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Dreaming of a tight (but bright) Christmas

2 minute read

Panicking about how you’re going to afford to buy Christmas presents this year? We’ve got the answer… and it’s DIY!

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re the kind of person who usually sends a Christmas card to everyone you’ve ever met, stop right there. Condense your list. Save them for those dearest, but not actually nearest – elderly relatives for whom a card means a great deal, rather than your downstairs neighbour or friends, to whom you can wish a Happy Christmas in person.

Pick up the phone to friends or family the week before Christmas – set aside a weekend afternoon to catch up on timed calls, if need be. A ten-minute chat that starts with, ‘I don’t have long, but I wanted to wish you a lovely Christmas in the absence of a card and see how you were’ should do it.

Let’s talk about making things

If you’re handy in the kitchen, ask friends to save glass jars for you and make some festive treats. I’m making pickled things this year; I’ve got four jars of cucumbers on the go and last year, when I had a garden full of tomato plants, I made endless jars of tomato chutney.

You don’t have to have spent all weekend picking blackberries to make jam, either – just buy a bag of frozen ones (or mixed berries) and work with those. Defrost them first, obviously.

Fudge or shortbread also make great gifts, and because they both keep for ages you can wrap them up nicely (put some foil around the fudge, though) and pop them in the post. Try cardamom, Earl Grey, lemon, or coffee shortbread.

Chocolate fudge with hazelnuts and marshmallows would look pretty and you can leave out the nuts if you’re making it for little ones. (Disclaimer: don’t make this for someone who is allergic to nuts!)

Are you one of those lucky people who can sew? If so, why not make simple tote bags from nice fabrics? You can source some lovely vintage pieces by the metre on Etsy or eBay. I have an annoying friend who can sew (she’s lovely, but I can’t even put a button on straight so her ability to make stuff is annoying). And every year she makes me a make-up bag, an eye mask, or a lavender sleep pillow thing. What takes her about 10 minutes would take me about three days (while turning the air blue in the process) so if you’ve got the skills, use them!

Give of thyself

If you really are short on time and skills, give vouchers. Not for shops, but for your time after Christmas. If you’ve got siblings with young children, give them babysitting vouchers so they can go out together.

If you have a friend with a dog, do the same. You could offer a three-course Champagne dinner at your place for a friend or boyfriend, or a few lessons in whatever you’re good at. Piano, sewing or another language. In fact, anything goes - it’s Christmas!

Give whilst giving back

One last idea – charity shops. You can’t beat a good browse. You could set aside a day, put on your comfiest trainers, take a snack (remember, you’re being frugal) and look for books in great condition, or records.

What you mustn’t do is fall foul of ‘The Present Guilt Trap’. This is the moment you feel really bad for having only made fudge, pickles or make-up bags..  and then panic and end up spending £400 on the John Lewis website at 1am on 22nd December!

It’s been a tough few years. Give with love, but don’t give away your children’s inheritance. It’s the thought that counts – remember that.

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