Odds and Ends: October 22, 2021

1. When you wash your sheets, immediately put the clean pair on after you strip the bed and start the washer. Then you’re ready to go or only need to do duvet covers later and you won’t try to go to bed and discover you never put the sheets on.

2. When moving or dismantling any furniture with parts, store the small pieces well. Put them in a clearly labeled bag or container. For small moves or wall hangings, I prefer to use blue tape to tape any hardware directly to the object to which it belongs so I can easily find it.

3. Save a little money and storage space by buying concentrated cleaning products like cleaning spray, soap, or detergent.

4. I’ve been re-watching Gilmore Girls. I used to be so enamored with Rory and Lorelai. While they both go through a plausible amount of TV drama, in retrospect they both pull a lot of crap that I somehow wasn’t as mad about until now.

5. If you don’t have a wine stopper or the cork, crumple up a piece of aluminum foil in to use instead in a pinch.

Gift Guide: Tips for Picking Presents

I love to get presents for other people. The only problem is a lot of my friends and family are lucky enough not to really need or want a lot of items anymore. So the standard gift guides of “get her a robe!” or “get him more tools!” are not all that helpful.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried to get a little more creative for finding gifts that my loved ones will still enjoy and use well, and I’m sharing those ideas here.

1. Food

Homemade pecan tassies

It’s hard to go wrong with food-based gifts. At the most basic level, you can pick up pre-made goodies or a bottle of wine. If you’re so inclined, you can gift something homemade! A budget-friendly DIY is making a bulk amount of pre-made mixes, such as cookie ingredients in a jar or spice blends.

Another great food gift is something your recipient loves but cannot find where they live. Examples here are Trader Joe’s items, ethnic ingredients, or local specialties. One time my mom schlepped a dozen bagels across the country in her carry-on luggage so I could have my favorite ones from home.

2. Things they use frequently or must restock

Nespresso pods

That doesn’t sound super clear, but my example is last Christmas we put Nespresso pods (coffee) on our wishlist and our families delivered. We were set on coffee pods for a couple months. Not only do we like Nespresso, we got to try different flavors and varieties that family members selected.

There are tons of items that could fit in this category, but some other ideas I’ll quickly put out there besides favorite foods include entertainment subscriptions, pet treats/toys, or candles.

3. An experience-based gift

At the cocktail class my mother-in-law found us

Classes, adventures, experiences, or subscriptions can be a fun, personalized gift. Examples include cooking class, bartending class, candle making, museum passes, food tours, book club subscriptions, food sample subscriptions, and more. Depending what you choose, these can be on the pricey side.

A more budget-friendly approach is a gift for an at-home experience. This can be a DIY kit (Uncommon Goods has great ones) like make your own mochi or mini garden kit. Puzzles, games, or things like Lego kits are also great. A fun way to make this personalized is to order a custom photo puzzle or something crafty and custom, like photo paint-by-numbers.

4. Something handmade

Grogu wreath

Let me qualify this by saying this should be something you are either good at and/or the recipient will really enjoy. Last year I made my dad a Christmas wreath of hand-felted baby Yodas because he really likes The Mandalorian. If you have another crafty hobby like knitting, painting, or homemade bath or beauty products, those are fun gifts as well.

If you’re not so crafty, you can check out Etsy. I’ve ordered handmade jewelry, succulent planters, and personalized water bottles from Etsy to give to other people.

5. Lastly, gifts that complement an existing hobby or interest

Cross stitch in progress

Your mind might jump to something like camera accessories for photographers, but these don’t necessarily have to be expensive. I started doing cross-stitch a few years ago, and one of my co-workers gave me a cute little magnetic flamingo “needle minder.” My husband’s grandmother sent me a multi-pack of embroidery floss. I really loved getting these because they were such normal items but they were highly personal selections!

Great options are either supplies they will use up, or something that will help expand their hobby. Some examples are wine glass markers, fishing lures, state/national park parking pass, or spice blends.

How to Fill Stockings on a Budget

Every year when other bloggers and retailers publish their gift guides, I find myself in sticker shock over some of the things people consider stocking stuffers. A $50 cosmetics item? $25 for this other gadget? I like to splurge but don’t understand how people are putting hundreds if not a thousand dollars worth of goods into a stocking.

For me, stockings should have things like candy and socks and little goodies. Here’s my tips how to load up a stocking without going broke. Happy hunting!

1. High volume items

The first time I filled a stocking I was surprised how much it could hold and how empty it looked at first. A nice fluffy pair of socks or a small bag of snacks or candy are inexpensive items that will help bulk up the stocking nicely.

2. Shop according to the quantities you need.

I love shopping online, but I’ve found that buying stocking stuffers online is difficult. Either you have to buy things in quanties of 4-6 or more, or they cost a lot per item in order to get them shipped. If this is what you need (e.g., giving each child or family member the same item), then great! But for me, I’m filling pretty different stockings and prefer to shop in person for stocking stuffers for inexpensive items in single quantities.

3. Buy off season and store them.

Hardcore holiday deal seekers will get things on clearance the previous Christmas and store them away for the next year. This is a great way to save money on things that have a long or infinite shelf life. If you have an opportunity to score a sale earlier in the year, take advantage of that! Another great trick is to stockpile good freebies or samples that you get with other purchases.

4. Look outside the official “stocking stuffer” section.

Items often get marked up for holiday branding. Peruse other sections of the store such as bath products, regular socks, regular candy, regular candles, dollar section, etc. At Cost Plus I usually grab a few items from the sample sized foods that are there all year round that I think are really aimed at making gift or picnic baskets.

5. My favorite places to shop for stocking stuffers:

My favorite is Cost Plus. They bring in an enormous holiday-themed area, but as I mentioned above they have a lot of things that are not holiday-specific that make great stocking stuffers. In the sample food section you can find mini condiments, sausages, tea/coffee, cookies. They have international foods and an extensive selection of bath/body products as well.

The Container Store also has a great selection of little knicknacks, typically near the register. Some of the items are a little pricey, but they have a good selection of things that are under $10 and you can order most of them online as well.

Target usually has a dollar section at the front of the store (all year) full of great stocking stuffer options. And lastly, Home Goods and TJ Maxx have great offerings, though depending what you’re looking for and price point these may be better options for finding gifts rather than stocking stuffers. These stores will have things like mugs, beauty products, and accessories all year round but the fun extra gift stock they bring in at the holidays tends to be around $10-15 or too large to fit in a stocking.