Been a long year, hasn’t it. January started with a lockdown, redundancies happened, supermarkets ran out of food. Then there were those summer months where everyone completely lost it and spent their last 30 quid on club nights and “laminated eyebrows”. Now it’s winter again and there’s talk of restrictions. Oh, and Christmas is here – the most expensive, wallet-rinsing time of the year. How are you meant to buy things for a cousin you haven't seen since 2018 when you don’t have a penny to your name?
But not this year. This year, you’re gonna be alright. And that’s because there are wise strangers who were pained by the festive rinsing of their bank account and took matters into their own hands. They’ve shunned the shops and trawled through trash or spent hours trying to stitch something somewhat special for a fraction of the price of a Dyson hair dryer.
Thanks to them, we have a guide to Christmas gifting – the good, the bad and the ugly – on a budget. Enjoy!
A stolen pint glass
The stolen pint glass.
“I was on a date with someone, and we were talking about stealing pint glasses. He was like, ‘I'm going to take mine.’ It's not the sort of thing that I would normally do on a first date, but I remembered that my mom has always said she would specifically like one of the Estrella glasses that I happened to be drinking from. I don't really know why she likes them, I guess it’s the graphics. So I was like, ‘Right, I'll take it and give it to my mom for Christmas.’
“The pub I got it from was the second pub that we went to that night, we had like three or four pints there. The actual taking of it was obviously very quick – I just put it in my bag. But I guess we were there all evening, so you could say it took a few hours. The cost was £4.70 a pint I think, so I suppose it cost that much? But I did get to drink the pint.” – Harriet, 23
An embroidered sheet
The hand-embroidered 'Jersey Shore' note.
“I found a room divider in the trash behind my apartment. It was extremely heavy, broken and stained, but I wanted it so I dragged it into my studio apartment. I was hoping to make it into a functional room divider. I then realised it was unfixable, so I decided to see what kind of materials I could salvage from it. I pulled the canvas off, and thought I could craft something with it [as] I got into embroidery during the pandemic.
My friend Nicky is obsessed with Jersey Shore, and she specifically asked for the note [infamously written by Snooki and JWoww to castmate Sammi] embroidered by me for Christmas, so I figured I’d use the canvas for it. I would say it cost less than $5 for the thread, but if we were to equate an hourly wage it’d be way way more than that, it took ages and ages. So five bucks and onset carpal tunnel and arthritis.” – Stephanie, 30
Your own personal Guess Who
The custom Guess Who? game.
“So last Christmas I was trying to figure out something to get my boyfriend. He's really, really obsessed with board games – but, like, fancy premium board games. So I figured I’d just make him something nobody else had. Initially I was going to do Monopoly, but it was taking too long, so I went for Guess Who?.
“Turns out there was this sort of template thing on Etsy, it looked pretty similar. I did a social media stalk for the photos of his mates and family, and then dropped the photos into the squares and printed it off. The longest bit was cutting them all out and laminating them, and then trying to get them to fit into the actual game. They weren’t as sturdy as the proper one. But it was so worth it when it was done. I reckon it cost about 20 quid all in and it’s one-of-a-kind!” – Lauren, 25
Magic mushroom chocolates
Chocolate truffles made with magic mushrooms.
“Last year my partner and I picked a bunch of magic mushrooms which were growing on a golf course that was closed during the pandemic. We then dried them, ground them up, weighed them and mixed them with melted chocolate, which was then poured into an ice cube tray. The result? Lots of little magic mushroom truffles for the entire family. I gave one to my grandma, one to my mum and then kept a few for myself. I am definitely not suggesting you do this of course because it’s illegal.
“Having said that, it’s now a bit late in the season for magic mushrooms right now – they usually grow around late summer to early autumn – but global warming is a thing so maybe there'll still be some left!” – Francine (not her real name), 29
A stuffed version of their pet
A soft toy replica of a cat.
“Last year my daughter got a cat, Margo, for her birthday. I thought about making her a soft toy for Christmas, because I've made soft toys before and they've been adequate. This premium effigy I was hoping to make ended up being a bit of a disaster – it turns out making a cat is pretty difficult.
“I sourced a big roll of material which looked a bit like the cat's fur and found a pattern on the internet for a tiny cat which I thought I could just scale up. It took hours and hours. I was still sewing it on the 23rd of December and the cat absolutely hates it. I had to try and do it secretively too, because we were living in the same place at that point. It’s not easy to sneakily sew a cat, so I’d often have to go and visit my mum for a few hours and take it with me.” – Rachel, 39
A lovely pasta portrait
A pasta portrait of a boyfriend.
“I was a really poor student at the time and was trying to decide what to get my boyfriend. I remember my housemate suggested making something. We started talking about cheap projects we used to make at primary school, things escalated and suddenly I was raiding the cupboard for pasta and sketching his face on some paper.
“I did his hair with fusilli, the beard with rice, and the glasses frames with spaghetti which I painted black (I already had the paint and some glue). I think it genuinely cost me about 40p to make, and it took an hour or so. It was a great idea but slightly creepy, perhaps. He definitely kept it for a long time. We're not together anymore, so I doubt he still has it, but honestly the likeness was actually quite good.” – Beatrice, 28
Tiny clay figurines
“I had like 20 pounds to spare and I didn't think I could get anything that my girlfriend would really like for that, so I figured I’d try and make something a little more personal. I bought some air dry clay and a gloss varnish – I had paints at home – and then set to work on a Kermit and a Peggy from the Muppets.
“We’d spent a lot of time watching the Muppets together and she’s loved them since she was a kid, as most people do if they love the Muppets. It took a while – maybe a week? I sketched them out and then tried to mould it. Kermit was sorted on the first draft, Peggy took two goes – [she was a] bit of a diva. It cost less than the 20 quid I had and she loved them. They're displayed happily on a wall.” – Sean, 22