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18 September 2008

A homemade Christmas

Carl Larsen painting, Christmas Morning, from Carl Larsen gallery.

Christmas has the potential to undo all your frugal efforts throughout the year. You hear that "ho-ho-hoing", you see the advertisements with the warm and fuzzy family around the Christmas tree with stacks of gifts under it, you start thinking that maybe you should get your credit card out and buy gifts for the 30 people on your list.

Listen. Christmas isn't about the gifts, it's much more significant than that.

Now more than ever there is a need to cut back and save. Gone are the days of extravagant gestures for your best friend's brother, you don't need to give to everyone. A few years ago I stopped sending cards and giving a lot of gifts. Now I usually give only to my close family members. To the rest I give a warm and sincere wish for a wonderful Christmas, sometimes I invite friends over for a Christmas drink, sometimes there might be a small homemade gift. What we do give is our friendship, we share the events of the past year and we look forward together to what will come in the new year. There is a lot of good will, my friends know - really know - that I love them and they know that by my actions and words, not by the gifts I give.

It requires a bit of soul searching to cull your gifts list and you need to be kind to yourself and know that you aren't being selfish or mean. What you are doing is making your life better, you are sticking to your budget, living true to your values and you're not falling for the commercialism that is now so much a part of Christmas that we can't see the forest for the (Christmas) trees. It's probably a good idea to tell your relatives and friends that you'll be breaking with tradition and not giving as many gifts as you did in the past. If you really want gifts to be a part of the day, maybe you could have a secret santa with your family so the cost is reduced but gifts are still exchanged.

I think many of you will be surprised to find that some of your family members will be relieved that someone decided to stop buying gifts for everyone. It's not just making it easier for you because your actions will have a flow on effect by reducing the expense of Christmas for all of them. Besides, all gifts should be given in the spirit of love and not just because they are expected.

I love receiving homemade gifts. It shows me that someone has put time and effort into my gift. If you decide to give hand made gifts you should think carefully about what that person would like. There are certain gifts that many people like - such as the ever popular homemade soap, candles, chocolates and truffles, preserves, chutney and jams. If you're a knitter there are many small projects that could be created on the needles, and sewing is another pathway to many wonderful gifts. To help you along the way I've found some wonderful links to give you some ideas. I have absolutely no doubt that there will be many more ideas in the comments. So have a look at my list and add your ideas so we can all share what we know and help others towards a homemade Christmas.
I hope a few of you will be working towards a homemade Christmas this year. If you are, now is the time to start preparing. You'll need to make a plan now and start on your projects so there is no last minute rush to have gifts finished. And don't forget to add your suggestions in the comments. :- )


  1. Last year we started a Secret Santa for all the grown ups. It was terrific. One of the teenage children put all the family names in a hat and we got to draw a name out and buy just for that person. The presents were all put under the tree together. There was a lot of excitement because of the 'secrecy'.
    You are right when you say it will be a relief. I know I was relieved at not having to recieve gifts which I really didn't need. we will be doing this again this year.

    Another idea that has worked well for us was the giving of humanitarian gifts. You can buy a goat for an impoverished village, sink a well, buy school books etc. There was great delight one year when we 'gave a goat' to my brother in law with a funny poem attached that we read out.
    I visit to get an idea of how we can help. The gift certificates are then written out and say something like " school books have been donated to a village in Somalia in your name".
    This worked really well.

  2. Thanks for the long list to work through, from just reading the labels it sounds like you have found some great ideas (like the tipi for the kidlets).

    Here's another site for some good ideas - Some of them are incredibly simple, but the presentation ideas make them more interesting (like giving hot chocolate mix, but calling it snowman's soup, with a poem about it). I'm going to make a few people the chocolate spoons (

  3. Several of our family members are recieving seeds for gardening from my husband and I. It was the best idea that I could come up with that would "grow" for the families and same them money too.

  4. For my close girlfriends that ones that are there through EVERYTHING I give a little gift before Christmas. We always seem to know each others schedules so one day when I know they are particularly busy with work, shopping, whatever I pop in at about 5pm with dinner already to go a fresh salad (it is summer in this aprt of the world)some crunchy bread, a salmon mornay or some marinated chicken ready to throw on the BBQ, soft drink for kids and ice cream for dessert. I plan ahead so I know what I have to grow, or buy to make this little meal and my two close friends really appreciate it.

    This year they surprised me with a no cook birthday weekend they bought pre prepared meals for my family (no mean feat we have 7 kids)so i didn't have to cook on the weekend of my birthday!!


  5. I have given "hand made" to my family or origin etc for many years - I tend to take on a new craft each year - and everyone gets a sample for Chrsitmas...

  6. thank you so much for the ideas...

  7. Thank You for the link for the child tent tutorial.
    I've want to make a tepee for my kids for a while now. :)

  8. A few years ago I contacted the adult members of the family and suggested the adults exchange birthday cards and no gifts and we have a secret santa at Christmas time amongst the adults. Everyone was happy with the idea and it takes the pressure off as you no longer have to buy a gift for people who have everything nor do we receive gifts we don't really want/need. We still all buy for the kids though.

    This year I aim to cut back on the Christmas card list. I've handmade my Christmas cards for years but I'm finding it less enjoyable and more of a task. This year I'll be sending a few Christmas wishes by email and handmaking a few special cards.


  9. Hello, I am glad to visit. I have had a busy schedule. Thanks for the heads up on the planning and the wonderful Ideas and web sites as well.
    I look forward to trying the biscuits. I have had a lot of time in the garden. Many things are up and my hard work has paid off!
    My Chickens should be laying soon.
    I had to have injections in my knees and lost the ability to water for a day and the tomatoes were lost. I have another few to plant.
    Your generous kindness had helped me so much to keep on target. I love Dave Ramsey my husband and I were reading daily. We made the mistake of giving the book away before we had a new one and now we lost a bit of momentum. I so want to do some rain water harvesting our budget is tight so I wait. The garden has a very thick layer of straw on it and that helps.
    Have you ever done craft shows to help supplement your income? I am doing a show in November. It cost $25 for a table here to hoping a lot of things sell.
    You have so many cute primitive crafts. Perhaps you might look into it.
    In your spare time...HAHAHA

  10. You can also look at She has several easy gifts that you can make and great tutorials!

  11. We do not exchange gifts in our large family but we do give to the grandchildren ( they are all very small yet) When we go visiting we take a present of food - peppermint bark, fruit loaves, roasted nuts - always appreciated and used up. A (free) phone call to one or two friends.

  12. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    Like the idea of Secret Santa.
    I am making Christmas gifts now.
    Later I will make theme gift baskets.
    I like Handmade gifts with Love.
    Some friends and Us are just getting together for a potluck .Friendship& Fellowship is a WOnderful gift.
    Happy crafting &Merry Christmas to all!;o)

  13. Another idea that only requires a bit of effort rather than dollars is to create homemade vouchers for babysitting services, cleaning, car washing, gardening (weed a flower bed, mow the lawn), dressmaking, sewing etc. This is a good way for kids to give to grandparents, aunts and uncles. Anything that can be considered a chore can be offered on a voucher, and as long as the promise is kept, this gift can provide a good reason for ongoing contact with, and pleasure for, the recipient.

  14. I love the children's tent - thanks for the link! We purchase gifts for ourselves only (stopped buying for other family members a few years ago). This year we will add to that not sending cards to save a bit extra $. I set aside a specific $ amount out of every other paycheck all year long so I can take advantage of sales/clearances I find throughout the year. We have set amounts that are spent on each of us and our stocking stuffers.

  15. Thank you for this post! I've been looking for ideas for what to do this Christmas. I have credit card debt to pay off (I'm on a long road to a simple life) and I try to pay it down by $X each month. But last Christmas I spent so much on gifts (etc.) that I ended up adding 5 times $X to my debt! This year, that will NOT happen.

  16. Thankyou very much for posting this list Rhonda, there are some fabulous ideas that I'll be looking through over the next few weeks. Here are a few more links that your readers might like for some simple ideas that we did last Christmas:

    Christmas stocking with photo:

    Felt bookmark:

    Glitter playdough packaged up:

  17. Rhonda, here are some other ideas:

    * for my girlfriends this year, I'm making up a batch of homemade surface wipe solution, placing it in a recyled spray bottle, labelling it with the contents, then adding a handknitted cotton dishcloth to complete it. The recipe is here.

    free baby bib patterns: Easy, cheap, useful and you can easily customise with some gorgeous fabric.

    Ridiculously easy mary-jane slippers for novice knitters:

    great silly t-shirts you can make for the kids:

    I'm currently working on about 10 different Christmas sewing/knitting projects. It feels very sneaky waiting until all those lovely children are in bed to resume my tasks. (loving it!)

    I also love the idea of specially printed vouchers: I've decided to do this for my local nieces in the form of a "I'll take you to the movies over the Christmas holidays" voucher. It's a bit of babysitting for Mum & Dad too!

    Lisa x

  18. Some lovely ideas to ring the changes with. I LOVE making gifts for my nearest and dearest and this year will be adding hand-made soap to my repertoire as I have some melt-and-pour recipes and ingredients. The soup-in-a-jar, cake-in-a-jar type gifts are always quick to do, and I love making jams, jellies and chutneys as gifts, not to mention stuff like Sloe Gin, Blackberry Brandy, Raspberry Ratafia etc. Last year I sewed up a storm to make gifts, including sending my middle daughter off to University with a hand-pieced hexagon quilt.

    I have told our offspring there is going to be just one main "boughten" present this year, then a couple of little stocking fillers.

    Off to check your links (and others that folk have posted on here.)

  19. Rhonda Jean,
    Thank you So much for so many wonderful ideas for gifts! I too, enjoy very much the receiving of handmade gifts, and also enjoy creating them for others! What a great idea for a post!
    I have enjoyed your blog so much lately, and wanted to let you know that I've 'tagged' you! I was tagged a few days ago, but am late in responding to it. But you can view the post here.

    Have a wonderful day!
    In Christ,

  20. Hi Rhonda
    Thank you so much for this post.So many wonderful ideas. We stopped giving to our extended family a long while ago but I do enjoy making homemade cards so will continue with this. My close friengs have always received a handmade gift and more each year return one.

    This year we have decided to have a handmade Christmas altogether. We are also cutting down on the amount of food we buy and making more from scratch.
    I will enjoy going through the list to see what new ideas I can come up with.

    Thanks again Rhonda.


  21. Hello everyone! There are some wonderful ideas here. Thanks to everyone who shared their ideas and what they'll be doing for Christmas. It all comes together to help those of us who are still undecided about our gift choices or who need a push in the home made direction.

  22. So many great ideas, I often make gourmet type food presents, many people don't seem to have the time or inclination to make things from scratch, so they really appreciate their edible gifts.

    I stopped sending cards a few years ago as an experiment to see how many we actually got, you know, you get a card and think "I must send them a card back" and we ended up getting about 5, just from close friends.

    The Secret Santa idea is a really good one that I might encourage the rest of my family to do this year.

  23. Hi there lovely Rhonda. A clever thing I have been dong for the past few Christmases is drying lots of oregano and thyme and buying sweet little $2 re-useable glass bottles. Home dried herds are far more lovely than bought ones - which are always stale. This also works well for home dried pepermint tea with dried calendula flowers or orse petals mixed in.

    A nice home made lable and voila!

    And this year - it's going to be hand crocheted wash cloths. Or homemade moisturiser.

    Another good gift is pots of parsely. If you start now with seedlings and then just before Christmas, plant lots of well developed healthy plants together in the one pot with some good quality potting mix and compost. Something that keeps on giving! Especially good for friends and rellies who are not yet into gardening.


  24. Yes, I've decided to cull our Christmas giving list. In America, it's customary to gift service providers that you do business with on a regular basis (I don't know how it is in Australia). We don't have too many but there are a few - I'll either bake them something this year or make them a lovely card.

    Thank you for taking the time to organize those links! I'll have a look later on. I'm sure I'll find some great ideas. Love the Carl Larson painting!


  25. Thanks again Rhonda for another timely reminder ! Home made gifts for guys aren't so easy to think of but I plan to make jars of home pickled eggs & pickled onions (Rhonda, is it too early to do these now or do they have to be made nearer the time ?) Also, to put together a 'car emergency kit' either in plastic lidded box or other suitable container - some things can be found at home, buy other things according to budget (I did online search for suggested contents). Any other ideas for young adult males gratefully received !!

  26. Thank you for posting this. I will put it on my 'favorites.'


  27. I stoped sending cards some years ago,as it was getting ridiculouse trying to keep up I was getting so many. I looked around one year and my house was covered in them and I thought,'well they only get looked at once when opened and put up and probably once more before they are recycled/re-used or disposed of,what a waste!' It's a waste of paper and a waste of money if the cards you send are people you see or speak to regularly anyway isn't it? I still send a few cards but only to family members that don't have computers.

    I love the idea of secret santa among the family Rhonda


  28. Thank you Rhonda, and everyone for great ideas for gifts.

    My kids and I started Secret Santa as a joke some years ago, but its become a permanent and more central thing - each of us make a list of 3 things we would like within an agreed price range; the names are drawn from a hat and the buyer picks just one item from the list; the gifts are wrapped and anonymous. Only one member of the family needs to oversee it (my dd and I take turns)

    So - each of us receives a gift we want - we don't have the worry of what to buy and the hassle of shopping - and it controls our spend. I can't recommend it enough!

  29. These are great ideas -- thanks for sharing!


  30. The blog hit the spot! Just what I was thinking - homemade Christmas (thank U for all the links).

    And that is exactly what I am doing this year. Baking amass of Xmas treats and wrapping them in celophane w/ a nice bow or filling cookie cutters w/ sweets & wrapping them in celophane. Something small w/ a touch of love.

    My kids, I told them up front that I am only spending $100 per child w/ a stocking (consisting of candy, mad libs, and a pair of socks). So, figure out what you want before then! ;)

  31. For my mom who is a widow and lives alone: rustic dishcloths (my term for a very new beginner knitter) and a couple of jars of different baking mixes. As she lives alone, even one pre-packaged box of let's say brownies makes too much for her.

    We have a very small family so we spend the bulk of ours on our daughter.

    I won't go into debt. If your friends and family have a huffy why you didn't spend gobs of dough on them for Christmas then maybe you should rethink your relationship with that person.

  32. We have a large family 14 adults and 17 grandchildren. For years we have "picked names". Ladies with Ladies, Men with Men, and Children with Children.

    My parents still insist on giving all money (as long as they can they say) and the children get a gift to open as well from them. We all buy my parents gifts.

    I love Christmas. Simply because it is such a thoughtful time and we are all together. The togetherness is the most important thing.

  33. Great posts as always Rhonda, thank you. I have almost finished my first christmas gift a knitted, felted bag. I spent more than I should have on the yarn but I did get it on sale and I got the pattern out of a book I took out of the library. Also I would have spent twice as much in the past on the same friend so I feel mostly virtuous. :-) Everyone is getting homemade gifts this year and I feel very good about that.

    Thanks for the encouragement.


  34. Wow, what a coincedence! I just signed out "holiday knits" by sara lucas yesterday with the idea of knitting most of our gifts this year.

    Thanks for yet ANOTHER great post!

  35. Thanks for this post! We were going to do a handmade Christmas last year, but then my dad passed away right before Christmas and I just couldn't get it together. I had forgotten all about it until I just read your post. Thank you for the links to inspire and the reminder to get started now. I love this idea!

  36. I don't have any suggestions to add to your nice list, but I did want to mention something. For years my SO and I wanted to broach the subject of cutting out, or at least cutting back, on holiday gifts with our families. What stopped us was the fear of hurting someone's feelings. Finally, about 5 years ago, we told each of our family members (parents, siblings, etc), well in advance of Christmas, that we would like to celebrate the season by visiting but eliminate the gifts. To our pleasant surprise, this announced was almost unanimously received with great relief! So, it may be everyone is just hoping someone else will bring it up.

  37. Have you hearrd of the Buy Nothing Christmas? It's something from Mennonites in Winnipeg, Manitoba. There's a list of alternatives here.

  38. Hi, Rhonda Jean ~
    Thanks for sharing that great list of links ~ just in time to start gift making!
    I LOVE your blog :)
    PS ~ I posted a link on my blog to this posting. Thanks again!

  39. When my boys (ages 6 & 8) found out I used to make caramels and turtles for Christmas, they decided they wanted to make everyone's Christmas presents this year.

    We've started with a list of people and a list of our talents (tie-dye, baking, macrame, beading, etc). It's fun to already be planning for my favorite holiday, with their focus on what they can DO instead of what they will GET.

  40. I have the only children in my large extended family that gets together for Christmas. For several years I was a single mom with a non-existent budget and EVERYONE gave my kids gifts. I got in the habit of making little stockings for each person and filling them with inexpensive but fun things. I also baked.

    I'm not single anymore. But this year my family has decided only gifts for the kids. Which again puts me in the position of EVERYONE giving presents to my kids. This year I'm going to make tote bags out of recycled vintage fabrics and fill them with baked goodies for the kids to give as gifts to grandparents and aunts and uncles.

    I'm having a contest at my blog to celebrate my first published novel!

  41. Wow! What a great post and fabulous links! Thanks for sharing.

  42. I'm so excited to find your post. I've been really down and blue lately. I have 3 children 7 & younger that always get spoiled at christmas time. Until this year. Money is very tight and I've been stressing on how to get them christmas gifts. I totally agree with homemade items!!! Fun glitter playdo. Fabric tent. I espically love the idea of the kids making gifts for their teachers, and etc.. I'm now excited for christmas and the more time together making gifts then out in the rat race shopping. I'm going to turn to your site more often to help me live more simple and frugal! Thank you for a wonderful site!!!


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