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Savvy shopping, seasonal eating and thrifty recipes. Spend less on groceries and enjoy better tasting, easy to prepare meals your friends and family will love – all on a budget.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Frugal Christmas Tips and Homemade Goodies

Remember: Christmas is not about what you buy, it's about what you do!

Christmas drives me nuts! Well not Christmas itself, just the rampant commercialisation of the festive season that puts pressure on people to live way beyond their means once a year, that drives me insane with anger.  Not in our house though! No way!

I tell my daughters, and have done since they were really small, that Santa has a £20 limit when he gives presents.  If he spends more then £20 on one gift then someone else will have to miss out.  It has worked for years and they don't complain about the gifts that they get.  You can buy loads for £20 if you shop around and are a bit savvy.  I scour charity shops for copies of books that they like and for toys in good condition that I can wrap nicely.  I also buy books for them at Red House and other online book retailers that offer cheap reasonably priced books.  They LOVE crafting so I made up my own craft kids or sewing kits for them using bits and bobs that I pick up at Charity Shops, haberdashery shops and Scrapstore events.

The also know that they will get one homemade gift each.  That could be a crocheted doll, knitted scarf or handmade tote bag or handbag.  I made all 3 teddy bears one year, it was hard getting time to do the sewing as youngest wasn't at Nursey then but was worth it when they loved their bears.  They've slept with their bears every night since and they are treasured toys.

Most Christmases they get also get a pair of Winter boots each, because they need them for the inclement weather, but we use them as Christmas stockings and put stocking fillers in them.  My girls like writing sets, felt pens or small craft kits.

We don't spend loads of money as we don't have loads of money. We spend time and effort though and that's what my girls remember, much more love and care put into gifts than expensive plastic toys that last a few months before they get bored with them.

I know not everyone is a sewing, knitting, cooking goddess so here are my tips for a frugal, budget conscious Christmas:

Set limits. Decide as a family, or extended family, what the spending limits will be. Will there be a £5 secret santa type present for adults and then a £10 for children, or some other limit that everyone is comfortable with. There's nothing worse than having to spend loads of money on gifts for every long lost relative then being broke for 3 months after Christmas. 

Make a list when you go shopping of who wants what and the spending limit for each person and stick to it. Check out loads of retailers online to see which is the cheapest for that particular gift and use vouchers when you can to cover the cost of gifts. For example, Tesco has double the value of it's vouchers when you spend them on kids toys.  Take advantage of 3 for 2 offers when you can, but only if you need 3 of what's on offer. Don't just buy stuff in the hope you will use it, you'll forget you have it and discover it well after Christmas.

Charity shops are fab! Look for containers to put homemade treats in, fabric for homemade decorations, novelty Christmas tablecloths, teatowels and other Christmas decorations.  Pillowcases and sheets make fab tote bags, with an online tutorial and a little sewing.  Make sure you give all your charity finds a good wash when you get them home as some can have a musty smell and you want things smelling fresh as a daisy not like they've been stored for 30 years by Aunt Maisie.  My daughters have had many items of clothing from Charity Shops that I have rejuvinated by adding some trim around the bottom, an iron on transfer or some applique.  It's new to them, not necessarily brand new LOL

Homemade hampers are LOADS cheaper than store bought ones and you can tailor gifts to the person who will receive it.  I made a huge amount of jam, chutney and preserves this year.  I had the time since my Mum was here for summer holidays, and I also used the times when my girls were at school to cook some up too.  Most of the fruit was free from our garden, forraged from hedgerows or bartered for in exchange for baking, childcare or help weeding allotments.  I bought cheap jars in Charity Shops, used recycled jars collected from friends, and also bought some from Lakeland.  If you can make your own, then do because it can be a really pleasant way to spend an afternoon (crank up the music and get cooking!), and will save you loads of money.  Sometimes I make a fabric bag instead of using a big box or basket to put the contents of the hamper in, it gives the recipient another gift to reuse as well as loads to eat.

Homemade gifts don't have to be time consuming and a load of faff. Truffles are just chocolate, cream and flavouring melted together and rolled. Honeycomb is also really easy to make, as are cake pops.  Chocolate covered teaspoons paired with cups, saucers and some posh coffee make great gifts too. 

Pick manageable crafts and edible treats to make, don't run yourself ragged.  Yeah, I know, pot/kettle!  There are lots of biscuit and muffin recipes that can be frozen or that keep for ages.  Do what you can, when you can. Take a little time to enjoy Christmas and stop for a cuppa once in a while.

Put it on a stick! Cookies and cake pops make impressive gifts and you can get away with giving someone half a dozen prettily packaged items as a gift. It makes your creations go much further. If you gave someone 6 plain cookies they would think you were a scrooge. If they're on sticks, somehow half a dozen looks impressive. LOL

Wrap your homemade baking and gifts well.  You've spent energy and effort making gifts so make an effort with presentation too. It needn't be expensive either. Cover cardboard trays, boxes, etc in Christmas paper to recycle them. Look out for cheap ribbon, cellophane, baking tins and glass jars to put your goodies in.

Fabric diary, recipe book, ring binder or bible covers make fab gifts for those who seemingly have everything.  Last year I gave my daughters school teachers and the school senior management team a fabric diary cover each, they selected their fabric of choice from a selection of fat quarters that I bought into school and I borrowed one of the ESPO diaries to use as a template.  I had them all made in one day, I cut them out in the morning and then sewed them up in the afternoon.  There are fab tutorials available online that can help you.

Swap with your friends.  They may be good at making things that you aren't, swap what you make and then you both benefit.  If you have 50 jars of chutneys and preserves like I do, swap with a friend who has made loads of Christmas cakes or other goodies. Tis a winner all round.

Have a Chistmas Craft Afternoon and enjoy spending time with friends helping each other make gifts that will save money and have a good cuppa and natter at the same time.

Get your kids involved.  It's a really hard hearted and rude person who will turn their nose up at a homemade gift made by adorable children.  They wouldn't dare hurt their feelings, would they?!  It also has the added benefit of keeping kids amused when the weather outside is cold and awful and they are bored in the school holidays leading up to Christmas.

Recycle what you can, make your own when you can.  Use old Christmas cards as gift tags, old tins as plant pots or baking tins for mini Christmas cakes, get your kids to make wrapping paper from plain paper, and use Christmas tea towels to wrap bags of baked goodies or Christmas cakes in.  Make your own Christmas cards, gift tags and even stickers using a colour printer and your home computer.

Go plain when it comes to wrapping paper.  If you really can't resist shiny Christmas wrapping paper, buy plain colours like red, silver, green or gold or which can be used to wrap all kinds of presents all year round.

Self adhesive felt is craft material sent from heaven! It can be used to make decorations, just cut out shapes using cookie cutters as templates, add a loop of ribbon and stick two together. So simple! It can also be used to cover old tins that make great cookie holders in hampers. You can also use shapes cut from self adhesive felt to make Christmas cards, or stick them on cardboard and cut around them again to make gift tags.  So versatile, and not too expensive either.

OK, I have rambled on enough! It's your turn now.  Let me know your frugal Christmas tips and hints.  Let's all help our money go further this Christmas.

4 comments:

  1. Love this post. You are so creative.
    I can just imagine how lovingly your girls are going to look at their homemade gifts in the years to come and know how much they are loved.
    I don't really have any frugal tips for you. I spend too much. I am an only child from a very small family and when growing up there was really just Mum, Dad and me so I was spoiled at Christmas (they didn't have a lot of money but I know I got such a HUGE share of it!) and equally, I wanted to spoil Mum and Dad and continue to want to do so. But now I have a huge family of in-laws and I just can't give everyone what I would be used to giving Mum and Dad. Have always added some home made items but hope to do so increasingly more as I recognise the Christmas spirit in something lovingly made.
    We have a new tradition (only the past 3-4 years since my boys were born) of going to the local garden centre and each choosing one decoration for the tree. Means we spend a few pounds each year but the collection is gradually building and gives us wonderful memories of each year. Adam this year wanted a plain red bauble. That red shiny bauble is so loved and special. I chose a fabric owl. Such fun. Obviously, we should make them instead - maybe we'll do that one year.

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  2. Made the best decorations ever from coloured corrugated card - red or green, only corrugated on one side. Glued shapes back to back so both sides were bumpy, then brushed the tops of the ridges with gold paint and sprayed with glitter. We made masses and masses of them, and 11 years later they still look stunning!

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  3. You have so many wonderful ideas. I love christmas but also hate the commercialisation of it although I am guilty of falling into the marketing trap on more than one occasion! I will definitely be using many of your ideas. Thank you again!

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  4. Your ideas are fab, I need to come back with a pen and paper later lol

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