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Seven Simple Christmas Gift Ideas

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With the Christmas season upon us many of us are now facing the dreaded question of what to give our friends and family. It can be hard to choose, especially for those of us who prefer a simpler life compared to those around us.

What do you give to those who have almost everything? In this consumer age, that is a hard question to answer. I’ve compiled a short list to help you get started, with items to fit every budget.

Homemade gifts

It is becoming less common to make things for Christmas, so gifts like homemade candies, fresh baked bread and other items are a treat for those that aren’t big on making things from scratch. Even better, you know your offering will be eaten and not tossed in a drawer, and even children will appreciate it. You can even make up simple recipes like cookie mixes, place them in a jar, and wrap them with a bow if you know they will prepare them. Here are some ideas to get you started. For those who knit or crochet, scarves are simple to make and will be cherished by those who wear them in the winter.

For those who don’t cook much (like yours truly) a big batch of spaghetti, a pan of lasagna or other meal that they enjoy would also make an excellent gift.

Tablets and eBook readers

Children and elderly alike enjoy books, so for that extra special person in your life consider investing in a Kindle or an iPad mini as your budget allows. While the Kindle is great for books, the iPad would allow them to surf the Internet, play games, and even earn a bit of money writing for websites like Bubblews if they are interested.

For those who already own an ebook reader consider a gift card for their reader of choice. This way they can buy some new books without killing any trees and you know they will enjoy their purchases.

Your Time

Elderly friends and family would be delighted to receive a gift of your time. You could make up cards for tasks like dusting, mowing their lawn, cleaning out gutters and allow them to redeem them as needed. This way you can spend time with your loved ones while performing tasks that they are no longer able to do themselves. My daughters do this for me a lot.


For those on your list who still burn wood to heat during the winter, you could collect fallen wood or even cut up a tree or two if you have the equipment. When I was a child this was considered a delightful gift in the mountains by elderly people. My father had a spot on our land where he would dig up coal and give small loads to friends and family to help them out during the winter.


For those who are overseas, a MagicJack would greatly reduce their expense when calling home. You would have to activate it here in the US, but after that they could use it to call home any time they wanted when an internet connection was available. This would also help any friends and family who are struggling financially, because they could use this device to reduce (if not eliminate) their phone bill.

Gift Cards

If you have someone on your Christmas list who enjoys eating out, consider a gift card from their favorite restaurant, or treat them to a meal out when you have time for the personal touch.

Pet lovers would enjoy a gift card for their fur babies as well. Many groomers and shops offer gift certificates for grooming or pet supplies, giving Fido or Fluffy a day at the spa or some new treats to enjoy.

For those who want to learn an instrument, perhaps you could purchase them a few lessons from an instructor? Aspiring musicians would especially love such a gift.

Something they won’t buy for themselves

Everyone has something that they love but won’t purchase for themselves. It can be as simple as a bottle of nail polish, some cosmetics, perfume, or even a piece of jewelry. Men may enjoy a shirt or something from their favorite sports team, or even a new tool for their toolbox that they’ve been wanting but haven’t purchased. If you are close enough to someone to know of an item that they like but refuse to purchase, consider surprising them with it this Christmas.

The Best Part

The best part of giving is the knowledge that you have chosen something that will be used. They don’t have to be expensive; even the simplest things can mean the world when given with love.

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The Master List

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I have compiled a master list of all of the posts that have been published here on Annienygma. It’s a huge list, but for now I’ve gotten them all on a single page, sorted by category.

Eventually I may separate this master list into separate pages per category, but for now I just wanted to get it up and running. You can find this list on its own special page here.


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Cheapskate Chronicles: Freezer Jeans Update

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A while back I wrote about the theory that placing your jeans in the freezer would eliminate odors and extend the time between washes.

To test this claim I started leaving our jeans in the freezer overnight before placing them back in service. I was rather skeptical, but I figured that if it did work that it would extend the life of our clothing as well as make life easier since I currently wash our laundry by hand.

To my surprise, the freezer method actually works. Our jeans come out minus any odors, even on Katie’s sweaty jeans that reeked! I extended the experiment to include sweat pants, pajamas and even shirts – all come out odor-free after spending a night in the freezer.

This method only works for odors–surface dirt must be removed the old-fashioned way–but if you are careful to keep stains off of your clothing this can extend the time between washings significantly.

One concern I had with this method was odor transference. I didn’t want our food to smell like sweaty jeans, but I’ve had no problems with this so far. However, I keep a sachet of coffee grounds in my freezer so that may be helping to prevent the issue.

Most of the time I don’t even think about the fact that my jeans haven’t been washed in ages. I just wear them and get on with my life. However, I felt especially paranoid when I stayed with Katie in the hospital. I literally kept sniffing my jeans on the sly! They didn’t smell, but part of me was convinced that they were dirty and this bothered me. That paranoia was the worst part about this experiment.

However, despite my misgivings this method does work, so I am going to continue using it. It will make life easier while I decide upon a new washer and will hopefully extend the life of this wardrobe staple.

Have you ever tried freezing your clothing to remove odors? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Cheapskate Chronicles: Using the Last Drop

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One of the things that I absolutely hate is having that last little dram in a container that won’t come out. I’ve gotten creative in my battle against the bits; I slice open tubes, pour water into soap and shampoo bottles, stand condiments on their tops and even stuff bits of deodorant together. Occasionally though, I run into something that refuses to cooperate. Today it was a tiny little bottle of e-cigarette liquid.

E-cigarette liquid is used by frugalistas to save money when smoking. When purchased wisely it can save a significant amount of money over traditional cigarettes. Despite my best efforts, there was always a bit left at the very bottom of the bottle that refused to come out. A syringe would have reached it but I didn’t have one available so I did the next best thing.

I cut a hole at the bottom of the container. I made sure to locate the hole in a spot that the liquid could actually reach, then I squirted the tiny dram into the e-cig and puffed away.

It may not seem like much, but every little bit you save adds up, so I try to make the effort where I can.

Do you use every last drop of your consumables? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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How to Clean Soap Scum

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Soap scum is a menace. It builds up, insidiously striving to make your sinks and tubs look like crap. Turn your back and it appears overnight, no matter how hard you try to keep it at bay.

When that happens around here I have a method that removes it with a minimum of effort and expense.

I use two items:
* Vinegar
* Melamine (Magic) eraser

I start out by spraying the scum heavily with vinegar. If the buildup is especially bad, I heat the vinegar up before applying it. I allow this to sit for a while (sometimes a few minutes, sometimes up to an hour depending on what’s going on that day), dampen my melamine eraser with more vinegar and scrub. The soap scum normally comes off without hardly any effort.

If the scum is stubborn, I apply more vinegar and repeat the process by letting it soak some more until I am satisfied with the results, then I rinse out the tub when I’m done to finish.

It normally takes just a couple of minutes of work to scrub out the scum, a little longer if I’ve been lazy and allowed it to build up. Soak time adds to this, but I don’t really count that; I normally spray the scum when I walk in to use the bathroom, then go back a few minutes later to knock it out.

How do you handle soap scum in your home? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Photo Organization

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All of us take pictures. Some of us more than others. I particularly enjoy not only taking photos but saving cute little inspirational pics I encounter on the internet. Some of these get printed out and stuck on my bulletin board, framed for decorations or taped to the covers of my handy-dandy composition notebooks that I use to journal and write drafts in.

I organize my photos using a simple system. I sort my personal photos by year, with major occasions getting their own subfolder. Web clips are sorted into four sections: writing, inspiration, minimalism and funnies.

At the end of every year I go through all of my images and delete the ones I no longer need or want. Personal photos are then uploaded to the cloud, burned to a disc for posterity, and deleted from my computer. This allows me to access them again when needed but without having them clutter up my hard drive.

How do you organize your photos? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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How to Whiten Teeth on a Shoestring

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When I want to whiten my teeth, I normally use peroxide or baking soda. I just brush this on occasionally to lighten the stains on my teeth.

However, I recently came across a video that uses lemon juice and baking soda as a treatment that you apply and rinse off. I wanted to share it here:


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Why I will not shop this Black Friday

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While chatting with a friend the other day, I mentioned that I would be staying home this Black Friday. He was quite confused; didn’t I want to rake in the savings that could be had on this day?

I tried to explain it to him but failed entirely; given my nature, I’m much better at explaining things by using the written word so here it is.

I’m not going to shop on Black Friday because I don’t need anything.

I have everything I need. I have a roof over my head, food in my pantry, clothes on my back and money in the bank. My computer works like a dream and I’ve even acquired all of the software I wanted to attain for my business.

The only thing Katie wanted this year was a backpack. I found that on eBay.

If I really needed something (like the crock pot the other year) and I knew that I could score a good deal I would probably wander out but this year I don’t need anything.

That is a really good feeling, not needing anything. I must confess that in this Minimalism does have its advantages.

As for a washing machine, the appliance is a want, not a need. For now I am content washing things by hand and occasionally visiting a laundromat while I look around for a replacement.

So this year I’m staying home. I will work on my book projects, watch a little Netflix and enjoy the silence since Katie is going over to her Dad’s.

Before you decide to venture out on Black Friday ask yourself if there is anything that you really need. Remember, the stores that will be open have a single goal in mind: to separate you from as much of your money as possible. They do this by offering you deals on items that you may not necessarily need but want instead.

By all means, if you really need something (like your coat is falling to pieces or your computer died), go out and save some money. But if you don’t need anything, why not stay home instead. It will definitely be safer!

Walking Dead Black Friday

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How I saved 15% on my heating bill with one small change

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Every winter my inner cheapskate screams for mercy because it costs so much to heat my tiny home.

I heat with electric baseboard heaters, so my electric bill (which hovers around $45 in the summer when I use the air conditioner) balloons to the triple digits. I’ve received $300 bills in the colder months here!

To help with the expense, I place quilts on the windows, over the doors, stuff insulation in every crack I encounter and research methods to locate ways that I can shave money off of this huge annual expense.

I finally found something that worked!

During my research over this past summer, I discovered a forum post that pointed out that the more devices you run to heat your home, the more energy that you use. That particular post was about portable heaters so I initially dismissed it but one morning as I sat drinking my coffee it occurred to me: baseboard heaters are individual devices.

My house is only 500 square feet in size. With the exception of Katie’s room, the house is open, so I wondered: what if I could reduce the amount of heaters that I used to keep this house warm?

We hadn’t turned on the heat at that point, so I resolved to try it for a month when I did and compare my utility bills to the previous year to see if the change helped.

It did. When my electric bill came in for the month of November it was only $73.69. Last year’s bill for the same time period was almost $90!

That worked out to a 15.57% savings over last year!

To verify, I compared billing dates and average temperatures for the period using the information available on my utility company’s site. There was only one degree of difference in temperature and three days’ difference in the billing cycle.

That’s not enough to account for the drastic reduction in my heating expense, so it must be because I am using one less heater to warm this home.

As a result I am going to keep the heater in the living room shut off for as long as I possibly can. I may have to turn it on if the temps get below zero but otherwise I am just going to use the heaters in the kitchen and Katie’s room to keep our house warm.

If you use multiple heaters to warm your home, perhaps you can benefit from this tip as well. Use a minimum amount of devices to heat, whether they are baseboard heaters or portables. If you close off any rooms in the winter, turn the heaters off in them entirely unless you have to keep them warm to prevent your pipes from freezing. If there are pipes in there, reduce the temperature to a bit above freezing to protect the pipes.

Hopefully you will be able to rake in the savings as I have with this little change.

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Making changes

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To improve your experience here on Annienygma I’ve decided to make a few simple changes.

For instance, since the majority of you come here for my simplicity/frugality/minimalism posts, I have decided to create another site to discuss the Law of Attraction at If you are interested in that subject, please go there and subscribe. In time, all of the older LoA posts on this website will be moved there (and deleted from this site).

Also, I’ve written a guest post for James Weaver’s LoA blog to help promote the new website that shows you one simple tip that you can use to reprogram your subconscious. You can read it here if you are interested.

I am also considering a few more changes to make your experience here more relevant to your needs. For instance, once I get the LoA site established, I may create another site designed to help writers instead of posting tips here as I have in the past. This will allow me to better focus on specific things that I want to achieve without watering down the content here and boring you with subjects that you may not be interested in.

Do you have any suggestions that would make this site even better? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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