Save This Christmas! 12 Cost-Saving Christmas Present Ideas

We want Christmas still to be about gifts but without the cost. A Spring Chicken Dozen Christmas present ideas that needn't break the bank.
Girl dressed in black and white holds out brown paper wrapped present

Image by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

When belts get tight, and the cost of living crisis begins to bite, you might think that Christmas presents would go out the window. But we Brits are made of soppier stuff and we still want the piles of gift-wrapped presents under the tree. So we need to come up with some cost-saving Christmas present ideas...

Our Spring Chickens have put their heads together and come up with enough budget ways to save Christmas to make Scrooge himself proud. We asked the Facebook community, what their best cost-saving Christmas present ideas were this year, and have picked out the top dozen for our festive egg basket.

A bird's eye view of a box full of food
Image by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

If anything, this Christmas looks a little brighter for the lightbulb of ingenuity being switched on; that warm glow when just that bit more thought has gone into a gift than a last-minute click on Amazon.

With these Christmas present ideas, the wrapping paper may be recycled newspaper or the brown paper you can buy for a pound at the post office, but inside will be a gift that is guaranteed to bring the grins and gasps of giving without bleeding out your bank account.

1. Home-Made Makes Us Happy

Ask anyone under the age of 8 and over the venal age of 18 (before then, they really do just want the latest model of PlayStation or latest iPhone) and they will say they like the  present that has been home-made, instead of just another piece of plastic to add to landfill, which is why this Christmas present idea came out top in our Spring Chicken poll.

The trouble with homemade presents has always been the level of skill that seems to be required. Not all of us can knit scarves and hats, or make a batch of jam.

The good news is that ‘home-made’ in 2022 takes more of a ‘takes a village’ approach to home-made. Even at the higher end of the skill scale - transforming charity shop bric-a-brac into fancy homewares, or creating a puff pastry Christmas tree from scratch, or sketching a stylish portrait on a t-shirt - with a combination of inexpensive tools and YouTube and TikTok videos that will turn even the most cack-handed buffoon into a crack craftsman, we can all spin gold from straw.

Christmas present ideas #1 - Home Made

There are apps like InstaToon (one of many but it’s particularly easy to use) that can turn a snap on your smartphone into a piece of Andy Warhol pop art in seconds, others that can transform a simple MDF box into a jewellery box covered in a treasure trove of family photos, that can print out personalised cake toppers to transform a quick batch of cookies into a heart-melting gift. All it takes is a little fiddling about on your phone or tablet, then sending the resulting images to be printed, and you’ve gone from Christmas present idea to a work of art in a few short steps.

three phone screens showing purple flowers being transported into a work of art
InstaToon App: Simply upload an image, choose the Pop Art filter you want then send it off to be printed. Simples.

We just need to remember to set aside enough time. If we get going now, we won’t be stressed by the assembly of the right tools, the download of the right digital support, the laying in of craft supplies (homemade gift bags, paints and pens and glitter) and the inevitable first spoiled batch of caramelised nuts until we get the hang of it…

2. The Gift of Time

Time is what the most cash-strapped amongst us might have more of - and it’s the most precious resource the younger generations have. Millennials and Gen X-exers have no time - they’re the busiest generations ever - and our grandchildren don’t want to spend time on boring stuff. We’ve also spent our lives so far honing our life skills (aka the boring stuff) so we have a lot of expertise to offer. That’s why the Christmas present idea of the gift of time/labour, whether it’s giving Mowing the Lawn Gift Tokens, or offering to cook a dinner party, or Babysitting Vouchers or a turn with their Tax Return is so genius.

Nothing can go wrong.

Think back to the top-polling offer of something homemade - perhaps offering to teach someone in the younger generation a skill that you have, which then sets them up for giving homemade presents in the future… so you could promise them cooking lessons, or sewing tuition or a portmanteau of life skills…

3. The Set Price Gift Menu

At first glance, setting a price limit on every present - e.g. £1 or £10 or less -  looks a little joyless but hold up, we are evolved enough to know that gift-giving is not about the ££ value of the gift. When this goes wrong is when there is an imbalance between the cheapness of your gift and the expensiveness of theirs (or vice versa, which feels just as bad). But if you set a level playing field and limit each gift to a mutually agreed cost, then the stress is immediately lifted.

In the States, they’ve even made a fly-on-the-wall about how low people can go in setting a price limit on Christmas

Then, of course, the competitiveness of giving (c’mon, own up, there’s always a competitiveness of giving!) becomes all about the ingenuity of what that person can conjure up for their £10…. But, don’t worry, if you’re not feeling it, there’s any number of ‘under a tenner’ Christmas present ideas on t’Internet…

4. Secret Santa for All

The only potential downside of setting a price limit per present, as above, is that, especially in a large family, you all end up with cheap disposable presents that can seem quickly destined for landfill. Whereas if you practise the same level playing field, combined with the Secret Santa approach of being assigned only one person to buy for, then the ££ can go higher, making for a bigger, ‘better’ present: an exponential Christmas present idea.

Military man in camo uniform clambers over twin-engined old fashioned aeroplane
The sky’s the limit with one big Secret Santa present. Image Dale Atkins on Wiki Media Commons

And, in turn, you only have to think about one person’s wishes and desires which makes Christmas shopping more focused, less onerous. It makes for a shorter orgy of present-unwrapping around the tree and you only end up with one gift, which can feel a little short-changing but, with its No.4 ranking, our Spring Chickens are clearly evolved enough to prize quality over quantity…

5. No Presents Rule

There is, of course, the ultimate cost-saving Christmas present idea - don’t give gifts at all (or its slightly less punchy little sibling idea, only give presents to children). This is an option for the Christmas-deniers: the ones who bemoan the commercialism of the Yuletide period, who avoid a pig in blanket as being ‘overpriced by the Christmas label’, who cite the existence of Christmas trees as anti-environmental and wrap any presents they do give in household towels ‘to avoid waste’. There are clearly a few Spring Chickens in this gang, as shown by its high ranking but, giddy little Christmas elves that we are in the SC team, we can’t in all good conscience give it our approval. Even the endless amusement of watching spoilt American kids being given coal on YouTube surely can’t condone a no-gift Yuletide...

Christmas Present ideas - A #Coal4Christmas Campaign perhaps?

Of course, it is eminently sensible to choose to avoid present-giving entirely and decide to save our pennies for our own year-round needs… But we think that’s lacking in the very human qualities we celebrate here at Spring Chicken, the ones that celebrate the creation of memories, the giving of everything we have to give to other generations, the aggregation of oxytocin and dopamine that results from unnecessary generosity. So, as they say in Dragon’s Den to perfectly nice sensible people, when it comes to this Christmas present idea of cancelling Christmas,‘we’re out’.

6. Edible Treats - Pamper with a Hamper!

This is more like it - everyone likes a little treat at Christmas and a hamper full of such treats, especially a hamper that you have built according to the recipient’s personal tastes and tipples, can feel like the most spoiling collection of goodies. We would recommend buying a nice box or re-using an old hamper basket, then filling it with goodies that you know your loved one likes…. But for the time-starved, so many shops and foodie operators now do their own carefully curated collections - and for all price ranges -  that you can’t really go wrong. So go right ahead with this Christmas present idea, pamper with a hamper!

A wooden box, lined with a cloth, containing three sealed jars and other food sundries. Christmas present ideas #6 - A Pamper Hamper
Christmas present ideas #6 - A Pamper Hamper (Image by Dmitry Mashkin on Unsplash)

7. Charity begins at... the Charity Shop

Everyone loves a bargain from a charity shop - repurposing, recycling, reusing, all the R’s - but even the most dedicated eco-warrior doesn’t want to feel fobbed off with a dusty, half-ripped classic charity haul trying to pass muster as a Christmas present idea. So this option works best if you’re prepared to think outside the box and even put in a little bit of crafty work.

Graffiti about recycling on a cream street wall. Christmas present ideas #7 - Recycling
Christmas present ideas #7 - Recycling (Image by Jack Church on Unsplash)

Again, there are YouTube videos a-go-go for the possibilities here, but there are things to spot within the charity shops that then lend themselves to good gifting: designer clothes (in areas where there are wealthy people giving stuff away); jars - all sizes and varieties - as gift packaging for hair accessories, retro sweets, stationery items; fabrics for repurposing into tote bags, make-up bags and the like. For some reason, charity shops always seem to have baskets and plates in profusion…. Baskets for hampers (scroll up!), plates for wall decoration, sorted!

Christmas present ideas #7 - Charity Shops a Recycling paradise

8. Pass It On

Done cleverly, giving something you own (but are happy to pass on to a deserving loved one) can feel like a precious legacy rather than a hand-me-down. Tips like hand-written dedications inside, if it’s a book, or putting it in a nice wrapping box, embedded in luxuriant layers of tissue paper, if it’s an ‘objet’, or a small investment in a nice piece of velvet to cradle a piece of jewellery, will all create a feeling of care and seriousness. And the cherry on top of this Christmas present idea? A handwritten letter explaining its significance in your life and why you now want to bequeath it to the recipient.

Two little girls read a book while the sun sets behind them. Christmas present ideas #8 - Pass it on
Christmas present ideas #8 - Pass it on (Image Ben White on Unsplash)

9. The No-Gift Gift

Every charity worth its salt now has a ‘No-Gift Gift’ scheme whereby you can give a donation in someone’s name, or put them down as a sponsor or some other charitable angle. For this Christmas present idea we particularly like Concern Worldwide, with its range of variables: cost, location and a great menu of ‘life-changing gifts’ - a pig for £11, a set of school uniform, a set of taps, right up to a solar panel at £422 or village well at over £1,000.

Christmas present ideas #8 - The No-Gift gift

10. Vouchers to use in sales.

The truth that rarely speaks its name in the Christmas present game is when you secretly know that the recipient just wants money. But the easy (yawn) route of giving money is what we’re trying to avoid in this article about actual Christmas present ideas, so our Spring Chickens came up with the next best thing: vouchers to use in sales. Then there’s the whole ballgame of finding the discount vouchers with which to buy the vouchers but #thatwaymadnesslies

Christmas present ideas #10 - Gift Vouchers

11. A Gift Gamble

It’s the dream. Who remembers the very first National Lottery advert? “It could be you!” and we’ve believed it ever since. Who hasn’t whiled away many a pleasant hour, planning how they would spend/give away / invest their lottery winnings? So what better Christmas present idea than to give that dream - that chance - to a loved one for Christmas? (And we will not speak of that killjoy 1 in 45 million ratios of chance). Scratch cards take that ratio down to a tantalising 1 in 3, but often that just means your money back: the top prizes are wreathed in mystery and high odds. But, as we say in our family, ‘Someone has to win!’

The very first National Lottery TV advert

12. Presents That Can Save Money

For the last in our Spring Chicken dozen, we were so inspired by the concept of giving presents that can save money that we are now going to go away and write a whole other article on Christmas present ideas that, simply by being given, can then save money for the recipient so it’s the gift that keeps on giving. So, for now, we will simply leave you with what sounds like the beginning of a joke: an air fryer, a hot water bottle and a cake tin walk into a bar…..

Spring Chicken - the gift that keeps on giving



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12 Games of Christmas - 12 Hilarious & Festive Christmas Games

  • Complete Christmas Day Games Bundle - This festive bundle contains 12 fun, easy-to-learn and simple-to-play Christmas party games to get you, family, and friends in the Christmas spirit! In need of Christmas ideas to add excitement to your celebration? Elevate your festivities with these Christmas day games.

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