The holiday season is just around the corner, but as we face a cost-of-living crisis, many households are bracing for a bleak Christmas with little to cheer up.
Due to a national turkey shortage as bird flu wipes out half of the free range, our Christmas Day menu could make Ebenezer Scrooge blush.
And with the cost of groceries rising at 16 percent inflation, those Brussels sprouts will seem like a luxury.
But if you’re thinking twice before turning on the Christmas lights — let alone the heating — because of record-high energy bills, think about how the spirit of Christmas is one of the few things left free.
By following our tips on how to make your own decorations – everything from festive cards to baubles for a tree – you can still share in the magic of Christmas without breaking the bank.
The festive season is over. By following our tips on how to make your own decorations, you can still share in the magic of Christmas without breaking the bank
Find a bargain
Nordmann trees are most practical for homes because their needles take longer to fall than traditional Norway spruce.
According to the consumer group Which? some of the cheapest Nordmanns are at supermarket Aldi – £15 for a 5ft tree, or £25 for 6ft.
Although it may be more expensive, a £25 pot-grown 4ft Nordmann from Tesco will prove better value if you can grow it outdoors later on, bringing it in for festivities each year. Those who fancy growing a tree from scratch can buy a Nordmann sapling from just £10, but you’ll have to wait up to a decade for it to grow into a six-foot tree.
Nordmann trees are most practical for homes because their needles take longer to fall than traditional Norway spruce. Pictured: file image
Artificial trees offer an alternative solution and although fake, they should last for years to come.
According to Which?: ‘Another idea is to upcycle old trees. You can hang branches horizontally – string them together along a wall in a pyramid shape with the longest sticks at the bottom and the shortest at the top. Decorate the branches with energy-efficient LED lights and Christmas baubles to give it that Christmas feeling.’
You could consider renting a tree, but that usually works out more expensive. For example, Cotswold Fir is offering a month’s hire for a four-foot tree for £52 from 7 December. The cost of delivery and collection is €25.
This winter of austerity is the ideal time to brighten up the mood with handmade decorations in the home.
Alison Martin-Clark, from Staplehurst, Kent, doesn’t believe you need to spend money in shops when a walk in the woods and a pot of paint can provide a creative solution that costs next to nothing.
The learning assistant says, “You can cut small branches from a tree, but I like to look for fallen wood that has been blown away by the winter wind.
‘Hazel is a particularly beautiful branch with its beautiful, undulating curves.
“Then I get a pot of white emulsion paint from the shed and coat the branch.”
This winter of austerity is the ideal time to brighten up the mood with handmade decorations in the home. Pictured: Alison Martin Clark shows off a wreath she picked from the woods
Alison adds: ‘For decoration, use old Christmas baubles and pine cones that have been dipped in paint and possibly sprinkled with glitter.’
Cones also make attractive baubles for hanging from a larger Christmas tree. For those wanting to make traditional baubles for a tree, shops such as Hobbycraft sell plastic ‘fillable’ or ceramic baubles for £1 each which can be painted or filled with festive trinkets or sweets.
Paper chains can also be a great alternative to tinsel – £3 for a 2.5m deco line.
For inspiration and guidance, online videos from House Beautiful and Hobbycraft help.
Find the holy spirit
Celebrate the arrival of Christmas by starting with a wreath for your front door.
Helen Round, garden manager for the Royal Horticultural Society at RHS Rosemoor in Devon, says: ‘Everything needed is often already in the garden or can be collected from neighbors or on a countryside walk.’ She suggests picking sprigs of evergreens like holly, conifer from a hedge, and perhaps a small-leaved plant like the shrub pittosporum.
You can buy a natural liana base ring as a base from a florist.
A 12 inch ring costs around £3 and can be reused every year.
You will also need a £2 spool of florist reels to tie the evergreens together and attach to the ring.
Helen says: ‘Take a single sprig of holly – ideally with some berries, conifer and pittosporum – and wrap the three together tightly, as they may come loose when dry.
“You may need a dozen of these woods. Then you wrap each bunch around the ring until it’s completely green.’
She adds: “There are no rules about what is right or wrong – so have fun with your imagination. For example, add pine cones or oak autumn leaves for more color.’
Practical help can also be found on online videos, such as those offered by RHS magazine and Country Living.
Play your cards right
A handmade card is always valued more than a standard printed card – and costs pennies instead of pounds. When looking for inspiration, Lyndsey Dangerfield believes that handprints are a great place to start because they are quick and easy to make.
The 45-year-old bookkeeper and artist from Benenden in Kent says: ‘Taking the time to make cards with children is not only satisfying, but gets the whole family in the Christmas spirit.
“If you’re looking for inspiration, roll up your sleeves and dip your hands on an ink pad—and stamp them into antler shapes on a card.”
“You can then draw a face and have a beautiful personalized greeting card. The same trick can be used to create penguin or Christmas tree designs.’
Lyndsey and her children Catherine, eight, and Tom, six, also make their own wrapping paper using potato prints and ink stamps to turn plain paper into festive wrapping paper.
Craft shops sell colored stamp pads for £2 and wooden Christmas stamps for £1. A pack of 50 plain cards can cost £3, a roll of paper £1.
Alison Martin-Clark also suggests making sure received cards don’t go to waste by clipping them into Christmas gift tags for the following year.
Old toilet rolls make a great base for Christmas crackers – with the cardboard tubes wrapped in festive paper with a few inches of overlap on either side. Then you twist the paper on each end of the toilet roll and hold the narrow necks together with ribbon or string.
A few 2 inch wide strips of thin cardboard should be glued to the inner perimeter of the wrapping paper after these twists – to give guests something to hold onto.
‘Snaps’ in a cracker cost £3 online for a pack of 24. You can make hats using a £1 roll of Christmas paper or festive wrapping, using tape and scissors.
Stuff your own handwritten jokes into the cracker, focusing more on laughter than the usual moaning. Gifts can be personalised.
Ideas include packets of plant seeds, mini race cars, and keychains. For deluxe refills for adults, also consider miniature liquor bottles.
Help with making and filling crackers can be found at websites such as The Cracker Company, Cowling & Wilcox, and Neve’s Bees.