Have a merry, thrifty Christmas

SOME shops have had their shelves lined with Christmas cards since August, but when December finally came around I still found myself financially unprepared for the season of giving. As I stared into the gaping chasm of my bank account, I wondered how I was going to buy food, let alone presents. But being broke at Christmas doesn’t have to result in a festive tumbleweed blowing across the carpet when it’s your turn to give gifts. Some of the best presents I have ever received are the ones that have been handmade by friends and family; I will treasure them all the more knowing the time and thought that went into them. So, without further ado, here are some tips on how to make D.I.Y. Christmas gifts on a budget.

…From scratch

2013-12-04 22.02.24I once made my dad a snake out of Hama beads, and although it was cheap, it was hands down the most awkward present I have ever given. However, not all homemade gifts need to look so obviously homemade and unprofessional. If you’re already a talented artist, then I envy you- and you’ve already got your gift solution sorted. An original piece of art is always great to own, especially if you know it’s been made just for you, based on your tastes.

If you’re not particularly handy with a paintbrush there plenty of other ways you can get creative. As the weather is getting colder, making woollen clothes and accessories will go down well. Knitting isn’t too hard to learn, and a simple scarf is quite easy to make. If you have younger family members, you could also try your hand at making toys out of wool or fabric; this can even be done with something as simple as a pair of socks!

When thinking of ideas for D.I.Y. presents, there’s no shame in referring back to your school craft days for inspiration. At primary school we made tea light holders out of clay by making the shape of the holder, pressing a candle in to make the indent. After this we painted the tea light holder and decorated it with beads and sequins. Ideas like this can be recycled, but obviously looking more professional when made by your adult self! Remember, when trying to make something look professional, less is definitely more (it’s also less costly).

Another firm favourite is homemade food, because who doesn’t love food? Be wary though, your gift-receiver may already have a cupboard crammed with festive snacks, and may be sick of them. Either way, I know I certainly can’t get enough of the sweet treats at Christmas. There are recipes for gift-size food that suit any taste, from biscuits, flapjacks and truffles that can be wrapped in cellophane and tied with a ribbon for a cute, sweetshop look.

Cake decorating shops stock gift boxes for edible gifts, but you can find them cheaper on Ebay. You could also make flavoured syrup, jam and, for loved ones with less of a sweet tooth, chutney. You could put this in an old jar, cover the lid in fabric, tie with a ribbon and add a customised label. Last year I made fruity flapjacks for my mum, but the ingredients cost £10 and I had a lot of flour and dried fruit left over; it seemed extortionate for a box of flapjacks. Because of the cost of ingredients, it is often easier to make food in a larger batch and give it to a few different people.

…Customisation

1386623491657If you’re not a natural craftsperson, don’t worry. You can easily personalise existing products.

As all students are aware, Poundland very much exists, and it’s a godsend (everything’s a pound, you know). Wrapping up a one pound picture frame and giving it to your mum may not be the best present ever, BUT you can make it a lot more personal. Basic photo frames, diaries and clocks are very easy to customise, and the shop even sells packs of stickers, ribbons and other embellishments. If you can’t find the decorations you need in Poundland, you could also try the haberdashery. I customised the frame on the right using snippets of ribbon and buttons from the haberdashery and ribbon from Poundland. The most expensive part of the gift was the glue I used to stick it together.

Another idea I’ve used before, and one that can be quite festive, is to take a plain glass tea light holder, or even an old glass, and glue coloured, translucent paper on the outside, so when you light a candle and put it inside, it gives a out a nice colourful glow.

…Photo memories

Nowadays, most of our photos are kept on a computer, but it’s still nice to have an album or scrapbook of memories to flick through. Thanks to Facebook, if you choose to make a scrapbook you will probably have plenty of photos to choose from, and you can fill blank pages with anecdotes that are sure to make your loved one smile. You can also buy scrapbook paper, or simply  use wrapping paper or magazine clippings to decorate the pages and the cover.

When I visit my grandmother, my eye is always drawn to the photo montage she has on her wall, with lots of photo cut-outs of family members all jumbled together in a mass of memories. Large photo frames can be bought fairly cheaply (once again, Poundland is good) and you can be as creative as you want in displaying your photographs within the frame.

I hope you’ve found this little guide useful and, whether you’re broke or rolling in it, have a lovely Christmas, and remember: it’s the thought, not the money you spend, that makes a gift special. Now, if you don’t mind, I have some festive chutney to make.