Getting Festive

So tomorrow everything goes a bit Christmas mad for a few weeks. As a young family we’ve put quite a bit of thought into Christmas and the traditions we want to build with our little people. Toddler monster is becoming more aware and more susceptible to the marketing frenzy. As parents we want to make sure our actions help him form his own values about what’s really important at Christmas.

On top of that, times are tight for lots of people. We are very lucky that we have enough money to support ourselves and our lifestyle but there’s not a fat lot left at the end of the month to account for a blow out festive season. On the flip side, we don’t want to be so thrifty that we spoil the fun for ourselves or others!

Having the initial conversation with your nearest and dearest can be the hardest part. The worry that you might offend or seem ungrateful is very real. I think making small changes each year and introducing new ideas slowly is the easiest way; emphasising the priority being time together over masses of gift giving. I’ve been quite surprised by how many of my friends and family are already applying money saving ideas to Christmas without screaming about it from the rooftops. You should be because they are fantastic ideas.

So this post is here to share some of those ideas and hopefully inspire you to consider some.

Secret Santa

I mentioned this in my last post. We’ve extended ours amongst some branches of our family this year. It seemed bonkers to be exchanging large amounts of gifts with people we hadn’t organised to see. So this year we’re doing a big Secret Santa and I can’t wait to share our time together. There are loads of websites that will organise it all for you now, all you have to do is agree a price. We have used this one.

Christmas Tombola

I’ve never tried this but I think it’s a fab idea. Each person brings a gift and a raffle ticket is stuck to it. You take turns to draw tickets until everyone has one gift. It sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to move towards lower value or home made items as gifts.

Second Hand Christmas

A friend of mine has sent me this idea and it certainly fits with the “reuse” element of following a more environmentally aware lifestyle. Everyone still gives gifts but commits to only buying second hand or from a charity shop. A financial limit can also be applied. A fantastic way of making sure your Christmas doesn’t add to our throw away culture.

Experience Christmas

Everyone has someone who’s hard to buy for because they already have everything they need. I remember gift experiences first becoming popular about 15 years ago when I had a Saturday job at WHSmith. Back then they were rather expensive but now there is an option for all budgets and over the years I’ve bought loads of them. But have you considered putting together your own? Do you have a friend or relative who’d absolutely love a babysitting voucher? Or a family picnic? Or a meal cooking? Or a garden project finishing? Or a day out at a place relating to a hobby or interest? I love the way this option makes you really think about what the other person would enjoy in terms of quality time. For kids, here are some great gift ideas that aren’t things.

Ethical Gift

A few years ago I was stuck for what to buy my brother so I bought him a goat. To be specific, I donated some money to Oxfam to buy someone else a goat and my brother got a fridge magnet and a clear conscience. He wasn’t massively impressed by this approach and the following year he got his own back and bought me two goats.

There is a time and a place for this kind of gift. As a teacher I’m inundated with chocolate and candles and mugs at this time of year. They are lovely and much appreciated but I don’t really “need” them. For years I’ve been trying to persuade my place of work to ask parents to put the money towards training a teacher or educating a child in a part of the world where people are not as fortunate as us. I shall keep trying. Maybe your work place would consider collecting money instead of sending Christmas cards?

Christmas Cards

I’ve already bought mine for this year but next year I shall definately be sending money towards a charity and going with a mass facebook post.

Please share your Christmas ideas with me and have a lovely advent!




  1. Liz Sowter

    December 2, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Hi Jess. I’m not in your league as far as ethical lifestyle is concerned, but I have ever enjoyed the materialistic excesses associated with Christmas. Here are a few of my ideas, some dating back to childhood, some more recent
    1. Anything can be a present
    One year my parents gave me a jar of pickled onions as a stocking-filler. I had tasted one at a friends house and loved it, so a whole jar for myself was amazing! Presents I have bought in recent years have included blister plasters and other essentials for my brother who was going on a walking holiday and items from the supermarket shelves to help my niece with quick economical cooking at university.
    2. Presents that keep on giving
    A friend once bought us a plant pot in the shape of a sheep. A couple of times a year the sheep seems to wander off and return restocked with new flowers!
    3. Photo gifts
    My brother usually gets a calendar made for my parents, with family photos for every month of the year. You could probably make one up yourself. When we send presents over to Carol’s mother in Canada I think that the photos inside the card are particularly treasured as she doesn’t have a computer. The other thing she wants more than anything is a CD of us playing the piano and cello together. We’re working on it …
    4. Support local businesses
    There must be a lot of creative people in the vicinity of Efail Isaf, the village in Wales where my sister lives. From a hand-carved wooden love spoon to handmade soaps (which didn’t really wash, but smelled nice!), many locally made gifts come our way. It’s lovely when there is a story behind the item too.
    5. Cards
    I avoid giving cards wherever possible, except when they provide an opportunity to say thank you to someone or send a special message to someone who needs it. We put up a piece of paper in the staff room, write messages and give money to charity. the cards that I do buy are always genuine charity ones, where all the profits go to the cause, not the ones where only 5% is donated. Read the back of the cards carefully!

    1. jess

      December 30, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      Thanks Liz, sorry I’m only just getting round to replying! I love all of your ideas – all so well thought through and carefully personalised! We’re so busy these days and with online shopping I think it can be easy to fall into the trap of ordering something generic as a quick fix. I’ll admit I’ve often opted to send an amazon voucher or a box of biscuits because I can’t think of what to buy. It was that lack of thought and consideration that made me realise we needed to rethink our approach to gift giving. I shall bank the knowledge that you’re partial to pickled onions!

  2. Liz Sowter

    December 2, 2017 at 10:22 am

    I meant NEVER in the first line!

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