Grocery Bill Rising? Consider These Alternative Places To Buy Groceries

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve found that it costs A LOT to feed my family of five.  My husband and I eat the same amount as always, but my 11 year old seems to have grown a hollow leg and typically eats as much as or more than my husband.  My nearly 7 year old is not far behind.

While their appetites our growing, our grocery budget only has limited room to grow, which means I’ve had to be a bit more savvy when it comes to grocery shopping.  I’ve found that I need to think a bit more outside traditional grocery stores to save money on food.

These are some of my favorite new stores to shop at:



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25 Ways To Save Money On Your Wedding


My wife and I were married over a decade ago on a hot, muggy day in June.  It’s a day I’ll never forget.

The day started out with a downpour and strange green skies, and then thankfully morphed into a beautiful day with blue skies and sunshine by the time we were married in the afternoon.  I remember feeling nervous as I stood at the front of the sanctuary, waiting for my beautiful bride to walk down the aisle, and the feeling of elation when she finally appeared. We had a great time at the reception, the food was exceptional and the music was perfect for dancing. What a day!



The day was amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but there are times that I wish we hadn’t spent nearly as much as we did on the wedding. Granted, my in-laws were the ones paying for almost everything, but what could we have done with all of that money? In the end the wedding ended up coming in at over $30,000.

The Knot reports that the average wedding now costs more than $31,213. Do you really have to spend that much on your wedding (like we did)? Or can you do it for less?

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How Much Does The Average Wedding Cost?

A wedding has  a lot of costs that you need to consider. Here are a few wedding stats from The Knot:

  • Average Wedding Cost: $31,213 (excludes honeymoon)
  • Most Expensive Place to Get Married: Manhattan, $76,328 average spend
  • Least Expensive Place to Get Married: Utah, $15,257 average spend
  • Average Spent on a Wedding Dress: $1,357
  • Average Marrying Age: Bride, 29; Groom, 31
  • Average Number of Guests: 136
  • Average Number of Bridesmaids: 4 to 5
  • Average Number of Groomsmen: 4 to 5
  • Most Popular Month to Get Engaged: December (16%)
  • Average Length of Engagement: 14 months
  • Most Popular Month to Get Married: June (15%) followed by October (14%)
  • Popular Wedding Colors: Ivory/White (44%), Blue (37%), Pink (28%), Metallics (26%), Purple (23%)
  • Dark blue specifically has continued to grow every year, from 10% in 2008 to 24% in 2014
  • Percentage of Destination Weddings: 24%

And don’t forget the honeymoon..

  • The average honeymoon tab is almost $4,500 (Kiplinger)

Wedding Budgets (Or Lack Thereof) All of the above costs go to show that you’ll likely spend more than you think on a wedding. So you should have a wedding budget, right? Well, not everyone does, and even when they do they don’t always stay on budget.

  • In 2014, 45% of couples went over budget.
  • About 1 in 4 (26%) of couples stayed within their budget.
  • Only 6% of couples came out under budget.
  • 23% didn’t even have a wedding budget, up from 17% in 2009.

Almost half of couples went over their wedding budget in 2014, and almost a quarter didn’t even bother with a budget!  No wonder so many are spending so much!

Things I Learned From Having A Big Expensive Wedding

My wife and I had a wedding 13 years ago that cost around the current average of $30,000+.  Here are some things that I learned in the process of helping to plan our wedding.

  • marriage-money-topics-1The small things add up: Flowers, decorations, party favors, DJ, appetizers, liquid refreshments and other smaller expenses may not seem like much, but when you add them all together, it’s pretty darn expensive.
  • Where you have your wedding matters: One of our larger expenses for our wedding was because we had the reception at a local country club, where the catering and venue costs were much higher than if we had been at a less high-end location. We have had friends who had wedding receptions at local VFWs, and it was still a lot of fun. You have to figure out, is having it at a nice country club worth thousands of dollars?
  • Remembering the occasion is expensive: We spent a ton on a great photographer, and we paid for a large photo package with a custom embossed leather album.  We also spent a lot on a videographer. We spent way too much.
  • You have to pay for everyone you invite:  If you’re planning on having a big wedding with hundreds of people , the costs add up quick.  The average cost for a hors d’oeuvres reception or buffet with no cocktail hour and a limited bar can run in excess of $30-70 per person.  A cocktail hour and sit-down dinner at a fancy hotel, country club or resort with an in-house caterer can cost $125 to $350 or more per person.  The Knot says the average number of guests is 136, so the catering alone can cost you anywhere from $4,080-47,600. So consider carefully how many people you want to invite!
  • DIY or purchase: Some things you can make yourself and show off your DIY skills, or you can purchase at a premium. Purchasing is less work, but more expensive.  Examples – making your own invitations vs. buying.  Making your own cake vs. buying.
  • Some things you spend a lot of money on, you won’t even be able to fully enjoy:  We spent a lot on the appetizers, cake, dinner and refreshments, but we were so busy taking photos during the appetizers that we didn’t even get any (I wish we had asked someone to save us some!), and the dinner options we spent so much on could have been pared down. Save money on things you don’t care about that much.
  • Remember to enjoy the small moments that don’t cost anything: While the wedding can cost a fortune, in the end it’s the small moments that you’ll remember. Standing at the altar, the first alone time with your spouse after you said, “I do”, your first dance, etc.  Don’t forget to enjoy those moments because they’re the most important. Everything else is just a bonus.

25 Ways To Save On Wedding Costs

  1. save-money-wedding-expensesBe flexible on venue.  If you are looking to get married or have a reception at a certain venue, it may mean you’ll have to pay for the privilege.  In many cases the places you had in mind may be too expensive, or could already be booked months in advance.  Being flexible on where you hold your big day could mean big savings.
  2. Look for all inclusive venues: Some venues will nickel and dime you to death, requiring you use their in house caterers, pay extra fees for room setup, tables, chairs, etc.  Find somewhere that includes everything without a lot of small add-on fees that can add up.
  3. Be flexible on location:  The traditional wedding is at a church – with a separate reception at an event center or country club, but why not have it at a non-traditional location?  One couple I know of had their wedding at an apple orchard. It was a beautiful setting, and they were able to hold their reception there as well – for much less money.
  4. Look for off days or off seasons. Choose any day other than Saturday.  Having your wedding on an off day, or off season, can mean thousands in savings.  For example, my wife and I saved hundreds by having our wedding and reception on a Friday, instead of on the more expensive Saturday.  My brother and his wife chose to have their wedding in December, saving by having their wedding during a less popular month (June and October are the most popular).
  5. Rent a beautiful vacation home as a wedding and reception venue, it can double as guest quarters for some. I’ve heard of people renting a beautiful home for the wedding and reception, and then allowing out of town guests to stay at the home as well.  Avoid separate costs for hotels, wedding and reception venues!
  6. Shorten the timeline: By shortening the timeline to less than the normal 11 month runway, you’ll be forced to simplify your wedding planning, forgo some more expensive and complex options – and look for more simple venues/etc.
  7. Simplify.  A wedding can be tastefully done, even if it is simple. Find a simple (and more frugal!) venue, like someone’s backyard, and save on floral decorations (since you’re surrounded by nature!) Offer less catered food options, and forgo the tabletop decorations at the reception.
  8. Wait for sales.  Buy wedding supplies, clothes and accessories on sale. For example, the couple could buy their wedding bands during a sale, the guys could rent tuxedos during a sale – and even look for options where if several groomsmen rent a tuxedo – the groom gets his free.
  9. Rent formal attire: Average Spent on a Wedding Dress is $1,357. Why not rent your dress – and your bridesmaid dresses from a place like or, or buy it pre-owned from a place like
  10. Avoid the traditional sit-down dinner or buffet meal altogether: Instead have appetizers and cake, or even just an afternoon cocktail reception. Another option is to have a potluck dinner. This works especially well if you’re having your wedding and reception at your church!
  11. Limit alcohol options.. and costs:  The bar tab can add up quickly, especially if you have a lot of options.  Venues will often charge for every opened bottle of booze. If there are more options, there will be more open but unfinished bottles at the end. Keep options limited to a couple of your favorites, and have less cost and waste for whatever isn’t used.
  12. Try using more non-floral decorations:  Flowers can get expensive. Try less expensive non-floral alternatives. Try things like paper lanterns, candles, thrift store finds or DIY crafts you make on your own.
  13. If you do flowers, do your own: Buy flowers cheap from a place like and create your own floral arrangements using cheap vases you pick up from Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. Or you can even buy silk flowers and save that way as well.
  14. Save on photographer/videographer: Buy a less expensive package with less photos, or make sure to take care of photos earlier in the night to avoid per-hour charges.  Hire a friend, or a photography or film student to take photos or video.
  15. Crowdsource your photos: Instead of hiring an expensive photographer for your reception, crowdsource your photos. Ask people to take their own photos at the reception and setup a Flickr group where they can share the photos with you. With cell phone cameras being so prevalent these days, you’ll be sure to get plenty of photos.
  16. Use a cash back card for wedding expenses: Most people are going to be having quite a few expenses on their wedding.  Why not get some cash back while you’re at it?  Find a good cash back credit card and charge everything (as long as you have the cash to pay it off).
  17. Negotiate costs: When hiring a DJ, a live band or other service provider, don’t be afraid to ask for a better price.  If a better price can’t be had, ask for extras at no cost.
  18. Use preferred providers for your venue: Often a venue will have certain providers that they work with and refer wedding parties to and it can save you money to go with that provider if they’re offering a referral discount.  One bride I know used a venue’s preferred hair and makeup team, and ended up saving a couple hundred dollars because of the referral.
  19. Downsize the cake:  Get a smaller fancy one, and then less expensive sheet cake for the pieces handed out to guests.
  20. Research and shop around: Shop around and do your research. The more sites you search and providers you call for estimates, the better idea you’ll have of what is a good price, and what price is too high.  Make sure to do the legwork in order to save money.
  21. Ask for a pricematch: If you’re in love with one florist, but their price is higher than another provider, don’t be afraid to ask them to match the price from the other provider.
  22. Read the fine print on wedding contracts: When you’re planning a wedding you’ll likely be signing a lot of contracts with service providers. Resist the urge to just skim these contracts. Actually know what you’re signing up for.  For example, one bride found out that the contract with a printer she had signed for wedding invitations stipulated extra charges for small changes, extra colors on the invitations, etc. Since she had already signed the contract, she was stuck and didn’t end up getting what she wanted.
  23. Have a smaller wedding: While you could invite a couple hundred people each for the groom and bride if you invited everyone you know, it could also mean costs could get out of control. Consider having a smaller wedding with close family and friends, and not every acquaintance you’ve ever had.
  24. Make the day about people and community, not things: Save money by keeping the day’s focus where it should be. Not on the dress, the flowers or the centerpieces, but on people.  Focus on your shared commitment, on family, community and connection.  That way you won’t be tempted to spend so much money where you shouldn’t.
  25. Elope: Forgo the fancy wedding and elope!

When it all comes down to it the wedding day is an important day, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an expensive one. If you come up with a wedding budget, and be creative about ways to cut costs, it can actually be quite affordable.

Did you have a frugal wedding? I’d love to hear about it, and how you saved money on your big day.  Tell us in the comments!



Why I Try To Avoid Stocking Up On Deals

When I was 17, I was between jobs for a few weeks.

I had quit one job and was interviewing for a new job.  I had $20 to my name.  I was also a bookworm, so when my friend, Meg, and I were at a secondhand bookstore and I saw a book I really wanted, I was tempted to buy the book.

Meg, who was a spendthrift, tried to cajole me into it, but I resisted.  Meg’s mother, who happened to be with us, praised me for my smart money sense.  She said, “You’re smart.  If you don’t have money, you shouldn’t spend it.

Such basic advice, isn’t it?  Yet, so many of us have forgotten that.



The Rationale Behind Stocking Up On Deals

Since the recession in 2008, too many of us are in search of the next great deal.  If we can pay as little as possible for something, we can make our money go further, we rationalize.

Toys are on clearance after Christmas?  Stock up!  They can be future birthday or Christmas presents for the kids or they can be a birthday party gift for a friend’s kid.

Shirts are on sale, buy one, get one free?  Stock up!  You’ll save money because you won’t need to buy shirts for a while.

Kids’ summer clothes are on clearance?  Stock up!  Next year you’ll have their summer wardrobes for a fraction of a price.

In theory, this practice makes sense.  You are being smart with your money because you’re getting things at a much lower cost than they normally retail for.

When Stocking Up Doesn’t Work

The problem is that stocking up doesn’t often work in real life.  Maybe you buy your son size 12 summer clothes for next year because he’s currently in size 10.  But when next summer comes, he’s had a growth spurt and passed size 12 altogether.  Now he wears size 14.

What do you do with all of those clothes you bought for such a great deal?  Turns out the deal actually cost you money because you didn’t need those clothes.  They didn’t even fit your child when the time came to wear them!

Unfortunately, this type of scenario happens way too often when we try to stock up.  Instead we’re left with merchandise that we didn’t use and didn’t need.

Plus, it clutters up our house, so we need to buy storage containers to store the stuff we’re not going to use.  Now our deals are costing us even more money.

What If We Only Bought What We Truly Need?

I’ve been deep in the stock up cycle for 5 or 6 years, thinking I was making smart money moves.  Turns out all I was making was clutter.  That fact hit me over the head when we were packing for a cross country move two years ago.  So much stuff!  So much stuff to somehow get rid of because I didn’t want to pay to ship it across the country.

Now, my attitude has changed.

Now I try to buy on an as-needed basis.  This summer, my daughter needed new shorts.  I didn’t want to pay full price, so I hit up Goodwill and our local consignment shop.  True, we didn’t find everything she needed on our first trip.  But, whenever we passed by those stores while running errands, we stopped in.   Within three weeks, we had her summer wardrobe complete.

There were no items to store for months or years while I waited for her to grow into the items I had already bought.  Plus, she got to pick clothes she liked rather than ones mom had bought on clearance at a rock bottom price.

Because I still shopped secondhand and I bought only what she needed, I didn’t pay any more than I would have had I stocked up.  In fact, I think I spent less because I bought ONLY what she needed.

Rather than stocking up when I see sales, my new motto is to buy on an as needed basis.  I’d prefer to keep the cash in my pocket and my house a little less cluttered.

What about you?  Do you still buy items on clearance and stock up or do you take an as-needed approach?


Practice An Attitude Of Gratitude To Improve Your Finances

My children and I attended a prayer service at our church the other day.

Before the prayers began, people were allowed to pray for intentions.

The man behind me, easily in his late 70s, said, “Please pray for my 54 year old son who just had a heart attack and a stroke.

Another woman said, “Please pray for the Johnson family who just lost Joan, who was a mother, wife, sister, aunt.

And the worst one, “Please pray for Kelly McIntyre who just found out she only has 6 months to live.



We Often Don’t Acknowledge How Blessed We Are

At the same time my heart was breaking for these people and their circumstances, I realized immediately how blessed I am to still have my health and my family members around me, who are also healthy.

Isn’t that the most important thing?

Focusing On What You Don’t Have Robs You Of Experiencing Joy For What You Do Have

I also felt a deep embarrassment.

My husband and I live a rather frugal life by choice.  He works full-time, and I work in a very part-time basis from home while homeschooling our kids.  Money is tight, but we make it work.

Just recently, as the kids have gotten involved in more activities, our frugal lifestyle has begun to feel like a burden.

Since we’ve been married, we’ve only had one car.  When we lived in the suburbs of Chicago, this was no problem because my husband took the train and could walk to and from the train station.  Now, we’ve moved to Tucson, AZ, and every day, the kids and I have to drive 30 minutes round trip each morning and evening to drop off and pick up my husband at the bus station.  Sometimes the bus runs late, so at night we could add an additional 15 minutes to our wait.

These trips to the bus station really feel like wasted time, and my husband and I have both uttered more than a passing comment about how nice it would be if we could buy a second car.

But seriously, in the face of the prayer intentions I heard at church, our grumbling sounds like little children’s tantrums.

Honestly, we have what we need.  We have a home, a car, food for our family.  We’re all together, and we’re all healthy.

Everything else is just extra.

Yet, how many of us, just like my husband and I, think life will improve if we can only buy______.

*If I buy a sports car, I’ll make a good impression on my associates.

*If I buy a second car, I won’t have to waste so much time sharing a car with my spouse.

*If I have a bigger house, the kids will have more room to spread out and won’t fight so much.

Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Appreciate What You Do Have

On and on our lists and wants go, while we don’t even realize that for most of us, we already have the things we need.  We are already enormously blessed.

Maybe if we all take the time to practice gratitude, to say thank you for the people and things we already have in our lives, we can stop the endless desire to always want, want, want.

Once that desire is stifled, we will stop needlessly spending, sometimes running up debt while chasing the elusive dream of a “better” life.

As Rick Warren argues, “Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, you should be grateful for what you do have.  Your ‘wants’ will pale in comparison when you realize that what you already have is more than enough.

Too often we think, ‘I have this, but if I get more, I’ll be even happier.’  That’s just not true.  We are taught to be discontent, but we don’t have to be if we focus on what good things we already have.”

Have you had an ah-ha moment, where you suddenly realized just how much you have financially and in other ways?  How do you practice an attitude of gratitude?


5 Ways To Get Rid Of Unwanted Gifts

Another Christmas has come and gone.  If you’re lucky, you received presents that you wanted and truly appreciated.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most of us.  You may have received gifts that are too big, that you don’t like, that you have no interest in. Sound familiar?

If you’re looking at a pile of unwanted gifts that you don’t want and don’t want to store, there are options available.

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sell it on Craigslist, Ebay, local Facebook groups, or any number of websites that purchase your unwanted items.  You may even want to consider Amazon.

Services like Fulfillment by Amazon. . .will do all the work for you.  With Amazon’s service, you send the goods and the company sells them on your behalf.”  Whitson Gordon, editor-in-chief at lifestyle blog “says Amazon takes a small cut of the sale and sends you the rest.  ‘It doesn’t require a lot of work on your part. . .It may not be as lucrative as selling it yourself, but it’s the easiest way to get rid of stuff you don’t want” (Fox Business).  Then, you can use the money to buy yourself a gift you really would like.

Another option if you have tech items that you don’t want is to sell them through a myriad of sites like Gazelle, SellShark, BuyBackWorld or ItemCycle. These sites will give you an offer for what they’ll pay for your item, and you can accept or reject their offer.   Get quotes from several sites and you may just find an offer you want to accept.

Re-gift Them

If you got a nice present that simply isn’t your style or isn’t what you need, consider keeping it to re-gift at a later time.  You could give the gift to someone else and save yourself the expense of buying a present. We have a nice stash of items to re-gift in our storage room that comes in handy because we always have a gift handy to give in the event we forget a birthday or other holiday.

If you choose this strategy, remember to keep track of who gave you the gift so you don’t accidentally re-gift it to them!

Donate Them

There are many, many organizations that will gladly accept your unwanted gifts.

Consider Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or a local women’s shelter.

If your children received toys or clothes that they don’t want or need, consider giving them as a gift when it comes time for a toy drive, usually around Easter and again in December for Christmas.  Women’s shelters are also frequently looking for clothes and other essentials for children.

Exchange Them

Why not have fun with the gifts that you don’t want?  Invite several friends over and ask them to bring their unwanted gifts, too.  Then, everyone can browse through the unwanted gifts and pick the ones they want.

A gift that you hate may be just what your friend is looking for.

As you can see, if you received an unwanted gift this year, you don’t need to simply store it and create clutter in your home.  There are many ways you can get rid of it and put it in the hands of others who could really use and appreciate the gift.

Did you receive any unwanted gifts this year?  If so, what do you plan to do with them?

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Shop Your Service Providers Regularly To See If There’s A Better Deal

I wrote a post a few years ago about how my wife and I had saved almost $1600 on our regular monthly expenses.

How did we do that?  We didn’t accept the status quo when it came to what we paid for the services we used.

We looked at everything from our TV service, our internet, our cell and home phone bills, our insurance coverage, and more.  If we were paying a bill every month, we tried to find a way to pay less. In the end we were pretty successful in finding ways to cut our spending.

This summer we decided to take another look at how we could save money on our recurring expenses.



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our cord cutting experience, but we ended up still paying for cable TV because there were several shows that my wife liked to watch that we couldn’t get outside of a cable TV package.  I also liked to watch some sports that weren’t really available outside of cable.

So we were stuck paying $138.82 every month. But the cost didn’t stay there. It quickly went up to $142.28, then $148.98 and $153.60. After 3 years we’re now all the way up $156.02!  That’s over a 10% increase in our cost – and we’re not getting anything additional for the increase. In fact the service has started getting worse over the 3 years.

When Costs Go Up, Find Ways To Save

As we watched our costs go up, we decided to find ways to cut our costs. Here are some things you can do in order to cut costs on services:

  • Ask for a discount: Sometimes you can call your provider and get a discount on your service by getting in on a promotional deal, or by cutting services you’re not using. You can also get a discount sometimes by threatening to cancel.
  • Cut service altogether: If you can’t get a discount, it’s always an option to cut your service altogether.  With all of the over-the-air TV content, you don’t NEED cable TV, right?
  • Move to a new provider: If you have the option of moving to a new provider, often you can take advantage of their new customer promotions, reduced rates, and take advantage of new service offerings.

Cutting Expenses On Our Internet & TV Costs

In our case we called trying to find discounts on Internet and TV service since we didn’t think we had any other options for service.  Our provider basically told us we could cancel certain services (like DVR or HD service), but in the end we would have to sacrifice our level of service for minimal savings.

We didn’t really want to cancel service altogether, but after talking with our next door neighbor we realized that another Internet service provider was now in our neighborhood. We looked into the cost of the new provider, and it was significantly less than what we were paying. Not only that, but the Internet speeds were significantly higher.

We also found that in the ensuing years since we signed up for TV service several streaming cable TV replacement services had launched, services like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. After doing my research on PlayStation Vue I discovered that we would get essentially all of the same TV stations that we had previously, including my wife’s favorites, and my local sports networks – but at a much lower cost.  It even has a cloud DVR service!

So by switching our service providers we would save a significant amount of money.


internet-speedsWe went from paying about $155 or so for bundled Internet and TV, to about $90!

  • By switching our Internet provider we went from paying about $80, to about $55. Not only that but our speeds would go from 20 Mbps to 100Mbps+!
  • By switching our TV provider we went from paying about $75, to about $35 and lost nothing that we enjoy watching.

So when it comes down to it just by switching service providers we’re getting better service and saving about $65/month, or $780 a year!  That’s a decent amount of money to be saving!

Moving To New Services Saved Us Hundreds

It can be easy to just go with the flow when it comes to your recurring monthly expenses.  The costs slowly go up over time, and the level of services doesn’t always go up with it. Before you know it you’re vastly overpaying for services you don’t even use that much.

In our situation our costs for Internet and TV went up over 10% within a couple of years.  Simply by shopping around and switching to new providers for both Internet and TV, we were able to save hundreds of dollars every year.

If you take the time to look at ALL of your recurring monthly expenses (not just Internet and TV), you can see just how much the savings can add up to.

Far too often we focus on small savings made my cutting out small expenses here and there, when we could be saving hundreds just by making a few phone calls to switch providers or shop around for a better deal.

After this success I know I’ll be looking at other areas where we can save as well!

Have you found ways to save money on your recurring expenses?  Tell us where you’ve saved in the comments.


How Do You Handle An Extravagant Gift Giver?

Debbie and her husband, Mark, have four kids.  They don’t believe in gifting their children big, expensive gifts.  (Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter because money is tight in Debbie and Mark’s family.  Even though they’re frugal, raising four kids is not cheap.)

Debbie chooses to buy a few gifts each year that she knows her kids will really like.  She buys the gifts throughout the year when she finds good deals.  Some of the gifts are gently used items that she finds at garage sales or secondhand stores.  Santa tends to bring the kids one or two brand new items.

Each year, Debbie hopes for a simple Christmas, but then her in-laws send presents, and her parents bring presents, and the children’s favorite family friend, Judith, gives presents.

Over the years, Debbie and Mark have been able to gently ask their own parents to not give the kids so many presents.  Though it has taken a few years, the grandparents now just give one or two gifts that are reasonably priced and modest.



Judith, well, Judith is a different story.

Judith is in her sixties, and while she has three kids of her own, she doesn’t have any grandkids.  Judith LOVES Christmas and always has.  To her, it’s not Christmas unless the tree is piled high with expensive, electronic gifts and gadgets.  She routinely spent $1,000 on each of her children’s gifts each year when they were young.

She happily goes over the top at Christmas and saves all year to do so.

Each year, the gifts she gets Debbie and Mark’s kids get more and more extravagant.

This year, Judith is spending nearly $200 on EACH of Debbie and Mark’s children for gifts.

Debbie doesn’t want to hurt Judith’s feelings, and she knows how much joy Judith gets out of gift giving, so Debbie hasn’t said anything to Judith.

Yet, Debbie has a wide range of emotions she feels about Judith giving her kids nicer gifts than she or Santa give the children.

Does this sound familiar?  Do you have a well-meaning person in your life who gives your children more expensive gifts than you can?  If so, you have three basic options.

Compete With The Extravagant Gift Giver

One option is to compete with the extravagant gift giver so your presents are just as nice and as expensive as the gift giver’s.  This isn’t an option for Debbie and Mark because they simply don’t have that much money.  It’s also not an option because they really, really don’t want to spoil their kids on Christmas.

Talk To The Extravagant Gift Giver

Another option is to gently ask the extravagant gift giver to stop giving such over-the-top gifts.  Debbie and Mark have thought of doing this, but they worry about hurting Judith’s feelings.  They know how much Judith loves Christmas and gift giving.  She’s a close family friend, and they don’t want to hurt the relationship.

Alter Your Own Gift Giving Plans

While Debbie and Mark have had some years where they were frustrated by Judith and her extravagant gift giving, they’ve decided over the years to just see the positive in the situation.

They’re thankful that Judith loves their children so much to think of them, and spoil them, at Christmas.

They’ve also decided that since Judith is giving such expensive presents, they don’t have to give their own kids as many gifts.

Sure, it can be frustrating that someone gives your children nicer gifts than you can afford, but in the end, Debbie and Mark decided to be grateful that the Christmas shopping expense is a bit lower this year thanks to Judith and her generosity.

Have you ever had someone who gave your kids more expensive gifts than you?  If so, how did you handle the situation?


Bible Money Matters

On February 17, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The law provides for a one-time economic recovery payment of $250 to people who get certain types of Federal benefits. I’ve gotten several questions over the past few weeks about that one time payment, and how it works.  There […]


100 Frugal Gifts You Can Give This Christmas: The Expanded Great Big List Of Homemade, Creative And Frugal Gifts


Christmas is still a ways off, but if you head out to any of your local stores it’s pretty likely they’re about to start stocking their shelves for the Christmas season.

I was at my local Target store this week and now that Halloween is in the past they’re putting up the Christmas tree displays, selling wrapping paper and Christmas gifts galore.

They were even playing Christmas music over the loudspeakers. Everything they do is done in order to make as much money on you and Christmas as they can. That’s understandable – they’re in business to make money.

At our house Christmas is important because it’s a time to celebrate the birth of our savior, a time to enjoy being with our families, and it’s a time to sit back and be thankful for all of the blessings that we’ve been given.

The materialism that has overtaken Christmas in our culture, however, makes it easy to make Christmas be all about the gifts. If you’re not careful it can quickly become the most expensive month of the year.



If you’re trying to watch how much you spend, it’s important to set a Christmas budget, save up cash for that budget, and then stay within it. Once you’ve set a budget finding gifts that can fit within it or that are a bit more frugal than some other possible choices can be tough. You really have to be creative.   The key, however is to be thoughtful and personal. Here are 10 frugal gifts to start us out:

Today in this post I thought I would expand on a list of frugal Christmas gifts that I put out last year – expanding the list to a nice round number of 110 frugal Christmas gifts. Have your own ideas?  Please feel free to add them in the comments!

NOTE: The frugality of the gifts vary from gift to gift, but I’ve linked some possibilities on Amazon and other sites. You can probably find some cheaper ways to put these things together yourself if you try.

List Of 100+ Frugal Christmas Gifts

  1. Baked goods: I don’t know any guy who wouldn’t love to get a box full of cookies, banana bread and pastries! (Hint: not good for someone on a diet)
  2. Free Internet Access: FreedomPop offers 500MB of Free Internet access on-the-go. They have compact and sleek hotspots – the perfect stocking stuffer. Best of all you’d be giving free internet every month for the rest of their lives.  Most affordable hotspots can be had for $40-50, or less if you find a deal. Full review here.
  3. If you’ve got an old laptop, make a frugal digital picture frame out of it!: At 14-15″ it’ll be bigger than most you buy at the stores, and cheaper since you’ll be using old parts!
  4. Cut the cord kit: Help someone cut the cord on cable TV by buying them a lifetime license to PlayOn online DVR software and a streaming device like the Roku Ultra.
  5. Custom engraved bamboo artcustom-bamboo-art: I used a small business on Etsy to have a custom laser-engraved piece of art created (see it to the right).  Affordable for a custom piece of art!
  6. Personalized Calendars: Most photo processing places will have these personalized calendars you can buy, or pick up pre-made ones in Target’s dollar bins. Get photos of you and the person you’re giving the gift to in each season, and place them in the appropriate month/season of the year!
  7. Themed gift baskets: Give a themed gift basket. For example, a movie night theme basket with microwave popcorn, a movie or two, and some cheapo popcorn buckets from Target dollar bin.
  8. Custom t-shirts: Create your own custom t-shirt for a family member on Cafepress. It can be cheaper than you think!
  9. Scrapbooks: Make a scrapbook for a close friend showing moments you’ve shared together. My wife did this for a friend’s wedding. Very meaningful.
  10. Donation to a local charity: Give to a local charity in someone’s name. Make sure it’s a charity that they would actually give to.
  11. Handmade Christmas ornaments: make personalized Christmas ornaments for your friends and family!
  12. Board Games: buy a board game, a gift that gets the family together and keeps on giving all year long! Even better, if you can find some board games at garage sales or on ebay, create a themed game night gift basket (see above)!
  13. Family history DVD: Put together a family history DVD with photos, written family histories, family tree, video and anything else you can think of.
  14. Framed family picture: Take a picture at a family event, frame it, and give it as a gift!
  15. Coupon Books: Make a personalized coupon book with such favorite coupons as “back rub”, “dinner” or “clean the house”.  Or for parents, give them babysitting coupons!
  16. Make a blanket: make a nice fleece blanket. Instructions here.
  17. Make some custom painted wine glasses: Make some custom painted wine glasses, and then give them along with a bottle of wine. Instructions here.
  18. Give a magazine subscription: My brother loves reading National Geographic and the Economist. We gave him subscriptions as a gift.
  19. Romantic evening gift set: Candles and silk flower petals! Cheap and fun!
  20. Keeping warm gift set: Give a gift set of hat, scarf and gloves. Add long underwear as well if you wish!
  21. Leatherbound journal: buy a nice leatherbound journal at your local Borders or Barnes and Noble. They make for a nice gift. Add a nice pen if you want to pay a little more.
  22. Craft Kit: Put together a crafting kit with things like markers, glitter, scissors, clay, crayons, glue, paper, etc.
  23. Photo Collage: If you’re handy with Photoshop or another image editing software, create a photo collage/montage, print it out and frame it! Or if you don’t have Photoshop, print separate pictures and create a collage.
  24. Movie Tickets: Buy a pair of movie passes or a movie gift card for someone to go see a movie. Not as cheap as it used to be :).
  25. Buy a someone a share in an index fund: Buy a family member a gift card for a brokerage or a share in a total stock market index fund. Then give them a copy of a finance book like Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (although you may want to stress that you’re giving it because it has helped you. People can get touchy about money related gifts)
  26. Flannel Sheets and PJs: Buy a keeping comfy gift pack with flannel sheets and pajamas!
  27. Coffee lovers gift pack: Buy some gourmet coffee and a personalized coffee cup for the coffee lover on your list.
  28. Set of soaps, towels and soap dish: Put together a nice matching set of hand towel and soap dish, and then give some handmade soaps.
  29. Homemade glycerin soaps with toys inside: Make your own soap for kids that has toys inside. The child has to lather up to get the toy!
  30. Big breakfast gift pack: Put together a gift pack with pancake mix, batter dispenser, syrup and pancake mix-ins.
  31. Puzzle day: Give a gift pack of a puzzle and snacks to eat while you do the puzzle!
  32. BBQ Kit: Get some BBQ sauce from a local source, and add it to a nice BBQ Utensil kit.
  33. Basket of spices and seasonings: Put together a basket of seasonings and spices from a local spice or grocery store. Make sure to get a good mix for cooking, BBQs, etc.
  34. Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription: Pay for someone to have Netflix or Amazon Prime for a couple of months. If they have a connected device, they can even stream movies!
  35. Deck of cards and book of card games: Buy a cheap pack of cards, and a book listing the rules of different card games. Good for hours of fun!
  36. Cheap keychain digital picture viewer: Buy someone a cheap digital picture viewer keychain (around $15?) and fill it with pictures.
  37. Bath time gift pack: Buy a nice wash cloth, some bath oils/beads and even some lotions at your local bath store.
  38. Laser Etched Crystal: Need a unique Christmas gift? Turn any photo into a 3D crystal image. While this isn’t the most frugal option on the list, if you’re looking for something special, you can find something well under $100. Use coupon code BUY3DGIFTS to save 20%.
  39. Botanicals: buy a nice low maintenance plant to brighten up their day, along with a small watering can.
  40. Make a recipe box: If you’re good with wood, make a nice recipe box, and fill it with blank recipe cards.
  41. An appreciation book: Get a nice journal, and write in it to the person about how much you appreciate them, things you love about them, shared moments and experiences and general encouragement. Even add a few photos.
  42. Book gift pack: Find some books on your own shelf that you’ve already read, and put together a gift pack of books
  43. Chocolate attack!: Put together a gift pack with all kinds of chocolate. Hot chocolate, chocolate bars, truffles, etc.
  44. Car wash kit: Put together a kit for washing the car. Can include things like sponge, tire brush, bug remover, car soap, etc.
  45. Regifted items: Did you get a 2nd crock pot last Christmas that you haven’t used? Give it away this Christmas (to someone other than who you received it from)
  46. “That’s a spicy meatball” gift pack: Give them a nice Italian dinner with a pasta bowl, pasta, strainer, fancy olive oil, pasta utensils and even some sauce.
  47. Give your service: Good at cooking? Offer to come over and cook a gourment meal. Are you a designer? Offer your design services for free. Good with computers? Offer free tech support. You get the idea.
  48. Wine and cheese gift pack: Buy a variety of specialty cheeses, crackers and a bottle of wine. Put it together and you have one gourmet evening!
  49. Picnic pack: Put together a picnic pack with a blanket, a basket, some cheap utensils and plates.
  50. Sewing Kit & lessons: put together all the sewing essentials (thread, needles, pins, etc) and then give the person lessons on how to sew.
  51. Gardening gift pack: Buy the person gardening gloves, gardening tools and some seeds. Put them all in a small bucket or watering can.
  52. Handmade jewelry: Make a handmade necklace or bracelet at a local bead or craft store. Give it as a meaningful gift.
  53. Music lover’s delight: give an Amazon MP3 gift card, along with a book about their favorite artist or band
  54. Beer afficionado gift pack: Give a beer mug, snacks and gift card from a local brew pub.
  55. A Birdhouse: Give your loved one of these bluebird houses so they can relax on the porch and watch the colorful avians.
  56. Outdoorsman gift pack: Put together a gift pack with a Leatherman Micra, a pair of choppers, and an aluminum water bottle (or your choice of other outdoor gear)
  57. Used electronics: Have an extra MP3 player and know someone who needs one? Clean up your spare and give it as a gift!
  58. Art lovers gift pack: Get a free photo canvas of one of your favorite photos, along with supplies to hang it. If the person is artistic, put together a gift pack with art supplies!
  59. Give a memory photo book: Give the person a photo book that includes memories of you and that person together.
  60. Active lifestyle gift pack: Put together some small gifts like a BPA free water bottle, workout video or video game and some wristbands. Be careful not to offend anyone with this one. 😉
  61. Accessories: Know someone with the new iPhone? Give them an Iphone accessories pack. Father with a Android phone? Give him his own cell phone accessories.
  62. Host a party: Instead of giving gifts to a large group of friends, invite them over for a Christmas party that you host.
  63. Gingerbread house kit: Give all the things needed to make gingerbread houses, along with recipes for frosting and building instructions. (Best if given before Christmas)
  64. Give the gift of a blog: Know someone who might enjoy blogging? Buy them a domain name, setup their blog and host them on your hosting account if you have one! Buy a copy of my ebook for them!
  65. Give the gift of communication: Know an older member of the family who doesn’t have a cell phone? Buy them a cheap pre-paid phone and a small amount of air time. As cheap as $20-30!
  66. Take someone out to dinner: Take a friend or family member out to dinner at a reasonably priced restaurant on the house!
  67. Tea gift pack: Give a nice teacup along with a selection of teas.
  68. Make a music mix: Purchase some of your favorite music for someone from Itunes and put it on a thumb drive or CD-RW! (no illegal content distribution folks!)
  69. Make a memories CD for a parent: If you’re younger make a memories CD for your mom and dad with photos, audio or video of you talking about good times you’ve shared, and maybe some written memories.
  70. Yard Work Coupons: Have an elderly family member or friend? Make up some nice looking coupons for free yard work or other odd jobs on your computer.
  71. Scrappers gift pack: If you know someone who enjoys scrapbooking, put together a nice canvas bag with scrapbooking materials, and maybe a gift card to Michael’s or other craft store.
  72. Sports gift pack: Know a kid who enjoys sports? Put together a sports gift pack with equipment for several different sports.
  73. Recipe gift pack: Give the gift of several of your favorite recipes, and a gift card to a local grocery store.
  74. Create a memory jar: Have a bunch of friends write down favorite memories of the person receiving the gift – get as many as you can. Then put them all on small pieces of paper, and put them in a decorated jar with the instructions to open one fun memory every day.
  75. Put on a concert: If you’re musically talented, put on a Christmas concert for family and friends. If you want to give to others, go to a local nursing home and play!
  76. Football gift pack: Have someone obsessed with football? Get them a t-shirt for their favorite team, a team blanket for cuddling up and watching games on Sunday and some snacks!
  77. Write a poem: Write a “Where I’m From Poem”, either about yourself for the gift receiver, or about them. Details here.
  78. Custom collage notebook: One year my brother made me a notebook that had a fun photo and magazine clipping collage on the cover. It was creative and I used that notebook for quite a while.
  79. Movie based on a book: Buy someone a book that you enjoyed, as well as the movie based on that book.
  80. A secret hiding spot book: You can make someone a book with a secret hiding spot where they can hide money or their secret identity. Or a slightly less frugal alternative.
  81. Give a retirement planning book: Have someone who is always asking for financial planning advice?  Give a book like “Can I Retire?” from fellow financial blogger Mike Piper.
  82. Children’s imagination kit: Give a child a kit full of things to help them be creative and imaginative.  Things like a sketch book and colored pencils, scissors and paper.  Then make a list of creative ideas of things to do – like use your kit to make tickets to a play, and a  playbill – then give a play!
  83. A Yo-Yo: You can buy a yo-yo for less than $5 on Amazon, but kids will have hours of fun trying to master their new toy. For younger kids, get one of the auto-return yo-yo models for less frustration.
  84. Brand new thrift store finds: Visit your local thrift store.  They often have brand new toys, craft kits and more that were donated by local stores.  Buy something new, at a used price.
  85. Write and illustrate your own children’s story:  Instead of buying a children’s book, write and illustrate your own – and personalize it for the child.
  86. Make a broken crayon t-shirt with your kids:  Use those broken crayons that kids have lying around to make a creative t-shirt for another kid!  Or instead of a t-shirt melt down your crayons and make new crazy color crayons in your own custom mold.
  87. Car emergency kit:   Put together an auto emergency bag for someone’s car that includes a nice flashlight, batteries,  candle, matches, jumper cables, and anything else you can think of.
  88. Teacup candle:  Take that family heirloom teacup and put it to good use by making a teacup candle out of it. Include a story of where the cup came from and why it’s special.
  89. Christmas party games book:  Put together a book of Christmas party games that the giftee can play at their party.
  90. Read a children’s book .MP3/CD: If you’re a grandparent or have kids, get a cheap USB microphone and read a selection of the kid’s favorite books and record them to a CD or set of .MP3s that the children can listen to.  Or buy a few new books and read those.
  91. Brew your own beer and give some away:  I know of one gentleman who brews his own beer, and then gives away growlers of his homebrew for Christmas.
  92. Homemade refrigerator magnets: Make creative magnets for someone’s fridge.  Things like marble magnets, photo magnets or to-do list magnets.
  93. Kids dress-up box: Put together a kids play kit with old jewelry, clothes, wigs or other accessories so that the child can play dress-up.
  94. Good night sleep tight gift set:  Put together a gift package with a cute nightlight and set of books for story time.
  95. Make a marshmallow gun: Boys on your list will love this gift – a DIY marshmallow gun.
  96. Homemade treasure soaps:  Make your own treasure soap for kids on the list with cool treasures (like small rubber toys) encased.
  97. Make your own Jerky:  I’ve actually gotten homemade jerky from a friend for Christmas. It was delicious. Enough said.
  98. A basket of your favorite things:  Go to a store and fill a cheap basket with some of that person’s favorite things. Favorite candy, favorite food, favorite movie or book, etc.
  99. Change jar savings kit:  Give a child a change jar of some sort, with some starter change already in it.  Then teach them about money!
  100. Draw names, give one nice gift:  Our family has done this some years where instead of buying 10 so-so gifts – often for $10-30 each, we’ll buy one nice gift for $50-100 for one family member.  Nice way to save money and have each person get one really nice gift.
  101. Keep in touch kit:  Have an older relative you’d like to keep in touch with more?  Buy them a cheap webcam and install it and Skype for them. Install a free remote desktop software like in order to help them connect if they can’t figure it out.
  102. Wooden toys or gifts: You can go to a woodworking store and buy DIY wooden toy kits, or plans to make your own pretty affordably.  My dad bought me wood one year, then we did the DIY woodworking project together after Christmas.
  103. Bluetooth headphones: You can buy a pair of Bluetooth headphones for $10-20.  With kids playing on their phones and tablets so much these days, the gift will be appreciated by them and their parents for the silence it brings.
  104. Garage sale refurbished items:  Find something cool or vintage at a garage sale, refurbish or turn it into something new and give it as a gift!
  105. Camping gift pack and experience:  Have a kid that loves camping? Put together a small camping gift pack (flashlight, knife, backpack) and then a certificate promising to take them camping when it’s nice out.
  106. Write a nice letter a month:  Write the person a nice personal letter about the things you appreciate about them, then send them another one each month of the year.  In the age of Facebook, it can be nice to receive something besides junk mail when you open the mailbox.
  107. Custom herb-infused olive oil:  Make and give the gift of a custom olive oil infused with the herbs and spices of your choice.
  108. DIY key rack: Make a unique DIY key rack for someone – after all – don’t we all lose our keys at one time or another?
  109. Give a golden ticket: Give a child a “golden ticket” just like Willy Wonka. The ticket can be used for a special day of fun at the zoo, local aquarium, or other attraction or activity of the child’s choice (within reason).
  110. A Groupon experience: Buy the giftee a certificate for some sort of experience from Groupon. Examples: Massage, salon experience, painting lesson.
  111. Save up to 90% or more on your gifts: Save a ton of money on your gifts by using a service like Snagshout. Snagshout allows you to purchase items on Amazon at a reduced price in exchange for an honest review.  Try out the gift, review it, and then give it as a gift while saving money! (Full review of Snagshout) I bought a $75 flashlight for $9.99 on Snagshout – and love it!
  112. Discounted gift cards!: Buy your gift cards at a discount at a site like GiftCardGranny.  For example, when I last checked AMC movie gift cards were sold at a 21% discount!

So there are my 100 ideas for frugal, creative or homemade Christmas gifts. What ideas do you have or have you used in the past? Tell us in the comments!

100 Frugal Gifts You Can Give This Christmas: The Expanded Great Big List Of Homemade, Creative And Frugal Gifts