It is lovely to make things for your loved ones at Christmas. It can certainly save money, but also you have given the gift of your time and effort to make something special. I would always suggest choosing projects that are doable for you – I am never going to paint homemade cards as I really can’t paint! However, I have made lovely ones using templates cut from Christmas paper and glued onto blank cards.
Homemade Christmas gift ideas
Making simple presents can be a relaxing and interesting activity in the run-up to Christmas. Cheap and thoughtful Christmas gifts can include homemade biscuits and sweets, bath bombs or jams and chutneys. These are always well received. See WEA's cooking classes here if you want some inspiration.
If you can knit, sew, or crochet, then you can make many items from leftover fabric and wool: mittens, tote bags, scrubbies. I bought some reasonably-priced Christmas fabric a couple of years ago to make a variety of advent calendars and aprons for my family. Not only are they great inexpensive gifts, but also make for fun festive activities that can be done with children – good for a rainy day and creative too.
Another idea when it comes to affordable gifts is your time; give an IOU with the promise of a day helping in the garden, clearing the attic, a visit each month and so on. For many people, this is appreciated more than an expensive gift to unwrap.
Homemade Christmas decorations
You can, of course, go to town with making your own Christmas decorations for your home. It is certainly possible to make your own wreath for the door – you will find everything you need at the garden centre or your local florists. Many community groups have Christmas wreath-making workshops which are lovely and sociable.
For the tree, you could tie bundles of cinnamon sticks together with ribbon or raffia. For an easy rustic look, collect pinecones, and make them sparkly with glitter. If you can manage to sew a running stitch, felt decorations are lovely. One of the best, nostalgia-filled cheap and easy Christmas decorations that you probably remember making at school are paper snowflakes (download our free template here). You can elaborate on this to make angels, or window “stained glass” panes using tissue paper or coloured cellophane.
Gift wrapping alternatives
Looking for cheap ways to wrap gifts? Traditional coloured paper is very festive, but if you fancy a change, or want to be more environmentally aware, how about making reusable cotton bags? Brown paper tied with string/reusable ribbon embellished with natural materials can look expensive – even though it isn’t! Also, this year, you can keep fancy paper to use again next year: my mum was very keen on this, and as children, we were not allowed to tear the paper when opening presents. We had some paper which was used for many years and caused much conjecture as to who was going to get it each Christmas!
Christmas cooking ideas
When it comes to shopping for Christmas, think about what your family likes to eat, and stop buying or making the things that no one really wants. I do not make bread sauce anymore; the first time I had my in-laws as guests, they told me they always had it and then didn’t eat it! If you are trying to reduce costs at Christmastime, think about what you really need – I shall not be buying a tin of chocolates this year, instead, I shall spend the same amount on some nice after-dinner mints (which I prefer). Everyone receives enough chocolate as gifts in my house. The same goes for meat or alternatives. Think about how much you need; it may be better to get the ham for New Year, instead of throwing some of it away as it has been in the fridge for too long to be safe.
Providing you eat meat, a turkey dinner can be surprisingly budget-friendly. Leftover turkey can be used as a base for meals for 3 or 4 days after Christmas. For a cheaper Christmas dinner, frozen turkey is a great alternative to getting a fresh one from the butchers – just remember to fully defrost it before cooking. Ideas for leftover turkey include turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce pie (a big favourite in my house), turkey oriental stir fry (quick, easy, and very healthy), cold turkey and chips (of course!) And if you fancy, there is always….. turkey curry!
Also, when you are preparing the vegetables for Christmas day, only prepare the quantity that you think will be eaten, unless you are a big fan of Bubble and Squeak. Two pounds of sprouts is too much if only 2 people like them!
I hope I have given you some inspiration for Christmas. It is always special to see family and friends, to give gifts and share food with them, but it is so easy to get carried away and find you have spent more (time or money) than you wanted to, leaving you worrying when you should be enjoying the time spent with loved ones. Set a budget and keep to it, don’t compare yourself to others, and remember: time spent with loved ones is more precious than material gifts. Children when asked what is special to them will often reply “going to the park with Dad” or "cuddling up to Nanna and reading a book”. This applies to adults too (Possibly not going to the park!). This is why homemade gifts and foods are so treasured.
Have a great Christmas sharing your time and love with your loved ones.