Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to Create an Elegant Christmas Tree for Less Than $25


(This is a guest post from my amazing friend, Jami.  She's a frugal momma on a mission to have beautiful things in her home.  I think you'll feel inspired by the beauty of her Christmas tree!)

It’s Christmas!  It’s that time of year when it’s actually acceptable to listen to festive music and decorate your house without getting weird looks.  I really wanted to decorate before Thanksgiving this year, but for my husband’s sanity, I decided to hold off until exactly the day after we ate all of that glorious turkey.
I was on a mission this year.  I wanted to re-theme our very boring and generic Christmas tree to fit our home, personality, and likes, plus add some glitz, sophistication, and elegance. I told my husband about my awesome idea, and worry glazed across his eyes.  He said what he was thinking, “How much?” 

I have always wanted to have one of those fantastically gorgeous, boutique style Christmas trees living in my house during the holiday season. I want the beauty, the sparkles, the whimsical and warm fuzzy feelings, and the amazing artistic value a tree like that can bring. But, the price tag has always been a deterrent.  Do you know what I mean here, people? A tree like that can be very expensive!

I gave myself a $25 budget.  I needed to be organized and have a plan of action in order to get the most out of what I had. I wasn’t able to just buy random ornaments that looked pretty.  I needed to know exactly what was needed to accomplish this challenge.  Below are some organized tips and tutorial links that can help you have a fantastically gorgeous, boutique style Christmas tree on a $25 budget! What are you waiting for!?

1. START WITH WHAT YOU HAVE

This first step is key.  Decide what you really want to use from what you already have.  This will allow you to save money and to establish a base for your new elegant Christmas tree theme.


What I Already Had on Hand:
-Small Christmas Lights
-Larger Bulb Lights
-Large Clear Bulb Ornaments
-Large Frosted Bulb Ornaments
-3 Silver Bird Ornaments
-2 Natural Wood Owl Ornaments
-A Pampas Grass Stalk


After I gathered what I already had to use to established my base, I was able to figure out what I needed for my elegant Christmas tree theme.  I wanted to stick with similar colors of what I already had in my ornaments and accents, like silver, brown, and white. I also wanted my theme to incorporate more natural elements with added glitz.



2. WHAT ORNAMENTS/ACCENTS DO YOU NEED TO PURCHASE?

After you’ve established your base of what you already have, now you can figure out what you actually need to buy with your $25 and where to go to get the most out of your budget. 

What I Wanted to Buy:
-New Silver/Glitter Bulb Ornaments
-Large Glittery Ornaments
-Twisty Branches For the Tree Top
-Jute Mesh to Wrap Around the Tree

 Since I only had $25 to work with, I figured I would start at the best place there is, the Dollar Tree.  The Dollar Tree is wonderful for holidays.  The only issue I have come across with this store is that sometimes their products are not always perfectly put together and can sometimes be a little on the cheese ball side.  However, I figured I would check out the ornament section and give it a whirl.  I actually found some pretty great things!

What  I Found at the Dollar Tree:
-2 Packages of Small Silver/Pewter/Glitter Ornaments ($2.14)
-2 Packages of Large Silver/Pewter/Glitter Ornaments ($2.14)
-2 Packages of Twisty Branches Found in the Floral Section ($2.14)
-3 Sets (2 in each package) of Silver Glitter and Rhinestone Snowflake Flowers ($3.21)

All I had left was the jute mesh. I checked out Michael’s since that would be the best bet, plus I had a 50% off coupon good on any regular priced item.  I found a 12” x 19’ roll of jute mesh in the floral section for $9.99  and paired it with my 50% off coupon.  Score!  I would cut the mesh into strips and twist them later on in order to wrap it around the tree.

What I Found At Michael’s:
-1 roll of jute mesh (10.76 - 50% = $5.38)


3. MAKE YOUR OWN ORNAMENTS!
After buying your necessity ornaments and accents for your tree, determine if there is anything else you can add that you can make yourself.  Pick one or two simple projects that won’t stress you out this season.  After all, Christmas is no fun with stress involved.

Ornament Tutorials I Used:









I love creating.  It pours joy into my soul. I wanted to create some special ornaments to go along with my new tree.  I found a few styles that would work well with my theme and would also be inexpensive and simple to make.  Plus my kids were able to get in on glitter action!

Supplies I Purchased For My DIY Ornaments:
-2 Packages Clothes Pins ($2.98)
-1 Package of Glitter ($1.07)



The total cost for my elegant Christmas tree...drum roll please....was a whopping $19.06! That is certainly below my original budget of $25 and is certainly fantastic for this budget savvy girl. 

If you have always wanted a fancy Christmas tree but have been intimidated by cost, there is no need to be any longer.  Enjoy your tree!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Simple & Sweet Christmas Gift for Teachers



My friend Kirstin posted this picture of her gifts for her son's teachers last week on Facebook and I just loved it!  This would be a very cute, practical (hello, chocolate and paper!), and easy gift to whip up this week if you haven't yet got around to getting the teachers in your life a gift yet.  


She found these adorable clipboard/notepad/pen sets at Michael's for just $3.  She bought them over a couple trips using a 50% of coupon, so in the end she paid just $1.50 each.  What a deal!



She paid $23 for a 6 pack of these delicious Hawaiian Host Chocolates from Sam's Club.  Everyone loves chocolate, right?


Then she attached this adorable ribbon, and let her son pick out a name tag sticker for each one.  




Thursday, December 4, 2014

Melissa & Doug Products Half Off Today!!!


Amazon's Deal of the Day is 50% Melissa and Doug Products.  They have some great items for cheap today!  Melissa and Doug products are great because they are high quality, but they are expensive if you don't get them on sale.  My favorite of all the toys offered is the above pictured Shape, Model, and Mold set.  It's perfect for play dough, and will keep your kids from always grabbing the kitchen rolling pin!  Today, it is $9.99 instead of $19.99.  



Blocks like these are a favorite open-ended toy.  My son, especially, enjoys all things blocks.  These are normally $69.99, but today they are $34.99.


Isn't this wood car carrier cute?  I especially appreciate that it's not plastic like all the other toys were generally accumulate.  It's so unique!  Today it's $9.99 instead of $19.99.



Dress ups aren't just for Halloween!  We have quite a few dress ups in our house.  They are a favorite among my children and their friends.  This fire chief costume set would be a perfect gift for a young child.  And the jacket is machine washable!  It is $14.99 today instead of $29.99.


We actually already own these puzzles.  They are my favorite for kids ages 3-5.  They all have little pegs to grab the puzzle pieces out easily for little hands (great for fine motor skills!), and the ABC puzzle is a favorite for letter and sound recognition.  Today, this 3 pack of puzzles is $9.99 instead of $19.99.  


These deals are all good through today or until they sell out (sometimes that happens earlier than the end of the day!).  


(The links in this post are my referral/affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy HERE.  Thank you for supporting the continuation of this blog by using my links!)

The Gingerbread Man-Christmas Book Activities


December 1st means that the Christmas/Winter book bin comes out from hiding.  We have so many great Christmas and winter themed books, and I always look forward to reading my favorites with the kids.

Today we read (among many others) The Gingerbread Man.  I love this version, and I especially appreciate the art work.  My kids always enjoy the little chant, "run, run, as fast as you can, you can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!".  Anyway, you can't read The Gingerbread Man without making gingerbread cookies.


Fortunately, the back of this version of The Gingerbread Man has an easy little recipe to follow.  And double bonus, I found some great molasses at the Dollar Store a few weeks back and had the foresight to buy it for December :)



The hardest part was putting the dough in the fridge to chill for an hour (and then listening to my children incessantly ask if it was ready for an hour).


These cookies were SO delicious!  And cute, of course.  Minus the last batch, which I totally burned because I left the room and didn't hear the timer.

Happy December!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Building a Christmas Free Art Bucket for Cheap



Anyone else suffer from spasms when your kids get into your awesome supplies and show no restraint over the amount of xxx they use?  My kids really enjoy arts and crafts, and particularly, they love free art.  They find creating whatever they want from a heap of cool stuff to be an awesome experience.

Instead of always getting irritated about them using all my supplies, I have learned to keep a "Free Art" bucket around at all times.  Whenever I find little odds and ends (spare buttons, ribbons, paper, etc.) I stick it in their bucket.  They know that at any point in time, they can use everything and anything from the bucket for whatever they deem "awesome."  

Often at holidays, I will create a bucket of inexpensive holiday-related craft items.  I'll throw in holiday shaped cookie cutters, colored papers, stickers, etc.  My kids LOVE this, and have so much fun with the fresh, new, once a year supplies.  

Enter the Dollar Store.  The Dollar Store always gets tons of really great supplies....for a buck!  It's so easy to build a holiday free art tub for not a ton of money.  Plus, it saves my sanity when they use an entire pack of jingle bells on one piece of paper...it's theirs, and they can do whatever they'd like to with it.

This year, we spent about $15 on our tub.  I found:

*red & green popsicle sticks
*Red & silver jingle bells
*pom poms
*mini foam glittery stockings
*foam cutouts: stockings, gingerbread men, mittens, and trees
*glitter foam cutouts: ornaments, snowflakes, gingerbread men, stockings
*mixed stickers

I will also stick some cookie cutters in this bucket (split between our Christmas themed play dough bucket).  I'll also add red, white, and green pipe cleaners from my pipe cleaner bucket.

I'll pull from this bucket for directed craft times, but in general, if I need a certain supply for something, it does NOT go into their free art buckets until we're done.  And honestly, they don't often finish off an entire tub before the end of the holiday, which means I can save some for the next year.  I keep a Valentine's Day tub, a Thanksgiving/harvest tub, and a Christmas tub in addition to an every day tub.


Do you have some sort of Free Art tub at your house?  What are your kids' favorite supplies to have on hand?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent Activity Ideas



Still looking for something easy and meaningful for an advent calendar this year?  Last year I created this advent activity idea sheet, and it was so much fun for our whole family.  We didn't do all of them, but we did and tried a lot of things that we wouldn't have done otherwise.  

The post contains a FREE downloadable .pdf file so you can do these fun activities too!  

Head HERE to get the link for downloading!

Monday, November 24, 2014

DIY Peppermint Extract


About two months ago, I began my first batch of peppermint extract.  Every winter, I enjoy making peppermint marshmallows, peppermint mochas, and other pepperminty things.  I also like to make homemade gifts.  I figured this would be perfect for stocking my cabinets with pepperminty goodness, and for giving as gifts.  

Making your own extracts in incredibly easy.  For the peppermint extract, I bought a huge bottle of Vodka from Costco (under $20).  I then picked peppermint leaves from my front yard.  

So here's how you do it:

You'll need vodka and peppermint leaves.  That's it!


(Your extract will be dark like this ^^ after 4-6 weeks)

Wash leaves, remove stems, and dry them off with a towel.  

Fill a jar with leaves and vodka.  It's important that the vodka fully covers the leaves, or the leaves will get yucky/moldy.  I filled my jars about 1/4-1/3 full of leaves.

Place an airtight lid on your jar, and place the jar in a dark cabinet. 

Every week or so, I would give the jar a quick shake.  

After about 4-6 weeks, the extract should be dark in color (like in my pictures).  

(The really tall jar in the above picture is actually my vanilla extract getting started)

Strain off the leaves, and pour your extract into small containers (or just leave it in a big one if it's all for you!).

Voila!  An easy, frugal, and useful Christmas gift.

I bought little jars at Hobby Lobby for 50% off, so they were about $1.25 a piece.  I'm going to be giving sets of extracts away at Christmas-the peppermint extract, and a vanilla extract, which got started a little later (I used bourbon and vanilla beans for that).

Merry Christmas!


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