Most of us hope to save some money by shopping smart for Christmas, but Victoria Billington, 31, of Oxford, makes us look like turkeys when it comes to budget and sustainability.
The frugal festive shopper has fallen for making Christmas sustainable by making gifts or finding second-hand bargains to recycle – paying as little as 30p per gift.
A family and community worker, Victoria, 31, is married to Simon, 32, a senior support worker. They have two children Teddy, five, and Elisabeth, three – and she was first inspired to get creative and save money because she had 12 nieces and nephews to buy.
By uprooting 10p books and creating a dollhouse for £ 30, she has become an expert at giving generous gifts while spending less, but over the years she has grown more and more keen to make Christmas eco-friendly as well. the environment – so she reuses her homemade. advent calendar every year, buys from charity stores and makes their own recyclable wrapping paper.
Victoria said: “My husband and I were freelancers so we couldn’t always count on the income we were going to have at that time.
“So about five years ago I started making a gift for each of the kids on my list because it will make sense but cost nothing.
“Now it’s not really about saving for us, but rather about being as environmentally friendly as possible. Obviously this is cheaper than buying a lot of new gifts, but I find that choosing each gift carefully makes it more special.
Going the extra mile making rather than buying new is something Victoria grew up with.
“I come from a big family because I have four sisters and we have a lot of homemade traditions. My mother always said that she would rather have a bar of soap wrapped than a very expensive gift.
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“So we grew up with this idea of being generous at Christmas, but it doesn’t have to be extravagant.”
Ultra-organized Victoria starts her Christmas shopping early, keeping a list and methodically checking it as she finds the perfect gift for each person.
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“I’m starting in January,” she said. “I used to lose track when I started, so now I keep a list and write down what I have everyone as I go. I really think about what each person wants .I have no spending limit – I just try and make it meaningful to this person.
But despite not having a set budget, Victoria is still looking to find a festive bargain. “In some charity stores you can get new and unread books for as little as 10 pence,” she explained. “So I take some of someone’s favorite books and their gift costs me about 30p.
“I also found a doll for one of my nieces that sells for £ 36 for £ 4 so I’m really saving a lot of money.
“In addition, it avoids any last minute panic buying! “
But Victoria admits that it wasn’t until she became a mom that she really started to think about the environmental impact of impulse party spending on the world. “Since having my own children, I have become more aware of the impact we have on the environment,” she said. “It broadens your horizon that it’s not just about yourself. You start to think, “What are we leaving to our children?
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“It made me realize that charity shops and small businesses will benefit more from my spending as well as being more sustainable.
“For the past two years, I’ve been able to really focus on this for Christmas and I love giving gifts. “
Victoria also tracks down her gifts and materials through the zero waste app Olio and Facebook Marketplace, often recycling her finds or making her gifts from scratch, even though she doesn’t think she’s artistic.
“I don’t know how to draw, so I wouldn’t call myself creative that way. When I do things, I usually start with an open Google search for how to use a material or how to make a particular toy. got a lot of crafting supplies from Olio. I think for me that was one of my most exciting discoveries. “
Victoria’s favorite recycling gift so far is the dollhouse she renovated for her two children to share.
“Last Christmas we bought a second-hand dollhouse for the kids for £ 30. It was their big present, so we got it early and planned ahead so we could spend some time decorating it.
“There are tiny little banners, made of paper and string, that we put on the walls. I made the carpet by gluing on some felt that was discarded from the remains of my Olio transport.
“The kids loved it and I think it’s nice to have something they can pass on to their families.
This isn’t the only homemade gift she hopes will be treasured and eventually passed on.
“I made Teddy Peter Pan banners for his first Christmas and I have to pass that on to the family as well,” she said.
But Victoria’s thrifty gifts aren’t just for kids – she finds great deals for adults on her list, too.
“We received a very nice olive oil one year from an Italian restaurant that was closing its doors and so they donated stock because they had nowhere to store it,” she said.
“So we got this very nice basil infused olive oil that they had just given away for free on Olio. We gave it to the adults. We hadn’t paid anything for it but it was new, unopened and a nice gift.
And Victoria is helping save the planet along with her purse on more than Christmas presents.
“We make our own wrapping paper. Most people don’t know that shiny or glitter wrapping paper isn’t recyclable, but brown paper still is. We use brown paper and then put our own drawings on it, with the children with pens and colored pencils.
“We try not to use wax or paint as this may or may not affect its recyclability.”
“I made our advent calendar five years ago. It is made of felt, sewn onto a canvas and we use it every year.
Sometimes we put chocolate in it and one year my husband filled it with a different bad Christmas joke every day.
And none of their artwork gets thrown away in January – instead, they’re neatly stowed away in the vent cabinet in a reusable shopping bag, ready to use every Christmas.
But Victoria, who also tries to shop as locally as possible, doesn’t want other parents to feel the overwhelming pressure of an eco-Christmas.
“I recognize that I have the privilege of time,” she explained. “What we don’t spend in money we spend in time and I know not everyone has the capacity to do it.
“But for us it makes Christmas more special and it’s really nice to see everyone loving the gifts you’ve spent so much time in.”
Additional reports, PA