For Christmas stockings, you can do a lot worse than raid the pound shop from about October onwards, allowing the same number of presents per child to avoid arguments. Babies’ stocking fillers can be bought from school fetes or jumble sales and cleaned up in the washing machine or dishwasher (I filled a first Christmas stocking for £2 once this way). In terms of main presents for children, it’s difficult to deal with the marketisation of childhood and retain your sanity in the festive season, but it might help to chant these phrases in your head like a mantra when the going gets tough.
- Toys are not evidence of parental affection.
- Toys are not a substitute for parental time.
- There’s no sense in having so many toys to play with you can’t choose what to do.
- The more toys they have, the more we have to tidy away.
- Most children play with 20% of their toys 80% of the time.
- It’s just too expensive and that’s that.
For adults, it’s sensible to set a ceiling of £5 or £10 so the present buying doesn’t get competitive or out of hand. It’s better to have a single, thoughtfully chosen gift that makes you smile when you think about it, than a clutch of things that have been given to you for the sake of it, and which you will forget shortly afterwards.
Make or reuse gift bags, which can be fiercely expensive if bought new. For wrapping paper, use brown paper sponged with gold, bronze and silver paint, or stamped with a gold Christmas motif of some kind. Finish off with gold ribbon. Or leave the brown paper plain and use country-style tartan ribbon instead. Iron previously used tissue paper on a very low heat with the steam turned off, and use it with simple paper or raffia ribbons. This can also be a good way of packaging gifts attractively whilst keeping down your carbon footprint and costs. Finally, make your own gift tags out of coloured card cut to look like a parcel label, tied with paper ribbon, raffia or string. Or cut out motifs from old Christmas cards and stick onto plain white card for a different effect.
Home made presents
Think about producing some of the following as presents with enhanced personal involvement.
- Jams and jellies, including from foraged food as in previous posts.
- Truffles and nut crunch in cellophane bags with Christmas ribbon.
- Shortbread biscuits
- Boiled fruit cake baked in a circle and put in a festive tin.
- Home made gift vouchers for babysitting, dog grooming, car valeting, beauty treatments, cooking, or whatever you are good at.
- Christmas greens such as ivies and holly, tied decoratively with raffia.
- Create stationery kits for young children by sticking on colourful scrapbook or gift wrap paper onto the front of a basic notebook, and then adding pencils, ruler, rubbers, sharpeners and so on in matching colour, presenting in a cellophane bag with a toning ribbon.
- Canvas shopping bags (available for a euro in most of Europe) with iron on names and pictures, for children to use to store their library books, so they don’t get lost.
- For cards, buy packets of 50 plain cream cards and envelopes, and make your own stamped design. Write the greeting inside in fountain pen, very elegantly. It may not be cheaper than cards from the pound shop, but it will be more thoughtful.