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A Cost-less Christmas

8294 Xmas Present 2
8294 Xmas Present 2

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman

With only 48 sleeps ‘till Christmas our thoughts are turning towards ways of easing the financial pressure over the holiday period. What about Xmas gifts that cost little – except in time and planning? Here are some ideas to get your imagination going.

Canny Scot from Christchurch says, “Last year I made pickles and chutney and made nice home made labels for them on my computer. I wrapped each jar in a bright red or green new tea towel and tied them with ribbon. My friends seemed well pleased with them and if you make a few extra they come in handy for gifts for people who visit around Xmas time (recycled jars of course). These can be made in advance and take a lot of stress out of Xmas.”

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 home made.
  • 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 gnache, made by heating 100mls of cream and dissolving 100gms 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.”

Check out the number of credits you have on your reward cards, like Fly-buys. 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.

Give a tree. There are lots of gardens with self-sown native trees that can be replanted without difficulty. Present it in a special pot and there you have an everlasting gift that is great for the environment and can be enjoyed for years. Or what about giving a sunflower plant? Kids love them and it’s a real treat to see them grow into huge happy flowers. When they die off the seeds in the flower head can be used in for snacks or placed in a bird feeder to attract all sorts of bird life which kids also love to watch. Or what about swan plants? They are easy to grow and children love watching Monarchs as they change from caterpillars to butterflies.

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 2011 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.

Have a kids-only Christmas. One reader says this year the extended family have agreed to only give presents to kids. They got tired of having the pressure of buying stuff for their adult family members, and things have been a bit tight this year, so they are looking at ways to make the fewer dollars in their pocket go further.

Decorate a brollie. Take a plain coloured umbrella and add drawings and decorations to personalise it – like song lyrics: “rain drops keep falling on my head…” Or personalise kitchen containers, like the cookie jar… “Prohibited area. Keep out!”

Tell us about your cashless Christmas gifts and we will share them with others. You can contact us through the oily rag website ( or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at