Frugal Christmas: Part 1

I promised after showing you some of the ridiculous items found in a catalog I would show you what the little ones found of interest.   Just like most adults the little ones enjoy finding catalogs and looking at the pictures.  This one brought plenty of laughter, especially the ones which involved bodily noises, while they found them entertaining, they didn’t say they wanted them.   I had no problem showing you what they liked because they tore the pages out to show everyone the things they liked.  After I show you their picks I have a before and after to show you that will be a Christmas gift along with one bought item which completes my shopping for my one daughter-in-law.  As I promised I will be showing you ideas each Monday that I  hope will inspire you to stay away from the malls and I think your loved ones may like these gifts even better.

Now for what the little ones picked out from the catalog, not that they will get them. :-)

My granddaughter has a wide range of interests including art, dance, gardening, crafts of any kind and anything that engages her imagination, recall the dinosaur eggs?  :-)   While I looked through the catalog and found plenty of cheap plastic toys supposedly any child would love, she avoided those and chose these.

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In the above collage you will find in the first row: a nightgown and baby doll with matching nightgown, a set of 2 tutus and angels and pony characters  In the second row: (sorry for the sideways pictures) there is a floor piano and Disney characters.   In the third row:  monogrammed journal with pen, seek and find books, a pillow kit, and finally colored gel pens.

My grandson said he would like any of these items:

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In the first row: a set of 3 wooden trucks to build and paint, a Spiderman dart board, and the Lego Idea book.  In the second row: a 3 in one game, a Spiderman wood poster, and a glow in the dark remote control helicopter.

Of course there were things they both thought they would like to have:

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In the first row: a play tent for on the bed and story book collections. In the second row:  a bird feeder and a container of chocolate covered pretzels.

I wasn’t surprised by their picks as they match their personalities and interests.  They did say they were going to ask Santa Claus for the bird feeder as they don’t have one at their house and “the birds could go hungry”.   I did ask my grandson why he would want the glow in the dark helicopter as he is in bed by the time it’s dark.  He thought maybe his parents would let him stay up late once in a while. :-)

I think their choices reflect the fact that they don’t watch television and therefore aren’t exposed to the advertising which would show them how many of the toys are supposed to be played with and the pressure to be like everyone else…that and their parents and I have given them many other experiences which engage their imaginations.  It really doesn’t matter why, I’m just happy to see they know what things would bring value to their lives.

Seeing their lists did show me that I had done well in what I was planning to give them this year, which I will share with you at a later time, but now it’s time to show you how I came in under budget for my daughter-in-law (the one who decorated the home I showed you last week).

Doing Christmas Right

I showed you my son’s dining room last week, and thank you for such lovely comments about their home.  Today I want to show you a corner of their bedroom.


This little table that now sits next to their bed used to sit in their living room.  My daughter-in-law and I found it several years ago at a yard sale. I don’t recall what she paid for it but I am sure it was less than $5.  It had the original stain which was in sad shape.  After moving to their new home it got a makeover to become a nightstand.  She has been looking for another stand for the other side of the bed.  She hadn’t found anything she liked and asked if she could have the following table.  This is the one that didn’t have a top when I found it but used a discarded cabinet door to make a new top.


I had no problem giving this one to her, but it just didn’t fit the style of the room.  Then I saw this sitting outside the local consignment store.  When I was told I could have it for $4, I sold the above table and got to work on this.


It was a little wobbly but I solved that question when I found the glue had disintegrated where the top was attached. I removed the top and glued it back together.  I gave the entire piece a good sanding as well.  I knew this was old but was shocked to turn the table over to find carved into the bottom of the table the name of the maker and the date 1770 (no that’s not a typo).

Here’s how the table looks now, won’t it look better in their bedroom than the table I sold?  Please excuse the poor quality of this picture as for some reason I can’t get my flash to work on my phone’s camera.


While I know my daughter-in-law would be thrilled with this as her Christmas present, the total cost for this table which will be used most-likely by my son (only guessing that’s the side of the bed it will end up on) being $4 I wanted to give her something else.  I had my eyes on Daneila’s,  from Frugal Ain’t Cheap, Etsy store.  I hope you will consider taking a look at her store. She has many lovely things available, I adore her latest autumn table runner.

With my daughter-in-law making a slow transition to cloth napkins I wanted to give her a beautiful set of napkins.  My stenciling skills aren’t perfect so I sent Daniela a message letting her know what I was looking for and if she would have time to make me a set.  She must have been reading my mind because she had a set she was readying to put in the store.  For a total of $16 which included shipping I received this gorgeous set of 4 cloth napkins. Daniela used a heavy, yet soft, fabric which gives these napkins a special feel and will be perfect for special occasions.


I have a budget for holiday shopping.  For the adults in my family (which are my sons and their wives) I limit myself to no more than $35 per person.  This year my total for this daughter-in-law came in at $20.

For me the key to choosing gifts is to match the gift to the personality and needs of the person then try to match this information with my values so the gift will be something I am happy to give.

For this person I knew she loved antiques, I knew the size and shape of the existing nightstand and the space this one would need to fit into.  Since she believes she is getting the table I sold I also know she won’t be purchasing something else between now and Christmas.

She has a love affair with Italy, similar to my fascination with Ireland.  Anything Italian would be a good choice, with the exception of wine which she doesn’t care for, but I also wanted to give her a practical gift she would enjoy.  These napkins are white which is her accent color and as Daniela informs me the city is where Romeo and Juliet were said to have lived and the date is the year Shakespeare wrote their story.  Knowing this she will love these napkins.

There you have my first holiday tips for a frugal Christmas:

  1. look for something you know they want but can’t find and refinish it, saving them the work
  2. Encourage greener options for around the house, but only if you are sure they will appreciate and love them
  3. When possible use a theme of something they love. This will only make the present appreciated even more for the thought you put into the gift.
  4. And finally, shop consignment and thrift shops first. If you do need to buy something new, look to buy handmade and avoid giving your money to the corporations.  This way your gift is something they couldn’t have found themselves.

Do you have budget you stick to for the holidays?  Do you ever go over?

40 thoughts on “Frugal Christmas: Part 1

  1. First Lois love that table and it just shows you how back then they made things to last.. And what a good job you have done with it… As for budgeting, I limit my spends per person too, and have as yet not even started to think about Christmas… But as the schools broke up this week for half term.. it means only 6 weeks to go before the big event… So I had better get my skates on :-)


    • Sue, I love the phrases you use, “get my skates on” :-) Thank you, I love that little table and yes it is still sturdy. To have only a bit of loose glue is shocking when I think about how old it is.

      I am coming in way under budget so far this year. It’s a good thing to as I have been called on to help with groceries and such for my son while he is out of work.


    • That’s amazing! In the US as you move from east to west you will find less and less of the older homes. When I think about Europe I think of how fortunate the people are to have such history around. The vast majority of the older homes are from the 1800s, you have to really search for anything older.


  2. I am excited for this series! I will have to check out the etsy shop. I really like etsy. I like your key on choosing gifts. I so often wait until the last minute and then don’t have time to get anything personal.
    We mostly don’t exchange gifts with adults in the family anymore because there are a lot of kids. Any ideas for young teen boys would be helpful! I am at a loss of what to get an 11 year old boy!
    To be honest, I also tend to dread getting lots of “stuff” gifts. I am planning on asking anyone who wants to buy me a gift this year to donate to a charity in my name. (My birthday is right after Christmas, so this is a big “gift” time for me.)


    • An eleven year old boy, hmm I will do my homework and write a post for just that age group. Glad you asked, Katie as I have several weeks to fill between now and Christmas. :-)

      My adult sons don’t buy for each other. They buy for their spouse, all the children and of course me even though I have tried to convince them they don’t have to. ;-(

      I will be including several Etsy shops over the course of this series for those who don’t have the time or possibly lack the skills to make what they would like to give.

      When is your birthday? Mine is the 28th so I know exactly what you mean about the gifts this time of year.


      • Jan 10- not as close as yours! But still only 2 weeks after. Thanks for the consideration. I look forward to the future posts. I know with the babe coming I won’t be making much. Maybe I could do a ” crafts you can make while nursing” :)


  3. 1770 — yikes, what a find! You did a beautiful job with it, but next time maybe see an antique dealer before doing any work. Some of these older pieces can be extremely valuable if left untouched (or professionally restored by experts with extreme care).

    I hate being so practical, but I guess I’ve seen one too many episodes of The Antiques Roadshow!

    By the way, I love your blog. So inspiring!


    • Claudia, first thank you for your kind words about the blog. About antiques, I spent years refusing to touch any antique, only to find myself living in a home that felt heavy and oppressive. I finally decided that if I loved the shape of the piece but not the finish but would adore it with a different finish I figured it was better to be in love with it and not worry about the value so much. There are many pieces of furniture I couldn’t find a buyer for until I painted it. Today, people want the quality of the older pieces but not the original look. The funny thing is the people who built these pieces often painted them when the mood struck.

      Don’t feel bad about your practical side, it’s something I have struggled with for many years when finding antiques.


  4. I think that finding a theme or motif that someone likes is the way to go. I think the napkin design you chose is classic and won’t be traded in for “the next thing.” And obviously the table too – which has certainly stood the test of time! I appreciate it that the kids chose items with so much play value, not disposable or trendy things.


    • For some it’s easy to build on a theme of their passions, for others it’s a little harder to know what that passion is. The napkins I know will be pulled out each time they have company and my daughter-in-law is going to treasure them for years. The children give me so much hope that they won’t fall prey to the trends and weekends spent at a mall shopping.


  5. Great ideas, Lois! Using the catalogue is a good idea–you can get ideas of gifts to make. :-)

    We’ve really changed our mindset about Christmas shopping, over the years. We’ve realized that everyone else on our list has more money than us, so we’re not going to get them something they can’t afford. So, we focus on getting them something they wouldn’t think of, something they can’t find, or something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. And we don’t worry about “matching,” because that’s silly–it’s NOT a business transaction, so it doesn’t need to come out “even”!


    • I like the idea of getting those we buy for something they wouldn’t think of themselves. I have done that in the past with mixed results. For example the first Christmas the little ones were walking around I found an inexpensive video camera and gave it to my son and his wife to video tape the children opening their presents. They never used it and instead gave it to the kids to play with.

      The only time I try to make things come out even money-wise has been between my boys. My oldest has always felt that I was closer to his brother and looked for any opportunity to have that opinion proven right. I finally gave up when we realized why he did that. Now I set a budget, just so I don’t over spend but try to spend less as a challenge to myself.

      Yes I may try to make a few things such as a bird feeder and the monogrammed journal. :-)


  6. What sweet choices your grandchildren made and yes, I think this does reflect they don’t watch TV and are not influenced by many commercials. My granddaughter is 7 and three years ago I bought a huge dolls house from a garage sale for $20. It was repaired by hubby, painted by me and I painted little fairies on the doors. It was a perfect size for Barbie dolls and every birthday and Christmas since I have bought the furniture for it through the year when on special or very good secondhand items when she was young enough not to know they were not store bought.

    Cute wee table, how nice to find it was so old!!


    • I am keeping my eyes open for doll houses for the little girls in my family! I am sure your granddaughter will cherish hers for years to come. I am only guessing that their choices reflect the fact that they don’t watch television, but it may also have to do with the fact that they are given lots of space outdoors to play using their imagination to entertain themselves. I am not-so secretly hoping that this is a new trend for today’s youth. That they will get their fix of TV from things like Netflix and rentals rather than commercial channels and will not have the same desire to consume that my generation did.

      I was so shocked to find the carving on the bottom, but it will make quite a story for my daughter-in-law who has a love of antiques.


        • I would love to find a Victorian doll house for my youngest granddaughter. Her mother was born and raised in the Phoenix Arizona area and had never seen older homes, homes that aren’t a part of the newer subdivisions. When she moved to Pennsylvania with my son she was so funny. She nearly gave us whiplash as she pointed out all the beautiful homes. After a few months of living her she announced her favorite architectural style was Victorian. That fact and the fact that her daughter is such a girly-girl it would be the perfect gift soon. If only I felt comfortable enough in my skills to build one.


          • I love Victorian and grew up in a city with many old houses. I bought my old one in an online auction (similar to Ebay) and it did cost quite alot but still was one that needed repairs. I sold it years later which was soooo dumb. They are a wonderful project though and I am thinking of doing one for Caitlin because Barbies are going to be outgrown soon. I love miniatures and making them is such a cool hobby. There are such alot of tutorials on the net now with beautiful little projects…..


  7. “For me the key to choosing gifts is to match the gift to the personality and needs of the person then try to match this information with my values so the gift will be something I am happy to give.”

    Exactly my philosophy.


  8. This reminds me, I gifted a $5 canvas photo at a wedding (I’m not sure I told you). I was shocked I spent so little, but it suited so well – a cross cultural couple living in rural Australia and it was a lovely photo of a native Australian flower. I also think many young people have little to no art (I’m an exception!) so I thought it was considered too. Esp seeing they both just moved to the rural town. And I sent 3M hooks so there was nothing stopping them putting it up.

    Anyhow, I love your kids choices. I bet you make them a bird feeder, and your granddaughter a personalised journal, at the very least! I know you – you’ll do it with your eyes closed :p

    I just added ‘think about Christmas gifts’ to my little mind map/list. I feel so scattered at the moment, taking a minute to collect my thoughts on paper!


    • I think a canvas photo is a wonderful choice for a wedding gift, no I don/t remember you telling me. I also like how you tied it into the cultural diversity of their union.

      I have to consider the bird feeder now you are right along with a bag of birdseed.

      I like to get my shopping done early, before snow and the worry of not finding the right thing if I wait.


      • OH we don’t have snow for winter, I always forget that drama! Especially without a car too.

        I did hope to frame to beautiful maps of their two home countries, but I wanted old enough maps, and they are evidently popular (and therefore hard to find). But it evolved from there, the art idea.


        • Sarah, I am so jealous of your lack of snow. I like your idea of the maps, what a shame you couldn’t find what you needed, but I think you did well with the piece you created in the end. I would so prefer gifts like handmade art than another toaster.


  9. 1770…oh my gosh…you are clever. you have done a beautiful refinish, and clever selection of gifts.
    that desk/night table sure grabs my imagination. keep thinking it might be a teacher’s standing desk for a one room school house, ..

    maybe you could google the maker’s name/year and see if you can find a listing of what they made…would make an interesting addition to the gift…you might even find a listing for that particular desk/table (I know you call it a night table but for some odd reason I keep wanting to call it a desk.


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