I know it is only September, but Christmas is creeping up on us very quickly. Personally, I don’t understand how people get caught unprepared for Christmas, after all, let’s face it, it happens on the same date every year! One of the ways of making sure your Christmas is relaxed and fabulous is to be prepared so that there isn’t a horrible rush at the last minute.

Christmas is one of those times when we can create a mess, financial mess, literal mess, hot raving mess!

Financially the way to keep it under control is to minimise your spending by purchasing throughout the year particularly when items are on sale. Spending only what you can genuinely afford without putting yourself in hardship sounds like common sense, but millions of people put themselves into debt every Christmas. Don’t get carried away by the season spend wisely.

Having a little person in our household we still do the whole Santa thing, but we keep it very simple. Santa brings four presents, something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. I try very hard not to let anything that goes into a Santa sack be made from plastic unless it is Lego which I know will be used over and over for many years.

One area of Christmas that we can make a huge difference is how we wrap our gifts. Mountains of wrapping paper finds its way into landfill every Christmas and it is totally unnecessary. When I was a child (and I know I was not alone in this) my mother would recycle every piece of wrapping paper that came into our house. We were not allowed to rip open any presents, each one had to be very carefully opened to preserve the paper which had the sticky tape carefully removed and was then folded and put into a special box from which it was retrieved to wrap any outgoing gifts. Paper that was creased was ironed before it was reused and if an edge was torn it was carefully trimmed so it looked neat. It wasn’t about being environmentally friendly it was about frugality, an art we seem to have lost.

The gifts given from our family are all encased in handmade fabric bags that can be used multiple times. They can be washed and ironed and will look great for many years. I have a range of bags in Christmas prints, but I also use a variety of different fabrics for birthdays throughout the year and usually try to match the fabric to the interests of the recipient or to the gift it contains. The wrapping can become part of the gift, a storage bag for toys, a book bag or wrapping for another gift.

When my older children were little, we spent a fun afternoon with some butcher’s paper that I had been given and some red and green paint. I painted the kid’s feet and had them run along the paper, they then added handprints. Once the paint dried the paper was used to wrap the Christmas gifts for that year. We had a lot of fun and spent no money at all on our wrapping. Wrapping paper can be recycled or composted but you do need to remove the sticky tape first. An alternative to sticky tape is to use string or ribbon to tie up your presents.

A couple of years ago we started a new family tradition with a fun game we play rolling dice and opening and swapping presents according to the numbers rolled. I was concerned that the gifts used in the game would be junky plastic so we put rules around what could be given. Any item used had to be either purchased from an op shop, handmade or regifted. I ended up with a fabulous pair of salt and pepper grinders that were a regift but the most popular present and the one that a number of people wanted was an “Instant Golf Champion” pack. Purchased from an op shop for less than $5.00 it contained a golf club, trophy and a polo shirt embroidered with a golf club logo. The preparation for the game has become almost epic with family outings to op shops and plenty of discussion and much laughter.

Keeping gifts practical, useful, meaningful and things that are actually wanted will reduce some of the wastage that occurs with Christmas. If someone says that what they really want is a load of compost get them a load of compost. 1 dozen bags of Horse manure? -maybe don’t put it under the tree. Lamborghini – possibly not! You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make your gift meaningful.

Food is another area of massive waste at Christmas. With dogs, chooks, worms and compost there is very little food waste in this household, and we have worked hard to minimise our grocery costs which has flowed through to less food waste. Storing food correctly will decrease spoilage. Don’t over cater, buy enough for your needs but don’t overdo it. Ham is the perfect example of food that can be easily wasted. Don’t buy the biggest ham you can find, get one that will meet your needs. If you can’t bear the sight of another piece of ham slice or dice and freeze your leftovers for later use. Freeze the bone for Pea and Ham soup when the weather cools off.

Relax, prepare early, spend wisely and enjoy the season that is coming up rapidly.