What worked well this Christmas – easy distance gifting

While I’m wrapping up Christmas, I’ve been thinking about the things that worked well last year and what I can improve on for this year.

The three things that come to mind are these:

I sent out fewer Christmas cards

I know it’s not just me but isn’t it weird that people don’t send out Christmas cards anymore?!

A friend on Facebook wrote that they’ve been diminishing over the years (true!). However this year I received 16; last year 10.

Anyway, because I didn’t send out a ton like I usually do, I got it all done very easily and I think this (30) is now my new comfort number 🙂

What’s your comfort number?

We got together with lots of friends

This might not be good for you but it was good for us.

The kids love to get out and about, and we’re very good about only planning one “event” per weekend day. By “event” I mean a two to three hour plan.

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I got really clever with gifts for non-local friends and family.

1. Did you know you can gift Kindle books (like mine – it’s only $8.99 at the moment) to your friends?

A client and I were discussing something on a coaching call and I recommended a book. I said I’d send her the link because I didn’t have the author at hand. When I was typing up the coaching notes, I went onto Amazon to check and decided to try the gift section out. Her birthday was a few days out so I bought the book and postponed the e-delivery til the day.

Fantastic idea – she and I both loved it.

I’ve since bought Kindle books for many people.

They’re so fun – you can have it deliver immediately, or schedule it, so if you’re super-organised, you can buy books for friends at the start of the month and then forget about your gift-giving.

2. Buy handmade from etsy.com

I have a love-love relationship with Etsy.

I’ve gifted people from here often because the gift is handmade and the shop owners will often put a little note on the gift from you if you ask them in the Notes to Seller.

This Christmas, I bought three friends in the US gifts from etsy. It was so simple and I honestly felt like a genius – no need for me to wait for something to get to them from South Africa. They all had their gifts within days. Nothing like it 🙂

3. Shop from online stores and have the items delivered directly to your friend/ family member.

You save on shipping to you first and then shipping out to the recipient.

I even did this with my own family in South Africa.

How do you handle distance gifting?

Really quick, last-minute consumable and clutter-free gifts

this is what I gave to most of my friends and colleagues this year
 
I made two versions: Savoury and Sweet

Here’s the Savoury version:
  • 9 cups of cereal (I used O-Tees, Popped Rice and Corn Flakes)
  • 1 cup nuts (peanuts)
  • 1 cup pretzels
  • 1 cup bagel chips (I used cream crackers because I had half a packet left basically any savoury biscuit will do)
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a huge bowl, one where you can stir the ingredients and they won’t fall out
 
In another smaller bowl, melt the following in the microwave and cover the bowl with paper towel to avoid splats (unless you like cleaning – I don’t!):
  • 6 Tablespoons butter (I used margarine)
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons flavoured salt (I only use 1 teaspoon since I don’t like very salty things and I did a cheesy version at first and the next time I did a garlic and herb version)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder (I used flakes)
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
 
·        A note on the seasonings do one batch exactly as is and then you’ll know if it’s salty enough for your taste.
 
  1. When the butter mix is melted, pour half into your bowl, stir well and then pour the other half and finish stirring.
  2. Put the bowl in the microwave for one minute, take out and stir, and then do another minute and stir. Don’t do two minutes all at once you don’t want it to burn. My microwave is 1000W so adjust accordingly.
  3. The smell of the Worcestershire sauce is quite strong at this point. Don’t worry,  that’s normal.
  4. Empty  your mix onto 3 cookie sheets lined with wax paper to absorb the excess oil and cool down.
  5. I left mine out for about 20 30 minutes to cool down and then packaged it all up.
  6. While the mix is cooling, prepare the containers.
I used scrapbook paper on clean formula cans. I put the mixes in plastic snack bags inside the cans so people could re-use my pretty cans. 
 
 
 
 
Then I made the top pretty, tied a ribbon, a tag and a little ornament and voila a pretty, frugal gift straight from my heart.
 
It’s hard to say how much this makes but at a guess, I’d say about 6 small formula tins.
 
If you don’t have tins and you don’t want to bother with scrapbook paper and the like…. use empty glass jars (the big ones the coffee comes in), add a  piece of material to the top and and tie a ribbon to secure it.
 
Sweet Snack Mix
  • 5 cups of cereal (I used 6)
  • 1 cup biscuits (I used Marie biscuits the first time, Tennis biscuits the next time) The one is a plain, buttery biscuit and the other has coconut in it.
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (let me tell you my trick   a small bag of choc chips costs about R20 but a large 200 g Cadbury’s slab only costs about R13 – R14. Get the slab and a big butcher’s knife and have at it. I chop on the diagonal, swivel my chopping board  and chop on the diagonal again. It seems to be quicker that way. Within minutes you’ve got nice chocolate chunks in your favourite chocolate instead of the boring choc chips, and you’ve saved R7)
  • If you don’t like raisins or chocolate, add 2 cups of anything – dried fruit, sweet nuts, etc.
 
Mix the cereal (not the choc or raisins) in a huge bowl.
 
In another smaller bowl, melt the following ingredients in the microwave and cover the bowl with paper towel to avoid splats.
 
  • ¼ cup butter (55 g margarine)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
  1. Pour half into your bowl, stir well and then pour the other half and finish stirring.
  2. Put the bowl in the microwave for one minute, take out and stir thoroughly.
  3. Now add raisins and chocolates and stir again.
  4. Lay out on wax papered cookie sheets for 20 30 minutes, package nicely and enjoy.
When I handed these out at work, they were a huge hit.
 
Now here’s the beauty of these snack mixes.
 
You can adjust the recipe according to taste.

I also made a healthy version for the babies
  • Cereal
  • Raisins
  • Dried fruit, chopped up
(no butter, no sugar)
 
They eat theirs when we eat ours.
 
The family that snacks together stays together? 🙂
 
These are sweet mixes I keep ready to combine. I forgot to keep the chocolate (and I threw in some Smarties too – candy-coated chocolate buttons) separate so I won’t microwave for that extra minute. It will still be fine because I’ve made that mistake before. This is another one of my tricks because I hate messing up the kitchen so I do it once, measure dry ingredients for at least 2 more batches and then it’s easy to quickly whip up something 🙂

this one has raisins, smarties and chocolate chunks
and Marie biscuits
I did two cans each for some friends – a savoury and a sweet


And once more…

Please let me know if you make it, if you try different ingredients and if your recipients LOVE it like I do 🙂

What are your quick and easy gift ideas? (not necessarily in the kitchen or handmade)

Gift wrap – pretty but frugal gift wrap

I like things to look pretty but I don’t like to waste money.

A gift bag plus tissue paper can cost R30, and that’s before the cost of the present.

So how do I make sure my gifts still look good but the packaging doesn’t break the bank?

  1. I have a variety of wrapping paper in shades that will suit both girls and boys. I do have specific boy and girl colours, but the bulk is unisex paper.
  2. I prefer brown kraft paper but I’m trying to finish a number of rolls of paper first before stocking up again.
  3. I do splash out on nice, satin ribbon.
  4. A pretty bow does wonders for anything plain and transforms from drab to fab.
  5. Add a gift tag and you’re good to go. I make my own tags with my circle or tag punches. There are also free printables all over the internet, to suit your style. Check my free printables Pinterest board.

A tip – the minute you have a scrap of paper, punch out some shapes and keep those in a dedicated spot (I use a plastic container), and then throw the paper away.

 

Don’t those gifts look gorgeous? I certainly like receiving a nicely-wrapped gift. It’s almost better than the present sometimes.

And I love wrapping gifts.

Last night I wrapped 9 gifts and I was in heaven 🙂 The study was a mess with wrapping paper, ribbon, scissors all over but it was a constructive mess, right?

What’s your gift-wrapping style?

Do you hate it? Love it?

Question of the week – budget for Christmas?

This week our question is an simple, but necessary one – do you budget for Christmas?

  • Do you start saving months earlier for all the extra Christmas expenses?
  • Do you just wing it and hope for the best?
  • Do you set a gift limit per person?

In years past, I used to start putting aside money from July with the aim to be done with shopping by the end of November.

These days I have a general idea in my mind and I try not to exceed it. I stay within if I don’t go to the shops too much so I try and stay away unless absolutely necessary.

We also set a per person limit on gifts and stick relatively close to that number.

I’m actually trying to introduce a Secret Santa thing which nobody was in favour of this year. I’ll try again next year 🙂 as I really feel that less is more, especially since I have these two cuties.

Tell me what works for you and your family, budgeting-wise.

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