Tips for the Holidays: Games, Decorations, Free MP3s, and more!

There's nothing like the mix of joy and stress that comes with the holiday season! To make it a little easier, here are some tips for saving money during the most wonderful time of the year!

When wrapping presents, use pages from the past year's calendar to wrap smaller gifts--two taped together are great for books or DVD sets. You can also have your kids draw on some taped-together printer paper and use that. After everyone's done opening their presents, don't forget to save bigger sheets of paper, bows, and pretty cards (to use for next year's gift tags). We keep our stash in one of those giant popcorn tins with a Christmas design from years ago!

If your front lawn still seems empty, check out KMart's sale on lights and decorations (both indoor and outdoor). Just make sure you get LED lights, which will only cost you 12 cents per strand this month in electricity, as opposed to the $10 traditional lights would cost to light.

Supplement your holiday soundtrack with these free, legal holiday MP3s from Amazon: A nice orchestral version of Joy To The World, Lady Gaga's Christmas Tree (for your teenagers), a fun Deck The Halls by Los Straightjackets, Silent Night by Sixpence None the Richer, and a beautiful Tori Amos song, "Snow Angel".

If opening presents is going to take drastically less time than usual this year, fill the gap by starting some new Christmas traditions. Make a popcorn string for the tree, cut out sugar cookies with differently colored sugars for decoration, or try this game to make gift-opening take longer (it's a favorite at our gatherings): Find as many holiday present rejects as you have people playing--all those candles with scents you can't stand, weird gifts from office gift exchanges, or your silliest finds from the dollar bin at Target. Wrap each one and have each guest pick a gift. Go around the room clockwise, starting with the youngest person. Before opening their gift, guests can decide to trade with someone else (even if that person's gift has been unwrapped). After one round of gift opening, have one more round of trades, with players deciding if they want to keep their current gift or switch with someone else. You'll be surprised which gifts people actually like, and get a laugh at the expense of the person left with the worst one.

What are your holiday plans or money-saving tips? Tell us in the comments or link to your blog post below!

Household Tip of the Week: Keeping Trash Cans Smelling Fresh

When cleaning kitchens and bathrooms, sprinkle a little scouring powder like Comet (or better yet, a generic brand) at the bottom of trash cans. The powder will soak up any liquids if there is a leak in your bag, and keep your bin smelling fresh.

Thanks to reader Jennifer B from Illinois for the tip!

When are foods in season?

The best way to save on produce is to buy when it's in season. Any fruit or vegetable will be much cheaper when a farm near you is harvesting it, because you won’t have to spend money on the cost to transport it from another country. When a harvest has been particularly good, expect deep discounts as distributors try to get rid of a fruit or veggie before it goes bad. Visit our new website to find out when foods are in season!

Household Tip of the Week: Making Condiments Last

It's frustrating to have to throw out condiments like sour cream, mayo, yogurt, and mustard because you didn't use the entire container before it went bad. However, you can easily combat this by changing containers as you use up the item. Using a smaller container exposes the condiment to less air--and less bacteria. The trick, of course, is making sure you successfully transfer every bit of mayo possible from the jar to the tiny Tupperware. We usually do our container downsizing right before we're about to use the condiment on something--that way, we can scrape what we don't transfer for our sandwiches.
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