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Creative ways to save money on cards, wrapping and gifts this Christmas

<span>Illustration: Jamie Wignall/The Guardian</span>
Illustration: Jamie Wignall/The Guardian

Make your own

If you have children, use their artwork to make wrapping paper and cards. Good old-fashioned potato prints are great for making decorative wrapping paper – you can get brown paper and paint from the pound shop, and you’re away.

Recycle old cards to make new ones or gift tags. Cut out the picture, then make a frame from another card and stick on to thick paper then fold. Use a glitter pen to write personalised messages to complete the piece. Or get your children to cut out cards and pictures and hole-punch them to use as gift tags.

After Christmas, save the cards you have been sent for next year’s creations.

Use email

Instead of paying for stamps, send an e-card – but make it special by taking a Christmas photo or videoing a message, then email it to friends and family.

Dress up in Christmas clothing and personalise a message to recipients, or tell a Christmas story to young children. Personalise this as you narrate the story, adding or changing names of the child recipient. Upload to a platform such as YouTube and set it to private. Send the child that link.

Or design your own e-card using Canva, which has a variety of free images, and also a free trial for premium pictures. If you don’t want to do it yourself, there are options. The website 123 Cards provides a free one-week trial for sending e-cards, many of which are animated.

Charities do not have to miss out. You can send e-cards and make a donation at Friends of the Earth. Or choose a charity to support and send an e-card through the DontSendMeACard website.

Free resources on the web

Jolly Festive has lots of tips on how to save money on cards and wrapping. Pinterest and Instagram can also provide inspiration and there will always be links to find out more.

Make it part of the gift

Reuse wrapping paper, boxes and bags. It does not matter how small the pieces of paper are because you can stick them together for presents for children – who will not notice – or make a virtue of it by creating a quilt-like design. Old brown paper bags, maps, fabric, can also make unusual wrapping.

For young children, half the pleasure is opening the present. Their attention span is short, so delight them with lots of little things wrapped up in a box, or make it into a game as part of the present. Wrap a box many times using recycled paper in a pass-the-parcel-style game.

The sustainable gift-wrap brand Curlicue offers tips, tricks and videos on how to make the most of wrapping paper and reduce waste. It has even more craft-focused ideas, such as how to make bows using offcuts.

A scarf can make great wrapping for another present, especially with ribbons and a bow. A bandana, hat or jumper could be used as fun way to gift wrap. Use natural items from outdoors, such as pine cones and holly, to add interest. Decorate pots, containers and jars to put presents in, which then become part of a gift.

Save on stamps …

Hand-deliver cards where you can – make a list of who you can get to and set aside a time to do it. Get the cards that need to be posted written early so you can use second-class stamps.

Letters up to 100g cost 75p each. First class is 50p more at £1.25, so it’s a considerable saving if you can make the last posting date for second class on 18 December. The last date for first class is 20 December.

For posting abroad see Royal Mail’s website for the dates for various countries. Keep the price down by making sure you qualify for the cheapest postage, especially if you are making your cards. Again, check Royal Mail’s website for details.

… and other postage

Save on postage costs by paying only once for delivery. Some companies will wrap gifts and provide a card for free, so you can send direct to your recipient.

Small businesses specialising in handmade items are particularly good for this. For example, the Great British Craft House lists all the businesses on its site that offer this service.

If you are ordering gifts to be delivered to your home, buy postage from Royal Mail online. For example, a small parcel, maximum size 45 x 35 x 16cm and weighing less than 100g costs £3.29 online via Royal Mail. However, at the Post Office you would have to pay £3.49.

Use sites such as Parcel Monkey and Parcel2Go to compare prices from a variety of couriers, as you may find cheaper deals than you would at the Post Office. Try more than one search, and experiment with different options to get the best price.

When wrapping your Christmas parcel, do take into account that the size and weight will have a big impact on the cost, so keep it compact.

Hand-make presents

Handmade presents show you care, as well as saving you money. See our article “Homemade Christmas gifts that show you care without breaking the bank”.