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Let’s make Christmas: How to buy less or not all this year

Living
5 minute guide

Jen Gale

26 November 2017

Anyone with kids will know that Christmas can mean a mountain of plastic tat that’s played with once and then languishes forgotten at the bottom of a toy bin. For those without, Christmas presents often translate into the stuff that’s shoved in cupboards in case it’s needed but never is. Jen Gale, ethical business coach and owner of Make Do and Mend Facebook Group, talks us through her shift from Christmas tat to Christmas treat.

Is it just me or does Christmas become slightly more bonkers and excessive every year? Don’t get me wrong I love Christmas. I love the carols and the food and the magic of it all. I just struggle with the excess of ‘stuff’ that it seems to generate, and the pressure that we are under (or put ourselves under) to buy, buy, buy.

A few years ago my family and I spent a year buying nothing new – it was our Make Do and Mend year. And we had a Make Do and Mend Christmas as part of that. It really made me question, possibly for the first time, the presents we were buying and where they might end up come the New Year.

It helped me to realise that the things that I really love about Christmas are the experiences, and the traditions, the food and above all the people. And it also made me realise that spending time, rather than money on a gift, can make it far more special.

How to scale back on ‘stuff’ this Christmas

Make your presents 

Instead of setting aside a day to battle the crowds in the shops, spend that day tucked up cosy and warm at home, radio on, making some gifts for loved ones. You don’t have to be a whizz on a sewing machine or spend a lot on materials - I made a hat, scarf and mitten set from an old jumper, and a table lamp from an old wine bottle amongst other things.

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Make Christmas Pebble Magazine1

Spend a day batch making fudge - everyone will thank you for it


Make Christmas Pebble Magazine1

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Spend a day batch making fudge - everyone will thank you for it


If you are going for a homemade Christmas, then presents that you can make in batches make life easier - I made a couple of batches of bath bombs, and gave them to my mum and mother-in-law, my sister-in-law as well as putting some in the kids’ stockings. 

Edible presents are always a sure-fire winner. I got some Lego moulds secondhand on Ebay recently, and am now fully equipped to make chocolate Lego bricks and Lego men for the kids. For teachers’ presents, I make a batch of this Christmas spiced fudge, and pop it into old (cleaned out!) jam jars.

Don’t be afraid to give gifts that aren’t actually ‘things’ 

I would LOVE to get a night’s babysitting, so that hubby and I could go out. You could print out vouchers, so there is still something to hand over on the day. And anything goes, we have donated an afternoon’s worth of digging on my parent’s allotment before.

Change the advent calendar 

Advent calendars seem to have morphed into an extended gift-giving season for our kids. Instead of giving a small toy or sweet each day, we have an ‘Advent lorry’ that contains activities we can do together as a family each day – it includes things that I would be doing anyway like making mince pies, but it helps to move the focus from ‘things’ to ‘experiences’.

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Make Christmas Pebble Magazine3

Reinvent the advent calendar away from chocolate and more stuff


Make Christmas Pebble Magazine

Focus on experiences rather than things this Christmas


Make Christmas Pebble Magazine3

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Reinvent the advent calendar away from chocolate and more stuff


Make Christmas Pebble Magazine

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Focus on experiences rather than things this Christmas


Give second-hand things a new home

Second-hand gifts are another great option that don’t cost the earth. Keep your eyes peeled in the charity shops and on eBay. With a little bit of thought, a second-hand gift can be really special. My brother is an avid cricket fan, and we managed to track down a copy of the Cricketer magazine from the month and year he was born for about £3.

For more tips on how to buy vintage and know what you're buying, see our ultimate vintage shopping guide here.

"Spend a day tucked up cosy and warm at home, radio on, making some gifts for loved ones"

Don’t buy for the sake of it

Lastly, and probably most importantly, think about who you are buying for and why you are buying something. Don’t just buy for the sake of buying. And don’t be afraid to be the one who broaches the subject of cutting back this year and either not buying for some of the people on your list, or doing some kind of Secret Santa. I think most people, far from being offended, will be glad that someone has been brave enough to bring the subject up, and will be only too glad to cut back too.

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