Stocking fillers on a budget

Handmade stockings ready to fill. Photo: MtK

If the recession is leaving you with a hole in your pocket (not to mention ladders in your tights), there are still plenty of imaginative and cost-effective ways to fill a stocking with seasonal cheer.  Take heart from the origins of the Christmas stocking; the story of three sisters left without dowries after their nobleman father squandered the family’s fortune following the death of their mother.  So moved by their plight was kindly St. Nicholas that one night he placed a small bag of gold coins in each girl’s stocking as they hung drying by the fireside.  Discovering his gifts the following morning, the girls were then able to marry and live happily ever after, and ever since children have been hanging up their stockings ready for Santa to fill with treats.

Granted gold coins might be in short supply, but there are still many inexpensive yet thoughtful items to delight young and old alike on Christmas morning.  The trick is to set a budget, stick to it and to remember the gifts are intended to be small tokens not over-the-top extravagances – not that I’d complain if I found a vintage charm bracelet à la Betty Draper in mine!  As old hat as it sounds, when it comes to stockings it really is the thought that counts.  Here are five budget-friendly tips to try:

Freebie beauty gifts Most of us have a dressing table drawer full of unopened travel-sized cosmetic samples and giveaways that came as part of a gift when we made that last expensive skincare purchase.  Lip gloss (invariably in a shade that doesn’t suit), handbag-sized bottles of perfume, eye shadow duos, brushes, and dinky tubes of hand cream or body lotion make wonderful stocking fillers for gals of all ages, especially if they come in a complimentary make-up purse which they so often do.  Time to regift!

Spread the joy… and the calories by dividing large boxes of wrapped chocolates or candy among several stockings.  Most supermarkets offer half-price or 2-for-1 deals on large tins of branded chocolates from November onwards making this one of the most popular pennywise options; ideal if you want to indulge those you love… but not too much.  Small bags of foil-wrapped chocolate coins, reindeer, Santas and snowmen can add a traditional touch, too, along with nuts, satsumas and small packets of Christmas tea.

Christmas cracker cast-offs The office Christmas party or departmental lunch can be a veritable bonanza for the eagle-eyed thrifty gifter, especially if you offer to help clear up!  Discarded cracker novelties (still in their wrapping), such as key rings, hair slides, sewing kits, miniature screwdrivers, puzzles – even jokes, balloons and paper hats can all make useful additions to stockings especially for children or the young at heart.  Corporate party bags can also afford a rich source of regifting opportunity, so be sure to take a good look before relegating them to your desk drawer with a sigh.  Remember to check the items are age appropriate with no small parts that can be easily swallowed.

Personalised gift vouchers If you’re cash poor but time rich, there’s nothing like giving of yourself and your skills, so why not make a loved one a personalised gift voucher?  If you’re a dab hand with a needle and cotton, offer to help make those fiddly Roman blinds your friend’s been hankering after… or maybe you’re a whizz with paintbrush and your sister’s bathroom hasn’t been decorated in ages.  Children can make a small book of “pledges” promising to tidy their rooms, wash the car, or help with gardening.  Written in their best hand-writing and illustrated with charming drawings, these make unique and heart-warming gifts that any parent or grand-parent would love to receive.

When the going gets tough… the tough get baking.  Who can resist homemade biscuits or cookies, simply wrapped in a dainty cellophane bag and tied with ribbon?  Inspired by German Lebkuchen, moreish gingerbread or crisp vanilla biscuits are economical to make and the dough can be prepared in advance and frozen until such time as you as need it.   Invest in a set of Christmas-themed cookie cutters such as stars, hearts or bells and engage younger members of the family with the rolling out or icing.  Besides making great stocking fillers, the cooled biscuits can be threaded with ribbon and used as tree decorations or warmed up in batches for impromptu gatherings.   Nothing says Christmas like the welcoming smell of baking.  For a great selection of decorative bags and baking requisites, visit www.lakeland.co.uk.

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