I know it’s still October, but that’s not too early to start thinking about Christmas! Finding a great list of cheap presents in mid-December can be way too late to get them delivered in time. This is especially important if you have problem debts – some advance planning will help keep the costs down so Xmas 2016 will be less stressful and you won’t be left paying the cost well into 2017.
Cut down on adult presents
Choosing presents for children can be fun, but buying things for adults often isn’t. You spend ages dithering over whether your sister would like some pasta bowls or a scented candle, whilst she tries to work out if you would prefer some cocktail glasses or a scented oil diffuser. You don’t really want either – and neither does she!
Why not phone your brothers, sisters and parents up and agree no presents this year? Or set a maximum amount of £10? Do this early, don’t wait until December!
Think about home-made presents. I’m not suggesting knitting a scarf for your dad unless you are actually good at knitting, when that could be perfect! But some of the following may appeal and don’t require advanced cookery or craft skills:
- make fruit / herb gin / vodka. Supermarket basic spirits are fine. I use IKEA Korken jars – large, Kilner style jars for £1.75. I like this citrus vodka.
- flavoured olive is easy to make and perfect for any friends who like food or cooking;
- make a scrabble tile picture, arranging family and pet names, road names, town etc and framing them – look on Etsy for inspiration for what you can make yourself. Tile are usually on sale on eBay pretty cheaply, wooden ones can look good.
- make a collage from photographs of your children for grandparents and frame it.
- ‘cabochon’ settings are an easy way to make jewellery. You need a setting (for a pendant or bracelet etc) then get flat-backed stones (these are the cabochons) which are the right size for the setting and some clear glue… I made the earrings on the right and I’m useless at crafts!
Tell people what your children need
Grandparents and aunts/uncles who don’t have children often love to be told what your kids would really like. Left to themselves they may get something that is the wrong age, colour (not all little girls love pink!) or just isn’t really right.
Tell them what your kids need and make their life easy, your kids will smile when they unwrap the present and also cut your own costs in 2017 – So everyone will be happy!
- pyjamas, dressing gowns, slippers, jumpers, sweatshirts – anything fun, warm and snuggly can seem like a good Xmas present. For all of these, be as specific as possible. “Matalan’s Koala Pyjamas, aged 7”.
- outdoor stuff such as wellingtons, football boots (next size up if your child already has a pair?), balls, bats, rackets etc. Scooters and bikes if their budget permits!
- new duvet cover? Argos have a range of children’s themed ones such as this Marvel Avengers one.
Presents for your children
Make sure stockings for the kids have a lot of the things are useful rather than plastic tat: a new toothbrush, pair of socks, pair of pants, small bubble bath or shower gel. My kids always got chocolate coins and a satsuma as well. Adult stationery things such as post-it notes, packet of blu-tac and Their Very Own Sellotape can prove surprisingly popular!
I’ve asked a group of friends what big hits they have had with inexpensive presents:
- Under two? Several inflated balloons in a large box!
- 2-5 ping-pong balls – you will not believe how long toddlers can enjoying dropping these down the stairs…
- 3-5 create a craft kit by dyeing macaroni and penne pasta several different colours and put them in a box with string and glue. Or make these Christmassy-melted crayons.
- 4-10 a really huge set of felt-tip pens or pencils; also other arty-crafty things such as paper, notepads, letter and number stencils.
- 4-10 hex bugs;
- 4-10 Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story Fifteen stories and recipes for children to help with from the Bake Off winner.
- 4- late teens get a poster, from kittens to cocktails via pop groups and superheroes;
- 10-14 a diary with a little lock on it;
- Early teens – a bundle of second-hand DVDs from eBay – chick flicks or action movies! Look out for these now, the bundles will be more expensive in December;
- teens – “Wreck this Journal” – very silly and amusing tasks;
- 17-21 “Nosh for Students – A Fun Student Cookbook“
Groupon often has toy offers (but you will get bombarded with offers from them so it could prove expensive unless you are strong-willed!) Don’t forget to check freecycle / freegle for larger toys such as trampolines or bikes.
If you have been buying a tree every year, it’s time to stop that expensive habit. Get a cheap one – when it’s decorated no-one will know.
If you like crafts, there are lots of ideas on Pinterest for making Christmas crafts and making decorations for the tree or to hang up. There is a clear video here on making easy paper snowflake decorations.
If you have a child (or your inner child?) who likes making things, this Usborne book has printed sheets and instruction on how to cut, fold and stick them into decorations. 5-7s will need some help but 8+ can probably manage on their own.
Looking at supermarket trollies piled to overflowing just before Christmas you might think the shops were going to close for a fortnight, not just a day:
- does everyone like an iced fruitcake? Most children and lots of adults would prefer a chocolate log;
- make your own cranberry sauce. This makes a nice present for other people as well!
- kids hate Christmas pudding? Bake a tray of brownies on Xmas eve, cut out small rounds, top with whipped cream and a strawberry – Santa’s hats!
- ditch the big production roast turkey for a curry (great if you have a vegetarian to feed), or a Mexican feast, or lasagna…;
- save up your Nectar or Clubcard points from now and use them for the Xmas shop.
Create your own traditions!
Invent some new – and cheap! – family traditions:
- compile a set of cheesy Xmas songs to play whilst cooking or making crafty things with the kids;
- read every children’s picture book about Xmas (plus one new one?) at bedtime on Christmas Eve. We always finished with The Night Before Christmas!
- have hot sausage rolls and a drink before opening presents on Christmas Day morning;
- candles or tea-lights make any room seem special for small children – and quite a few adults :)
Time spent together is the best gift
Above all, get the children involved as much as possible in preparations. In future years, they will happily remember the year they made Christmas tree ornaments and decorated gingerbread biscuits and forget that the pile of presents didn’t cost a fortune.
This post was first published in 2014. It is updated with new ideas and links every year.