Sunday, December 07, 2008

Christmas crunch

This Christmas is going to be tough for most of us. To be honest, I find it somewhat distasteful that we mark the occasion of a child born into abject poverty (regardless of whether or not you acknowledge the divinity of said child) by means of excess: too much food, too much alcohol, too much spending.

So perhaps it is no bad thing that we are being forced to tighten our belts this time around. Perhaps it will give us cause to re-examine the way we choose to celebrate Christmas.

With my own fledgling venture into self-employment as yet unproven in terms of providing a steady income, we have made a rule this year: all gifts have to be something you have made, something you will do or, if you're absolutely desperate, something from the 99p shop.

In case you are staring down the barrel of a similarly budget-strapped Christmas, I'd like to share a few ideas. Maybe you'll find something to inspire you.

My younger son is pretty good at coming up with homemade gift ideas for his Dad. Check out this last minute save from Father's Day. He has also used bits and bobs found in the garage to make a key rack to hang behind the front door.
I am pretty good at knitting, so I have been known to knit complicated Kaffe Fassett garments. However, the yarn for these can be rather pricy, so you could scale it down and use remnants to make hats, scarves and mittens/gloves. You might also try your hand at a spot of cross-stitch, glass painting, etc.
Gifts from your kitchen
Every year, I use my mother-in-law's delicious recipe to make almond crunch. You can also make fudge, cakes, biscuits, lollipops (these are dead easy: sugar, water and flavouring!) and so on. If you're any good at making jams and preserves or homemade wine, these can be beautifully wrapped to make lovely gifts. I have one friend who has converted an old filing cabinet into a smoker and uses it to make homemade smoked salmon which she gives as gifts.
Personalised recipe book
Once, many years ago, I was stone broke. My boyfriend at the time was a keen cook. I bought an indexed notebook, covered it in beautiful paper and handwrote in it several of his favourite recipes collected from his friends. Of course, the rest of the space was intended for him to write new recipes discovered on his many evenings eating out in the homes of friends. It took me hours and hours. He absolutely loved it.
Photo collages
It's usually possible to pick up large clip frames for very little. One year I gave my husband a collage of photos of the boys and me for his office. He has reciprocated with photos for my desk, too.
If you're daring
This is for the braver ladies. If you've seen the movie calendar girl, you'll know where I got my inspiration. One year, I colluded with a (female) friend to compile a tasteful girlie calendar for my husband... with me as the girlie. It cost nothing but time and effort. Of course, it was a bit of a double edged sword - he loved the calendar, but wasn't really free to hang it up anywhere where others might see it!
Get intangible
Download the backing track of a special song, record yourself singing it, and then use that as a soundtrack for a photocollage or video, which you could publish on YouTube. You could also create an animoto video using photos that are special to the person. Or how about a collection of photos to be used as a screen saver?
Create a CD of a person's favourite songs, songs that express your feelings for that person, or that mark the milestones of that person's life or your relationship with them. Make a personalised CD label for it. I did this for our last anniversary, for which we had agreed not to spend money on gifts for each other.
If you're any good at writing poetry, you could write one for a person. If you do decent calligraphy, you could write it up and frame it. If not, you can go for the option of printing it out using a suitable font. If you're really prolific, you could write a whole anthology and get it printed and bound.
You could consider making a set of vouchers for someone, which they can redeem against your services in some or other capacity. For example: my older son doesn't much like playing on the XBox any more. My younger son loves it, but he doesn't like playing alone. He's always after his brother to play with him. This year, my older son is giving his little brother ten vouchers each worth an hour of his company on the XBox. Similar vouchers could be made for lawnmowing services, foot massages, carwashing, romantic homecooked dinners, etc... your imagination (and daring) is the only limit.
This is your life
For his 40th birthday, I compiled a 'this is your life' folder for my husband. I collected handwritten anecdotes from friends and relatives around the world. These, together with photos and contributions from me about John in his different roles (son, brother, husband, father, employee, etc.), were collated in a file. On the day of his party, all the cards attached to gifts he received, as well as photos of party were added to the file. He was so tickled with it that, when my own 40th rolled around, he went one step further and had a professional scrapbooker make one up for me. It is one of my most treasured possessions.

Anyone got any other ideas? Let's see if this Christmas our gifts can be personal and meaningful without costing a bomb.


Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful list and a wonderful idea. These mean so much more than any purchased gift. I don't know if I'd have the nerve to do the calendar although tip of the hat to you! I did have a thought...I saw this fun book "porn for women" (it's clean). It'd be fun to make a homemade man's version for the love of your life.

The upsycho said...

@Janet That's lovely - I chortled my way merrily through the sample I got to see!