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Rethinking Christmas Stockings

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Christmas Stocking 3 The Prudent Homemaker

A few years back, we were in need of new Christmas stockings. Our family had grown, and we didn't have enough matching stockings for the family.

At the same time, I had been seeing beautiful miniature stockings online made from vintage grain sacks. I loved the simple red stripes at the top and I especially loved the fact that the stockings were tiny. Small stockings (rather than ones that could fit an entire adult's arm) mean there is less to fill, and I can have a wrapped gift sticking out of the top, which is something I had always wanted to do. That didn't work with our previous stockings, which were so long I could fit all of our gifts for each person in with room to spare.

Chirstmas Stocking The Prudent Homemaker

I drew up a small stocking pattern and set to work. I didn't have vintage grain sacks, nor a budget for them, so I used my sewing machine to sew red stripes on some painter's drop cloth that I had previously bought at the hardware store. (Note: Our city got an Ikea store last year; they have dishtowels for $0.79 each that have red stripes at the top which would work beautifully to make these stockings).

Last year, with our new baby, I wasn't worried about hanging a stocking for him. Now that he's a year and a half, it's time for me to make a stocking for him too!

You can make your own small stockings out of your fabric of choice. Not a fan of red stripes? Try cutting up a velvet skirt or dress, or an old sweater that you find at the thrift store! Repurpose an old sheet to use as the lining.

Christmas Stockings The Prudent Homemaker

 

When it comes to filling the stockings, consider the simplest things.

In the toe, put a clementine or an orange. These are always on sale at Christmastime in the U.S.  (Readers in the Southern Hemisphere, please share your favorite summer fruits for stockings in the comments below!)

Include some candy and/or nuts. I like to buy some candy from the bulk section at Winco when it goes on sale right before Halloween and give that (this year I bought peppermint patties). Candy canes, purchased on sale, work well. I like to make homemade candies too, such as peppermint bark, which I put inside in plastic bags. For nuts, look at buying them in bulk from Sam's Club, Costco, Winco, or another place that sells bulk nuts. If you grow your own, whole nuts in the shell look pretty in stockings as well. If you prefer cookies to candy, a beautifully decorated Christmas cookie or two is a nice, edible gift.

For gifts, I like to keep the cost down. Most "inexpensive" stocking stuffer ideas that I see include several gifts that are $10-$20 each. Most years, that is my entire Christmas budget per person (candy and nuts come from my regular grocery budget, rather than my planned gift budget), which means I need to lower that amount considerably to keep within my budget for the year. I usually include two to three gifts per person in stockings. Here's some of what I like to include:

 

For my daughters:

Jewelry. I find pieces at garage sales for $1 an item. I'll make jewelry from repurposed or garage sale pieces. Broken or old costume jewelry is great for this purpose. I've also bought beads, elastic, and jewelry findings on sale to make pieces between $0.15 to $1 each.

Small toys. Garage sales are also a great place to find small toys. I found a number Legos for a total of $0.50 this year, and I'll divide these up between my four younger girls.

Art supplies. I purchase these for $0.25 to $1 at back to school sales.

Hair ribbons. I buy them on sale by the spool and cut them on the diagonal (to reduce fraying) in lengths for the girls.

Homemade barrettes.

Hair elastics. I buy these in packages of 100 from the dollar store.

Bobby Pins. I get these from the dollar store.

Hair brushes. I also get these from the dollar store.

 

For my sons:

Legos. Garage sales are again my source for the least expensive small Lego stocking stuffers.

More Candy and/or nuts. My boys like to have the same candy as their dad.

Ties. My boys wear a tie to church every Sunday. I find them at garage sales for $0.50 to $1 each.

 

For both boys and girls:

Toothbrushes. I buy them in packages of 4 or 5 for $1 from the dollar store (last Christmas I saw this same deal at Walmart too).

Chapstick. I often buy a bulk package and divide it up. I look for coupons and sales to get the price lower than $1 each.

Bouncy balls. You can buy a bag (usually of 6) in the party section of several stores.

Puzzles. The dollar store has small puzzles that fit in stockings. 

Earbuds. Again, I get these at the dollar store.

Bookmarks. Homemade bookmarks are a favorite gift at my house. My children are avid readers who always have a book going.

 

For my husband:

His favorite candy. At my house, this means a large bag of peanut M&Ms and/or a bag of Werther's. I can always find coupons and sales on these to get the price down considerably.

This is all I usually get my husband, but this year I'm thinking of adding a restaurant gift card using points I earn on Swagbucks. We don't usually exchange gifts between the two of us, so this would be a surprise. It also won't cost me anything at all!

Christmas Stockings detail The Prudent Homemaker

Reducing the size of your stockings makes it easier to fill a stocking and keep within a tiny budget. There's no need to feel obligated to spend money on stocking stuffers that will end up broken and unwanted before the New Year. Let your gifts be simple.

 

As I was writing this post, I asked my 12-year-old son what he loved getting in his stocking. He immediately mentioned the clementine, then candy, and then bouncy balls! And only then did he mention Legos. What my children have come to remember is the simple traditional items that we have included, and they look forward to them every year!

 

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Christmas Stocking 3 The Prudent Homemaker

Gifts for stockings can easily add up to be quite a bit, even if you take a trip to the dollar store. 

Here are some items to give using items you already have in your pantry, cupboards, along with a few items to make using what you already have on hand:

 

From the kitchen and pantry:

1. Apples, oranges, and clementines

2. Nuts. Put a small amount in some tissue or a  bag and tie with string or ribbon, or make a little paper cone for them.

3. Hot chocolate packets

 

To make from the kitchen:

1. Cookies. Put these in a bag or some tissue paper.

2. Caramels. Here's a microwave version. Wrap caramels in waxed paper.

3. Peppermint bark

4. Homemade candies

5. Candied citrus peels

6. Homemade play dough

7. Homemade granola. Here's my recipe for cranberry almond granola

8. Fudge

 

From the cupboards:

1. Pens, pencils, and crayons that you bought on sale at back to school time

2. Personal grooming items: razors, cotton balls, toothpaste, toothbrush, toiletry samples

 

To make from the cupboards:

1. A miniature first aid kit to tuck into a purse, backpack, or glove compartment with Band-Aids and pain relievers

2. A small book with printer paper or lined paper, covered in cardstock or contrasting paper. Sew it together by machine or by hand, or staple it instead.

3. Bookmarks. I have a large selection of free printables on my site here.

4. Bookplates. Free printables are here.

5. Dollhouse artwork, wallpaper, and rugs. Free printables here.

6. Seed packets with seeds gathered from your garden. Free printable here.

7. Date with mom coupons. Free printable here.

 

To make from repurposed items:

1. Scarves from scraps of fabric, old curtains, flannel sheets, a repurposed skirt. Think flannel, velvet, sheers, etc. Likewise, you can knit or crochet a scarf using the yarn from old clothing items, or make a striped scarf using leftover bits of different-colored yarn.

2. Handkerchiefs from old sheets (a great way to repurpose a sheet that has a tear).

3. Earrings from broken jewelry

4. Decorative bobby pins with old buttons

5. Decorative bobby pins with broken jewelry

6. Mittens from an old sweater or sweatshirt (a shrunk wool sweater is perfect for this, or a stained sweater or sweatshirt--just cut your pattern around the stains.

7. Hand-warmers stuffed with rice. Use repurposed clothing or scraps of fabric to make these. Microwave them to put in pockets before leaving. Try a heart shape for a little fun. 

8. Headbands from ribbons and hair elastics

 

Christmas Stocking 2 The Prudent Homemaker

 

Something that also helped me was to hang smaller stockings. Two years ago, I needed a couple more stockings for our family. I decided to make new stockings from a drop cloth, and I made them smaller. The previous stockings we had were so long that my children would put their entire arm in their stockings and not be able to reach the bottom! Having smaller stockings relieved the presure from me to feel like I needed to buy more to fill our stockings.

Consider a stocking with a piece of fruit in the toe, some candy and/or other edibles, and one small gift per person this Christmas. It's simple, it will be used, it won't take up lots of space (or be broken in a week), and it works with a tight budget!

 

Tagged in: Christmas Gifts
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Frugal gifts large

 Here are a few quick, easy, and free or close to free gifts that you can download or print in 5 minutes or less:

 

Frugal Gifts Music 500

Download Free Music:

 

Classical Music

Amazon Amazon has several free songs and albums that you can download.

Your local library may have free music that you can download from their website through Freegal. You can also use your library card and pin to download the music from Freegal's site. There is a limit to how many songs you can download per library card per week.

 

Download free audio books:

 

Librivox

Free Classic Audio Books

 

Bookmarks

Printable Gifts:

 

My free printables: bookmarks, date with mom coupons, cooking lessons with mom coupons, bookplates, printable seed packets, needlebooks, and dollhouse printables

Free Sheet Music for  variety of instruments

 

Children cutting paper dolls

Paper Dolls:



Betsy McCall Paper Dolls

Soldiers of 3 Wars and Their Lasses

Vintage Finnish Paper Dolls

Beautiful vintage paper dolls

(In both color and black and white outlines for coloring)

Lily & Thistle Paper Doll

Russian Nesting Dolls

Regency and Victorian paper dolls

(In both color and black and white outlines for coloring)

 

Paper Toys:

 Think play castles, buildings, and cars. These are cut, folded, and glued to construct. These are great to print out and let your children construct!

The Toymaker

Beautiful, simple toys (along with a couple of fun boxes for gift giving, including a frog and a chocolate truck)

Paper Toys

Nativity

Canon's Creative Park

Good for older children or even adults. These projects require a lot of paper and ink.

Made By Joel paper toys

Vintage-Style Concentration Game

Agence Eureka

Vintage French paper toys that you can print

 

Free Images:

Use these as artwork gifts.


Graphics Fairy

Just Something I Made

She has both free printables and lots of tutorial projects

Vintage Printable

NY Public Library

Flashcards

Free U.S Maps

 

 

Do you have any favorites to add to the list? Share them in the comments below!

Tagged in: Christmas Gifts
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Advent Activities 2014

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Pinecones and Euyonomous The Prudent Homeamaker

This post contains affiliate links.

Last year, I made an advent calendar to help us have more fun together as a family in December. I included crafts, special treats, and activities we would be attending. I found that writing out a list made it easier to make sure we did the special things I wanted to do as a family.

Here is this year's list:

Advent Card The Prudent Homemaker


Here are our activities:

1. Collect pinecones. These will be used for decorations.

2. Decorate the Christmas tree, while listening to a live Chamber Orchestra performance

3. Cut paper snowflakes and put up Christmas lights

4. Make paper trees

5. Draw a pastel snowman and watch a free live choir and Philharmonic performanance online

6. Drink hot chocolate while mom reads a Christmas story

7. Watch the First Presidency Christmas devotional on December 7th (a live feed will be available in 16 languages, including Portuguese, German, French, Russian, Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin). 

8. Listen to a Christmas story

9. Read Snowflake Bentley, check out Russian photographer Alexy Kljatov's snowflake photographs.

10. Make more paper trees and watch a free live Wind Symphony performance online

11. Make Christmas tree paintings while mom reads a Christmas story

12. Attend a Christmas recital in which three of my daughters will play Christmas music

13. Make snowman pancakes for breakfastsnowman hot chocolate for snacks, make some snowman art

14. Watch a video about Christ's birth

15. Listen to a Christmas story

16. Listen to a Christmas story

17. Make Christmas crafts

18. Make Christmas crafts and listen to a Christmas story

19. Watch a Christmas movie

20. Make cookies

21. Play board games and eat popcorn

22. Enjoy some Christmas cheese ballscrackers cut with Christmas cookie cutters, and olive penguins

23. Make rosemary olive oil bread. Wrap it up with rosemary and tags and deliver it to friends.

24. Read Luke 2

 Advent Cards 2 The Prudent Homemaker

 

You can see the crafts we want to make on my Pinterest board.

We'll listen to Pandora's Classical Christmas stations when we're doing crafts.

For these free printable advent cards, you can click here.

 

Our list of Christmas books includes the following:


The Candle in the Forest: And Other Christmas Stories Children Love

I Saw Three Ships

The Lion in the Box

A Celebration of Christmas

The Ideals Treasury of Best-Loved Christmas Stories

Flourish 6

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We spent Christmas at home.

The children really liked their presents. I loved the oohs and ahhs and sighs of delight. The boys were quite delighted with their bookmarks. Winter loved the jewelry that I made for her--as well as the 10 cent bracelet and 50 cent vintage necklace that I found for her at garage sales.

I did well purchasing the gifts from my grandmother and my brother (they gave me money to buy gifts for the children). I bought exactly what several children wanted, which was awesome.

I made 2 batches of rosemary olive oil bread and cut the loaves in half to give smaller loaves of bread for Christmas gifts to Sunday School teachers and friends. I wrapped the loaves with brown packing paper (I ironed it first), tied them with red and white baker's twine, and tied rosemary in a circle on it as a wreath to decorate it (similar to how we had it here).

I picked up the free 8 x 10 image (of a girl with a bird on her shoulder) that I ordered last week from Walgreen's (using a free Graphics Fairy image). I put that picture in a picture frame that I got for free at a garage sale in October, and I gave it to Wren as a Christmas gift. I put the other picture (of the Eiffel tower) that I got with a free Walgreen's code before that in the matching picture frame from the garage sale, and gave it to Elsa for Christmas. We hung the pictures over their beds.

Walgreen's was out of eggs, and they had them on sale for $0.99 a dozen, so I got a raincheck for 12 dozen.

I finished making a pair of pajama pants for Cyrus from plaid flannel that I had.

I put new buttons on his garage sale suit coat. Now his suit has three buttons in front as it should.

I finally finished Wren's yellow dress (made with fabric from my grandmother's collection) and I gave it to her for Christmas. She has worn it twice already.

My grandmother gave us $60 for Christmas. I decided to spend it on food.

I just to Winco, hoping that they would have prices comparable to Food 4 Less's deals on oranges and onions. (Food 4 Less is a lot further away, so it would have meant a large amount for gas to get there).

I found out that they had an even better deal on oranges (.01 a pound less) and that they would price match on the onions so long as I had the ad in hand (which I did).

The onions were .20 a pound and the oranges were .19 a pound. I know this is a once a year kind of price and that both will last a long time, so I planned to stock up. I asked the produce manager how many pounds come in a box. Oranges come 38 pounds to a box and yellow onions come 40 pounds to a box.

I bought 4 boxes of oranges and 2 boxes of onions. These will keep for months if kept cool (for now they are going in the garage; when I take the flower bulbs out of the fridge later this week I will put some of the oranges in their place).

I wanted to use my $10 off $50 coupon that came in the mail, so I also bought 6 pounds of clementines ($1.00 a pound). That would have been enough, but I need to make some pear butter in exchange for the garage sale shopping that a friend did for me this summer so I bought 4.96 pounds of pears at .99 a pound.

I also used one reusable bag for the clementines and the pears, which was .06 off


My total was $45.64 for:

80 pound of yellow onions

152 pounds of navel oranges

6 pounds clementines

4.96 pounds of D'Anjou pears
 
I took the rest of the money and used it for a ham (and a half) from another store who had half hams for .88 a pound. (I bought a few more hams as well). I cooked one for Christmas and the others were frozen to eat next year).

My husband and I had a date night at home. We also watched two shows on Hulu for free.

We listened to Christmas music on Pandora for free.

The children and my husband played several games of Monopoly this week. They played on the board I had when I was a child.

I used a Burpee gift card that I was given and combined it with a $10 off coupon code to order some seeds for next year. Between these and what I have leftover from this year, I don't anticipate needing any seeds for food for next year.



We were given some cucumbers and 2 red peppers that were about to go bad/were going bad. I was able to salvage enough to make 17 pints of dill pickles and 9 half-pints of sweet pickle relish.


What did you do to save money last week?
 
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Grain Sack Inspired Stockings

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Do you ever have the urge to ditch all of your plans for the day and just make something new?

I did that this week.

I put away thoughts of sewing any presents, served leftovers for breakfast one morning, and worked on a project instead.

We took out the Christmas decorations and set up the tree on Monday. It was then that I remembered that we are short stockings. We have 7 stockings and 9 people.

Last year we decided to make it work. My husband and I shared a stocking and the baby didn't have one.

This year I wanted stockings. Sure, I could have the 7 that we have for just the children, but I really wanted some new stockings.

After I saw these beautiful miniature stockings last year (and these slightly larger ones), I realized how nice it would be to have smaller stockings. I wouldn't feel bad because I didn't have a filled stocking to the top. I like the look of presents sticking out the top, but with a huge stocking, that doesn't happen. I decided to not go really small, but I did make smaller stockings than we had (in the end, these turned out to be about 1/3 the size of our previous stockings).


 
I really like the look of grain sack stockings, but grain sacks are pricey. I decided to make the stockings from drop cloth that I purchased last year, and to use the machine stitches to sew on the red stripes.

For each stocking, I cut 4 pieces, so that they would be lined.


I used embroidery thread to make a twisted hanging hook (like I do for my bookmark tassels). For two of them, I attached a couple of package toppers that we had received on past presents years ago that I keep with the Christmas decorations (I usually tie them on packages). My husband would like me to do something a little different on each one so that we can tell them apart. (They are hung oldest to youngest, but I also like the look of something more on them. I am thinking of attaching some jingle bells and possibly some fresh rosemary to the tops of them this year).

I am really happy to have 9 more reasonably-sized stockings hanging up this year!


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