didn’t realize it. I spoiled my kids and now, as young adults, a couple of them are having a heckuva time coming back down to earth. I’ve had to bail a couple of them out financially a couple of times and we have had serious clashes over money. Getting everything they wanted has done some damage. We no longer celebrate Xmas as we once did …. we have a family dinner but IMO the meaning of Xmas has literally been consumed. And we’re not religious either. Spiritual yes, ‘organized religious’ NO. We make a bigger fuss over birthdays.

    “Something I want, something I need, something to wear, something to read.”

    Funny how I had never heard this phrase until I started reading personal finance blogs but I love it. Looking back, it is how I should’ve done things with my own kids.

    Hope you’re enjoying Alaska!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Quest: Too soon old, too late smart…But at least you and your now-grown kids are having the dialogue (whether they like it or not).
      And so far, so good in Alaska, except for the low light levels. Thank heaven for the S.A.D. light box.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  12. Donna, thanks for putting it in perspective by tying it back to our personal memories of Christmas! As you note, I really can’t remember exactly what gifts I got most years for Christmas, except for one. And that one was memorable not so much because of the gift itself, but the clever way it was presented to me.

    I don’t have kids and don’t feel the same pressures as parents. I do have family and lots of friends, though, and we go through the Christmas “dance” of whether and what we should give each year. I think by now my best friends and family realize I’m personally rather indifferent towards gifts/things and would much rather that we get together and do something special/fun together if possible, or just not worry about the traditional give and take of gifts. If they came across something that they really thought I’d want/use, great! If they didn’t, no big deal! I often give homemade items for gifts because I really love to make jams and pickles and my friends like them. This year I have purchased some gifts. I went on a “farm crawl” a few months ago and picked up some goat milk soap and creams at one of the farms, so I’ll give each friend a bath product along with their jam and pickles. I know the farm family appreciated the sale and who doesn’t like soap or moisturizing cream? :-)

    • Donna Freedman

      @Linda: I like giving jams, too, and as you noted people certainly do love receiving them. The idea of just getting together and doing something fun would take a lot of the pressure off, especially for people who are hard to buy for or who don’t need/want more stuff. Your goat-milk soap and moisturizer make a great compromise: It benefits a local business and it gets used up rather than hanging around collecting dust. Win-win!
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  13. I suggest whatever your budget is you save $20 of it to hit after Christmas Sales to jump start next years present stockpile. I myself “shop” for Christmas year round by getting things free or nearly free with coupons or new items found at thirft stores or garage sales. I find all sorts of NEW sealed items with the tags still on them at garage sales for a few bucks or less. If you are unorganized make a list of names, write in the present you got them and tape the list to the inside of the present tub or closet so you are reminded of it often. I don’t think anyone knows how little I spend for holiday presents. College age students love the bag of goodies I give them with free groceries and toiletries I have gathered throughout the year with coupons. Thankfully my sister and husband have said they have enough and just said to give items to their daughter, but she is completely happy with coloring books ($1 each) and stickers (gleened from mailings, cut from free address labels or found in my own hoard from when I was a kid) Not the most exciting on Christmas Day but she will use them plenty the days after.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Christy: Another vote for garage sales! Yay!
      I’ve bought coloring books for as little as 7 cents in the way-after-Christmas clearance bin at Walgreens. At some point my younger great-nephew will age out of the coloring book demographic, but I’ll likely keep buying; I can always donate them to the family shelter.

  14. :-) Nice essay.

    Christmas was always the BIG holiday deal in our family. My great-grandmother, the matriarch who raised my mother, loved Christmas and always put on a big family dinner with ritual gift-giving. And my mother was always generous with the Xmas gifts for me, her only child.

    All of which makes Christmas psychologically problematic in these parts: I miss those folks a lot and at this time of year feel particularly alone and unloved. Which is pretty silly…I’m alone and unloved all the rest of the year and it doesn’t bother me!

    It also makes me pretty sensitive to the nature of gifts. I used to feel especially aghast at my father’s third wife’s habits. She would shop in church rummage sales for my son’s birthday and Christmas gifts, and so would present him with things like model airplane sets whose parts were partly glued together and some of whose remaining parts were missing, and similar used junk. I saw that as a statement about how she felt about me and how she felt about my little boy.

    While I agree that we need to resist the crass commercialization of what should be a religious holiday and a family time, on the other hand, I think Christmas is not a occasion to play the tightwad. Keep it to something wanted, something to wear, (etc.), but whatever you choose, spring for decent quality. And unless you’re truly broke, make it new, not second-hand.

    • I understand. I feel alone and unloved at Christmas but not other times of the year.

      My mil would give my son a corduroy overall set and flannel shirt on his birthday, the end of April in the deep South. not only was it too hot for that, but she bought his size according to his age. In the cheap clothing she bought, nothing ever fit.

      She bought me a size 16 outfit when I wore a 10 and refused to allow me to get a different size because she bought it on sale after Christmas the year before, theorizing that I would keep weight after my son was born. No, thank you, mil, I weighed less after he was born. And, contrary to what she thought, I did it three times. Yet she continued to give me things way too large. All her gifts were thoughtless crap for me and my children.

  15. Big Guy and I were both laid off at the end of last December. He’s back to work as of last week, but I’m still searching. We sat down with our (grown) daughters and all agreed that this year, we would just do a stocking for everyone and one other gift each. The pantry and freezer are already/always well-stocked, and decorating won’t cost a cent as we’re surrounded by evergreens of all kinds. No throw-away wrappings, either – we re-use holiday cookie tins and fabric bags.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Kate: Smart! While I understand why some people want to continue as though layoffs/downturns never happened, I sure wish they wouldn’t. Your approach is much saner.

  16. Donna! I am so pleasantly surprised to see my words here. And you got me, you absolutely got me and that just helps in so many ways. I’m glad to know there are others who relate to me and the conflict that comes up with Christmas. Thank you for this. So very much.

  17. I save $75 for “gifts” (Christmas/birthdays/weddings/etc.) out of each paycheck each month. It usually goes into the savings account when there is not an expense but when there is I have a break down of maximum amounts:

    $20 for birthday gifts (or gift cards to my married niece and nephew)
    $30 for Christmas gifts for everyone. It could be less depending upon their list but never more. I have 9 nieces/nephews and 5 god children for which I buy. with the great after Thanksgiving sales or sales throughout the year it usually works out to less. Several kids have come to me over the past couple of years and said “no gift, I want a day with you to see a movie and lunch out”. They were 8 and 9 years old. They get a beautiful, handmade gift certificate they can “cash in” with me when there is a movie they want to see.

    $40 for wedding and $25 for shower gifts.

    I save enough each month that I always have what I need for Christmas and never need to charge anything. This year I asked my sisters if we could have a rule of handmade gifts among ourselves. I am making each of them “pretty colored, scented” candles and “white, emergency preparedness, non scented” candles. Each will get three scented and three non-scented.

    I paid $38 for all the materials I needed to make 4 dozen candles (free heat proof mason jars). I have more than enough to give out to friends who I have a $5 limit of gifts each year. The cost for each candle is $1 so they may get two or three!

  18. lostAnnfound

    Before Thanksgiving is done I have started my Christmas savings account for the following year. $20-$25 (approximately) per week throughout the year gives me a plenty of $$ to buy gifts for eight nieces & nephews, my parents (usually a food package from an online source that is shipped to them when they go to Florida for the winter) and our two daughters. So much less stress knowing the cash is there and so I will not be tempted to use a CC.

    • Donna Freedman

      @lostAnnfound: So simple, so effective. Maybe you’ll inspire others to do the same. Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  19. I’m giving my kids 2 gifts this year (as they’re quite young). I don’t remember getting more than 1 big gift + stocking stuffer from my parents, and we got lots of gifts from extended family. Sure, it’s great to open lots of toys but I think the # is not quite as important. I know someone who gets 10 gifts from her spouse because she got tons of gifts from her parents. If you’re used to 5, or 2, or whatever #, I think you’ll be fine with that # as you get older?
    I just think 10 or even 5 is excessive because that’s not what I was used to.

  20. My husband and I set at limit for each other. As we don’t have any kids just a large extended family on my side and a small one on his, I knit. This year I was on a yarn diet, where I had to go through my stash without buying anything else until Jan. 1. I made socks, hats, gloves, etc. I have yet to hear anyone complain about a hand knit gift.

    • I would NEVER complain about a knitted gift. However I am a rabid knitter myself. It’s a huge addiction. Here is another thought you might want to see who in your family and friends would be interested in learning the craft and give them a “gift certificate” of a lesson or two. If you enjoy that person’s company it would be a nice way to spend an hour or two.

  21. I’m usually a very frugal but very good shopper. And for years I loved the hunt for the “perfect” gift for each person on my list. But in the last 6 months we have moved 2 states away from most my family and friends, found out we are having a baby (due end of Jan/beginning of Feb.), had a job loss not even two months after the move, among a lot of other financial and mental stress.

    We were honest with people, money is tight, I’m sorry we won’t be able to send gifts out this year. No one has reacted negatively to this (probably because I have a really great circle of family and friends) and many have insisted on still sending us something as they can afford it. My best friend was relieved not to have to “exchange gifts” as she is having her own health and financial woes. We already had our son’s pj’s (a Christmas Eve tradition) and few suitable gifts squirreled away in my gift tote. And I found his ornament (another tradition) at a local store for REALLY cheap. My SO and I agreed not to exchange gifts, as he put it the new baby is more than enough of a “gift”. We agreed to give something small to his brother, grandparents (who live in the same town), I HAVE to buy my quasi-MIL something (his mother) and I wanted to give my Doula a thank you/Christmas gift for all she has done.

    I spent $43 dollars and got gifts for 6 people. Doula will get a loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped nicely, same for his brother (who doesn’t celebrate any holidays really but loves to eat), and so will his grandparents. However I bought a cute ornament for each grandparent to decorate their package with, we will explain we are including them in our family ornament tradition this year. Voila’ each grandparent gets two gifts for minimal cost. As for his mother I got her a holiday DVD that I’m sure she’d like and another ornament that I will use to decorate the front of her gift. And the final ornament goes to our son to fulfill the tradition we’ve had since his first Christmas. Plus the pj’s and a few presents from the gift tote I keep and replenish through the year.

    And to be honest the cut down, bare bones list and budget has actually been kind of nice and freeing. We kept more of precious dollars and cents we could use and I haven’t the stress associated with a larger list or budget.

    • Donna Freedman

      @CityRat: Sounds like you’ve got the right attitude and will have a great holiday. Congratulations on your impending miracle.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  22. I have bought a skegging for granddaughter and two tops to go with it. One top was on deep discount. Daughter said grandson needs underwear desperately, okay, got them. I found aluminum water bottle for $1.69, so got all them water bottles. $4.98 keychain flashlight were marked wrong, so the store gave them to me for $1.50. Tealights that are battery-operated were really cheap. She was so grateful I was buying emergency things. I used my Acorn research money for these. I am using my swagbucks to buy them headlamps. Fresh pecans, shelled, and sweet potatoes will go in the flatrate boxes at the PO.

    For son and his children, all items were on sale–deep discounts.

    I have a few friends and acquaintances that I always give a tiny, token gift to at Christmas. While this may seem like I am a cheapskate, I cannot do better, buy more. I found a sale on tangerines–$4.98, 5 lb box of tangerines for $1.98 (and I bought four boxes). I got free candy canes with a coupon. I have Hershey’s kisses. I will take plastic wrap or net that I have and wrap a little gift–trio of tangerines, and trio of kisses, wrapped and tied with a curling ribbon bow that will hold the candy cane on top.

    Oh, during the year i bought two books of stamps that will mail two flat rate boxes…almost enough stamps. Plus, I have leftover stamps from other books. My children live 1000 miles away, so postage is always a consideration.

    Next year, I hope to get other rewards going, besides making more from Swagbucks. Then, I hit the deep sales for other things I cannot get with the cards.

    I love Christmas!

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