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It's gifts from the heart...and not the wallet...that count!

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): It's gifts from the heart...and not the wallet...that count!

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's gifts from the heart...and not the wallet...that count!

Have you been struggling with gift ideas for family and friends?  Have you been staring at the store displays, trying to figure out what to get Aunt Sally or Nephew Timmy?  It takes the fun out of the season, doesn't it, as you scramble to try to find something suitable for everyone on your list.  Especially in light of today's economy, we just don't need more stress.  I hate to admit it myself, but even I have gotten into letting it drag me down a bit, and for the first time this year, my one big change will be not sending out paper Christmas cards, except  maybe to our older relatives who do not do email or do anything else computer-related.  It's the thought that counts and not the money spent, so here are some ideas of how to spread the holiday wealth and cheer this season without digging too much in your pocketbook.

  • Take the time to create a beautiful holiday family website, where you update your family and friends on what you have been up to all year.  Upload photos and even video to share.  You can even add some Christmas music.  You can do all this for FREE, as there are many free webhosting sites out there, as well as free Christmas music to download and play.  Most website editors have the ability to add music, and you don't need any real know-how to put it together.  In the interest of family security, I never use our addresses, work information, real names (use nicknames) or anything too identifying.  It can be done.  Also be sure to put a guestbook on the bottom to encourage entries.  We use the same web address every year, so family and friends always know where to find us!
  • Those homemade mixes.  My local library is full of books that show you how to make the layered mixes for cookies, cakes, brownies and soups.  You can easily dress them up with ribbons, homemade tags and raffia.  I absolutely love getting them for Christmas and always save the recipe for later. 
  • Homemade Christmas ornaments that are unique to the person or family you are giving it to.  Is the person a teacher?  How about a family that lives on a farm?  Get some ornament ideas here.
  • Food.  Food can be more inexpensive than junk.  That's the great thing about being overseas.  My family loves getting a box of the different kinds of snacks, cookies and other goodies from Belgium and Germany.  At least you'll know good use will be made out of food instead of yet another gadget or piece of junk.  I used to collect old baskets from my local Goodwill throughout the year while we were in the US, just to make food baskets during the holidays.  Look, anything looks fantastic wrapped up in gift plastic wrap tied with a bow!
  • Photos.  Do you have a great photo of the person you are gifting?  Perhaps a photo of them doing their favorite thing or with their favorite person or animal?  You can make your own picture frame to go with it or purchase a nice inexpensive one.  I saw some really unique ones at IKEA recently.
  • Do you sew?  I still treasure the quilts, napkins and table runners I've gotten from friends who sew...amazing!  One quilt even has an appropriate poem for the season written on the back....something I will surely continue to treasure.
  • Do you bake?  I love to get plates of Christmas cookies and goodies from neighbors.  I hope my neighbor is reading this.
  • Holiday centerpieces.  Look, before you skip over this idea....I am artistically challenged when it comes to making stuff, and my house WAS full of centerpieces until I gave some away cause guests just had to have them!  Yes, I gave some away.  Get the kids to go out in the woods with you and collect chestnuts, pinecones, acorns...any kind of nuts, evergreenery and hard red berries.  Get an inexpensive cheap vase from the local dollar store.  Fill it up with this stuff...to add more color and smell, add dried sliced oranges and cinnamon sticks.  Fill it level and then put a tea light in the middle of it....just beautiful and festive!  If you can't find enough stuff to fill the glass vase, then put a drinking glass, upside-down in the middle to take up some of the space, and fill around it and on the tip....no one will ever know!  You can also try your hand at evergreen wreath making.  Again, many sites out there to google. I cheated this year and did not make my own (I have a wire form where you can just pile on the branches)...but bought a very nice and inexpensive one at our local yearly German Christmas market on SHAPE put on by the German spouses every year.  Almost every nationality hosts a Christmas market in December...yet another benefit to being stationed with NATO:-)
  • A unique Christmas ornament from one of the many Christmas markets in the area.  A great thing about being overseas is that you can get some wonderfully nice ornaments for 1 to 2 euros each...I can guarantee your friends and family won't find these wonderful examples in the US.  Put them in a nice pretty recycled gift box and tie with a pretty bow.
  • Buy expensive chocolates in bulk and divy them up into individual packages to give away.  I went to the Neuhaus Chocolate Factory outlet, one of the top chocolates produced in the world but typically very expensive.  Go to the outlet outside of Brussels and buy a few bulk boxes.  Since there is only one type of chocolate per box, you are going to have to mix them up later to get some variety.  I bought inexpensive giftbags, made my own Neuhaus sticker on the computer and mixed and matched the different kinds of chocolates into the bags tied with pretty ribbons.  Those little Chinese food containers work great too instead of the bags.  Be sure to wrap the giftbags very well in bubblewrap before sending them through the mail!  Also include some Neuhaus Chocolate brochures as well to complete authenticating the experience!  If you are not here where I am, check your own area.  There are many gourmet food factories and their stores scattered throughout the US.  
  • A service or booklet of services.  This is something great for kids to give out.  They can color their booklet or homemade gift coupons to their liking, enhancing them with glitter and bubble gluepens....yarn or whatever....how about 1 hour of yard work?  Or a 20 minute massage for mom?  Kids, there are lots of ideas out there, and this is one of my favorite gifts...I'm telling you this as a mom.  You can even give this to an elderly neighbor and make her feel like she is not always expecting your help or asking for it.
Do you have any lowcost gift ideas to share?  Also be sure to read some of my previous gift ideas on this blog.


    Please be sure to visit the Carnival of Personal Finance this week to read other great money-saving tips!

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      2 Comments:

      Anonymous Bret @ Hope to Prosper said...

      I just wanted to say thanks for your past service to our country and the continuous sacrifices you make.

      December 14, 2010 at 7:01 PM  
      Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

      What a sweet thing to say. I can only say thank-you!

      December 15, 2010 at 7:23 AM  

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