Atlas Shrugged, Then Went Shopping

November 16th

matching wristlet, key chain

It is well known in these neck of the bloggy woods that I am rather head-over-heels for all things domestic. Balancing my desires to do as much handmade as possible is often challenging both time and money-wise. While I can’t turn back the clock, I can share the few budgetary secrets I’ve discovered. Heading into another wonderful time of parties, occasions to bake, and to send baskets full of correspondence, I’m singing the praises of my favorite sources.


Need zippers? Check eBay. I buy lots from non-smoking homes and can typically get them for $.20 or less each — gobs better than the commercial sewing stores. Thrift stores are great for zips and other sewing notions too, if you’ve got the time to spare.

For fabric, I don’t think you can beat SewMamaSew. She’s my favorite fabric source online. I’ve been tickled pink by her customer service and I think her prices are fair for the designer stuff. How great is this?

For embroidery, same goes for Sublime Stitching. Jess set the bar high and her customer service and prices are fabulous. Let me be totally honest and say I know little to nothing about embroidery and even I can figure out Sublime’s stuff. So, if you are at all interested, they are cheap and how cute would this look on a Christmas apron?

Mini flower pouch

For sewing labels, I love this Australian company. They are a bit pricey, but wowza — they are worth it for the craftsmanship. They’ll send you a 100 woven labels within a month, just in time for those stockings you’ll hang. {I admit that I love to take credit and sew an africankelli label into my goodies.}

The smudge on Frida's noggin looks intentional


For ribbon? Big Lots. You can typically find a bin of grosgrain ribbon for $1 a spool. For holiday paper? This is my favorite, although I’m also wild about reusing whatever you’ve got handy. For paper to make cards, place mats, thank you correspondence — Paper Source is by far my favorite. They have a beautiful collection of 2008 journals too.

cinnamon vanilla shortbread, sv


Shh… don’t tell anyone, but I love the $.99 Store for baking mixes, saran wrap, Ziplock bags and a few other supplies. The canned goods are usually pretty great and their dried fruit is also much less expensive than the market. Plus, when you’ve cut your grocery budget by a third, you can afford to wrap your gift on a pretty ceramic plate for a buck too and ditch the plastic baggies all together.

Believe it or not, I am trying to buy considerably less this season and use what I have. Obviously from the list above, I’m a consumer. This year I’m making everyone gifts and baking for my staff. I’m also taking a vow of anti-consumerism and using what I’ve got on hand first. Gulp.

What are your tricks for staying on budget during the holidays?

Posted in
Domestic Art, Good to Great, Journal, June Cleaver
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23 Responses

  1. Thanks for your tips… I’ll keep them in mind 🙂

    I bought 100 zippers on E-bay a couple of months ago for just a couple of euros… I think they were about 20 times cheaper than in a shop!

  2. Hi Kelli,

    This is a great list! I, too, have decided to go largely handmade this year, although there are a few folks on the list for whom that won’t work (rats). In general, I want to make the handmade stuff, but I’ve left myself an out to BUY handmade if it’s coming down to the 11th hour. My budget isn’t huge, so I’m working hard to not have to use that option.

    Some of my ideas: for friends and family not in my gift exchange I am making up a huge batch of mulling spices and packing them in a jelly jar or tin with a tea ball. they’ll also get a yummy loaf of banana coconut bread or pumpkin layer bread.

    Pajama sets are always good, too. And the sewmamasew’s blog of holiday handmade tutorials has got me thinking. For my littlest friends I am going to make library totes and fill with books that I’ll buy soon at the semi-annual Scholastic Warehouse sale. Do you know about this? Each December and May the Scholastic Warehouses have Customer Appreciation sales; you can get a ton of great books 50-80% off. There are always a ton of GOOD picture books in paperback for just a dollar or two.

    Sorry. This is a super-long post; I’m just excited to see your list and share some ideas!

  3. I would like to go handmade for everyone but with 4 grandchildren all expecting “real stuff” that’s kind of hard. The new baby of course can get handmade but for the teen boys it’s different. All my other friends and neighbours will get baked goodies. I’m still on my non consume (or at least as little as possible) year…ciao

  4. Well, this year to stay on budget, I bought gifts for my mother and mother-in-law using leftover wedding-gift money on this certificate I have for a kitchen-ware store. I don’t know if that counts, but it helped me because it’s not my money!

    I also buy presents throughout the year so I don’t get a budget hemorrhage (sp?) in Nov/Dec.

    Use decorated brown paper or catalog paper to wrap gifts. The Paper Source catalog this year recommended re-using the catalog as gift wrap. I think I will as it is a pretty catalog.

    I save tissue paper and gift bags throughout the year to reuse for birthdays or at Christmas.

    I buy giftcards for Jamba Juice and Barnes and Noble for the younger people in the family. I especially like Jamba Juice and Starbucks (yeah, I know) gift cards for them because you can get them in low amounts, and it doesn’t seem cheap because they can buy a lot of drinks with it.

    I knit and sew a few of my gifts. This year, I am knitting two of my grandmas short anklet socks (so it will be quicker than a full sock) and gifting them with foot balm from an indie seller.

    I give the men, who are hard to shop for anyway, a tin of cookies. My grandpa has a sweet tooth and home baked goods are super cheap. I make a selection of things so it seems more special.

    The last good budget-friendly trick I learned from the women in my family: get something small or low cost, or several small things, and wrap it up very, very nicely. The way it looks and the fun of unwrapping the prettiness is gift enough in itself.

  5. Very helpful, thanks! I got the Sublime Stitching starter kit because I need another hobby to get into!

  6. Thanks for sharing your tips Kelli!

    A big chunk of my budget usually goes to the U.S. Postal Service. Shipping gifts to out-of-state and overseas family members has gotten ridiculously expensive. To cut down on this expense, I’m doing some shopping online, with department stores that are local to our family in the UK and New Zealand. This will save on postage and gas, and I won’t have to wrap these gifts!

    I’m also trying to make gifts this year. I’ll do my usual large platters of baked goods for the crew at hubby’s work. Friends and neighbors will also receive baked goods in (thrifted) baskets or pretty serving trays. For sewn gifts, I like to wrap them in a bit of leftover fabric and ribbon.

    Now….off to tackle a bit more on a set of handmade napkins

  7. The boys and I spent the ENTIRE day helping set up for a garage sale to benefit the local cub scouts. I could not believe the STUFF people (kindly) donated. Much of it JUNK. It really is making me think, especially with gift giving season coming up. I think my new motto will be “less is more!”

  8. Last year I bought really pretty Santa and Snowmen mugs at the dollar store, and filled them with snack sized bags of mug cakes for my co-workers. You can google those and find some neat recipes–such as peach cobbler in a mug. I attached the recipes also, so they could make up more batches. For elderly neighbors, I made soup mixes in pint-sized jars, along with plastic Christmas plates of cookies.

    This year, I will be making Christmas coasters from a nice pattern I found online. I have TONS of Christmas fabric and can’t justify buying more til I use it up. 8^)

    In our immediate family, we wrap gifts in my fabric. It really doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas fabric or not; under the tree it all looks beautiful. I provide tons of safety pins, and tags cut from old Christmas cards, stickers sent by organizations wanting donations, or made with my stash of paper and rubber stamps. Also on hand is lots of ribbons, lace, netting, buttons, etc. to embellish. I haven’t bought a new roll of Christmas wrapping paper in several years, because what I have has lasted so long.

    As my husband has only the use of one hand and finds it difficult to wrap gifts for others, and unwrap his own, I have started making drawstring bags from my Christmas fabric for him to use. Every year I make a couple more. They are washable, and any embellishment I use either detaches before washing, or is okay to wash itself, even if it just needs to be turned inside out.

  9. This year we did post cards instead of regular Christmas cards. The savings really is in the postage. I used a favorite photo and backed it on green 4.5X6.5 flat cards from Target. Cards bought on sale or at a discount store might have been cheaper, but the postage was a pretty good savings. Plus, it’s something different.

  10. Oh dear! I totally have a new favorite place to dream shop. The stamps at Paper Source! Too cute, and much better than anything I have found locally. Thanks for such a great list. 🙂 Love it all!

  11. I just wanted to congratulate you on trying to avoid extra waste. I thought I’d add to your list in the Christmas/Holiday spirit. I never buy wrapping paper — I use old calender pages, comics from the newspaper or pages out of magazines. My friends enjoy them (especially when I use the calenders made by Wisconsin RPCVs because they have interesting facts about random places around the world) and the gifts look pretty. I go to the dollar store or search craft store sales for ribbon.

  12. My number one tip? Remain calm, and keep track of what you’ve already accomplished (made or bought.) It never fails that I end up with three gifts for one person — because I kept finding the “perfect” thing — and nothing for another. Or, I forget about the stuff that I’d bought/made earlier in the season, and run out and pick something up. Part of that is due to getting caught up in the frenzy of the holiday season. Remain calm! 😉

  13. wonderful sources Kelli.
    I have been embroidering a few items and will order from Sublime Stitching and Sew Mama Sew.
    I wish Cascalheira, Brazil had a cottage industry, perhaps in the future.
    Thanks for the great links.

  14. Another couple of sites: At J. Hittle’s (, you can order sewing supplies at wholesale, without having to buy in bulk. Every weekend, they email with the new specials of the week. A place where you can get fabric really inexpensively is Thousands of Bolts (

  15. You’re so crafty!!!! I love everything you make/bake.


  16. Tricks, yes, we have a few over here. My tricks are either time or budget related. For instance:

    My #1 budget trick: buying fabric for gifts at Hancock when they marked down to $3.99/yd. I was able to make upwards of 15 gifts for $30.

    My #1 time trick: Buying and baking cookies WAY ahead of time and freezing them. I thaw, wrap and deliver a few days before the holidays to neighbors/friends.


  17. A post full of goodies. Wonderful links and your embroidery looks cute!!!

  18. I love tippy posts like this.

    I love that post card idea!

    Vaguely Urban vowed a couple years ago to never buy wrapping paper and it’s such a good idea. There’s really no reason for it, it’s pure waste. I do buy ribbons, though. Brown paper packages (from inside-out paper shopping bags) tied up with string are classic and a little evergreen or a pinecone tied on looks neat. But reusing gift bags and tissue are also vital to this plan. Baskets and cloth napkins can also work.

    I’m trying to not load people up with crapola, and my family is going this year to Yosemite – so my present is I’m getting everybody massages. Not cheap, but they won’t have to lug it in their suitcase.

    For cheapiness, I’ll do things like mix CDs, maybe home-embelleshed picture frames. Magazine subscriptions can be inexpensive (and they think about you all year long). Used books, if you know the recipient isn’t put off by that.

    I’m also a big regifter. But I strongly suspect a lot of the random things I receive are regifts, so I don’t feel too bad about that.

  19. Lovin’ the tips! The label rec sure helps ’cause I’ve been out of labels for a long time. I think 2008 will be the year of buying fabric online!

    Happy Handmade Crafting!

  20. I’ve always liked making gifts and working on things all year round.

    During the summer when fruits are in season, plentiful and cheap, I like to make jams, jellies, relishes and sauces. Most of these end up as gifts. Can you think of anything more delicious than some homemade marinara, chili sauce, berry jam or pickles?

    Cookie mix/bread mix/soup mix in a jar is always a good one.

    I like to pick up items at the after-Christmas sales at extreme discount for the following year. This is the only time I buy wrapping paper, in solid colors that can be used for all occasions. I also look for those little ornaments with names printed on them, and use them as gift tags the next year.

    This year I’m knitting and sewing useful items and baking cookies and other goodies. Cards will be made from my stash of scrapbook paper.

  21. Oh boy. I will have to check Big Lots for ribbon. I’m such a sucker for grosgrain…

  22. What wonderful ideas, Kelli! Thank you so much for sharing your source info–it’s very helpful. My Christmas is totally handmade, too. I’ve bought only one thing but it was handmade so I think that keeps it in the same spirit of giving.

  23. To be truthful I don’t much stick to a budget at Christmas. I do spread the spending out over the year. I reuse gift bags, I wrap gifts in fabric scraps. But I am guilty of consuming!