Were you up and out at 4:00am to take advantage of Black Friday sales? Me neither. I prefer to do most of my Christmas shopping online, and have taken advantage of some great online deals from Cyber Monday up to the week before Christmas by surfing online rather than standing in line.
I thought I would share with you a few gifts we have received over the last couple Christmas seasons that have improved our frugal household. If you are still looking for gift ideas for a frugal friend, you can’t go wrong with one of these selections. Note, a couple of these suggestions are not cheap, but will help you or a friend become more frugal.
Black & Decker Energy Saver Series Power Monitor. Here is one we don’t have, but it is on our Christmas list this year. I’ve become a bit obsessive about ways to cut our utility bills (yes, I admit it, I have a problem!). It hurts opening those huge energy bills in the extreme summer and winter. This gadget allows you to see the effect of each electrical appliance as they cycle on and off, and using info from your electric bill, you can estimate how much those appliances are costing you to operate.
Programmable Thermostat. Our utilities were out of control before switching to a programmable thermostat. We managed to shave nearly 20% off our utility expenses by allowing the night temperature to float up in the summer, and drop lower in the winter. Just before the alarm clocks go off each morning, the thermostat returns the inside temperature to a comfortable for the morning routine. A 5-1-1 or 5-2 model even allows you to set a different schedule for sleeping in a bit on the weekend (unless you have small kids). With utility costs continuing to rise, it won’t take long for this one to pay for itself.
The Total Money Makeover. This one remains in my top two favorite personal finance books. Oddly enough, I heard the audio book first while commuting after accepting a new job in a new town. I was hooked, or “gazelle intense,” as author Dave Ramsey likes to say! I credit Dave, and this book, with helping turn around our financial lives.
The book is not overly complicated, is inspirational, and is written in a tone you’d expect from Dave Ramsey. It would make a great gift, and I recommend a copy for yourself if you have never read it.
Your Money or Your Life. I already mentioned The Total Money Makeover, but this book is my other favorite money book. It is the book that got me interested in the idea of personal finance to begin with, and it introduced the concept of financial independence. Written in the 1990s, the information is timeless and thought-provoking. When I read this book I finally made the connection between work, earnings, and life energy. I realized that trading my precious life energy to pay for additional stuff was simply not worth it–that I could enjoy a more simple way of like and work less for it.
TiVo Series2 80-Hour Dual Tuner DVR. We’ve had our TiVo for a couple years now, and I have to tell you it is one of the best purchases we have ever made (this was a present to ourselves). For a while we were renting a DVR from our cable company, and the digital service that went along with it. Then, I discovered TiVo.
I like the TiVo interface much more than the one that came with the cable box, and I like the fact that I own the machine outright. If I move, I can take it with me. If I want another one for the living room, I can buy one. No extra rental fees from the cable provider.
We have really cut back on television viewing, but enjoy the efficiency of watching a program on TiVo. Fast forwarding through commercials cuts way down on television viewing time. I also like the ability to log into my TiVo box from work, or on the road, and select a program to record via a web interface.
Programmable 5.5 qt. Crock Pot. We stay pretty busy around the frugal household these days. A couple times a week we have after school activities and sports practices on the same night! Not much time for meal preparation on those days. And that is where our crock pot comes in handy.
Our favorite meal is a large pork roast rubbed with garlic salt and cooked slow all day in a crock pot and about a 1/2 cup – 1 cup of water. We have enough meat to slice for homemade barbecue sandwiches for days–delicious!
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine Subscription. For one dollar a month (assuming a $12 annual subscription) you can get some of the best reporting on investments, taxes, insurance, paying for college, planning for retirement, home ownership, major purchases such as cars and computers and other personal finance topics. Over the years I have also subscribed to Money, Smart Money, and a host of other finance magazines, but Kiplinger’s remains my favorite.
Money Jar Bank. Think of this as a new-age piggy bank. It is essentially a sturdy, plastic jar with a special lid that contains an LCD display and keeps a running tally of your savings as coins are added. A word of warning, the jar contains small parts that may present a choking hazard for younger children. However, if you have an older child, and are interested in fostering their savings habit, this is a great gift idea.
Presto 22-inch Jumbo Electric Griddle. I mentioned that we stay busy and have little time cooking most weeknights. To further complicate matters, we are experiencing more cold, rainy weather than we are used to. This makes grilling outdoors tough. Our solution? An indoor griddle.
The griddle was given with the idea we could use it to make pancakes and breakfast foods, but we found it to be excellent for cooking slices of chicken, pork, and thin steaks indoors. As fattier meats cook the grease runs down into a drip container making meats a little healthier. Cleanup is a snap thanks to a non-stick surface.
Money Mammals. We were lucky enough to receive a copy of Money Mammals from the creator, and my kids really enjoyed it. In my review I posted here at Frugal Dad, I called Money Mammals the Little Einsteins for personal finance education for children. It remains a unique product, and would make a great gift for little ones on your Christmas list.