One frugal holiday shopper discovered a method to make Christmas affordable by making her presents or buying second-hand deals that can be upcycled for as little as 10p.

Victoria Billington (31), a community and family worker who lives with Simon, 32, a senior worker and their children Teddy, 5 and Elisabeth 3, is first motivated to be creative to save cash for Christmas years back because she had 12 nieces or nephews.

Rooting out 10p books and creating a doll’s house for £30, she has become an expert at giving generous presents while spending less.

Over the years, she’s become increasingly conscious about making Christmas more eco-friendly. She reuses her handmade advent calendar each year and buys items from charities. 

According to the thrifty mom, it’s more about saving money than being environmentally friendly. Although it is cheaper to buy a bunch of gifts, I feel that choosing the right gift makes it more memorable.  

Family and community worker, Victoria Billington has cracked making Christmas sustainable by crafting her gifts or finding second-hand bargains to upcycle - paying as little as 30p per present

Victoria Billington, a family and community worker has found a way to make Christmas more sustainable. She crafts her gifts from second-hand items or finds bargains that she can upcycle for as low as 30p each.

Victoria started making her own recyclable wrapping paper as a way to save money, but now uses it to be more eco-friendly  (pictured)

Victoria started making her own recyclable wrapping paper as a way to save money, but now uses it to be more eco-friendly  (pictured)

Victoria’s upbringing was influenced by the value of making things rather than purchasing them new. 

She explained that she was from a big extended family, as her four older sisters are my parents. We had many traditions at home.

“My mother said that she prefers a small bar of soap in an envelope than something expensive.

“So our family was raised to believe that giving at Christmas is a good thing, but it does not have to be excessive.”

Victoria finds special gifts for her 12 nieces and nephews at charity shops and has bought books for as little as 10p (pictured, a collection of items she has found in a charity shop)

Victoria purchases books at charity shops for special gifts to her nephews and nieces. 

Victoria shared that her gift-making journey began many years before her husband and she were worried about Christmas’s expense.

She stated that her husband and she were freelancers, so it was difficult to always be sure of how much we would make. 

“So five years ago, my goal was to make a meaningful gift for every child on my wish list. But it wouldn’t be expensive.

Victoria acknowledged that her motherhood was the catalyst for realizing the impact that impulsive spending on Christmas had on the environment.

She said, “Since I had my children, it has made me more conscious of the effect that our actions have on the environment.”

Both Victoria and her husband Simon are creative and generous when it comes to their family's Christmas gifts

Simon, Victoria’s husband are generous and creative when it comes Christmas gifts for their family.

It broadens your perspective that you are not only thinking about yourself. It’s a good idea to ask yourself, “What do we leave for our children?”

“I have always tried to get a deal and been thrifty. I started to think about how I spend my money, especially over the past couple of years.

“It has made me see that charities shops and small business will be better off because my money is more sustainable.

“In the two previous years, I have been able focus on that Christmas. And I absolutely love gift-giving.

Victoria, a meticulously organised person, begins her Christmas shopping early.

Among the bargains the mother-of-wo has been able to find in charity shops include children's books for as little as 10p

The mother-of-two was able to get children’s books as low as 10p in charity shops.  

Her explanation was that she started in January. It was difficult to keep track of when I first started so I now have a list that I write down and keep.

“I truly think about each person’s needs. “I don’t set a spending limit, I try to make each purchase meaningful.”

Victoria has no set budget and is always looking for the best deals.

She explained that you could get new books, in good condition, for as low as 10p at some charity shops.

One of the presents Victoria has been most proud of upcycling was a doll's house she bought for just £30 (pictured)

One of the presents Victoria has been most proud of upcycling was a doll’s house she bought for just £30 (pictured)  

“So, I buy a couple of books that someone likes and it costs me about 30p.

‘I also found one of my nieces a doll that retails at £36 for £4, so I’m definitely saving a lot of money. It also saves me any panic-buying! 

Apart from charity shops, she searches through Zero Waste App Olio, Facebook Marketplace and other sites for gift and material. She often finds items that she can upcycle or creates gifts herself, though she doesn’t consider herself to be artistic.

She said: ‘I can’t draw so I wouldn’t call myself creative in that way. 

‘I assume I have enough time. When making something, I always start by doing a Google search.

Victoria now tries to be as sustainable as possible for Christmas, including reusing this home made advent calendar

Victoria wants Christmas to be as sustainable and as green as possible. Victoria may even reuse this homemade advent calendar.

«I purchased a large number of Olio crafting supplies. That was probably one of my favorite finds.

Victoria has chosen the doll house that she renovated for her children as the best upcycling gift.

She said: ‘Last Christmas, we got a second hand doll’s house for the kids for £30.

It was their major present and so they had received it in time. We also planned ahead to decorate it.

“There is a tiny piece of bunting made out paper and string that we have hung on the walls.”

“I made the carpet with scraps of Olio felt that I had left over.”

“The children loved it, and it was a wonderful gift that they could pass on to their family.”

She hopes it’s just one of many home-made gifts she will treasure and pass on.

Meanwhile the mother-of-two reuses bunting each year which she initially created for her son's first Christmas

The mom-of-two continues to use the same bunting that she created initially for her son’s Christmas. 

“I made Teddy Peter Pan bunting, and it’s my first Christmas. I will pass that on to the family,” she stated.

Victoria isn’t content with buying thrifty presents for kids. She also finds bargains for those on her shopping list for their adult gifts.

She explained: ‘We got some really beautiful olive oil one year from an Italian restaurant that was closing down and so they were giving away stock because they didn’t have anywhere to store it.

“So, we received this lovely olive oil with basil flavor that was being given away free to Olio.

Meanwhile the mother-of-two also crafts decorations for Christmas which can be used every year in an effort to be more sustainable

The mother-of-2 also creates decorations for Christmas that can be reused every year to help make the family more sustainably.

Victoria's home made decorations, some Grinch inspired stickers taped to a door in her house

Victoria makes her own decorations such as this snowman she created to brighten up a door in her house

Pictured is a selection of Victoria’s handmade decorations each year, to decorate her home so it feels festive for her family. 


Do not wait too long – Get started early so you have plenty of time to look out for bargains. 

Buy local – Reduce delivery and shipments by shopping in your local area. Your presents can arrive promptly and you don’t even have to wait. 

For a great deal, charities shops can be a good option. – Many businesses donate brand new items to charity shops. This allows you to save money while donating the funds you have spent to charities. 

Take a look at how you wrap! – Not all wrapping paper is recyclable and making your own can be a fun activity with the kids. You can make it fun and recyclable by using stamps. 

Avoid following the latest trends – You don’t need to change your decorations every year or follow the latest fad. Decorate in a way that is timeless and can be reused every year.


“We gave this to the adults. It was a lovely gift, but we hadn’t paid any money for it.

She also creates her own wrapping paper, and reuses her advent planner.  

She stated, “We make our wrapping paper.” Many people are unaware that glittery wrapping paper can’t be recycled, but brown paper is.

“We make our own designs with brown paper. The children use coloured pencils and pens to color it.

“We don’t use paint or wax because it can impact whether the product is recyclable.”

Also, her advent calendars can be reused. She explained that she made the advent calendar five-years ago. It is made out of felt and sewn onto canvas. Every year we use it.

“Sometimes we put some chocolate in them and once a year, my husband filled it up with bad Christmas jokes every single day.

Victoria acknowledged that her creativity is not up to par, but she stated that her husband likes making gifts.

Victoria stated, “My husband is very creative and draws pictures which we then can frame and give to others.

“We make ornaments out of pine cones.” You can create a Christmas wreath that has a timeless feel by adding some festive ribbons or felt greenery.

All their work, including the artifacts, is kept in tact in an airing cabinet in a bag that can be reused every Christmas.

Victoria also shops locally and doesn’t want parents feeling the pressure to buy eco-Christmas presents.

She explained, “I recognize that I have the privelege of time.”

“What we don’t invest in money we do in time, and I realize that not all people have the means to do it.

“But it makes Christmas even more special for us and it is really fun to watch everyone enjoy the presents you have spent so much effort into.”

Heading to local shops and rooting around in a charity shop for a bargain were among her top tips for others hoping to save money this Christmas

 Heading to local shops and rooting around in a charity shop for a bargain were among her top tips for others hoping to save money this Christmas