As promised, I thought I would share with you some of my homemade budget Christmas ideas.
I will often make just one or two things one year and give it to everyone, and the next year make a different thing and give it everyone so I can keep track of who has received what. (And also avoid giving people the same thing year after year after year as that gets super old and boring very quickly).
Obviously in posting this, some of you may get a preview of what’s coming your way this year, so it won’t be a surprise, but try and forget about it by Christmas anyway!
Not only are these ideas generally fairly cheap, especially if you have saved up your jam jars all year or found things for free on local freecycle groups, but they are also usually much appreciated by the recipients as they are thoughtful and homemade. Many of us these days get inundated with “tat” at Christmastime – lovely to get gifts but I think almost all adults (and most kids) will get at least one gift that will go straight to the charity shop in January! More and more people are keen to not only save money but also reduce the need for more “stuff” that will clutter up their homes. (I always keep a list of things I genuinely want or need for myself on hand so if anyone asks me what I want I can direct them to things I have been specifically wanting like a new casserole pot or a trivet etc to avoid too much random stuff!).
Anyhow, hopefully these ideas will not only be good for your wallet but also for your environmental impact! And if you don’t have your own jam jars, bottles or containers, first check places like freecycle and local facebook “hand me on” type groups, as it’s likely you can get it for free, but if not, places like Ikea and Hobbycraft or Wilko often have cheap jars, bottles and containers you can use.
Homemade Body Scrub
- Salt or Sugar
- Coconut Oil
- Apricot oil or similar
- Essential oils
- Food colouring or natural dye
- Jars to put it in
I like to use clip-top jars for this (needs to have a wide enough opening to get your hand into) but unfortunately they tend to rust, so re-using plastic tubs (eg conditioning treatment or hair mask tubs) might be better if less pretty to look at.
I typically use about half coconut oil and half apricot oil otherwise it ends up either too solid or too runny, but you can experiment. Sugar gives you a coarser scrub and salt gives a finer one, but either works. I find that large bags of salt are often cheaper but it depends on your supermarket as well. You can use olive oil or other oils but they often carry a strong smell so I avoid them if I can.
I don’t have a specific recipe – just slowly add the oils to the salt or sugar until it is the right sort of consistency, and then add in your essential oils for a nice smell (or you can combine them to make your own fragrance) and add colouring to make it look nice. It lasts a long time and the oils and salt leave your skin feeling clean, scrubbed, moisturised and soft.
Jams and Chutneys
I won’t put specific recipes here, there are many on the internet, but in general jams, marmalades and chutneys are fairly easy to make, delicious and a thoughtful gift. Save up your old jam jars and put nice labels on them, or top with fabric or ribbons for a festive touch.
Sometimes I will get hold of nice little baskets and make mini gift baskets with them or re-use gift bags. You could also buy a nice cheese to go with a homemade chutney as a nice gift, though probably cheaper and more long-lasting without!
The key to homemade foodstuffs is timing – some chutneys and jams will happily last for 6 months or more if the jars have been sterilised properly and it has been prepared well, and some chutneys may “mature” and taste better a month or so after being made. Be sure to check your recipe and plan accordingly but also remember that these can usually be made at least a month in advance and takes a lot of stress out of December if you are organised!
Foraging for berries or apples can also make this a cheaper option – just make sure you know what you are collecting and don’t poison anyone!
This is one of my favourites as it is so easy to make and delicious!
Get cheap vodka (it doesn’t matter at all what kind it is), and add sugar and lemon zest (not the juice) and some water. Leave it to sit for a couple of weeks (stirring occasionally) and voila! Remove the zest, bottle and share!
The amounts of zest and sugar you can adjust to taste – I use this recipe usually.
Do note however that the limoncello usually starts out a bright, fluoro yellow and can sometimes turn a darker, more urine-type yellow over time. Doesn’t affect the taste at all but can be off-putting to some…
Sloes are ideal for foraging as long as you know what to look for and where to find them.
In the old days the general rule was to pick the sloes after the first frost for the best flavour, but frankly nowadays if you wait for the frost all the sloes will be gone. Either climate change or other foragers and birds!
Some people will pick them when ripe and then freeze them at home before bottling the gin (I’m not sure what this does or why, i guess to simulate the frost?). Again, buy any old cheap gin, add some sugar and the sloes (make sure you prick them all over first with a pin or knife to help the juices to come out while it’s steeping, but don’t make my mistake and freeze them first as you won’t be able to prick them!).
Once all the sloes and sugar and gin are in the bottles I would leave it for around a month, shaking it once in a while to dissolve the sugar etc. Once it’s all done, adjust the sugar to taste and bottle it. A perfect Christmas drink!
Apricot Brandy / Plum Brandy / Rhubarb and Ginger Gin
Some of these are harder to achieve in the autumn as it depends if you can find the right fruits in season (or you need to plan this wayyyyy earlier in the year!) but these are all also delicious – same principles, add fruit and sugar to your alcohol of choice and leave it for a while to steep. Some are nice with added spices like orange zest and cinnamon, to make them extra Christmassy, and there are loads of recipes online you can look up.
I don’t mean for shops though they are always nice, but you can also hand-make personalised vouchers for your friends and family for things you can do for them, such as to make them a nice meal or a massage/foot rub, movie night, or night out to the theatre etc.
Last year I made most of my friends vouchers for a nice dinner, cooked by moi, and it took me months to get around to doing it. Some people came over to mine and I cooked them a roast dinner or chinese feast etc, and some meals I delivered to others to cook at home. One friend who I recently took a casserole, 9 months after xmas, said it was just what she needed and she didn’t mind at all that it was so late!
A friend gave me one of these last year and it was brilliant (spoiler alert everyone I know is getting one of these this year!).
All you need are some large kilner/mason jars (ideally 1 litre though you can also make them for 500ml versions), and basic dry ingredients like flour, sugar, chocolate chips etc.
The idea is that you find a nice cookie recipe that works for the ratio/size of your jar (there are lots of good ones out there if you google cookie jar recipes), and carefully layer the ingredients inside so that they look pretty, and you can choose things like chocolate chips, m&ms, or smarties for a bright pop of colour. Then you print out the instructions onto a label (they will usually need to add butter to their cookie recipe) and voila! Looks pretty, very cheap to make and all they have to do is dump out the jar into a bowl, add butter etc and mix and bake.
Knitting, Sewing and other crafts
I’m a big fan of knitting and sewing and so I will sometimes plan to knit relatively small items like wrist warmers or gloves or hats for people as gifts, or sew little bits and bobs from fabric scraps. These obviously take time so you need to plan ahead (depending on how fast you can knit!) and obviously if you’ve done this one year, it’s unlikely to be useful again for a few years!
Sometimes I will take on a bigger project like a jumper, but unfortunately I struggle to maintain interest in bigger projects, especially when life gets in the way. I’m still working on the jumper I meant to knit for my friend last Christmas!
This is another festive favourite – there are LOADS of ways to make beautiful ornaments really easily. A quick google will show you hundreds of choices from string and toothpicks to salted dough etc.
Obviously my favourite homemade decoration is my Brucie innna vent from Die Hard (cardboard, tin foil, glue/staples and a picture of Bruce Willis in the vent). It’s EPIC.
Photo in a frame
There are LOADS of old photo frames out there in charity shops, and available for free on sites like Freegle and Freecycle, and various facebook hand me on groups. A nice photo in a nice frame is a lovely and very cheap gift if you have sourced free frames.
Particularly battered frames can also be upcycled by painting them, decorating with glitter if the recipient likes that sort of thing, or decoupaged with tissue paper glued over it, etc.
Homemade Wrapping Paper
Another nice idea is to make some homemade fabric wrapping paper or gift bags. More and more people are conscious of the environmental impact of their wrapping paper – especially the non-recyclable kind! A nice fabric gift bag or even just wrapped in a festive bit of cloth is something that they can keep and re-use themselves.
I also tend to keep any paper gift bags I receive throughout the year and re-use them for Christmas and birthdays instead of using new wrapping paper.
That’s about all I can think of for now but I’ll let you know if any more ideas come to me!