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thIt begins: Yesterday I bought my first stocking stuffers.

They were in the clearance bin, as stocking stuffers often are: a trio of Crayola scented markers for 17 cents apiece. The markers will go to a flamboyant young relative who’s all about creativity; at age 9, the dude is using YouTube to learn how to knit an infinity scarf.

In years past I’ve hit post-holiday sales to buy the next year’s holiday gifts and even some items for the house. This year I’ve been curiously inert when it comes to bargain-hunting.

The Crayolas may have gotten me off my own mark, however, since I’ve begun to notice yard-sale signs. 

 


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thFor at least 17 years I’ve been picking up change and saving it until Thanksgiving, at which point I donate it to the Food Bank of Alaska.

This year’s count-up was late, on purpose. I decided to wait until January because giving tends to slow way down right after the holidays. (Apparently people are hungry only from Thanksgiving until Christmas.)

Here’s what I accumulated between last November and yesterday:

  • 21 quarters
  • 62 dimes
  • 25 nickels
  • 157 pennies

A typical year’s take is usually no more than $20 and no less than $12, so $14.27 isn’t too bad. Notably absent this year was any denomination of paper money, which could mean that people are being more careful with their cash. Or maybe it means that another scavenger got there first.

 


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thJust got a press release from a company suggesting “fun and affordable” stocking stuffers. What got my attention was how it defines “affordable”: items under $50.

Um…no. I don’t spend $50 altogether on the stuffers for five stockings. In fact, I generally don’t spend anything at all (more on that in a minute).

On what non-frugal planet is “under $50” considered a low price for a small item? And when did stocking stuffers graduate from candy canes and stickers to things like $50 iTunes cards, Sharper Image six-port USB charging hubs ($29.98) and $30 bottles of perfume?

Little things mean a lot, but they shouldn’t have to cost a lot. Thus I refuse to pay a lot. Here are some ways to save.

 


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IMG_20151210_113500This week’s giveaway achieves two of my favorite goals: supporting the local economy and helping readers finish up their holiday shopping.

I only wish that my meh-photography did justice to the two pendants up for grabs this week. They’re quite striking and hand cut- and hammered by my friend Linda B.

She started by cutting two disks of aluminum: one a deep maroon and the other a vibrant violet. Onto each she riveted a five-armed, gear-like circle that makes the pendants look, at first glance, like sheriffs’ badges or combat medals.

The colors below seem richer, possibly because you’re seeing them in concentrated glimpses. The overlays give a suggestion of motion that I like to think of as, “Hey — get your life in gear and start moving!”

Know anyone who needs an accessory with a built-in kick in the pants? Or maybe you need it yourself.


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th-1Personal finance geeks like to plan ahead: retirement, emergency fund, college plan, new-car-with-cash fund, et al.

We actually find this fun, or at least satisfying. You should try it sometime.

A lot of us will also set an amount to be spent for the holidays and other occasions important to us (mom’s birthday, an annual 10k, the Talkeetna Bachelors Auction and Wilderness Woman Competition, whatever).

But how many remember what I call the “milestone gifts” – weddings, graduation, babies, bar mitzvahs and the like?

This could come out of the “entertainment” section of your budget, but if you have a big family and/or a lot of friends then pretty soon you’d have no money left for the movies.

Gift-giving can be a very touchy practice. Is it the right present? Will they thank me but roll their eyes later? Is everyone judging my choice?

And, of course, the biggie: Did I spend enough?

 


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