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Ideas for Frugal Christmas Gift Giving


A sparkling vintage chrstmas tree with presents

A sparkling vintage chrstmas tree

It’s a magical sight, isn’t it? All those perfectly wrapped presents under the Christmas tree, just waiting to be claimed and opened?  With five children, believe me when I say I’ve been there! There were some years though, when their were babies and toddlers in the mix, that the wrapping was more interest than the present!

Now that they are older (10 to 22) it’s getting harder, and more expensive, to make them all happy.  I do have an Eco-minimalist mindset, despite loving old things, and don’t like getting cauht up in all the consumerism that seems synonomous with Christmas. Gift giving is part of the Christmas tradition though, and I don’t want to abolish it, but I would like to have a more frugal Christmas, one more about the spirit of peace and giving – more like a wartime Christmas.



So, with the kids agreement, this year we have decided to instigate a new gift giving tradition in our house – each gift must be “Hand made, preloved, thrifted or re-gifted.” And under $5!

Re-gifted sounds crass, but it can work. You get given a child’s pencil case in the secret Santa a work, why not give it to your nice with a new box of pencils.  Technically regifting could include giving away something you own, but someone would probably love heirloom and vintage items that are valuable and that you may not use any more, such as jewellery, clothes, knickknacks and furniture. Keep a record when someone compliments something in your home during the year. ( Yes darling MIL, I really do love that vintage silver cutlery set that was your mothers.)

In our home  Handmade may include cards, felt decorations, and art by the little two, bath bombs, candles, or cakes by Miss 14, beaded jewellery or tie dyed up cycled clothes by Miss teenage hippie, or spice mixes, home made liqueur  or vouchers for time spent playing board games from the eldest. Last year I sewed aprons for everyone and this year I have a board short pattern I am using. I’m encouraging Mr WTW to use some left over fence palings creatively too (I really love this chair). Handmade and thrifted or recycled together – or up-cycled – are my favourite gifts, like a patchwork quilt made from old jeans (thanks Mum, I loved that one!)

I go thrift shopping every week year around.  This is where I buy most of my clothes and fabrics  for sewing, as well as collectibles to sell on Etsy and of course for gifts. Shopping for about half an hour each week is a relaxing, cheap hobby,  is Eco-friendly, keeps money in the community and helps charities, and saves hours of concentrated craziness at the shops at the end of the year.

Here is a list of my favourite things to buy at thrift shops, and how to up-cycle them-

Collectibles – does someone in the family collect a certain thing? Dish patterns, mid century vases, glass elephants? Keep a list and an eye out. A pretty plate, mug or dish with homemade fudge or sweets makes a good teacher gift. Vases turn a garden picked or store bought bunch Into something special.

Vintage canisters and tins – great in the kitchen and  to gift full of homemade biscuits or mince pies. A small amount of money for young children in an old tin or vintage money box is usually well appreciated. Grow a plant that a friend has admired in your garden from a cutting and sit the pot in an old tin or interesting container.

Baskets – if small, as above for tins, if large, make up a hamper of gourmet and homemade foods, or the vintage China you have collected. Add a cushion and give to a pet lover with some home made cat or dog treats.

Vintage and costume jewelry – brooches, earrings, beads and bangles, either as they are or up cycled – screw on earrings changed to posts, broken necklaces changed into bracelets, or even earrings and bangles made from old silver teaspoons or forks. Make a cardboard tiara with glued on rhinestones and old brooches for a little princess.


Vintage linens- as new  tea towels are great on their own, or as wrapping for something else.  They, and tablecloths that have some wear, can be cut down and made into cushions or bags or even patchwork quilts.  Add doilys to tshirts for a shabby chic look.

Handkerchiefs – grab a stack, the perfect gift for a vintage loving or Eco- conscious friend. Or If you sew, turn them into lavender bags for the wardrobe.

Vintage hankies make a great environmentally friendly gift

Books – old classics and collectibles, or even nearly new once read hardcovers are easy to find. Or turn them into desk organisers like this.

Toys – Lego is always great, as are classic toys and board games. I gave my husband the ‘Battleship” board game one year ($2) as it was a childhood favourite, and now the kids play it!

Clothes – any brand you know your kids love but can’t afford is good, or classics like cashmere jumpers or pashminas and leather jackets. Grab white tees and dresses that have a small stain (usually really cheap) and tie dye them. Cut jeans into shorts, add lace at the hem -the trend of this Summer.

Accessories – silk scarves, great handbags, gloves and hats, or grab and old jumper and up-cycle in into a beanie. Make a simple sarong or scarf from a piece of thrifted fabric.

Frames – the art or photos may be hideous, but frames can be used for children’s art or family portraits to make a great gift for grandma.

New items in their original packaging – perfumes, candles, clothes, craft kits,  great for those people you don’t think will appreciate preloved.

Christmas cards, wrapping and decorations  – at this time of year the thrift shops are full of last years casts offs.  You really never need buy new!

Whether giving something handmade, regifted, or preloved, the key is to know your audience and your intention. It’s pretty easy in our immediate family, and even for the grandparents, but when it comes to extended family and friends it can be a little tricky. I find that most appreciate a handmade card, or phone call catchup just as much as they would a gift, which is great because we have no nearby family. I try and have a pre or post Christmas catchup with friends and make special food to share, and people bring a plate or bottle instead of gifts.

I hope I have given you some ideas for less commercial more frugal Christmas.  Will you regift or give preloved? Or do you handmade your gifts?


About thewartimewoman

I love history, fashion, art and design, especially of the 1930s to the 1960s. I am also a mother, wife, interior decorator & a treasure hunter who wishes she could drive a 1933 Delage. I studied Architecture at Melbourne university, briefly, and completed a Diploma of Art in Interior Design at the Melbourne College of Decoration in 1991. I have worked on an off as a decorator ever since, in between stints as a florist, balloon artist, having my five children and helping my husband in his law firm. in my spare time I love researching history, blogging and gardening.

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