keep the kids entertained Thanksgiving break

Thanksgiving break starts on the 25th. A mere three weeks from now and all the school children will be home from class. You’d better believe I’ve already thought of ways to keep my first grader entertained while she’s out of school. Here is a survival guide if you will of what I plan to do to keep the kids entertained Thanksgiving break and not lose my mind or control of the monthly budget.

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Survival Guide to Keeping the Kids Entertained Thanksgiving Break

Organized Play Dates

I hope to give my girl not one, but two playdates over the break. This is excluding playtime with cousins, which is also very likely to happen. I’m already in talks on one and play to reach out to the other mom this week. I’m not waiting around till the last minute on this to find out the week before that someone will be out of town. You need to have your ducks in a row.


This is where some leftover gift cards from the kids’ birthdays will come in handy. I’ve been saving a couple and Thanksgiving break will be the perfect week to use them! They both have Barnes and Noble gift cards and I plan to take them there to look around, play with the train table, and pick out a new book or two. This will make a fun outing to break up a day that might otherwise be spent indoors.

We also have a bowling gift certificate. This will probably be something we wait for daddy to get off work to enjoy, but it is still a fun way and a good chance to get out of the house without spending a lot of money.

I will probably budget a few dollars in entertainment or for one meal out this week. I have not yet finalized our November budget, (it is on my list today) so we’ll see what is available.

Outdoor Play Time to Keep the Kids Entertained Thanksgiving Break

Provided it isn’t too wet we will probably bundle up and go outside for at least a little while every day we’re home. This should prove interesting as I have one who can’t stand wearing a coat, but a little trip outside usually resets the little ones’ attitudes for a while, so it’s worth the effort.

Library Time

Check your local library calendar for fun events to keep the kids entertained Thanksgiving break. The Fayetteville Public Library, which is close enough to us will be screening a FREE movie for kids Monday-Wednesday at 1 PM! It will no doubt be busy, but there is a different, current release Disney movie each of the three days. If you live in Northwest Arkansas and are interested check out their calendar for more information.

keep the kids entertained Thanksgiving break
more than just books at the library

We won’t make it for a movie (two-year-old attention span and all), but we will definitely be loading up on some good reads at the beginning of the week and browsing the movie section for fun holiday films to watch at home.

Craft Time

I am admittedly not the greatest at following through with this, but we will probably break out the craft supplies once or twice. There are a few fun little ideas we could put together with supplies already on hand. I will encourage the kids (mostly the oldest) to make Thanksgiving cards to give to family members. as well as make the customary turkeys by tracing their hands.

Educational Screen Time

My daughter’s school uses a few online resources we can access from home to help with reading and math. I plan to allow around 30 minutes a day on either IStation or Sumdog for her to work on math skills while at home.

We do allow some TV time, but I try to keep it at a minimum and once it’s on it is a fight to turn it off without inevitable meltdowns.

Board & Card Games

I see a lot of Trouble, Candy Land, Yeti in My Spaghetti, and Go Fish in my near future! Maybe we’ll borrow a game and teach her something new. She loves playing games and is very competitive.

She also tries very hard to include her little brother in the fun, which is cute. It takes longer to play, but it’s still sweet.

Do you have any 2s?

How do You Plan to Keep Your Kids Entertained Thanksgiving Break?

Will you be traveling? Staying home? How do you keep your kids entertained without television all day? Have any special traditions or activities you like to do with your kids while they’re home on break?

With the twice as long Christmas/Winter break coming up just a few weeks after Thanksgiving, you can actually refer back to this list for then as well. Thankfully the husband will be off Christmas week. That will make things a little easier. Maybe our daughter will get a new game or two for Christmas we can enjoy the second week of that break.

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My husband was nice enough to whip up a quick and free solution to lack of counter space in our laundry room with this free DIY. He built it a couple of months ago and I just got around to stencil painting it this week. This was an almost free and frugal DIY with a total cost of about $4. Yes, you read that right.

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Original Plans for This Frugal and Almost Free DIY

We are big fans of Ana White. Her website is full of free (yes, free!) woodworking plans. My husband has modified her plans to make our farmhouse dining table and chairs, our daughter’s storage bed, her armoire, my console table, and my laundry cart just to name a few items. When he went looking for a solution to our lack of counter space in the laundry room he browsed plans on her site. He found this outdoor serving station plan to use for our frugal and almost free DIY.

Related: See more posts of our DIYs.

It also doubles as wall art and the sole decoration in the room so it is positioned on the wall as high as possible while still serving its purpose. The materials he used in the build were all on-hand so the actual build was free. I like free; free is very frugal!

frugal and almost free DIY
The actual cost to build the laundry station was $0

Finishing Up the Project

Finishing this project required a trip to Hobby Lobby, my first trip of the year was in September! This is very hard to believe if you knew me a couple of years ago; I was in there on a weekly basis scouring sales to find all sorts of home decor to display on surfaces and hang on the walls. I found what I wanted online, but it wasn’t a big enough item to warrant the shipping cost. So to the store I went with our two-year-old in tow and we walked out with the one item we came for! I also downloaded the 40% off coupon on my phone, so the stencil cost about $3 with tax.

I wasn’t sure if I had the right shade of white paint at home for the project so I waited to make that purchase. And waited. I played with the stencil placement for a bit and left it stuck on for a few days before making another trip to a store that carried craft paint. It was 50 cents at Walmart. I went with antique white. Below is the finished product in action.

Have you had any almost free DIYs you’d like to share? We love a good DIY around here. In fact, I have a few more little projects in the works I can’t wait to share here on the blog and on the YouTube channel!

DIY laundry folding station

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minimalist's pre-holiday to-do list

With Halloween this week I am reminded how time seems to speed up this time of year. With the holidays comes lots of company, special meals with family, and if you have kids… usually more stuff. Even if you keep it simple and minimal-ish around the holidays there are a few very minimalist things to put on a minimalist’s pre-holiday to-do list that can make this season much less stressful. Here are tree things I’m doing to prepare my house, and in turn myself for the holiday season.

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My Minimalist Pre-Holiday to-do List

1. Declutter

Decluttering seems like a never-ending process, and if you have kids, chances are it is! They grow, tastes change, kids on the bus send them home with random stuff… Then there are birthdays and holidays when people who love your kids shower them with presents.

We have this pretty well under control, with family and friends understanding our minimalist approach to things and offering the kids more experiences than things (and sometimes money, which we deposit in their savings accounts).

By decluttering clothes and toys I can make room for the new. I also rotate out where toys are stored so they get more use. I also sort out artwork in my daughter’s room. Some get scanned or photographed, but eventually, most of it goes to the recycle bin. The really special ones I keep.

2. Deep Clean

I need to get on this. Minimalism isn’t necessarily about cleaning, but it sure makes it easier to clean! There are fewer surfaces to dust and steam mop, but sometimes I forget to do it often enough. I plan to spend a good day or two scrubbing the place for my fall cleaning in order to make any cleaning required for entertaining over the holidays that much easier. This makes it a must on my minimalist’s pre-holiday to-do list.

3. Take Inventory as Part of Your Minimalist’s Pre-Holiday to-do List

I do this for my own shopping needs, but also for when people ask what they can buy the kids. What do I know they want/need that we haven’t gotten? This makes it really easy in general to know what items are needed for season changes and age-appropriate activities, but it is especially handy around Christmas and birthdays. I don’t have to get back with someone when they ask what the kids/need want if I already have a list made.

This also helps to prevent duplication of items with everyday shopping. It helps stay in budget and ensures purchases are necessities and not just things you think you may need.

Related Video: See how I take inventory of our family’s wardrobe to determine clothing needs.

minimalist's pre-holiday to-do list

What’s on Your Pre-Holiday to-do List?

It’s not about the gifts, the lights, or even the food! And I love traditions centered around food! We’ve already been given the greatest gift ever, so let’s focus our time on what really matters; the people we’re blessed to have in our lives. I don’t want to be busy cleaning and prepping and tidying while memories are being made in the next room. Thanksgiving is about focusing on and truly appreciating what you have. I think if we spent more time on that mindset Christmas would look a lot different!

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I hope that by doing these three simple things memories of our first Christmas in our new house will be filled with fun, love, and special moments. Mostly I don’t want to look back and have a list of things I wish I had done differently. You’ve seen my list, now what’s on yours? Continue the conversation in the comments or head on over to my Instagram, where I’ll share your answers in stories today!

Related Post: 25 Thoughtful Ideas for Handmade Christmas Gifts


comfort foods for chilly nights

It’s hard to believe October is almost over! Where did the month go? Where has the year gone! It’s another Meal Plan Monday here at a Life on a Dime and I love this time of year. I love comfort foods for chilly nights! Here is the meal plan for the final installment of Meal Plan Monday on the blog. October is winding down and with it Blogtober.

Be sure to subscribe via email if you want to continue getting the meal plan printables. This will ensure a new budget-friendly, health-conscious meal plan delivered to your inbox as well as other exclusive content every Monday going forward!

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Comfort Foods for Chilly Nights

MondayTurkey meatloaf with roasted vegetables. I have potatoes, peppers, and squash. Meatloaf is definitely comfort food, but the ground turkey makes it a little easier on the stomach than red meat. If you have bell peppers you can also hollow them out and make stuffed peppers.

Tuesday – It’s probably no surprise by now, but it’s Taco Tuesday around here. It’s not forecast to be really cold Tuesday night, but I may make taco soup. If I opt for taco soup I will probably slow cook ground turkey in chicken broth with rotel tomatoes and chili peppers, corn, and seasoning. I may throw in a packet of ranch to keep the flavor mild.

Wednesday – We will be eating chicken and rice. There are several different ways to prepare this. I was unable to pick up a few items at Aldi Friday that were on the list, so I may have to pick up the few needed ingredients to make this soup. This is my husband’s specialty, so it will be made this week if he has time/inspiration to cook. If not I may go casserole-style with this dish.

Thursday – Mummified turkey dogs/brats. I found this adorable idea courtesy of blogtober! I can’t find where I bookmarked or pinned the blog I originally saw this on, but they’re everywhere on Google search. Basically it’s pigs (or birds) in a blanket only the wrap is spread out thinner to look like a mummy. I will probably add a salad and a veggie to the menu for mom and dad.

Friday – We’re having homemade pizza. I have turkey pepperoni and 1/4 of the pizza will be covered with vegan “cheese” for the kids. I like to mix minced garlic into the sauce.

Saturday – We will be having turkey chili. This time I’ll stick to the recipe.

Sunday – I’m pulling out the sandwich maker again and fixing hot sandwiches and homemade soup. I’m thinking of trying this roasted red pepper soup again. Last time I made it I was working with someone else’s blender and didn’t get good results, but it looked so promising.

Don’t Forget the Chilly Mornings!

As I write this I’m in a bit of a baking mood, so in addition to baking up a loaf of bread, I plan to bake up some spinach frittatas for easy breakfasts. Once I’ve played with it some more I’ll post the recipe. I may have to bite the bullet and order these silicone baking cups once and for all! I also have oatmeal on and to increase the chances of heading off to school with something more warm and filling than cereal to start the day.

And here are the printables to make life a little easier!

Happy eating! I will be back tomorrow with more new content. Only three days left of Blogtober! Be sure to subscribe if you want to continue receiving the weekly meal plan!


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blogtober home stretch

I’ve had a lot of fun with Blogtober; I’ve met new blogger friends, read some great posts from other bloggers, and enjoyed the practice with SEO. The extra blog traffic has been nice too. That being said, there are only 4 days left after today and I will probably take a few days off from posting in November after making it through the Blogtober final stretch!

Since I did not prepare a typical post in advance I’m going to give a little shout-out here to bloggers still keeping up with the challenge. If you know any more please tell me in the comments!

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Blogtober Participants Still At It in the Final Stretch:

Life: The Reboot – Not only is she still participating, but she’s also pretty much got everything scheduled through the end of the month! This blog is new to me and I plan to check it out some more this week.

Faybeline – This one is new to me as well. I need to catch up!

The Anxious Teacher – Leo was smart; she took the weekends off! If I do this again next year I may do that as well.

Entertainingly Nerdy – This is a book blog with a quote from my favorite author, C.S. Lewis on the home page! Kaili even scheduled her posts last month. This is a great idea I would’ve totally loved to do had I found out about the challenge prior to the last week of September!

Storme Reads – I found this book blog searching #blogtober on Twitter. The first post I came across was Harry Potter spells. How fun! I will definitely read some more of Maggie’s work.

Thoughts with N – Natasha is also a stay at home mama who blogs so that immediately drew me in. I’ve enjoyed reading all month.

Short Girl Walking – Claire runs this wellness blog. I love how she sets fitness goals, showcases cute dogs, and uses the blog to motivate herself! I plan to explore this one further too.

Aspire to Wander – Kristina runs a beautiful travel blog. Like the aesthetic? She offers presets. Check it out. While technically a travel blogger, she also writes about places in NYC, where she lives, and offers other insights on traveling and life.

The Unlikely Twitter User

If you’d told me a year ago, heck even six months ago I’d be active on Twitter I’d probably laugh. I was not a fan of the idea. And yet here we are and every last blog mentioned above I found… you guessed it, on Twitter!

This is by no means an exhaustive list of bloggers I follow and converse with, but it is a good sprinkling of ones who have kept up with the Blogtober challenge. It’s not easy coming up with a new blog post every day, much less writing content that is on par with usual posts. Kudos to the creators who have made it to the Blogtober final stretch! So check these blogs out and if you know any other great ones who have kept up with the challenge this month let me know in the comments!

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fix it yourself

When it comes to taking on home repairs, the task can be daunting. But, with a little elbow grease and a willingness to learn there is a lot of money to be saved. Today’s frugal friend is Jessica, Army veteran and…. washing machine repairwoman? This summer yes, yes she was! Sometimes when your washing machine breaks you just have to fix it yourself!

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There’s Money to be Saved if You Put in the Time to Fix it Yourself

When things started to go haywire with the washing machine Jessica and her husband Darrell didn’t call a repair service, which can charge upwards of $150 for a service call, they Googled their way to find the problem as well as the solution! A few hours of troubleshooting, a few parts off Amazon, and then one more part to finish the job Jessica ad Darrell were out a total of $153.56 to repair her LG washing machine. Parts only, no labor. With a little determination, she was able to purchase the parts and repair her machine for less than what she could’ve paid for the service call alone! Pretty frugal my friend, pretty frugal!

After the washing machine started doing X an inspection of the machine determined that a new washer pulsator was needed. After a slight hiccup, a pulsator assembly was required, as well as a clutch coupling housing assembly. Don’t know what those are? Neither did I! Until she told me! As I said, it pays to fix it yourself!

fix it yourself

If You do Need to Replace Your Machine Consider Purchasing Used

Frugal fact; my husband and I have NEVER owned a brand new washer and dryer. I have no plans at this point to change that fact either! We have literally saved a few thousand dollars by not buying appliances new. As a bonus, we’ve typically been able to sell our old appliances prior to buying new, so not only have we recouped some of our costs we haven’t just sent them to the landfill every time! That’s a win for our budget and for the environment!

We are fortunate enough to have a great used appliance store in our town that offers used appliances at great prices AND provides a lifetime warranty. In fact, we have now bought two sets there and have been fairly pleased with the service as well. There were no major issues with the first set we bought, but we sold it out of our storage unit when we realized we wanted a stacked unit for the new house during the build.

I was determined that with enough time I could find a good used set. I googled and called every used appliance shop in the county. Pretty much every shop told me that they didn’t have a matching set and they sold fast. We found repairmen with side businesses on Craigslist but missed out on a few good deals.

Call it intuition or just plain luck, but one day I decided to call the store we bought our previous set from. They had ONE stackable washer and dryer set in stock for $450! I immediately loaded up the toddler and headed to the store. We paid for it and my husband came back the next day to pick up the set. They were in great condition and came with a lifetime warranty. The only hitch with the warranty is that you have to bring the appliance to them for in-shop repairs only. Service calls aren’t covered under the warranty.

Our First Problem

One evening the washing machine made a very wrong noise. He called his brother-in-law who helped stack the thing in the first place and arranged for help the next day unstacking the set to take into the shop for repair. The problem with that is my husband works seven days a week and doesn’t always get home in time to handle it himself. I can pull the vehicle forward with a trailer, but couldn’t turn around easily (or at all) in the small parking lot.

My husband removed a panel, and could immediately tell where the problem was. He disconnected the part and I took it to the shop the next day with our receipt/proof of warranty. They replaced something in said part and I took it back home. Hubby was able to reinstall it and the washer has been running perfectly ever since.

While we didn’t replace the defective inner part, we did save money on the service call with my husband handling the actual removal and installation of the part. It pays to fix it yourself! We didn’t technically do all the fixing, but it saved time and money handling it the way we did.

Can You Fix it Yourself?

How handy are you? Have you saved big money on fixing things yourself or do you have a cautionary tale or two to tell? Either way, I want to hear! Either comment here or I’ll be chatting about it on Instagram stories today! This reminds me, I’ve got some laundry to do! Have a happy Saturday! Stay frugal my friends!

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last-minute Halloween costumes

Halloween is officially less than a week away! Are you ready? Have you figured out you and/or your kids’ costumes? If not, no worries! Here are a few last-minute Halloween costumes straight from Amazon. These can be to your door with free two-day shipping with your Prime membership. Don’t have a Prime membership? Click to sign up for a free 30-day trial. And yes, they’re pretty frugal too. Your budget will still be alright!

Most if not all of the costumes mentioned in my previous post, 7 Costumes Put Together for Halloween on a Dime should still arrive in time for trick-or-treating.

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Lion King

This lion ears and tail set just needs a brown shirt, leggings (or even jeans if it’s cold out), and then paint on a nose and whiskers. Easy costume for $11.89.

last-minute Halloween costumes

Cute Little Pumpkin

Make your Punkin a pumpkin with this easy costume! You could technically make this from felt yourself, but I’m not sure you’d beat the $11.95 price.


Really, you could use any striped overalls and get more wear out of it, but how cute is this little conductor?! At $13.35 you have an instant costume.

These Awesome Butterfly Wings

For $15.88 these are really pretty! Pair with solid black or coordinating colors and make a statement!

Raid the Dress-up Collection for Last-Minute Halloween Costumes

Chances are your kids already have lots of dress-up stuff. Pull any random outfit out of there and send them out trick or treating! No one will know it isn’t new and your kid will be having too much fun to care they don’t have a new costume. My daughter did this last year and wore one dress-up outfit to the carnival and another to school on Halloween.

last-minute Halloween costumes

If nothing else you can always cut holes in a sheet for a ghost! A big bow, high ponytail, and jean jacket can also make your tween JoJo Siwa for Halloween. Roll the sleeves up on a denim shirt and wrap a bandana around your head to go as Rosie the Riveter! There are lots of iconic yet so simple costume ideas you can put together with things just lying around the house. Get creative!

Halloween is Almost Here!

What do you plan to be for Halloween next week? I myself just ordered my daughter’s Wonder Woman accessories this morning! Thank goodness for two-day shipping! I had it in the cart, but mistakenly thought I’d ordered it yesterday. Whoops.

Haven’t bought candy yet? No worries there either! Just pop over to Dollar Tree and load up on everything you need! While you’re at it pick up any face paint or last-minute decorations as well! It’s all a dollar! You can also check out my favorite Dollar Tree Halloween finds (including costume accessories) in my previous post, Happy Haunting for $1: Halloween Finds at Dollar Tree! I’ll be back tomorrow! Happy Friday everybody!


frugal holiday dinner ideas

Try these frugal holiday dinner ideas and shake things up a bit while saving money!

Holidays can be expensive. Hosting big family dinners can also be expensive. But they don’t have to be! Save yourself some time, money, and stress; try these frugal holiday dinner ideas this Thanksgiving and Christmas and have a great day with your family and friends, instead of stressing in the kitchen or over your budget.

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1. Have a themed holiday meal

Don’t think you have to eat the traditional turkey or ham dinner when the holidays roll around. Eat what you want! If you like spending all day cooking and look forward to it every year then, by all means, cook the bird and have the traditional meal, but you don’t have to. Why not have a different theme? You could do a taco bar, your own version of never-ending pasta, appetizers… Think outside the frozen poultry aisle and have some fun planning a frugal holiday dinner.

One fun thing to do would be to celebrate your heritage and try sampling dishes. Have Italian roots? Plan a taste of Italy! Irish? Whip up a stew, roast some potatoes… try a bread pudding. Irish Christmas meals aren’t that different from American turns out… Unless you’re in the mood for goose instead of turkey or ham. German? Try your hand at some apple and sausage stuffing (sounds interesting) or some Christmas Stollen. I’m really curious about that one now.

If you have French ancestors be sure to bring your appetite. You definitely have lots of menu options to choose from if you’re going the traditional holiday dinner route. Whether you go all out with the theme or keep it simple the point is to have fun with it!

2. Make it potluck for a truly frugal holiday dinner

I’m from the south and it’s just pretty standard to ask what you need to bring when you’re invited over to eat. If your guests offer to bring sides/salads/desserts, let them! Better yet coordinate it and say, sticking with this theme I will provide the main dish of (insert dish of choice). Heck, come up with a suggested menu for people and suggest/ ask them to bring something specific. It’s fun, frugal and a little different for Thanksgiving dinner.

You can create an event on Facebook, set up a meal on SignUpGenius, send out an evite… There are lots of different ways to organize a potluck. Just try to be sure it’s somewhat organized and everybody doesn’t show up with salad and rolls. Again, refer back to my first tip and keep the potluck meal more cohesive by establishing a theme ahead of time.

3. Make it a progressive dinner

Have a large group of people to get to and not a lot of space? It’ll take some coordination for sure, but make it a progressive dinner. Start a little early, and show up to one house for appetizers and conversation. Another house can host the next course. You may choose to have a soup course, salad course, main course, and final stop dessert and coffee (to stay awake after all that yummy food).

Just match the number of houses participating with the number of courses (or throw in a house you just play games and drink another coffee). End the night with a bonfire and smores. Make it fun and memorable by totally changing things up.

If you have small kids I would advise keeping the number of stops to a manageable number of stops to avoid some overwhelm. Or maybe have the kids stay at one house after say the main course while adults go on to the next for coffee and dessert. The kids can have a dessert and unwind without being drug off to another few stops. If they’re old enough maybe make it a slumber party.

frugal holiday dinner ideas

Make the Holiday Yours with a New Tradition

Not only can starting a new tradition liven things up a little, if you use these frugal holiday dinner ideas it can also make it easier on everyone’s wallets, which is sure to be appreciated. Holidays should be about spending time with the ones you love creating memories. So switch it up and make some great ones!

What are your favorite non-traditional holiday dinner plans? Frugal doesn’t have to be any less fun. It can even mean having fewer dishes to wash! Who doesn’t love that?!

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handmade Christmas gifts

Whether you’re on a budget, environmentally conscious, or just want to give more thoughtful gifts here are 25 handmade Christmas gift ideas. The best part is not only are they frugal, but they also aren’t just good for Christmas! You can give them year-round!

My sister and I have already agreed to go handmade with our gifts to each other this year. So Cara if you’re reading this… just try to forget what you see before December 25! If you plan to make Christmas gifts you need to make sure to plan and budget ahead so you have time to purchase any materials needed and then actually make them.

You may also need to plan in advance to save up jars; if you are making anything that needs to be stored in glass. You don’t necessarily have to buy jars; wash out glass jars as you empty them and save them. Some are really pretty, but all can be “gussied up” rather easily.

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25 Handmade Christmas Gift Ideas

1. Sugar scrubs for handmade Christmas gifts

Something so simple to make can also be such a treat! All you need for this one is yes, sugar, and essential oil of your choice. Lavender and peppermint are common choices in sugar scrubs. Mix the sugar and 10-15 drops of the oil well. To make it extra special you can even use food dye to color it. Pour in a small jar or glass container with a locking lid. I based some I gifted previously this year based on this post from One Little Project.

2. Bath salts

All you need is unscented, all-natural Epsom salts (I buy mine at Dollar Tree!) and essential oil. Lavender is a good choice.

3. Coconut oil hair mask

Winter is hard on the scalp and hair. Use my DIY recipe for a luxurious and frugal treat!

4. Homemade soaps/facewash

These can be done on their own or in combination with previous ideas for a little spa package. Castile soap is a good soap base to use. I mix hand soaps with Castile soap on a regular basis and add my Thieves oil.

5. Homemade sauces make great handmade Christmas gifts

If you are a whiz with canning make your own sauces and preserves to include in gift baskets.

6. Homemade vanilla

I’ve seen this on Instagram and it looks heavenly. Better get started ASAP; this stuff takes time.

7. Tea towels A Handmade Christmas Gift

If you have basic sewing skills you can make tea towels (or any table linen) to include in a gift basket. Maybe with that homemade sauce or jelly.

8. Cocoa or Spiced Cider Mixes

Make up your own cocoa mix and layer the ingredients in a jar. Add a couple of mugs from Dollar Tree and a tea towel or two for a gift basket. A spiced cider mix would be yummy as well.

9. Have a signature dish with a lot of dry ingredients?

Layer the dry ingredients in a jar and include a needed utensil or two along with a tea towel. For instance, for cookie dough layer dry ingredients in the jar, add a wooden rolling pin, and cookie cutters. Print out or write instructions on a tag tied to the lid.

10. Whip up a special roller of oil

Customize a perfume or just whip a roller to help them sleep (lavender). They don’t have to own a diffuser to get the benefits of essential oils. A little something to help relax and unwind during the busy holiday season may be most welcome.

11. Baked goods

Bake up a loaf of your famous homemade bread and add local jellies, jams, or honey to the gift basket. Throw in one of those tea towels too.

12. Knit a handmade Christmas gift

If you knit a lovely scarf in their favorite colors, a sweater, or blanket would be a very thoughtful gift. Maybe some mittens.

13. Reclaimed wood frames

My husband made picture frames of reclaimed wood once and we placed family pictures in them. Grandparents love sentimental things like this. You could even frame some of the kids’ original artwork to make it extra special.

14. Personalized art

If you know their style and are good with a paintbrush (or just stencils) some wall art would be a nice touch. Maybe a nameplate with the year the family home was established.

15. Initial artwork or wooden letter

Initials are very popular, in painted and carved work.

16. T-shirt quilt

Know someone who has been on lots of adventures, kept all the t-shirts but no longer wears them? Make them (or have them made) into a quilt! Even if the work has to be outsourced it is still an extremely thoughtful gift.

17. Scrapbooks make great handmade Christmas gifts

A digital scrapbook if they’re paperless or a bound scrapbook chronicling a special vacation, childhood, or friendship will bring up great memories every time they pull it out.

18. Garden Starter Kit

Have a green thumb? Have you already started your own seeds? Why not gift someone with a little less time on their hands or just experience a starter windowsill garden? This is something I always plan to do, then never follow through on. I’ve bought the seeds before. They’re in the freezer. If I was gifted a starter garden kit grown from seeds you can be sure I would take care of it and think of them when I used the herbs!

19. Hand beaded jewelry

Whether it’s a diffuser bracelet or thoughtfully picked beads for a necklace, earrings, or set of bracelets curated for someone’s style this is a wonderfully thoughtful gift.

20. Bread box

If you know a baker and you (or husband) are handy with a saw make a bread box. Nice ones aren’t cheap, so my husband made one for me once I started baking bread regularly. Just make sure the sealer you use is food grade!

21. Aprons

I got into a sewing kick one year (my mom helped a lot) and made aprons; for my husband, I made a camo one for grilling and all the nieces crafting aprons complete with pockets. I raided my mom’s fabric stash for this and made each girl a unique apron in her own size. They were a hit!

handmade Christmas gifts

22. Recover a train case

Also for the nieces one year I collected vintage train cases, picked different fabrics, and decoupaged them. Then I put little treasures inside them. These were also a big hit. It took time to collect all the cases and to decorate, but it was worthwhile!

23. Sew a handmade Christmas gift they’ll treasure

Sew a special bag, pouch, or sewing notion holder. If you can cut two triangles of fabric, sew them together, and pour rice in you can make a chicken pincushion. Years ago my sister made a sewing notion passbook that ties closed with individual pages and pockets. It is so handy to have. I don’t sew a lot but I love pulling that out when I do. If you’re a sewer who knows an oiler a bag with little elastic pouches to secure oils would be thoughtful.

24. Family recipe album

My mom gifted us with one of these and it is so special. I haven’t been able to bring myself to use it much, but it was really thoughtful. She hand wrote all those recipes for TWO books!

25. Christmas themed crafts or decor

These can be really thoughtful, special pieces to put out each year. Just please, if you gift something Christmas themed be sure to give it early! It is a little pet peeve of mine to open something Christmas themed on Christmas day; I pack Christmas up on New Year’s and dislike opening something and waiting a year to enjoy.

A Note on Handmade Christmas Gifts

It can be problematic if a handmade Christmas gift is made to the giver’s taste and not the recipient’s. Please don’t do this! That being said, if done with the recipient in mind it can be something they treasure for years. Unless it’s edible of course! It’ll be the memory that’s treasured!

What are your favorite homemade Christmas gifts to give and receive? Ever gotten one that just made no sense? I’d love to hear! Christmas is just over two months away. I hope you are thinking about it and budgeting for it already. I know I will be very busy the next few weeks getting my to-do and shopping lists ready so when our Christmas account is cashed out I have a plan.

This post was proofread by Grammarly


brand loyalty

Is Brand Loyalty Worth it?

We’ve all heard the saying about getting what you pay for, but is it always worth paying more? Is brand loyalty worth the price you pay? My mother always seemed to think so. I’ve found in many cases this simply isn’t true. Sometimes it pays to be brand loyal, but does it always? In today’s post that is just what I want to explore.

First, what is brand loyalty?

Brand loyalty is the positive association consumers attach to a particular product or brand.


So simply put, brand loyalty boils down to how good we think a product or brand is. This isn’t necessarily due to a supreme difference in quality or durability, it’s just our perception of the product! A lot of this boils down to advertising efforts put in and branding – if you need to blow your nose do you reach for a facial tissue or a kleenex? I haven’t bought a name brand facial tissue in a while, but I still call it the same thing.

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Times I’ve Found Brand Quality Wasn’t Worth it

Toilet paper

I thought toilet paper had to be quilted and had to have a northern in the name in order to do the job. I have worked for an institutional supplier that used the product it sold to institutional customers in the employee restrooms and this was always my “proof” that generic toilet paper was scratchy, too thin, and took more to use.

Why buy something if it takes more to get the job done? It’s not saving money, is it? Well, if it’s cheap enough, yes. And some people will buy anything if it’s cheap enough. But frugal isn’t cheap, remember. There is also a big difference between generic and institutional. I now buy the generic septic safe toilet paper from Aldi and it is fine. It also comes in easier to store package sizes and has no complicated math on the packaging.

credit: unknown


I was raised on the original mayonnaise and believed all other mayonnaises inferior. Turns out I was wrong; as long as it says real mayonnaise on the label 9 times out of 10 I find it just fine to put on my sandwiches. To be honest I have only been disappointed once; there was a cheaper than the normal cheap brand at Walmart once, and I bought it. That was a mistake.

Small Appliances

I have had very few primo brand small appliances in my adult life and they have almost all held up as well as the more expensive version with regular use. I once had a Keurig that gave me more fits than our current Farberware single-serve coffee maker. This one is even tall enough to put the travel mug under!

The Few Exceptions in Which I am Brand Loyal


This shouldn’t be surprising if you’ve read any of my posts on being a frugal oiler, but I once saw a quote that said something to the effect that life-changing oils aren’t cheap but cheap oils are rarely life-changing. This is a category I firmly believe you get what you pay for; quite a few of the oils labeled “pure” list fragrance on the ingredient. Always read the label people. On everything, not just oils. You’d be surprised what you might find.

I Definitely Have Brand Loyalty When it Comes to Ranch Dressing

Yes, I am more than serious here. I live in the South, and while midwesterners may be the stereotypical ranch lovers, I consider myself to be quite picky with this item. I have had philosophical discussions with dear friends about how wrong they are when they consider XYZ brand to be ranch. It’s not ranch; it’s an imposter.

I have seriously considered taking the suggestion of a friend and buying the dressing mix in bulk on Amazon. It seems like a small price to pay to never run out of my beloved Hidden Valley. I grew up not eating salad, but using HVR like most people use steak or barbecue sauce. Now I eat salad too, but I still love it as a dipping sauce for just about all meats! Don’t get me started on low fat or other new, weird varieties. Sorry, not sorry.

brand loyalty

I Have a Somewhat New Brand Loyalty With Shoes

I have bought cheaper tennis shoes just as casual footwear and they wore out quickly. In my early workout days, I bought cheaper shoes to wear to the gym and my feet hurt. I have come to realize that a good pair of New Balance trainers in the $40-$60 range will keep my feet happier longer than most other shoes.

Shoes are expensive and I have come to hate shoe shopping. Next time I need a new pair of gym shoes I will head straight for the New Balance section. For everyday casual footwear, I am loving these Keen Hush Knit hikers my husband bought me for my birthday. My younger self would be shocked, but I would now rather have fewer pairs of quality shoes I love to wear than a lot of lower quality shoes I like but have to replace often. I feel so adult and minimalist just typing that!

For Me, Brand Loyalty is a Mixed Bag

I’m willing to pay for something if I know I’ll get my money’s worth (provided it is in the budget, of course) but past a few categories, I don’t consider myself to be a very brand loyal person. I’d rather be a frugal person who makes more thoughtful purchase choices based on more than just advertising and brand names.

In the past, my cheap self hated the idea of brand loyalty (except where my ranch dressing and toilet paper were concerned) and enthusiastically embraced more generic options to save money. Logos? I hated them; the idea that someone would pay money to advertise for a company (shouldn’t that work the other way around?) was beyond me. Today, I have one hat and one shirt embellished with a brand’s logo. These were thoughtful purchases made with my husband’s employee discount. I can live with that. Just don’t count on ever seeing me in anything that says I’m juicy!

What about you? Are there any brands you consider yourself a loyal patron of? Do you buy generic everything without exception? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the psychology of branding and brand loyalty.