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Ecologico Experiences: Christmas on the cheap!

“Christmas isn’t about candy canes or lights all aglow, it’s the hearts that we touch, and the care that we show.” – Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas

The kids were watching this on TV recently and I jotted down this quote as an important reminder to myself because if I'm honest I've been a little worried about Christmas this year.

A couple of months ago I reached the point of maternity leave where I'm not receiving any maternity pay and Mr Ecologico has just gone fully self-employed so while our Christmases have always been mindful, this year we're being downright thrifty!

Nobody wants to be an Ebenezer Scrooge, especially when Squishy and Red have hit the 'magic' of Christmas and it's Toastie's first Christmas and with lots of us feeling the pinch but not wanting to be a Grinch so here is a rundown of some ideas we're trying!

Firstly we stopped giving cards and using wrapping paper a few years ago: we use reusable cloth wrapping and we have Christmas photo we send round with a message of goodwill rather than the waste of cards. However, this year we've also chosen to do free, local, cheap activities such as woodland walks, Storytime With Santa at our local library, crafts at our family centre and Church activities rather than paid for experience activities, and honestly I have actually found it all quite liberating not to be so busy and shelling out loads of cash to attribute a monetary value to our memories and experiences.

When it comes to presents, we've slimmed down our Christmas giving list: lots of our loved ones may also be feeling the squeeze, so if you haven't already, it could be a year to change how you do gifts together and talk about what works for you all; you could try a frank conversation or setting a strict budget, a Secret Santa, ask your friends and family to write a list of things they really do need so that you aren't gifting for gifting's sake, and if you do buy, buy less!

Of course, one idea is not to buy gifts, but we still enjoying gifting so we have some great alternative options. Many of these ideas are just as thoughtful as expensive experiences or treats, and they're planet-friendly too!

We've got some jars of homemade treats including baking jars, sweets and blackberry gin and strawberry vodka from fruit we picked and froze earlier in the year. If you’ve got time and energy, you can decorate the jar too, I like this simple scrap of fabric and twine to jazz up my jar!

We're celebrating special memories with some photos printed out. We've put some in photo frames we already had from our wedding but you can usually pick up pre-loved picture frames from most charity shops. Plus, Mr Ecologico and I have written little notes to each other and created a lovely playlist to listen to while we have a picnic.

We've always been a fan of preloved so it's no surprise we've bought some secondhand bits and be gifted some lovely clothes, books and toys for the children.

Check out local Facebook pages, auction sites, secondhand selling apps and charity shops as well as considering refurbished tech. Many reconditioned items come in original packaging, complete with warranties and they are often a lot cheaper than brand-new equivalents.

The preloved gift I'm most looking forward to is buying a secondhand 'escape room' game from a friend to enjoy as a date because one of the greatest gifts is the gift of time.

You don't have to spend lots of money to show you care! We've gifted people stays in our caravan, dinner dates, but we've also received someone doing my nails, babysitting, making a meal, cleaning, gardening which are all very much appreciated as most of us lack quality "me time" and your skills and time could save someone a fortune too! If you feel the need to 'give something' you could create a physical 'gift voucher' out of paper or card to put in an envelope which can be opened like other presents.

Plus, for me, quality time and acts of service are my main love languages so I always appreciate getting together for a nice lunch, walk, chat, film or fun activity much more than a gift set or new piece of clothing!

Why not get crafty or creative? At home this year we've made our own Christmas decorations, food, treats and fun using things we already had at home. We've tried to focus on the process rather than the outcome and made it more fun by getting the kids involved (and that also gives me an excuse for the less than perfect finish on some of it🤣).

But making your own gifts is also a great way to pass long Winter evenings and can stop you impulse shopping and turn a hobby into some useful or beautiful gifts. In the past, my mum has hand-knitted us gifts, we've had handmade clothes and we've made sweets, treats, candles, bath salts and other little treats quite easily.

Lastly, I'm going to mention the taboo here: Re-gift something! I'll bet you have something in your house that one of your friends or family would like but is of no use to you. Don't feel shame in re-gifting. Gift an unloved item to someone who will love it and enjoy it more than you, rather than let it collect dust!

If you want some other tips specifically around frugal festive food then check out our other blogs in the series or share your top tips with us if you think there's something we've missed.

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