From cliche gift to thoughtful thrift

Christmas needn’t be more expensive that any other time of the year, surely? (haha, yeah right, capitalism you suck).

But no, on a serious note: making people go “n’aww!” with a really cool gift doesn’t to mean you need to sacrifice eating for a week, or forego a month’s rent. And thrifting doesn’t have to mean getting second-rate gifts either. So, how do you get the two to meet in an affordable, thoughtful way?

Some of the cheapest and easiest gifts to find are usually the really cheesy, cliche, “last-minute” gifts that people would normally accept politely, but be disappointed that you didn’t put more effort into getting them something nicer. They’re also often the kinds of gifts you buy out of obligation for the people you don’t really know or don’t really like.

That said, with a little extra effort, those gifts can still make really nice presents for the people we love – without breaking the bank.


#1 A well-read book with a personal touch

An old book of yours – one which you really enjoyed, with all of its dog-ears – can make a beautifully thoughtful gift for someone you know quite well. Adding touches like a homemade bookmark out of yarn or nice ribbon is an easy way to make it extra special, but you can make it even more personal by slipping hand-written notes into the pages where-ever you thought of them, or read something you thought they might like. Throw in a little glitter and some nice hand-writing, and you’ve got a practically free gift from the heart. Thumbs up.

Made by the lovely Sara from

#2 Homemade pot-plant planters

Buying a plant can be a really great gift, because you can buy a flower they might like or a herb to add to their herb garden. However, taking it one notch higher is not only really easy, but won’t cost you any extra either.

All you need is an old plastic bottle, cut off the top (leaving ears if you want to make a cat like the one pictured above), paint it, use sharpie pens to add a face, and voila! You have a friggin’ adorable addition to an already thoughtful gift. You can even turn it into animals that person likes. Dogs and cats are easy, but use the rest of the bottle to make a beak for a toucan, or some extra fins for a little fish – go wild with your creativity! The homemade-touch will show that little bit of extra effort which can take your gift from “great” to “OMG THIS IS SO COOL!”


#3 Not “just another vase”

This guy caught my eye, and not only because he was on sale. I saw him and didn’t need to think twice about getting him as a gift.

Vases are often thought of as “cop-out” presents. You buy them for mother-in-laws or to hold a bunch of flowers when you go to some family friends that you hardly ever see. But vases can make really fantastic statement pieces, and if you buy colours or shapes that match or contrast with other furniture, you a) show that you care about their flowers and b) show that you take notice of their decorating and their interior design. Both are gonna get you brownie points.


If you want to take it one step further, buy some extras that can stand with your statement vase. For this one, I found a very pretty scented candle, and a fabric incense rose. The house I bought it for has a lounge area accented with a similar blue,and  with red and orange scatter cushions, so the vase and the candle are an ideal pair. The neutral faux-rose adds a simple and adaptable colour into the mix, and gives them another palette to play with if they want to. Again, a simple and affordable way to go the extra mile.


#4 Re-vamped coasters

A bag of Scrabble letters is really cheap to buy online, and a set of plain coasters can be picked up from any dollar store, Chinese store, or bulk-buy grocery store for next to nothing. Combine the two together with a little glue, and you have yourself a handmade thrift that people can not only appreciate, but actually put to good use.

I used Scrabble letters, but you really can do anything with this idea. Some paint and some scrap-book materials would also be super effective and super decorative, and roughly sanding down wooden coasters can give them an expensive “aged” look that makes it seem as if you spent hours digging through antique stores to find them (little white lies are a hundred percent OK, don’t worry). Another quick, cheap, and personal touch to add to an otherwise oh-too-common gift.


#5 Infused alcohol

Rather than an expensive bottle of wine or a bottle of their favourite spirit, buy a gin, vodka or martini and infuse it. You can even re-bottle it into smaller bottles, and wrap them in ribbons or chalk labels to make them that much cuter, and that much more special.

I used gin here, which is a really nice spirit to infuse with cinnamon, star anise, thyme, or berries. But vodka is really good too, and is actually far more versatile in terms of what you can infuse it with. Martini is a little harder, but if you get it right then your normal Martini cocktail can be taken to an entirely new planet.

Just be careful: you will need to Google whatever you want to infuse, just for a rough idea of how long it’ll take. Tea bags in vodka take a couple of hours, while star anise in gin will take about a day in the fridge – however, you need to take it out at the right time, otherwise it’ll either be too weak or waaay too strong, and you don’t want to waste an entire bottle of alcohol. It’s also important to make sure you filter the alcohol really well once you’re done so that you aren’t left with any bits inside your gift. These won’t necessarily ruin the bottle over time, but just don’t look very nice.


Hopefully these ideas have given you some inspiration, and hopefully they’ll make your festive shopping a little easier this year.

Please leave comments below with the kinds of thrift ideas you have, and share pictures of any gifts you’ve tried from this post – I’d love to see!

Merry christmas, and happy thrifting gifting!

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