Cheap holiday ideas…
I've never been a holiday person; the mad dash to overcrowded malls for gifts, the snow that looks great in a picture but is a bitch to shovel, the canned Christmas music that every station must play two weeks before the actual holiday - all those things I've learned to live without. But as the years pass, I'm beginning to suspect that I've become an Undercover Holiday Person. I've gone through the stage where the holidays just depressed me to no end, but I'm currently going through a renaissance of good feelings for this time of the year. Embracing the nice things about the holidays - the get-togethers, the parties and hooch, the good will toward everyone (even your co-workers or crabby neighbours) - make this season more bearable.
As there will undoubtedly be more occasions to go out and spend money, one of the holiday traditions that my friends and I have started is having a big ol' potluck and gift exchange. There are so many advantages to a potluck. It still provides you with a big meal to enjoy with your loved ones without going for broke at a fancy restaurant, and it's simple to plan, even at the last possible minute. The rules of the potluck are simple: everyone brings a dish, big enough to share with the participants, which can be homemade or store-bought (I always go for the latter, but my friends are good at the former). When all dishes are put together, there's enough for a huge buffet of goodness. If you're bringing the appetizers, as I have done before, here are some (inexpensive) party hits that no one can resist, and which make you look like a young Martha Stewart in training: a block of brie cheese and/or pâté and hard crackers - strategically laid out on a cutting board with a cheese knife for easy access; smoked salmon wrapped around Philadelphia cream cheese, served on hard or soft bite-sized crackers - this one you're going to have to assemble yourself, but skip the capers as they hardly add any value; and salmon mousse and cucumber slices - simply grab the mousse and slap some on a thick cucumber slice, and add a small sliver of red pepper on top if you want to be fancy about it.
As for gift exchanges, some people opt for a Secret Santa (also known on the streets as Kris Kingle). I'm not a fan of Secret Santas because there are opportunities to draw someone's name that you don't know how the heck to shop for, but it is a great idea in theory because everyone gets to give a gift and receive one (very Utopian, no?) and no one has to max out their cards in the process. (One great thing about Secret Santa: the maximum price is set and voted on before the shopping begins.) When I recently discussed my animosity of Secret Santa with a friend and his boyfriend, the boyfriend came up with a brilliant idea: when writing your name down on a piece of paper to be drawn, add about three words underneath your name to describe the things you might like (or dislike, if that's the case). For example, I'd write "Christine," and then add "lactose intolerant, hooch, blocks of meat" under my name. Naturally, the first one would deter someone from getting me, say, a chocolate bar or a goat, and the others might score me a bottle of wine or a string of salami. With this idea, Secret Santa becomes good again.
To bring everything full circle, you might also want to include a tree-trimming portion to your holiday party, if you plan on having a Christmas tree. Instead of having the host provide everything, the guests can arrive bearing tinsel, ornaments, strings of popcorn, or whatever strikes the imagination. This can also be an inexpensive but fun activity as everyone gets to decorate while slowly becoming happy from all the eggnog. And with all these good times, you've just survived the holidays! ¤ C.Ho.
During the holiday season, your wallet can take a serious beating. You have to buy gifts for all 100 members of your family, and you still need to have enough money to buy presents for your friends. What do you do?
Instead of selling your blood to make some quick cash, why not give handmade gifts? This may sound a little cheesy and CHEAP, but I assure you, handmade gifts are always well received. It shows your friends that you have taken the time to make a gift especially for them, instead of giving them a generic gift (perfume, socks, underwear, etc.).
But do keep in mind that you should make something that your friend/family member would actually want and use. If your friend lives in a warm climate, do not spend months and months knitting her a wool sweater!
Another thing to remember is that handmade gifts can be a little pricey. A co-worker recently told me that she is making beaded necklaces for her friends. The materials for the necklaces are costly, but she feels happy to know that she is making her loved ones one-of-a-kind jewelry.
One of my most cherished gifts is a picture a friend painted for me. She knew that I wanted something artsy to spruce up my bedroom, so she painted me a picture. Ain't she sweet!!!
If your are strapped for cash and you really want to give your friends and family a token of your appreciation, try your hand at making or baking something.
Happy holidays! ¤ Michelle