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Green Living: Holiday gift ideas for the home

Finding the right gift this holiday season for a family member or friend who lives an eco-friendly lifestyle may be becoming a little easier because more furniture, accessories and products tout green features or benefits.

When the recipient is serious about design or wants to display unusual items made of recycled materials in the home, there’s an array of gift ideas locally and online.

Some stylish furniture and accessories are using reclaimed and recycled materials. Some products help create healthier environments in homes.

Here are seven gift ideas that could make your shopping easier:

Lazy Susan

Vintage bourbon barrel heads from Kentucky get a new use by being crafted into this revolving tray, which can come in handy when entertaining at home. Made by Old Wood Co., based in Asheville, N.C. Priced at $170 at Steve McKenzie’s in Atlanta’s Westside Design District, www.stevemckenzies.com

Austin Air HealthMate Purifier

Air purifiers like those made by Austin Air, based in Buffalo, N.Y., help combat indoor air pollution by removing particles in the air, including dust, pollens and smoke, as well as chemicals and gases. The company touts that the purifier can decrease nighttime allergies and asthma attacks, eliminate runny noses and sneezing and reduce snoring. Priced at $539; local Austin Air retailers include Eco-Denizen in Midtown, Achoo! in Atlanta, Pure Life Healthy Homes in Tucker, Indoor Air Quality Solutions in Kennesaw and at www.austinair.com

Re:loom Rugs

The rugs and placements created by Re:loom, a program by the Decatur-based Initiative for Affordable Housing, are made from donated fabrics that are “upcycled” and woven by homeless and low-income individuals. Prices range from $130-$250; available at reloom.org

Chocolate Swirl Bowl

Accessories with an unusual, natural look include the chocolate swirl bowl made from Mindi wood, an eco-friendly option that is fast growing and sustainably harvested. Priced at $95, available at Verde Home in Atlanta, www.verdehomeinc.com

“Rough Luxe Design: The New Love of Old”

This book by Los Angeles-based interior designer Kahi Lee has a rugged cover, photos and interviews with interior and industrial designers, entrepreneurs and others who design with a “rough luxury” aesthetic. Priced at $125; sold at Environment in Atlanta’s Westside Provisions District, www.environmentfurniture.com/atlanta.

Tequila Buffet

The platter is handcrafted from beams of wormy chestnut and reclaimed oak salvaged from dismantled barns and homes in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The 1 1/2-inch thick board is a half-foot wide and 20 inches across. The platter comes with a cutting board, salt bowls, paring knife and notches to stash lime and salt. Priced at $95; available at oldwoodmarketplace.myshopify.com

Carved Stool

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood was selected to create this hand-carved stool for a look that’s dramatically different from traditional bar stools or seating in a home. Priced at $275; available at Verde Home in Atlanta, www.verdehomeinc.com

Festival of Trees at Orlando Museum of Art

Great gifts for outdoor enthusiasts

Best holiday shoppers make lists, stick to a budget

The holidays are almost here, and shopping is on many of our to-do lists. The average person expects to spend $749 on holiday-related items this season, up $9 from 2011, according to the National Retail Federation.

Before venturing into the stores or going online, there are many things to consider, including staying within your budget and staying safe.

"Take advantage of sales to make planned purchases, but leave other items on the shelf," said Jessica Cecere, regional president for nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency CredAbility, West Palm Beach, Fla.

"Don't let the thought of getting a 'deal' cloud your judgment. Impulse purchases can create holiday debt that you will pay for well into the new year and beyond," Cecere said.

Tips for shoppers

Make a list and stick to it. Having a list of the people you need to buy for and a budget for each person is a great way to make sure you don't overspend. Jot down ideas ahead of time.

Plan your shopping before you leave the house. Use newspaper circulars and the Internet to plan your trip. Take a look at sale ads for Black Friday, at websites such as www.theblackfriday.com and www.bfads.net .

Shop before the big sales and avoid the Black Friday crowds. Many stores will refund the price difference if the item goes on sale within a few days of purchase, but this policy may not apply to all Black Friday specials.

Get a jump-start by shopping online now. There may be sale prices or free shipping offers, and there's still plenty of time. Deals for "Cyber Monday," the Monday after Thanksgiving, can be found at www.cybermonday.com .

Compare prices by using sites such as www.pricegrabber.comwww.bizrate.com and www.nextag.com . Look for coupons to save on in-store and online purchases at sites such as www.couponcabin.com or www.dealcatcher.com .

Don't window shop. This leads to spending more than you planned.

Don't take along credit cards. Studies have shown that people who use credit cards to buy gifts spend an average of 30 percent more than people who use cash.

Don't make impulse purchases. Do your homework and make sure something really is a deal before making the purchase.

Keep receipts. Make sure you know the return policy for all of your purchases.

Don't make unnecessary purchases. Talk to friends about not exchanging gifts or setting a limit on spending. Many families draw names in order to have one person to purchase for, or limit gifts just to the children.

Be safety conscious

In addition to being cautious with your budget, you want to be safe while shopping.

Here are some of the best safety tips from Consumer Reports, law enforcement agencies and other sources.

Don't carry a large purse. Some experts recommend a small purse with a long strap that goes across the opposite shoulder. This enables you to keep your hands free and also keep the purse close to your body. Keep your purse closed.

Keep your wallet in a front pocket. If you dine at the food court, don't sling your purse on the back of your chair. Don't put it on the floor. Men, keep your wallet in a front pocket.

Shop with a friend. There's usually safety in numbers.

Park near the store's entrance and be aware of your surroundings. If you must shop at night, ask mall security to escort you to your car.

Instead of making one big shopping trip and making repeated trips to the car to store purchases in the trunk, break up your shopping into smaller trips. This is less stressful than an all-day pilgrimage.

Safety experts advise against carrying a lot of cash and recommend using credit cards or check cards.

This conflicts with the money-saving tips above. Use common sense. Don't flash a huge wad of cash. Be discreet.

Carry only the necessities, such as your ID and the credit cards you will need. Don't ever carry anything with your Social Security number on it.

When leaving the store, be alert. Look around. Don't stop to talk to anyone. If someone appears to be following you, go back to the store and ask that security be contacted.

Enjoy the holidays without blowing your budget

The holiday sales have landed in your inbox, mailbox and newspapers. Whether it's holiday travel discounts or deals on the must-have toy, temptation lurks everywhere and it will only heighten as we get deeper into November.

Black Friday is no longer a post-turkey day highlight. It's right there with the pumpkins and scarecrows. With so much pulling at you, it can be challenging to make it a festive rather than frustrating season. To keep the stress level low and the smiles wide, adhere to some fast and true strategies this time of the year, said Patricia Stallworth of Johns Creek, Ga. Stallworth is a certified financial planner and author of "Minding Your Money." She also hosts the squeezeyourmoney.com blog.

She shared seven strategies to enjoying the holidays without blowing your budget:

1.  Start with a clearly defined budget. The holidays can impact several parts of your budget, from food to gifts to possibly even travel, so come up with a total budget in each of the categories. If you are really concerned, set up envelopes for each category like food, gifts, etc. Put the allotted cash in each envelope and stop spending when it is empty.

2.  Develop a plan. Keeping your budget in mind, plan your activities, gift lists, and other forms of celebration -- from menus for entertaining to stamps for cards. Use your plan to create shopping lists for each category.

3.  Get creative. Ask your family to draw names so you can cut down on the number of gifts you need to buy. Make gifts like cookies or craft items, and give "your time" gifts, like washing the car, cleaning and babysitting.

4.  Always shop with your list. The decorations and sale signs are tempting so don’t let them distract you from your appointed mission. Also, consider layaway programs.

5.  Get back to the real meaning of the holiday season. The holiday’s are all about families. Instead of spending all of your time in the malls or online, plan low-cost activities that the whole family can participate in.

6.  Give to charity. Giving to charity warms you twice. Once when you give it and again at tax time when you deduct it.

7.  Start a savings plan for next year. While it’s still fresh in your mind, add up all of the extras you needed for the holidays, divide that amount by 12, and start a 12 month savings plan for next year so you can enjoy the holidays without worrying about busting your budget.

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