Archive for December 2011

7 Kwanzaa Celebration Ideas For Budget-Friendly Fun

Kwanzaa occurs for 7 days, Dec 26 – Jan 2. On each of those 7 days, a candle is lit, and many stories and historic traditions are honored, but on day 7, the final day,  a lively celebration with traditional foods, drink, music, dancing and gift-giving is enjoyed by friends and family.  Here are some activities, recipes, and decorating ideas to make any Kwanzaa Celebration a happy and festive event (and they will keep your wallet smiling, too!).

Kwanzaa Kinara Craft – A Kinara candle holder out of paper, to last all 7 days. A fun and easy craft that even the very youngest can do, from

Awesome Homemade Gifts – Thoughtful and creative gifts are a Kwanzaa tradition. “Good Day Wisconsin” Reporter,Rachel Manek, shares three creative and easy DYI projects that make meaningful and budget friendly gifts, each costing less than $5.00.

How to Make an Origami Gift Box – Creative, eco-friendly, DYI & perfect for any gift-giving budget: An origami gift box. Supplies: only 8 squares of paper. Perfect for putting little gifts into. If you’re a beginner this is a nice project to start with from

Kwanzaa Table Decor – Celebrate Kwanzaa with personal and rustic table decorating ideas. Tips from event planner, Tangie Murray, in this excerpt from the design TV show, “Sheila Bridges, A Holiday Show”

Sweet Potato Tartlets – A quick recipe from “Down Home with the Neelys” hosted by Pat and Gina Neely on the Food Network. Using a Kwanzaa traditional vegetable, the sweet potato, they show how to make easy individual sweet potato tartlets.


Spoon Bread – Here is an easy recipe with a healthier spin on corn spoon bread, a Kwanzaa holiday favorite, from Chef Wilbert Jones from Healthy Heritage Kitchen

North African Meatballs – Melissa D’Arbian, host of the Food Network’s “10 Dollar Dinners” shows a delicious dollar-stretching North African inspired meatball dish.

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Gift Card Scam Warnings

Gift Cards are a great idea. They are the most popular gift, and perfect for last minute shopping. But unfortunately, the reports are showing a heavy increase in the incidence of scams and fraud involving gift cards.

There are however, simple steps you can take to avoid being a victim of gift card scammers. Similar to what you should check for at ATM and cash machines, check for any sign of tampering. If possible, rather than grabbing a card straight off the rack, opt to purchase cards being stored behind the counter or in a locked display case, also keep your receipt and be sure to include it when giving a card as a gift.

These  short videos reveal more of what to be watchful of:

There have been recent new regulations passed that apply to Gift Cards. This article, New Gift Card Perks a Plus for Consumers, gives more resources and information on consumer gift card protection, expiration dates and fees, from Clarky Davis, a personal finance advisor  who wrote this article for our affiliate partner, CareOne Debt Relief.

Related posts:

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12 (Awesome) Gifts Under $10

Gifts that are thoughtful, clever, fun and beautiful for under $10? YES! Here are 12 ideas that are perfect for the “Grab Bag” event, stocking stuffers, hostess gifts, thank you gifts, and even THE gift for THE friend or THE family member… you’ll find ideas here that will make a great impression for anyone on your gift list – and won’t put a dent in your wallet, either.


Bright Porcelain bowls. Serve dips, hold fruit, nuts, chips, or brighten  your morning cereal with these welcoming porcelain colorful vessels created in collaboration with Potter’s Workshop, a collective of South African artists known for their signature bead-like patterns. Microwave and dishwasher safe. 3.75 ” diam. x 2.5″h.  From West Elm. $5 each.

Colorful bracelets made from real guitar strings! Designed by Hannah Garrision & Steve Bernstein. The guitar strings are made in China; the bracelet is handmade in the U.S. with lead-free nickel and brass. Available at UncommonGoods. $10 each.

The healing power of comedy is now available in an over-the-counter form. Apply this Emergency Clown Nose liberally as needed. A necessary accessory for removing splinters or applying band-aids. Side effects may include chuckling, chortling and guffawing. Nose made of polyester. From UncommonGoods, created by professional clowns Rosie Cole and Lloyd Brant to promote their philosophy of healing through laughter.  $5.

Key Tool Keyring Multi-tool – This tiny tool packs the power of 8 different tools: 3 screwdrivers, tweezers, wire stripper, and more. It fits on your keychain and it comes with a fake key to “park” in. Made of stainless steel for strength and durability. From think geek. $7.99

Glass Candlesticks. Handmade from handblown and heat-tempered clear borosilicate (“beaker”) lab glass these candle holders are graceful glass sculptures in three light-as-a-feather yet durable styles. From CB2, $4.95. each.

Bud vases. Showcase your fresh flowers in this sleek, iron, teardrop-shapped bud vase. Handcrafted in India.  From CB2 $9.95 – $10.95.

Bright green cable with eight magnets displays photos, memos, cards and notes without the need for overwhelming your walls with excessive pins, nails or tape. Weighted end keeps the 59.5″ cable straight.  At CB2. $6.95


Bamu Cork Coffee Cuff reusable mug holder is an eco-friendly alternative to paper protectors. Fits various sized cups, glasses, cans and thermoses.  At $9.75.


A fresh idea for wall display or a bulletin board alternative; Darice Cork Sticky Shapes are great for one-handed posting of messages, lists, notes, photos. Items stick securely and remove easily with or without tacks or pins. These cork shapes will stick to most surfaces. Ideal for interior rooms, offices, dorm rooms, bedrooms and/or where sound dampening is needed. Available in a variety of shapes (hearts, crowns, flowers, skulls, etc.). Includes 8 cork sticky shapes per pack, $4.70.

Quench your dog’s thirst while on the road with the Pet Water Bottle Top. The plastic top fits most standard water bottles and the flow can be adjusted for any size pet. Made of plastic with an adjustable flow for any size pet. The bright orange color ensures you won’t mistake your pet’s bottle for yours.  Includes an adapter to fit different bottle types. From $7.95.

You don’t always need staples! This handy (and environmentally friendly) staple-less stapler device cuts a tiny flap in the corner of your paper, and folds it in on itself, tucked in a tiny paper pocket. Sleek and small, the Staple Free Stapler can clip together up to five sheets with ease. We personally use this and love it! Amazon.  $7.02.

The Credit Card Lightbulb means no more struggling to find your keys, or squinting while trying to read the menu when the restaurant is too dark. Handy when traveling, too. This unusual card looks like a flat incandescent bulb, but push the bulb vertical and it unexpectedly lights up. The rest of the card serves as a stand. The same size, though slightly thicker than a credit card you can easily store one in your wallet or purse. From Batteries included, $3.99 – $5.99

More Gift Ideas that Won’t Stretch Your Wallet in our posts:

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9 DIY Gift Ideas – Home Accessories from Recycled Items

Spruce up your space, (or create a great gift) with a little do-it-yourself. Here are easy-to-do eco-friendly projects that will turn those tired household objects you’re thinking of tossing out into beautiful and useful home accessories. They make great gift ideas, too!

Make a Vase from Magazine Pages – Recycle your old magazines by creating a vase, bowl or vessel using nothing more than glue and pages from a magazine. This video gives an easy DIY tutorial.

Home Decor Recycle DIY – Easily repurpose thrift store purchases or items from around your home… sometimes all you need is a little spray paint! Decorator Susan Phillips shows DIY home decor transformation ideas in this clip.

Repurpose Home Decor Items – This video from designer Soshana Gosselin gives easy ways to freshen up your home decor by repurposing, recycling and re-inventing items you already have.

DIY Cans to Votive Holders – This segment shows a simple DIY craft recycling project to transform an empty aluminum can into a votive holder. All you need is an empty can and scissors!

A Basket from Magazine Paper – Recycle your old magazines with this easy DIY craft project to create a cool and stylish multi-use basket out of nothing more than magazine pages and glue! Easy how-to directions in this clip.

Chinese Takeout Lantern DIY – Crafter Shiho Masuda transforms Chinese takeout containers into mini tabletop lanterns. Beautiful video shows DIY recycling craft directions to brighten your dining or coffee table.

Make a Book Safe – Take an old book and recycle it into a secret place to store precious or favorite items. A clever gift idea, or double a gift’s goodness by using this as an eco-friendly gift box! Video shows how you can do it.

Make a Vase from A Plastic Soda Bottle – Eco-friendly DIY: Create a vase from a plastic soda bottle. Simple DIY in this clip provides instructions. All you need is a bottle, scissors and rocks. Consider displaying several together in various sizes and colors. Add flowers and it’s complete! Makes nice gift!

Soda Can Lantern DIY – This clip shows how to make a recycled DIY lantern/candle holder out of a soda can. Extremely simple to do. (Be careful of sharp edges when pulling out the strips).

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12 Gifts Under $30

Giving a gift that lets someone you care about know you are thinking of them does not have to cost a fortune or break your budget. Here are 12 unique gift ideas all for less than $30, that would suit anyone, anytime, from kids to great-grandparents – while suiting your bank balance as well.

Give the gift of warmth and comfort with a cozy throw. These welcomed cozy down-alternative throw is available in an array of colors and patterns to suit any personality and every decor. From JC Penney. Machine washable. $19.99 – $25.

Carafe and Cup set: This elegant glass and pitcher duo is made entirely out of recycled glass bottles, giving it a unique pale green color and a sculptural aesthetic. The textured bands of glass allow it to be grasped firmly, preventing accidental slips and spills. Beautiful on nightstands, dressers, and desks, and tables, even when it’s not bearing water. Handmade by fair trade artisans in Bolivia. $29.99

Chill the party with this festive red  party cooler that’s ultra-hot! This Metal Party Tub offers a great way to ice drinks and snacks in the back yard, park, or stadium parking lot. Made from a durable and rust-resistant alloy with a bright finish, this reinforced Metal Party Tub comes with steel carrying handles and is built to last. Available is several colors at Party City, $19.99.

This versatile serving platter set is made of gleaming white durable porcelain with a clean sleek design. Dishwasher, microwave, and conventional oven-safe. Made in China. 5-piece set includes: four small platters; one large platter. From CB2. The set: $22.75.
The Fozzils Solo Flat Pack Dinerware Set is great for your outdoorsy friend or adventure traveler.  Made of durable polypropylene and is leak-proof and easy to clean. Just throw the flat sheets in your backpack and later fold into cup, bowl, and plate and spoon in seconds. The Fozzils Pack Set comes in a reusable packing sleeve that can also be used as a prep tray or cutting board. $15.95 a set.
Bring memories home with this darling Sandy Feet Casting Kit. You can use it for either footprints or handprints. Simply make a foot or hand print in dense, moist sand. Collect beach water in the cup provided; mix in the special powder to it, then pour the mixture into the print impression. You can even personalize your print with the included stylus, and use the cord to make your footprint ready-to-hang. Allow 20 minutes for it to harden, then gently scoop the print out. Use the special keepsake pail to tote your creation home! The kit can make two children’s feet (up to size 2) or one adult foot. Parental supervision required. Contents made in the USA; tin made in China. Sand not included. From UncommonGoods. $15.

Charge your cell phones in style with the Garden Charging Station. Keep your counters looking neat and tidy and add a little decor with this “grass” filled decorative container.Easily hide all your charging cords by placing them under the grass and run 1 extension cord to the Charging Station. Available in black or white. 10.5″ L x 6″ W x 3.5″ H. Extension cord not included. At Convenient Gadgets & Gifts. $27.95

Guitar Pick Punch – Create your own recycled guitar picks quickly and easily with the Pick Punch. Turn expired credit cards, old gift cards, hotel key cards, and other thin plastic into perfectly-shaped guitar picks. The heavy-duty Pick Punch features a steel head that can cut through materials up to 1mm thick. Good idea for DIY earrings or necklace pendants too! From UncommonGoods. $25.

HABA/TC Timber Master Builder Series. This large block set allows children to use and learn the same engineering principles the Romans followed. In true Romanesque style, this 54 pc set of solid wooden blocks is sure to entertain young and old architects alike. Note: This set does not come with building instructions. From$29.99

The Hess Toy Truck – We just can’t help it – we love this gift! (yes, it was on last year’s list, too) Since 1964 Hess has released a new model toy truck in November each year; and kids (no matter what age) never tire of collecting them and playing with them. They often are actually two vehicles and feature high quality realistic fun with extras like flashing lights, sirens, lifts or ramps. Available at participating Hess Gas Stations, starting November 11, 2011, and they sell out fast! Batteries included, $26.99.

Tabletopics. Played with family, friends or during a candlelit dinner for two, each card in a Tabletopics sets asks a different thought-provoking, conversation-starting question. Choose from four different sets – Couple’s Edition, Family Edition, Original Edition, and Dinner Party Edition. All four sets are guaranteed to keep the fun and conversation flowing. (we can personally attest to that!) The set of 135 cards are housed in acrylic 4 x 4″ square cube. Appropriate for ages 12 and up. From RedEnvelope. $29.95

This leather and stainless steel  heart token manages to be both rugged and refined. The versatile leather necklace is expandable up to 35 inches and is available in four colors. The necklace is available in Black (pictured), Brown, Red or Pink. Specify necklace color and up to six letters for custom engraving. Not suitable for children under 12 years of age. From Enchanted Memories $25.99

This cheeky money clip serves its purpose, even if you’re light on cash. The engraving, rich in humor, says it all (and then some):  “The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.” – Kin Hubbard. Made of aluminum and made in the USA, from UncommonGoods. $18.

More creative and wallet-friendly gift ideas in our posts:

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Free Shipping Day

Free Merchant Shipping Day in the USA and Canada – Mid-December.

The U.S. and Canada’s Postal Service’s Annual Free Shipping Day,  is a one-day, online-shopping event when literally thousands of merchants offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve, and many merchants offer additional special discounts and deals to shoppers to accompany their free shipping day participation.  Offers and delivery promise is only for in-stock merchandise.

Check the list of merchants and their specific requirments, and their special offers at: and enjoy your savings!

Related Videos for further savings:

Shipping Discounts for the Small Business Owner – Tips from Rob Martinez from Navigo Shipping Consultants.

Cheapest Overnight Shipping: FedEx, UPS or USPS? – The answer might surprise you.

Cost Effective Marketing for Small Business – Marketing expert, Joe Polish’s Exclusive video gives invaluable pointers.

And check this earlier SLTV post, A Great Shipping Bargain, all about Flat-Rate shipping.

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How to Control Your Holiday Spending

Holidays bring their unique share of additional budget stress and strain. Everything around you begins to shout, “Spend more, more, more!”  There are so many more last-minute pressures: invitations, events, meals, gifts and guests to shop for. Everything screams ” Spend more!”… except perhaps your budget. How to balance the increasing holiday demands while keeping a handle on your spending and keeping your budget in control can sometimes feel like a daunting task. Here are excellent videos and resources with easy and actionable pointers to help you succeed in maintaining control and navigating the holiday (and any other) season on budget.

Videos with tips from experts:

Controlling Your Holiday Spending – Personal finance expert and author of Reduce Debt, Reduce Stress, Gerri Detweiler, gives ways to stay in control of your spending for the holiday season. Tips on credit, rebates, returns, rewards and more.

Holiday Spending Control – This video from financial planner, wealth management advisor and author Stewart Welch shares 3 easy and effective tips for spending wisely over the holidays.

Favorite Holiday Shopping Tips – Personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi shares her favorite holiday shopping tips to help you receive the best bargains and keep your sanity and budget in order in the process.

Holiday Spending Insight – Find you’re getting into financially stressful situations during the holidays? Mike Sullivan, Director of Education at Take Charge America, reveals why and gives good basic tips to steer clear of holiday spending pitfalls in this video clip.

Holiday Spending & Budgeting: Get Control –  Millions of Americans still carry debt from last holiday season! This clip gives one simple tip that could save you big and keep you in control of your credit, debt and spending budget.

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