Gale is right, it is not too early to think about Christmas... because it
is yard-sale season.
Most Saturdays in the summer I yard sale with my 20-year-old married
daughter. We take my car and use my gas, as I view this as my cost of getting to
spend time with my daughter... anything I buy at yard sales is just icing on the
cake. Really, what could be finer?
This summer we've started to include one of my friends. Sue had before
casually yard-saled, but had never tried to hit 30 to 40 in a day using a map.
She's completely hooked, and returns home every time with a respectable pile of
stuff. She has been buying for her grown children and small grandchildren.
Sue has shown her loot to her relatives and asked if they were receptive to
yard-sale presents next Christmas. The relatives were enthusiastic to her idea,
as they were impressed with the great stuff she is finding. So Sue has started
saving the presents in a designated box. It is hard to stash yard-sale presents,
because the urge is so great to give it immediately. It takes some discipline to
save the items.
At a time when our culture is so materialistic, there is an excess of great
stuff at yard sales. It is pretty easy to do budget Christmases buying
secondhand things. With our kids (who are now young adults) we would usually
give a mix of stuff. Some new items from their wish lists (things that could not
be bought secondhand), and whatever goodies we found at yard sales. Since we had
a $50 budget per kid (less when they were small) they knew that if they got
secondhand stuff, they got way more.
I never felt giving secondhand was "cheap," because, like a
homemade gift, a secondhand gift represents my time. It takes time to go to many
yard sales, and in some cases I spend time cleaning and repairing the items. I
NEVER tried to pass off items as new. My kids were always told what came from
yard sales, or other secondhand sources... and what I paid for the items. I
wanted them to learn the life lesson that you can get really great things
cheaply. The main thing is to buy really great stuff, and things that are really
fitting for that individual.
I've even given items as gifts that I found shopping the curb (cleaned and
repaired), always telling the recipient where I got the item.
As young adults, my kids still like secondhand gifts, and some now give away
things they bought secondhand.
As an example of a recent thrift-shop gift, I found my artistic son-in-law a
book of the preliminary drawing and sketches done for the making of the first
Matrix movie. This is a large thick hardcover filled with color and
black-and-white sketches. I got it for $3.50... original price was $80. I gave
it to him for his birthday and he loved it.
on June 28, 2009 8:02 AM
This is such a great idea! You could beat yourself up over not being able to do
what you would like to, or... turn it into something special your family will
on June 28, 2009 5:02 PM
Well, AnnS, we are cut from the same cloth. When I first started buying yard
sale Christmas I didn't reveal where the gifts came from and nobody guessed. I
bought only new things back then. It was out of clear necessity I started buying
this way. Also my daughter worked at K-Mart and when the winter clothes went on
for 80% and 90% off, I was there. My family was so amased at the nice sweathers,
hoodies and jogging outfits they got for Christmas. Not knowing that most cost
me $3.00 each. Once at a yard sale I bought my daughter 5 pairs of new jeans for
$10.00. They didn't fit the original owner and they had never been worn.Just
yesterday(6-27-09) I bought an entire wrapping center including the Rubbermaid
40' paper holder and a box of bags. I got 36 rolls of paper(20 had never been
opened) and 30 gift bags( all sizes )including giant bags( all paper and VERY
nice) a stack of tissue to match the bags, a box of gift cards, a pkg. of basket
covers and a pkg. of treat bags( all new) I paid $10.00 for the whole kit and
kabotal. Now, I am proud of myself for all the bargains.I'm almost done with
what I'll buy this year, all I have left to do is the things I'm making.
on June 28, 2009 6:21 PM
I have kept my eyes open at discount and charity stores as well as yard sales
and when friends who sew have excess fabric they are not going to use. I've sewn
gift bags and they are always used at home year after year. Tie with yarn or
ribbon found on sale. For "out of the house gifts" i recycle gift bags
in good condition.
on June 30, 2009 12:07 PM
You can find a lot of nice things at yard sales and thrift/second-hand
I found a commemorative pilsner glass from Superbowl XXXI for $0.50 at a thrift
store, gave it to a friend, who was so thrilled! The comment was "I love
it! Do you know how hard it is to find these today?"
Giving gifts that are second-hand or from yard sales and thrift store doesn't
mean that you're cheap. (Hey, they don't sell "used-cars", they're
on June 30, 2009 9:47 PM
I love this idea! I wish I could get the rest of my family to stop buying my
kids tons of junk at Christmas so that they could enjoy a scaled down Christmas.
I'm with the yard saling method until then. We have a $10/kid for each Christmas
and birthday. They get more enjoyment out of those $10 worth of toys than the
$40 toys my mom always gets them.
on July 07, 2009 5:45 PM
THERE IS NOTHING QUIET LIKE AN OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS. WITH ALL THE HAND MADE
TRIMMINGS , WRAPPINGS AND GIFTS. AND IF A FAMILY IS REALLY LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE
A BIT OF PROPERTY, GO GET YOUR OWN CHRISTMAS TREE. MATTERS NOT HOW STRAGGLY IT
MAY SEEM AT THE TIME. IT WILL BE BEAUTIFUL.
THESE TIMES ARE GETTING MORE AND MORE DIFICULT FINANCIALLY. FIND WAYS TO MAKE
YOUR OWN WAY. SEWING, PLANTING, HARVESTING, PRESERVING, MAKING YOUR OWN
on July 11, 2009 11:53 AM
Y'all have great tips;thanks so much for sharing. Something that I do to save
money is to buy Christmas gifts early. I start in July as there are so many
great semi-annual sales going on. I also sell jewelry and in July when we get
our new catalog, everything in it is 50% off for representatives. In addition, I
love thrift stores and reduced price bookstores like Half-Price books. You can
get brand new or gently used books, cds and magazines for half off! Big Lots is
also a great store to shop at if you have one in your town.
on July 11, 2009 8:37 PM
In our family we make it special to receive a gently used gift -- it is called
our "Goodwill" gift. It is special because the giver had to spend
time and effort to find a present that suits the recepient.
I'm making small memory scrapbooks this year -- take a special occasion in the
person's life and put together pictures, poems, whatever you have that pertains
to the subject.
I have also done this with my Dad's recipes -- used pictures of him in the
kitchen, written memories (the smell of homemade bread at 4am!). You can
usually find small scrapbooks ready to use at Michaels in their $1 bins.
on July 30, 2009 3:17 PM
We buy our kids and their cousins loads of things for christmas, if we dont
their parents can't afford to, but this years we will do a lot but not spend
thousands I am now upcycling and the kids love the felt food, hats, slippers and
dolls I am making while often also recycling. It all has been a big hit. I was
never pressured to spend a lot but we have it so why not was our thinking. Now
we are very frugal this past year and really like this new way of living and
really happy the kids like what I make just as much as store bought things,
actually more. My 4 year old lves the recycled bag i made from her brothers camo
pants and sequin applique I made frm her old shirt as much as her juicy couture
on September 27, 2009 11:29 PM
I grew up really poor. It was the 80's and my parents were dairy farmers, and
had their income cut almost in 1/2 in a year. Anyhow, they still had 4 kids to
feed and clothe, and Christmas on top of everything. I know it was hard (as the
oldest I saw what the other kids didn't) but, some of my best memories come from
that time. One year my mom looked out just as Santa went by (there is a reindeer
with a red nose...some might say he looks a bit like an airplane). Later, Mom
asked us to go get the laundry out of the dryer. All of the presents were there
because Santa couldn't come in while we were awake. My dad made a big star for
the top of the silo...still nothing like driving over the hill to the farm and
seeing that star lit up...this was before the plastic things of today, and it
really stood out. I still remember getting boots as a present because it was one
or the other and we needed boots. I remember getting shovels, and curry combs,
and new grain scoops. I didn't mind they made my life better while I did chores.
Toys are more fun, but the memories are more cherished when you know how hard
the ones you loved tried.
on November 08, 2009 6:53 PM
Gale, that is a great story, and demonstrates a work ethic and resilience that
I think many families could learn from. Thank you for sharing!
on November 15, 2009 7:00 PM
I love Christmas. I love Christmas that takes a little imagination even
more...to give people some ideas this is what Christmas will be at our
house....we will put up our Christmas tree after Dec. 11 because we celebrate a
birthday first to keep the two sepperate. The tree is normally 1/2 price unless
we go and cut it (we have a 2 1/2 and a 1 1/2 year old, we won't cut one for a
few more years:). We have beautiful decorations...each year I buy 1 or 2 pewter
ornaments, and always watch for silver, pewter, and crystal ornaments on deep
discount after Christmas, and at thrift stores. I can't tell you how many
$50-$100 ornaments are out there in their original boxes for $5.00. One year a
neighbor threw out her tree with everything on it (bored her after one year)...I
took all of the stuff off the tree in the deepest drift ever. I kept some for
myself, but most went to family, and a friend who had had a bad divorce.
Always watch for ways to bless others.
The first few years our tree had some pretty ribbon (which I change as I see
fit) a few very nice ornaments, and a star made out of the leftover materials
and lace from my wedding dress, and plain clear lights. Simple and beautiful.
Every ornament has a memmory...the dancing couple, first Christmas. The bear,
we got it in Canada after seeing a mother and her cub way to close and personal
while hiking, a train for my little boy, a doll for my little girl, long
thin ones dubbed "zippers" by my little boy last year, the bell that
everynight ended up on the floor a few years ago because the cats climbed the
tree to ring it...all night long until it fell. We put it on the lower branches
after the first night. There are nativities around because that is the
reason...there are still no Santas and never will be. My mom gave me 7
beautiful, expensive pewter santas a few years ago (garage sale)...I regifted
after asking her if she would mind. They were an "everyday gift"
which is you might like this or know someone who will, but I just had to give
it a try. They are the nicest ornaments on my mother-in-laws tree. She is into
the tree, and only cares how the lights look...it works for her. It must be
why my husband always finds the perfect tree...while every tree I have ever
bought was to big, had a huge hole in it, and/ or had to be attached to the
wall so it didn't tip over.
on November 20, 2009 9:02 PM
Michelle, You cut up your wedding dress? A family member, might have wanted it!
on December 31, 2009 2:19 AM
What wonderful memories. I also have found that when money is scarce,
creativity comes forward! My favorite gift this year was a project I had started
this summer, but it went to the back burner by early fall. I had painted all the
frames we had family pictures in, in one color. I had bought the word
"BLESSINGS" from Gordmans. It was the same color as the frames. Rather
than having the outdated family photos that my grown girls complained about, I
chose my favorite photo of each of my children and my grandchildren. My husband
is a graphic designer. He took the photos, cleaned them up on the computer, had
them all printed at Walgreen's in black and white photos and in the correct size
to fit in the proper frame. He hung it all up along with two carved looking
medallions I had gotten from a garage sale years ago and it looks like something
on January 01, 2010 11:11 AM
One year we had no money for Christmas (right before payday) and our little
girl had been in the hospital. So, we actually moved Christmas day back three
or four days. They were none the wiser (about three and five at the time) and
we were able to get a lot of toys, candy, etc. at about 75% off, plus by then
we'd had another payday. You just need to not watch t.v. or let the neighbor
kids come knocking on the door On Christmas day to compare presents. It worked
for us!!! Our kids (late teens)know about it now and think it's hilarious, so we
now have a day about three days after Christmas that we do another gift
exchange, taking advantage of sales.
on December 09, 2010 3:59 PM
My grandmother, born in 1896, used to tell me about Christmases during her
childhood in the South. Their big Christmas treat was apples and oranges in
their stockings, because prior to the advent of refrigerated railroad cars,
citrus fruit couldn't be shipped at anytime but in the winter. Grandma always
filled our stockings with fruit...she did it to continue the tradition she knew
as a child. But apples and oranges are healthier than candy or junk food... and
very frugal because it takes up space in the Christmas stockings that would
otherwise have to be filled with more expensive goods.
on December 10, 2010 1:19 AM
I am a member of paperbackswap.com . I have done about half of my christmas
shopping this year through the benefit of swapped paperbacks. I have learned
that the PBS members ship NEW books, so I managed to get new books for my
husband, niece, great nephew and my grandchild. They will love the gifts and I
love emptying my bookshelves of books I enjoyed but do not want to keep forever.
on December 16, 2010 2:48 PM
Gale I think what you did was fabulous. You should be named Mother of the
We are in the same boat as you this year.
I love the idea of giving from thrift shops. I have done this for years but no
one knew where they came from. I guess you could say it was a "don't ask,
don't tell" policy. I bought brand new items for practically nothing and
they loved them.
on December 16, 2010 5:32 PM
Wow,it's wonderful to see so many people have the true Christmas spirit and
refuse to buy into the "money spirit", regardless of personal reasons.
My first remembered Christmas was a small doll bed with a home made rag doll and
clothes my Grandmother made. I was the happiest little girl and still consider
that one of my very best Christmas times. Thanks for all these great ideas, I'm
fairly new at "being frugal" and love it and love you guys for all the
on December 16, 2010 8:37 PM
I decided this year I wanted a simple tree. I got out my artificial tree and
decorated with lots of multi-colored lights that I've used for years. Then I
took some broom-weed (looks kinda like tumbleweed) from our fence row (we live
in the country), spray painted them white and filled in some of the parts on the
tree that were a bit sparse. I bought some of the ribbon you can curly cue (10
cents at a garage sale) and made curls of approximately 12" pieces, paper
bows, and a few of my old faves. Presto--the "simple tree" I wanted.
and only for spending about $4. I've used spices, cinnamon, cloves and allspice
to simmer in a pot I got at a garage sale and used tea lights, also garage sale
items. I've spent about $4. total and have the tree I wanted. I plan to use
other natural items next year. And our tree is just what we wanted.
on December 20, 2010 6:16 PM
Occasionally X-mas would fall right before payday and my parents just didn't
have enough to celebrate really.
My mom was 1/2 Italian and they have this tradition of La befona who brings
presents on epiphany (Jan 6).
It was always nice to have a fall-back holiday for those uncooperative paydays
or if you hid the presents so well you couldn't find them by X-mas.
on December 21, 2010 1:58 AM
This is in reference to the wedding dress comment. My husband and I married in
1972. I was in nursing school, and he was a school teacher in southern Arkansas
(those of you who know the area and time frame, also know that he made about
$4000 per year; and there were NO pay checks in the summer back then!). So,
ours was a very low budget wedding. My mother made my wedding dress; a simple
white satin gown with heavy (cotton, maybe??) lace appliqued on it. Fast
forward about 35 years. We had raised two sons; no daughters. Obviously, my
gown would never be used. So, when each son got married, I cut up my gown and
made each of our daughters-in-law a ring bearer's pillow. I machine embroidered
each couple's names and wedding date in silver metallic thread, used some of the
lace from my gown as well as additional lace and ribbon to embellish them. I
was delighted to find packed away some hand tatted lace that my grandmother had
made (she was long since deceased), and used it as well for our younger son's
wedding. So, each couple had two (and, in the younger son's case, THREE)
generations represented in the crafting of the ring bearer's pillow. Everyone
loved them, and each one is a cherished memento of their wedding day. Just
thought I'd share that cutting up one's wedding dress can be a wonderful thing
on December 23, 2010 2:08 PM
Lots of good ideas and stories here. I'll add something I like to do. Several
years ago, I decided to buy one toy per paycheck for Toys for Tots (no kids of
my own or to really buy for). I also learned years ago never to pay retail for
anything unless truly necessary! So I used 40% off coupons from Michaels and
JoAnn's for craft kits/paint by number kits. I figure those don't require a lot
of parental guidance and kids don't have enough time to "create" these
days. Art time in schools is probably long gone! I also roamed a few garage
sales and was surprised to find brand new still-cello-wrapped toys and games for
$1 or $2 so I picked those up, too. In one year, I was able to provide 51 items
for Toys for Tots. It makes me feel good, and though they're not the newest or
hottest toys, I kinda hope some kids like them, too.
on December 30, 2010 1:37 PM
Upon rerreading the wedding dress post, I think what she said was that she used
the leftover materials and lace from her wedding gown. No doubt her dress was
made by someone and she had the leftovers from it.
on December 30, 2010 2:34 PM
One year a family with 4 kids in our neighborhood was really surprised when we
(Santa) surprised them with a large bag filled with small gifts for each of
them, left on their front porch. We (Santa) got them at the dollar store and
other stores none costing too much just something special for each child. The
parents were really surprised also when they found the bag filled with gifts
from Santa. It didn't cost us much at all to help make a struggling family's
Christmas a lot happier.
on December 31, 2010 4:01 PM
WHAT I DID WITH MY WEDDING DRESS. I KNEW MY DAUGHTER WAS NOT GOING TO WEAR MY
DRESS AND I DIDN'T WANT TO JUST GET RID OF IT BECAUSE THE LACE WAS SO BEAUTIFUL.
I DECIDED TO MAKE A CHRISTENING DRESS OUT OF IT. THE BACK HAD SATIN COVERED
BUTTONS, SO I USED THAT FOR THE BACK. I MADE THE BONNET OUT OF THE LACE. THE
TRAIN I USED FOR THE BOTTOM OF THE DRESS. EVERYONE OH AND AHED ,IT TURNED OUT SO
on January 06, 2011 12:48 PM
A great way to use a wedding dress that is not going to be used anymore or you
found at a yard sale or thrift store--I make picture albums and use the material
and embellishments to make beautiful wedding albums.These make great shower or
on January 06, 2011 6:22 PM
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