A Christmas Recap

by Katy on December 27, 2023 · 30 comments

Christmas is finally in the rear view mirror, so I can now safely share my gifts without spoiling things for family members who read the blog.

• I bought each of my kids a new pair of Doc Martins per their request.
• I also bought them both new sets of sheets, which I ordered through eBay to avoid enriching a certain Schmeff Schmezos.
I filled each of their stockings with treats such as Toblerone bars, a Terry’s chocolate orange, a can of Boss Coffee and two scratch-off lottery tickets. One of my kids won $2.
• My husband and I don’t exchange gifts, but I did put treats into a stocking for him. This included two losing lottery tickets.
• I don’t normally exchange gifts with my father, but I gave him a “Purple Heart” that I rooted from my sister’s plant last August. This was a significant gift as my sister’s plant was rooted my father’s late sister.
• My husband and I gave his father a $200 Instacart gift card, (which I bought at Costco) as well as a basket of gourmet treats, mostly homemade.
• I gave my mother a goofy squirrel feeder, as well as homemade treats and a pair of Uggs from Zappos, which was a shared gift from both me and my sister.
• I gave my step father a 1949 Holiday magazine that I’d read about somewhere and bought on eBay. This particular issue was all about NYC, (his birthplace) with articles from notable writers such as E.B. White.
• I don’t exchange Christmas gifts with my sister, although I did buy her a pair of Doc Martins for her birthday last week. I then Venmo’d money to my niece and nephew. Because that’s what college kids actually want.

It wasn’t a particularly cheap Christmas with all the new shoes, but I feel good with all my choices. Especially since I was able to avoid shopping from Schmamazon.

Schmuck that guy.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill A December 27, 2023 at 5:29 am

I like your tree topper!! Christmas for us was as perfect as it could get. Breakfast and dinner were delicious and the Grandma’s were both present and they enjoyed playing Rummikub with the kids. Also not an inexpensive Christmas but this is why I’m frugal.


Ashley Bananas December 27, 2023 at 8:13 am

‘but this is why I’m frugal.’
^100% this. I can afford to be generous and spend money when needed because I am frugal elsewhere.


Ruby December 27, 2023 at 6:20 am

That squirrel feeder is an absolute hoot! And it looks like the kitten has discovered the Christmas tree, so fun times for all.

Our new pup left the tree alone, much to my surprise, and we had a lovely low-key celebration without any traveling.


Cindy in the South December 27, 2023 at 6:54 am

Fabulous gifts Katy! I especially love that you were able to give to your dad something that would remind him of his late sister! I gave money to all four of my kids, or I paid a bill for them, which is what they wanted. I sent my two grandkids a toy a piece. Total cost was $20 for the toys. I drove my ex-husband and I (he has sight issues, and we get along) up to the northern part of the state to visit our oldest son for his birthday, and I gave my oldest a $100. I also treated the three of us to Pandora soup bc our son was not feeling well and wanted soup in a bread bowl. I don’t think I have ever eaten Pandora before. I gifted my ex husband homemade Cornish hen and rice soup for Christmas, which also had chopped up carrots and potatoes in it and he loved it. I would have taken our kid homemade soup if I had known before driving up that he was sick, but we didn’t find out until we were five minutes away. That is ok. He was happy with his bread bowl of soup. We had planned to eat elsewhere, but that is ok, it all worked out and we got to see oldest kid for his birthday! It was also a lovely drive.


mary in maryland December 27, 2023 at 7:08 am

I got the Mister the 5 pound weights he wanted by asking on Buy Nothing. I gave several neighbors chopped almonds from the 25# for $7 box I got in October. A couple have sent back plates of cookies. Win/win. I ordered myself (putatively from himself) two 64 oz wide mouth canning jars. Perfect for the amounts of kraut I like to make at once, and they fit the venting lids/spring compressors I bought a couple years ago. I’ll be moving on the Fido jars soon–they do not fit under the cabinets where I stash the kraut-in-progress. I also got a ruler that allows one to cut curves in many diameters. It’s allowing me to finish a quilt for which I purchased 27 fabulous partial blocks for $2 at a yard sale.


Selena December 27, 2023 at 7:32 am

Not an inexpensive Xmas here either, a lot has to do with food. We’ve already paid for what we spent.


Anne December 27, 2023 at 7:54 am

Absolutely classic cat.


Ashley Bananas December 27, 2023 at 8:20 am

It sounds like you gave very meaningful or practical gifts for the most part with shoes and sentimental items like the plants and magazines. I think thoughtful gifts are so much nicer than giving everyone you know a bath and body works candle or hand cream. Nothing says, I know nothing about you, or, I put zero effort into this gift, like a candle or shower gel.

I’m currently trying to think of ways to earn money that wouldn’t require a hard lined schedule or driving in my car persistently for DoorDash. I think I’m feeling burned out on DoorDash but also question what my real take home is after gas, wear and tear, etc. If anyone has any ideas…I’m really open to them.


Liz B. December 27, 2023 at 10:11 am

Unless you know specifically that the person loves Bath & Body Works shower gel, candles, etc. (I don’t use these products, because hubby is allergic or reacts to many scents, and our cats would do poorly around candles. )


Ashley Bananas December 27, 2023 at 11:31 am

I used to work at Bath and Body Works about 15 years ago and it was the destination store for people to buy gifts, especially for women, who they typically new nothing about. Whenever someone gives me a candle or shower gel, I typically think of those as the ultimate ‘dont care’ or ‘dont know you’ or ‘dont care to you know’ gifts.


Kristen | The Frugal Girl December 27, 2023 at 9:13 am

I have some Christmas money in my account right now, and I am considering a pair of Doc Martens!

I tried on Zoe’s, so I think I know what size I need…and I’m perusing Facebook Marketplace and eBay to find a gently used pair.


Katy December 27, 2023 at 9:50 am

Yes, a used pair is a great option!


Selena December 27, 2023 at 11:42 am

I have two pair of Doc Martens (had them over 30 years). I wanted to replace one pair (but maybe the leather guy we recently found can revive them?). The review for a new pair of the same shoe weren’t all that good. Am I correct in saying they aren’t made in England any more?


Lindsey December 27, 2023 at 11:35 am

The husband gave me a tiny gift every day of Advent, so I am now stocked up on notecards, chocolates, and colorful gel pens. The gift on the actual day was the husband giving me 8 hours of labor to do the chores that I think are most important—even if he does not see them as crucial. He does this every year and I LOVE it. I gave him a huge box of his favorite cookies, homemade. They are fiddly and I hate making them so this is really a gift of love. I did buy two gifts for him: a gift card to get the car completely cleaned inside and out and a weird tool that he has been admiring. (Pound hound sheds like he is being paid to do so, and as a result our van is a nightmare of hair. It doesn’t bother me at all, but he hates it so was thrilled with the gift card.)

I found your gift of a plant to your father very touching and thoughtful.


Liz B. December 27, 2023 at 6:31 pm

I love the “eight hours of labor” gift!


Kara December 27, 2023 at 11:49 am

We do secret santa with our kids and spouses, so only one gift to buy amount all of those people. And it has a limit of $25. The real gift is being all together. That’s coming up on Friday.
I gave my dad a book written by an author I enjoyed and thought he would too, bought at library book sale. He was excited about the book. I also gave 2 kinds of homemade cookies and a set of 3 different mustards.
I gave my mother a brand new signed copy of a book she will enjoy. Also 2 pints of DF/GF sorbet. And the gift of a full day that I will scan photos for her.

My parents are aging and while still at home, they need support. I planned the meal, gave my mother a list of things she should buy at Trader Joes, and when I arrived I made the meal. It worked beautifully and my parents were thrilled to ‘host’ without any work.


Katy December 27, 2023 at 12:20 pm

I guess I should point out that I made ginger snaps, peanut butter cookies and rice krispie treats and gave them as gifts to neighbors, family and friends. The rice krispie treats were to make sure there was a gluten-free option available.


V December 27, 2023 at 2:04 pm

Hi, love your blog. Just a PSA, the actual brand name Rice Krispies are not gluten free, bc they are flavored with malt. There are several types of similar GF rice krispy type cereals, though.


Katy December 27, 2023 at 3:42 pm

I bought the store brand and carefully scoured the ingredient list.


Katy December 27, 2023 at 12:22 pm

Hosting without the work?! That’s the dream!!!


Ecoteri December 27, 2023 at 3:37 pm

I ATTEMPTED to have mom host while I made the meal, however her memory issues meant that she peeled potatoes and carrots and also got peas. I at least heard about the potatoes and carrots before I went down to her place, so delivered my peeled carrots to my girlfriend so at least she didn’t have to peel them for HER dinner. Ah, Mom.. She also purchased cranberry sauce, so I Brought my homemade sauce back home.
The turkey that I roasted the day before was delish, though. Reheating trick – take some turkey broth and bring to a boil, pour over your sliced meat and continue heating in the oven. The meat will be VERY moist and tasty, rather than dried up from re-heating…


Coral Clarke December 27, 2023 at 4:11 pm

My family do Secret Santa, shared wish lists to guarantee satisfaction.I asked for a bulk buy on pantry staple my back issues stop me from purchasing, explanation included on wish list. My gift was a small quantity, and a ( probably expensive) ) version of something I already have( the one I have is a more usable design.) I really don’t think there is a way out, they visit, so cant regift, I have just completed a drastic downsize which entailed disposing of things I wanted to keep, because my lovely new space is VErY much smaller! Aaarghh!!


Kara December 27, 2023 at 5:29 pm

We drastically downsized as well, which is another reason I, too, love the Secret Santa with list that we do. Everything has a place and a purpose.


Ecoteri December 27, 2023 at 5:38 pm

@Coral Clarke, Arrghh is right! I think that there is a big challenge in families when the expectations and wishes aren’t understood. My kids struggle as they tend to be much more frugal than my Very-Ex – their dad – and the expectations of many and thoughtful gifts on that side of the family can cause them much angst. Love Languages vary! Also, when someone is specifically told that you want this kind of thing and they give you another, AND they visit, it does cause some challenges. However I have learned to quietly do what I want for myself, and if the ‘gift’ don’t fit, I re-gift it. If someone asks where their gift is, I would have practiced enough in my head to be able to calmly share that it was lovely and didn’t work in my space. My mom taught us to always be gracious about receiving a gift, and also told us that there are no strings attached. once the gift is given, it is mine to do with what I will. I am learning to do the hard thing – which is actually put myself first and make choices that another might choose to object to or be hurt by, but if the choice I make isn’t directed at the other, their response is theirs, and not my responsibility.
As you folk are for sure learning about me, I am not always graceful in my execution of these moves. HOWEVER, I am really working at doing them more often, as I will become better at putting myself and my wishes first only if I do it more often.
In my case, I have currently a rather largish pile of things to go at my front door… so perhaps I need to have a plan for when I will drop them off at whatever new home I have imagined for them…
May we all have homes that we love that contain only what we want – and may we all find ways to ignore or sever any strings tied to ‘gifts’. IMO, a gift with strings is no gift at all.


Liz B. December 27, 2023 at 6:42 pm

My mom refuses to buy any gifts that are perceived as “practical” (insert eyeball roll here). She is 89 years old, but still wants jewelry, new (expensive) clothes, etc., even though she has downsized twice. I’m not implying she should look frumpy, but c’mon.


Lisa January 8, 2024 at 12:02 pm

My mom does this too! I asked for a new toaster one year (ours had decided to only toast on one side) and she gave me an ice cream maker because it was “more fun”


Marilyn December 28, 2023 at 12:22 am

I also requested shoes for Christmas. Nice new comfortable pair of Hoka sneakers for my poor troubled feet. I’m very happy with them. For my husband, I arranged a mini “day of adventures”. On Christmas eve, we went out to breakfast and then to a movie which we both enjoyed (The Boys in the Boat, just released on Christmas eve). We gave both of our grownup kids money (at their request). I wouldn’t say it was frugal but we did not go into debt and we pulled off a happy holiday for all of us.


Katy December 28, 2023 at 12:12 pm

Better to give money than to spend money on something a person doesn’t really want or need. And you know love a “day of adventures!”


A. Marie December 28, 2023 at 6:03 am

My Christmas adventures have been pretty thoroughly recounted in my comments on the two preceding posts, so I’ll just add a few odds and ends here:

(1) Among my reused presents from the Bestest Neighbors were several herb jars and other kitchenalia that had belonged to Ms. BN’s late mother, who was a character and a dear friend in her own right. So I was delighted to receive these. Reused/recycled presents from people who really “get” you rock.

(2) I continue to enjoy the unseasonably mild last-week-of-December weather here (though I feel vaguely guilty for doing so–climate change and all that). But my December totals for NY State bottle/can deposits and found money are plumping up nicely. Bring on the Found Change Challenge!

(3) The discussion above about the use of Bath and Body Works products as “default” or “emergency” gifts interests me. I tend to do that myself on occasion (not necessarily BBW products, but other toiletries), and I’ll try to watch it in the future. In turn, however, because I’m known to be an Anglophile, the default gift to me tends to be tea. I may have enough tea on hand by now to do my own re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party.

(4) And I should note a gift I gave to myself: another $100 gift card for $75 for my local Rescue Mission/Thrifty Shopper thrift chain. Merry Christmas to me!


Katy December 28, 2023 at 12:09 pm

Yeah, I’m really sensitive to artificial scents so supposedly fancy toiletries and candles are terrible gifts for me. I agree about gifts from people who “get you,” especial when it’s reused and recycled!


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