I love Christmas. That sounds like such a cliché, but I really do; especially now we have a little one. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take her for a wander around the Christmas section of a large department store (late October isn’t too early to do that right?). Her face when she saw the fairy lights, the baubles, the giant laughing Santa…!
But although having a little person helps bring the ‘magic’ back to Christmas, it also means money’s a lot tighter. Some people suggested we forego presents altogether this year, which was a good idea and would have helped our bank balance no end, but (and call me materialistic), I think someone should have something to open on Christmas day. Not necessarily expensive, but something well thought out and meaningful.
So then someone was insane enough to suggest we didn’t decorate. Not decorate! No fairy lights, no tree, no tacky snowman that sings ‘Jingle Bells’ every time we pass him. What fun would that be for our daughter (and us)?
So no, gifts will be happening, and the house will be adorned… BUT after years of practise (and hours trawling Pinterest) we’ve found that if you’re willing to be creative you (literally) can spend pennies instead of pounds.
Make your own decorations
You can find ‘make your own tree hanging’ kits in almost every shop around this time of year, and it’s a great little activity to get stuck into with the children (or your inner child). But if you can’t find any cheap kits, you can get the materials usually for a lot cheaper. Pinterest is a great place to get ideas, some include making Christmas Trees out of squares of felt (I was able to make 4 out of a 60p sheet of green felt), or buying modelling clay and pressing pretty much any shape you want into it and leaving it to dry (a cute idea I saw was imprints of keys; first house, first car and so on). Cheap polystyrene balls, which you can get in most craft shops, make great baubles and you can get really creative with ribbon and glitter.
It doesn’t have to stop with tree decorations either – you can make your own wreaths by nabbing some ivy or holly from the garden (or a neighbour’s – ask permission!). If you’re wanting something a bit more unusual (and have some time to invest), you can get large plain cardboard shapes from craft stores and decorate them yourself. A few years ago I bought a 3ft cardboard tree from Hobbycraft and decoupaged it with different shades of green wrapping paper. It looked amazing and now stands in our hall every year – much cheaper than most fake trees, and more original! I also bought a plain wooden advent calendar; some blue paper and glittery numbers later, and we have something we can use year after year, for much less than it would have cost had it already been decorated.
Make gifts for all!
You don’t have to stop with decorations either – you can get stuck in to crafting gifts too, for almost anyone. For the proud grandparent – how about something made by the children? Let them loose on a pound shop photo frame with some glue and glitter, and then slip in a photo of them all together to finish it off. For the baker of the family, ‘one-mix jars’ are a great idea – you simply layer up the dry ingredients for something Christmassy (cookies for example) into a mason jar, and dress it up with ribbons and a cute little ‘instructions’ tag (the recipient just needs to add the ‘wet’ ingredients and bake). Baby jars are incredibly versatile little things – fill them up with sweets, make novel little snow globes with some water and glitter (you can find great how-to’s online), or melt down old candles and refill – you’d just need to buy a wick.
Hampers are also a godsend. Little baskets and some ribbon are all you need, and you can fill them with items bought separately. The really great thing about hampers is that, although they can be done on a budget, they are also incredibly thoughtful. They can cater for anyone – face masks, bubble bath and candles for that person that seriously needs to relax; chocolate, biscuits and hot chocolate for that Christmas foodie.
I could go on forever, but the morale of the story is that Christmas doesn’t need to be expensive and can be just as fun and meaningful if you’re willing to get creative and get your hands dirty. Get excited about ideas you see online or in stores, start collecting items now and set aside a couple of hours a week to crack on. Get family involved and have a Christmas Craft afternoon with the kids (complete with Christmas songs if you’re that way inclined).
There’s nothing wrong with starting the Christmas experience in November, and what better than standing back on Christmas Day and thinking… ‘I did that!’