So, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t buy your children presents whenever you fancy – and ours will be getting things to unwrap and (I hope) things they will love. However, we do try to aim for a balance of the plastic tat they want and some more thoughtful things that help them grow to appreciate how lucky we are – and that presents are fun but not the whole picture. We do have a budget for Christmas, for presents – we give gifts to roughly 26 people, as well as for extra yummy food that week and the school holidays. We save each month to save up for this, so that we have the money up front. It also means we know how much is there and can divide it up before we plan how to use it!
These are some ideas for gifts that won’t cost you anything except time. They may mean you can stretch your budget a bit further, can add to the bought items, can delay the expense to another month (vouchers) or just do something last minute for that unexpected guest…
Free Idea 1 – Swap Instead of New
I’ve talked about this before, and it maybe my 80’s childhood, but I think Swapping is hugely underrated. You both get the advantage of a ‘new to you’ gift for the kids, and they get something they haven’t seen before – and they don’t care if it’s pre-loved, in fact they probably won’t even know. Ideas of things to swap include…
• kids clothes
• sweets – I have loads that mine don’t like from party bags…
• dressing up costumes
• board games
Free Idea 2 – Print or Create a Token/Voucher
These are really easy to do, and you can have some blank ones printed for emergency use! They work well in stockings or just hanging on the tree for visitors.
We have some blank and filled options over in the shop as a FREE download if you would prefer. You can use a token to delay the cost of something until it happens e.g. a trip to the cinema or soft play OR you can keep the free theme and make a token for a free treat. This post is aimed at children but these work just as well for adults!
• Stay up late one night/extra hour
• Have a sleepover with a sibling or friend
• Hold the TV remote for an hour/day/weekend
• No chores today card
• Choose dinner and pudding one day
• Extra bedtime story
• Trip to the park
• Extra electronic time – you know best what would work in your family.
Free Idea 3 – Create a Photo Book or Box
This may sound very strange, but when our first child was born we realised how many of our friends and family lived a long way away and that they wouldn’t see much of them, or get to know them. We made a scrapbook of photos and printed out their names so that he could imagine who we were talking about or who birthday cards were from. I am always amazed by how much all the children love looking at this book, which we’ve had to update many times. You can print out photos you already have and put them into a decorated shoe box, or a proper album. It’s a really tangible thing and kids love to look at pictures of themselves as babies as well.
Other free ideas…
‘My First Five Years’
‘My Pet Friends’
‘My House’ our kids are fascinated by photos of our house from before they were born, and the extension we built to accommodate our growing family!
You could also consider creating a family tree back to grandparents or greatgrandparents, just with photos you have on a piece of wallpaper or large A3 paper.
If you want to spend a little you could use a photobook service like Potato Print, they offer a range of easy to use templates you can add your digital photos and they print and send a quality book. They currently have 20% off if you use the code FESTIVE20 when you check out x
Free Idea 4 – Repurpose Favourite Clothes
Your kids may have a favourite piece of clothing that is now too small or full of holes… think of a creative way to make something new out of that old thing, so they can keep it. We have lots of cushions on the beds from old tshirts. There are lots of no-sew options, or if you have a needle and thread you can really get creative! We have also used up duvet covers to make bags and a friend even made a beanbag with one…
Some ideas for using old clothes (try this Frugal Fun – Sewing board on Pinterest for more)
Jeans pocket mobile phone holder
Clothes into a teddy bear/soft toy
Make some teddy/toy clothes
Jumper arms to leg warmers
Baby clothes into a patchwork
Old baby blanket into a soft toy
Old baby blanket into toy sleeping bags
Clothes into an ipad cover/bag
Frame a favourite tshirt
If you would like a pattern to create a memory toy using childrens clothing the SewingBelle site is very good, and has lots of crafting patterns for toys, as well as costumes, bags and storage items to use up clothing or duvet covers that may be ready for a new lease of life! This pattern above is £6.95 and there are cheaper and more expensive options, so that’s a ball park figure. Remember you can use the same pattern many times, or swap it with another sewing lover so it has lots of uses per purchase.
Free Idea 5 – Create an Event for Quality Family Time (but don’t call it that!!)
If you live a fairly frugal life already, then your kids expectations may already have been brought back to ‘normal’ levels – and things like spending time together is a really great thing. In the UK the Christmas break is usually the best in terms of consecutive days off work, and so working parents will hopefully have some time to wind down and then enjoy some quality time. Our kids aren’t back at school this year until the 8th January! So we have a long time to plan in some of these ‘events’.
Depending on the age of the kids, and how many you have these suggestions might work:
• Day out with just one kid:parent, or older kids get to do something younger ones can’t and vice versa… we sometimes divide up and older ones get a bike ride with dad and littles go to soft play with mum :/
• Bike Ride or similar
• Trip to somewhere further afield (free or not)
• Magical Mystery Walk… You can look for things on a list, or plant things to be found (if you think they won’t be taken!)
• Treasure Hunt for… Go as wild as you like, in the house, garden or all around town! You can make up clues that lead to a café, friends house, favourite shop or back home!
• Themed Day… based on their favourites, and maybe linked to a gift you are already giving e.g a new toy or film.
• Make It Kit… you may well have enough stuff around the house to make something, so just put it all in a box with instructions you write or print off. E.g a sock animal, paint and paper, pens and colouring sheets – see what you’ve got!
• Big Make… this is just box day but with more adults involved! It works well if you have visitors – just keep all the boxes from Christmas Day and before if you have space, and go wild. Make a robot, house, pirate ship, space rocket, horse whatever… if the visitors are keen you may even get a five minute break.
• Chart for a Big Trip – you can make a sticker chart to go on a bigger day out, like a theme park or water park, something that may not happen until the next school holiday, the kids can collect stickers to get the trip. This is likely to be a paid for trip, unless you have some vouchers, or a membership e.g. National Trust. Remember to look out for deals and discounts, or places like The National Space Centre where tickets are good for a free return visit.
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