Monday, 26 October 2009

Wanted: Simple, Green and Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Hello everyone!

With only 8 weeks till Christmas, it seems to me that talk everywhere is starting to turn towards gift ideas. There seems to be one major difference with the talk this year (at least in my part of the world). It seems to me that more and more people are starting to think more mindfully of presents and wanting to avoid over-consumption.

Whether its the GFC or its a heightened awareness of environmental issues, it seems to me that more people are wanting to make more of an effort to have a more simple, green and frugal Christmas.

So I thought this community here would like to compile a list of simple, green and frugal gift ideas!

I'll start!

1. Give a Charity Gift - This is my personal favourite and first choice for Christmas. You've probably heard of this type of gift as "gifts of hope". This is when you buy a cow or school books for those in dire poverty and you get a card about your gift and you give that card to someone as their Christmas gift. These type of gifts range start from around $10. My charity of choice for this type of gift is Oxfam Unwrapped. Perhaps all the adults in your family would like to go in together to buy something "big" and have the card as part of a communal Christmas photo album/journal? The idea of the album/journal is that every year, you have the Charity Gift card and everyone who put in for it writes down their hopes for that year and their general thoughts about Christmas. This album/journal then gets passed around every year and everyone can review their hopes and hopes together.

2. Use saltdough to make figurines, game board pieces or air fresheners. Salt dough is something the kids can help make as well.

3. Hamper of homemade recipes. This can range from the edible biscuits/cookies or jams to non-edible. I especially loved Heather's idea of giving an all natural cleaning supplies basket as a gift!

4. Make paper. You can give this as stationery or use the paper for cards. Its easy and a great use for all those spare bits of paper lying around in the house!

Homemade Stationery Pack I gave as a gift to a friend.

I'll turn this post now over to you.

I've added a widget below so you can post directly on to this blog post. Where it says "Link Title", just type in your simple, green and frugal Christmas gift idea. You can add your blog or a link to more information about that item as your url.

So, what is your simple, green and frugal Christmas gift idea?


Kate said...

In the past I've given Kiva gift certificates for microloans. This isn't quite the same as a charitable donation in someone's name. The gift recipient can withdraw the cash value of the certificate before it's loaned out, or whenever it's repaid. Or they can simply loan it out over and over again. I like this practice because it encourages me to take an interest in regions of the world I know little about.

New this year are some cloth gift wraps which are actually costing me about as much as I'd really like to be spending on the gifts themselves. But in theory they should replace paper gift wrap for decades to come, both for birthdays and Christmas.

Other than that, I'll probably give biscotti again, plus some hand salves made from herbs we grew this year.

I've asked DH for beekeeping equipment, which is not going to be cheap, but will be pretty green, I hope.

Fleecenik Farm said...

I have a very healthy mint patch in my garden. I am going to make muslin drawstring bags to serve as reusable tea bags and give a jar of mint with it.

jmdemartin said...

Last year I designed some 3 x 5 cards to put in my kids' stockings that were redeemable for them to have "bad-manners night" and be "boss for the day." Not only were they thrilled, but it was virtually free--plus, the giggle factor on the days they the cashed in their certificates was priceless.

One of my daughters wants to make soap for little goodies for her teachers this year, and we're both working on those DIY winter standards: knit scarves.

Tree Hugging Mama said...

Well I would like to add a couple of suggestions. Crafting Kits, Science Kits, etc for kids. These kits should include materials to make 3-4 projects, and directions. You can type out directions on your computer and add how to pics along the way. All of the supplies should be items you have on hand.
I have a recipe for homemade quick sand. Its essentially Corn Starch (Powder) and water. You place the cornstarch in a container (I like old salsa jars) with a label that reads Child's Name Quick Sand and the amount of water they need to add. I have the info at home will try to remember it tonight.

Also like to regift. When someone has admired something in my home, that I am ready to part with I wrap it up with a handwritten note and give it to them, these gifts have always been well recieved.

We also make homemade mixes (hot cocoa - put in a mason jar with a label with the directions and tie with pretty ribbon and a pepermint stick, or put in a mug in a bag and tie with a ribbon, spoon and peppermint stick - these can be items you have lying around and want to get rid of, or you can go to the Thrift store just to find them. I boil all dishes that I gift)Brownie Mix, Layered Cookie Mix, Soup Mix (they can all be put into a mason jar with the directions on the label and a spoon or other decorative item tied on, or placed in a bag in a bowl, baking pan, etc.

Tree Hugging Mama said...

Sorry forgot to mention we are doing plants (Apple Trees will probably have to wait till Granparents Day - we are growing them from seed), Herb Plants (or seeds and containers), whatever you know the recipient would like to have in their kitchen or garden.

Colleen said...

We have a spider plant that put out a bunch of baby plants over the summer. My 6 year old is working on painting terra cotta pots that we picked up at various yard sales over the last few months, and then we're going to plant the babies in them and give as gifts.

viggiesveggies said...

I'm lucky that my family decided to stop all of the holiday stuff last year.

I love the idea of herbs for the kitchen and homemade gift cards. For my birthday I got one from my dad to install my kitchen sink for me knowing I was scared of messing with the plumbing. My brother fixed my computer and upgraded it with his spare parts. I appreciated them pitching in so much!

Lorna said...

I love to give (and receive) any type of homemade mix. . . chai tea, hot cocoa, soups etc.

We also like to give the kids homemade play-dough:
2 cups flour + 1 cup salt + 4 Tbsp. cream of tartar + 2 cups water + 2 Tbsp veg. oil + 2 tsp. flavoring or essance(opt.) Cook and stir over low heat for 5 min; add food coloring and knead. This recipe lasts for months if kept in airtight containers and is nice and soft, not grainy like many homemade play-dough recipes!

I agree with Kate--wrap gifts in festive cloth, either sewn into bags or as sheets of fabric. They are beautiful, durable, and re-usable :)

Unfortunately, we are currently living on the other side of the world from our families--so this year we will be relying on for gifts :( If anybody has a suggestion for a web-based gift site that is frugal, reliable and will ship to the US, I would love to learn about them. Otherwise, we are considering Christmas is July when we are home for a visit.

Fleecenik Farm said...

Lorna, you might want to look at sites like Etsy. Support handmade. Many of the folks with shops are just small crafters hoping to make a little extra money from their craft. Others are true artisans using the web for their marketing. There are all sorts of nice crafts available at the site.

Chiot's Run said...

We always celebrate a homemade Christmas and give small homemade gifts. Other than that we celebrate by enjoying a nice meal and spending some time together, what better gift is there than time.

Jon Siegel said...

For Lorna and others, a charity gift card from TisBest Philanthropy may be a terrific option for you this year. You can send cards as email cards, print yourself cards, or as (100% recycled) plastic cards. The recipient chooses which of 250 charities on the TisBest site receives the donation. The feedback we get from our gift givers is very, very positive. These are meaningful gifts for the giver and the recipient. And they're a great alternative to "more stuff." See TisBest at

katie said...

Our default "bulk gift" is homemade soap and knitted or crocheted washcloths. This year we're making pine-scented soap for the men and lavender for the women in the family. Also works well for pre-school teachers. :)

Sulwyn said...

As I said in my link, we're going edible this year. I love to bake and make candies but we don't really eat them around the house so we decided to share the love by making "goodie bags" for everyone. Kind of like care packages, I guess.

Janet McKinney said...

I followed my mother's tradition of hand made gifts many years ago. Generally they were whatever craft I had a passion for that year - patchwork hot mats for the kitchen, home made Christmas decorations, shopping bags.

Last year I obtained at auctions and garage sales a pile of vintage cloths and offered them to each family on their choice.

I have around my house precious memories of gifts my mother has made over the years - a family tree with 6 generations of female photos printed onto cloth and included in a frame with a cross stitched picture, hardanger cushions, crochet blankets, long stitch and cross stitch pictures etc.

My daughter makes sweets (candy) like chocolate fudge for her gifts each Christmas - so I guess the tradition will continue.

Sarah said...

I added a link to a tutorial I did last year for really cute and easy sock stick horses. You can buy all of the supplies if you want, but everything used can likely be found in your house.

Tracey McBride said...

We keep a Gift Pantry going all year round, and stock it with all sorts of homemade, re-purposed, and even some store-bought (on sale :) gifts in order to de-stress our budget as well as our holidays!

For packaging, I often take discarded clothing and cut it into strips to use as ribbons that will embellish holiday packages. As well, I recycle fabric from the same (or other) discarded garments to make fabric gift bags that can be reused from season-to-season. In fact, I've recently returned from a visit to my dad's house where I raided his rag-bag and found three wonderful plaid shirts to use for just these purposes! A nice wash and a quick lick of the iron transforms them into wonderful raw materials for such projects.

I also collect "one-and-lonely" china saucers, plates and bowls from yard sales, thrift shops and the like--I stock these in the Gift Pantry and use them as pretty, environmentally friendly, packaging for homemade cookies, cakes, candy, or fresh fruit and the like.

Covered with cellophane and wrapped with a pretty recycled bow, they make charmingly frugal gifts that won't break your budget or take an over-abundance of time.


Rachel B. said...

One year I made fleece blankets for two of my friends. It cost me $15 and about 2 hours. They are the warmest blankets ever!
This year I'm knitting some wash clothes for my sister and soap. I don't know about the rest.

debi said...

For those who sew, the Sew Mama Sew blog is having a series on ideas for using scraps around the house. I really liked some of the ideas and thought it would be fun to use them to make Christmas gifts as well as clear out some of my scrap fabric. My favorites are the produce bag, fabric covered boxes, either of the coasters or the "I spy" cards for kids. They've had a new idea every day in October, so there's lots there.

I also really like donating or doing things for gifts, especially for grandparents who already have too much stuff. This year, I am knitting/crocheting white blankets for preemie babies who pass away. I give them to an organization that distributes them to hospitals. I'm taking pictures of every blanket to give with a card. It's been fun, and will show my grandma I've been thinking of her all year round.

Wendy said...

For those in Australia, consider gifts from here: "Global Conduct – the little shop of fair trade for the conscious shopper. Our range of exquisite handcrafted products are sourced from fair trade producer co-operatives and artisan groups from around the globe."
For kids, a set of baking supplies with a cookie recipe is good as is a small gardening set and some seeds. Kids seem to prefer "real" tools, not toy ones - and they will last them a lifetime.
One year I made up a sewing kit for my daughter - I got a large colourful pencil case and filled it with sewing supplies. Make sure to add some calico, a water erasable pen for their designs and embroidery thread so they can stitch their designs.
I have given presents from World Vision, Tear Australia and Christian Blind Mission too.

dixiebelle said...

This is my post from last year... but will be doing a few Christmas posts again soon too!

Sincerely, Emily said...

I make pillowcases for nieces and nephews. What ever theme you want - Christmas, Winter, Halloween, Harvest, Ballerinas, Horses - you get the idea. Year after year they know what there present is, but they are always surprise by the theme.

Also made fabric Gift Bags - a few of those is a gift in itself.

I buy my fabrics on sale after each holiday.

dixiebelle said...

Present ideas here:

Carla said...

This year, for the little ones in my life, I am making wooden "stamp blocks" from offcuts of pine and glueing sponge shapes (hearts, triangles, stars etc) onto the bottom of them, then adding a wooden doorknob to the top as a handle. For the kids at school, we are going to make ribbon twirlers. Long piece of dowel, painted, then attach a long piece of gorgeous rainbow satin ribbon with a brass fishing swivel, for them to dance around it spinning and making ribbon swirls/circles.

Carla said...

This year, for the little ones in my life, I am making wooden "stamp blocks" from offcuts of pine and glueing sponge shapes (hearts, triangles, stars etc) onto the bottom of them, then adding a wooden doorknob to the top as a handle. For the kids at school, we are going to make ribbon twirlers. Long piece of dowel, painted, then attach a long piece of gorgeous rainbow satin ribbon with a brass fishing swivel, for them to dance around it spinning and making ribbon swirls/circles.

lexlane said...

I enjoy knitting small gifts with yarns made by local spinners.

The yarn is always beautiful, and the gifts are always appreciated because they took time and thought to make.

I usually make small creepy critters for the kids, and scarves and socks for the adults.

dixiebelle said...

Carla, those are great ideas! Even non crafty people can do those... might have to borrow your idea sometime! Thanks.

Eats, Beads said...

I usually make cards from my handmade paper, and give herbs or recipes that people have particularly liked, but if I ever need a specific gift, I go to You can choose to shop locally there, and there are tons of eco-concious artisans there.

The mint jars and re-usable tea bags idea is fantastic...I might have to borrow it!

Anna in Atlanta said...

Last year (also inspired by Heather B) I made gift baskets of homemade and "pre-used" items for my brothers & sisters-in-law -- homemade granola and pancake mix, used books, and homemade laundry soap mix. The 'wrapping' was a reused wooden fruit basket lined with a cotton dish towel, and the mixes had handmade tags with directions/recipes.

jenniepowell said...

I'm doing lots of knitting and sewing this Christmas, and I expect there will be a fair bit of baking nearer the time.

One smaller gift that I'm making quite a lot of is lavendar sachets - the dried lavendar is relatively cheap, and I've got material left over from making my wedding dress seven years ago, as well as from my husband's waistcoat. So I'm going to make little sachets or pillows (can't decide which) for all the ladies who were at my wedding and who I generally give Christmas presents to. That's the plan, anyway, so long as I get enough time!

Chookie said...

This may be obvious, and in fact another commenter hinted at it... but try to minimise the gift list. Turns out that my sister and her husband are quite happy to not have presents, so we just give them to the kids. There is no need to give presents to every single person in your address book.

Robin said...

I'm making homemade vanilla extract. There are recipes all over the web, but essentially you use vanilla beans and bourbon or vodka. It has to sit for 2 months. Vanilla beans in bulk can be found at a reasonable price online. Last year I made sets of cotton napkins for everyone. They were a hit and simple to sew.

Sustainable Insight said...

I always love to receive gifts that have been made by my family and friends. It is something very special and we are slowly beginning to fill our home with a variety of crafts and artworks and we have filled our bellies with lots of lovely food (every two years my wife makes Christmas puddings to give to family and lose friends).

Unfortunately not all of us is so handy. I believe the next best thing is to give a book that will either help the gift receiver to relax, or to learn more about their chosen passion.

If sustainability is your thing, and is something that you would like to share with others, I suggest you give a book that helps share your interest in living a more sustainable existence.

Eilleen said...

Thanks everyone for such great suggestions and links!