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Return of the Rent-a-Tree

There is plenty I do ‘wrong’ with Christmas. Wrong being total engagement in the full on consumerism orgy that is the month of December. I spend too much money. Too much is completely relative, because I don’t set a budget to begin with. For shame. I also end up, inevitably buying for myself. Because once the spending taps are open, why not just turn them on full bore? It’s one of those instances where I tuck and roll right out of my speeding frugality vehicle. Damages be damned!

Over the years, I’ve managed to get a couple of things right. Behold: The Rental Tree.


Very much like its predecessor last year. $35 and ugly as all get out. Compare that to the $60-$70 I’d spend on a much shapelier tree. A full fir grown just for the privilege of temporarily gracing my home. Not destined, like its spindly cousin here, for stream restoration, but for mulch (if its lucky) or a landfill (if its not so). Year two of tree rental found me with reasonable expectations and all too happy to welcome my unlikely little sitka spruce back into the fold.

$30 or so isn’t much in the grand scheme of my Holiday spending. A drop in the bucket of over consumption, that needs to be reined in. Someday. Someday soon. But, as I ponder, its not just the tree. I’ve made some changes over the years. Small ones, leading up to a growing list. Be prepared. I’m about to give myself some credit here.

Recycled Christmas Cards, adorning my mantle, right along side the fresh batch still rolling in for this year. Christmas decorations: $0. This project provided inspiration for further craft insanity in the form of..


Bows made out of old magazines. (Find the how-to on my Pinterest). A little more labor intensive than the bunting (ok, a lot), but pretty. Especially adorning the #1 gift I am giving them year.


Canned goods. That’s right, the pregnant lady is giving away her pickles. The stash I canned way back when is about to be depleted. For a good cause. Sharing. A fringe benefit of hoarding and protecting your pantry from the pilfering of friends is the sense of worth it imparts on those lovely jars. I think recipients will be pleased. Especially with the addition of the lovely bow.


Then there’s the money I have spent (and am spending…) locally, with actual people. Most of it. In times of consumer glee, my anti-Big Box ways serve me well. There’s a little bit of Amazon in the mix (as always) and I may have broken down and finally purchased that much coveted Apple product at a very slight discount on the shopping day of all shopping days, but lets not talk about that. Most of my gifts were procured from real people. Real people who make stuff. My favorite kind of stuff. There were craft fairs, lots of them, flea markets. Hands were shook. Business cards exchanged. Local economies contributed to. My favorite stuff and my favorite way to spend money. I wish I could show you pictures of all this cool stuff without ruining surprises.

This year is slightly different. Not that I’m spending less money. We aren’t fully tallied yet, but I’ll bet it’s no better than years past. Different in that, this is my last hurrah. Impending arrivals. Circumstances changing. I’m living it up a bit this Christmas, basking in our Dual Income No Kid status one last time. A couple parts are due for 2013 update. I’m loving the life I have, the tips, tricks, and lessons I’ve learned along the way. Even if they only equate to pickles, an ugly tree and some magazine repurposing. While looking forward to all the many changes in store for us.

Whatever you celebrate, do just that. Celebrate it. In the best way you know how.


What are your own Holiday accomplishments? And ‘challenges’? Do have a tendency to go over board? Or is a frugal as easy this time of year as it is the other 11 months?

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Christmas bows made out of magazines? That’s just nifty! This year, in October, I told myself that I would not get caught up in all the consumer-y Christmas stuff. I just knew this was going to be the best Christmas ever. And despite my best efforts, time has gotten away from me, things have become last minute. And I’m having to skip home-made for other-wise made in some cases. And I didn’t plan to do that much home-made to begin with. Such is the plight of the mother-with-child. But even before child, I was never that successful at getting it all “right.” Now I just have a better excuse.

We could all do with a reminder every day or so that there is no “right” way to do it, that we (as women, mostly) tend to set the bar too high, and that maybe it’s okay if most of our Christmas decorations are still sitting in their rubbermaid bins. True story. I know it seems as though this is your last “hurrah” Christmas, but honestly, I think Christmas is even more fun when you have a kid, especially when they are old enough to really get into the spirit of things. They are the example of joyful this time of year. When us adults tend to let everything get to us, the kids just want sparkly lights and maybe the occasional cookie.


I should have qualified that last hurrah a little more. Chapter closing is more along the lines of what i was thinking. New and different, and yes probably a lot more exciting to experience the Holiday through a little person who is excited by just the shiny twinkly, not the cha-ching.

Its never perfect. Its never exactly what we think it will be. I definitely still have stuff in bins. And no kid to blame it on. Maybe that’s another perk about next year. 😉


I way overspend at Christmas. I’ll admit it. It’s ingrained in me from watching my dad year after year. There’s a convenience factor, parties where I become a jewish and italian mother at the same time (more food! more people!), those in my life who want electronics and things not available in the local factor *cough hubby*, and a general unwillingness to give up my perfectly trimmed tree (no matter how cute your charlie brown tree is!) But there’s definitely been progress and more importantly awareness and conscious choice.

There’s the conversations with siblings and others that limit Christmas buying to mutual donations to a cause or no gifts at all. The majority of objects are consciously bought locally by local people. An attempt at DIY gifts (ain’t happening, but I learned things!). The forays into canning with an eye to canned gifts next year. Scrounging around the house for things that could be used for holiday decorations instead of buying new toys (and then inevitably buying them because they just don’t make things that glitter enough in my house, but still mostly reused items).

Small steps – but I think they count. If you can balance what makes you happy around the holidays with being a conscious consumer I think that’s half the battle. The other half is dealing with that 3 year old who WANTS THAT TOY (or perfectly trimmed tree).


I love the bows!

Frugal is pretty hard for me at Christmas – I know I spend too much this time of year. I gave DIY gifts as a kid (what happened?), but now I love to give people books. While I will give gently-used ones if need be, I tend to give new ones. And I’ve taken on this strange sense of responsibility for giving my NINE younger cousins good books. Another thing is that I take it as time to let loose a little bit – I shop and go out more than usual in the last couple weeks of the semester (and especially once finals are done).

I’ve never gotten much into decorating though. Although I do miss a tree. I haven’t found rental trees in NYC yet :( I’ve wanted one since you posted about it last year.


I thought about doing those bows this year too….it looked harder than i was wanting to dive into, but I did follow your frugal guidelines for gift giving.

Since the hubs still has no job to speak of, and prego me is supporting all of us (plus a half), i have to say that christmas suffered a little (okay, a lot) this year. We set a budget of $50 a person for parents, and $100 for each other….with the exception of the toddler, who desperately needed and deserved some cool new stuff. For friends and relatives, they got a box full of homemade goodness: scarves, vinyl bowls, homemade peach salsa, baked goods, and whatever other crafty stuff I had in my “gift” box.

Surprisingly, we ended up with almost more presents than years past. It’s amazing what you can come up with on a tighter budget, and some actual thought put into the gifts. I also spent a few dollars at our local craft fair, and felt pretty good about supporting locally, and saving some serious cashola. It doesn’t hurt that the toddler is now into making art, so some free frames from the thrift store, and voila! Instant adorable presents.

I wish I could dive into your pickles! They look sooooo good….but that’s coming from a prego, so all things pickle are tasty. :)


When I was growing up, we always bought our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, because that’s when they were REALLY marked down & cheap — even occasionally free.

I now live in Hawaii, and trees are shipped in [EARLY!!] and disappear quickly. When they’re gone, they’re GONE. Two years ago we missed the opportunity to buy one [you can imagine the really high prices when cross-Pacific shipping is added to the price], so I made a tree.

I’m a quilter, so have lots of fabrics. I cut a silhoutte of a tree out of green fabric and taped it to a large window. Granted a) we couldn’t put any lights on it; and b) the number and weight of ornaments we could pin on were limited, but we enjoyed quite a feeling of accomplishment in our creativity. And that cut-out has been available for subsequent years; no land-fill!

Re presents: as I’ve written here before, within our family our tradition is a “write me something beautiful” gift. [Web site started by a friend, not really in the gift-giving tradition, but that’s how we’ve morphed it.] Each of the four of us [moi, husband, two young adult kids] writes something that we share with each other. Sometimes it’s a pre-chosen topic, sometimes free choice.

For instance, this year we attended a family reunion and interacted with two nieces who are headed off to college in the fall. I then asked my kids to write about either what they’d advise these new college students, and/or what they wish someone had advised them in 2004 and 2006 when they started. Their efforts are always wonderful, not expensive, and long-lasting.


The bows, the tree, everything looks amazing! Loving how your thrifty christmas proves frugal can be beautiful.


Those bows are so cool! Have a good and thrift 2013!

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