Faithful Budgeting

"He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful in that which is much...."
--Luke 16:10

Faithful Holiday Budgeting

When researching the origins of gift giving, I came across some startling facts.

Today, gift giving during the winter holidays is practically mandatory—so much so that I’m reminded of the story about the Roman emperor Caligula . It’s said that one New Year’s Day he announced he would stand on his veranda to receive gifts of money—if the amount didn’t satisfy him the giver was publicly shamed/humiliated. To those of us who dread opening the mail after the holiday, due to the abundance of bills accumulated, beware of the Caligula philosophy. To help keep holiday bills in check consider implementing the following strategies.

Create a budget. Decide before you shop the total amount you can afford to spend for holiday shopping. Next, divide that amount among the people on your list. (Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people shop randomly, without a budget in mind.)

Track your spending. One of my favorite ways to organize my holiday finances is to establish an envelope system. Designating an envelope for each person on my holiday gift list does this. On the outside of the envelope I write the person’s name, the amount I’ve budged to spend on their gift and any gift ideas I have in mind for them. Inside the envelope I put the amount of cash I’ll spend on that person. When I do my holiday gift shopping I simply take the envelopes (and no credit cards) and spend only what I’ve budgeted. Note: Keep these in a safe, hard to get to compartment of your purse, or in your front pocket if you don’t use a purse.)

Drawing lots. To further reduce holiday spending, you might want to consider drawing lots for names of family members. As a result, you ‘all need to buy a gift for the person whose name you’ve drawn. Your family may wish to draw names annually, or create a list where givers and recipients are rotated each year. (This strategy is particularly helpful in reducing holiday spending in large families, and among large groups of friends or coworkers who exchange gifts.) You might also designate a limited spending amount on each gift, so that no one feels slighted or hurt if the values vary dramatically.

Consignment or EBay/Online shopping has saved my holiday budget on many occasions. Consignment game stores and children’s shops are great ways to stretch your holiday budget (or any time of the year). I’ve found used video game systems (fairly new) and games at less 1/3 the price of retail for my son at a consignment video game store; new china tea sets and American Girls ® dolls (with wardrobe some wardrobe and accessory pieces) at a children’s consignment clothing store (?); and most recently, we’ve purchased Juicy Couture® hoodies for $25 (brand new) and Diesel jeans (also brand new) for $48 on eBay. And for those artsy types who appreciate retro pieces or revamped vintage, Etsy has some fabulous bargains and is full of amazing artists.



"Nothing is so simple as greatness."

  •  Simplicity will solve problems not create them.

  • Simplicity is apparent in its eloquence:  Think of The Lord's Prayer and the Bill of Rights.

  • Simplicity is the shortest distance between point A and point B (literally and figuratively)

  • Simplicity has the capability  not only to avoid the false but expose it.

  • Simplicity inspires greatness.  Emerson understood this when he wrote "To be simple is to be great."  Remember, the simple act of watching a tea kettle steam up inspired the steam engine.  Birds in flight inspired man to build airplanes.  A falling apple inspired Newton to uncover the law of gravity.

  • Simplicity enhances lives.  It allows you to appreciate simple pleasures such as nature, family, friends, sustenance, shelter, contentment, education, courage, beauty and thrift.
Excerpt from FRUGAL LUXURIES, Bantam Books, NY, 1997.

The Autumn Gift Pantry™

Packaged Gifts of Noble Origin
“Every gift of noble origin
Is breathed upon by Hope’s perpetual breath.”

During this season of abundance and harvest, I am thinking of the many wonderful gifts I can compose from nature’s noble bounty. As special as these gifts may be, they become superlative when the packaging in which they are presented is artful, attractive and frugal.


The most attractive jars for jams, jellies and preserves are simple mason jars, which lend an old-fashioned charm. You can also use mason jars for a bevy of gifts other than preserves. I keep them on hand in a variety of sizes in order to send soup home with a friend, or to package flavored popcorns, nuts, well-dried fruits, homemade pancake mix, granola and the like. These traditional jars look even more lovely when their metal caps are embellished in an attractive manner. Boxes of mason jars are available in a variety of sizes at grocery or hardware stores, and are often quite reasonably priced. Or look for them at thrift shops, flea markets and yard sales. Keep in mind that if you will be using them for actual canning purposes they should have no chips or cracks, no matter how small, especially at the top of the rim.

APOTHECARY JARS: These may be collected throughout the year and added to your GIFT PANTRY™ and used to present gifts of food, or store-bought candies. (They're lovely for repacking candies and nuts bought in bulk.) I have presented this type of jar filled with individually wrapped chocolates and hard candies, as well as firm homemade cookies, sturdy fudge squares (you may wish to wrap these in cellophane or waxed paper beforehand), and nuts (flavored or plain). With an attractive ribbon around the rim, and a pretty tag hanging from the lid, you have a lovely token of your friendship to give to a neighbor, friend, hostess, or to include as part of a gift basket.

LACE DOILIES: Create a charming, finished gift package by tying lace doilies onto the tops of mason jars, using raffia, silken cord, or satin ribbon. You can easily make your own lace doilies by cutting rounds of lace from scraps you have on hand. Note: You can hem the raw edges, using a fray-reducing product (Fray Check works nicely) , or sew (or use fabric glue) satin binding along the edges.

WRAPPING JARS: If you wish to wrap the entire jar with paper or fabric (as opposed to merely the lid) take a square three times as wide as the jar is tall. For example, if the jar is four inches tall, you will need a twelve-inch square of paper. Place the jar on it’s side, about an inch away from the paper’s edge, and roll. Fold the ends of the paper that are under the jar first (neatly, so it stands properly) and fasten with tape. Next, gather the top of the paper and tie it tightly with raffia or ribbon. This will create a paper collar that will stand up and form a ruffle at the top of the jar.
JAR COVERS: Make your own jar covers by cutting circles from papers humble or grand—use parchment, handmade art papers, brown craft paper, plain white freezer or computer paper. Take this concept a step further, and photocopy old black-and-white botanical prints or silhouettes onto the paper --use these to cover your jar lids for an unusual effect. Commercial paper doilies and scraps of attractive fabrics look lovely as well.
Excerpt from Frugal Luxuries by the Season, Bantam, 2000