Silly season about to grip the nation

It does not seem possible, but Christmas is almost here. Oily rag households will be busy getting jobs done before the silly season arrives and all sense and sensibility is abandoned completely. This week we look at some favourite tips from previous years to inspire creative ways to take the cost out of Christmas but leave the fun.

• Have a “make or bake Christmas” – only exchange gifts that have been made or baked by the giver. Start making now – pottery, a painting, a calendar featuring family photos, or print a photo annual (the best photos for 2017 for example), make a family recipe book featuring each person’s favourite recipes, or record your favourite children’s book digitally and send to others to enjoy the story and your narration. Join the painted rock craze and decorate keep-sake rocks with designs and warm messages, like “You rock”!

• For plant gifts, why not a cherry tomato? They are sweet and kids love them. They suit pots too, so if you plant them now, they will be ready to fruit around Christmas time. For trees, citrus doesn’t mind being in pots so are a great idea for those who are space challenged – or have a spare sunny spot on their patio. For oranges, try a Washington Navel which has a seedless fruit that ripens in late autumn to early spring.

• Many varieties of herbs make excellent gifts and look great sitting on a sunny windowsill. For something a little bit different try lemongrass – it makes a refreshing tea, but has many beneficial properties and is often used when cooking poultry, fish, and seafood. Or what about a red hot chilli pepper plant in an attractive patio pot!

• Add a personal touch to everyday things. Take a plain coloured umbrella and add drawings and decorations, like song lyrics: “raindrops keep falling on my head…” Or personalise kitchen containers, like the cookie jar… “Prohibited area. Keep out!”

• A Wellington reader writes, “I have recently been trawling galas, garage sales and op’ shops for Christmas pressies for the kids. You can buy fantastic gifts at very reasonable prices. I have bought all my nieces and nephews puzzles and games of their favourite cartoon characters for 20c each and they are still in almost new condition. My nieces are also getting jewellery boxes that were less than 50c each and my son is getting a huge box of Lego we found for $5. Cannot believe how little we have spent so far and the fantastic toys and gifts the kids are getting this year. Have also saved some presents for Birthdays too!”

• Check out the number of credits you have on your reward cards. Redeem your points for product or vouchers and use them as gifts. This is a great way to save cash and for some, it’s like being a member of a Christmas Club – the beauty is whoever receives a voucher can use it in the Boxing Day sales and make it go even further than it did the day before!

• M.G. from Hastings says, “Our wider family got together and decided to limit Christmas gifts to a few dollars per person. That way nobody is too disappointed when they don’t get anything flash. So what can you give for a few dollars:
 Photos with a message printed across them, from digital machines.
 Photo frame, brought or homemade.
 Plants grown from seed or cuttings.
 Home-made biscuits, cakes, drinks, etc
 Personalised pens made by printing names (or something more imaginative), on stickers in a small font. Also, make a pen holder to go with them.
 Glue give-away fridge magnets to the back of a small notepad, maybe attach a photo or calendar to the top to personalise it. You now have a handy shopping list to keep on the fridge.
 A family favourite is chocolate. Look for a mould that has about a dozen deep individual shapes. Slowly melt chocolate in the microwave to coat the sides of the shapes. When they have set fill with a cold ganache, made by heating 100mls of cream and dissolving 100grms of chocolate into it. This can then be flavoured with peanut butter, liqueurs or honey.
 Kids love to get a plastic glass full of lollies or lolly kebabs.”

With Christmas fast approaching, if you have some thrifty tips to share, please let us know so we can help others who would like to have a frugal Xmas! We think all things made with thought and attention will be appreciated far more than gifts bought in a panic on Christmas Eve!

Please drop us a note via with your favourite Christmas tips to share – or the questions you want answered.