Many people are starting to cut down on the cost of Christmas, some to keep their budget in check and some as part of a more sustainable way of life. Handmade gifts are treasured now and there is an appreciation for the thought and skill that goes into making them so it’s a good gift option for Christmas. It’s a bit late in the year to start some gifts from scratch but I’ve got a few ideas for others that may help you give without big price tags.
A few years ago I culled my list to the bare bone, and this is crucial. I realised that giving gifts just for the sake of it, or because they were expected, is wasteful and adds significantly to our overspending culture and pollution problems. I think many of you will be surprised to find that some of your friends and family will be relieved that you decided to stop buying gifts for everyone. If they decide to do the same thing, it will have a flow on effect by reducing the expense of Christmas for them too.
I love receiving homemade gifts. It shows me that someone has put time and effort into my gift. If you decide to give hand made gifts you should think carefully about what that person would like. There are certain gifts that many people like – such as the ever popular homemade soap, candles, chocolates and truffles, preserves, chutney and jams. Soap won’t be ready for Christmas giving this year but you can easily make preserves, biscuits, gingerbread, chocolates, truffles and candles as well as knitted and sewn items.
If you’re a knitter there are many small projects for you such as fingerless mittens and scarves. Go to ravelry.com for patterns for these and many other projects. One of my favourite gifts to give is a neatly presented package of three hand-knitted, organic, cotton face or dishcloths with a bar of my pure olive oil soap. If you haven’t already made soap it’s too late to start now but you can knit a small pack of three of a pack of five clothes instead. If you have a sewing machine and you have fabric in the cupboard, make reusable paper towels, cloth napkins, tea towels, kitchen aprons, peg aprons, BBQ aprons, cushion covers or table runners. Search on YouTube.com for projects and tutorials.
For living gifts, pot seedlings that you can buy now from any plant nursery into a nice terracotta pot. Again, take into account the taste of the person you’re giving to but plants such as chillies, all sorts of herbs, bush cucumbers – there is a good one called Spacesaver, and tomatoes grow well in pots. The cucumbers and tomatoes can be potted in a small pot for your gift, and when they grow a bit, the person you give it to can pot it into a larger pot. There’s nothing like having fresh herbs growing near the back door where you can quickly pop out and pick them.
Next year, start thinking about Christmas gifts in June when the mid-year sales are on. Decide if you need to buy materials, ingredients or a product for each person on your gift list and do your shopping when the sales start. This will cut the cost considerably. Food gifts can be made from October right up to the Christmas week.
The most important thing is to make everything as beautifully as you can and make sure your gifts suit your recipients. Wrap them nicely in a tea towel or brown paper, decorated with leaves, ribbon or kids drawings and you’ll be giving a gift that is full of love and good intentions. And that, my friends, is the best gift of all.
Rhonda Hetzel is a retired journalist and technical writer best known for her award-winning blog, ‘Down to Earth’. Rhonda lives with her husband, Hanno, on the Sunshine Coast, where they happily tend a food garden, gather eggs and occasionally look after grandchildren. Rhonda is a keen volunteer worker and is often found presenting simple-living workshops in her community. She won the Green Lifestyle magazine’s Local Green Hero Award in 2014. Rhonda is the author of bestseller Down to Earth (2012) and Penguin Special, The Simple Life (2014).