Trim the Cost of Christmas Decorations
First, while no Christmas is complete without lights, using incandescent bulbs can really inflate your electric bill. Try using LED bulbs instead. They'll last 50 times longer and use much less energy.
For instance, a mini-incandescent bulb uses approximately .41 watts, while a mini-LED bulb uses around .07 watts. If you were to run an identical set of each lights from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, the incandescent bulbs would cost you about $20.40, whereas the LEDs would only total about $3.60.
Do the math and you'll find that LED bulbs offer 80 percent in savings. Additionally, LED bulbs also don't get nearly as hot, which make them safer for you and your family.
Next, when it comes to dressing up other parts of your house, it pays to be creative. You can make a "hurricane vase" from a glass candleholder, vase, sandpaper and super glue, all of which can be found at the dollar store.
Simply sand the bottom of the vase and the top of the candlestick holder. Wipe off any dust -- this gives the glue a better surface to hold on to. Glue the two pieces together, set it aside for a day to dry and fill it with some ornaments and/or pine cones.
The total cost for this easy DIY project is $7. Not bad, considering home decor stores can charge up to $89 for similar items.
So, while you're decorating your home for Christmas, keep these ideas in mind. You can create big impact without spending big dollars.
Elmo was popular when I was a kid. He was popular in the mid-90s, when America went insane over Tickle Me Elmo dolls. And with the toy appearing on all three lists, it looks like he'll be popular this year, too.
Centuries from now, when humanity has migrated to the stars, we'll still give our kids Elmo dolls for Space Chanukah.
Here's another ghost of Christmas shopping past. Kmart and Walmart are both bullish on the latest Furby, which according to the product description "has a mind of its own." It goes on to say that "the way you treat your Furby will shape its personality." Incidentally, you could also describe children this way. Expect to pay around $60 for this one.
Doc McStuffins follows the adventures of a veterinarian who operates on stuffed animals, and the dolls and play centers promise to be popular again this year. All three retailers have this playset on their lists, though it should be noted that Toys R Us exclusively has the "Deluxe" version of the kit pictured here. The Deluxe set has 14 bonus pieces, including a fetching pink labcoat. Note that the Deluxe costs $79.99, versus $64.50 for the standard set at Walmart.
Toys R Us is building tablet mini-shops in its stores, so clearly it expects kid's tablets to be a big market this season. Both Toys R Us and Kmart have the LeapFrog on their lists this year.
The tablets cost $150 and is durable enough to withstand drops, though it's not waterproof. So if your kid is prone to pitching toys into the toilet, steer clear of this one.
The Ninja Turtles are going to be big this year. At Kmart you can find this remote-control "Shellraiser" vehicle, which shoots sewer covers and costs around $45. At Walmart there's the Secret Sewer Lair playset, which costs $80. And at its holiday preview event last week, Toys R Us had classic Ninja Turtles figures and their "party wagon" on display.
Basically, you can't go wrong with Ninja Turtles. (Which, incidentally, is what I tell my parents every year when they ask what I want for Chanukah.)
Both Kmart and Walmart list this one, so it looks to be this season's hot Nerf gun. As the coloring and name make clear, it's a toy weapon being marketed to girls, a rare move for Nerf. We're thinking the popularity of archery-centric movies with teen girl protagonists like "The Hunger Games" and "Brave" account for Nerf's sudden interest in selling to the female market.
We don't recall Princess Merida or Katniss Everdeen using a hot-pink-and-purple bow, but hey, that's toy marketing for you. This one will cost $15.99 at Walmart.
Unlike other fairy dolls, this one actually flies. It must be a real fairy!
No, just kidding, it's just a toy. Get it for $30 at Walmart. It takes six AA batteries, which aren't included.