Friday, November 11, 2011

Living On A Dime - Christmas On A Budget!

Christmas On A Budget!
by Tawra Kellam
http://www.LivingOnADime.com

Between high gas prices and consumers' sense of a financial squeeze in a struggling economy, many people think that a nice Christmas is out of the picture this year. But I say "Not so!" Here are a few ideas to help make Christmas memorable without breaking the bank!
  • Go Potluck! You buy the turkey -- Have everyone else bring the side dishes and drinks. Turkeys in our area are .59/lb this time of year. If you buy just the turkey, it will only cost you about $10-$15 to feed everyone for a large family gathering.
  • Celebrate Christmas the week after Christmas. Take advantage of the after Christmas sales and plan your large extended family gathering for the week after Christmas. Besides being less expensive, it is unlikely to interfere with anyone else's Christmas plans.
  • Don't give gifts or give inexpensive gifts to hairstylists, babysitters, teachers and others. I found several wonderful small scented jar candles on clearance for .25 each. I will put three of them in a small basket (purchased at the thrift store for .25) with some tissue paper, ribbon and nice note. A great gift for $1.25!
  • Break up gift sets. If you find an item that comes in a gift set at Christmas, give parts of it to different recipients. This is great for bath or perfume sets.
  • Yard sales and thrift stores equal great savings. You can find a lot of new or nearly new items for pennies on the dollar. For our son, we found a working telescope in the box. It cost $1.00, so we saved $24! He got what he wanted and we didn't have to take out a home equity loan!
  • Make memories, not more junk. Most kids get more than plenty for Christmas from grandparents, aunts and uncles. If you can only afford one gift for your child, make it a memory! Wrap a note in a box with instructions for a treasure hunt.. Send your child all over the house with clues and then have the real gift sitting under the tree when they return. Simple, but a great memory for them!

Here are some great recipes to use for Christmas!

Mint Chocolate Cookies
2/3 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Filling:
2-3/4 cups powder sugar
1/4 cup half and half cream
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 tsp. salt
Green food coloring

Cream butter, sugar then add milk and eggs. Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and chill for 2 hours until firm. Roll dough on floured surface about 1/8 inch thick Cut with 1-1/2 inch cookie cutter and place 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 5-6 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Cool on racks. Combine filling and spread on half of the cookies, then top with the other halves. Makes about 7 dozen.

(This recipe may not sound appealing with vinegar in the title but it really is yummy. For something different this year, try having an old fashioned taffy pull! It's a great party for teens or adults. Use different taffy recipes and play fun, silly games or watch a Christmas movie while eating the candy you made along with popcorn and cookies.)

Vinegar Taffy
2 cups dark corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
food coloring
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Continue cooking to 260 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in soda, vanilla and a few drops of food coloring. Beat until smooth and creamy. Pour into a buttered pan. When cool enough to handle butter hands and pull until light in color. Pull into long strips and cut into 1 inch pieces. Makes 8 dozen.

Herbed vinegars make great gifts especially if you want to give something different than the sweets most people get at this time of year. They're also good for those who have to watch their sugar. Don't forget the cooks in your life too!

If you're trying to make it in time for Christmas, you'll want to make it soon as it needs to age before it is used.

Herbed Vinegar
2 cup white vinegar
1 cup fresh herbs: basil, mint, dill, rosemary, chives or oregano (choose one)
Decide which herb you'd like to flavor your vinegar. Place the vinegar in a glass jar or bottle. Add herbs, seal and let steep for 2-4 weeks. The longer you let it steep, the stronger the vinegar. Remove herbs and put in 2 or 3 sprigs of the herb for decoration. Seal bottle with cork and then pour melted paraffin around the top and tie with a ribbon for gift giving. Makes 2 cups.

Tawra Kellam and Jill Cooper are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit http://www.LivingOnADime.com , sign up for our free Living On A Dime Newsletter and learn to save more!

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