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My Favorite Low-Waste, Low-Cost Christmas Hacks

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

'Tis the season of buying gifts and spending time with the family, but with COVID-19, a lot will be different this December. Gift shopping becomes a little harder to do and so will spending quality time with loved ones. Not to mention, funds are tight for many during a global pandemic.

All that being said, I would love to share with you some of my Holiday lifehacks I have been using over the last few years that feel relevant now more than ever. These lifehacks can be as inexpensive and low-waste as you make them to get you through this holiday season in a more meaningful way. Some hacks are a great way to spend quality time with people you love, indirectly or not.

Secret Santa With A Twist

Do you have a group of friends and family who would be down for Secret Santa? Why not shake it up a little?! Same rules as your standard exchange - draw names, assign the exchanges, buy presents, and send - but instead of the 'buy', replace with making the gift yourself! During this pandemic, a homemade gift helps make the exchange a little more personal when sending a gift in the mail or not being able to spend time with a loved one. Another benefit about making a gift is you have control over your input costs. I am doing this with a group of friends this season, and my shipping costs were more than how much it took me to make the gift. I also got to customize something special for someone I love, so for me it's a win-win. If you're like me, you will also enjoy the creative process.

Make Your Own Advent Calendar

Advent calendars can get expensive if you are looking for quality chocolate, so why not make your own for half the price? Customizing your own can be as inexpensive as you wish depending on the chocolate you want to use.

Think of the cost difference if you are someone like me, who admittingly likes splurging on the Lindt or Ferrero Rocher calendars. These calendars can go for $20 or more and the chocolate portions are usually smaller than their standard sizes. This year, I spent half the price on buying a variety of quality chocolates and started a new tradition of making my partner and I's advent calendars, which double as Christmas decorations!

How to make one? Well, it is totally up to you. I am sure Pinterest has some great ideas, but here is what I came up with:

  • Wrapped 25 chocolates with tissue paper (this way there is no way to tell which chocolate is in which order)

  • Took a a few feet of decorative rope and measured out the best spacing for the 25 chocolates

  • Hot glue gunned the rewrapped chocolates to their rightful spots

  • Numbered the chocolates in sporadic order

Now, my advent calendar is hung up like garland and starting December 1st, I get to chow away. Not only was this method cheaper but the waste amount is less if you stick with recycled materials.

Here's how my advent calendar turned out this year.

Skip The Wrapping Paper - (this is one of my favorite lifehacks, even when it is not the holidays!)

No need to buy new wrapping paper, use what you have around the house! You can use newspaper, twine, reuse wrapping from an older gift - the list goes on. As long as it wraps, it works! My favorite combo is using recycled brown paper with jute string. It is amazing how easily junk can look like new when recycled into something with thought. Lastly, do not be scared of using things from the outdoors like pine cones and needles as decorative toppers.

If you really want to get into this, the more you collect slowly over time, the easier this process becomes once holiday season hits. I collect materials all year round, saving pretty tissue papers and bags from clothing purchases, random strings, and other recycled material to add to my collection. Sometimes I will buy new ribbon or string to add some diversity to the collection.

To some, this might sound like it could get disorganized really quickly, but if you have a designated spot that you can keep tidy, it can work. I, for example, have a large cardboard box in which I keep scraps and my crafting collection of things gathered throughout the year. Having everything in one place helps to get your decorating off the ground quicker each year.

Here are some gifts I wrapped the other day using scraps from my collection this year.

Kiki, my cat, loves when the scrap box comes out.

Buy Second Hand

This one is pretty straight forward. However, second hand shopping takes a little more planning than buying new. Some thrifting sessions can be a hit or miss. This year, I lucked out and found my to-be-father-in-law a brand new Lululemon sweater and all the other knick-knacks I needed on my first go to Value Village, so there is hope for you too! Although I love me some Value Village, I do prefer more mom-and-pop thrift shops because they tend to have more unique and corky finds, like old tins and vintage accessories. You get to support local, and they tend to be cheaper than VV these days - someone took the value out of the village!

Additionally, the pandemic makes accessing thrift shops harder, so another recommendation that I have is buying gift cards from local thrift shops or using the site Poshmark for clothing purchases. If you have not heard of Poshmark, look it up, like now. Poshmark's downside is the fact that things need to be shipped, but the upside is the site's range is within Canada. It also is great because you can barter with other users. You don't want to pay $70 for that Roots sweater? Counteroffer $50 and see where it goes.

Anyways, nothing feels better than finding the right gift for the right person knowing you took the effort to do so.

Make Your Own Christmas Tree Decorations

This hack needs some TLC but it is totally worth it if you have the time and enjoy crafting as a Christmas activity. My partner and I's Christmas tree is made up of about 90% homemade ornaments, besides the lights and a few vintage decorations that have been passed down to us from family. I recommend making decorations for a few reasons:

  1. Many decorations are reusable, so over the years you can build up a nice collection of ornaments.

  2. Great bonding time - I love hosting decorating making nights with my partner and friends.

  3. They smell so good! My house has a distinct 'Christmas smell' once we decorate that ranges from cinnamon to citrus.

Although I won't go into too much detail on how to make your own decorations, some easy and cheap projects I have done in the past are:

  • popcorn and cranberry garland

  • dehydrated cinnamon coated citrus garland

  • gingerbread salt dough ornaments

  • dehydrated plant bundles


The holidays can be a stressful time emotionally and financially, so I hope these hacks might help in some way. Maybe you get to feel more connected to those you are gifting to who you may not be able to see in person this year. Maybe you get to spend more time with those you love through crafting together. Or maybe you just save a buck or two.

Whatever it may mean to you, the spirit of the holidays, to me, is really about being mindful of time and energy we give to one another outside of consumerism. These lifehacks embody that idea to some degree and is why I wanted to share them with you. Remember, new does not always mean quality!

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