27 July 2015

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 27

Christmas in July - Things I've Learned From The Past

• Start actually making gifts a bit earlier, especially those things that kids wants to help with. I once forgot to plan around our business Christmas rush, and things got a bit hectic.

• Pick a theme for the kids gifts. One year the themes were cooking for Hannah, building for Tom and photography for AJ and that worked so well! Extended family who wished to give gifts had a general theme to work around that was based on the kids' likes, and we were able to do some really fun stuff (actual functional cooking tools for Hannah, real working tools for Tom, just like Dad's and books, film, camera case etc. for AJ).

• Start working with your kids now on handmade gifts for their siblings, grandparents and cousins.

• Simplify the meals even more. Too much time was spent cooking, and that takes a lot out of the day. Plan menus early, and make ahead as much as possible. If you have a freezer, you can make your puddings and cakes in October and November and freeze them. They will still mature and will be fresh and delicious for Christmas.

• If you are planning on a party this year, start now to plan the menu, guest list, pick a date (if you do it now, you'll be sure to get your guests). If you want a particular theme, start to choose the decorations etc. Budget for the cost - save $2 a week towards the nibblys, drinks etc. Start to buy drinks that will keep until Christmas if you have the room to store them but don't be tempted to dip into the store before Christmas.

Spend the next few months contemplating and jotting notes, but don't start organizing and planning in earnest until September. By then, the shops will have their Christmas things coming in, and as you've already thought out what you're doing, you'll be ready to tackle Christmas. Without the stress!

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 26

Create a No-fail Homemade Gift Giving Plan

Homemade gifts are special.  Receiving a gift that has been made by the giver, knowing that they have put time and effort into making something just for you is priceless.  Occasionally though, those homemade gifts are not quite the success they are intended to be.

So what’s the secret of successful homemade gifts?

There are a couple of important things to remember. The first rule is that, as with any gift, the more it taps into the receiver’s interests and passions, the better.

The second is that homemade gifts shouldn’t be second rate products that are cobbled together inexpertly – so make sure you have the skills or a backup plan in case something goes wrong.

On this basis, the best place to start is to decide what you can make that will also be a good quality gift. Ideally it needs to be well made, useful, beautiful or perhaps a memorable keepsake in some other way. There are lots of things that you can make at home without special skills or craft equipment, but over-ambitiousness and poor workmanship can be the ruin of your gift giving plan.

If you’re going to try to save money by making homemade gifts, there are two strategies you’ll have to adopt. The first is to make sure it’s not going to cost you more than it would to buy an equivalent item at retail prices. The second is to make sure you have enough time to make things. The rule of thumb is that homemade gifts can turn out to be a bit more complicated and time-consuming than you may have anticipated.

Don't wait until the week before Christmas to start that hand-quilted knee rug for Granny, unless you have absolutely nothing else to do and are prepared to stay up 24 hours a day until Christmas Day to get it done.

I like to allow at least twice the amount of time I think a project will take. This leaves room for mistakes and repeat steps and still gives plenty of time to take things slowly and get them done properly.

To minimize expensive setup costs, it makes sense to specialize, and make several of the same (or similar) things. You’ll save by making half a dozen decoupage boxes, rather than having to shell out on the tools and materials needed for a variety of different crafts.

When it comes to the people for whom your gifts are intended, ask yourself whether whatever it is you are making is really their thing. Just because you love your chosen hobby or craft, is it what they really want? Some of us just aren’t handmade or rustic gift kind of people.

That doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a conventional present. It does mean that you need to think it through. Someone who’ll blanch with horror when they open their gift to find a hand-knitted beanie may go crazy for home-made condiments or some mouth-watering, authentic gourmet snacks.

Sometimes the pleasure of a homemade gift is the creative idea behind it, rather than the master craftsmanship that you’re no doubt aiming for. Only you can come up with those creative ideas that make gifts personal and memorable for the recipient. A really humorous gift that is ideal for the receiver’s lifestyle and personality can be a hit because of the concept and the thought you’ve put into it – but that still doesn’t mean you can skimp on quality.

So don’t get carried away and remember that a successful homemade gift giving plan means making a bunch of smart decisions. Get it right and you’ll have the satisfaction of creating your gifts and of seeing the pleasure that your handiwork gives to others.

It’s Time for Christmas in July - Day 25

No Cost Gifts

Why not try a completely cost free Christmas gifts for friends? Recently I had a birthday which inspired this idea. I had instructed my friends to not give me any gifts etc. as I wanted them to save their money. Several friends took me very literally and gave me wonderful gifts of items they owned and I had admired or appreciated but they no longer had a need for: a great cook book; a serving dish and a stunning shawl were all gifts that I know I will treasure. It's not re-gifting as these items had all been used by my friends and admired by me. Our book club have decided to use this simple concept for Christmas this year. It is exciting, practical and environmentally friendly.
Contributed by Evelyn Chapman 

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