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DIY December: eco-friendly gift ideas for any budget


Looking for thoughtful, budget-friendly gift ideas this Christmas? Zero waste expert Anita Vandyke shares 5 ideas.

As the holiday season approaches, there is a flurry of activity that sees many of us buying gifts that we can't afford, to impress people we don't even like. If you are clever about how you spend your money in December, this will prevent a debt hangover in January. There are so many ways to spend less on gifts without cutting back on celebrations. And you don't need to buy expensive gifts to be a generous giver – if you embrace #DIYDecember, you can make meaningful gifts that are eco- and budget-friendly.

So, if you want to start off 2020 by doing good for the planet, whilst also doing good for your bank account, here are my top tips for making this merry season more about giving than spending.

1. Say no to wrapping paper
Wrapping ideas: Vintage brooches, a decorated box, reused ribbon, mesh bags.

Wrapping paper is a rather silly invention. You wrap a present, and then the paper gets ripped open, wasting money and trees for a few seconds of frivolousness. Let's replace it with some more sustainable options such as wrapping gifts in silk scarves, napkins or tea towels.

You can make them yourself with some old scrap material or buy them secondhand from charity shops. This also makes a lovely extra gift. For an extra touch of luxury, you can decorate them with upcycled ribbon or some vintage brooches.

2. Gift consumables

Consumable gift ideas: Lemon myrtle salt, chocolate goodies and tea in reuseable jars.

For the person who has everything, the easiest thing to gift is food, wine, drinks or something that is consumable. A great tip is to upcycle your old jars and fill them up with gourmet goodies from a bulk food store. I love gifting gourmet chocolates, decadent tea or delicious coffee. Everyone loves food, so it's a great budget-friendly gift that will definitely be consumed.

3. Gift a zero-waste kit

Make your own zero waste kit as a gift, with a nice tote bag or basket, reusable jars and containers you can use at a bulk food store.

This is a great gift idea for yourself, or for a friend who is just starting on their zero waste journey. It's so simple: source a secondhand basket or bag, add a decorative scarf, pom-pom or keychain and then fill it up with a selection of secondhand jars and containers for their first bulk-buy shopping trip. You can personalise it with a name tag, scarf or ribbon and it'll make such a fun gift for an eco-conscious friend.

4. Make your own Christmas hamper

A #DIYDecember gift hamper with fruit, oil and reusable jars of consumable products.

Homemade Christmas hampers make wonderful gifts because you can customise them to suit your budget and can put them together in as much or as little time as you have available. You just need to fill the hamper with some fresh produce and homemade presents. I love gifting my lemon bergamot scrub that you can make with sugar. Here is the recipe:

Lemon bergamot scrub by Anita Vandyke
You need:
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (the finer the better)
  • A squeeze of lemon juice and grind some of the lemon rind into the sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • A few drops of bergamot essential oils

Mix this all together in a large bowl and decant into a container of your choice. I decorate it with a ribbon or a homemade gift tag. It smells so luxurious and doesn't have any micro beads like store-bought body scrubs.

5. Gift an experience rather than more stuff

Time is the most important gift. You can always make more money, accumulate more stuff, but you can't gain more time. One way to embrace a more mindful Christmas is to gift your time. This could mean a #DIYVoucher for a home-cooked meal for one of your friends, or a wine and cheese night with girlfriends. For parents, you could gift babysitting hours, or get creative and offer a home-pampering session to your own mum. There are so many ways in which you can gift your time, rather than buy more things. Think outside the box and make your own #DIYVoucher.

#DIYDecember is about embracing the challenge of not accumulating more debt to buy cheap presents that we don't want or need. It's about being a more conscious consumer and spending time, effort and money on things that truly matter. Living in alignment with your values is a daily practice and this means reconsidering how you spend your money during the holiday season. Let's make this a more mindful Christmas, so that we can enter 2020 surrounded by loved ones, rather than more credit card debt.

Podcast: How to live a zero-waste life on a budget with Anita Vandyke

Anita Vandyke is a qualified rocket scientist (graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering – Aeronautical Space) and runs a successful Instagram account (@rocket_science) about zero waste living. She currently splits her time between studying Medicine in Sydney, and living with her husband in San Francisco. She regularly blogs about her passions of zero waste switches, minimalism, travel and all things green living at Anita's first book A Zero Waste Life: in thirty days($19.99) is published by Penguin Random House.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article (which may be subject to change without notice) are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Finder and its employees. The information contained in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort. Neither the author nor Finder have taken into account your personal circumstances. You should seek professional advice before making any further decisions based on this information.

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Images: Supplied (Anita Vandyke)

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