Christmas means something different for everyone: parties with too much prosecco, mugs of hot chocolate and mince pies, more eating, more drinking, more time with family and usually more spending.
But money isn’t the only resource we can gift. We can also give our time, kindness, ideas and love. Below are some suggestions for thoughtful Christmas presents that won’t cost the earth.
The unusual Christmas present: Spend a day together exploring your city, town or village
When I rewatched Breakfast at Tiffany’s for about the hundredth time, I was inspired to take my best friend on a date. We agreed on a Saturday we were both free and took turns to suggest places we’d never been before. We set a budget of £10 for the day, most of which was spent on food, and made our way through Edinburgh, finding free things to do, just like Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard do in New York City.
Why not turn a day of doing new things into a present? Send them a Christmas card proposing your idea to spend a day together visiting new places and buildings, discovering quirky cafés, a market, or even a second hand bookshop. It could be the perfect Christmas present to brighten a dull day in January.
The unique Christmas present: Frame your memories
A photo frame holding an image you love is a simple, beautiful present. There are lots of photo frames sold on the high street for between £5 and £10 and the photograph itself only costs pennies.
Choosing the right photo and get it printed takes time but don’t half finish the job and just give them the frame, otherwise there’s a high chance it will remain empty. Very few of us take the time to print photographs anymore but it’s a beautiful way to remind ourselves of favourite moments - summer holidays, special birthdays or cosy Sundays.
Find an image you know they’ll love and turn it into a Christmas present they’ll cherish.
The personalised Christmas present: Make a playlist
Whenever I hear of how couples and friends used to make each other mixtapes - a labour of love - I’m hit with a wave of nostalgia for a pre-internet era. That said, Spotify, Apple Music and Youtube do make it much easier to pull together songs for someone.
It doesn’t even have to be songs. You could collect ten podcasts you found comforting or insightful and text a link to it on Christmas morning as a present to see them through those January blues. On my list would be Emma Freud interviewed by Dolly Alderton for Love Stories, Otegha Uwagba interviewed by Elizabeth Day for How to Fail, and Elizabeth Gilbert interviewed by Fearne Cotton for Happy Place.
The crafty Christmas present: Get creative
Some of my favourite hours spent with friends or godchildren have been in pottery cafés. You don’t have to paint the perfect teapot. You just have to throw yourself into it and see how it turns out.
So why not find your nearest pottery café, pick up a £10 voucher and make that their Christmas present? Even if it all goes wrong, you’ll have spent that time together and it’s something to laugh about.
The smart Christmas present: Buy a subscription
For many people, magazines and journals are a luxury they wouldn’t buy for themselves on a regular basis. So what you could do as a Christmas present is to buy them a 12 issue subscription. The New Yorker costs $12 for 12 weeks which usually comes to under a tenner, or there are more expensive options such as 12 issues of Vogue for £20 or National Geographic for £25. There are literally hundreds of magazines to choose from. Just remember to set a reminder to cancel the subscription after that period, unless you’re feeling particularly generous.