Monday, December 31, 2007

Saving on Baby Shower Gifts

I've noticed this time of year that Target puts a lot of their baby items on clearance. So, it's time to stock up! No, I don't have any kids and am not planning to have them anytime real soon. I'm stocking up my gift closet because I do go to my share of baby showers and know lots of couples who have recently had babies or are expecting.

Gift-giving on a budget can be tough. I see so many things I'd love to buy people, but I could go broke that way pretty quickly! I used to go crazy in the baby department, spending tons of money on people...even people who I wasn't even all that close to. All of that little-bitty pink and blue stuff is so cute! How can you possibly decide what to get?!

A few years ago I was invited to a baby shower for someone I'm not really good friends with. I asked my sister-in-law (who had an infant at the time) what she suggested I get for this person because I had decided I was going to the shower. She said all of the toiletries and other small items are things that people often forget (or don't know they will need). So, I got several items and put them in a basket. It was a nice gift.

Later, when more people I knew were starting to get pregnant, I decided to also give them baskets, bags, or boxes filled with all sorts of necessary (and even some cute) little baby things. They are all things that they will need like rattles, teething rings, wipes, lotion, baby wash, toothbrushes, etc. The good thing is that you can usually find these things on sale and also find coupons for them. I've been able to give much nicer gifts on my budget.

I actually won a contest on for this tip last spring! I got $25 and a huge stack of coupons they clipped from the newspaper. You can read the full Baby Shower Gift Basket tip which is posted on their website.

Here is a listing of my savings by using this idea:

Value: $100.39...Price Paid: $46.41...Saved: 53.77%
Value: $84.86...Price Paid: $49.57...Saved: 41.59%
Value: $70.74...Price Paid: $29.34...Saved: 58.52%
Value: $19.58...Price Paid: $6.55...Saved: 66.55%
Value: $78.57...Price Paid: $40.78...Saved: 48.10%
Value: $31.67...Price Paid: $13.85...Saved: 56.26%

So, even if you aren't excepting a baby, start planning early and stock pile things to make into a nice gift basket when the little one arrives.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Before You Throw Away Your Christmas Cards

It's about time to start putting away all of the Christmas decorations. For me, that also includes recycling the Christmas cards that we've received. For the past several years, I've tried a tip that I've read several times in various places: turn this year's Christmas cards into next year's Christmas present tags.

I look at each card and see if it has a pretty picture that could be trimmed down into a gift tag. The only stipulation is that it can't have any of the personalized message on it/someone's handwriting. Obviously, you also don't want to use the picture of someone else's kids as a gift tag! However, still look at those photo cards. Some of them have nice graphics that you could cut out to use as a tag. If a card has a big design, it could still be used. Larger tags look nice on big packages.

Once you have them all cut out, save the tags in an envelope or paper bag. Store them with the rest of your Christmas gift wrap so that you'll be ready with tags next year.

When you pull them out next December, there are a few different ways you can use them. You could tape it down on the gift box and write the "to" and "from" message on the front. Another option is to punch a hole in the corner and tie it the gift with a ribbon. For this type, you could write a message on the front or back of the tag.

I've found that these gift tags look really nice on plain paper (no design). The tag is the focal point with a pretty picture. I've also been able to match a tag with the wrapping paper (i.e. snowflake tag with snowman paper), which is really cute.

At after-Christmas sales, you can get gift tags at a very, very low price. However, this is a good way to reuse part of your old Christmas cards and have unique, beautiful tags.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Inexpensive Visit with Friends

One night last week, a friend and I wanted to see and catch up with each other. Visiting with friends often involves food and that usually means going out to eat at a restaurant. However, Melissa and I have always had a better way of doing things. One of us will host the other (sometimes just us, other times with more friends). The hostess will provide the main dish of dinner. The other one(s) will bring a salad, sides, or dessert to share. Last week, I made a really easy and very yummy chicken and broccoli casserole, and she brought a great but simple salad. I also had plenty of cheesecake leftover from Michael's birthday, so we enjoyed some of that too.

A potluck dinner is a great way to share food and visit in the comfort of someone's home. It's also an inexpensive way to entertain. In my case, it was nothing fancy, just a home-cooked meal. I find it's a terrific means for visiting with friends, especially if you want to sit and chat for a while.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Celebrating at 3/4 of the Price

For Michael's birthday, I took him to eat at The Warehouse in Old Town Alexandria. Mmmm! This is the 3rd year that we've gone there for his birthday. They have great steaks, so since it's a celebration, we both got the fillet the blackened scallops for an appetizer to share. It's far more expensive than our usual dinners out; however, that's why I save on other things. I can then spend on special occasions without worry.

Yes, we do use coupons even for our birthday meals. One of my coworkers thinks this is so funny (and possibly, so cheap). However, we go to some of the nicest restaurants around for our birthdays -- if we can get a discount too, why not? Actually, I think it is an advantage to having winter birthdays. The fine restaurants in Old Town use coupons to lure patrons to an area that is outside in the cold without much nearby parking.

If you have reason to celebrate or just want an excellent meal at a reduced price, here's the link to the website where you can print the coupons to some of the Old Town restaurants. Unfortunately, they aren't as generous this year as they have been in the past. The last two years the coupons have been buy one entree, get one free. This year, it's buy one entree, get the second half off. But I'll take a 25% discount over none at all.

We save some additional money by eating dessert at home. Michael really likes cheesecake, so each year, I've made him a different variety for his birthday. (This is a perfect time of year to save on baking ingredients too!) This year, I chose a recipe from Southern Living for Warm Fudge-Filled Cheesecake, which has a pistachio crust. Mmmm!

Happy Birthday, Michael!

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Monday, December 17, 2007

It Was Worth A Try

Back in July, I got a new position at work that didn't require me to drive as often as I had been. It also meant I was no longer entitled to having half of my monthly parking fee reimbursed. I crunched the numbers, and it appeared I could save some money if I stopped driving and started taking public transportation. Luckily, I do live an area that has great bus and subway systems. I also live and work in relatively safe neighborhoods. So, I decided I would try it out for a few months and see how it went.

While there have been some trying times...bus was late, bus was too full to stop, bus was early, bus didn't show up, bus was really overcrowded, A/C went out on the Metro on one of the hottest days of the summer, Metro was delayed, Metro was temporarily shut down due to "suspicious package," Metro was packed, and the weather has ranged from blazing hot to freezing cold to extremely windy to pouring rain to slippery ice and snow...all-in-all, it has been a positive experience!

Sure, I gave up a few things when I stopped driving, like my freedom to come and go when I wanted or to load up on groceries at the store by my office before heading home. However, I've found the advantages to taking public transportation far out weigh all of that. Here the benefits:

1. It takes the same amount of time as driving but is generally less stressful.
2. I can read or do other things on the bus/train and while waiting at the stop/platform. I've found keeping a magazine stashed in my bag helps pass the time nicely.
3. I get a little exercise walking to and from my home and office and up and down the escalators in the Metro stations.
4. I get to "experience" the city -- complete with the daily hustle and bustle of the busy sidewalks. It reminds me fondly of the time I spent studying in London in college (where I didn't have a car).
5. I hear live music nearly every morning and some evenings. The street musicians make me smile because it sometimes seems like a movie soundtrack. For example, one gray morning as it was just beginning to rain, the guitarist outside the Farragut North station started playing Rain Drops Are Falling on My Head. Very cool!
6. I'm doing my part to help reduce congestion on the roads and emissions in the air.
7. Most mornings the bus drivers are really friendly and great me with a chipper "Good morning" as I board, and a warm "Have a nice day!" as I exit. It gives me flashbacks to nice bus drivers from elementary school.
8. The Express newspaper distributors are also very welcoming outside of the Metro stations. I don't know where they get their energy so early in the morning, but between them and the bus drivers, they help me get in a good mood.
9. I get to mentally prepare for the day at work and to wind down from the day on my commute, rather than worrying about driving in the crazy DC traffic.
10. I actually get to work and leave work on time because I have to -- I have a bus/train to catch. If I am late, it's usually not my fault.
11. I save the daily wear and tear on my car.
12. I don't have to worry about driving in bad weather.

I get all of these things, plus I've saved money. Between August 1 and December 31, I've estimated that I've saved $300 by changing from driving to work to taking the bus and Metro! In truth, it's probably more than that because the price of gas has gone up since I calculated my average driving cost.

Yes, the price of Metro fare (train and bus) is going up starting January 6. Based on the information on Metro's website, I will be paying 60 cents more per day or about $12 more per month. However, the bus fare will remain the same for people like me who use a SmarTrip card, which is fantastic. That's a 10 cent/day savings. I also don't see any information about the bus transfer fare changing, which is good. Metro has said that they are going to be improving service with the fare increase. Luckily for me, I will actually personally reap the benefits. They are adding 3 more buses to my route in the morning and two more in the evening. Yippee! Maybe that will smooth over some of the frustrations that I do experience on my commute.

So, in the end, my public transportation experiment was worth a try! I'll stick with it, even through the cold of winter.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Little Things Add Up

While I don't have an actual figure to share with you, I'm certain that lots of little things add up to big savings. Here are a few things that I've used or done today that are really easy, cost no additional money, and actually have saved me at least a little money. As a bonus, they all have also helped me be a little more environmentally friendly too.

1. I live in a place that was built in the early 1980s. I'm pretty sure that the toilets are the originals, meaning they aren't the water-saving models that you could get today. As I mentioned in my Frugal $ense winning tip article as well as my Water, Water Everywhere post, I try to reuse some of my excess water in various ways. However, I've also recently put a half-gallon milk jug in my toilet tank. It is filled with water so it will sink to the bottom of the tank. However, each time I flush, that half a gallon of water does not leave the tank or have to be refilled because it stays in the jug. I'm estimating that's about a 2,000 gallon and $18.40 savings per year. Not huge -- but I'll take it.

2. I pay some of bills through means other than mailing a check to the company I owe. However, I still get the statements in the mail which include a blank envelope every time. I save those for when I need to mail something where else (i.e. mail-in rebate). I just write the mailing address on a small slip of paper and tape it on the inside so that it can be seen through the window of the envelope. I haven't bought envelopes in ages, so I'm not sure how much they cost. However, I would imagine I'm saving at least $3-$5 per year.

3. I use grocery bags to line my small trash cans. They aren't exactly pretty, but it works. I just realized something new today. I can tie off or cut down my dry-cleaning bags (the clear plastic ones that cover the clean garments) to fit my small trash cans. Now, I have plain trash bags without the name of a store on them. It looks a little nicer. Again, I don't buy small trash bags, so I don't know how much they cost. However, I'm going to guess that I'm saving at least $5-$8 per year.

Like I said, each of these things doesn't save me large sums of money. However, if someone gave you $30 each year, would you turn it down? That's how I see these little savings tips. They don't take any more of my time or energy, and they save me money. So, I'll keep at it and see what other tricks I can learn to save little bits (which add up to a lot).

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Save Like There Is Tomorrow

A couple of years ago, I took a class through the Virginia Cooperative Extension called Money Talk: A Financial Course for Women. The class itself was free, but it did require a really useful textbook that cost $20. I'd highly recommend Money Talk to any woman -- young or old, lots of money or just a few pennies, zero financial knowledge or a ton. Your local extension office may offer this course too, so look it up.

Anyway, one thing that I learned in this class was to set financial goals. I finally tried it, and it worked really well. Previously, my thought had just been to save whatever I could, for whatever big might come along. However, the Money Talk instructor and textbook convinced me that I should be a little more concrete. After the class, I first tried it and set an actual goal. I figured out the dollar amount for a specific reason and set a date by which I wanted to have it saved. Guess what? It worked!

At the beginning of 2007, I thought I'd set a new financial goal to reach by the end of the year. This time I didn't have a specific reason. I had a few things in mind that might come along even though I wasn't sure if they would. I figured you've got to be prepared! Once again, it has worked because I could actually measure my progress.

Now that I'm engaged and really do have a wedding on the horizon, I'm so glad that I had set a goal for "something" in the future (even though I didn't exactly know it would be for a wedding). "Tomorrow" is nearly here, and fortunately, while things could always be better, I'm in okay financial shape. So, there's my recommendation to you: save like there is tomorrow -- even if you don't know exactly when it will come or what it will hold. Find ways to squeeze those nickels and dimes and turn them into dollars! Whether it is for something exciting like a wedding or just a rainy day, you'll be glad you did.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

My Frugal $ense Pick for December

The new tips are up on's Frugal $ense contest. This month Catherine Lowe of Grass Valley submitted my favorite. It's a slight twist on Stretching One Meal Into Two that I mentioned that I liked in a previous post. It's a good alternative if you don't have a buy-one-entree-get-one-free coupon.

This is a good idea at restaurants that serve large entrees that can easily feed two people. Usually if you order an entree, you can get a side salad for a reduced price (if it doesn't already come with one). Then add one more item (i.e. another side side, soup, or appetizer). It will be less than another entree but be plenty for two people.

Michael and I haven't tried this entree sharing tip yet. However, for a little savings, we have shared a side salad if it costs additional to get one with our meals.

If you like Catherine's tip too, vote "7" for her so it will increase her chances of winning. If she does win, we'll get to learn more similar tips from her when Bankrate does the interview article with her.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Coupon Codes for Online Shopping

There's still time to do some online shopping before Christmas. A few years ago I discovered Coupon Cabin which is a website that lists a lot of online coupon codes. It took me a little while to remember to actually look before making a purchase, but now I always do. You might find that you can get a percentage off or free shipping for your purchase. Coupons can sweeten a deal that you were already going to buy at a certain place or help you decide where to make the purchase.

There are a lot of places where you can find coupon codes online. Coupon Mom offers them on her website. Sometimes you can find them on Upromise. Look around before you click "

A final tip about online shopping: be sure to check on shipping dates before you order. Obviously, even if you have a coupon code for a percentage off, if the rush shipping is going to cost a lot in order for you to receive it in time, it's not a deal. Think about braving the stores and don't pay for expensive last minute shipping.

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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Water, Water Everywhere

My beverage of choice is almost always water. It stems back to my childhood when on a regular basis our only options to drink were orange juice (which I only liked for breakfast), milk (which I've never liked), or water (which I probably chose back then by default). Now, I just like water. Besides liking to drink it, it has several big benefits: it's easy to get (don't need to go to the store); it's healthy; and it's inexpensive (tap water is okay for me).

I've noticed that I never drink all of my water (either the actual water I put in the glass or from the ice that melts). So, over the past couple of months, I've been saving that water in a pitcher on the kitchen counter by the sink. By the end of the week, I have enough to water my 16 house plants. Sometimes I even have more than enough for the plants. When that happens, I put the surplus into the toilet tank when it is refilling after I've flushed it.

No, I'm probably not going to be able to retire early with this little savings plan. However, I do believe every little bit helps. It's not any extra effort, so why not? Plus, I'm helping the environment in a small way. No sense in being wasteful.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Gifts with Gift Cards

Gift cards have become a really popular way to give in the past few years. There are things to consider like: Is there a fee? Is there an expiration date? Will the recipient remember to use it? I suppose if you are a really good bargain shopper, gift cards aren't necessarily the best way to go. You might be able to get a better gift for less if you hunt for a sale than if you just gave your loved one money or a gift card. However, if you are giving to a bargain shopper who might search out the best deal (especially after Christmas), a gift card might be stretched to get a bigger gift than if the non-bargain shopper just grabbed something at regular price.

But there's something else about gift cards that I've noticed a lot this year: a bonus gift when you buy a gift card. You might be able to get a deal on a gift card and keep the bonus gift for yourself or add it to the gift you are giving. For example, for every $50 gift card you buy at Bertucci's, you get a free $10 gift card. At Baja Fresh, you get a free $5 gift card when you buy a gift card of $25 or more. At Rock Bottom, they will wrap each $50 gift certificate that you buy in their signature pint glass and gift box (only available in person -- I got the info from their e-newsletter).

If you frequent a store or restaurant that is offering a bonus that you would like and you know you will be spending money at that establishment anyway, buy yourself the gift card. In the Baja Fresh example, if you got the $25 gift card, it would be like getting a 20% discount since you get a $5 card free. If you have a coupon for a purchase at this place or if there is a sale, using this gift card you will get an even better deal!

Whether you are buying a present for someone else or would like to take advantage of a deal for yourself, keep your eyes open for bonuses with gift card purchases. (As always, don't forget to read the fine print before you buy. Some of the bonuses can only be obtained if you make the purchase in person.)

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Saving with Surveys

Look a little closer at your receipts before you throw them out or file them. There may be an opportunity to complete a survey about your recent shopping/dining experience in which you are rewarded a coupon for a future purchase.

Just recently, I went to the eye doctor and saw information about an online survey regarding my visit on the bottom of the receipt. I took a few minutes to complete it and was granted a printable coupon for $20 off my next visit. I don't think I'll go again until next year. However, there is no expiration date and you can combine it with insurance benefits and promotional discounts. So, I'm going to save it in my planner under November 2008 and use it next year for my annual exam.

I also got one of these surveys at Baja Fresh. That survey was also short and easy. This one gave me a code to write in the designated blank on my order ticket. If I go back within 30 days and take the ticket with the code, I'll get $2 off my next purchase.

J.C. Penney offered a similar deal. I did the short survey online. They gave me a printable coupon for 15% off my next regular, sale, or clearance priced purchase from one of their stores, catalog, or website which is good for the next 30 days.

I love extra savings!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Deal of the Weekend

Like I wrote in Holiday Lights & Displays - Part 1 last Friday, Michael and I had planned to go see the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights this past Saturday. It was our 3 year dating anniversary. He was going to also cook dinner afterwards. Oh, I thought...a boy after my heart -- cooking at home (and saving some money!). While cooking a special meal at home would have been a great idea for my "Deal of the Weekend," Michael had other -- secret -- plans for me!

I went to his apartment that evening expecting to do what we had planned. However, when I got there, he said he wanted to give me a gift before we left to see the boats. It was a photo book from Kodak Gallery -- a very cool, hard-bound book with a black leather cover. It was entitled "The Story of Michael & Betsy." Over our 3 years together, we've gone to a lot of places, done a lot of cool things, and taken a lot of pictures. So, he had compiled some of our favorites in this book along with some others that he took on his own of places like where we met and our first date location.

Now, I imagine you can tell where this is leading, but at the time I was clueless (which is actually unusual because I'm pretty hard to surprise). One of the reasons that I thought it was simply a very nice gift (and nothing else) is that over the years I've given him quite a few gifts made from our pictures. I love Kodak Gallery! One of the things I've given him from there is a Christmas snowflake ornament with the first picture taken of the two of us together. Then, last year for our 2 year dating anniversary I made him a cool accordion greeting card with several good shots from that year. So, I just thought that he was finally giving me a gift made with some of our pictures.

I read the book and enjoyed looking at the photos. Then, at the end, the captions read, "After three year of dating, they were as happy as can there was but one question for Michael to ask..." On the last page, there is a picture of Michael in a suit, down on one knee with a ring in an open jewelry box, and it reads, "Betsy, WILL YOU MARRY ME?!?!?"

I said YES! and then he gave me a very lovely ring that he had hidden in his pocket! What a nice story, huh?!

We made a bunch of phone calls to our immediate family, and then decided that we were too excited to actually cook dinner. So, we went to Old Town to walk around for a little while (but only saw a couple of boats...I found out later that whole thing was actually just a ploy). Then, we went to dinner to celebrate at an Italian restaurant on King Street where we had one of first few dates. It was a nice evening! And no coupons were even involved. :-) But that's okay because by having Michael propose to me (and in such a sweet way), I definitely got the deal of the weekend!

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holiday Lights & Displays - Part 3

In Holiday Lights & Displays - Part 1 and Part 2, I've told you about some of the great Christmas decorations in the DC area (and ideas on where to look for displays in your town). Today I will tell you about 2 more of my favorites -- both of which are on Capitol Hill and are free to visit!

Michael and I made a great holiday find at the U.S. Botanic Garden two years ago. Outside, they have an amazing model train garden. The website claims that it will be "bigger and more dazzling this year." I thought it was exceptional the past two years, so this really is going to be a "must-see." Inside, they have seasonal plants and displays. The best part of the indoor decorations is the miniature National Mall made from all things natural. It's so incredible that the landscape architects are able to make models out of twigs and leaves to look like the monuments and memorials. I favor Christmas displays at night, so I recommend you visit on one of the evenings that the U.S. Botanic Garden is open until 8 PM. I also recommend that you choose a night when they have live music. It makes it all the more festive. A bonus to this one for me is that it's nice and warm inside the conservatory!

While you are visiting the botanic garden which is right next to the U.S. Capitol, go take a look at the Capitol Christmas Tree. This year it will be lit on December 5. This tree, unlike the planted National Christmas Tree, is brought in from somewhere in the United States each year. This year, it comes from Vermont and is decorated with ornaments hand-crafted by the people of Vermont. I'm hoping that it has really bright lights like the one in 2005 did because it makes for a great picture when it is really glowing.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Holiday Lights & Displays - Part 2

Today I'm continuing to talk about holiday lights and displays in the DC area -- and these are free and definitely worth your time! If you missed it, check out Holiday Lights & Displays - Part 1 for some ideas on how to find seasonal activities outside of the DC area.

Last year Michael and I went to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum Holiday Open House. You can find the event details for this year on their calendar. We took a tour of this nice museum to see the period rooms from 30 states and DC. For Christmas, the rooms are decorated according to the time and location that the room is exhibiting. They have carolers singing and offer hot beverages and great cookies. Santa was there talking to children. Admission is free! It's one night only (December 5th), so don't miss it.

One of my favorite Christmas activities is to go look at the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in front of the White House. Of course, it's free! This year it will be lit on December 6, and then it is open to the public from December 8 - January 1. While it is open 11 AM - 11 PM, I highly recommend that you go after dark so that you can enjoy the lights. It is probably more crowded then, but worth it. What I didn't realize until I went down there for the first time several years ago is that not only do they have the large National Christmas Tree, but they also have small trees for each state, territory, and DC. Those trees are decorated with ornaments made by people from the respective areas. They also have several model train displays at the foot of the National Tree. There is a blazing hot yule log, a nativity, and a giant menorah. Many evenings they also have organizations performing holiday music (schedule).

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Brrr...Saving Some Heat at the Socket

A few years ago, I noticed a strong draft coming through our electrical outlets. Cold air was pouring in through those little holes. I took off the covers of all of the outlets that are on a wall adjacent to the outside and added a socket sealer before returning the cover. That helped, but I could still feel air coming through the outlet. So, I put in those socket covers that you use to keep children from sticking something in the outlet. It worked! With those two simple and inexpensive measures, I'm helping keep Old Man Winter out. While I'm sure it is helping the heating bill, I'm not able to actually quantify the savings. However, I can definitely feel a difference by the outlets.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Free Holiday Music

Sing we now of Christmas, Sing we now Noel...

There's nothing like a good Christmas carol. Of course, it's even better when it is free. In most places, you can find a radio station that plays all holiday music through Christmas Day. However, live entertainment is best.

You can go to a free hour-long concert at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage every evening of the year at 6 PM. (Can't make it in person? They broadcast them online.) Here's a listing of the holiday concerts that are coming up in December:

December 9: Beltway Brass
December 11: The Peace Ringers & The Carol Ringers
December 14: Merry TubaChristmas
December 16: High Groove Steelers
December 18: Sweet Heaven Kings
December 21: The Junkyard Saints
December 23: Prelude
December 24: Monumental Brass
December 25: All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam
December 28 & 29: Alexandria Kleztet, Holiday Vaudeville, Sean Grissom, Mark Mitton
December 30: Last Train Home

Also, here is a listing of some other DC area holiday concerts (some of which are free) on Holiday Concert Guide.

For areas outside of DC, check, Google, or your local paper for concerts. If nowhere else, many churches and schools have concerts this time of year that are free or low cost. But you might be able to find some in cool venues like Atlanta's Fox Theatre. On December 18, they are having the second annual Larry, Carols, and Mo!, a free holiday concert and sing-a-long with their organist in residence. As a bonus, it's followed by a showing of Miracle on 34th Street. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advanced. (Ticketmaster charges a small service fee or you can just go to the box office.) At this event, they will have donation boxes for new, unwrapped toys and/or non-perishable food for the needy. Consider taking something if you are going. (Read my post entitled Triple the Fun! for some ideas on how to get some inexpensive or free food items. This time of year you can find good deals on toys at most stores too.)

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