Frugal Friday: Eco Gifts to Save Money and Resources

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As December approaches, advertising for Christmas comes into full force. From vigilant shelf-dwelling faerie folk to hedonistic feasts, along with gifts of every kind, the pressure to shop for ‘Christmas essentials’ can be intense.

I love seasonal celebration but money is tight. I also hate waste and gratuitous consumerism. Here are a few ideas that help make the most of natural resources, while saving money and reducing the amount of rubbish generated. It can take time, hence posting now despite Christmas being a while away. It’s worth the effort.


Save Packaging

Forget expensive Christmas paper. A little time and effort can make gifts gorgeous without any single-use wrapping.


Use fabric as packaging – pretty scarves from charity shops or old fabric scraps from your sewing basket, if you have one.

Make fabric bags if you have time – they can be part of the gift as an added bonus.

You can also use newspaper and string with packets of seeds as gift tags (make your own seed packets from squares of recycled paper).

If you have time, decoupage is a great way to turn an old cardboard box into something lovely – and can be used as a gift hamper the recipient will want to keep. Fill with shredded paper and decorate with fresh herbs or festive greenery.

Alternatively, give experiences rather than gifts so all you need for packaging is an envelope.

Use Waste

Orange and satsuma peel can be used to make marmalade or fruit vodka.

Old toiletry packaging and jam jars can be used to hold home made storecupboard toiletries. These are a great low budget gift and can be luxurious with the addition of herbs and aromatherapy oil (lavender oil is cheap and popular).

Old plant pots can be cleaned and filled with bulbs for simple universal gifts: decorate the pot or cover it in fabric to make it look for festive.

Bottles can be filled with home made cordial. Ginger cordial is a simple and sophisticated option: use crushed ginger (I use the ice cubes for ease of preparation) plus honey or sugar, water and lemon juice for a gorgeous non-alcoholic drink, and great cocktail ingredient (It’s also delicious and soothing with hot water when you’re ill). Mint cordial is another tasty option, with lime in place of lemon.

Old tights and fabric scraps can be used to make ‘elf on the shelf’ dolls – for details, see the end of this post.

Make Crackers and Hats

Making your own crackers allows you to fill them with eco gifts – seeds to plant and home made sweets, or home made jewellery. A glue gun comes in handy when making them. Decorate your crackers with pictures from magazines and fabric/lace scraps.

Fabric Christmas hats needn’t be complicated to make, and won’t end up in the bin after a single use. Or make crowns from lace, or ivy and seasonal greenery, instead.


Do an audit of your possessions. Are there any books you’ve read that a friend might love? Do you have jewellery you never wear? Have you got unopened toiletries you never got round to using, or samples from magazines? Received any unwanted gifts? Turn your old items into gift hampers with notes to explain each choice, to add intimacy. Thought is more important than expense: show friends you really know them.


Knitting can  be relaxing and is a great way to make gifts on a budget. Scarves and hats are always useful and can be quick to make. Charity shops often have bargain yarn to keep costs down.


Cooking Christmas treats is a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon. Jam and compote, chutney and sauce are all easy and delicious. Use recycled jars, after sterilising. Decorate with fabric circles and hand-drawn labels. Keep some for yourself so you can enjoy extra festive treats without having to spend a fortune. Use others as gifts.

Buy Second Hand

Charity shops are full of bargains, and help reduce waste. There are often new-appearing books and ornaments, along with clothes galore. Great for inspiring creative gift ideas too.

Give Time Not Money

While it can be tempting to buy gifts for people we love, often, a little time may be more appreciated.  Give vouchers for ‘A day helping with cleaning, ‘A home-cooked meal’ or ‘An afternoon out.’ It’s a great way to prioritise making time for the people who matter most to you, and show them how much you care about them: a lovely Christmas sentiment.

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