• White Friday: The Anti-Black Friday

    Here are my big plans for tomorrow. I plan on sleeping in until about eight in the morning – or, more likely, until my children hop in bed with me and wake me up. I’m going to eat a home-cooked breakfast with my parents, my wife, and my children. After that, I plan on spending …

  • A Gift That Matters

    As we approach the gift-giving season for many families, with Hanukkah starting on November 28, Christmas on December 25, and more than a few families celebrating Christmas somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Years, I wanted to suggest a very thoughtful idea for the young ones in your life. If you have a young child that …

  • Christmas Worries

    In a recent reader mailbag, Dave wrote: Up until January, I had a wonderful job where I handled all of the IT needs for a small company in our area. At the end of last year, the company was sold and the jobs were folded together with another company with the “redundant” jobs being eliminated, …

  • Wrapping Paper Alternatives

    One common theme in the emails I get this time of year is the cost of wrapping paper. Many people find it difficult to swallow that they’re investing $15 to $20 into paper that’s simply there to cover a box and will be torn to shreds on Christmas morning – and, frankly, I don’t blame …

  • Homemade Gift Series: Wrap-Up (Both Literally and Otherwise)

    Throughout the fall, I ran a series of posts on homemade gifts with enough lead time so that interested parties could make some of the gifts on their own if they so chose. I wanted to top off the series by listing all of the items in the series, showing off the small mountain of …

  • Homemade Gift Series, Extra Edition: Photo Cubes

    This is a last-minute extra addition to the homemade gift series. Sarah and I have gone back and forth for a long while about whether to post this one in the series, but when we showed the items to several people as we were making them, the comments from them were almost universal: “You need …

  • Homemade Gift Series #10: Homemade Cookies and Gift Bundle

    In the coming week, we’re going to be giving a few early small seasonal gifts to people, so with that in mind, we put the final finishing touches on our first gift basket, utilizing some of the items we already made. One component of many of our baskets this year is going to be cookies. …

  • Homemade Gift Series #9: Handmade Ornaments

    This year, we decided to make a big batch of handmade Christmas tree ornaments for our home, just to make some “homey” Christmas items to decorate with. We decided to make them in the style of Christmas sugar cookies, with dough that would harden and look roughly like such cookies. As we were making them, …

  • Homemade Gift Series #8: Personalized Cards and Stationery

    A few years ago, Rachel gave my wife Sarah a wonderful Christmas gift: some beautifully-constructed stationery with photos of her own choosing placed on the front of note cards, along with envelopes to mail them in. Here are three examples that Sarah has kept: As you can see, there’s some variety in the cards – …

  • Homemade Gift Series #7: Crocheted Hat and Scarf

    My wife, Sarah, loves to make homemade functional items, particularly ones that give her hands busywork when she’s doing something like watching a movie or rocking a baby. Thus, it’s not surprising that crocheting is a natural match for her. This year, she elected to make a crocheted hat and scarf set for one particular …

  • Homemade Gift Series #6: Meals in a Jar

    A simple picture will probably explain things better than any introductory description could. The jar on the left, obviously, is a “Rainbow Brownie” mix, to which you add just a couple liquid ingredients, pour into a pan, and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. The one on the right is a soup mix, to …

  • Homemade Gift Series #5: Wine Jelly

    “Not everyone will like the caramel apple jam,” Sarah commented to me after we made it. As much as I liked it, I knew she was right: it was very sweet and lacked the tartness that I often crave in my jellies and jams. So we decided to make another jelly/jam, this time doing something …

  • Homemade Gift Series #4: Homemade Beer

    I often brew homemade beer. It’s an enjoyable hobby that allows me to sometimes use items from my garden and gets me deeply in touch with the natural process of making a homecrafted beer. I have complete control over the ingredients and can make whatever variation seems good to me with whatever ingredients seem flavorful …

  • Homemade Gift Series #3: Caramel Apple Jam

    A few weeks ago, my wife stopped by a roadside stand where an individual was selling apples. A lot of apples. My wife asked if there were any deals, and the seller told her that he would sell her 8 1/2 pounds of “seconds” (apples that had been dropped and needed to be used quickly) …

  • Homemade Gift Series #2: Homemade Soap

    Let’s just start this one off with two big, giant warnings! Warning #1 Making soap at home can be very fun and rewarding, and if done right, it can be an inexpensive way to make gifts. But it can also be very dangerous if proper precautions aren’t taken. Before starting any soap-making project, please familiarize …

  • On Homemade Christmas Gifts

    A few weeks ago, my wife and I were chatting about some of the best Christmas gifts we’ve ever received. Many great Christmas memories from childhood came up, as did some other great memories from various holidays since our marriage. Yet, when we both began to list some of our favorite gifts received over the …

  • Now’s the Time to Stop (or Alter) a Christmas Gift Exchange

    Each Christmas, a lot of people find themselves in gift exchanges that they don’t really want to participate in. They end up buying gifts for people that they don’t have a close relationship with. They’re obligated to spend more money than they’d like on certain gifts. Sometimes, they’re guilted into it by the expectations of …

  • Your After-Christmas Shopping Checklist

    A few days after Christmas, Sarah and I will usually head out to the store to stock up on post-Christmas sales. It’s often easy to find many items at bargain-basement prices in the days after Christmas – items which can easily be saved until next year. We usually make a list of things to look …

  • Merry Christmas from The Simple Dollar!

    I hope that wherever you are and whatever you believe, good tidings are reaching you. Tune in tomorrow for our regularly scheduled programming…