You know how when Christmas approaches, we start counting our pennies and through all the excitement there sneaks kind of a regret for having to spend money that we sometimes don’t even have. That usually happens because, unlike birthdays, which are fairly evenly distributed along the year, Christmas is a time when everyone can and usually does get a present. So, the more people you know, the larger your family is, the more presents you need to prepare.
Well, going a few years back, my father had this brilliant idea. He suggested we put a cap on presents’ spending, which is the equivalent of 2,5£ per person. You might think – “That’s impossible to achieve?!”. Well, we have been doing that for three years now and believe me – it IS possible and it’s quite the fun. Not to mention that there’s the added benefit of not feeling bad about spending too much money.
How it all came to be
I am speculating here, but I think my father came up with this suggestion for a couple of reasons. First of all, I think that my parents have always been worried about us spending money for them. They know that we (my sister and I) are adults now, we have jobs and families, and basically, we are not in a worse position than them. However, they’ve always wanted the best for us, which also includes spending our money for ourselves instead of them. And secondly, I think they were also tired, as we were, of going far and beyond on spending way too much on useless expensive stuff, just because we ran out of ideas what to give each other. This, at least if you end up with lots of things you don’t use, they would not be too bulky and expensive to throw out.
After a few years of doing this, I have already created a strategy for myself. The most important step of it is to plan ahead. That is because most of the time I order the presents from various Chinese websites, where it might take quite a while for things to arrive. The first couple of years, for example, I would order things a month in advance only for them to arrive a week after Christmas, which was no good.
Know your shops
With time you’ll get to know which the “good” shops are where you can buy cheap, but fun items. However, mostly these are various “pound”-stores (back home I used their equivalent). In the UK, I have already set my eyes on a couple more. The usual suspect are Primark, and in addition Flying Tiger (not sure if it exist in most towns in the UK, but there are at least 2 near where we are). This second one sells all kinds of novelty stuff, often at very low prices and I can definitely recommend.
Make it yourself (cheap DIY presents)
Sometimes it might be much cheaper making the presents yourself. Of course you need to have some creative flair and ideas, as well as be fairly good at this. However, if you are – you might be able to come up with some really good and cheap presents.
Buy in bulk
If you think there are things that will appeal to most of the people you’re buying presents for, sometimes it might be cheaper to buy in bulk. That is especially true if you want to add some sweets and chocolates, using the big sharing packs.
Get online ideas
Use websites like Etsy and Pinterest to gather ideas. They are full of DIY project most of which are very easy to execute. Especially on Pinterest there might even be some tutorials, video including.
We often buy one present for the whole family in order to afford a bigger budget. It is sometimes much easier to find a cheap present for £5 for two people than two individual ones for £2,5.
I guess you have been waiting for this one for a while. I will just list some of the most memorable cheap presents we’ve done and have received. Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of these, as I did not think at the time that I will be writing about it.
- T-shirts with felt Christmas ornaments – We did this for my sister and her husband. I bought some colourful felt sheets and a couple of t-shirts. The end result was Rudolf-shaped felt pieces sewn onto the t-shirts.
- Fabric shopping bags – I bought like 10 plain bags on Amazon and some textile markers. Then made different Christmas-related drawings on the bags and gave one to every one of our family to shop with. Not sure if they are using them, but I think they liked them.
- Coin boxes shaped in the form of a safe, filled with chocolate and regular coins. Idea was that we were giving them their first installment for whatever they wanted to buy themselves, as well as a “vessel” to help them save the remaining amount.
- For my parents we bought a plain wooden chopping board and with a pyrograph we tried to make some drawings on it. We divided the board into separate squares and each square would have a drawing of а different symbol (a suitcase, paper bills, etc.). The idea was for them to use the board as a cheese board, and when you pick up a piece of cheese you reveal a fortune – something like fortune cookies but reusable and with cheese.
- We’ve received some really nice Christmas decoration and you can never get too much of this.
- Last year as we were about to move abroad, we asked for no bulky presents, so my sister baked us some really delicious Christmas cookies and made us bags of reindeer noses. All edible, so there was nothing we had to carry on the plane with us.
Of course, there’s been lots of mugs and kitchen stuff. Not so interesting, but very useful. However, I feel like we are all getting more and more creative every year, so I am always looking forward to opening these.
So, it may be too late for you to introduce this tradition into your family, but you can still have that in mind for the next one.
I need to admit, though, that we don’t keep that tradition for the children’s presents. We go full on with them, because we just cannot help ourselves. Maybe when they grow into teenagers and start buying presents themselves, we could include them in this tradition.
Let me know what you think of that idea or if you have some other fun gift giving tradition for Christmas.