Photographs: My mother's roses, and my first pair of DIY lace leggings.
“They’re big believers in the concept of voluntary simplicity.”
“I gotta use that. Sounds much better than broke.”
The gift-giving season is scary. Genuinely terrifying. And it’s not just the month-long assault of canned Christmas carols, the rustle of green cellophane, plastic trees and flashing lights. It’s because it’s the time of year when I want to please everyone I know and love – make their eyes light up with glee – on a student budget.
Not exactly easy.
So whether you’re a follower of the Ebenezer Scrooge school of financing options, or just plain broke, here are a couple of ideas for gifts that will not have your bank manager rubbing his hands together and laughing maniacally.
• Make leggings. I’ve looked everywhere for the leggings I want – I envisioned whole stores filled with lace leggings, tights made of stretchy tulle, encrusted with diamantes or sequins, dip-dyed, threaded with ribbon. Crocheted. Whatever. These stores, as far as I can tell, only exist in my imagination. So for Christmas, I started pulling a Queen Michelle and making my own leggings. It’s taken a couple of attempts to get it right, but I’m quite happy with them. It’s a good idea to use a pair of stockings or leggings you already own as a pattern. The stretchy lace cost me about 3 Australian dollars per pair, and about twenty minutes of my time.
• Paint ceramics. A tiny paintbrush, a pot of porcelain paint and a stack of second-hand plates should cost you about ten dollars. Write a poem on them (haiku is probably best, come to think of it). Write a love-letter, or paint the Schrödinger equation. Or just paint little stars if you’re not artistically inclined. Make a plate-sized Pollock.
• Plants. If you see any geraniums about the place (they look like this) nip a bit off the plant. A small bit. About an inch or two long. Pop it in a little pot filled with potting mix. Water it, add a little fertiliser. Give it to a loved one. With the right care, it will slowly get bigger and start blooming. The flowers are gorgeous – and what did it cost, really?
If you don’t feel like making, or growing, there is always the charity shop route. There’s also the junk shop route, but really, the world has enough cheap plastic flotsam floating down its streams. Charity shops are by far the better choice, and with a bit of hunting (and probably a bit of washing or cleaning) you can find a pair of curtains, a cute yellow suitcase, a vintage blouse, magazines from the 1950s, and retro homewares. And if that fails, a truly adventurous I.O.U, some potentially lethal homemade lemon-verbena or rose-flavoured vodka, or a public skinny-dip won't go astray!