Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday Gift Ideas: Homemade

This is a great time to exercise your creative side. Instead of spending loads of dough on gifts that might never get looked at after 12/25, give something meaningful to those you love. Oprah's Favorite Things this year included "Gratitude Boxes", which are easy to make, personal, and don't have to cost a dime.

One thing I do with my family is bake desserts. My sisters and I each bring a recipe -- cookies, cakes, puddings -- and spend a day baking in my mother's kitchen. We then box up the goodies as gifts for extended family members. The baked goods are a big hit. Plus, getting to spend the day baking with my mom and sisters is better than anything I could ever open under the tree.

I've already sung the praises of Kodak Gallery, but printing out pictures for loved ones is a great gift, especially in this age of digital photography. Pictures stay in our cameras or iPhoto and never see the side of a piece of photo paper. Transfer those photos to a cd, take it over to the 24 hour photo place, and print to your heart's content. Cheap, easy, and something anyone will appreciate.

Got a friend or loved one who is too busy to take their clothes to the dry cleaner / organize their desk / repair broken appliances? Surprise them by taking care of some of the things they can't take care of themselves! One of the best gifts I ever received was when a friend surprised me by having my broken camera repaired. And, I know I'd love it if someone offered to organize my desk at home!

There are countless things you can make or do for the people on your holiday shopping list. So, get creative and save yourself some money at the same time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Gift Ideas: Outside the Box

Here are some great websites to check out if you want more creative gift ideas that won't necessarily break the bank.

Uncommon Goods has some expensive items...but some really fun, cheap items. And, there are great things for the babies in your life, too. Check it out for artwork, jewelry, and gifts made out of recycled materials. This is a fun website to explore for all the off-center people you love.

Mod Cloth is my latest discovery, per my mother of all people! Know someone who loves all things vintage? Mod Cloth is for them. And, it might be for you, too. Lots of clothing for cheap, especially the super cute shoes. And, the website is structured so you can shop by interest, which eliminates the possibility of getting distracted by the 200 items you don't need.

Mischief Maker makes an amazing chai. Sadly, it looks like you can only get it online unless you live in Minneapolis. At $7.50 a bag, plus shipping, it makes 8 cups of the most delicious chai I've ever had at home (sorry Trader Joe's, but I don't like the chai mix you offer). Considering a cup of chai at just about any cafe will run you at least $3.00 this is a great deal. The best part is you can store it in your refridgerator and reheat a cup when you're ready. Makes a great gift for the tea lovers.

And, for the hip pre-teen or the adult who just doesn't want to grow up, check out Fred Flare for cool gifts like an iPod boom box or "risky business" sunglasses. I have to admit, I'm kind of in love with the Shinetastic Clasp Purse and the Petit Four Lip Balm Set. Gifts from Fred Flare are sure to earn you serious cool points with those hard to please 13 year olds on your list.

Time's running out for online shopping, so get movin'! A lot of online sites are offering free shipping so take advantage now and save your energy for the treadmill instead of walking the mall.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Save On Your Time Warner Bill Without Haggling is a great blog and abounds with posts to cut your cable bill by threatening to cancel (or by asking for a better price or by deception).

If you want to haggle, more power to you. If you want to save money with less hassle and you have Time Warner Cable, simply use the Price Lock Guarantee option.

After I called Time Warner (1800OKCABLE) to take advantage of the Price Lock guarantee, they discounted my current service to less than what I had been paying, and I am insulated from price increases for 24 months.

Caveat: there is a penalty for early termination, but that's only if you cancel TWC service altogether. Since the wife and I are not moving any time soon, it was a no-brainer to save ourselves $12/mo ($288 over 2 years)*.

And don't forget to take advantage of the Free Movies On Demand that are probably already a part of your package.

*we have DTValue package + high-speed online. Savings vary by package.
Photo by Darren Hester

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Recession Fitness

Assuming you have already cut costs by firing your personal trainer and canceling your membership to the gym you never went to, you may be finding it hard to stay motivated and keep/get yourself in shape. Here are some tips to do that for free:

  • one hundred push ups
I have a hard time getting motivated, but I found the One Hundred Push-ups regimen very easy to keep up with. The most gratifying part? Seeing results in my upper-body strength and tone within the first couple of weeks.
  • quick burst workouts
And since time is money, check out these Fast Workouts That Really Work! [from Yahoo! Health].

Even though you're not going to the gym, you might still find yourself in need of fitness clothes. Check out this previous post on where to get good looking sportswear for less.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Hour Locator

Hopefully we will soon be drinking to celebrate rather than to drown our economic sorrows. Whatever the reason, drink responsibly -- that includes paying less. Coovents uses a Google Maps mash-up to chart current happy hours around town.
(And don't forget in the links section to the right.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Holiday Gift Ideas: Used Books

Usually my mom, my dad, 3 brothers and I go overboard with our Christmas gift-giving - we love to give each other gifts and we love to give gifts that are a little more expensive than necessary. As we've added family members with girl/boyfriends and spouses, the spending has gotten massive.
This year, to curb our Christmas spending, we're exchanging used books - we're giving 1-2 used books to each family member. No other gifts allowed, no new books. We all love books and we all love to trawl for used books - so we've actually been having fun while we look for inexpensive but well-considered gifts for each other.

Here in NYC, we have a wealth of amazing used bookstores to poke around in. I'm a fan of The Strand for most anything.
The Housing Works Book Store is another great place to browse - and 100% of profits go directly to Housing Works.
Argosy Books on East 59th is a wonder of rare and pricey old books but the outside table is always filled with fascinating bargains - usually under $10.

Outside NYC I love: Citylights in San Francisco, Epilogue Books in Ballard WA, and Renaissance Bookshop in Milwaukee WI (which has an outpost in the Milwaukee Airport!) - Renaissance doesn't have a website but you can read a little about it here.

Let us know if you've have a favorite used bookstore here in NYC!