Guys, Christmas is finally here! I’m so excited. I love Christmas, even though I’m Jewish. I love Christmas carols, decorations and of course, Christmas gifts.
Christmas really mattered to me when I had student loans. It was my one chance to ask for things that could make a big difference in my life. I would agonize over my list, wondering what would really help me save money or make me happy.
Here’s a list frugal gifts that can help you save money and make 2017 the year that you pay off your student loans.
1. An Amazon Prime membership
I love Amazon Prime because you get free two-day shipping and a slew of TV shows and movies to watch. But the biggest reason I love having Prime is because it encourages to only buy what I need. For example, if I need to buy a planner, I might go to Target or Barnes & Noble to see what they have. While I’m there, I might spy something else I “need,” like an issue of Glamour Magazine or a copy of “Sleepless in Seattle.”
If I use Amazon, I only search for what I need. I can read the reviews, find the best product and order it without getting distracted by other shinny objects.
2. Slow Cooker
A slow cooker is the first step to learning how to cook on a budget. You can cook soup, pasta, and meat without lifting a spoon. We love to make a meal with our Crock Pot and then freeze it in batches.
My friend Erin from $5 Dinners has compiled a 31-day list of recipes she makes in her slow cooker. Here’s a brief list of what we make in ours:
- chicken and vegetable broth
- shredded pork
- shredded beef
- minestrone soup
3. Kitchenaid Mixer
I wanted a Kitchenaid stand mixer for years before I got one. I fantasized about all the things I could bake, like bread and croissants. I registered for one when my husband and I got married, and it’s been my favorite wedding gift.
I use it to make cookies, cakes, pies, scones and Irish soda bread. Every time my husband and I have a sweet craving, I bust out the mixer. It’s probably not a great investment compared to the other items on this list, but it’s made me so much happier having homemade desserts.
Of course, you can buy a hand mixer that’s cheaper, but I was sick of making whipped cream by hand and aggravating the tendonitis in my wrist.
4. A Costco membership
I’m a huge, huge fan of Costco. Their prices are competitive, they have tasty food and did I mention that they offer free samples when you go in?
A $55 Costco membership can save you boatloads if you use it well. Sure, they have family-size containers of cream puffs, but they also sell frugal foods like beans, pasta and canned tuna (all of which we buy regularly). We go to Costco for oil, plastic bags, baking ingredients, trash bags and more.
5. A Set of Pyrex Glassware
In our house, doing the dishes is my job. Since I’m terribly clumsy, I usually manage to drop something every time I wash up. But no matter what, my Pyrex never breaks. That’s not the only reason I like it.
I love cooking a big meal and freezing the leftovers. Americans waste more than $2,000 a year on food, and we can avoid some of that by freezing what we have instead of throwing it away. But you need to have great containers to do that.
That’s why I love my Pyrex. I can plan out meals, freeze food or use it for storage. It’s so durable; I’ve had some pieces for almost 10 years. Seriously, get you a set this Christmas.
6. Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire Stick
The last time I had a cable subscription was in college. I remember my roommate tried to cancel it, and I freaked out on her (sorry, Sarah!) Looking back, I should’ve let her. We were paying more than $100 a month for cable, on top of Netflix and Hulu. Considering that I only used cable to watch “Sex and the City,” it would’ve been much cheaper to buy myself all those seasons on DVD and cancel our Comcast account.
If you’re still addicted to cable (or know someone who is), buy them a Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire Stick this Christmas. Either one will help them cut the cord and enjoy TV without paying out the wazoo for it.
7. Sandwich Press
Remember how I said the Kitchenaid Mixer was my favorite wedding gift? Well, my husband’s favorite has been our sandwich press. At first I thought it was a glorified panini press, but it’s so much more. We use the grill side to make burgers, grilled cheese and yes, paninis and the griddle side to toast burritos, steak sandwiches and more.
Yesterday, I was craving McDonald’s and instead of giving in, my husband made us burgers using the sandwich press. They were fantastic and a frugal substition to fast food (like my alliteration there?)
Riding a bike isn’t something I do regularly, but it’s one of the best ways to save money on transportation costs. Frugal mentor and friend Mr. Money Mustache calculated that riding your bike four miles a day instead of driving will save you $10,752 over ten years.
It’s the most expensive item on this list, but that’s because it’ll save you the most amount of money. You can find a used bike on Craigslist too, if you don’t have the cash to buy retail.
9. You Need a Budget
This one is a recent find for me. I’ve been using Mint.com to track my spending for years, but I’ve recently been turned on to You Need a Budget or YNAB.
It’s a different kind of software, one that requires more input and provides better tracking. Unlike Mint, which is free, YNAB costs $5 a month or $50 a year. But that’s a pittance compared to how much you could save if you use it to track and lower your spending.
10. Instant Pot
I’m a big fan of anything that makes it easier to cook. This multi-use appliance works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker and yogurt maker (what??). If you don’t have a slow cooker or are looking for another time-saver, this product is for you. I love its versatility.
Fellow frugal blogger Lauren Greutman of “The Recovering Spender” said, ” I like my Instant Pot because I can make a bunch of Freezer Meals, then get home from work and put one in around 4 p.m. and I have dinner done by 5:30.”
11. AAA Membership
Emilie Lima Burke of Burke Does said she got her sister a AAA membership for her 21st birthday. “She regularly tells me I’m the worst gift giver.”
But a membership there can also save you more money on museum tickets, hotel stays and more. Plus, it helps if you ever get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere or need your car towed. If you have a used car with a shoddy history, a AAA membership can give you some peace of mind in case you ever get stranded.
12. Nest Thermostat
One of the best ways to save money on your energy bill is by regulating your heating costs. The Nest thermostat allows you to program your thermostat so you don’t waste energy while you’re away. Plus, you can tell it to warm the house before you get home, so you’re not sitting in your snow boots waiting for it to get up to 68.
13. Phone Case
I drop my phone constantly. I push it off the bed when I’m sleeping, it falls out of my pocket when I’m outside and my dog knocks it over when she’s playing.
The Trident phone case has protected my phone through all these falls. It saves me since I’ve never had to replace a phone because of me dropping it. Plus, it’s really cheap. For less than $10 you can get a sturdy phone case that will protect you and your latest iPhone.
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