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Have you heard the one about the homeschooling family that lives on less than $22K a year in an area that costs above 100% (116%) of the National CoL Index?

I haven't quite figured out why so many people still persist in perpetuating the myth that living on a single income and homeschooling on a dime aren't possible. I can only suppose these are people who can't imagine life without a daily trip to Starbucks and dinner out several times a week. The people who actually shop at malls (*shudder*) and think "Brand Name = Best". The people who really live by the "Keeping up with the Joneses" mentality.

That? Would not be us!

Welcome to our world. We cook from scratch. Buy from thrift stores. Find 95% of our homeschool materials for free. This is my blog and this is how we do it.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Gift giving all year.

One of the ways I'm able to keep the costs of gifts down is I shop all year long. No, not at the mall! My gifts come from garage sales, used bookstores, thrift stores and dollar stores. Yep. I really do give "used" gifts.

Saturday mornings are shopping mornings. We get up extra early, have breakfast, and head out. We start with a few garage sales, weather permitting. We don't always buy anything - but sometimes we get fantastic deals. Next we'll go to a local thrift store or dollar store. (Or we go to these first if there are no garage sales to hit.) We might not buy anything there either. And once a month we drop in at a used bookstore. After that, we'll do our grocery shopping and come home.

Last fall at a community garage sale, I found a woman selling very pretty, expensive teacups and saucers. Each one was a different pattern. She'd apparently thought to start collecting them, buying them one at a time, then changed her mind. I was surprised they'd been passed up by other buyers, as nice as they were, and I bought the lot - 5 cups and 5 saucers - for $2.50 total. I have seen cups like these for sale in "boutique" shops* for as much as $40.

I brought my cups home, washed them, and put them away in my closet. A few months ago, while at a grocery store, I found boxes of flavored teas marked all the way down to $1. They don't expire until mid-2008, but the store had decided to quit carrying the brand - Twinings. Nice tea, by the way! I guess we Americans are too accustomed to our Lipton or something. I bought 5 boxes.

Using THIS FREE PATTERN, I made 5 bookmarks. (All five only took one weekend.)

Finally, I bought 5 plain, white gift bags at fifty cents a piece, and I always keep green tissue paper "in stock." (Green because it works year-round, including Christmas.)

So far, I've given away 2 of my gift bags and have 3 more to give. They have been birthday presents for woman friends & family.

The final product is this: I take a bag and paint a floral design in colors to match the teacup & saucer, using the "one stroke" method - a very easy painting style to master. I also paint the recipient's name. In the bag, I put the teacup and saucer, box of tea, crocheted bookmark, plus one or two paperback books I purchased at the used book store. (Books that I know the recipient will enjoy, based on their reading tastes and favorite authors.). Finally, I add a bag of CINNAMON SPICED ALMONDS, and a homemade birthday card, encouraging my friend to take an evening off for herself. I top this with some crumpled green tissue paper and I'm done.

Even with the cost of the almonds' ingredients - the most expensive part of the gifts! - each of these bags has cost me only around $5. This is actually on the high end of gift giving for me, but still I'm able to assemble a lovely little gift for less than half the cost of many things people frequently give out as gifts - like music CDs, and for WAY less than those fancy gift baskets you see everywhere.

But all this only works because I'm *constantly* on the look-out. I really do shop & create year-round. By utilizing this method, I'm not stuck at the last minute with rushing out to buy some over-priced gadget or knick-knack, and my gifts show a lot of love, time, and care - something you can't really demonstrate with a plain box of chocolates!

*"boutique shops" - No, I never buy anything from these little gift & clothing stores. But my MIL loves to poke around in them, so I have had occasion to be in some. I just wander around and marvel at the prices and make note of any ideas the items spark for me. :)

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Anonymous Anna said...

I have been searching your site and love your fresh ideas...I will sure be back and back to see what is new...thanks for the inspiration!

June 20, 2007 at 1:54 PM  

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