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.
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’
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.
Just don’t put out one of those Facebook posts that says ‘I’m not buying cards for environmental reasons, instead I’m donating to charity’ because if there’s one thing nobody wants to read, it’s that. Why? Because not sending a card isn’t about saving the planet, it’s about not being arsed and we know it. Also, you can buy cards directly from a local or independent charity, so you’re not fooling anyone.
Let’s talk about Christmas DIY gifts
I would talk about making cards here, but who has the time for that unless you’ve got a mild dose of Covid or are housebound after breaking your ankle at the disco? I mean, if you want to make cards, it’s a very thoughtful and much appreciated thing to do, but once you’re over the age of 10, nobody expects it.
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. Do not try to save time and effort by presenting a loved one with a tin of tuna, unless they are actually a cat.
Do not try to save time and effort by presenting a loved one with a tin of tuna, unless they are actually a cat.
Chocolate fudge with hazelnuts and marshmallows (I just made that up) would look pretty and you can leave out the nuts if you’re making it for little ones (as in kids, not small people, they can eat nuts). Disclaimer: do not make for someone who is allergic to nuts. Unless you don’t like them.
Are you one of those annoying 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 (this one is great, because you get to look after a dog rather than a child). You could offer a three-course Champagne dinner at your place (please, if you are a lousy cook, do not offer this) for a friend or boyfriend, or a few lessons in whatever you’re good at. I don’t mean sex, I was thinking more piano, sewing or another language but in theory, 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.
I mean who, at 50, wouldn’t want the ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 7’ album with Nik Kershaw, Tears for Fears, and – I’m just guessing now – ‘You Spin Me Round’ by Dead or Alive? Wrap them nicely with a bar of decent chocolate or an ‘80s tuck box as an accompaniment. Job done for a fiver. Caramac, anyone?
Give with love, but don’t give away your children’s inheritance
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, make-up bags, or a PDF of sex tips; and then panic, drink half a bottle of Prosecco 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.