I know we’re all busy this time of the year so I’ve combined the November and December newsletters into one. Next year’s newsletters will appear at the beginning of the month and not the end, so look for the next one during the week of January 4th. Thanks for being a reader and as always, send me tips and suggestions for topics to cover next year. Thanks for being here and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.
More Gift Ideas
If you’ve been following the gift guide you know I had a tough time narrowing down this year’s picks. However, I didn’t want to leave out products from some long time friends of Budget Smart Girl.
www.lushusa.com. Stocking stuffers and gifts. They have the Cinders Bath Bomb for $3.95, Snow Fairy Solid Perfume for $7.95. And a wonderful selection of holiday gift packs with soaps and shower gels starting at just $9.95.
And check out www.ecolips.com. Lots of different flavors of lip gloss and ways to carry them with you.
And remember Mixology the mineral make-up on Etsy? Rachael has her own Web site now as well as her Etsy store. www.mixologymakeup.com. She tells me one of the best selling products is the Twilight inspired makeup.
Another Friend of Budget Smart Girl
Okay, I apologize, I should have mentioned this one before Thanksgiving. However, if turkey is on your menu for Christmas Day dining, you can still put this to use.
The Spice Hunter’s Turkey Brine is an artful blend of dried fruit, herbs and savory spices selected by spice expert and food scientist Daniela Massey, they’ve even created a one-stop shop for all home cook’s and an online resource. Visit www.spicehunter.com for a “How to Brine” instructional video, podcast, additional recipes and Brining FAQ.
End of a Decade New Year’s Party
I didn’t realize we were already at the end of a decade until I was sent this from another BSG friend, Balloon Time www.balloontime.com If you’ve spent all your holiday money but still want to celebrate the New Year in style, check out this idea from Penny Warner.
Make your invitations read like mini tabloid newspapers. Include some of the most bizarre headlines of the decade – election upsets, celebrity divorces, and so on. Search the Internet for inspiration. Then, write out your party details, photocopy your mock-up and insert in envelopes filled with glittery confetti.
Ask guests to come dressed as someone famous from the last decade. Offer suggestions, such as movie stars, athletes, TV reality show celebrities, politicians, rock stars and other newsmakers. Or, have them dress as if they’re from their favorite decade—the 50s, 70s, 90s, and so on.
A black and silver color scheme makes a flashy and festive background to your New Year’s Eve party. Fill black and silver balloons with helium using a Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kit, and then float them on the ceiling and tie some of them to the chairs and furniture. For a special touch, make an archway using balloons to frame the front door.
Download pictures of people and events that made news over the decade, print and cut them out and glue them to black construction paper. Tape them to the walls, and then use them later as a game.
Set out objects popular during the decade, such as iPods, cell phones, low-rise jeans, linking charm bracelets and so on. Play songs that were popular during the decade, by artists such as Gwen Stefani, Green Day, Pussycat Dolls, and Blink 182.
Games & Activities
Play a game of “Guess Who’s Who” based on the guests’ costumes.
Inflate 10 balloons with helium using a Balloon Time Helium Balloon Kit. On the outside of each balloon, write a major event, one from each year of the past decade. Have each guest select a balloon, and then ask them to arrange them in the correct chronological order.
Play “Name That Tune” using songs from the past decade. Have players not only name the artist and title, but the year the song was popular.
Serve foods popular over the decade, from such diet books like Atkins, South Beach , The Zone, as well as snacks like power drinks, focaccia bread, sushi, wraps, couscous, and other trendy foods. Serve them in lighted glasses for added fun.
Give the guests a magazine or book that chronicles the last decade. Buy objects that were popular during the past 10 years, wrap them up and have each guest choose one to unwrap and keep. Give them mini champagne bottles filled with bubble solution to help blow in the New Year.
For those who want to call friends or family overseas and out of town this holiday season, but don’t want to use expensive cell phone minutes or pay for calling cards, you can use a new free service. 1-800-FREE411 (the free directory assistance provider) recently announced a new service in which callers in the U.S. can make FREE 5-minute phone calls to almost anywhere in the world. Once 5-minutes is up, they can keep calling back as many times as they like.
This free call service is already being used by thousands of Americans, including many reaching out to loved ones overseas. Additional details regarding 1-800-FREE411′s free call offering is here: http://www.free411.com/promo/international/.
Holiday Party Ideas
Throwing a party doesn’t have to break the bank and one of my favorites is the wine and cheese party. I recently got to sample President’s new brie log. I’m a big fan of their feta cheese and wasn’t disappointed with the brie. Check out their site www.presidentcheese.com for recipes, wine and cheese pairings and just about everything you’ll need to throw a budget friendly bash.
And Speaking Of…
Allison Hooper, founder of the Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery has written a book (which by the way makes a great gift), called In a Cheesemaker’s Kitchen. It’s full of photos, easy to make recipes and advice on how to serve and pair cheese properly. She kindly sent us the following tips on throwing the perfect budget smart party.
A bottle of sparkling wine eliminates the risk that a red or a white wine won’t pair well with the cheese.
When a host is selecting cheeses, pick three to keep it simple. A nice sample of a fresh goat cheese, a cheddar and slice of brie is affordable and elegant.
If you need help selecting specific cheeses, be sure to ask the cheese monger at the grocery store what’s in special and season.
Once you’ve selected the cheese, add specialty bread and crackers on to your cheese board to add texture. Fruits like grapes, figs (when in season) or fresh pears are ideal.
Make some little hors d’oeuvre out of simple cheeses to add on to the offering. Like creamy goat cheese dip with maple syrup, black pepper and toasted almond. Very easy, affordable but with a big “wahoo factor”. Sliced goat cheese between dried apricots is another wahoo hors d’oeuvre that is very easy.
Last but not least add on a simple green salad, then bake some cookies for dessert and you have a full cheese tasting party with no stress – for you or your wallet.
Allison’s book can be purchased at Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/Cheesemakers-Kitchen-Celebrating-Artisanal-Cheesemaking/dp/0615262058
Simple Meals for Busy Times
Here are some other items I got to sample recently. The Simply Asia, Seasoning Mixes and Steamers. I mention them now because the holiday season is all about saving time. The Simply Asia Seasoning Mixes are available in four varieties such as Sweet and Sour, Fried Rice and Sesame and cost $1.49, all you do is add chicken or beef. The Simply Asia Steamers include Szechuan Green Beans and Hunan Broccoli and cost $1.99. Both are super easy to use, cook in about 10-15 minutes, taste good and the price is budget friendly too. www.simplyasia.com
If the name RedPlum sounds familiar maybe you’ve seen it on the flyers you find in your mailbox every week offering coupons and deals. I’ll be chatting with some of the folks at RedPlum in the New Year but until then here are some tips on safe holiday shopping when you buy online. And be sure to visit their Web site at www.redplum.com to check out 30 gifts for under $30 plus, lots of coupons and good stuff just made for a Budget Smart Girl.
Tips for Safe Holiday Shopping Online
If you think you’re looking forward to the holiday shopping season, just imagine how excited your friendly neighborhood identity thief is. She can’t wait to grab your personal information and finance her fabulous holiday by charging up your credit cards, or selling your account information to the highest bidder. Most of us know how to keep our wits about us in the shops, but buying safely online is just as important. So we checked in with the folks at IdentityFinder.com for a little guidance. Here, their four best tricks for thwarting high-tech holiday heists:
1. Look for the Padlock
SSL, or secure sockets layer, is a term you might not have heard of, but you probably have seen that little padlock in your Web browser near the address bar or in the bottom right corner. It indicates your information is protected; do not press the submit button if there is no padlock visible.
2. Don’t Order on Live Chat
We love a live chat window; it makes online shopping faster and more convenient when we can fire off questions to a customer service representative in real time, rather than hunting through a site’s FAQs for answers. But these agents are there to answer questions, not accept orders. Never transmit your credit card number or other personal details over chat.
3. Try Onetime Credit Cards
The holidays often find us turning to stores we haven’t shopped at before in order to source that special item on a friend’s wish list. New shopping haunts are splendid, but buying online from an unknown purveyor gives some people the sweats. If you’re one of them, you’re not totally offbase. Data thieves have been known to set up stores as fronts to collect your personal info. If you want to be super-secure try a virtual credit card that expires after one use.
4. Create Complex Passwords
You know your password’s not supposed to be your maiden name or your husband’s birth date. But did you know it should also use upper and lower case characters and numbers, where allowed. Practice proper password protocol by creating one that’s at least seven characters and can’t be found in the dictionary. Hacker programs can guess passwords easily; if you make them a real word, the process is even speedier. It’s true all this will make your secret code harder to remember, but it’s worth it to secure your identity. If you need help remembering use a password management program to secure them.
And Finally…Here are some more holiday shopping tips from the folks at Coinstar.
•Make a Plan: Make a list of expected holiday expenses and create a budget. Remember to factor in funds for gifts, entertainment, decorations, etc. Once you’ve completed your budget, plan your attack.
•Make a Gift List, Set Limits and Stick to it: Determine who is on your list and what you plan to spend on each gift. Remember – don’t give in to impulse purchases!
•Shop Around: Price comparisons are important – you can get price information for most stores on the Internet. In addition, you might find that your favorite retailer is offering free shipping which will save you from the crowded stores!
•Stretch Your Budget: Take advantage of any extra change you have laying around and earn some extra money for holiday shopping in the process! According to Coinstar there’s more than $10 billion in loose change hiding in homes across the U.S., which is roughly $90 per household! Also, it comes to a surprise to most that you can get FREE coin counting at participating Coinstar Centers when you turn your coins into a gift card or eCertificate. Choose from retailers like Amazon.com, Lowe’s, Old Navy, Starbucks, JCPenney, iTunes and others! Consumers can easily use the gift cards to buy gifts this holiday season.